Put A Cherry On Top, The Secrets of Creating An Artful Life, by Ben Buhunin


Amazon said about Ben Behunin’s book, “Put a Cherry on Top, The Secrets of Creating an Artful Life” , that “This book will encourage you to return to the place in your own life where you lived without fear and believed you were an artist.” The message of the book seems to be that we have the power within us to change the world around us and that we can change whatever we do into a work of art.

The cover and inside left-hand pages tell us this is a coloring book, and some may color in it, but most of us likely will just enjoy the quotes an art work.

About one forth of the book is a memoir telling us about Behunin’s story of becoming a potter and then a writer. It begins with his first year of high school, his service for his church in Germany and return to work there in a pottery shop. We learn of his marriage and how he made a living as a potter and then was drawn into writing.

My wife brought home a copy of this book from her “women only” book club. She told me about Ben’s life story which he had presented at the monthly club meeting.  Ben quickly adds converts to his skills in pottery and writing. A local radio show in Salt Lake City heard about him from a lady in San Diego who had learned of his work at her own book club.  

A very inspiring book.

Ben Buhunin Quotes

“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father's dreams aren't big enough, and sometimes his mother's vision isn't long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.” 

“We have to bloom where we are planted, enjoy the sunlight while we can, and thank the heavens for the rain that not only beats us down, but feeds us and makes us stronger.” 

― Ben Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp

The Hard Way, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child


Lee Child's 10th novel, The Hard Way, begins with Reacher arriving at a New York café and ordering from the sidewalk table. “Espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived at his table, he saw a man’s life change forever. Not that the waiter was slow. Just that the move was slick.”

The book starts right out in true form presenting Reacher’s amazing command of the tiniest details and observations.

What he sees soon leads him to ex-army officer Edward Lane and six Special Forces veterans who enlist him to track down Lanes’ kidnapped daughter and wife. Lane’s prior wife was also kidnapped and then killed 5 years before, so he has no intention of calling in the FBI this time.

Lane's lives and seems to be headquartered with his little private army in the well-known Dakota apartment close by to the shady sections of SoHo, Greenwich Village, and other challenging areas near enough by to make them vulnerable. 

As Reacher works to help Lane find the kidnappers, he learns of some chilling details of Lane’s past which reveal a horrible drama in a long forgotten nasty little war.

Childs amazing plotting skills twist and turn, bad guys become good guys and  the story ends with a standoff in a tiny little English farm in the country.  A trail of blood and gore mark this thriller.  


“You think you've been in deep shit before, and then you realise you have absolutely no conception of how deep shit can really be.” 

“I’m not much to talk about. What you see is what you get.” 

“He liked the electric darkness and the hot dirty air and the blasts of noise and traffic and the manic barking sirens and the crush of people. It helped a lonely man feel connected and isolated both at the same time.” 

“Special Forces guys were usually small. They were usually lean, fast, and whippy. Built for endurance and stamina and full of smarts and cunning. Like foxes, not like bears.” 

See BJ’s Favorite Authors Section for all Lee Child Books and Reviews Click Here

The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man, by Jonas Jonasson


“The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man”, by Jonas Jonasson, is a sequel that is even funnier the original book, “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” It helps to have read the first book because the humor registers with you right off.

Allan and Julius are living on Bali, surviving by using a bag of money from the original book, but they have run out and owe the resort where they have been staying at a lot of money.  They have chartered a ride in a hot air balloon, have three bottles of champagne and are waiting for the crew, when the balloon takes off without the crew.  After some spectacular views the balloon runs out of fuel and they are floating in a basket in the ocean when they are rescued by a ship returning to North Korea. The captain of the ship doesn’t know whether to toss them overboard or give them his assistants cabin to stay in, but he winds up taking them to North Korea.

The captain has a suitcase with nine pounds of enriched uranium that they picked up in Africa and are taking it to be used in the nuclear weapons program for Kim Jong-un. Allan and Julius wind up face to face with Kim Jong-un.

The trip turns into an international crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump.

The events and of course our 101-year-old hero, Allan, are entertaining and funny. An enjoyable book.


Hold Still , A Memoir with Photographs, by Sally Mann


Sally Mann brings us her memoir through the viewfinder and lens of her camera, handwritten journals, the sequential events of ancestors and things found in old boxes. The views are from different perspectives but coming together they bring a unique approach of narrative and image to memoir.

Mann’s focus is on family, race, mortality, and the landscape of the American South. She retells the stories of her ancestors presenting personalities and events of interest but also searching for DNA explanations for her own characteristics.

The yellowed photographs she finds by sorting through boxes of family papers seem to be made to be presented with her own black and white photos that she developed herself. Pictures of a variety of drawings and report cards blend into the photo theme that she has woven into her personal history.

The chapters seem like mini books. Several were about the lives of her children growing up portraying their domestic routines and showing how those routines changed their lives. The pictures in these chapters were ones where she recorded much of those lives in scenes where no clothing was present and which Sally Mann, as a well known photographer, has had much written and said about them over the years. The memoir in these chapters gave her a platform to discuss her perspective on art.

The comment on the back cover that “In this extraordinary memoir, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Sally Mann’s abiding concerns………..are revealed”, is not just a introduction but sums up how you may feel when you finish this different and interesting memoir.


“I believe that photographs actually rob all of us of our memory.” 

“You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it.” 

“The proverbial hospitality of the South may be selectively extended but it is not a myth.” 

“Part of the artist's job is to make the commonplace singular, to project a different interpretation onto the conventional.”

  “But like a high-strung racehorse who needs extra weight in her saddle pad, I like a handicap and relish the aesthetic challenge posed by the limitations of the ordinary.” 


Total Control, by David Baldacci


Triton Global, already the world's leading technology conglomerate, wants to acquire CyberCom in a deal that will change the internet and the world for the future. Nathan Gamble is the very wealthy powerful head of this company. Jason Archer is a rising star in Triton, but he has been working on the side to uncover something important. It was assumed he was on a plane that went down where everyone was killed including the head of the Federal Reserve.

Sidney Archer works for the law firm that represents Triton and is deeply involved in the attempted purchase of Triton. Sidney and Jason love each other, and they have a young daughter they adore, but everything changes when it seems Jason has gone down in the plane crash.

An air-crash investigation team wants to know why the plane Jason was booked on suddenly fell from the sky. Lee Sawyer, a veteran FBI agent, joins the case and soon finds that Sidney is a potential key to finding the answers.  Other forces are also pulling Sidney deep into a violent twisting plot.

Jason Archer is found to be alive but missing and the search for him is complicated by the world he lived in of powerful computers, a multimillion-dollar takeover deal, artificial intelligence, and the Internet.

TOTAL CONTROL demonstrates Baldacci’s unique approach in weaving plots, parallel and sub plots. His skills as a master storyteller will drawn you in and you so will find yourself not wanting to put this book down.     


“few governmental institutions are more misunderstood and feared out of ignorance than the Federal Reserve Board.” 

“When the Fed raises or lowers interest rates, for instance, then that affects the entire economy. Contracts or expands it.” 

“Give an economist a result you want, and he’ll find the numbers to justify it.” 


The Girl with Seven Names, Escape from North Korea, by Hyeonseo Lee


Lee Hyeon-seo (Korean: 이현서, born January 1980), best known for her book is a North Korean defector and activist who lives in Seoul, South Korea, where she is a student. 

THE GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES brings fascinating insight into one of the world’s most oppressed societies Author, Hyeonseo Lee, grew up in Hyesan next to the Chinese border. She grew up believing that their country was the best in the world and that the South Koreans were planning to attack them. She survived North Korea’s repressive regime, indoctrination and even the Great Famine, to escape in 1997.

Lee said in a Ted Talk in 2013 that “Among those of us who were born in North Korea and who have escaped it, the story I am telling is not and uncommon one.” She then tells the audience she understands that they are probably asking themselves “why a country such as mine still exists in the world?” She then follow saying that she “still loves her country and misses it very much.”

Her father’s job in the military in her early life was why they were relatively well off. Things changed when her father was arrested by the secret police, on the pretense of spying.  He was beaten so bad that he later died.

Hyesan was located right on the Chinese border with nothing but a river between the countries. Crossing the river was often a source of illegal trade and eventually a way to defect. Lee’s relatives included her “Uncle Opium” who smuggled North Korean heroin into China. (Lee gave special names to her many family members to protect their identity)

Lee began to question her life because of the poverty and starvation she witnessed and felt it didn’t make sense if her country was, as she had been told “the best on the planet”.

At age seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was to be reunited with her family. What she never expected was that the years between her escape from the North and her arrival in the South were far more dangerous for her: going first to China, and then later for family members to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Lee’s survival skills were her ability to quickly pick up the Chinese language and using her savings for the many bribes she had to pay. Getting new names and identity helped a lot too.

She writes in her epilogue that "the smallest thing sends me back into steel-plated survival mode".  The story made me recall the book, “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick”, which presented a similar view of the North. 

More books by those who have escaped North Korea are coming out and hopefully it will be a help in bringing about positive changes. This is a must-read book that you will not want to put down.

See Hyeonseo Lee’s Ted Talk Click Here to Link to Talk

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michadelides


THE SILENT PATIENT is a psychological mystery about Alicia Berenson, a famous painter, her husband Gabriel, a famous photographer, and their seemingly perfect life. The story is told by psychotherapist Theo Faber, who first shows up in the story six years after the gruesome murder of Gabriel, when he purposely applies and then is hired at the Grove where Alicia is committed. THE SILENT PATIENT looks deeply into the psyches of the woman convicted of murdering her husband and the therapist determined to treat her.

With both David Baldacci and Lee Child giving high praise for THE SILENT PATIENT a high standard is set for the strength of the books plot and characters. That high praise seems well deserved.

Alicia lives in a nice house in one of the better parts of London. She has a studio in the back yard and from inside the house a view of the park across the street. She had been found in their home where Gabriel was tied to a chair, shot at close range several time in the face. There was also one bullet hole in the ceiling. Alicia’s fingerprints were all over the gun that fired the bullets. Since the day of her arrest, Alicia has never spoken a word. No denial or defense was offered by her. Her silence and troubled paintings left the judge believing she had deep mental problems.

When Theo is hired years later, he must convince Alicia’s therapists to let him try to treat her. His first step is to try to reduce the medication strength, hoping with less medication she might speak. With the reduction of the drugs the next time Alicia see’s Theo she jumps on him clawing him and trying to kill him.  Theo is committed to helping Alicia unlock her secrets, in part, because it seems clear that part of his motive has to do with his own emotional problems which he finds may have similarities to hers. 

The mystery unfolds as our perceptions of the characters unfold. We see them changing before our eyes as if they are being peeled back like an onion. The writing evolves both the plot and characters reaching a totally unexpected conclusion that you just won’t see it coming. THE SILENT PATIENT is a book you won’t want to put down until your finished.


Falling Free, Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, by Shannan Martin.


“Shannon Martin’s Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted” will be welcomed by some who are excited to know more about the author and leave others wondering if the overall message of the book lacked a strong enough story line.

Those that know of Shannon Martin from her blog, “Shannon Martin Writes” already know and like her.  On that blog she describes herself as a “speaker and writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city.  She and her jail-chaplain husband, Cory, have four funny children who came to them across oceans and rivers. They live as grateful neighbors in Goshen, Indiana.”

You can see how likable she is from her blog and you have to admire a writer who puts herself, and her own family, right out there as part of her story. Her message is a positive one of Christianity and a woman who seems to care and try hard to do what she feels Jesus would want her to do. She sees the community as her mission field and found that moving closer to a real cross section of humanity with open neighborhood gave her new opportunities to serve and be served.

Her experiences are real life examples and as she ties them to scripture over and over in the book you are left uplifted but also feeling clearly how much, we all fall short in rising to her example. Some may be critical of that, but I don’t think her past readers who have already gotten to know her will.

Martin’s starts the story in a perfect little farmhouse on six acres of land in rural Indiana. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and had to downsize which resulted in moving to town into a small diverse neighborhood. She was infertile so they adopted four kids including a 19-year-old who had been in jail.

Their life changes with the move and with the help of the guidance scriptures she faces her problems and becomes a better person. It was interesting how tightly she embraced the scriptures but on the other hand had little concern for the differences in the teachings in the churches she encountered. Her message was that the real gospel was in the social connections, service and lingering with each other. She told us that the smokers hanging around out back talking as friends was part of the real gospel.

The book is a little hard to stay with all the way through because of the heavy gospel message that brings some guilt with it and maybe not enough plot. Even so it is well worth the time to read this good book.

See Shannan Martin’s Blog: http://www.shannanmartinwrites.com/


“Living small is not about having less, but being less-- less respected in the eyes of the world, less successful, less wealthy, less esteemed, less you. Less me. And more Jesus. Here, in this abundance of less, where more of us is stripped away, we'll uncover the person we were made to be, the one created in the image of a God who sank holy feet in to our human mess.” 

“I was never meant to save a soul, and no one was purposed as a project. We were meant to be comrades, mutually passing around whatever we have to offer.” 

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy


War and Peace is one of the most famous works of literature and considered by many to be a masterpiece. Tolstoy, much like Shakespeare, seems to be searching for what it meant to be “Human” and alive on the planet.

This novel’s approach to those questions comes from examples found in history itself, of love, war, religion, family, class, economics and philosophy.

Tolstoy said of his writings in an article: “What is War and Peace? It is not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wished and was able to express in the form in which it is expressed.” (it is, what it is!)

Tolstoy presents us with the daily lives and activities of a large cast of characters across long stretches of time. His point is that these ordinary people are what makes the difference in the course of history rather than the impact of the few and powerful, like Alexander and Napoleon. His point of view tells us that the essence of history lies in the “activity of the general mass of people who take part in it.”  War and Peace presents the human activities, feelings, and sufferings of 160,000 Russians and French.

The lesson of this book is understanding that history comes from examining the details. Henry James referred to this novel as “a wonderful mass of life.” The critic, Strakhov, said, “What is the meaning of War and Peace? The meaning is expressed in these words of the author more clearly than anywhere else: ‘There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth.’

War and Peace by Russian author Leo Tolstoy first published in 1869 tells us of details of the events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families.

Reading it slowly helps as your read this most impressive books.


“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” 

“Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women.” 

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” 

“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.” 

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” 

“The whole world is divided for me into two parts: one is she, and there is all happiness, hope, light; the other is where she is not, and there is dejection and darkness.

“It's not given to people to judge what's right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.” 


tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom


Mitch Albom spent each Tuesday with Morrie, his former professor, who was very ill with ALS.  He had lost track of his mentor and saw this as a second chance. This story resonates with many of us who has in our past someone who understood us when we were searching. Maybe it was a grandparent, a teacher, or just someone older who was wiser at the time.

Albom had taken his relationship with his favorite professor for granted since his collage days and when he learned of his terminal illness, he decided to visit him. The visits that followed helped Mitch see what really mattered. He found Morrie’s “belief in Humanity” as his most powerful lesson. He said that Morrie took nothing for granted and gave those who he spoke with his undivided attention. Morrie said that “Love is the only rational answer” and that was always clear from his communication.

The book starts out with the first chapter telling us by its title, “The Curriculum”, much of what the book tells us.  The chapter starts out: “The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves. The class met on Tuesdays. It began after breakfast.  The subject was The Meaning of Life (see post on this). It was taught from experience.”

Albom said that “if Professor Morris Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as “too late” in life. He was changing until the day he said good-bye.”   As the book winds up, we are told “the teaching goes on.”


“Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it.” 

“Maybe death is the great equalizer, the one big thing that can finally make strangers shed a tear for one another”