Thursday, January 22, 2015


L. Z. Marie
Guest Author

One box? One? Oh, the agony! There’s no weight limit for this Box of Books, right? Because while compiling the list I realize my selections are weighty tomes!
My choices clearly reflect my love of learning, metaphysics, art, history, the classics, and the exotic.  Hope this Box is sturdy!

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin: Darcy and Elizabeth…their story never gets old! “I’m all astonishment!”
2.  The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George: A delicious saga of love, lust, power, and ancient Egypt.
3. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: Fun-fun-fun! A Regency era  Desperate Housewives. And good for a cry too.
4. Bible: King James Version
5. The Zohar: This is the guide to ancient Jewish mysticism, aka Kabbalah.
6. The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich: Better than visiting an Art Museum.
7. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon: History! Yummy!
8. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence: A sweeping romantic war story about Lawrence of Arabia.
9. The Complete works of Shakespeare: Well, I do have a degree in English literature so not including The Bard is a literary sin!
10: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: One of my faves. Gothic creepy at it’s finest.
11:  The Clothing of the Renaissance World by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal: Both the detailed descriptions and exceptional woodcut prints in this 500-page text appeal to my fashionista side. Folks knew how to dress back then! (Well, at least the nobility.)
12. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: I recommend this book to my students. I tell them to memorize it if they want to rule the world. Mwahaha!
13. Gardners’ Art Through the Ages by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner: With extensive commentary and beautiful photos it’s a  visual and educational feast.
14 & 15:  The Far Pavilions volumes 1 & 2 by M.M. Kaye: A tale of love, war, maharajas, the Himalayas, and India.

Now, all I need is Box of TIME to read and reread all these treasured volumes!

To learn more about L.Z. Marie,  visit her on her blog site, .  The blog is full of articles for fledging writers, helps for teachers of literature, insights for students, and overviews of her current and upcoming novels.

Shade Tree Book Reviews and Blog accepts submissions by Authors, and viewers for the Box of Books Series.  What fifteen books could you not live without, if you could only have fifteen books?  Why?  We would love to hear from you. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Spinster Bride

Jane Goodger

Nothing makes for a more fun historical romance novel than one set in the time period of the late 1800s, centered on the pomp and circumstance the most pompous English peerage of the times.  During this said time, nothing was worse than to be twenty-two or three years old and a single female of title with no prospects in sight. 
Enter one very ancient twenty-four year old beautiful single titled Lady with a younger brother “the Lord” of the household and a domineering mother who is on the hunt for “THE” titled husband for her daughter.  Not to mince words, or waste time dancing around the ballroom, Ms. Goodger spins us off on one of the most fun, wild courtships I have read in a long time.
Instead of proposing marriage to the beauty at the ball, who accosts him in the darkened garden, the accosted handsome party goer, surprises the heroine with a proposal to a totally different tune.  Her brother owes him an inordinate some of money for a gambling debt and in return for her assistance in helping him to acquire a bride by the end of The Season, he will forgive the brother’s debt, in full.  The only problem is, things went awry along the way, and the best laid plans of this Gentleman and Lady took turns and found endings that neither dreamed would ever happen.    
As with any good historical romance, The Spinster Bride is full of balls, beautiful gowns, handsome men, and lots of ton gossip and intrigue.   There is also a second back story of the heroine’s mother and her maligned courtship sprinkled through the main story line.  This adds some depth to the story and some depth to some characters that could otherwise have been considered rather shallow. 
As indicated in the book’s title, yes, the spinster does get the groom.  But the trip to the Alter is an entertaining one for the reader.  The story is just enough different from the average historical romance peerage fare as to keep the reader turning the page to see what trouble the characters have fallen into next.  A little mystery, a lot of humor, a good bit of bedroom time (in and out of the bedroom), and a lot of innuendo in between keeps the dialogue hot and steamy.  So, yes, there is explicit between the pages. 
A good weekend read, with an explicit warning for those who prefer the tamer fare.  With this codicil, I give this a good 4.5 Stars. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Still On Herring Cove Road

Michael Kroft

Just how is life lived one the other side of the freeway?  You know, in those low income apartments filled with one parent households and elderly personages on pensions that don’t quite meet the end of the month?  Those of us who live on the tree lined streets of single family homes with two car garages and two income households seem to see life through a different set of glasses.  Life seems to go along at a little different pace, until we suddenly find ourselves forced into circumstances from being that middle-ish income family to the single income, one parent household with a budget stretched so tight it seems like lace curtains.
Then along comes the aging next door neighbor who has suddenly found himself alone in a big empty house after many years of sharing it with the love of his life….not only does he have a big empty space to knock around in, there is a big empty space in his heart, just as he has retired with no one to share it.  And life brings these two families together…just what mysteries and trouble can an elderly man and a young boy get in to? Plenty.
Still On Herring Cove Road, the second of the two books in the series picks up the story of Av (Avriel) and his young friend Dewey and his pretty and young widowed mother.  After discovering that she can no longer hold on to the house that she and her husband had owned before his death, she moves her and her son to some low income apartments near where she works.  Avriel has a vested interest in the family by this time and still finds he is over at their new apartment any time that Dewey is home, as he continues to supply Lisa with the much needed no cost childcare.  Truly, Lisa and Dewey are supplying Av with the much needed family that he needs and longs for, as he and his wife never had a family.
Just before Lisa and Dewey move, a murdered child is found in their area of the city, and not too far from where they are moving.  The mystery winding through the novel is about the continued string of murders that are happening just a little too close to where Lisa and Dewey are living on Herring Cove Road.  Michael Kroft does a masterful job of maintaining the interest in the mystery, even though the incidence of the murders are well spaced throughout the book.  Having grown up on sleuth novels, I love being able to figure out early on “whodunit”, then spend the rest of the book watching the author spin the tale with the “who”, “what”, “where”, and “how”.   Michael brought this one out of the woodwork and out of left field.  But then, aren’t most child predators someone who we least suspect?
But once again, I loved the story within the story.  I loved the story of the elderly, lonely neighbor who was loved as much by a young boy and his busy single mom for who he was, the “grandfather” figure.  I loved the story of the lonely retired man who saw a sad and over stretched mom and a very sad little boy who needed his love and the bond that grew and developed.  This second story was a wonderful statement of what our society so often does out of necessity in this date and time, and that is to create nuclear family units to take care of emotional and familial needs when our genetic family is no longer there or the distance is so great that they cannot help us with day-to-day living needs.
Hidden between the pages was the story of a young boy having to get on in a new world and environment to which he has never been exposed.  A place where life is a little rougher, the kids a little more ragged around the edges.  And just when you wonder if mom has fed him to the dogs or if Av will be able to watch him from a distance, along comes a friend who is a little rougher, a little ragged around the edges, and has a good heart of gold buried down there somewhere. In all, it is a story about love and caring and love winning out in the end.

I will be interested in seeing where Michael goes with his writing from here.  There is potential depth to his work.  I will definitely give this a good Four Stars.  

The Mid-Wife's Secret - The Hidden Princess

The Midwife’s Secret – The Mystery of the Hidden Princess


Linda Root

I have read many historical fiction accounts of the royal houses of Europe during the reign of the King Henry the V
III and Queen Elizabeth I.  The royal house of Mary Queen of Scotland is the subject of this fascinating historical account written by Linda Root.  Much of the general historical content of the novel has been put forth before, but that is not what this deliciously tantalizing tale is about.  This story is about one of the rumors of the era that has followed Queen Mary down through history.  Linda Root has taken the time to trace back every source possible and told the story of the survival of a secret twin female child heir to the Throne of England, and a child of Mary Queen of Scotland.  I had never heard of this little known rumor and found the story fascinating.
From the time Mary Queen of Scots first realized she was pregnant, while imprisoned at the Douglass fortress in Scotland, to the very end where the inscriptions on the tombstones in the graveyard adjacent to the nunnery in France are spoken of, the story of Marguerite de’  Kirkcaldie is explored from every direction.  All family connections, the possible trail of how and where the mystery princess went and lived out her life, and the study of any royal and papal emissary hints that might have shown who might have been in the “know” about this greatest of all political secrets.   
Even though written in a novel format, in many ways it was more investigative in nature.  Each chapter was another key and link into locating and discovering the truth of whether or not Marguerite was the heir to the British Throne.  It is a treatise that encourages you to know and understand the names and intricacies of the familial structure of the European Monarchy and the major Papal powers of the time. 
Linda Root has written two other books about this period of time, in which Marguerite is mentioned, The Other Daughter, and 1603: The Queen’s Revenge.  The second book about this subject, Shadow of the Gallows, is currently in progress.  I look forward to checking them out at a future date.
For the historical fiction aficionado, this is a fantastic find and a wonderful read.  For the Saturday afternoon historical “romance” reader, I would advise a pass, as you will be lost three chapters in.  You really need to know your history to keep up and fully enjoy the complexity and intrigue of this novel.  With this codicil in mind.  I rate this novel a good Four Stars for the serious historical reader.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Little Blue Truck

Lttle Blue Truck Fan Club
Little Blue Truck

I know that I don’t normally do reviews on children’s books, but this Christmas I came across a book that has taken our house by storm.  Little Blue Truck is a story about a friendly little blue pick up truck and a big yellow dump truck, along with a few barnyard animals.  None of the characters are really big on long speeches and even big on words.  Each of the animals know what they say, the little blue truck says “Beep”, and the big Dump says “HONK”.  But what is most important is that they have a lot to say about how to treat other people in kindness, through action.
As an adult, I can talk all day about a children’s book, but I had two young readers at Christmas that provided me with a review that I could not have otherwise imagined.
Reader One – Dakota, age two.
When I first found this book, I bought it for my young nephew who I had never met. He is a shy two year old and a man of very few words.  After reading through the book, I loved the story and loved the bright illustrations that filled the pages with life that a pre-schooler can comprehend.  The day I introduced Dakota to Little Blue Truck, his doe eyes widen with the reading of the first page.  The normally silent young man immediately started to repeat the sounds that Little Blue made and turned to his dad saying “Azul, Azul”, pointing at the truck.  (Oh yes, even though he is the silent type, he is also bi-lingual.) His dad looked over Dakota’s head with tears in his eyes.  It was Dakota who later pointed out to us that it was raining on the page when he kept pointing at the page and saying “agua.”  By the end of the day, we had managed to read through Little Blue Truck four or five times, with all the sound effects and with much giggling.  He had a new friend and a new aunt, both were wonderful things in my eyes.
Reader Two – William, age fourteen months.
After the wonderful experience with Dakota, I decided to buy Little Blue Truck, again, for our young grandson for Christmas.  Christmas morning the living room was all awash with paper, ribbon, boxes and toys.  When the box with Little Blue Truck was opened, William happened to be sitting in my lap, “JOY”.  I immediately opened the book to show it to him while waiting for his next gift.  Once again, the eyes opened wide with the opening lines and sounds of the first page.  “little blue truck goes BEEP.”  He looked at me, smiled and said “Bip”.  I knew he was hooked.  He sat mesmerized all the way through the book.  When I got to the page where the big dump truck came through with a “HONK!!!”  He laughed, and tried his best to honk, and made me repeat it several times.  He loves his dump truck.  All the way to the end of the book, he followed Blue and Dump, then flipped the book back to the beginning. 
More presents came along, but he kept coming back to Little Blue Truck.  

by Alic Shertle and Jill McElmurry
Now weeks later, Little Blue Truck still comes out several times a day to be read.  It has become his favorite book. 
Kevin, William’s four year old brother loves the book almost as much as his younger brother.  I ran across a floor sized copy of the book and got it for Kevin, who loves the book very much and enjoys the huge pages.
I would recommend this book for any person wishing to entice their young toddler with a book.  The focus is on sounds, but has a wonderful, simple story of kindness and taking care of your friends.  The language is straight forward and is not lost on the young reader.

Our entire family awards this book SEVEN stars out of FIVE stars.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Shade Tree Book
Reviews and Blog
by  Karen Laird

I have looked at my reading schedule for the upcoming weeks and things are looking really cool for Shade Tree Book Review and Blog on Facebook and @  Books to look forward to for reviews include:
Linda Root's historical novel The Midwife's Secret
New author Michael Kroft's novel Still on Herring Road
Introducing Jan Moran and her Debut Novel - Destined for Dreams
Judy Croome from South Africa and her wonderful new novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love
Jane Goodger with her historical novel The Spinster Bride.
We look forward to bringing these new and exciting authors to you.  Their stories cover a wide range of time in history and cover stories from the many distant corners of the earth.  What fun to journey through time and across cultures through the penned works of author's imaginations that allows us to glimpse into times and places we can only dream of.
If I am fortunate, a friendly visit with an author or two may be included with their book reviews, as I have had the privilege of making the acquaintance of several of my guest authors along the way.  I have found that a book review over a virtual cup of coffee or tea is far more rewarding and enjoyable than just pounding out my opinion of the book on my trusty laptop.
Talk to you soon.  I have missed being here.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Before I Go

Colleen Oakley

When I sat down to read this book, I sat down in my big easy chair with my favorite blanket, a big box of tissue and a cup of tea.  I was all ready for a teary afternoon or two as I prepared myself to struggle through a book about dealing with cancer and dying.  I WAS WRONG.  Only someone who has lived through the experience of chemo and the Big “C” and/or shared the final days of a life well spent could have even attempted such a monumental task, as to cause me to be pulling tissue because I am wiping my tears from laughing so hard. 
Colleen gave us a wonderful ray of sunshine for this potentially bleak subject matter that has and can hit so many readers so close to home.  In the telling of the day-to-day struggles of a young couple who are facing the hard fact of stage four cancer and a love affair cut short, she poured out the foibles, and allowed us to see life from the inside out. 
The book made me stop and think, just how important were my priorities?  Would I?  Could I, go out and systematically search for my husband a future wife?  Why did the window caulk stay at the top of her priority list, but never get addressed?  No matter how hard she worked to hold her organized world together, it was slowly unravelling, because nothing was the same-nor would ever be again. 
A good book to help understand what life is like and what it can be like.  Even with the thorns, life’s roses can still be sweet and smell beautiful to the end.
Karen Laird

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Mary Anna Evans

This book came highly recommended by a fellow reviewer who had read and reviewed the book for her website.  Even though I have never had the privilege of visiting the beautiful state of Florida, I discovered that there was a place of beauty that drew me to wanting to visit this state far more than Disney World ever has.

Artifacts was more than a story of a young want-to-be archeologist in the backwaters of the coastal islands off the Florida panhandle.  It was a deep dive into the history of this little known piece of America, that has a history about as old as you get, when it comes to the settling of the Americas.  Ms Evans did a masterful job of immersing the reader into the locale of the islands and its’ people.  Turning the pages, I could almost smell the moss and seaweed on the pages and hear the ebb and flow of the tide as it moved in and out of the channels between the islands. 
Artifacts is about what life can still be like, away from the fast lane in the American South.  It is about mystery and the “piece of pie” that someone always wants that is not theirs to take.  But most of all, it is about home, the true meaning of home and the depth the meaning of home has to some people.  Ultimately, it is all about what it takes to keep and protect this place we call home.
It was with great disappointment that I found myself at the last page of the novel, for I was so far into the lives and story of the Faye Longchamp and her friends that I wasn’t ready for the story to end.  But, alas the mystery was solved and finished for the day.  It is my sincere hope that I will continue to discover more about Faye, her background and history with the other books in the series.
This book is an excellent read, well written, with a well-paced story line that keeps the pages turning at a fast pace, but still allows you to slow down and enjoy the places of discovery.  I give it a definite 5 stars on my list! 
I will be back for second helpings, Mary Anna Evans.  I have fallen in love with Faye Longchamp.
Karen Laird
Shade Tree Book Reviews and Blog