The October Review

By Bonnie Mason

picture1I love Hallowe’en! October is my favorite month –  I have a self-proclaimed Holiday during October. Many years ago I designated October 4th to be my own personal holiday and have celebrated that day ever since! My family and close friends even give me gifts… I loved Hallowe’en before it became such a retail extravaganza and for years baked twenty five or thirty loaves of pumpkin bread to deliver on Hallowe’en night to people I absolutely enjoyed in life, but rarely got to see.

One of my favorite events at Barnes & Noble is “Howloween” held on the Saturday before Hallowe’en every year. PAWS to Read therapy dogs fill the Children’s Department: the dogs all come in costumes, their owners come in costumes, and kids come in costumes! It is so much fun and at the end of the event they all parade through the store!

I have three great books for you so perfect for this Season and all written by local authors. Sylvia Shults has written Fractured Spirits, Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, a collection of experiences at the mental health hospital from ghost hunting groups, former nurses, sensitives, and ordinary people along with a history of the hospital and Dr. George Zeller’s innovative treatment of the patients. Ms. Shults “brings a passion for paranormal investigation to her adventures at this haunted hotspot”, tauted as a “ghost story a hundred years in the making”. Sylvia’s next book,  Rhoda Derry, a fascinating history of one of the patients at the Peoria State Hospital will be released on October 15th.

Next,  Stephanie McCarthy ‘s book Peoria’s Haunted Memories is a must this season!  A compilation of ghost stories and legends, a collection of haunted sites in and around Peoria to drive by or visit during the Halloween season… “Peoria’s Haunted Memories serves as a unique guide for the intrepid supernatural sleuth seeking confirmation that the dead do not always rest in peace”. Visit these sites housing the supernatural at dusk and add a welcome eeriness to October!

Lastly, Joe Chianakas is writing a series that falls under the genre of horror beginning with The Rabbit in Red, Joe’s first book, and Burn the Rabbit, book two released on the 15th of this month! Rabbit in Red involves 19 horror-loving teens who enter a movie studio competition that promises rewards including a career making the movies they love, but things aren’t always as they seem and soon life starts to imitate art.  Lots of horror film references for the horror film devotee!

All of these books are available in paper back for prices from $15.99 to $24.98 and will add just the right touch to this delightful fall season when the days rapidly grow shorter and there is a definite chill in the air! So put on a sweater or comfy jacket, grab a quilt and curl up on that wicker porch furniture with all of these books for the last of the outdoor reading weather.

Support our local authors (a great diversion from the ever pervasive Presidential campaign) and enjoy – Happy Halloween everyone!

The May Review

by Bonnie Mason

Books-5-15I  became a huge fan of vinegar the night I inadvertently poured hot vinegar (can’t remember why I even had hot vinegar-already tried cold vinegar) in a porcelain sink that I had spent years trying to clean and voila a clean sink appeared!

So the book Vinegar: 100’s of Household Uses was of immediate interest. Written by Maria Constantino and Gina Steer this book is an impressive compilation of solutions to problems like water circles on dark wood furniture, ridding my brick sidewalk of weeds, antiperspirants – that often contain aluminum thought to cause dementia… I don’t “hate”  much , but I really don’t like chemicals in my house at all, ever The only problem with my resolve to get rid of chemicals is that they work… But evidently so does vinegar!

Published by Flame Tree Publishing, 2014, the book has found it’s way to the Bargain Dept. at $7.98.

I have reviewed the following book before, but a long time ago and I love this book. It is especially appropriate for Springtime – a perfect Springtime gift: Illinois Insects and Spiders, illustrated by Peggy MacNamera.

It is vital for several reasons not the least of which  is that all the illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful and detailed watercolors, 28 plates of them. The text is written by Field Museum curators and collection managers that identify the species and reveal their interesting behaviors and unique habitats.

The text “marries art and entomology in a unique introduction to the science of natural history.” It really must be seen to be appreciated. Published by the University of Chicago Press, 2005 (not much change in insects in the ensuing years), paperback, it sells for $16.00.

Deborah Ruddell, local author – you may remember her from Today at The Bluebird Cafe – has once again joined forces with Joan Rankin illustrator from the same, and created  an equally priceless book of poetry for children entitled The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes.

Whimsey! This book is the material definition of whimsey. Joan Rankin’s watercolor illustrations bring  Debby’s beyond clever and silly poetry to life. My favorite The Gingerbread House Makeover verse two: and picture now a healthy house admired from coast to coast, adorned with corn and carrot sticks and built of whole wheat toast… The book is precious, filled with fun.

The suggested age lists four to eight years, my thought is that anyone with a sense of delight will appreciate it! Published by Simon & Schuster, 2015, it sells for $17.99.

I just read a quote I shall hold in my heart forever: It is far better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring, which brought to mind my favorite line from Bob Hope’s Thanks for the Memories: “You often were a headache, but you never were a bore”. Amen.

I think of the truly unique people I know, how I love them all. Not one of them could be accused of being a bore -ever. Now that the weather is conducive to being outside Chauncey and I get to walk the neighborhood that I am delighted to say is full of them – Hooray!

Fly those flags, put the porch furniture back out. The Moss Avenue Sale can’t be far off! As always find good books & READ! Summer is on the way! God bless America… And you…

The March Review

by Bonnie Mason

This is the month I traditionally devote to gardens in some regard, but I don’t even want to think about my back yard this year. I am totally devastated by the city’s great plan – whatever it could possibly have been – that destroyed my enchanted forest full of happy little creatures.

The trees home for countless birds and squirrels and a delightful buffer for me and my own little world, chopped down, replaced by grass ( who’s going to cut it?) and the tackiest cement block wall. I feel as if someone built one of those basement houses from the 50’s on my gorgeous lot. What does Historic Preservation even mean?

Between the grocery store parking lot, the bombed out hill, and 7th Street/MLK, Jr. Vegetation Mow Down… I simply cannot make a right turn from my driveway. Topics to avoid if you see me – don’t get me started.

So while this is my “think garden” month for books, not this year – I found two irresistible history related books that are great fun to pour over.Time-Book

The first entitled Inside The Red Border is a compilation of TIME Magazine covers (no surprise there) coupled with compelling excerpts from the stories referenced. Divided into sixteen sections from The Presidents to Science & Medicine to Person of the Year, the book even includes a section of covers that didn’t make it, we get a fascinating overview of history. This book would fall under the genre of “coffee table” books, but I love it.

I look back with great interest at what was important enough at the time to make the cover of a magazine respected for nine decades. How the images were presented speaks to their historical significance as well. Published by Time Books, 2013, hardcover it sells for $34.95 (B&N Bargain Dept. $14.98).Life-Book

The second book is LIFE The Classic Collection which holds LIFE Magazine’s 100 greatest pictures including 25 prints ready to frame. Many of these images are immediately familiar as part of a news story. In this book they are “allowed to sing as they have never sung before” standing on their own as works of art.

The photographs are not without description, but it doesn’t interfere with their presentation as art in this volume.

To quote “in these pages is the best of LIFE Magazine and – as is clear in many of these heroic, lovely or simply touching photographs – the best of life itself”. Another great book to pour over. Published by LIFE Books, 2008, hardcover it sells for $29.95 (B&N Bargain Dept. $9.98).

If you are looking for just a rather delightful mystery – not little “cozy” mystery, more than that – but not violent, terror, I am going to suggest Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series.Doll-People-Book

Read them in order, you must read them in order, but they are perfect for curling up on a cold and windy March day or evening with a cup of tea and biscotti. Heaven!

A charming cast of characters in a small town not too far from the border in Canada…They are interesting and fun, well written, and available in paperback for $15.00. The first one is entitled Still Life, start with it and enjoy!

Also, if you have little girls in your life, Anne Martin has written a fourth book in the “Doll Series”, The Doll People Set Sail, hardcover, $17.99.

Grisham-BookLast, but not least, John Grisham is coming out with a 5th Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer on May 15th for the little boys in your life, hardcover, $17.99 as well. (I have reviewed these series in the past).

Stay warm – in just a few weeks we can watch for daffodils, tulips and buds on the trees with winter behind us! I am always thrilled with the arrival of March – it’s so hopeful!

The February Review (2015)

 by Bonnie Mason

2015 ~ Seems like only a minute ago people were worried about Y2K – I can’t honestly remember what it even meant and I never really worried about what would happen – I was sure some brilliant soul who cared far more than I, would solve whatever problems resulted and life would go on…And here we are, 2015…All I know for sure is that time flies and it is a good idea to a have fun, to enjoy life – Don’t be so hard on people, appreciate the uniqueness in, and be very kind to your fellow man. Amen. 

M. CarterI found a book that I absolutely fell in love with recently entitled A Perfectly Kept House Is the Sign of A Misspent Life written by Mary Randolph Carter. This book talks about living creatively with all kinds of things I have including pets, clutter, collections and work and “stop worrying about everything being perfectly in it’s place.” Filled with fabulous photos of wonderful stuff and comments like “I don’t really collect, I ‘m attracted to things, I get them, and they accumulate”. The author encourages us to use the best of everything we have – the text provides enjoyable reading – what a great book! Page after page, chapter after chapter of “Living with” food, fashion, dogs, children, obsession. Published by Rizzoli International, in 2010, hardcover, the book sells for $55.00.

N. PealeSo many books I would love to suggest, so little space and time: Another book I love is Positive Thinking Every Day by Norman Vincent Peale. Someone gave me a copy of this little “blurb-a-day” book years ago which I have faithfully read (it’s literally falling apart). Reading the day’s thought takes less than a minute and can completely change my outlook by reminding me that “attitude is everything”. Sort of enhances that “life is short so enjoy” outlook and it’s a great little gift. Published by Simon & Schuster, paperback it sells for $14.95.

Sticker BooksAnd finally, every little interior decorator (of any age, I, of course, own them) needs the  Usborne Dollhouse Sticker Book and Victorian Dollhouse Sticker Book. Filled with beautifully illustrated rooms and detailed stickers galore these colorful activity books will provide hours of decorating fun and sell for only $8.99 each.

I see Spring on the horizon! It is no longer pitch black at five o’clock – the sun (when it’s out) is with us longer! Another six weeks and March will be howling in – porch season isn’t that far away… So cuddle up, light a fire and enjoy the rest of winter. Grab a quilt and read a good book!

The December Book Review

Submitted by Bonnie Mason

I am delighted to be writing this article again – I got sidetracked, as it were, for a year or so until my thoughtful neighbor suggested I write again and I agreed… Thank you!

I do love a good book that exist somewhat under the radar, Best Sellers you can find in the New York Times… One of my favorite reviews was the water color chickens book with an intro by Prince Charles – who knew he was a chicken aficionado!

Fashion BookChristmas gift ideas abound! My grandmother, who built 1505 W. Columbia Terrace in the Uplands, taught me to do all sorts of rather elegant handwork. My mother taught me to sew when I was seven, so my appreciation of Fashion: A History from the 18th Century to the 20th Century, compiled by Taschen, may be greater than most. The collection of garments pictured is honestly breathtaking when the work involved is in creating them is taken into consideration – clothing as genuine works of art. This is a collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, the text is a rich history of fashion over the past three centuries – don’t miss this book! Hardcover, $19.98, a gorgeous volume. 

The Big Idea BookNational Geographic has published a book entitled The Big Idea: How Breakthroughs of the Past Shape the Future. A fascinating analysis of 24 Big Ideas of today and tomorrow and the trail of big ideas through history (from the present to 3,500 BC) that led to them. “Looking backward at giant leaps forward” a reverse chronology is listed on eight pages at the back of the book showing how big ideas interact, build on each other, bounce off each other, and influence each other through history. “A one of a kind volume that will thrill science and technology junkies of every age and give whole new meaning to the phrase “back to the future”. Paperback, the book sells for $12.98!

Gus & Me BookOf course, my final suggestion and my absolute favorite find of the year is Gus & Me. Written by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, this is a charming, charming picture book full of love. It is the story of Keith’s relationship with his grandfather, Gus, who introduced him to music. So beautifully and simply illustrated by the Richards’ daughter, Theodora, (named after Gus) it is a must read. If you don’t feel like reading it there is a CD in the back – Keith will read it to you. I am in complete awe of the fact that Keith Richards is a devoted family man living in Connecticut, father of five children with five grandchildren, still married to Patti after all these years – Hardcover, published by Hanchette Book Group, Inc. the book sells for $18.00. A perfect choice for everyone! 

I am really happy to be writing for you again. Thank you! Be good to each other, read, give books and enjoy the holidays! Merry Christmas!