Friday, April 24, 2015

The Lure of the Bush by Arthur W. Upfield

Lure of the Bush by Arthur W. Upfield was originally published with the title The Barrakee Mystery. It was written in the 1920s at a time when the population of Australia was close to that of London.

Arthur W. Upfield was born in England but sets the reader in Australia (where he was sent by his father when Arthur was in his teenage years). The descriptions in Lure of the Bush were detailed and taken from his life boundary riding, cattle droving, opal gouging and general station worker.

The story is of the death of an aborigine, King Henry, and the investigation of his death by Napoleon Bonaparte from Queensland known as the finest bush detective in the Commonwealth and nicknamed 'Bony'.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed getting to know a little about the history of Australia (New South Wales) where land was apparently bought up by several landowners and the rest of the populace scrambled to carve out a little piece in a lottery system. Since we now strive to be politically correct there are many terms that would be frowned upon today. Bony is referred to as a half-caste (aboriginal mother and white father) and the aborigines are referred to as 'blacks'. There are beautiful descriptions and Bony is a remarkable detective and tracker. He could detect what type of boomerang was used to leave a slash in the tree. All in all it was an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Little Free Library

A Little Free Library  popped up outside a house near where I live.This is a concept that has taken over and spread throughout the world. The idea is to take a book and leave a book. The library can be registered on Little Free Library. Some libraries have notebooks where you may leave a comment.

You can watch a video about it here.

How to build and register your library here

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

Spying in High Heels  reminded me of the Stephanie Plum Series, it has quirky characters, an inquisitive protagonist and a hunky cop. I enjoyed the L.A. setting as I lived there for many years and enjoyed picturing places that I hadn't seen for ages as Maddie drives around the Los Angeles area looking for suspects. Gemma Halliday writes with a fast pace humorous style and keeps the reader engaged. It was a fun mystery read and the book is currently free for Kindle.
L.A. shoe designer, Maddie Springer, lives her life by three rules: Fashion. Fashion. Fashion. But when she stumbles upon the work of a brutal killer, her life takes an unexpected turn from Manolos to murder. And things only get worse when her boyfriend disappears - along with $20 million in embezzled funds - and her every move is suddenly under scrutiny by the LAPD's sexiest cop. With the help of her post-menopausal bridezilla of a mother, a 300 pound psychic and one seriously oversexed best friend, Maddie finds herself stepping out of her stilettos and onto the trail of a murderer. But can she catch a killer before the killer catches up to her...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell uses the title "Outliers" to show that success mostly comes from people who are classed differently from the norm - those who do things out of the ordinary.
Image result for outliers bookHe uses studies to prove his point.  For example K. Anders Ericsson compared amateur musicians with professional musicians (some state this test was with violinists, others say pianists). The professional musicians who had reached 10,000 hours of practice by the age of 20 were the most successful. None of those studied achieved success by practicing a fraction of the time. This seems to apply in many avenues. The Beatles were a mediocre band until they moved to Hamburg, Germany where they played in clubs with non-stop shows. With that much practice they had worked harder and put their heart and soul into it compared to other British bands, Sometimes they played for 8 hour stretches at a time.
Another point Mr. Gladwell brings up is opportunity. Living in Seattle, Bill Gates had access to computer labs and a college with a computer club which was unusual at the time. He also came from an elite family which gave him access to prestigious schools (he attended Harvard). The 10,000 rule also comes in here as he tested company software programs in exchange for free programming time.

He says background also plays a big part in success. Poorer parents are passive and don’t fight to get their children into the best schools. They don’t interact in extra curricular activities and are intimidated by authority. Well to do families usually feel entitled and push for their children, attending games and encouraging them. Poorer people tend to think of extra activities as play time and don’t often participate. [You often hear of successful people who came from poorer neighborhoods but had a parent or teacher who pushed them and found ways for them to rise above their circumstances].

Mr.Gladwell pointed out that the idea that students from Asia have more success in mathematics is because of language and how they calculate mathematical problems and not because of culture. You can read more about about this concept here
In order to add 23 + 45, an American child would have to convert 23 to twenty-three, and 45 to forty-five, then add those two together. A Chinese child would just add two-tens-three and four-tens-five together, equaling six-tens-eight. The answer is in the way the language is phrased – much easier for children to learn.
He questions innate talent and points out that with desire and practice you can achieve success.

I found the book interesting. One thing I've found with successful people is they don't give up which I think goes back to the 10,000 hour rule.

Note: After Jordan Spieth's golfing success, teachers at his school were interviewed and they said whatever Jordan does, he does to the best of his ability - he's driven to succeed and predicted his win at age 14. He works hard until he gets it right whether it's academic or golf, which seems to confirm the above theory. He also has a supportive family who encouraged him.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton

Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton is the first book of the Charlie Parker mystery series.

Charlie Parker has a PI firm with her brother, but as the accountant, she neither has the license nor the credentials to work on investigative work. That doesn't deter her when her brother is out of town and the woman (and former best friend) who "stole" her fiance asks for help locating an expensive watch. When the woman is accused of murder Charlie jumps in and decides to investigate on her own.

Deadly Gamble was a light read in the form of the Kinsey Millhone series, but set in New Mexico. I've read a few of Connie Shelton's books and she has several free for Kindle at the moment.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Children's Book Giveaway - One Day Only

Daisy's Lost Brother (based on the parable of the prodigal son) is now available for Kindle and free for today only. This is my second children's book.

Daisy loved her family and always helped her mom and dad. But Daisy’s brother, Tim was lazy. He wouldn’t help his family collect nuts for the winter or keep their nest clean. But one day Tim left home and Daisy wondered how her mom and dad could still love him. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Travel Tips - Italy

We were given a lot of travel tips from friends for our Italy trip last year and I thought I'd pass them on along with some of our experiences. You may also want to purchase a Rick Steves Guidebook. He has invaluable information.

Luggage: Luggage dimensions and weight restrictions are constantly changing so be sure to check with the airlines before you travel. Some of the older luggage is heavy so it may be advantageous to look for a newer suitcase. (Look for sales or at Ross or Marshalls - they often have good deals) If you're also taking a bus tour, check with the tour company. We went with Trafalgar Tours and they don't allow wheels on carry on luggage, nor the same size as accepted by the airlines. There are only small overhead shelves on the coach and no room for large luggage. (I took a backpack).
To measure a suitcase, add together the height, depth and width.
If you have bulky items consider using space bags that can be rolled to get all the air out.
If you're travelling with a friend, consider exchanging one set of clothes in case one of the cases gets misplaced.

Water: Long flights can leave you dehydrated and you can't take bottled water through the security gates. Take an empty bottle or container and fill up at the water fountain just before you board. Use this around Italy too. There are usually water spigots in the piazzas and they seem to be safe to drink (I had no problems). At 1 - 1.50 euros for a bottle of water it can add up, but there are plenty of places to purchase water if you prefer to pay for it. This is also a good way to use their restroom. Tell them you want to buy water (or anything else you want) but ask if you may use their restroom first. (Often they will tell you they don't have one if you don't purchase something.) We timed our daily gelato purchases with restroom breaks.

Money: Let your credit card company know you will be travelling abroad and ask if there are any transaction fees. Discover doesn't currently add transaction fees, but is only accepted in places that take Diner's Club. I found very few places to use it. When making a purchase, make sure the transaction is processed in the currency of the country you are visiting. It's less expensive for it to be converted by your credit card company. Your bank may also exchange currency for you before you go. Wells Fargo will exchange foreign currency for a fee (approx. $7.50 per transaction). The fee may be waived if you have an account with them.
Also keep track of phone numbers for your card companies in case of theft.

Cheat Sheet: Make yourself a small wallet sized sheet of paper with currency conversions on one side so you can judge the cost of things. (Perhaps in $10 increments). On the other side put translations for words you might need i.e. Where is? How much does it cost? Where is the bus stop for ____? Also you will need to know a few numbers when haggling price (especially in markets). Or keep a small notepad and pen to write down what you are willing to pay.

Plan places you want to see: We had limited time in Rome and after listening to suggestions from friends, we planned out a walking tour on Google Maps which gave us directions, a map and number of minutes walking between sites.

Safety: Pick pockets are notorious in the larger cities. Choose a purse that you can tuck under your arm, preferably with a zipper and deep enough so that someone can't get their hand in there (across body purses aren't the best choice because you can get distracted and can't feel when someone in a crowd opens it). What they will usually do is bump into you while another person is talking to you or getting your attention. You don't notice they are stealing from your purse. It might be wiser to keep money and credit cards either in a wallet or money belt you can keep under your clothes or put it in the zippered part of your purse rather than a separate wallet. Keep a copy of your passport in your suitcase in case yours is taken. (My friend and I also exchanged copies of our passports). A suggestion I received from a friend is to also have extra passport photos to speed up the process of obtaining a new passport. I didn't have any problems while in Italy but it's best to be cautious. I used two key rings that attach together. I clipped one on the zipper and one on the ring of my purse handle, it was easy to separate them when I needed to get something out and added a little extra safety.
People may stop you and ask you to sign a petition. Do not sign anything. They will use your signature for criminal purposes.
Also, do not give anyone your passport or documents unless you are sure they are officials. Some criminals show police identification but are wearing plain clothes and might ask for your passport or other documents. It's a scam.

U. S. Customs: Check on what is allowed to bring back to the U.S. Alcohol is limited and also meat products and other plant based items. More info. for U.S. residents here. You will be given a form to complete before you land in the U.S. Copy of the form can be found here.

If you decide to travel by local buses, you have to purchase the ticket before you board. These can be obtained from machines in the Metro , information kiosks and some tobacconists, and are good for both the Metro and buses (for 100 minutes unless you get a day pass). To avoid fines, when you get on the bus, stamp the ticket using the machine (usually behind the driver). Locals seem to rarely bother with either buying a ticket or stamping it, but fines can be steep. We found everyone very helpful in Rome and were (with sign languages and a few Italian words) able to make people understand where we were trying to go. I'm not sure if this is true of all Italy as we only traveled on buses and the Metro in Rome.

I didn't feel uncomfortable in any of the cities we visited in Italy, but did find the walking street vendors annoying. They are usually not out to steal anything, they just want you to buy, but they can be very persistent with scarves, jewelry and camera items. If you do buy from them, you will be swarmed with several more vendors. It's best to buy from stands or shops.

Mailing postcards - a lot of independent mailing companies have popped up and they have little boxes to "mail" postcards. These are usually located in shops. There are many problems with this. One is that if you buy stamps in Venice you can only mail them in Venice and even then they may not arrive at their destination (some of my postcards arrived at their destination but two months after I mailed them!). I noticed a different company and different colored boxes in Florence. Either buy stamps at the post office and mail them there or wait until you get home. There are lots of forums on the internet where people have complained that their postcards weren't delivered.

Restrooms: There are free public restrooms at gas stations along the highway and in most cities there are public places but you have to pay 1 - 1 1/2 euros at those. Don't expect to find toilet seats on them. And in some areas of Italy there is no toilet at all. They are like a shower stall with a drain and two raised tiles to put your feet on. They are considered more hygienic!

More Info About our Trip

Monday, March 30, 2015

Secret - The Power by Rhonda Byrne

Image result for the power rhonda byrneI usually don't pick up New Age /Spirituality books but I was curious about The Power. Parts of it went against my beliefs (Jesus was referred to as the Founder of Christianity). but there were many parts that I found thought provoking along with quotes.

It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

The substance of the book is that everything is magnetic and when something good comes to you it magnetically attracts more good things. The same goes for when you give something away. Imagine how you want to be, live like you've already received what you want from life.

Negativity is also magnetic and most of us talk more about what went wrong with our day (weather, work, the government, traffic) than happiness, compounding the negativity.

Proverbs 23:7
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he

Don't let your feelings be reactions. Rather than dwell on negativity, change the way you feel.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the one getting burned.
Gautama Buddha

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
Albert Schweitzer
Nobel Prize Winner

Rhonda Byrne refers to The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles as her inspiration for her series of books called The Secret. The book by Wallace Wattles is part of public domain and available on The Secret web site (I haven't read it yet)