non-fiction

Reader Favorites – New Reviews 2014

 

Book Cover - Upstairs at the White House

It’s always fun to discover which new reviews get the most attention during the year. The most popular reviews were ReTweeted dozens of times, shared on Facebook, and Google+, and got some attention on Pinterest. There were old titles, new titles, fiction and non-fiction, seasoned authors and debut authors in the mix. Several were best sellers.

 

In case you missed the reviews, here are the 2014 favorites on NightstandBookReviews in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles and take a look:

 

Lucy Burdette, “Appetite for Murder

 

Robert Dugoni, “My Sister’s Grave

 

Robert Dugoni, “The Conviction

 

Sarah Graves, “Triple Witch

 

Edith Maxwell, “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

 

Leigh Perry, “A Skeleton in the Family

 

MJ Rose, “The Book of Lost Fragrances

 

Barbara Ross, “Clammed Up

 

Daniel Silva, “The English Girl

 

JB West & ML Katz, “Upstairs at the White House

 

Lynn Chandler Willis, “The Rising


Happy reading!

 

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“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

 

Book Cover - Unbroken

Resilient: Attribute of someone who can "bounce back" after shock or injury, whether of the physical or psychological kind.

 

Before Louis Zamperini, the subject of Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” became an Olympic runner, he had been a juvenile delinquent, getting into so much trouble that some thought he might not survive his teenaged years. He was restless, reckless and unimpressed by boundaries or rules, outsmarting his targets at every turn. His parents tried, but were unable to rein him in. He was unbowed by physical or verbal threats. Then in high school, his brother helped save Zamperini from himself by persuading the principal to let him race. Over the next year, training consisted of being hit with a stick, running over hills and trails, and running until he dropped. Eventually, running was all he wanted to do.

 

As he matured, he became one of the best distance runners in the world, but WW2 broke out and Zamperini’s future changed. He joined the Army Air Corps, and then was shot down in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Despite the ordeal of drifting over 1000 miles in open seas for 47 days with no provisions and surrounded by sharks, he and another airman survived, only to be captured by the Japanese once they reached land in the Marshall Islands. His non-stop harrowing experience at the hands of torturers who never heard of the Geneva Convention would have broken a different man, but Zamperini had an incredible inner strength that brought him through. Resilience.

 

This non-fiction account of his courage and endurance in the face of inconceivable challenges has been on the NYT bestseller list for over 165 weeks. In “Unbroken,” Hillenbrand’s descriptions are gritty, raw and oh, so real. I smelled the decaying bodies. I was in the water when the enemy aircraft shot at the raft. I was terrified when Watanabe (a guard who singled him out) came close and demonstrated the worst form of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

We civilians would hope that this kind of mistreatment does not occur if our loved ones in the military are wounded or captured by the enemy. We also hope that they will return to us mentally and emotionally unscarred by whatever traumas they have experienced, but we know this is not always the case. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a very real possibility for people serving at the front lines and while nobody gave it a name in WW2, Zamperini must have been a clear example. That Zamperini was capable of forgiveness years later is remarkable in itself, but his action of forgiveness moved even his former enemies.

 

Hillenbrand has shown once again that truth is sometimes more riveting than fiction – remember her engrossing retelling of the story of “Seabiscuit?”

 

Zamperini died July 2, 2014 at the age of 97. His son, Luke, gives talks about his father’s inspirational life and Zamperini’s legacy will also live on in an upcoming movie.

 

Please visit www.laurahillenbrandbooks.com for more information about future plans for “Unbroken.”

 

 

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“The Southern Living Garden Book”

 

Book Cover - Southern Living Garden Book

 

Many of you have seen photos of a variety of flowers and shrubs in my garden. “The Southern Living Garden Book” is my go-to gardening reference whenever I want to expand the beds and need to research compatible plants and shrubs.

 

My hectic travel schedule defeated any year-round gardening plan I had while living in perpetually drought-stricken north Texas.  The intense heat required me to partner with neighbors or landscapers so that thirsty plants could be nurtured during the many 100+ degree weeks I was away. Eventually, I downsized the gardening attempts to a few pots on the patio.

 

Interestingly enough, the most successful arrangement involved two enthusiastic neighborhood children – eight and ten year old boys. I can only imagine the wild water fights on my patio while the flowers were getting their daily drinks, but my plants never looked better than during that summer.

 

But, now that I’m in North Carolina and my traveling days are severely reduced, I am ready for more extensive gardening adventures once more and my savvy cousin-in-law (a Master Gardener) recognized a need. “The Southern Living Garden Book,” contains over 7,000 plant listings, more than 1,000 color photos, additional color illustrations and new plant hardiness maps.

 

An important part of any gardening book is a “What-can-I-grow-in-my-garden-with-its-special-needs?” chapter. The category is tackled nicely in the section referred to as the ‘Plant Selection Guide.’  There are thirty-four plant lists (with photos) that help with areas such as hedges, screens or borders and other specialty spots. There are pages devoted to showy perennials, attractive plants for birds, and a wealth of other information – all keyed for climate hardiness, sun and water needs.

 

If you are not fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a nursery, a list of mail-order garden suppliers is included in the resource directory contained near the end of the book.

 

“The Southern Living Garden Book” is a substantial coffee table size, meant to be studied and used as a planning guide. Great investment of less than $30. if you have a gardening vision in mind; a beautiful and practical addition to my shelves.

 

 

 

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