Thursday Book Feature: The Ice House

The Ice House
by Laura Lee Smith
Copyright 2017.

Johnnie is an immigrant from Scotland, living in Florida and running an ice factory with his wife. Because of a hefty fine by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration after an accident, the factory may close. Johnnie’s son’s drug addiction has strained their relationship to the breaking point. Then Johnnie discovers he has a brain tumor. Against the wishes of his wife and doctor, he travels to Scotland with a young neighbor in an attempt to mend fences with his son.

Because this book is character-driven, it has way too much narration. In the beginning, I could tolerate it, but as the plot developed, it interfered with the action and drove me nuts. The ending could have been different, and the last chapter gave the book an unnecessary aura of sadness.

If The Ice House still appeals to you, I hope you enjoy it. As for me, reading a book shouldn’t be frustrating, and I prefer an ending that makes me feel good. I doubt I’ll read any more of this author’s work.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts Life on the Set

The Cast
by Danielle Steel
Copyright 2018.

Kait is a New York magazine advise columnist who has been divorced twice and has three grown children. After a chance meeting with a television producer at a New Year’s Eve party, she is inspired to write a story line for a television show, based loosely on her grandmother’s story. After she shares it with this producer, he is impressed and decides to make it into a series.

Over the course of a year, as the series is produced and becomes a huge success, and Kait is kept busy working with the screenwriter on various episodes, she becomes involved in the lives of her cast members, and they become her second family. When one of her own daughters is killed overseas while filming a documentary, they all rally around Kait. She then becomes attracted to another actor from Wyoming. Will she open her heart to him after two failed marriages?

Despite Danielle Steel’s nasty habits of too much telling and not enough showing and use of unnecessary adverbs, I’m always drawn to her stories, and this one is no different. Fascinated by the entertainment industry, I enjoyed being transported into the lives of these characters. Being from Wyoming, I felt a special connection to the actor with whom Kait becomes involved at the end. The Audible narrator did an excellent job portraying even the female characters. I recommend this book to anyone interested in how a television series is made and who likes a heartwarming story with a neat ending.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts World War II Racism

Tallgrass: A Novel
by Sandra Dallas
Copyright 2007

In this fictional account of events during World War Ii, an internment camp for evacuated Japanese-American citizens is established in a small Colorado town. Rennie, a thirteen-year-old girl living on her family’s farm adjacent to the camp, tells the story of how these evacuees were transported to the camp and the townspeople’s mixed reactions to their presence. Despite suspicion that one of the camp’s inmates murdered a local girl, Rennie and her family stand up for what’s right.

Her father hires some of the boys to work on the farm. Her mother, skeptical at first, is forced to employ a couple of Japanese girls to help her in the house when she becomes ill. Other sub-plots include Rennie’s brother serving overseas, her best friend, the murdered girl’s sister, and one of the Japanese girls helping in the house. In the acknowledgements at the beginning, the author explains what inspired her to write the book. At the end, she provides historical information and discussion questions for reading groups.

Because I’m not proud of how we treated Japanese-American citizens in the wake of Pearl Harbor, I wouldn’t have read this, but my regional talking book library’s discussion group chose it, so what could I say? I like the way the author tells the story from Rennie’s first person point of view and how she places the girl in situations where she shouldn’t have been in order for her to gleam more of the story. I felt a connection to the setting because my late husband grew up on a farm not too far away during this time. Because the removal and imprisonment of Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor was something I wasn’t aware of until I took a recent U.S. history class during my senior year of high school, this book would be a great way to teach young people about this aspect of World War Ii.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: British Novel Highlights Racial Prejudice


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
Copyright 2010.

In a modern-day English countryside village, Major Pettigrew, a retired widower, after losing his younger brother, develops a friendship with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow who runs a local grocery store. As they become more serious about each other, they involve themselves in the affairs of their village and families amid others’ disapproval of their relationship. The major must also contend with his son, with whom he doesn’t always see eye to eye.

The Audible version I downloaded was read by an excellent British narrator who transported me to this enchanting English village with its rolling hills, thatched cottages, and believable characters. Because of his narration, I found myself laughing at people’s antics from time to time. However, the book’s theme is not funny. It’s maddening that even today, people look down on those who are not of our race. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book and hope to read more by this author.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Meeting My Inspiration Again


One sunny afternoon last week, I was resting in my recliner, listening to the drone of lawnmowers and whine of weeedwhackers as my landscapers did their weekly business in my yard. Suddenly, I heard a crash. This time, it wasn’t my garage door being smashed by a truck belonging to a patron of the day care center next door. It was a lawnmower colliding with a car in my neighbor’s driveway on the other side. I know this only because one of the landscapers, not knowing me, came to my door, thinking it was my driveway and my car.

According to a policeman who showed up a couple of hours later, the car sustained a lot of damage. I gave him the landscaping company’s phone number, and he gave me his card, saying he remembered asking me years ago if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. I couldn’t believe it.

In the fall of 2002, I was single and living in an apartment complex subsidized for seniors and people with disabilities. A registered music therapist, I was working in a nursing home. On a day off, I was walking home after my water exercise class at the YMCA. I’d just jaywalked in front of my building and stopped to talk to a neighbor in a wheelchair when she told me there was a policeman behind me. I turned around and there he was, on a bicycle.

Where had he come from? Had he seen me jaywalk? Was I about to get a ticket, my first ever brush with the law?

To my surprise and relief, he asked me if I was having difficulty crossing streets because drivers weren’t stopping. I told him that as long as I used four-way and other intersections where drivers were required by law to stop, I rarely had a problem. I also explained that I couldn’t see well enough to get the license plates from offending vehicles. He said he would bring up the issue at roll call and rode away.

Now, I was again flustered, even though I’d done nothing wrong this time. All I could tell him was that our first meeting had inspired my first novel. I should have given him my card, but I didn’t. He probably thought I was nuts and wished he’d given me that ticket for jaywalking years ago. In any case, we parted amicably enough.

After I posted about this incident on Facebook, someone asked if the story would continue. That remains to be seen. I may never see that officer again, but I’ll always have the memory of how our first meeting inspired We Shall Overcome.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: A Tale of War, Trust, Acceptance, and Love


The War that Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Copyright 2015.

Right before the start of World War Ii, Ada, age ten, and her brother Jamie, six, flee London to a village in the English countryside, along with other evacuated children, mostly to escape their abusive mother. Despite a club foot, Ada learns to ride and care for horses. Although a teacher claims she’s not educable, she learns to read, write, knit, and sew and becomes involved in the war effort. She eventually realizes that even though she has a disability, she’s not a bad person.

Told from Ada’s first person point of view, this book is written for children but in such a way that adult readers don’t feel as if the narrator is talking down to them. It was chosen by my regional talking book library’s discussion group.

I like the way Ada describes her abuse and later the explosion of bombs and the state of wounded soldiers. The author doesn’t try to shelter young readers from reality. War, trust, acceptance, and love are themes to which we can all relate. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: An Amazing Story


The Paddy Stories: Book 2
By John Justice
Copyright 2018

In this sequel to The Paddy Stories: Book 1 , Pat, a totally blind boy, enters high school. It’s the 1950’s, and he’s mainstreamed into a public school in California, along with another blind boy and a girl in a wheelchair. Lucy, his bosom buddy from the children’s home in Philadelphia where Pat lived, along with others who were also at the home, start high school with him.

Pat takes a music class as an elective and forms a band with Lucy and others. In the course of four years, they become popular. Romantic relationships develop, and Pat and his friends help others along the way. The book also contains sub-plots involving other characters Pat knew in Philadelphia.

There are some missing pieces to this puzzle. In the last volume, Pat was orphaned at age eight, and after spending time in a Philadelphia children’s home, he traveled to Oakland to live with his uncle and aunt. His friend Lucy soon followed, after being reunited with her father. The book ends with Pat in a dormitory at a school for the blind, facing an uncertain future.

As the second volume opens, Pat is starting high school. His uncle and aunt have adopted a couple of other children, but there’s little back story about them or any of the other characters from the previous volume. This would have been helpful, especially to those having not read the first book.

Otherwise, this is an amazing story. It’s amazing that in the 1950’s, a high school principal welcomed three students with disabilities at a time when mainstreaming wasn’t popular. It’s amazing that Pat was able to do so well in school despite one teacher’s attitude and few materials available in braille and that other teachers and students didn’t have a problem with Pat’s blindness. It’s amazing that Pat and Lucy and other young couples were able to express their love for each other openly and talk about getting married when surely this was frowned upon back then. Although this book, in my opinion, is not realistic, despite the missing pieces to the puzzle, I enjoyed being taken to a world where dreams really come true.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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