Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Reading was a hard thing this year. The more I forced myself, the less I wanted to do it. Finally I relaxed and just let it be. And it turned out fine.


Book Goal: 27 books
Accomplished: 24 books




I also had a goal to read the Bible in a year... yeah. I made it to the end of March - which is good! I also found a great podcast at Audiobible.com and I listen to that almost every day. I'm going to go back to trying to read the Bible every day for 2015. Trying is everything.



My TBR shelf goal was 80 books. I think my number is a little off, but it is currently 85 ±3. This is not bad at all.




What's up for 2015? I have a few things I'm hoping to accomplish and I'll share them with you later. They're fun and kind of meaningless-but-not. I need some fun right now.




On the book side of things, I'm setting the book goal low. I have quite a few door stoppers on my shelves - Diana Gabaldon's latest, Anna Karenina, and a couple others that I look at and *gulp* lose my breath over.




Book Goal: 15 books read
Finish reading the Bible
TBR Shelves: not to exceed 75 books




Now for my favorites from 2014!




Millie's Fling
The Book Thief
The Exile
Poison Princess






Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the SunA Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure how it would be to read a play - but it turned out to be very easy to fall into the story. Interesting how it is driven by dialogue, characters defined by what they say and not what they think. The story moved quickly to the points it was making. It was a fast emotional read.



Summary: First produced in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun was awarded the New Yourk Drama Critics Circle Award and hailed as a watershed in American drama. Not only a pioneering work by an African-American playwright - Lorraine Hansberry's play was also a radically new representation of black life, resolutely authentic, fiercely unsentimental, and unflinching in its vision of what happens to people whose dreams are constantly deferred.


In her portrait of an embattled Chicago family, Hansberry anticipated issues that range from generational clashes to the civil rights and women's movements. She also posed the essential questions - about identity, justice, and moral responsibility - at the heart of these great struggles. The result is an American classic.


Recommended Reading:
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Exile

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic NovelThe Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon and knowing nothing about graphic novels, of course I loved it! The first panel showing Jamie took my breath away - it was so YES! THAT'S HIM! This was beautifully done, an absolute visual feast. My only complaint is that some of the other characters where indistinguishable from each other.

Summary: Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in her first-ever graphic novel, Gabaldon gives readers a fresh look at the events of the original Outlander: Jamie Fraser’s side of the story, gorgeously rendered by artist Hoang Nguyen.

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.


And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his  compassion . . . and arouse his desire.

But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere.
Recommended Reading:
The Outlandish Companion
An Echo in the Bone
Lord John and the Hand of Devils
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Friday, December 26, 2014

Heat

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in TuscanyHeat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable read. Very funny, very personal. I think I put on 5lbs because every time I read this book, I got hungry.



Summary: Bill Buford—author of the highly acclaimed best-selling Among the Thugs—had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook when in 2002 he finally decided to answer a question that had nagged him every time he prepared a meal: What kind of cook could he be if he worked in a professional kitchen? When the opportunity arose to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, Buford grabbed it. Heat is the chronicle—sharp, funny, wonderfully exuberant—of his time spent as Batali’s “slave” and of his far-flung apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy.

In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes the frenetic experience of working in Babbo’s kitchen: the trials and errors (and more errors), humiliations and hopes, disappointments and triumphs as he worked his way up the ladder from slave to cook. He talks about his relationships with his kitchen colleagues and with the larger-than-life, hard-living Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters.

Buford takes us to the restaurant in a remote Appennine village where Batali first apprenticed in Italy and where Buford learns the intricacies of handmade pasta . . . the hill town in Chianti where he is tutored in the art of butchery by Italy’s most famous butcher, a man who insists that his meat is an expression of the Italian soul . . . to London, where he is instructed in the preparation of game by Marco Pierre White, one of England’s most celebrated (or perhaps notorious) chefs. And throughout, we follow the thread of Buford’s fascinating reflections on food as a bearer of culture, on the history and development of a few special dishes (Is the shape of tortellini really based on a woman’s navel? And just what is a short rib?), and on the what and why of the foods we eat today.

Heat is a marvelous hybrid: a richly evocative memoir of Buford’s kitchen adventure, the story of Batali’s amazing rise to culinary (and extra-culinary) fame, a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters.



Recommended Reading:
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
My Life in France by Julia Child
Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
United States of Arugula by David Kamp


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the story very much. I thought it was well-written and well researched. The characters were well fleshed out. It was very hard to put down and a fast read.



Synopsis: Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.



Recommended Reading:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
March by Geraldine Brooks
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's DaughterThe Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book very much. I moved quickly through the first 120 pages, and then the story slowed down considerably. I pushed through it, and the pace picked back up again for the last 150 or so pages. Well-written although a bit prosy. Characters were slightly one dimensional, although they did grow in believable circumstances.





Synopsis: On a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century—in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago.

A family drama, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter explores every mother's silent fear: What would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? It is also an astonishing tale of love and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets are finally uncovered.


Recommended Reading:
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From The Two Rivers

From the Two Rivers: The Eye of the World, Part 1 (Wheel of time, #1-1)From the Two Rivers: The Eye of the World, Part 1 by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An engaging tale, well paced and thought out. Characters were a little flat. Moved along nicely, not too much drama. Good dialogue and expression. I wish I had time for this series.



Synopsis: For Rand al’Thor and his pals, life in the sleepy village of Emond’s Field has been pretty dull. Until the appearance on festival night of Moiraine, a mysterious woman who claims to be an Aes Sdeai—a magician who can wield the One Power. Soon after, the village is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men half-beasts. Rand’s father is nearly killed. But for Rand, the news gets worse. It was not the village the Trollocs were after, Moiraine tells him. It was you, Rand.

Rand and his friends are forced to flee. But his escape will bring him face to face with the Dark One...the most powerful force of evil in the universe.


Recommended Reading:
Trail of Blood by  Lisa Black
Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I'm a few weeks late writing this review. That really has nothing to do with the book. I've had this book for several years, hesitant to read it because it's a book narrated by DEATH. Well, book club pushed me to move past that.



This was a look at death in a different perspective. This was life in a different perspective. This was a beautiful story about the power of words. Healing, love, destroying, hate. A wonderful, entertaining story that sucks you in with every word.


Summary: It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

Set during World War II in Germany, Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids - as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.



Recommended Reading:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Divergent by Veronica Roth






Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Juliet

JulietJuliet by Anne Fortier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a fan of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A story rich in history and character, and weaving the past into the present beautifully. I loved the plot, but struggled with the climax. Besides the fact that things did not roll out as I anticipated, quite honestly, things got weird. Very weird. Also many of the key elements of the plot became coincidental findings or very thinly explained away. A very enjoyable book until the last 100 pages - and still a page turner.



Synopsis: Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?



Recommended Reading:
Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Fall of Giants by Ken Follet
The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Curses!

Curses! A F**ked Up Fairytale (F***ed-Up Fairy Tale #1)Curses! A F**ked Up Fairytale by J.A. Kazimer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a very quick read. At times originally funny, but for the most part I found the humor to be forced. It was lacking the natural wit of authors such as Jasper Fforde or Gregory Maguire. Characters were somewhat well written, but lacking a motivational plot. I think with some practice and work in plot and voice development, this author may have promise.

Summary: I'm no hero. In fact, up until a couple of days ago, I was the villain. Kidnapped maidens, scared kids, stole magic tchotchkes—until I got into a little scrape with the union. Now I'm cursed with the worst fate in New Never City—no matter what I do, I gotta be nice.

So when a head-case princess named Asia barges into my apartment and asks me to find out who whacked her stepsister, Cinderella, I have no choice but to help her. And I'm more than willing to head back to her parents' castle and do some investigating if it means I can get into her black leather cat suit. Except this twisted sister has a family nutty enough to send the Biggest Baddest Wolf running for the hills—and a freaky little curse of her own. . .

Recommended Reading:
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters

The Gifted Gabaldón SistersThe Gifted Gabaldón Sisters by Lorraine López
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This book was very ethnic - there is a lot of Spanish spoken in the beginning of the story. Don't worry, it is not a key factor of the book and only adds to the authenticity of the story. I enjoyed the characters. The plot of the story is very meandering, told over a time of 'Coming of Age' for the Gabaldon sisters, and only apparent until the end.



This is a story of motherhood, of finding mothers, being mothers, and losing mothers. The story is not of magic or fairytale witches, which I found kind of disappointing. I would have read this with a different mindset from the beginning if I had known this. I really did expect a lighter, more fanciful read than the emotional trials of four sisters.



Summary: Having lost their mother in early childhood, the Gabaldón sisters consider Fermina, their elderly Pueblo housekeeper, their surrogate Grandmother. The mysterious Fermina love the girls as if they are her own, and promises to endow each with a "special gift" to be received upon her death.

Mindful of the old woman's mystical ways, the sisters believe Fermina's gifts, bestowed based on their natural talents, magically enhance their lives. The oldest sister, Bette Davis Gabaldón, always teased for telling tales, believes her gift is the power to persuade anyone, no matter how outlandish her story. Loretta Young, who often prefers pets to people, assumes her gift is the ability to heal animals. Tough-talking tomboy, Rita Hayworth believes her gift is the ability to curse her enemies. And finally, Sophia Loren, the baby of the family, is sure her ability to make people laugh is her legacy.

As the four girls grow into women they discover that Fermina's gifts come with complicated strings, and what once seemed simple can confuse over time. Together they learn the truth about their mysterious caretaker, her legacy, and the family secret that was nearly lost forever in the New Mexican desert.



Recommended Reading:
A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
Thank You for All Things by Sandra Kring
Woman of a Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood
Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki
With Violets by Elizabeth Robards

Saturday, August 23, 2014

End of Summer

It's been awhile since I did a Ramblings post, so I thought you might enjoy a few updates.

I have a new guy. I like him. My kids like him. He seems to like us. It's all good.

I kind of sort of finished the dining room. I have a few minor details to take care of, but seem to be in no hurry to get it done.





The kids and I had some fun in Okoboji:


And now our summer vacation is done. On Wednesday The Spawn started 7th Grade, and The Diva started 1st Grade. Time goes so fast!

On a bookish note, my reading seems to be picking up speed with the end of summer. Maybe the realization that time is passing kicked my butt into gear? I've been making more effort to read. I'm trying to get through the old backlog on my TBR shelf as some of these books have been around for years.

I have the newest Diana Gabaldon waiting for me to start. I set a goal to get one book ahead of the reading challenge and then I could start reading it. I can't wait!! The Spawn also challenged me to read the Divergent series, completely realizing that this will be much like The Hunger Games series - harass me weekly for a year before I finally break down and read them.

I've been listening to a lot of talk radio at work. Technically they're podcasts courtesy of the Stitcher app I have on my Nook. My reading and tv watching lists are growing at a crazy rate!

My Netflix splurge for the summer has been watching The Walking Dead. Seriously good stuff, kids.

On that note, I have to give summer 2014 a huge two thumbs up +10 A++ rating. My house is a happy house these days and that makes me happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud

The Death and Life of Charlie St. CloudThe Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable and fast read. The characters were authentic. A well written book.

Summary: The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.

Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.

Luminous, soulful, and filled with unforgettable characters, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is one of those rare, wise books that reveal the mysteries of the unseen world around us, gently transforming the worst pain of loss into hope, healing, and even laughter. Suspenseful and deeply moving, its startling climax reminds us that sometimes tragedies can bring about miracles if we simply open our hearts.



Recommended Reading:
The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Evermore by Alyson Noel
The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner
The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home NowIf You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's hard to like a main character who is a single mom, 25 years old, lives with her well-off parents who pay for everything - including her son's 20k tuition to a private elementary school - and acts like a complete brat. It's hard, but stick with this book anyways. The plot really isn't solid in action, it's a lot of "delayed coming of age" lessons. The characters are borderline cheesy with a fake sugary dialogue, but stick with this book anyways. Really, it's an emotional treat for mothers and daughters about where home is and how we leave those we love.

Summary: Rickie left home a long time ago-so how is it that at the age of twenty-five, she's living with her parents again, and sleeping in the bedroom of her childhood home?

At least one thing has changed since high school: She now has a very sweet but frequently challenging son named Noah, who attends the same tony private LA school she herself attended. Rickie fit in fine when she was a student, but now her age and tattoos make her stand out from all the blond Stepford moms, who are desperate to know why someone so young-and so unmarried-has a kid in first grade.

Already on the defensive, Rickie goes into full mother-tigress mode when her small and unathletic son tells her that the gym teacher is out to get him. She storms the principal's office, only to discover that Andrew Fulton, the coach, is no dumb jock. As her friendship with Andrew develops, Rickie finds herself questioning her assumptions-about motherhood, being a grown-up, and falling in love.


Recommended Reading:
Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik
Goodnight Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson
Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson
Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
Perfect Blend by Sue Margolis
The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Millie's Fling

Millie's FlingMillie's Fling by Jill Mansell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the perfect Chick Lit read. A main character that I liked - she was smart and funny and kind. Secondary characters that weren't always likeable, but made the story interesting. A plot that was shallow but well written. Witty and smart banter. I loved this book for entertainment value alone, but that it was so well written just blows me away. Adding this author to my Must Read list.

Summary:
When Millie saves bestselling novelist Orla Hart's life and loses her boyfriend in the process, one wonders if the rest of the book can be as entertaining and eventful as this dramatic opening but for Millie Brady the fun has only just begun
Millie decides that a man-free summer is just what she needs but Orla, who wants Millie to be the heroine of her next novel, is determined to find her the man of her dreams. As far as Millie is concerned, the only man worth thinking about is Hugh Emerson but for Hugh, whose wife tragically died in a horse-riding accident, "dating is not on the agenda". Millie's determination not to fall in love with the young widower forms the centrepiece of the novel but Jill Mansell also delves into the shenanigans of Millie's best friend Hester and her eventful love life; Orla and her cheating husband; Millie's man-eating mother; and the leather-clad, sex-mad Lucas Kemp who runs a kiss-a-gram service.
Set against the backdrop of the tranquil Cornish countryside, the story is void of coldly beautiful, career-obsessed women; gorgeous men with flash cars and flashier wallets. Instead, Mansell has created a believable and diverting cast of characters, and even dares to portray sex as something other than mind-blowing:


Since carrying her into the bedroom, Lucas had stripped himself naked, launched himself at her, had sex and then rolled over with a groan of contentment.
In one hundred and eighty seconds flat.
Oh, and he had told her she was great.
Unbelievable.
This is an addictive, warm and funny read bursting with clever one-liners and sparkling dialogue. Mixed with a healthy dose of realism, the will-they-or-won't-they element will have you gripped until the end. Reading Mansell is never an idle fling; her ever-growing collection of bestsellers, including Kiss and Good at Games, demands a life-long love affair. --Amy Gallagher


Recommended Reading:
The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham
Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
Danger in the Shadows... by Dee Henderson
The Secret by Beverly Lewis
A Cold Day for Murder by Stabenow
An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When in Rome

When in Rome...When in Rome... by Gemma Townley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I left this book unfinished at 110 pages. It was a painful decision, I'll admit. I wanted a light read - this is. I wanted a well-written book - this is. I wanted great characters - the author has obviously lived with this character for a very long time. But I didn't like her. At all. I found nothing redeeming about her, she was stupid, lazy, and materialistic. Which is sad, I mean I realize people like that exist (and, geesh, I've even been known to have that kind of day) but I don't want them to be the heroine. Sidekicks or protagonist, sure, bring 'em on. This just makes me sad because I really enjoyed the writer's style, the way she moved plot along, I was even entertained when I wasn't busy hating Georgie.

Summary: When in Rome, do as Audrey Hepburn would do. Failing that, run off with your ex-boyfriend, carry suspicious packages through customs, and lie to the person who loves you. . . .Georgie Beauchamp is totally happy and in love with her wonderful, dependable boyfriend, David. So why does she always daydream about running into her gorgeous ex-boyfriend Mike? It can’t mean she’s still in love with him—especially since the cad dumped her so horribly. As luck would have it, when Georgie’s daydream actually comes true, she is dressed in unglamorous sweats and carrying a curtain rod down the street, while Mike is driving an expensive sports car and looking better than Brad Pitt at the Oscars. She longs to have the glamorous life Mike can offer—and starts to think that he might want her back in his arms.

But when he invites her for a weekend in Rome, Georgie is torn. David has always said he’d take her there for the romantic getaway of a lifetime, but his work keeps him totally tied up. So she must choose: David, all comfort and reliability, or Mike, all flirtation and butterfly-stomachs. The decision isn’t too hard to make, and faster than she can say Vespa, she’s off to Rome with Mike, full of plans to frolic on the Spanish Steps and sip wine in intimate trattorias. But when David shows up unexpectedly, this roman holiday gets a hell of a lot more complicated. . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Breakthrough

Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the WorldBreakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World by Jon Queijo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. I found the subjects interesting and told clearly in personal stories.

Summary: The unforgettable life-or-death stories behind antibiotics, vaccines, DNA, X-rays, and more. What happened, how it happened, and what it means to you today. A colorful cast of characters whose discoveries were often driven not only by personal tragedy, curiosity, and hard work, but petty bickering, dumb luck, and a healthy dose of humor. For anyone interested in science, medicine, and beyond...

Why are you alive right now? Chances are, you owe your life to one of the remarkable medical discoveries in this book. Maybe it was vaccines. Or antibiotics. Or X-rays. Revolutionary medical breakthroughs like these haven’t just changed the way we treat disease, they’ve transformed how we understand ourselves and the world we live in. In Breakthrough!, Jon Queijo tells the hidden stories behind 10 of history’s most amazing medical discoveries. This isn’t dry history: These are life-and-death mysteries uncovered, tales of passionate, often-mocked individuals who stood their ground and were proven right. From germs to genetics, the ancient Hippocrates to the cutting edge, these are stories that have changed the world—and, quite likely, saved your life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spiritual Misfit

Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy FaithSpiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith by Michelle DeRusha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was thoroughly written. If you don't have the patience for laborious, detailed back stories, this probably isn't the book for you. The wordage, the stories told, the humor of the book make this a generalized Christian book for women. Not to say that means it's bad, just not male friendly. After struggling through the first 100 pages (which probably could have been condensed to 20 pages), I really enjoyed the journey the author took to find her belief in God. Her struggles through every day things - rude people at the grocery store or picture perfect playground moms - are things that we have all felt. Where do these things fit into God's plan for us? How does He use these things to mold us into Christians? The answers aren't in this book. This is the answer DeRusha provides, an answer that is probably a proclamation of every Doubting Thomas.

"I've come to realize the opposite should be true: I should not have it all figured out. And if I think I do, I should take that as a red flag because it probably means I have crafted a God of my own design, a God whom I can control. Living the questions and relinquishing control is so much more challenging than fashioning a God who is entirely fathomable and comprehensible. But living the questions is also more real - a truer, more honest approach to discovering and nurturing a relationship with God." (page 216)

Summary: I decided to admit once and for all that I didn’t know what I was doing, what I thought, what I believed, even sometimes if I truly believed. I would tell the truth: I wasn’t like them; I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t a proper Christian. I didn’t have it all together like they did. Why not, I figured? What in the world did I have to lose?
_____

After twenty years of unbelief, estranged from her childhood faith and ultimately from God, Michelle DeRusha unexpectedly found herself wrestling hard with questions of spirituality— and deeply frustrated by the lack of clear answers.

Until she realized that the questions themselves paved a way for faith.

“Declaring my unbelief,” writes DeRusha, “was the first step; declaring my unbelief allowed me to begin to seek authentically.”

Spiritual Misfit chronicles one woman’s journey toward an understanding that belief and doubt can coexist. This poignant and startlingly candid memoir reveals how being honest about our questions, our fears, and our discomfort with black-and-white definitions of faith can move us toward an authentic and a deepening relationship with God.



Recommended Reading:
Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir Aczel
Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt

Monday, June 2, 2014

Poison Princess

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I snuck this one in. I read it in less than 24 hours - which hasn't happened in awhile. It is so easy to fall into a Kresley Cole book. If you haven't checked her out yet, DO.IT.NOW.

I had no clue where this book was going, what was going on, and I loved every second of it. The main character was vain and immature (she's barely 16 and believable!), but yet had values that I often find missing in YA novels. Yeah, there's bad language, sex, and drinking in the story, but completely believable.

The hero is moody, and silent, passionate, and... dang... I wish he wasn't 18! Or, you know, fictional.

The second book in the series is out, but I'm stalling on reading it. I'm still enjoying the trip the first book put me on. A big emotional, brainy read-trip. Loved it!

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Evangeline "Evie" Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they're still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can't totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it's not always clear who is on which side.


Recommended Reading:
Transforming Pandora by Carolyn Mathews
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynder Jones

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lipstick in Afghanistan

Lipstick in AfghanistanLipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The beginning introduction to the main character was awkwardly written. only when Elsa arrived in Bamiyan did the writing take on a natural flow. Intoduction of seconday character, Parween, was well written and was a coherent part of the story. characters were well done, scenes were well set, and a moving story overall.

I was extremely frustrated with the climax of the story. It was so... stupid. I don't want to give spoilers for anyone, so I'll leave it at that.

Summary: Gripped by haunting magazine images of starving refugees, Elsa has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a teenager. Of leaving her humble working-class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. No one in her family has ever escaped poverty, but Elsa has a secret weapon: a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister’s bureau. Wearing it never fails to raise her spirits and cement her determination. With lipstick on, she can do anything—even travel alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

But violent nights as an ER nurse in South Boston could not prepare Elsa for the devastation she witnesses at the small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. As she struggles to prove herself to the Afghan doctors and local villagers, she begins a forbidden romance with her only confidant, a charming Special Forces soldier. Then, a tube of lipstick she finds in the aftermath of a tragic bus bombing leads her to another life-changing friendship. In her neighbor Parween, Elsa finds a kindred spirit, fiery and generous. Together, the two women risk their lives to save friends and family from the worst excesses of the Taliban. But when the war waging around them threatens their own survival, Elsa discovers her only hope is to unveil the warrior within. Roberta Gately’s raw, intimate novel is an unforgettable tribute to the power of friendship and a poignant reminder of the tragic cost of war.


Recommended Reading:
The Bracelet by Roberta Gately
The Love Godess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate
Tales From the Yoga Studio by Rain Mitchell
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson
Coming Up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's DaughterCleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd never read a book on this time period before. I was more into the entertainment than historical accuracy. This book had intrigue, many interesting characters, and a decent plot that kept the story moving. I enjoyed it very much.

Summary: At the dawn of the Roman Empire, when tyranny ruled, a daughter of Egypt and a son of Rome found each other...

Selene's legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had.

Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar. She puts her artistry to work, in the hope of staying alive and being allowed to return to Egypt. Before long, however, she is distracted by the young and handsome heir to the empire...

When the elusive ‘Red Eagle' starts calling for the end of slavery, Selene and Alexander are in grave danger. Will this mysterious figure bring their liberation, or their demise?



Recommended Reading:
Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge
Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
The Murder in the Tower by Jean Plaidy
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
Poison by Sara Poole
Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Drinking Closer to Home

Drinking Closer to Home (P.S.)Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading the first few chapters, I was sure I was going to hate this book. I got to the end, and I was sad. The story was crazy, the timelines were all over the place, the characters were... well, colorful to say the least. Once I adjusted to the timeline - really, just think of it as the way memories work: present and past. Present is linear, but remembering the past isn't. Memories happen at any time. I loved the characters, I think Emery was my favorite. I just loved this book!

Synopsis: They say you can never really go home again. Adult siblings Anna, Portia, and Emery are about to discover just how true that is.
From Publishers Weekly:
Blau's second novel (after The Summer of Naked Swim Parties) revolves around a family in crisis after a mother's debilitating heart attack. The troubled adult children of Buzzy and Louise come home to visit their parents on their hippie ranch in Santa Barbara, Cal., "where the days are so sunny you'd swear a nuclear reactor had exploded." Sisters Anna and Portia, and brother Emery, recall the events that led them to their restless present. Emery and his partner, Alejandro, tip-toe around the topic of asking a sister to donate eggs so that they can have a child. During their week-long visit everyone must deal with uncomfortable details about their parents' personal lives, as well as the ghosts of the people they once were, wishing that they could leave their childhood wounds behind once and for all. Blau writes funny, often heartbreaking, and always relatable anecdotes. She aptly describes the family visiting Louise in the hospital: "every day, a moment comes when someone can no longer take sitting in the beeping, stinking room." Blau's lifelike characters are such a joy to get to know that one feels sorry to leave them behind. (Jan.)


Recommended Reading:
Skinny by Diana Spechler
Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
What He's Poised to Do by Ben Greenman
The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen
Flatscreen by Adam Wilson
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Inkdeath

Inkdeath (Inkworld, #3)Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the characters in this series, and the storylines through all three books... but oh man, am I glad they're done! This book could have done with about 200 less pages. There were parts of the story I didn't understand "why" and just wanted to get on with the story. It was the plot that wouldn't stop twisting and turning, even though the reader can clearly see the ending.

Synopsis: Ever since the extraordinary events of Inkspell, when the enchanted book Inkheart drew Meggie and her father, Mo, into its chapters, life in the Inkworld has been more tragic than magical.

The fire-eater Dustfinger is dead, having sacrificed his life for his apprentice Farid's, and now, under the rule of the evil Adderhead, the fairy-tale land is in bloody chaos, its characters far beyond the control of Fenoglio, their author. Even Elinor, left behind in the real world, believes her family to be lost - lost between the covers of a book.

Facing the threat of eternal winter, Mo inks a dangerous deal with Death itself. There yet remains a faint hope of changing the cursed story - if only he can fill its pages fast enough.

Inkdeath - the captivating final tale in the Inkheart trilogy.


Recommended Reading:
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Queste by Angie Sage
The Fire Eternal by Chris d'Lacey
Stargazer by Patrick Carman
The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan

Friday, March 7, 2014

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends ForeverBest Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a bit uncertain how I would like this book, most of the reviews were bad and I have liked JW's other books. This wasn't an amazing book, or even emotionally deep, it was an entertaining read. This book was a great escape, easy to fall into, with wacky characters which made for some great humor. I ranked this book high even though the plot didn't pan out and the romance was flimsy at best, I really enjoyed the writing and was thoroughly entertained.

Synopsis:  Following the ups and downs of a long-time friendship between two young girls who grow up to be two very different women: Addie Downs and Valerie Adler were eight when they first met and decided to be best friends forever. But, in the wake of tragedy and betrayal during their teenage years, everything changed. Val went on to fame and fortune. Addie stayed behind in their small Midwestern town. Destiny, however, had more in store for these two. And when, twenty-five years later, Val shows up at Addie’s front door with blood on her coat and terror on her face, it is the beginning of a wild adventure for two women joined by love and history who find strength together that they could not find alone.


Recommended Reading:
Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
On Folly Beach by Karen White

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Inkspell

Inkspell (Inkworld, #2)Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What is this?? I finally finished a book!

This was an easier read than the first book of the trilogy. The story moved at a faster pace and there were some twists I didn't expect. Some parts of the story weren't as developed as I would have liked them to be. Characters stayed true to the first story - although Dustfinger seemed to be more softhearted and not as mysterious. I wasn't quite sure what the point of Elinor and Darius in the story was, so that was a struggle to read through. Very well written for being told from so many point of views.

Synopsis: Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of INKHEART, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.


Recommended Reading:
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Firestar by Chris d'Lacey
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
Flyte by Angie Sage
Magyk by Angie Sage

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Bone in the Throat

Bone in the Throat\Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

couldn't get into it. really wanted to read more "real life" stories by this author. didn't finish.

Synopsis: A wildly funny, irreverent tale of murder, mayhem, and the mob.

When up-and-coming chef Tommy Pagana settles for a less than glamorous stint at his uncle's restaurant in Manhattan's Little Italy, he unwittingly finds himself a partner in big-time crime. And when the mob decides to use the kitchen for a murder, nothing Tommy learned in cooking school has prepared him for what happens next. With the FBI on one side, and his eccentric wise guy superiors on the other, Tommy has to struggle to do right by his conscience, and to avoid getting killed in the meantime.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Resolutions

One of these is book related, I promise! I spent a lot of time thinking and I came up with a list of 6. I think they're challenging and do-able. So here goes...


  1. Read the Bible. The ENTIRE Bible. Accountable on book blog, FB & Twitter.
Read 25% of TBR books: current is 103 books, so goal is 27 books, plus Bible.
TBR shelf cannot exceed 105, year end goal is 80.
 
  1. Run a 5k.
Get back into Yoga once a week during non-running season.
Run 2-3x each week starting May 1, gradually increasing distance and improving time.

  1. Get my finances under control so that I can spend my bonus checks on FUN!
No-Spend January, April, July, and October.
Create a workable budget.
Create goals for bonus checks.

  1. Finish projects: laundry room, Tink’s room, and dining room.
  2. Travel: NYC is at the top of my list.
  3. Journaling and writing.
Journal once a week.
Work on manuscript / creative writing once a week.