Chrissie's Books

My favorite books are biographies, memoirs, non-fiction and of course fiction too! I adore learning about different cultures. Books and dogs - they are the best.

Ride With Me, Mariah Montana - Ivan Doig

I listened to the audiobook format, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the narration by Scott Sowers, in fact he drew me into the story at first. It was cute, but then as it continued it became quite simply boring. By the end I just wanted it to end.

So what was wrong? There are two central themes to the book. Jick, an elderly man, whose ancestors we have already met in the previous two books of the series, is struggling with the death of his wife and how to go forward. Should he sell his sheep ranch? The second theme is the impending Centennial Celebration of Montana's statehood. Through this you get a bit of Montana's history. Jick, his daughter(a photographer) and her previously divorced husband(a journalist) travel around Montana in preparation for the Centennial Celebration - writing, photographing and recounting the history of the state. The primary problem is that much of the story is a recounting of past events. The story is told rather than shown, rather than lived.

Jick is whiny and negative and knows so much more than everyone else - this bugged me! His humor is sardonic, more nasty than nice. But of course a novel such as this has to end on a hopeful note, so that has to be patched on at the end!

The theme is really about family relationships, letting children mature and become independent, allowing them to make their own decisions. Parents must let go too! People have to move on, both as their children grow up and after death, but it is all a bit rather trite.

How can I give this more than one star when I just wanted it to end?! How can I say it was even OK? Should I continue with this series?

The Case of Comrade Tulayev (New York Review Book Classics)

The Case of Comrade Tulayev - Victor Serge, Willard R. Trask, Susan Sontag

This is supposed to be a classic about life under Stalin. I very much enjoyed those sections of the novel that describes places and scenes. The author's words draw a picture that you clearly see, be it the feel of the air on a frosty night or a street in Moscow. Likewise, I found the Communists’ maneuvering and killing during the Spanish Civil War interesting.

What I didn't like were the character portrayals. For me it felt that each character, and there are quite a number, are put into the story to deliver a message. That message is clear - life in Stalinist Russia was absurd. Knocks that life dealt you were totally beyond your control. Tulayev is killed at the beginning of the book and the murder has to be found......but not really! Everybody BUT the real killer was was accused and wiped out. The death of Tulayev was simply a great excuse for wiping out inconvenient opponents, people with opposing opinions or any imagined enemy. Yes, this does reflect life during the reign, but the numerous examples hammered in the point excessively.

Good writing, but you can sum up in one sentence the message that is being delivered. The characters are all flat and two dimensional.

The narration of the audiobook by Gregory Linington was fine. It is not his fault that the story was lacking.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer - Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon - Steve Sheinkin

I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book! Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon. On closing this book the reader truly understand the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War. The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer - his creativity, his imagination and his failings too. The list of the latter is long, but boy do I admire the guy! There is so much I could tell you about this man who I knew nothing about before I read this book, except his label as the the "Father of the Atomic Bomb".

I don't regret reading Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, but the two don't compare! You in no way need to read one to read the other. The first is about the bomb, the Manhattan project and spying, but this about Oppenheimer is about the person and his era.

I listened to the audiobook read by Jeff Cummings. I have no complaints with the narration. Read the book or listen to the book. You choose, which ever suits you best. Just don't add it to one of those never-ending lists of books that you don't get around to actually reading!

Truman and American Prometheus

By David McCullough: Truman - -Simon & Schuster- American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer - Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin

ETA: I adored Truman when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It is essential to get another view on Truman's actions and choices concerning atomic weapons, the arms race and the Cold War. To get a fuller understanding of the time and era I strongly recommend reading American Prometheus too! Another five star book.


I listened to the audiobook format of this book, that means more than 54 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Little content could have been removed. The narration by Nelson Runger was wonderful. I have complained about his slurping before, but the producers have removed the slurps. His steady clear pace perfectly matches the informative text. His intonation for Truman, was perfect, both the strength of his speeches in the presidency and his reflections, to-the-point remarks and sarcastic jokes of the elderly man. Our voice does change with age, and Runger has mastered this. (Some voices were, however, in my opinion, too low and ponderous.) At the end, and this is a book that covers all aspects of Truman’s life, from birth to death, i.e. 1884-1972, there were tears in my eyes. This is a book about a man dedicated to fighting for his beliefs, but he was a politician at heart. Keep in mind that I tend to instinctively distrust politicians. It is rather remarkable that I so loved this book. I will try to never again shy away from a book about politicians……well, at least such books written by John McCullough.

Why did I love this book? You learn about American life and values as they were when America was still a land of pioneers to what it had become by the middle of the 20th Century. What the political parties stood for has changed dramatically with time. On completion of this book you have a thorough understanding of the American party system. You travel from an agrarian Midwest value mindset through WW1, the Depression, the New Deal, WW2, the emergence of atomic weapons, the birth of the UN and NATO, the Berlin blockade and successful airlift, the Cold War and McCarthyism, the focus on civil rights, the Korean War all the way up to Kennedy’s presidency. You follow this time-period through the life of a man living through its events, and a man who as president shaped many of these events. McCullough gives you a thorough understanding of all these events and a thorough understanding of the man Truman.

It is an honest book that never shies away from the mistakes made. I wasn’t thrilled with Truman’s friendship and dependence upon Pendergast. I felt that Truman’s relationship with his wife was at first not adequately clarified. By the end I understood Truman, all of him. I believe I comprehend both his familial relationships and the value he put on friendships, which explain his relationship with Pendergast . You see both the good and the bad. I very much admire the strength and forthrightness of Truman who was at heart a marvelous politician. Yes, definitely a politician who fought for his party and made mistakes, but dam he tried his best. Always. He never shirked his responsibilities. He never ran away from a problem, but faced them head on. He was not infallible. I still don’t understand why they never had more children……

I was born in 1951. I understand now what my parents lived through and why they were who they were. I understand now what lead up to the world I was born into. I totally loved this book.

How a Curly-Coated Retriever looks, like the sweetie in my avatar!


Testing how to do pictures. This is a photo of a Curly Coated Retriever that looks like Oscar. He is now four, Oscar I mean......


Curlies are big and very love-able and smart and love to swim.


Thanks, Simran for the instructions. I did not need to add the letters url!








General chat room for all of Chrissie's friends!

Hi Lisa, I thought we can use this blog to suggest books we want to recommend to each other. You and I and our other friends  chat about, well, anything! And to help each other learn about BL. I have put it on both your blog and mine since I gave it two tags:  chrissieandfriendsgab   and lisaandfriendschat  !


I hope Simran has found this and Lee and............all of you!


Oscar says a woofy hi.


I am reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird about Oppenheimer. Very good!!!  excellent follow up to Bomb by ....I cannot remember, but I just wrote a blog entry about that one. That review is near the top of my blog page.


Don't give up if you are lost, just wade around for a while. I am a nincompoop at this stuff and I have sort of managed so you can too.



Bomb - The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon - Steve Sheinkin

Please note that this book has received awards for its excellence for young adults. I was hesitant at first because I was looking for an adult book covering the science and history on the making of the first nuclear bomb and about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of that first bomb. This book is not in any way childish. It gives a clear and concise history of all the events. I am completely satisfied with the book. It is an excellent place to start. Having read this you want more details, more in-depth information about the main characters. I prefer starting with a background of the entire event before plunging into a book focused on Oppenheimer himself. Now I want to know more about this man. He is fascinating; first he makes the bomb and he is at the same time one of first to be aware of its dangers! I have already begun American Prometheus by Kai Bird, a biography focused just on Oppenheimer.

I gave this book three stars because I like it. It reads like a good Wiki article. It has all the prominent facts. This happened and this happened and then this. One event after another. You get a picture of the path toward the making of the bomb, its actual construction and the political environment of those times – WW2, the race for the scientific knowledge and McCarthyism. It is amazing how differently the people spying for the Soviets were punished….and why each thought the Soviets should have this knowledge.

Having read this book, I now can easily go further. There is little character analysis in this book, and that is what I am looking for in my next book on this topic. You certainly cannot start your education in the tenth grade… I have prepared myself.

Concerning the audiobook narration by Roy Samuelson, it was excellent. He doesn’t overdramatize the lines or the events. They are exciting in themselves and do not need extra emphasis. Good speed and clear enunciation too. I can highly recommend this as an audiobook.

So do you want to gab with me?

Then write a blog entry and give it the tag chrissieandfriendsgab. The title can be whatever you want to talk about. The tag box is at the right hand bottom corner of the text box of your blog message.


You can also go to my blog ( ) and you will see a link to where we talk.

How to use tags to fake a group on BookLikes

Reblogged from Krazykiwi @ Kiwitopia:



And now for something completely different...


Instead of having endless discussions on a single post, which quickly leads to notification hell, how about faking it with the BL tags feature and blog pages? As a stopgap workaround it actually works quite well.


  1. Pick a tag. Something unique maybe. Let's go with uniquetag - easiest if it's one word, no caps.
  2. Go to settings -> Pages
  3. Hit that Create a page button and give your page a name and a title. Again, maybe "Unique!" as a title and unique as the page. It'll add your BL blog address behind the name of the page, that's ok.
  4. Now for the magic bit: At the bottom, where there is a drop down that says simple text, instead choose redirect to a url.
  5. Now for the only tricky part: in the redirect URL, put
  7. (but replace the bolded bit with whatever you put in the box above) and save.


Now anything tagged (by anyone) with that tag on their post, will show up in it's own list when you click on that page in your blog. Or you can bookmark it and go straight there. So tell people you want to be in your pseudogroup what tag to use, and off you go.



Obviously it's only a short term solution, you can't moderate or choose who can use it, but it is a way to semi-permanently gather up conversations on a theme, no matter who is starting them. You could also use this just to track an actual tag you're interested in too, I guess :)


ETA additional tip: Clicking your own avatar anywhere, including at the top of the dashboard, will take you straight to your public blog page. 


ETA: Screenshot: The two bits circled in red have to match exactly. Also put the url to copy (replace the bold bit with the name you chose instead) on a line of it's own so it's easier to copy/paste

How I rate my books.

I use the following rating system:


1  star  = I disliked the book

2 stars = The book is OK

3 stars = The book is good

4 stars = The book is really good

5 stars = The book is amazing


If I give a book three stars that means I think it IS worth reading.


I do not give half stars. My rating just gives how I personally reacted to the book; maybe you will react differently.  I do try to explain WHY I have reacted as I have. Hopefully this will help you decide if a book I liked or disliked will work for you.


With audiobooks I rate the book, the written lines. Although I do also state what I thought of the narration, I do not take this into consideration in the rating.



If you want to see my reviews, search for the tag chrissiereviews

All the Names

All the Names - José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa

I listened to this so I would not have to deal with the lack of punctuation, and yet the never-ending sentences were still unavoidable. On and on and on with lists of details that I found boring.

This is a philosophical treatise, or should I say pure sophistry?! Yes, I get what the author is saying about life and death and that the two are intertwined. Even if I do happen to agree, the point is pithy, and I didn't need to listen to all this theorizing. I do get it but I knew it before I began.

Occasionally I did chuckle. That is all I can say that is good about the book. The main protagonist's conversations with the ceiling were amusing.

I did like The Elephant's Journey, and for that reason I thought I would try this book, but it will be my last by Saramago!

The audiobook was narrated by Traber Burns, and he did a fine job. Unfortunately, you cannot make a poor book into a good one through good narration.

The Paris Architect

The Paris Architect - Charles Belfoure

How do I put this one into words for my review?! It was gooooooood. A goooood novel. Not high literature, but damn it all I enjoyed it a lot. Exciting. It starts with great historical details of life in Paris during WW2, then the excitement builds and builds and builds. Parts are gruesome, but the ending left a big smile on my face. Yeah, tons of fun.

But I have to tell you this: the narration of the audiobok was t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e… Mark Bramhall. I mean his French and German dialects were laughable. And you are not supposed to be laughing. He cannot do women’s voices either. I mean bad. OK, when he is just relating straight events, not dialogs, you can relax. The thing is, the terrible narration did NOT affect my appreciation of the book. I make a huge effort to distinguish between the writing and the narration of a book. Good book, but lousy narration. As usual, I am rating the book, not the narration when I give those stars.

There is humor. There are historical details. The book captures the French and how they looked upon the Nazi occupation of Paris. Some French were no angels. Collaborators and those of the Résistance, they are both here. Very realistic. Some women were great and others despicable. Some French were great and some Germans too! :0) Yes, you get architecture too. Classical and Bauhaus and ….oh you have to read this fun, exciting, scary and amusing book. I loved, absolutely loved the ending. It is a novel! I do not want to tell you more than that. Otherwise I might spoil your reading experience.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A memoir of Food and Longing

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing - Anya Von Bremzen

Tell me dear friends, given that I really hate books about food, should I dare read this book? I like memoirs and history!

Mary Coin / Florence Thompson Owens of the iconic 1936 photo "Migrant Mother"

Mary Coin - Marisa Silver

Are you curious about some of the true facts about Dorothy Lange's 1936 iconic photo "Migrant Mother" of Florence Thompson Owens? More photos were taken. Who were these people? Check out this link: If you are unacquainted with Lange look here:

A photograph can say so much, but how much is really true?

In this book of fiction, Mary Coin is Florence and Vera Dare is Dorothy Lange.



On completion:
Intellectually, I liked this book. It gets you thinking. There are some great lines and thoughts about truth, what is real and what is fiction, and photography as an art form. I love the ending that clearly defines where the author stands; you are not left hanging, wondering what the author is trying to say. What you see with your eyes is not always the truth. Truth is complicated and as with everything else people will interpret what they see differently. I liked the way this theme validates the purpose of writing fiction, of creating one version of a possible reality. Whether it is correct from start to finish is not of real importance, in any case you get inside different people’s heads and see how they saw the trajectory of events.

The author does not distort the known facts, but she has plenty of lee-way since very little IS known. Owens/Mary had six or seven children. How the story plays out could possibly be true but perhaps not! Just playing with this version, imagining how the characters felt, is worth the ride.

My favorite theme was what you can achieve with photography as an art form.

What if someone took a photo of you and later you saw it used over and over again. It takes on a life of its own. Think about that. How would you feel?

The dialogs and language used by the different characters are very well done. The book starts in the 1920s and continues a decade into the 21st century. I loved the lines of Alice, a rebellious teenager of modern times. Her whole family is totally fictional but this part of the story makes it possible to ponder the themes mentioned above. Alice and Vera and Mary, women from completely different worlds and eras, the author succeeds in making each one feel true to their time. Then there is Alice’s father, Walker, a social historian. In the sections set around him the words used are those of an educated person. In contrast, when Mary talks the language is simpler. It is like looking at a painting where all the details are right. The story does flip between the different periods, but it is not hard to follow.

There are some parts of the plot that I found far-fetched.

Mary gave up her seventh child because she could not afford medicine. She could not take care of him. How many children can one single women support working as a migrant laborer? She already had six children. But seriously the part where George would not suckle because he had become used to Alma was stretching it.

(show spoiler)

The audiobook has three narrators, one for Mary, one for Walker and one for Vera. I enjoyed the male narration by Mark Zeisler best. Alison Fraser narrates Vera’s sections, and this too was well done. Eva Kaminsky narrates Mary’s sections. In my view her tone felt like that of a modern-day woman. She has a lilt that goes up at the end of each sentence that disturbed me.

I did come to understand the different characters, how past events made them into who they were. But did I feel empathy for them? No, not really, although I did certainly feel in my bones how it might have been to be a migrant worker in California during the Great Depression. I am glad I read the book for this experience alone. I am also glad I read the book because it got me thinking about photography, what can be achieved through it, both good and bad. Finally, how important is it to seek out “the truth”? Isn’t it more important to see how different people might view a given event? Maybe it is not really important to analyze which is the one and only correct one!


Read Oct 9-11, 2013

Shelves: audible, art, hf, usa

Family Matters

Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry

ETA: The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that:

1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and

2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family.

The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing.



All I can say is that this book made me miserable. I cannot deal with stories about dysfunctional families. I get frustrated and unhappy. When you read stories about how people have a hard time because they get caught in a war or a storm or genocide, you watch them fight to survive and you feel a bit of hope for mankind. These characters are strong and have fought for survival and at least some have succeeded. When you watch how normal people are mean to each other you only get filled with despair. I don’t know what to do with my unhappiness when I read such books, books like this one by Robinton Mistry.

The events described were very realistic, it is not that I am criticizing. I am in fact not criticizing the book in any way. It is about the importance of family. I mean look at that title! You learn about life in Bombay in the 90s. Corruption – there it is in one word. Life is a struggle for so many. Poor health care and no social network for the aged. This book is about not only the importance of family, but also about aging and how the young and old have so much to teach each other, but the message is clear that we rarely have the energy to stop and learn from each other. We are too busy just getting through life day by day.

Did I learn anything? Well maybe a bit about Parsi traditions and culture.

This book makes me thankful for living in countries that provide good health care and a relatively good social standard for ALL.

Martin Jarvis’ narration of the audiobook was excellent. Really excellent. Each character had their own intonation and you knew who was speaking just by the tone.

Give Me Tomorrow

Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean Wars Greatest Untold Storythe Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company (Playaway Adult Nonfiction) -

I have absolutely no complaints with this book, but I cannot give it more than three stars. It is a war book. It describes in great detail exactly what happened to George Company at Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. As such, it depicts many individuals' experiences and so you do NOT get close to any one person. I prefer books that draw me close to the thoughts of one or just a few individuals.

The audiobook's narration by Lloyd James was good.

Currently reading

Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life
Joseph E. Persico
World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made
Irving Howe, Morris Dickstein, Kenneth Libo