The Residence:Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White HouseThe Residence. Finished 4-20-15, rating 4.5/5, history/politics, 320 pages, pub. 2015

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours  for inviting me to be a part of this book tour.  I received the book in exchange for my thoughts (and thankfully my thoughts are good :))

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.  from Goodreads

I like keeping up with current politics, so reading this book that spans 50+ years of White House inside information was fun for me.  The stories from the full-time and part-time workers who make  the first family’s time in the White House run smoothly were told with pride.  I loved hearing about the bullying Johnson, the warm Bushes (the first ones there), the partying Clintons, the domineering Nancy, and secret scene of the Obamas first night in America’s house.

I had no idea that the White House was designed by James Hoban, who won a competition planned by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and that it was built on the backs of slaves being paid in pork, bread and whiskey.  In 1941 the annual budget was $152,000 and today it comes in around $13 million.  That’s a lot of inflation!  I was surprised to learn that with all that money in the budget the first family is still required to pay for their move into and out of the White House and pay for all the food that they and their friends  eat (I always assumed we were feeding them).  President Carter didn’t think so much tax payer money needed to go to flowers (in other administrations $50,000 for state dinner flowers was the norm) so he sent the staff out to parks to find flowers, with one staffer even being arrested.  It was stories like these that had me chuckling.

The staff does their best to make each and every family, regardless of party, feel at home.  They take pride in serving not only the first family but representing the United States at state dinners and when taking care of the dignitaries from around the world.  I loved these behind-the-scenes looks at the best and worst of times.  I was shocked at the complete chaos on 9-11.

I was struck by how Brower wrote about the discretion of the workers on one page and then included unflattering tidbits about the children a page or two later.  I felt like the Chelsea and Secret Service story was disrespectful in a way that she tried to avoid in the rest of the book. There was another story of some bong-loving sons that I felt didn’t need to be included either.  She went out of her way to paint them in a positive light later, but I wish she could have saved the unflattering stories for the President and First Lady.

Definitely worth reading for anyone with an interest in history, the White House, or even current politics.

Oh, and there’s still a few days to enter the Goodreads giveaway.

Mailbox Monday – April 20 with a giveaway!

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

IMG_3020I went to bag day at our library book sale (something I try to avoid because I don’t need any more books).  I picked up 11 books for $2, cha-ching!

AND they had a nice used copy of one of my favorite books, The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.  I picked this up for one for you, dear reader friends.    Would  you like to give it a try?  Let me know you’d like in the comments and I’ll have Gage choose a winner on Thursday.  

House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

Here’s what else I picked up

Petals on the River by Kathleen Woodwiss.  I picked this one up because she’s a romance author I’ve always wanted to read and then I saw that the hero’s name is GAGE!  Had to have it.

Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood. I really like the quirkiness of his first book and I’m hoping for the same with this one.

Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinley. Haven’t read the series but I want to!

The Paris Affair by Teresa Grant. I admit that I picked up this one based on the cover alone.

I Dare Me:How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Everyday by Lu Ann Cahn

Tarzan by Walt Disney

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.  Really liked the first one so excited about this one!

Field of Prey by John Sandford. Didn’t realize I was behind on the series until I found this one!

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen.

You on a Diet by Drs. Roizen and Oz

None of these are new.  Have you read any?

Don’t forget to leave a comment if you want to win The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.

Saved from Gage’s Slush Pile

Gage has plenty of places for books, but sometimes, when the books start spewing over the places I need to walk, I make him go through his entire library and give a yea or a nay.  Yea and we keep it;nay we give it to other kids by donating it.  The nay pile is never very big and this time around I thought he did great with nine.  Sometimes there are books I think he might like but we just haven’t read them at the right time so I make him read it one more time to decide.

The first one I knew he’d probably reject but since it’s all rhyming words and that’s something we’re working on right now (this concept is proving difficult for some reason), we read it anyway.  Play Day by Bruce McMillan .  And, as expected, it was placed in our giveaway pile.

The second was one that Jill sent us last year, The Bedtime Book for Dogs by Bruce Littleworth and illustrated by Paul Heath. 32 pages, published in 2011.

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It’s about a dog who wants to play but his human friend is busy so he takes himself out for a play date.  He carries his own leash, opens the door, and goes to the park.  But even as he plays he is lonely because he doesn’t have a friend to share in the fun.  When he returns home he is happily greeted by his friend with a treat.

The illustrations are colorful and simple. There aren’t a lot of words and the story is short.  I didn’t care for the takeaway of not being able to enjoy the park because he was by himself though but it was a fun book.

When I asked Gage to find me his favorite part of the story was, he decided on this…

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He liked when the dog opened the door and let himself out. Of course this would be his favorite part, because this is the other bad lesson of the book, the dog is being naughty!  Just recently Gage has decided it’s okay for him to go out into the garage without anyone knowing, where before he would patiently wait by the door until mom or dad was there, so the fact that this bad dog let himself out made Gage laugh, but not this mama.

After reading it this time he decided he wanted to keep it after all 🙂

Shakespeare character quiz

Let’s see if you can match these Shakespeare characters with the play they appeared in.

No Googling or looking at other commenter answers.  Yes, we’re going by the honor system 🙂  Play every week or just one time, you are always welcome 🙂  It only takes once to be eligible for a prize.

Leave your guesses as a comment. Good luck!!

Choices-As You Like It, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, The Tamining of the Shrew, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth

1. Mercutio

2. Petruchio

3. Lysander

4. Miranda

5. Goneril

6. Hamlet

7. Marcus Brutus

8. Duncan

9. Desdemona

10. Rosalind


Answer’s to last week’s headshot quiz here.

Book vs. Movie – The Hound of the Baskervilles

IMG_2446 vs. The Hound of the Baskervilles - 1939- Poster.png

This is a semi-regular feature where I talk about which was better, the book or the movie.  I read the 1902 classic in February for the Classics Club and watched the 1939 movie in March.  Most of the time I don’t know which will come out on top until I’ve worked my way through some of the criteria, and this is one of those times.  Let’s see how it all pans out.

The Story/Plot There’s a mad hound on the prowl in the moors of England and he’s killing the renowned Baskerville family.  When a concerned friend seeks out Sherlock Holmes for help, the detective sends his trusted assistant, Dr. Watson, to the spooky manor on the moors with the latest Baskerville descendent.  It’s a lonely place with few people, so the cast of characters is made up of the odd ducks that would want to live in such a place.  While the movie stayed fairly true to the book by only changing the sequence of some scenes, there was one glaring plot point that was so much better in the book. I don’t know why they changed it, maybe it was too juicy for the 1939 screen?   Thumbs Up- Book

The Visual The movie was able to show the absolute desolate setting of the moors, but the hound they showed was no match for my imagination.  Since this was way before the ability to do it justice on film I won’t hold it against the movie.  Thumbs Up- Movie

Characters vs. Actors  Most people are familiar with Sherlock Holmes and his trusted friend Dr. Watson and these days it is because of the Sherlock Holmes films featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  In the beginning, when this film and others were made, it was Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.  As I was reading the book I was picturing my own versions of Downey and Law and it worked for me.  It’s hard for anyone to quite match Downey’s manic and genius as Holmes.  Bruce as Watson was not at all what I expected from reading the book, he seemed more like poor comic relief than an intelligent assistant.  Thumbs Up- Book

The Ending The ending, while mostly the same, was missing part of the great reveal I mentioned in the plot.  There was a scandalous revelation and a scene showing a severe beating of a woman and I don’t know if they decided that the movie goers at the time just didn’t want to see that or what.  The end suffered for it.    Thumbs Up- Book

And the winner is…the Book!!

Now it’s your turn to vote

Other book vs. movie polls you can vote on: (The Little Prince) (Charlie St. Cloud) (Far From the Madding Crowd(The Girl on the Train) (Tuck Everlasting)  (Northanger Abbey) (Me Before You) (And Then There Were None) (Still Alice) (The Blind Side) (The Fault in Our Stars) (The Hound of the Baskervilles) (Gone Girl) (Jack Reacher) (Ender’s Game) (Carrie, the original) (Under the Tuscan Sun) (The Secret Life of Bees) (The Shining, the original)

Mailbox Monday – April13

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

A good week for the mailbox!

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The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (from Harper Collins)

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

The Daughter by Jane Shemilt (from Harper Collins)

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

The Precious One by Maria de los Santos (from Harper Collins)

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

Girl in the Moonlight by Chaeles Dubow (from Harper Collins)

Spanning several decades, moving through the worlds of high society, finance, and art, and peopled with poignant characters, Naked in the Moonlight takes us on a whirlwind tour, from the wooded cottages of old East Hampton to the dining rooms of Upper East Side Manhattan to the bohemian art studios of Paris and Barcelona. As he vividly brings to life Wylie and Cesca’s tempestuous, heart wrenching affair, Charles Dubow probes the devastating depths of human passion and the nature of true love.

The Residence:Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower (from Harper Collins for a blog tour)

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash with a GIVEAWAY

Stillwell: A Haunting on Long IslandStillwell. Finished 4-8-15, rating 3/5, horror, 232 pages, pub. 2013

Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife’s spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife’s soul free.

from Goodreads

Paul is a mess after his childhood sweetheart and mother of his three young children wastes away from cancer right in front of him.  His once successful realtor business has all but dried up along with the family’s savings.  He is lucky to be surrounded by loving family who are willing to pitch in and help with cooking and homework.  When an old family friend gives him the opportunity to sell his $20m mansion Paul knows he desperately needs the sale.  Only the house is haunted and the scene of a murder-suicide or two and everyone knows it.  When a demon starts visiting his dreams, Paul knows he is going mad.

This is more paranormal than true horror, in my opinion, and that’s not a bad thing.  I liked Paul’s family and friend from work, who had been covering for him during his wife’s illness.  The evil, dark manor was par for the course and the ghosts were spooky.  I wish it had been a little longer and had more of everything.  It was a super quick and enjoyable read.

Red Feather Productions sent me TWO copies of this book and I’d love to pass it on to one of you. First one who tells me they want it in the comments will get their very own copy 🙂

In your face quiz – guessing closed

Anyone every notice the BIG author photos on the backs of the books? It seems the size of the photo correlates with the size of the author’s fanbase.  Let’s see how well you know the faces of the authors we love.

No Googling or looking at other commenter answers.  Yes, we’re going by the honor system 🙂  Play every week or just one time, you are always welcome 🙂  It only takes once to be eligible for a prize.

Leave your guesses as a comment. Good luck!!

Harlan Coben, Denis Lehane, David Baldacci, Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, Linda Fairstein, Catherine Coulter, Karen Kingsbury, Sandra Brown, Lisa Gardner

author photos

Mailbox Monday-April 6

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Here’s my friend Golda and me in the summer of 2000 in Manhattan.  IMG_2923We worked together at Barnes & Noble in Lansing, Michigan, so when Jason and I were living in midtown and Golda was looking for a New York publishing job AND a place to live, it made sense that she would crash on our couch when we were between guests.  Finding housing in New York is no joke!  Anyway, fast forward 15 years and Golda has been with W.W.Norton & Company for what seems like forever and she’s a New Yorker now. And, bless her giving heart, she sent me this box last week.  It felt like Christmas!  She is the best 🙂

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Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb.(to be released August 2015)

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton Living Center. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.  (from Goodreads)

Follow Me Home by Cathy Woodman 

Life has been tough for village midwife Zara. Recently divorced and living with her grandmother, Zara is struggling to get back on track. Until one day, love walks in, in the form of an abandoned puppy. Although Zara adores her new friend, the puppy causes havoc wherever they go, so she is grateful when local shepherd Lewis offers to train her. But Lewis has an ulterior motive for helping. And though Zara may be able to trust him with her naughty dog, can she trust him with

her bruised heart?  (from Goodreads)

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Racing Driver:How to Drive Racing Cars Step by Step

Space Academy:How to Fly Spacecraft Step by Step

Flight School:How to Fly a Plane Step by Step

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My Favorite Animal Families by Steve Bloom

Elephants:A Book for Children by Steve Bloom

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Funny Face! Find the Surprises! Draw, Color, Fold!

Let’s Play a Game:All You Need to Play Six Board Games

Make Art with Your Hands and Feet!

Isn’t Golda awesome?

March’s Movies

Yes, I’m feeling rebellious so I didn’t stick to five words on a few 🙂

Now it’s your turn.  Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re up to $82!

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

Still Alice - Movie Poster.jpgStill Alice, 2014 (Cast-Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth)    Grade A-

Heartbreaking and powerful look at Alzheimer’s. 

Sad, but hoped for more.  (Kathy)


The Hound of the Baskervilles - 1939- Poster.pngThe Hound of the Baskervilles, 1939 (Cast-Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene)    Grade B

The hound was scarier in my imagination.


A man falling back along an airplane, firing a gun.Non-Stop, 2014 (Cast-Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery)   Grade B

No shortage of terror suspects.

It certainly kept me guessing.  (Michelle)

Absurdly entertaining, love Neeson’s accent  (Sheree)


Cinderella 2015 official poster.jpgCinderella, 2015 (Cast-Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgard, Helena Bonham Carter)   Grade B

Perfect for the younger set.

Beautiful adaptation of animated original.  (Michelle)


Anchorman 2 Teaser Poster.jpgAnchorman 2, 2013 (Cast-Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate)    Grade C-

 The dawn of 24-hour news.