Book Review – Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby

The summary of Cracks in the Sidewalk hardly do it justice and when I found out it was based on a true story, that made it even more meaningful to me. This was truly a great story filled with all the heartache and happiness real life has to offer and it was so brilliantly told that I couldn’t help but be moved to tears.

Cracks in the Sidewalk peaked my curiosity from the word go. As Claire explained her desire for a large family I found myself immediately drawn to her. As an only child myself, I completely understand the desire to surround one’s self with children and dreams of grandchildren. My heart broke when she received the news that she would only have one child. I could only imagine Claire’s incredible joy when she was blessed with three lovely grandchildren.

I actually stopped reading Cracks in the Sidewalk when Claire’s daughter began having troubles with her pregnancy. I am 31 weeks pregnant myself and the details of Crosby’s writing and how the characters feel so real just hit too close to home. I was able to put the book down but I still couldn’t put the characters out of my mind. It reminded me of a close friendship, you can go quite a long time without talking to someone but they are so embedded in your heart you can’t let them go. That’s how I felt about Claire and her family. I worked through the tears and went back to reading.

I feel like Claire is more than a character in a book; she feels more like a close friend or neighbor. I would describe her as one of the strongest women I know. I can’t imagine slowly losing your daughter and then losing your grandchildren as well. Her resilience is remarkable and her spirit is something that will stick in my mind forever.

Cracks in the Sidewalk is the third book I’ve read by Bette Lee Crosby and I must say she does a great job bringing out the spirit of each character. I finished the last chapter sobbing and I wasn’t sure if I was crying for joy or because my heart was broken. I do know I hold each character in my heart as if I had been part of the story. What a touching work by Crosby and I recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved or longed for a child.

Book Review: Les Miserables

"How wonderful it is to be loved, but how much greater to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion; it rejects everything that is not pure and arms itself with nothing that is not noble and great. An unworthy thought can no more take root in it than a nettle on a glacier. The lofty and serene spirit, immune from all base passion and emotion prevailing over the clowds and shadows of this world, the follies, lies, hatreds, vanities and miseries, dwells in the azure of the sky and feels the deep and subterranean shifts of destiny no more than the mountain peak feels the earthquake. "

While reading these lines, I knew how I was going to start my review once I finished the book, and that I was going to highly recommend it to anyone who would care to listen.

Les Miserables definitely counts as one of my favorite books, and is, perhaps, one of the best works in all of literature. No wonder Ayn Rand admired Victor Hugo.

Be prepared, hence, for a really long review.The genius and master story teller that Hugo is, the 1201 pages (rest were relegated to the appendix by the translator) made for swift reading (except for the account of the battle of Waterloo, 'a few pages of history' and French sewer system, all of which I completely skipped). The numerous twists and turns, the re-emergence of characters I considered irrelevant, at the most unexpected of places to take the story in a completely new direction made it thoroughly captivating, save a few places where perhaps Hugo fought with his editor and made it a point to see to it that whatever he had penned would find place in the final work, for instance, the 3 examples mentioned above that tried my patience in the very first few pages and which, I guiltless skipped. The eloquent prose and lofty thoughts all made good work of transporting me to a different world and inspiring in me the reverie that makes a person write poetry. Trust me, as your eyes grace the pages, all your finer sensibilities will be awakened and you will be intoxicated with idealism and beauty. As Howard Roark had said, "To the glory of man." That's what this book is about- a tale of heroism. Or, as Hugo himself put it, "This book is a drama in which the leading character is the infinite."

Jean Valjean, the protagonist and his savior Monseigneur Bienvenu will make you want to be a better person. First on the latter. Sample this: "Do not ask the name of the person who seeks a bed for the night. He who is reluctant to give his name is the one who most needs shelter … We must never fear robbers or murderers. They are dangers from outside, small dangers. It is ourselves we have to fear. Prejudice is the real robber and vice the real murderer. " I could go on to talk about his "sublime absurdities of goodness" and how "peaceful in his solitude, adoring, matching the tranquility of the heavens with the tranquility of his own heartbeat, ravished in the shadows by the visible and invisible splendurs of God , he opened his spirit to the thoughts coming from the unknown "and how in all of it" did not scrutinise God but let his eyes be dazzled "but what touched me the most, in addition to his encounter with Jean Valjean, was his delicacy: "Is there not true evangelism in the delicacy which refrains frompreaching and moralizing? To avoid probing an open wound, is not that the truest sympathy?". OK, now on one of the most poignant parts of the story- the episode where Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, finds shelter, food and more importantly, humane treatment, in the bishop's place and has his soul taken from the devil and bought for God by the bishop. "Like an owl overtaken by a sudden sunrise, he was blinded by the radiance of virtue." Yes, dear reader, I have Les Miserables open by my side and this review is going to have lots of quotes straight from the book (I'm not past 200 pages yet!).

I had forebodings of what would happen to Fantine but thought Hugo extremely cruel to have her die the way she did. Her feelings for her daughter, which Hugo describes along with his observations on the miracles that children are, are sublime. And the 'tempest in the skull' of Monsieur Madeleine and what he finally does in answer to his conscience is extremely moving. Particularly poignant was the Monsieur Madelene observing in the court room that in the earlier instance "he had been tried in the absence of God." Same for the part about Fantine's grave- "Mercifully, God knows where to look for our souls."

Part 1 took me the longest and having come to book 2 of part 2, I was gradually being aware that I had in my hands a book I was sure to fall in love with. I was impressed, but not much, by then. My opinion changed pretty soon. Jean Valejean's encounter with Cosette and their journey into happiness as a father and daughter thrown together by providence is laced with such tender prose as one can hardly help being touched. Take this one: "To stand at her bedside watching while she slept was to experience a shiver of ecstasy. He discovered a mother's agonised tenderness without knowing what it was, for nothing is deeper and sweeter than the overwhelming impulse of a heart moved suddenly to love- a saddened, aging heart made new! .. Nothing is more charming than the glow of happiness amid squalor. There is a rose tinted attic in all our lives. " These lines beautifully summarise what these 2 souls were to each other: "He protected her and she sustained him. Thanks to him she could go forward into life, and thanks to her he could continue virtuous. He was the child's support and she his mainstay .Sublime, unfathomable marvel of the balance of destiny! "

Javert pursuing Jean Valejean and the fantastic entry into the convent, both the first and the second time are terrific. Javert's character throughout and his death also make for terrific reading. And more interesting is the hand of providence that made sure it was the same covent old Fauchelevent had been working in, who "having the chance to perform a good deed, clutched at it with the eagerness of a dying man offered some rare vintage which he has never previously tasted. " Also interesting is the character of the new grave digger: "In the morning I write love-letters and in the afternoon I dig graves. Such is life." Hugo was a genius, I repeat.

Part 3 turned out to be more enchanting than the previous 2 parts. Marius' discovery of his father, polishing of his character in poverty, and subsequently love for Cosette, all were philosophy and poetry-in-prose at their best. I could quote many but exercising the faculty of choice scares me. Some of the most touching and profoundly moving lines, lines dripping with beauty and eloquence have been lent to describe the love Marius and Cosette shared and if I start quoting, the 13,400 characters left for this review in Goodreads would be over without my having proceeded to the next part. Only this should suffice to say that the confessions of Marius and Cosette make for one of the most tender ways love is announced in literature. I'll not forget, for a long, long time to come, what all preceded this one: "And gradually they began to speak. Outpouring followed the silence which is fulfilment."

Gabroche's was another unforgettable character and the night he spent with his two younger brothers without knowing their identity, caring and protective, and fun all the same, was endearing. The revolution didn't surprisingly douse the passion I had developed for the book by then, eventually reading part 3 onwards till the last in 2 sittings flat. Marius' conversation with his grandfather after 5 years was food for thought for the psychology student in me and the separation that followed, for both, was heart rending. From then on, I daresay, a different level is reached as the build up was such that I couldn't just put the book down. Marius' recovery, his grandfather's ecstasy … the tale seemed to be moving towards a happy ending. The sight of the old man praying for the first time in his life was moving again. But the confessions of that another old man and Cosette's growing indifference put me on guard for a tragic ending. Perhaps Marius would learn of this another father's good deeds only after death had already done them apart. This thought shook me and I'm glad it didn't happen so. Jean Valjean's redemption and Marius recognizing the true worth of the old man, however, were too much as the lump in my throat threatened to burst out and the tears welling up in my eyes took a life of their own and just wouldn't stop. Again, I can't possibly quote from those parts as there are simply too many. Thank God, it was a happy ending. That's all I could think of as tears streamed down my cheeks while my eyes caressed the last 4 lines:

He sleeps. Although so much he was denied,
He lived; and when his dear love left him, died.
it happened of itself in the calm way
That in the evening night-time follows day.

I don't know why … but books such as these make me fall in love with God, all the more …

WordPress for Business Bloggers Work – Book Review

I just finished reading "WordPress for Business Bloggers" by Paul Thewless. As a professional blogger and owner of a Blog Network, I always like to stay current and read new offerings on this topic. Most of what I read is the same information just repackages, I am happy to say that this book is quite the opposite. It is filled with fresh content and I actually learned a great deal.

This is a technical guide that is focused on the WordPress platform for blogging. This is the platform that I use as well as the majority of other professional bloggers. This resource is very complete and jam packed with everything you need to know to take your blog to the next level. I really liked the section son plug-ins as it touches on the basics and then really dives into hundreds of different ones available, many of which I have never heard of. After reading the book, I actually installed some and made some great changers to my blog. The book covers a technical topic but it is written in a very easy to digest and understand fashion. It is also very well organized and the chapters are laid out in a way that makes sense and allows you to refer back various subjects with ease. I also got a lot of the sections on advertising and search engine optimization.

In closing, I would recommend this book to any blogger who is looking to increase the professionalism and increase the success of their blog.

Book Review of The Trinity Knot by Author DonnaLee Overly

Book one of an intended series of women’s contemporary fiction, DonnaLee Overly’s The Trinity Knot: Releasing the Knot of Silence, poses a journey into the core of one woman’s psyche, affected and conflicted by the trauma of sexual assault by someone that she trusted, taking place in a location where she should have felt safe. This story brings to focus this unpleasant scenario and questions, which bear distinct discussion, especially in regard to today’s ongoing headlines concerning sexual assault on women. The story raises the question; can you not only forgive your rapist, but fall in love with him as well?

The protagonist, Gabriella King, has a great life. She is the daughter of a wealthy Texas rancher, as well as being blessed with beauty, a talent and passion for painting and overall confidence but after experiencing the distress of a sexual assault she becomes a very different person experiencing a gamut of negative emotions. Ashamed, she keeps the attack to herself and chooses not to divulge anything to those closest to her. Hiding her pain, she lets time pass. She also thinks no one will believe her, and retreats from the world while maintaining a disposition of self-deprecation. However, she cannot remain cloistered in her shame and finds that she does have to confront what happened.

However, Gabby’s perspective is not the only side of the story to be explored. There is also the side of her attacker Brett, the handsome and desirable tennis instructor and all around ladies man, whose misconception about his encounter with Gabby and other women in general, along with his overall promiscuous experiences with women, lead him to thinking that his sexual attack was desired. When Brett realizes that Gabby did not consider his sexual conduct desirable, he seeks to correct her misgivings about him.

Eventually, an unconventional romance develops as unexpected emotions emerge within the emotionally torn Gabby as she learns to let go and forgive.

Altogether, I enjoyed The Trinity Knot: Releasing the Knot of Silence. I found it to be a well-written and intriguing read that broached the compelling topic of forced seduction with a scenario relevant to current events. The characters were realistically posed and well-developed within a story which easily engaged. Be warned this book is for adults and does concern adult subject matter; that being said, it is definitely worth the read, I do recommend it and I look forward to the next in the series.

Deepak Chopra – Golf For Enlightenment – Book Review

Dr. Deepak Chopra has written an interesting fictional story about a man named Adam and his quest for the perfect swing. Through Adams story, Dr. Chopra illustrates the insightful parallels between golf and life. There are seven important lessons anyone playing golf should think about. The book is a great read and you’ll find it hard to put down once you start.

I wasn’t expecting much when I first picked up this book that was bought by someone else in the house. I thought it would be pretty boring because of the title, “golf for enlightenment”. However as soon as I started reading it I found it hard to put it down.

The story is a about a man named Adam, a guy who is obsessed about golf but walks off the course in a bad mood. A situation that most of us can relate to. That’s the reason why this book is really enjoyable, because we can relate to it as Adam is a typical golfer.

‘A New Way to Play’ and ‘Master of the Game’

There are actually two chapters before this, and a foreword by Jesper Parnevik. The chapters are titled “A New Way to Play” and “Master of the Game”. In the first chapter, Dr Copra addresses golf in spiritual terms, which is something that hasn’t been done before or is very rare. As he is himself a golfer, he talks about needing the sensations going through your body just before you hit the ball to be just right as that will determine where the ball will go and that “clear perception” is needed to master the game of golf. Dr Chopra also discusses the need for creativity in golf due to different lies you might get and the many situations you find yourself in while playing. He also mentions that you don’t need to be a “metaphysical bent” to read the book but any golfer can read it and benefit.

Deepak rightly says that the self shouldn’t be forgotten while playing because the self is all important in golf. He proposes a method where you forget about being technically perfect because you lose an element of yourself.(Unless of course it comes naturally to you or you start when you’re young). He talks about his experiences while playing his rounds and how he goes about it. He relates his golf experiences to life extremely well and in an easy to understand manner.

Typical Golfer

Introducing Adam Seaver, a golfer from the Boston Metro Area. He is introduced while playing a frustrating round with his friends. He can hear his friends laughing at him. At this point he gets really mad and just swipes at the ball, slicing it into the rough. When he gets to his muddy ball, he’s far from his friends, it’s drizzling, dark and he’s in a pine covered area like a forest. A voice says “You are going to be a master of the game”. The stranger tells Adam to meet him the following day at a weird location.

The Lessons

What follows is seven brilliant chapters titled, “Be of One Mind”, “Let the Swing Happen”,”Find the Now and You’ll Find the Shot”, “Play from Your Heart to the Hole”, “Winning is Passion with Detachment”, “The Ball Knows Everything”, “Let the Game Play You” and then the Epilogue – “Leela”.

Conclusion

This book contains so much practical information that anyone can use, for life and for anything. It’s highly entertaining and once you start, you’ll just want to keep reading. For a golfer, it’s a must read. It’s something different from all the technical magazines out there and more entertaining as well.

8 Advantages of E-Books

As far as reading is concerned, e-books are all the rage in the here and now. In this article, we are going to talk about the advantages of electronic books. Let’s go over some of the main advantages.

1) Availability

Digital books never go out of stock/print. All you need to do is get access to the website that provides a link to the book you are interested in. Within minutes, the book will be available to you.

2) Compatibility

As soon as you have downloaded the book, you can create its copies on different devices that you may own. You can also benefit from the cloud storage services. Moreover, if you delete the eBook by accident, you can re-download it from the cloud storage.

3) Storage

Another thing that makes eBooks popular is the ease of storage. The traditional books take up a good deal of storage as each book occupies some physical space. In a room, you can store a limited number of books. On the other hand, millions of electronic books can be stored in a single hard drive or memory card. And these digital devices don’t take a lot of storage space.

4) Format

eBooks offer another great advantage, which is their format. As far as the type of media is concerned, you can enjoy pictures, audios and videos in e-books.

5) Audio

The synchronization of eBooks to audio books is a piece of cake. As a matter of fact, most of today’s e-books come with a built-in audio book feature. So, you can learn from your eBooks while you are on the move. All you need to do is connect your headphones to your mobile and enjoy listening to your audio books.

6) Visual Aids

If you are a visual learner, different types of aids, such as charts and graphs are part of eBooks. Luckily, the functionality of these digital books is far beyond the traditional books. If your goal is to read and retain information, we suggest that you opt for the electronic type.

7) Search

Ease of search is another great feature of eBooks. Even if you have an eBook consisting of 5000 pages, you can get access to the right page within a few seconds. It just takes a few seconds to type your desired keywords and reach the target page. You don’t need to flip through the book in order to get the information you need. The search feature can help you a lot if you are a student.

8) Cost

Unlike the conventional printed media, digital books can be bought at a fraction of the cost. This is even more important if you are a university student and can’t spend thousands of dollars on your books.

So, if you download eBooks instead of buying the hardcover books, you can save a good deal of money. You just need to download the book and launch it on your computer or mobile device.

In short, if you own a computer or mobile device, make sure you give a go to the eBook versions of your favorite books.

Book Review – Smoky the Cowhorse

For those not familiar with “Smoky,” the tale follows a horse named Smoky, who was born on the range, wild and free. His first few years are spent frolicking along with his mother and other horses in his herd. From beating off aggressive, older horses to escaping from hungry wolves, Smoky has many experiences that help shape him as a horse, and make him a strong horse who knows how to survive.

Other than being captured as a youngster with the rest of the herd so all the foals can be branded with the Rocking R ranch’s mark, Smoky has no contact with humans until it is time for him to be “broke” and made into a proper cowpony. The “breaking” of the range horses is harsh and eventually wears Smoky down, so that he can be ridden, but only by Clint, the man who broke him and who rides/breaks all the young horses at the ranch. Clint and Smoky come to an understanding and while Smoky frequently bucks, and bucks so strongly that no other man can ride him, Clint likes the horse’s feistiness. Smoky also has uncanny cow skills and quickly proves invaluable to Clint and the Rocking R.

Every fall, after the annual roundup is complete, all the cowponies are set free to roam the range until spring. It is during one of these winters that Smoky and the band of horses he is with are stolen by someone from south of the border. Lost to the Rocking R, Smoky proves unrideable and is eventually sold to a rodeo outfit. It is here that Smoky is known as “The Cougar” – a bronc nobody can ride. While Clint searches for his beloved horse, Smoky goes through a series of careers and owners.

Smoky is a classic in the world of horse books and if you’re a fan of this genre, you really should read this book. There’s a reason it was made into a movie (twice) as well as a winner of the Newbery. The only caveat is that, because it was written by a true cowboy, back in the 20’s, it is both dated in the way the horses are handled, the way different people are treated, and the “cowboy speak” that uses mixed tenses, poor grammar, and misspellings (crethure for creature; eddication for education), that are frequent, but at least consistent. It takes a few chapters to get used to the unusual language, and if you stick with it, the reward will be well worth it. The story is interesting and will frequently pull at your heartstrings.

Quill says: A true classic that every horse lover should read.