Saturday Savings 27.08.2016

I like to say that I was created for joy since my first name literally means “song of joy.” I love to make joyful noises — silly songs that I sing to my cat, my dogs, my horse, myself — but sometimes joy seems to desert me. It’s then that I need help. He who created me for joy always provides.

In the last week, I’ve been overcome by everything. Our internet connection went down last Saturday, and I couldn’t get online long enough to find any discounts to share with you or to post them if I had been able to find them. The weight of almost 94 years is taking a toll on my beautiful mom-by-marriage. The cousin-by-marriage who introduced me to Mister Sister is unwell. The unrelenting heat and humidity of August on the Gulf Coast is wreaking havoc on my body, and my spirit. The news was filled with disturbing stories, from dirty politics to earthquakes to stupidity.

Anne of InglesideA stranger came to my aid, clicking on my profile at Amazon.com and sending me an item from my Wish List: Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the one chronicle in the series that I did not have and had not read.  A dose of Anne was just what I needed. I ended up rereading the whole Anne of Green Gables series, allowing all that is therein to heal my wounded spirit . . . the beauty of Prince Edward Island, the joy that is Anne and the wisdom of the writer.

Today, I returned to the quiet time I need before I start my days and I recalled again how much I need this time, to pray and to read something that feeds my soul before I face whatever the day has in store for me. This Saturday, I’m sharing some books that are essential reading for my spirit and some that may perhaps speak to yours:

The Lucado Inspirational Reader: Hope and Encouragement for Your Everyday Max LucadoLife by Max Lucado, discounted from $9.99 to $0.99 (USD). I received an email yesterday notifying me that this one had been discounted to $2.99, and I decided to check today to see if the price held. Instead, I saw that the price has dropped by two more dollars! Here’s a description:

Comfort and the cross. Faith and forgiveness. Salvation and spiritual refreshment. For more than 25 years you’ve trusted Max Lucado to walk with you as you ponder these essential truths. This collection of his very best illustrations, stories, and one-liners guides you through his signature themes and life’s most important matters. Spend a few minutes or a couple of hours at the foot of the cross. Take a moment or an afternoon to search the heart of the Savior. Seize a second for a second chance. Return to these words time and again for a dose of hope and encouragement straight from Max’s heart to yours.

A few months ago, I reviewed a powerful primer on prayer. It’s free, a gift from author Diane Moody to you. If you didn’t get it, consider clicking now on Confessions of a Prayer Slacker and find out if you are slacking off and what you need to do to get back on track.

A few years ago, I was introduced to slim volume in plain but powerful language for its chapters on prayer. I strive to read a chapter every day. As soon as I come to the end, I go back to the beginning and start all over again. As long as I’m reading it, I don’t get off track. It’s time to hit reset and start again at Chapter One:

It isn’t available in a Kindle edition yet, but you can find digital versions free online at several sites. I downloaded a couple, but I also bought a hardbound edition secondhand. This one is so valuable to me that I paid a bookbinder to stitch the pages and strengthen the binding so it will last a lifetime. But, be warned: This is not a book for every Christian. The way is simple, but it isn’t easy to follow and I can’t pretend that I walk all of it. All the same, it has taught me more than how to pray. It showed me how to say farewell to frustration. Can you do that? Do you want to do that?

Return to Rio, or escape into fiction

with Saturday Savings 13.08.2016

MunichIn 1972, the Germans planned a spectacular celebration of sport in an effort to erase the bigotry that blazed in Berlin 36 years earlier . . . but Munich was marred by the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes and the massacre of hostages and terrorists at the airport afterward.

Richard Mandell, whose history of the 1936 Games was required reading for the organizers (and was featured here a week ago), had access to everything — participants, planners, sites — for three weeks. His The Olympics of 1972: a Munich Diary is a record of his impressions of the aesthetic, political, and athletic dimensions of the spectacle. It’s discounted today to 99 cents.

Mandell urged the organizers to cancel the games, but his diary isn’t aNazi Olympics history of the terrorist attack itself. Many of his observations are about design: the plastic roof that covered acres, the visual Esperanto of color-coded uniforms, the catalogs for the many art exhibitions, the newly devised “pictograms” directing visitors around the Olympic facilities that transformed Munich. Mandell also writes about modern sports equipment and about television and sport. He describes what he learned by watching training fields, saunas, and in the all-you-can-eat cafeterias and listening in on athletes’ conversations in the Olympic Village.

Peter Lovesey not only wrote the Peter Diamond mysteries (which Sis has Kings of Distancebeen reviewing), but he also wrote profiles of five long-distance runners from past Olympics:  The Kings of Distance, which is also on sale for 99 cents today. This history tells the stories of:

Deerfoot the Indian brave who successfully challenged the leading runners of Victorian England. In 1863, he set a record for distance covered in one hour that was only exceeded by a British amateur 90 years later.

George at the age of 19, in 1878, with the solitary distinction of joint first place in a walking race to his credit, announced that he would one day run a mile in 4 minutes 12 seconds, an achievement unbelievable at that time. Eight years later, having improved every world record, he officially attained his ambition in ‘The Mile of the Century’.

Shrubb, ‘The Irrepressible,’ discovered his running ability by accident, and made staggering records in the most unpromising conditions. His historic run in November 1904, created new world records for every distance from six to 11¾ miles.

Nurmi, at the Paris Olympic Games of 1924, achieved the never-to-be-repeated feat of winning both the 15,000 and 5,000 metre races within 1 hour and 20 minutes, and carried off four individual gold medals in the six days.

Zátopek so manifestly set himself apart from other distance runners that reporters named him ‘The Human Locomotive’, describing his races in two categories: one for Zátopek, the other for those who struggled far behind for second place. A strenuous training programme prepared him for the most extraordinary triple victory in the history of the Olympic Games.

BourneNot into the Games?  Well, Jason Bourne is back in theaters, and the first book in Robert Ludlum’s series is on sale, too, at $1.99.  The Bourne Identity is a classic suspense story, and, as fun as the film is, the book is better.

Description: His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators—led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.

Saturday Savings 30.07.2016

Pre-order price drop and a review preview

Cast Iron CookingCast-Iron Cooking by Rachel Nairns is scheduled for release 9 August 2016, but both the ebook and the paperback editions are discounted today. I received an advanced reading copy several weeks ago, and my review will be posted next week. I love cast-iron cookware, and so does Rachel Nairns.

The book includes a bit of history, several tips on preparing, rescuing and using cast iron, and a lovely collection of recipes. I never even thought of baking apples in cast iron, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating apple season since I saw the recipe here for doing so.

Description:  Get the most from your cast-iron cookware with 40 fabulous recipes especially designed for cast iron, from a full English breakfast to chilaquiles, pan pizza, cheesy beer fondue, Korean fried chicken, vegetarian chili, mango curry, party nuts, two kinds of cornbread, baked apples, gingerbread — and the perfect grilled cheese sandwich! You’ll also learn how to buy the cast-iron pots and pans that are right for you and how to care for them successfully. Digital list price:  $9.99 (USD), pre-order for $6.99 (USD). Paperback list price $12.95 (USD), pre-order for $10.99 (USD).

Previously reviewed, now reduced

Reining in Murder (A Carson Stables Mystery) by Leigh Hearon is now

Kindle edition now discounted to $1.99
Kindle edition now discounted to $1.99

discounted to $1.99. I reviewed this one prior to its release, and, although I recommended it, I did so with reservations because I think readers who aren’t horse crazy like me might have some trouble with some of the vocabulary.  So, I defined all those equine terms for my readers. If you like cozy mysteries but passed when it was first released, you might want to reconsider now that it’s on sale.

See my earlier review, especially if you need help with the lingo: Sis’s original review.

Description:  When horse trainer Annie Carson rescues a beautiful thoroughbred from a roadside rollover, she knows the horse is lucky to be alive…unlike the driver. After rehabilitating the injured animal at her Carson Stables ranch, Annie delivers the horse to Hilda Colbert–the thoroughbred’s neurotic and controlling owner–only to find she’s been permanently put out to pasture. Two deaths in three days is unheard of in the small Olympic Peninsula county, and Annie decides to start sniffing around. She’s confident she can track down a killer…but she may not know how ruthless this killer really is…

Texas blooms at Chelsea in this cozy

Bluebonnet betrayalRecommended: The Bluebonnet Betrayal (Book 5 of the Potting Shed Mystery series) by Marty Wingate; scheduled for release 2 August 2016 by Alibi, a Random House imprint; list price $2.99 (USD), Kindle edition.

Marty Wingate takes her Potting Shed Mystery series to Britain’s most famous flower show with The Bluebonnet Betrayal, scheduled for release Tuesday, 2 August 2016.

The cozy mystery series features professional gardener Pru Parke, a Texan who transplants herself to England in the debut, The Garden Plot (available in ebook for $2.99/USD), and who presents the reader with a bouquet of garden lore when she’s not unearthing clues . . . and occasionally when she is. Pru is both a proud native of the Lone Star State and an avid Anglophile, and the series offers a good sense of both backgrounds.

These are true cozies, written without vulgar language or vulgar depictions of violence. Readers may also like the fact that Pru is neither a young woman nor an old one. In this fifth book, she has married DCI Charlie Pearse, whom she meets in the first book, and Wingate writes of their romance with a deftness as well as discretion. I love their flirting, but I’m never embarrassed by too much intimacy.

The association of the amateur with the professional is a standard of the cozy genre, but here Wingate succumbs to the all-too-common temptation to allow the amateur (Pru) to make rather ridiculous demands for inside information from a police officer who only knows her by reputation. We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect too much realism from cozies, but it’s disappointing to see an otherwise sensible sleuth act so silly – and irritating to be asked to believe that a Scotland Yard detective would yield to such appeals. Especially with so much evidence to indicate that Wingate is fully capable of writing around this dilemma.

The plot involves a romantic quadrangle that is a bit of a stretch, too, and I suspect many readers will identify the murderer much sooner than Pru does. I also got a bit irritated with the repeated identification of bluebonnets as a Hill Country wildflower since I know them firsthand from my hometown of Houston, and have seen them bloom in profusion throughout the southeastern part of the state. I’d have expected Wingate, who herself is a well-known garden speaker and writer, to know better.

Yet, despite these detractions, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Wingate transports readers to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Hospital on which it is held each May, quite fun for all of us who would like to go but may never have a chance. I had read the debut but not the middle books of the series, and I thought this one worked as a stand-alone. The series is attractively priced, too, from $2.99 (USD) for the first and last and $3.99 (USD) for Books 2, 3 and 4.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal isn’t likely to rate a best-in-show, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Alibi via NetGalley. She happily asserts that neither has attempted to influence her.

Description: Pru’s life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she’s married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla’s body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla’s final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.

About the author: Marty Wingate is the author of the Potting Shed mysteries from Random House/Alibi. She also writes the Birds of a Feather mystery series, which debuted in 2015 with The Rhyme of the Magpie.

Marty speaks at national events, and writes about gardens and travel. She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Marty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association. She leads small-group garden tours to European destinations including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and on North American journeys. Marty doesn’t believe that the thin veneer of tourism – successive one-night stops in a series of hotels – can ever replace getting to know the people, history and culture of a region, and so, when arranging her tours, she always includes time for a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a glass of wine.

Feed the need to read

Lenora is placing stickers inside each book donated, to remind the students of the generosity of readers like you.

I have a big mouth.

Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Sometimes, it is. It was last year when I invited several “virtual” friends to help my friend Lenora, who teaches kindergarten to some of the poorest students in our society — students who dread holidays and summers because school is better than home.

Lenora is one of those all-too-rare teachers for whom teaching is more than a profession. It’s a calling, one that Lenora answers both willingly and generously. She has dug deep in her own pockets to provide for her students, buying everything from crayons to Kindles for her classroom.

Last year, her school received a grant to provide a book for each kindergartener, and this was the first (and only) book many of those children ever owned.

“My students were SO excited! They had huge grins on their faces and they hugged the books,” Lenora recalled. “I noticed after vacation that a lot of the kids were keeping their books in their backpacks. They told me they were reading the book at their dismissal waiting area and on the bus. The book they had been given featured Pete the Cat. They noticed I had Pete the Cat books in the classroom library and they became favorite read-alouds. My students loved Pete the Cat!”

Lenora wanted to encourage that interest in reading, so she asked me if I thought friends from a group known for performing Random Acts of Kindness would be offended if she asked for help. I didn’t, and I didn’t wait. I immediately posted a request on the RAOK discussion thread — and others — asking those who could to contribute a dollar in the form of Amazon gift cards to help her buy a second Pete the Cat book for each of her students. By the end of the school year, we had purchased six Pete the Cat books for each student, plus additional classroom books and supplies that Lenora had been buying because the parents of her students simply can’t afford them.

“It became a celebration each time they would get a new book. Such a look of joy upon their faces. We would do a read through of the new book together at the end of the day. My students would line up to go home with smiles on their faces, hugging their book to their chest,” Lenora said. “My struggling students that had previously shown no interest in books or reading at all became the ones that were most excited about carrying all their Pete the Cat books back and forth each day. They became more proficient at identifying letter sounds and decoding simple words. A Pete the Cat addition and subtraction practice became a class favorite.”

PeteLenora used those books to teach something else, too.

“We talked a great deal about random acts of kindness last year. A label was placed inside the front of each book saying, ‘This book provided by a Random Act of Kindness.’ My students became excited about doing acts of kindness for others. It was a joy to see children becoming much more caring and hopeful. They knew there were people who cared about them.”

Twenty years earlier, I’d had the opportunity to see for myself the difference that caring, and reading, makes in students like these when I volunteered to help struggling third-grade readers at Birmingham’s East Lake Elementary School. I visited the school twice a week, spending an hour with three students who should never have been promoted to third grade and wouldn’t be promoted to fourth if they couldn’t catch up. They thrived with the three-on-one attention. Together, on chairs drawn up in a circle in the hallway, we overcame their deficiencies and they learned not only to read but to enjoy reading. As the year drew to a close, I was wanted to do something to prevent them from losing ground over the summer and I decided to buy each of the three a book. I’ll never forget the joy I saw on their faces when they opened the gifts, nor the pride when their classmates saw their books and heard them read aloud.

Such a simple thing. My parents had saved pennies to buy me pony rides and Popsicles when I was a little girl, but we always had plenty of books. My library of more than 10,000 titles includes three or four books given to me some 50 or so years ago. We didn’t have much money back then, but you can’t say we were poor because we had so many books.

I learned to cook because I had learned to read. I learned to knit because I had learned to read. I learned so much because I had learned to read, and I’m still learning because I had learned to read.

Lenora found these waiting for her at school Monday, 1 August 2016.

I’m helping Lenora once again, because each year brings new students who may never own their own book unless someone like me — and you — provides it. You may not be able to help. You may prefer to help in your own community. I understand. If you can, though, please consider helping Lenora help this year’s class. You can contribute as little as 50 cents through an Amazon gift card, or you can choose something from her Classroom Wish List. The books, or any supplies, will be shipped to Lenora at the school. They must be purchased in her name, otherwise they become the property of the school and cannot legally be given to the students. I’ll add to your gift, using any ad revenues from purchases made through MiddleSisterReviews.com during the rest of the month as well as my own book budget for the next two months.

Here are some of the books Lenora hopes to give her students:


UPDATED 1 August 2016

Lenora stuffThank you! Your direct contributions through gift cards and gifts have provided one copy of a Pete the Cat book for every kindergartner in Lenora’s school! Lenora and her colleagues plan to give the books to the children at the school’s Meet the Teacher event. Sis doesn’t quite know yet exactly how much your indirect contributions — in the form of referral fees to be paid by Amazon for purchases from this site — will total because Lenora expects to return several copies of the book as enrollment is lower than expected. Still, she estimates that proceeds from www.MiddleSisterReviews.com will provide more than $41 to buy open oneadditional books and supplies for Lenora’s students. Please check back for Lenora’s review of the Pete the Cat series, which will be posted soon, as all referrals from that review will go to Project Pete to buy books and supplies for these children. Plus, Lenora will report throughout the year on her students’ response to your generosity.


Is it time to join Prime?

Amazon.com celebrates Prime Day with savings

Today is Prime Day at Amazon.com, with deals in every department, and new ones added during the day, for customers who belong to Prime, the Amazon program that provides free two-day shipping (and even faster, for those who live close to an Amazon warehouse) plus other benefits.

Prime is a good deal, even a great deal, for some households, but not worth the expense for others.  I started with a free, 30-day trial — click on the offer below to get your own free trial — and I’ve renewed it some years and not others.

Today’s deals include a discount of 33.33 percent on the new 7-inch Kindle Fire for Prime members only:

Endeavour Press, which I have found to be a reliable publisher of previously out-of-print books as well as new releases, has a number of Prime Day deals, including this one from Alan Evans:Seek Out

November 1917. The First World War is on a knife-edge – and the British Empire in mortal danger. Commander David Cochrane Smith is about to embark on his most perilous adventure yet. The Imperial German Navy has sent Kapitan-zur-See Erwin Voss to command the mighty new battle cruiser Salzburg in the Adriatic. Smith is ordered by the Admiralty to find and attack her in harbour — a seemingly suicidal task which is made all the more hopeless when he runs into the opposition of his superiors in Venice. But it is a vital mission and Smith knows he must go it alone. Though the odds are stacked against him and his tiny crew, his orders are inflexible. Wipe out the enemy. Commanding three small torpedo boats, Smith finds himself relentlessly hunted as Voss and the Salzberg score victory after victory. Finally, Smith sees one last chance to avert all-out disaster – he stakes everything on one final attempt to seek out and destroy…

Sis remembers . . .

 

Copyright Raul654, used with permission
Copyright Raul654, used with permission

In the U.S., today is set aside to remember the men — and women — who died in the service of our armed forces. Originally known as Decoration Day and celebrated by marking the graves of those who died in our bitter Civil War, it was, not surprisingly observed on different days in different places — and especially from North to South.  Some stubborn Southerners still continue to observe Confederate Memorial Day, ignoring the united day that finally became a federal holiday in 1967.  Along the way, the day also came to be known as the official unofficial beginning of summer — a day for barbecues, beaches and social permission to wear white shoes until the unofficial end of summer on Labor Day.

It’s also become one of the most dangerous holidays in the U.S., with the highest incidence of drunk and/or drugged driving, a fact I learned to my surprise in my days as a journalist.  The research I wrote to write a package of stories on that has left an indelible mark on my memory, from the stories of those who lost someone in a wreck caused by a drunk driver to the poor slob who had not forgiven himself for killing someone while driving drunk.  I haven’t considered driving after drinking so much as one sip of wine since.  This is one of many instances when I’m happy to learn from other people’s mistakes and don’t insist on making my own!

Whatever else you do today, I hope you will take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in our service, whether you are from North or South, East or West, or another nation.  I also hope you will take care if you must drive today, remembering that not everyone else will.

And, finally, I remember my great-uncle, Bobby, who died at Salerno, and I invite you to acknowledge your remembrance of those of your family and friends who lost their lives while serving.  God bless.

Sis supports Walk for ALS

and invites you to consider lending your support

ALS is a fatal neuromuscular disease with no known cure, cause or effective treatment.  I first learned of it when I was perhaps nine or 10 years old and read a biography of Lou Gehrig, the baseball player who died of ALS in 1941.  Recently, it has hit closer to home:  one friend lost her mother, then her brother, to ALS within the last few years; another friend, Joanne Stark, has lived with ALS for 16 years; and, more recently, a member of my family has been diagnosed with it.

Joanne plans to participate in the in the Mid Island WALK for ALS on Sunday, June 5, 2016, to raise money for the ALS Society of Canada.  Here is an excerpt from an email she recently sent to family and friends, and which I have her permission to share with you in the hope that you will consider contributing to either the ALS Society of Canada or one in your own area:

“The WALK for ALS supports provincial ALS societies and their programs to help people with ALS and their families, and the ALS Society of Canada’s investment in breakthrough research…help and hope! This year is the sixteenth anniversary of my ALS diagnosis. Although I have experienced a slow decline this past year, life is certainly still worth living! I still hope for an ALS cure in my lifetime. It is my hope that you will consider sponsoring me by making a secure online donation using your credit card through my ALS fundraising website.

Last year, friends helped her raise almost $6,000 (Canadian). This year, friends helped her raise $6,285!  Thanks for letting me share Joanne’s story with you.