Book Review: Non-Fiction

Review: Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person

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Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person
Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person by Barbara Venkataraman

Barbara Venkataraman‘s “Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person” is an adorable piece of work that provides a humorous approach to learning all the key grammar rules in about thirty pages of sheer brilliance. It may sound funny to call it a “piece of work” but it truly fits in this case. It’s a work of fiction because there are characters with certain actions who are not real; however, it’s also a figurative “piece of work” because the approach the author took is quite amusing and unique.

Mrs. Grammar Person (Mrs. G. P.) introduces readers to all the rules and guidelines for how and why words change tense, plural / singular, possession, contractions, repetition, similar / different spellings, et al. She has a few friends that handle other areas of the English lexicon (syntax, other language translations) but is consistent in her need for tea and biscuits each morning. What a hoot!

Think of her as a cross between Miss Marple and Mary Poppins. But I guarantee you’ll save it as a quick look-up when in a pinch and you just can’t remember the formal rule before you submit that text to your professor, editor or blog.

Yikes! Even though I should be critical in the words, punctuation and grammar I select in this review, I’m hoping Mrs. G. P. will forgive me if I am not 100% on point with all the rules. It’s not her fault if I still get one or two wrong; it’s my conscious decision to blatantly break the rule. Yeah, that works. 🙂

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Review: Princess Diana

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Princess Diana
Princess Diana by Nesnick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written by one of my school-teachers, and because my mom had an interest in Princess Diana, I read this book. It’s a good summary and keeps you wanting to learn more about the British monarchs. Kudos to a hometown author!

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Review: Ian McKellen: A Biography

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Ian McKellen: A Biography
Ian McKellen: A Biography by Mark Barratt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve respected and admired Ian McKellan since he played Richard III in 1995. His performance was so enigmatic that I followed his career for years. When this book came out, I quickly read it and wasn’t disappointed. It’s good to feel connected to actors you enjoy watching and having a book complement those feelings is top notch! A good, quick read with excellent background, commentary and fun!

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Review: How the States Got Their Shapes

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How the States Got Their Shapes
How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great intro to understanding state history. Some of it made sense. Some of it was a little too vague, but overall, it will keep your interest and leave you wanting to dig up more on a bunch of states — even beyond the ones you’ve lived in.

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Review: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick read. Informative. Learned a lot! I picked it up to see what their story was all about. And I was surprised at the amount of impact was both on the world and on them as a family. Good book.

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Review: The Witches: Salem, 1692

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The Witches: Salem, 1692
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 stars to Stacy Schiff‘s The Witches: Salem, 1692. It is rare that I cannot finish a book especially when it’s on a topic that I find fascinating, but after multiple attempts, I can’t leave this sit on my nighttable any longer. It mocks me because it has won…

The Salem Witch Trials are such an historic part of our country, and I’ve read numerous articles or viewed multiple TV shows or movies depicting this time period; however, this book fell short in capturing my attention. I’m sure for the right person it will have a higher ranking but I have to place it back on my shelf as a book to donate rather than truly finish.

A mix between reality and fantasy, it is too incongruous to stay focused. You go several pages focusing on a narrative describing the facts and then you are dropped into an imagination of what someone thinks a witch is doing. You’re given so many facts to interpret followed by creative character descriptions that you have to keep readjusting your perspective to stay on track.

I think this book needs to be handled differently for me to enjoy it. It’s a few books in one; perhaps it would have done better as 3 short stories in a single novel so that you have a creative story using the facts applied to a family for depicting what happened while separately you have a true account of what’s known – the good and the bad and then a third one dedicated to all the things people didn’t know about this time period in America.

I have heard good things about the author and will peruse something else she’s written in the book store before committing to buying it. Good luck to anyone else who takes this book on — just wasn’t for me.

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Review: I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball

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I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball
I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball by Lee Tannen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Lee Tannen‘s I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball. After reading mostly fiction for the last few months, I took a right turn towards memoirville and settled on reading about a star whose many TV series are among my favorites. Who hasn’t watched an episode that’s nearly 65 years old and not fallen in comedic love? It was power of Lucy that healed me when I stayed home sick from school as a child. Tannen helps give readers and fans alike insight into a woman who was known by all but perhaps really known by little.


Summary

Tannen’s memoir explains his interactions with Lucille Ball over a 30 year period. As a child, he met her a few times when post-Desi Arnaz, she married into Tannen’s extended family; however, it was when he was older, and Lucy was in her 60s, that they rekindled their relationship. Tannen describes how they spent time in LA, NY and Palm Springs over holidays and vacations. He provides good examples of how a star held her private life close while still staying popular in the headlines. And he reveals why Lucy stopped talking to him for a few years over what he thought was just a small little tiff.


Strengths

Tannen digs deep and talks about many of the people (stars and regular folk!) who passed through his time with Lucy. Some of it makes you laugh, some of it makes you cry. I never realized how many other stars Lucy socialized with or acted with in her later years — ranging from Shirley Maclaine to Roseanne Barr to Sigourney Weaver! And when Lee talks about Lucy’s friendship with Tommy Tune, I couldn’t help but smile. Tommy Tune lives on my block in NYC and I often see him walking about!


Weaknesses

While I wouldn’t call it a weakness (perhaps just a suggestion), I think the book could use a better timeline. From the start, you know Lee met Lucy when he was a young child where he became fascinated with her life and career. And you know he grew up while Lucy became a big star; however, the years when they weren’t friends are left too blank. It may have been helpful to add in a little background — even though it wouldn’t actually be a memoir during that chapter — as it would round out the experiences they each had throughout the 50 years of life they shared the planet together, especially while they were apart. It isn’t necessary but might give the reader a little more sense of Lucille Ball’s full life as opposed to just the later years.


Final Thoughts

For anyone who wants to see a different side of a star, discover a few bizarre habits or read about someone they admired on TV for years, this is a definite read. You’ll hear names of stars you never knew or hadn’t realized lived so closely to Lucy. It’ll make you smile and reach for the TV remote control to find an all-day I Love Lucy marathon.

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