Bill Cannon’s A Treasury of Texas Trivia II

Overview: Where can you find a boot-wearing Jesus? Or a barbed wire museum from…um…intimate origins? This book is loaded with these stories, and so much more. Let’s see what secrets, surprise histories, and just fun facts that the Lone Star State has to offer us.

Story Telling: Trivia books are just that, books full of short stories and facts.

Likes: Oh. This book’s structure makes finding certain facts easier. If you’re looking for fun stories, look under “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.” Looking for landmarks or other fun places to visit on your next trip? Start with “Unusual Claims to Fame.”

Favorite Stories: There’s so many of them. But, I’ll try to cut it down some. There’s “German Ingenuity,” “Only God can Make a Tree…” and “…One Riot–One Ranger.”

Conclusion: Enjoy this book. Maybe you’ll find some places to visit. Or you could find a few bits of trivia to win a drinking game.

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Miriam Morrison Peake’s 101 Things to Make for Fun or Money

Overview: Etsy and other online craft malls seem to be getting quite popular of late. But how does one go about getting started? Getting good at a handcrafted style might help. But where does one start at that point? Ms. Peake has your answer.

Story Telling: This is a combination of a pattern book, encouraging self-help, and an educational guide.

Likes: Ms. Peake not only gives us many different craft styles, she reminds us that quality of craftsmanship is just as important if you are making things for your loved ones as it is if you intend to sell.

Favorite Project: It’s the Chapel cap.

Conclusion: This book is a nice little resource. Enjoy it, learn from it. And try a new craft. You just might find your niche.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

Overview: What happens when you have a group of pilgrims on a journey to Canterbury do to keep their spirits up? Well, the host of the troupe has a great idea. A story challenge, one story each up to Canterbury, and one tale each on the way back. Loser buys the drinks. Maybe that’s just a great idea for any aspiring writers. Let’s see how the guests handle the challenge.

Story Telling: This is a fanciful short story anthology. This is also one classic that you might be able to encourage older children to read.

Dislikes: A few of these stories have a decidedly Catholic bent, one of which is a sermon. Now this is just part of the time frame. In the 1300’s there was still the on the pain of death and losing your eternal soul, you had to be a Catholic attitude.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chaucer died before he was able to finish this piece. So the book, as well as a few stories are unfinished.

Likes: Most of the completed stories were quite entertaining.

Favorite Story: It’s “The Franklin’s Tale.”

Conclusion: Enjoy the tales. Though if some of your younger family members find it, just be glad that they’re reading.

Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy

Overview: Dante is struggling with problems so big, that he cannot begin to understand. How did he get to this forest? And, while he is grateful for his hero coming to help him, the road seems too hard for a mere mortal to traverse. Can he make it? For his Beatrice, he’s willing to attempt it.

Story Telling: We haven’t left the epic poetry just yet. This one has a high theme, namely the redemption of mankind, yet it’s written in the everyday language of man of Dante’s day.

Dislikes: Sorry to say, but it was the entire “Paradisio” section of the poem. Part of it was Beatrice. The rest, happened to be the overwhelming Catholic beliefs that permeated it. Such as the only surefire way into paradise was to be a perfect nun or other clergyman that didn’t fail in one spot of the vows. This is also based on the time it was written.

Likes: Virgil kept Dante’s spirits high. He was a terrific guide, and one who didn’t seem to belittle his follower.

Conclusion: At least read the “Inferno” and “Purgatorio.” You’ll enjoy the story.

Elizabeth Gourley’s Big Book of Beautiful Beads-Over 100 Beading Projects You Can Make

Overview: Who doesn’t like beads? Sparkly, shiny, and delicate pieces that can be connected to make a useful whole. They’re LEGOs for grown-ups. Let’s check out these patterns.

Story Telling: This is a pattern book. An omnibus, in fact.

Likes: This book has patterns, and information for both amateurs and the more advanced beaders.

Favorite Section: That would be the beaded flowers.

Favorite Patterns: I’m looking forward to trying a few of these amulet bags.

Conclusion: This is a book that should be in every jewelry maker’s and beading enthusiast’s library.

Dean Koontz’s The Night Window-Jane Hawk 5

I received this book courtesy of Random House Bantam for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: It’s time for the final battle with the would-be gods of the new world. The Techno-Arcadians believe that they have America by the throat, all they have to do is turn everyone in the States against–what they think is–the sole enemy of the revolution. Jane Hawk has a few tricks left up her sleeves, as well as a small army that does not have a whole lot to lose. Let’s place our bets on the winner.

Story Telling: We are still full throttle in a techno-thriller. This is also the closing book of the Techno-Arcadian conspiracy.

Dislikes: Calling all psychopaths and sociopaths! Goodness, I’m not sure how many of those nuts that were part of the Techno-Arcadians, but we got one or two extras thrown in.

And there was something unsettling about the ending. It’s not how I’ve come to expect Mr. Koontz to end his novels.

Likes: There were many instances of Americans doing what they do best in this novel. Everyone has seen times of great disasters, when Americans go above the call of duty. It’s who we are, aside from a few self-centered people.

And for every monstrous personality introduced, we were gifted with two or three heroic ones. The balance was definitely kept straight.

Favorite Quote: As this is an Advanced Reader Copy, Random House as requested that quotes are checked against the final product. That’s about three months away.

Favorite Character: We get two. Cornell is back, and proving to be quite quick on his feet.

And Porter Crockett is the kind of man that you want on your side during these kinds of messes.

Favorite Scene: It’s when Porter and Tom are in the diner.

Conclusion: This is a good series. The only thing that could possibly explain the loose threads is that Mr. Koontz has admitted that Jane has seven books. This is only book five.

Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch’s The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

Overview: We have all heard of how, when the Continental Congress declared America’s independence from Great Britain, George Washington was elected to lead our army to victory. But have you heard the whole story? Including the potential assassination attempt? You will now.

Story Telling: This is a novel, but it’s also a non-fiction book. Depending on the author, and reader, the combination can make for an enjoyable read.

Dislikes: My only problem was the fact that Mr. Meltzer and Mr. Mensch came out and called many of our militia men ignorant, or illiterate. This was not the case, at least not from what my reading partner and I’ve been able to learn. Unless you were the unfortunate child of the rare parent who had to be the smartest person in the family, then you were well educated. The average graduating age from grade school, the 12th grade today, was twelve. And one of the requirements to graduate was the ability to read and understand Latin. These men were not idiots, not by a long shot.

Likes: It was fascinating to see how the Founding Generation handled the stress of the upcoming battles.

John Jay obviously was a lot more than a powerful lawyer, and Chief Supreme Court Justice. This guy was big on law enforcement.

Favorite Character: If I can’t pick George Washington, then I’m picking John Jay.

Favorite Quote: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” You get bonus points if you recognize the quote without reading the novel.

Favorite Scene: We got two of them. The first comes with General Washington ended the fight between two different militia groups.

The second one is what happens to the statue of King George III.

Conclusion: This was a great read. Enjoy it for the pacing, and the story telling. You might just learn something as well.

DK Publishing’s Preserve It!-Bottled Fruits, Jams & Jellies, Pickles, Cured Meats

Overview: Are you interested in growing your own produce? If you are, then what do you do with it when it comes in? This book is all about the art of preservation. Here’s a shocker: preserving is far more than jerky, pickles, and jellies.

Story Telling: We have a recipe book. The only difference is that most of these recipes aren’t meant for immediate use.

Dislikes: If I have any complaints, it’s with some of the slower preservation techniques. And then it’s more because of a lack of explanation.

Likes: There are several useful grafts to aid both the new and more experienced preserver.

Also, there are several recipes in each section. This makes it so that you have a good grasp on the ideas behind each technique.

Favorite Recipe: I’m looking forward to trying the Hot Pepper Jelly.

Conclusion: This is a good resource for the homesteader and anyone else who wants to have a garden. Enjoy it, and your end results with the rest of your family.

Virgil’s The Aeneid

Overview: Have you ever wondered what happened to the Trojans that survived Troy’s fall? Well here’s the answer, partially anyway. Aeneas has been given a decree to found a new home for his kinsmen and friends who have escaped both Troy’s fall and enslavement to the Greeks. Will they make it? And are their troubles far behind them? Let’s find out.

Story Telling: We have another epic poem. This one is more of a mythological founding, sort of like Gen. Washington and the cherry tree. And a word of warning: this is an unfinished commissioned work.

Dislikes: Dido wasn’t done right. Her whole part was a warning, I get it, but it still wasn’t right.

Likes: Aeneas was loyal, even if that loyalty was only to his family and friends. Jesus warned us against that ideology.

Favorites: I don’t have any this time around.

Conclusion: I’ll admit that this was a book to be read for educational purposes. But see here, it was read ahead of that purpose, so I was blind to the fact that it wasn’t finished and it was commissioned. Granted Virgil didn’t kiss up to his patron, but still I may have been able to enjoy the book somewhat if that awareness existed. Enjoy the story, you can see why the Sermon on the Mount is so important to our lives.

Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex-Oedipus the King-Theban Plays 1

Overview: Oedipus has been ruling Thebes since his defeat of the Sphinx so many years prior. Now Thebes is under a pall of plague. According to the Oracle of Delphi, it’s due to an unresolved murder. Can Oedipus solve this mystery? And does he even want to?

Story Telling: This is a rather ancient play, in a form that we aren’t quite used to today.

Dislikes: The subject matter of this story is a bit disturbing.

Likes: Justice is a terrific thing to bring about, as long as you don’t mistake it for revenge. Or the reverse of that idea, mistaking revenge for justice.

And Oedipus showed how much he cared about his family.

Favorites: The only favorites that I have is Merope and Polybius.

Conclusion: This is a disturbing play that just happens to have a good theme. Read it if only because our Founding Fathers probably did.