Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman

In 1172 Henry II has been on the throne, ruling his vast kingdom that stretches from England to the Mediterranean, for eighteen years. His passionate marriage to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine is as volatile as ever and their sons are nearing adulthood.

As Henry works to extricate himself from his problems with the Church that were created by the murder of Thomas Becket, his oldest son Hal has plans of his own. Hal has been crowned king while his father still rules and he is chafing under his father's tight leash. Like any young man, Hal feels he is ready for responsibility and freedom from oversight. Unfortunately his personality is unsuited for the rigors of ruling a kingdom. He is far too easily swayed by a quiet word in his ear and is unable to make a decision and stand by it. Before long Hal has joined in with rebel lords against his father, the king.

Even worse for Henry, his other sons Richard and Geoffrey are eager to join the rebellion. It is even supported by Henry's wife, Eleanor. This is the last straw for Henry. Though the rebellion fails and his sons beg his forgiveness, Henry can never bring himself to forgive his wife. Eleanor is destined to spend the next sixteen years in confinement, imprisoned by the King her husband, who feels her betrayal acutely.

The years of Eleanor's imprisonment amount to a tragic deterioration of her family. Henry feels he can trust no one but himself and, as a result, refuses to allow his sons any power or responsibility of their own. He claims that they must earn it but he gives them precious little opportunity to do so. For their part, the sons are unable to understand their father and they are slowly poisoned by his lack of faith in them. Eventually they even seek alliances with their father's enemies, including the French king. Another sharp stab to Henry's heart.

The Princes also develop hatred against each other, fueled by intense jealousy and lust for power. Their battles and confrontations further rip apart a family already in shreds. The most touching scene in the book occurs when Henry and Eleanor together realize and mourn their failure as parents.

In Devil's Brood Sharon Kay Penman has continued her tour de force account of the Plantagenet Dynasty begun in When Christ and His Saints Slept and continued in Time and Chance. She has, once again, given us a thoroughly researched, clear-eyed appraisal of a turbulent political time, while imbuing the story with aching sympathy and sorrow for this long ago family who were unable to achieve the unity and love so necessary to a happy life.

Sharon Kay Penman is, in my opinion, one of the finest historical fiction writers and I have loved each one of her novels since I picked up Here Be Dragons many years ago. I was thrilled to read, in the Author's Note at the end of Devil's Brood, that the characters will not let her go and so she will be continuing the story of Eleanor, Richard, John and the rest in her next book. Hurray!

Visit the author's website here.

Devil's Brood is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 978-0-399-15526-0

Order Devil's Brood from Amazon

Friday, December 26, 2008

And the Winner of Matrimony is....

allisonmariecat! from On My Bookshelf...

Congratualtions! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered, I hope you are all enjoying your holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

Christmas is almost here, have you had enough of the sweetness and light? All the festivity leave you feeling ho-hum? David Sedaris has the antidote with his biting wit and snarky sense of humor in Holidays On Ice.

In this book you will find twelve short stories that poke fun at all kinds of holiday happenings. "Santaland Diaries" recounts the author's memorable employment as one of Santa's Elves:

"This afternoon I worked as an Exit Elf, telling people in a loud voice, 'THIS WAY OUT OF SANTALAND.' A woman was standing at one of the cash registers paying for her idea of a picture, while her son lay beneath her kicking and heaving, having a tantrum.

The woman said, 'Riley, if you don't start behaving yourself, Santa's not going to bring you ANY of those toys you asked for.'

The child said, 'He is too going to bring me toys, liar, he already told me.'

The woman grabbed my arm and said, 'You there, Elf, tell Riley here that if he doesn't start behaving immediately, then Santa's going to change his mind and bring him coal for Christmas.'

I said that Santa no longer traffics in coal. Instead, if you're bad he comes to your house and steals things. I told Riley that if he didn't behave himself, Santa was going to take away his TV and all his electrical appliances and leave him in the dark."

The traditional family Christmas newsletter is lambasted in "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" and the media/tv industry gets the treatment in "Based Upon a True Story." There are Halloween and Easter tales, as well. It is a very funny book. There is some adult language, this book is not appropriate for children.

Holidays on Ice is published by Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-03590-3

Order Holidays on Ice from Amazon

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Have you read the Outlander Series yet? Join the Challenge!

Come and join the challenge to read (or re-read) the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon before the seventh book, An Echo in the Bone, comes out in September, 2009.

This is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read all of the books once and am thrilled to join this Challenge because it is a great excuse to read them all again. And if you have never read them let me just say that you are missing out!!! They are fantastic, it is no wonder the author has legions of devoted fans. Do read them in order:

* Outlander

*Dragonfly in Amber


*The Drums of Autumn

*The Fiery Cross

*A Breath of Snow and Ashes

You can find all of the Challenge information by clicking here or on the logo on my left sidebar. There are prizes folks! So come and join us.....

This Challenge was created by Michele at A Reader's Respite and Amy at Passages to the Past.

Diana Gabaldon's website is here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Cole Family Christmas by Jennifer Liu Bryan with Hazel Cole Kendle

"Christmas has always been a treasured time in my family. When I was growing up, my sister Ruble, the storyteller of our family, often spoke of a very special Christmas that took place when my father was working as a miner and our family was living in the town of Benham, Kentucky. I think back and wonder how, on a coal miner's wages and with so many mouths to feed, Papa and Mama managed to make that holiday both memorable and meaningful. The family never forgot the magic of that special Christmas." ~Hazel Cole Kendle

The Coles are a family of eleven in the winter of 1920. Mama and Papa Cole are raising nine children on a coal miner's salary. Money may be in short supply but there is plenty of love to go around. When a big catalog full of every item you can think of arrives, the children all write letters to Santa to tell him the one thing in the catalog that they would like the most. They all know that Mama & Papa can't afford fancy presents but it almost doesn't matter, the choosing and dreaming are so much fun.

As the Christmas season arrives, everyone is very excited about the big Christmas party thrown by the mining company on Christmas Eve. It is a fun and festive time, the highlight of the year, and the whole town participates. When a blizzard interrupts the event, Mama Cole and the kids head back up to their mountain cabin while Papa Cole must stay in town to work.

When the children awaken on Christmas morning they are relieved to find their Papa at home after being out in the blizzard all night. The presence of their father and the special gifts that are received that morning will show the family the true meaning of Christmas and they will cherish the memory all of their lives.

This wonderful story gives us a little glimpse into Christmas past, into a world long gone but whose values and dreams need to be remembered today. The chapter lengths are just right for reading aloud one chapter a night and the beautiful illustrations by Jenniffer Julich go perfectly with the story.

As I was reading, I was strongly reminded of The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that were a beloved favorite of mine as a child. You will find the same strength of character, the rewards for hard work, the love of family, in this book.

I especially like the last page which shows a photograph taken of the Cole family in 1919, in front of their mountain cabin in Kentucky. "There are five living generations and 165 direct descendants of Mama and Papa Cole."

This book would make a delightful holiday gift for children of all ages.

Visit the book's website!


Cole Family Christmas is published by Next Chapter Press. ISBN 978-0-9816265-0-5

Order Cole Family Christmas from Amazon

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Giveaway: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Author Joshua Henkin is generously allowing me to give away a copy of his New York Times Notable Book Matrimony, to one lucky winner. Even better, he will personally sign and inscribe it to you!

"Julian saw her again, this time in the laundry room. He hoped she didn't notice that next to him, clearly in his possession, was a package of fabric softener. He had a book of stories by Ernest Hemingway, and he placed the book on top of the fabric softener, to balance the picture out.

Mia from Montreal sorted her clothes at her feet. There was a colors pile and a whites pile, and Julian thrust his face into his book so she wouldn't think he was staring at her laundry. Periodically, though, he glanced at Mia herself, who was even more beautiful than he remembered. She was wearing blue jeans and a gray V-neck T-shirt, and her hair was up in a bun."

This book has created quite a buzz in the book blogging world! Here are some reviews you can check out:

The Literate Housewife

The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

She is Too Fond of Books

Bookfoolery and Babble

A Reader's Journal

B&B Ex Libris

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

Shelf Life

The Boston Bibliophile

Trish's Reading Nook

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Visit Joshua Henkin's website for links to his blog, author information and much more! He is very happy to participate in book group discussions and you can contact him and also download a reading group guide here. Read his fantastic guest post about book groups at Books on the Brain.

This contest is open worldwide. You can enter until 11:59 pm eastern time on December 23rd. One winner will be drawn at random and will receive a personally signed and inscribed copy.

For one entry, just leave me a comment on this post.

Let's try something different for some additional entries. You probably know that the book blogging community is encouraging everyone to buy books for the holidays. So, in that spirit, I will award up to three extra entries if you tell me what books you bought as gifts this holiday season and who will be receiving them. For each two books you purchased, I will give you an extra entry, up to three extra entries for six books. (For example, tell me: I bought **** for my best friend and **** for my nephew, fill in the ****s with the titles....easy! I am relying on your honesty, here!). Just leave the titles in your comment and I will add up your entries.

Plus there are two extra entries in it for anyone who blogs about the contest and links back here.

Winner will be drawn at random. Good luck everyone!

This book would make a wonderful holiday gift....


Monday, December 15, 2008

Audiobook Giveaway Winners...

Here are the winners of my Audiobook giveaway:

A Long Stone's Throw by Alphie McCourt goes to:

1. Valerie 2350 at Sweeps4bloggers
2. shelburns at Write for a Reader
3. ShootingStarsMag

The Camel Club Box Set by David Baldacci goes to:

1. Kalea Kane at Enroute to Life
2. Elenadc at Shoestring Theory
3. Caite at A Lovely Shore Breeze

I have emailed all of the winners and once everyone has replied with their address I will send all the info to Hachette, who provided the audiobooks. (Many, many thanks, as always!)

Congratulations everyone. Come back tomorrow to enter an exciting new giveaway!

Review: In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld

Addie and Tom Kavanagh met in the mid-sixties, when she was a student in his Biology of the Birds class with her best girlfriends, Cora & Lou. She was entranced by Tom that very first lecture, an introduction to the wonder of the world of birds.

"Hollow bones. Imagine what this means. Strength and lightness. Flight and surety. They hover too magnificently between the practical and the whimsical, the rational and the exquisitely nonsensical, for any student of their physiology and habitat and history to dare to linger too long at either pole, the strictly 'scientific' of the purely 'poetic'."

When Addie fell for Tom she also fell for the birds and birdsong that he so loved. She was an accomplished artist and in the early days of their marriage they collaborated on Tom's one and only book, "A Prosody of Birds," for which Addie did the illustrations and gained some recognition for her work.

But as the years pass, Addie finds that she can't appreciate the wonders of the natural world because she is constantly worn down by the worry that humans are destroying it at every turn. Having their only daughter, Scarlet, serves to deepen Addie's concern for the environment and she becomes involved with extremists. Her activities create a distance between her and her family and friends who are hard pressed to understand her single-minded purpose.

When Addie is dying of breast cancer, her family and friends gather at Cora's house on the Jersey shore. Cora's home has been a refuge for the whole family in the last twenty years. Cora has provided caring friendship to both Addie and Tom and has played a very maternal role in Scarlet's life. Though she loved her child very much, the kind of mothering care Cora provided to Scarlet seemed to be the thing missing in Scarlet's relationship with Addie.

In these last days of Addie's life, the complex history and relationships of these individuals will be relived. A tangled web of emotions and motivations exist between this group of people. But, just as Addie was their common denominator in life, her death brings clarity and healing in ways that none of them can imagine.

This is a beautifully written, richly layered novel. Joyce Hinnefeld has painted a realistic and powerful story about the ways that relationships change over time, between husband and wife, parent and child, even close friends. And her lovely, lyrical prose make it a book that is not to be missed.

In Hovering Flight is published by Unbridled Books. ISBN 978-1-932961-58-4


Order In Hovering Flight from Amazon

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fun, Fun Fun...The Ice Storm of '08

This is what it looks like outside my front door. We just got our power back on after a three day outage! And we are lucky, I have heard some areas will be down for up to two weeks. It has been below 10 degrees (F) the last two nights. Luckily I was able to stick everything from the 'fridge outside. Brrr! Makes you appreciate things like light and heat! Phone and internet were out, too, for two days. I'm off to take a much-needed shower.... :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: The Devil Can Wait: A Sam Harper Crime Mystery by Marta Stephens

It is not even Thanksgiving yet in Chandler, Massachusetts but the holiday crime surge has already begun. For the third time the body of a teen aged boy has washed up on the shore. Each time the cause of death is different but the means of disposal is the same. With half of the police force out with the flu, manpower is short and so is time. Detective Sam Harper must find the killer, a seemingly impossible task in a case that is long on questions and short on clues.

Local reporter Jennifer Blake hasn't worked for her newspaper for long, and she is out to prove herself. She has been determined to break a story on the murders and has been doggedly trying to get Sam to give her an exclusive. He continues to refuse to talk to her but she doesn't want to take no for an answer.

When Jennifer is contacted by her former Anthropology professor, who she hasn't seen in years, she can't figure out what he could possibly want from her. Turns out he wants her to pick up an ancient ring from a local pawn shop for him. The ring is a cursed object, once owned thousands of years ago by a Pope who sold his soul to the Devil. She doesn't believe a word of it, but agrees to run the errand for him.

Her visit to the pawn shop plunges her deep into the heart of not only Sam's case in Chandler but into a sinister plot that reaches as far as South America and the Vatican in Rome. And it puts her squarely in the path of a killer.

I thought this was a great read. It is well written, smartly plotted and fast paced. I found it absorbing and had a hard time putting it down. It has believable, interesting characters and the mystery has plenty of twisting turns that kept me guessing, not to the very end but CLOSE to the end! If you like a good mystery, give Marta Stephens a try! This is the second entry in the Sam Harper series, the first one is Silenced Cry.

Visit the author's Website!

Thank you to Dorothy Thompson from Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours for including me in Marta's Blog Tour!


The Devil Can Wait is published by BeWrite Books. ISBN 978-1-905202-86-7

Order The Devil Can Wait from Amazon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winners! Look Your Best for the Holidays Giveaway

Here are the winners!

Get Positively Beautiful:

1. doozercries
2. blueviolet at A Nut in a Nutshell
3. bakersdozen
4. Crystal Adkins at Book Reviews by Crystal
5. elaine

Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual

1. amber
2. shelley at Coming Home
3. Kelley Y
4. Lenore at Presenting Lenore
5. Mrs Hemphill's Online Classroom at Mrs. Hemphill's Language Arts Classroom

Congratulations to all of the winners, you have all been emailed. Please respond with your mailing address so I can forward them to the publisher. Many thanks to all of you for entering, I wish I could send all of you a book! And thanks, as always, to the wonderful folks at Hachette!

Bleak House Says Happy Holidays With Free Books!

Bleak House Books is giving away free books for the holiday season. They have over 100 mystery titles to choose from! All you do is browse their catalog and then send a request, you will find all the details here. You can send more than one request but each request must be for one book. They do ask you to pay shipping, but the book itself is completely free. If you want to send it as a gift, they will send it to your recipient instead.

Kudos to Bleak House for their holiday spirit, what a generous idea!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I did it! I joined the fun at Twitter!

I can see that this could easily be totally addictive! How I'm going to add twittering to reading, posting, google reader, commenting, not to mention work (the thing that pays for all of the above), I can't imagine. But come follow me, I'll be glad to follow you!! My profile is here.

Review: Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

"It was best to keep on the good side of the Fair Folk, whatever one's opinion of them. The forest of Sevenwaters was as much their home as it was ours. Long ago, our family had been entrusted with the task of keeping the place safe for them. This was one of the last refuges of the ancient races anywhere in Erin, for the great forests were being felled for grazing and the Christian religion had spread widely, displacing druids and wise women. The old faith was practiced only in the most protected and secret pockets of the land. Sevenwaters was one of those."

In ancient Ireland there came a time when the fairy folk, the Old Ones, could no longer inhabit the land. Clodagh's family have protected the forest of Sevenwaters for generations, it is one of the last refuges for the Fair Folk and there has always been an fragile peace. Clodagh is one of six daughters and at long, long last the baby boy that has been so hoped for is born to her parents.

Baby Finbar is only a few days old when he disappears and a doll made of twigs is left in his place. To Clodagh's dismay, she can see that the twig-baby is alive. She can see it breathe and move and hear its hungry cries. No one else can see this, only Clodagh, and she cannot bear to see the little stick baby die. It seems to her that the Fair Folk must want an exchange. While her father and his men search for a missing man that they suspect in the kidnapping, she packs a bag and the twig-baby and sets out to find her tiny brother.

Before long Clodagh meets the fugitive that her farther is looking for, Cathal, in the forest. He claims not to know anything about the baby's disappearance and Clodagh desperately wants to trust him. He becomes her companion in a quest that will require every ounce of their strength and courage if they are going to venture into the fairy realm and return home once again.

Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors. She takes ancient folklore tales from Ireland and Britain and breathes life into them. Her books are full of complex and interesting characters who always have a quest or task to complete or a mission to fulfill. The old landscapes and fairy realms are vividly described. This one is no exception. I'm always anxiously awaiting her latest book and have never been disappointed, they are wonderful.

This is the fourth book she has written about Sevenwaters but it is not necessary to have read the others before reading this one. Earlier characters do occur, but only peripherally, and this story stands easily on its own. If you like historical fiction with a little bit of magic thrown in, give these a try!

Visit Juliet Marillier's website here.

Heir to Sevenwaters is published by Roc. ISBN 978-0-451-46233-6


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review: Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Deb Grantham is twenty five years old, beautiful, feisty and unmarried. She lives with her aunt who has opened a gambling establishment in their home in order to cover their living costs. Needless to say, polite society does not approve. Deb presides over some of the tables and is very popular with the clientele. Several men have less than honorable intentions but one young man, Lord Adrian Mablethorpe, is madly in love with her and has proposed marriage.

Adrian's mother is horrified. How can he think to marry a hussy from a gambling den? She sends Adrian's uncle, Max Ravenscar, to buy Deb off. They take an instant dislike to one another and he soon discovers that Deb is more than she seems. Not only will she not take his money, she comes up with an inventive feminine battle plan, determined to best him.

I have heard about Georgette Heyer books for years but this is the first time I have ever read one. I don't know what was keeping me away, maybe they seemed a bit old fashioned. When I first started Faro's Daughter, I wasn't sure that I was going to like it. The use of period slang does take a little getting used to but it adds such atmosphere to the book that it soon seemed a perfectly natural part of the narrative.

This is a witty, light story with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, set in a flawlessly evoked Regency London. Now I see why this author has had legions of fans for well over half a century. I'm thrilled to know that there are fifty more titles to choose from, I will be reading Georgette Heyer books for many years to come.

Faro's Daughter is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1352-6

Order Faro's Daughter from Amazon


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Awesome Audiobook Giveaway!

Have you considered listening to an audiobook? They are fantastic for car trips or any time you are busy with your hands, like when you are cooking, knitting, etc. And wouldn't they make a great gift?

Maybe you know someone who doesn't see so well anymore but misses reading great stories. Here's your chance to win one of these great audiobooks from Hachette Book Group! They have provided me with three copies each of A Long Stone's Throw by Alphie McCourt (read by the author) and The Camel Club Audio Boxed Set by David Baldacci.

Just leave me a comment telling me which one you would prefer to win. For an additional three entries you can become a follower of my blog or post about the giveaway and leave the link in the comments. I will separate the entries and randomly choose three from each. Enter until 11:59 pm eastern time on Dec. 14th. Winner must have a US or Canada mailing address (I apologize profusely to international readers, a giveaway is coming that will include you, I promise!). Good luck everyone!

Buy Books for the Holidays

Friday, December 5, 2008

Review: Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter....Read the book, watch the movie!!

It is Christmas and Jackie is having a rough time. She has been divorced for a year and is struggling to raise her two small children while watching her ex strut around with his new hot girlfriend. As if that wasn't enough, in a few short weeks she will be turning the big 4-0. It's a low point, no question.

Fortunately Jackie has friends that love her. They are all married friends from her pre-divorce days but still, they are supportive. When one of them insists on a girls weekend in Hawaii to celebrate the dreaded birthday, Jackie reluctantly agrees. It seems par for the course that her friend has to cancel at the last minute but insists that she go on alone. By herself. Fun, fun, she thinks.

But once there, it's quite nice. Warm sun, blue water. And the surprising surf instructor, Kai, who shows a flattering interest in Jackie. He's gorgeous, ten years younger, but they hit it off and soon a vacation fling has been flung. But to Jackie it feels like more than that. Now she is arranging her schedule so that she can return to Hawaii and spend more time with Kai. Never mind that she has responsibilities, that it can never work out between them. A little happiness after the difficulties that Jackie has been through is what she desperately needs.

This is the story of a woman recreating herself, breaking out of the sameness of her life and learning to reach for the happiness and joy that everyone deserves. It is a thoughtful but fun book that I greatly enjoyed. Jane Porter has a nice way of blending the serious with the playful. Thanks so much to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for sending it to me for review!

This book was made into a movie starring Heather Locklear. It will premiere December 6th at 9pm eastern/8pm central on Lifetime. I'll be watching with my popcorn, how about you? Click on the movie banner below for more info on the movie.

Visit Jane Porter's Blog!


Flirting With Forty is published by 5 Spot. ISBN 978-0-446-69726-2

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review: The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation by Abigail Carter

September 11, 2001 changed Abigail Carter's life forever. In the space of one morning she became a widow, the single mother of two small children and she claimed an unwanted spot at the center of a national tragedy. Though she looked for a book that would tell her that her grief and rage were a natural part of the grieving process, she never found exactly what she was searching for.

Shortly after the second anniversary of 9/11 she sat down and started to write, pouring out the changing difficulties of her emotional life. The resulting book is the one she had gone looking for so many months before. This book is her journey through the sadness, grief, rage and guilt felt when a partner is suddenly and inexplicably lost.

The effects of grief rippled out in a great wave that affected her entire family and their relationships with each other. How do you vent your own grief and anger when you are constantly concerned with everyone else's, your children, your parents, your siblings?

She tells her story in an open, honest voice and the result is a book that is touching and courageous. The roller coaster of emotions, as wrenching as they are to experience, prove to be the crucible in which the future is formed.

I am so appreciative that the author was willing to share her story in this way, it will be helpful to so many people. While I did not lose a family member on 9/11, I am a flight attendant and I lost friends and co-workers that were, as so many others, just doing their job. It could quite easily have been me at work that day and going back to work afterward was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I am grateful for this honest story of the process of grief and loss that shows the importance of living in the moment and enjoying every day that you are given.

The Alchemy of Loss is published by Health Communications, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7573-0790-4

Visit the author's blog and website. Her complete blog tour schedule is here.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review.

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Thank you!!

Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.