Nov 22, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Back to the Books!

Happy Sunday all! I haven't done a post in awhile where I talk about the books I'm currently reading and listening to so I thought I'd do that today. I'll also update you on the status of my decision to move to Ohio. It's a rainy day here in central Florida, which doesn't bother me at all. It will make for a relaxing book-reading day for me.

With Thanksgiving days away, I'll be taking a break from clearing out my house in preparation of selling it. It's a lot of work when you've lived there for over 20 years, not to mention it's even harder when you are literally half blind.  I hired a guy to come and work in my yard last week and he did a great job! Now if only the leaves would stop falling! Hopefully, I'll be ready to start showing the house the week after. My mom and I met with a realtor last Monday (she's selling her house also and moving with me.) and that made it all seem very real! I know her house will sell very quickly but mine will probably take a bit longer as there are repairs that need to be done. Bur for the right buyer, it would make a great investment. I have a few people interested in looking at it so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Since my recovery from surgery, I've been making up for lost time with the house chores so that hasn't left a lot of time for reading. On the other hand, I am making progress with audios. I love that I can work around the house and listen to my books. It makes the time fly by! But at the end of the day when I think I'll have an hour or so to read, I'm so exhausted I can't stay awake past the first few pages. So my book reading is suffering.

I have two review books I need to read. I've started one called TENACITY by J.S. Law. It's a thriller set in the UK and centers around an investigator with the Royal Navy. She is probing a possible suicide on the British submarine, TENACITY. It's the first book in a new series that others have described as "riveting". I'm very anxious to get back to it. This book was released on November 3rd.

The other book is ALONG THE INFINITE SEA by Beatriz Williams. I've been very curious about her books over the last couple of years but haven't yet read one. So when her 'people' sent me a copy I jumped at the chance to read it. This one is in the historical fiction genre and has a bit of a romance. I was wary of the romance part because I don't usually read books for romance but I was assured it's a subtle element. I haven't read a historical fiction novel in awhile so I'm looking forward to this one. This book was released on November 3rd as well.

I have two audio books going right now but I had to take a break from one of them. A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara is a very long book at over 33 hours and it's a gut-wrenching story. I've reached the half-way point and decided to set it aside for just a bit.

The other audio I started last week is by an author with whom I've become quite smitten. Lucy Clarke's THE BLUE is her third novel and though I'm only about 2 hours in, I'm already totally engrossed and connected to the characters. All of Clarke's books have an adventurous aspect to them as they always revolve around the sea. THE BLUE is about a crew of a 50' yacht that is sailing from The Phillipines to New Zealand and the mysterious goings on amongst this group of people who haven't known each other long but each has a story aching to come out. I have grown to love Clarke's beautiful writing and how she is able to draw the locale into the story and make it seem like it is within reach of the reader. She is a lovely writer and is becoming a favorite of mine. I especially liked the Prologue of this book for it's wonderful prose. I even went back and listened to it twice! The narrator, Scarlett Mack, is doing a terrific job, especially with the different dialects of the characters.
I'm also moving forward with Karin Slaughter's Will Trent Series in between all these other books. I'm on Book 5, FALLEN, though I'm only about 25% done. There are seven books so far in the series and I am really missing it. I desperately want to get back to it. Her crime fiction/suspense writing is amazing but for some it's a bit violent. I have her latest, a stand-alone novel called PRETTY GIRLS on audio but I haven't started it yet. Probably won't get to it until January. :(

The other day, I went through my Kindle and took note of all the books I haven't read yet and I was ashamed of myself! I think it's time for me to ban myself from buying anymore books at least for the rest of the year, if not longer. I have some wonderful books that I'd even fortotten about!

So, that's what's going on in my book world. I'm hopeful I'll make a big dent in my reading this week and I can't wait! I'm starting today! First up I need to finish TENACITY and FALLEN. That is my first priority.

Usually I like to cook on Sunday, but I'm taking a break there too. Yesterday I made a recipe my mom makes all the time that is a cheesy, potato casserole. So I'll just be heating that up, adding a veggie and probably put some chicken in the toaster oven to bake. Easy, peasy!

Now I'm off to get comfortable and start reading! I'd also like to wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 14, 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King (Unabridged Audio)

In this second book of the Bill Hodges Trilogy Stephen King takes us into the mind of a reader obsessed with a series of books. John Rothstein, the writer of the series and creator of the iconic protagonist, Jimmy Gold, has not released a new installment in years and has been living an isolated existence, almost in obscurity for many years.  Morris Bellamy is obsessed with Jimmy Gold and is infuriated about the way Rothstein has left the character. Bellamy is so consumed by this obsession that he, and two accomplices break into Rothstein's secluded home and steal the money he purportedly kept in a safe. While cleaning out the safe they also find several filled notebooks of the aged author's writings. Bellamy is convinced these notebooks are the next installments of the series not yet released.  

After hiding his treasure, Bellamy is then sent to prison for an unrelated crime. As the years pass he dreams of the day when he can reclaim the notebooks and prove that Rothstein had, in fact, written another Gold book.  When finally released he discovers his treasure is gone and he sets out to find it.

My Thoughts on the Story:

Immediately, I was excited about the story featuring an obsessed reader. Morris Bellamy is a low-life but he is no dummy. He is totally obsessed with these books and will do anything to get those notebooks back. It has now been a few years since the Mercedes killings when we first met retired cop Bill Hodges. He isn't present right away, but King enters him into the story very naturally. Along with Hodges, Jerome and Holly are also included, which I really liked. They  sre an odd group of friends that you wouldn't think would have anything in common with each other, but their bond is evident. There are also a few minor characters from book one. For me, the story was original and had me riveted from the beginning. I have only read a few of King's other books but I really enjoy the way he reveals details in these crime fiction books. He doesn't throw everything at you at once. It's like peeling layers of an onion. I enjoyed it very much. There was just as much suspense as in the first book so it made the listening time go by very quickly.

My Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

As with MR. MERCEDES, Will Patton was exceptional. I've always been a fan of his acting ever since I first saw him in the Costner/Hackman film NO WAY OUT. His talent is unending. The way he can so smoothly distinguish between characters is total perfection. He brings such life to these people and makes them totally believable.  His ability to use so many different inflections of his voice for all these characters and keep them all straight is amazing. He is one of my all-time favorite narrators.

The Bottom Line:

I was curious where this second book would take us and if it would be a continuation of MR. MERCEDES.  I liked how King told a new story but kept it related to Book One. And even though I wasn't as blown away with this one as I was with MR. MERCEDES, I still really liked it. I'm looking forward to the final book. Lastly,  I have to mention the cover! It is as great as the previous one with its subtle hints! It's a great read in any form, but if you're looking for a new audio, I highly recommend giving this one a try. Will Patton is wonderful and makes the whole experience even better.

FINDERS KEEPERS (Unabridged Audio)
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published:  June 2015
Length: 13 Hrs 5 Mins (448 pp)
Source: Purchased from

Nov 5, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As a lover of Southern Fiction and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I was actually nervous to read this book. I had read the reviews and the criticism beforehand which only added to my nervousness. I wanted it to be great. I wanted it to be just as wonderful as TKAM. But realistically, I knew that wasn't possible. Even before reading it I felt it was unfair to compare it to the giant literary work we have loved and coveted for over fifty years.  I still feel that way now after reading it.

When I began reading, it felt odd that Jean-Louise was now a grown woman, living in NYC and it took me a while to get used to that fact. I know, it's silly, but that'a how I felt. Once I shed the dream of having Scout back in the same form, the story grew on me. Yes, by that I mean I wasn't in love with the story right away. It took some time to warm up to it. So much had changed but, like real life, it's a normal progression.  Along with Jem's absence in the book, one of the first aspects that surprised me was the change in Calpurnia's relationship with the family. A true sign of the times, I realize it is a reflection of how life was changing in the south with regard to African Americans. But much like Jean-Louise, it caught me off guard and I felt a sort of loss. The South was evolving and so were it's people.  Because Jean-Louise had moved North for school, she didn't see the slow progression of this change and upon returning home that new reality slapped her in the face. Scout never saw Cal as black, she was just Cal and she loved her. She never saw the division and she didn't want to see it now.

The book is a sharp contrast to TKAM in that it shows not only how much the South waschanging, but also Jean-Louise's realization that Atticus may not be the man she thought he was.  As she struggle to accept these changes, she questions what she always thought to be true.  All she wants is for things to go back to the way she remembered.  Seeing a parent through grown up eyes is sometimes difficult, especially when the image you have of that person is almost god-like, as in Scout's case with Atticus. I remember well the first time, as an adult, I saw a flawed version of my own father and how hard it was for me to come to terms with him not being perfect. That is what Jean-Louise is dealing with here.

Unlike many readers, I didn't feel like this book showed Atticus as being a racist. In fact, I didn't find him much different than in TKAM. Jean-Louise made assumptions about her father and in true Scout form, reacted before looking at the whole picture. I feel like a lot of the readers who also saw him as racist did the same thing. He was still a man fighting for his community with all its changes, but doing it in a different way. Some see it and some don't. The book became more emotional to me as it went on and by the final pages, I had a lump in my throat that almost choked me. It was in those pages that I came to my final opinion about the book. It moved me and I'm so glad I read it. I had no idea what to expect going in but what I got was an appreciation for Harper Lee's view and her talent.

One final note, the title was a mystery to me at first but now that I've read the book and I understand where that phrase comes from and what it means, I totally get it and think it is the perfect title.

The Bottom Line:

I strongly suggest reading this book but only if you've already read TKAM. Don't try to compare the two books, just go into it with an open mind. I flew through it and will more than likely read it more than once. It's not often we get the chance to have a highly regarded writer of a piece of classic literature offer something such as this and I commend Harper Lee for her courage in doing so.

GO SET A WATCHMAN (Kindle Version)
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Harper
Published: July 2015
Length: 288 pp
Source: Purchased

Oct 31, 2015

Bliss House by Laura Benedict (Kindle Edition)

If you're looking for a book perfect for Halloween, BLISS HOUSE may fit the bill for you. It's a spooky, ghost-filled story centering around a generations-old mansion that is clearly haunted and doesn't mind making it's inhabitants known.

Rainey Adams bought the old family home with the hopes that moving her daughter, Ariel, to Virginia from St. Louis would help her recover from a tragic accident that left her both physically and mentally maimed. It was their house that exploded from faulty wiring that caused Ariel's severe injuries and took the life of her beloved father, with whom she was so close. Since it was her mother's project, Ariel holds some resentment against her mother and their relationship has suffered greatly. Though Rainey has heard some stories about the house, she has a distant familial connection to it and hopes that in fixing it up it will give she and her daughter a fresh start. 

Once a grand home located in rural Virginia, it doesn't take long to realize there's something off about Bliss House. The creep meter goes way up when the morning after Rainey hosts her first party, a house-warming, one of the guests is found dead, causing a lot of unease and old fears in the community.

Simultaneously, there's another story connected to the house being told, the events of which reveal themselves in flashback chapters. It involves the relationship between a young couple from the 1980's that turns into something very frightening and disturbing. 

BLISS HOUSE is a dark, haunting tale with the main character being the house itself with its history of madness, not to mention murder. Rainey doesn't want to believe that the old beautiful home she has so much invested in could be a bad place, but the longer they are there, the more sinister it becomes. Even more troubling to Rainey is the changes happening to her daughter.

My Thoughts:

There is a lot going on in this book. There is the the house with its hidden rooms and runnels leading to who-knows-where; there's Rainey, the loving and broken mother fighting to help her daughter get her life back and, hopefully, along the way repair their damaged relationship; and the story of the young couple that is fighting to come out even though some people will do anything to keep it hidden. And there's the contractor Rainey hired to renovate the house who's wife becomes the latest victim of Bliss House. 

The story is not hard to follow, although I was skeptical about how the two different stories were going to come together. I'm not a huge fan of going back and forth in time, but those chapters were not long and drawn out so it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Rainey's story was a sad one and I immediately began rooting for her with what she hoped to accomplish in buying Bliss House. . 

The story was original but there were so many characters that it made it harder to connect with. Some aspects of these characters, I felt, were there just for shock value which made it feel forced. BLISS HOUSE was released in 2014 and is the first in a series. The second book, CHARLOTTE'S STORY, which came out October 15, 2015 actually takes place in the 1950's and divulges more of the mansion's deception. Since there were so many loose ends at the end of BLISS HOUSE, I thought the second book might pick up with some of the many characters but I don't believe that is the case. There is also a third book yet to be released.

The Bottom Line:

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in this book.  Too many characters, and I didn't love the flashback story. It felt disjointed. Initially I liked the premise but it just went in too many directions for my taste. As far as the second book, I may give it a try but I'm not running to pick it up. All that being said, BLISS HOUSE is a good one to read this time of year with Halloween being upon us. If you've read it and have a different opinion, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

BLISS HOUSE (Kindle Edition)
Series: Bliss House, Book 1
Author: Laura Benedict
Publisher: Pegasus
Published: June 2014
Length:  449pp
Source: Purchased

Oct 28, 2015

Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

This award-winning thriller that came out in November of 2014 was subsequently named Best eBook Original Novel. This is the first book in the Huntress/FBI Series.

In this premier installment Sokoloff has us following FBI Agent Matthew Roarke as he tracks a most unique suspect: a female serial killer. In fact, one of the victims, a fellow agent working undercover was on his way to meet Roarke and was killed almost right in front of him. As a former profiler,  Agent Roarke digs into the lives of the previous victims and develops a theory that he is reluctant to offer full disclosure to.

My Thoughts:

I found the premise of the story interesting and was curious to see where it would go. In my experience, I haven't read many thrillers with a female serial killer so I thought that was a bold move on behalf of Alexandra Sokoloff. That being said, there were a few times I felt she was reaching a bit but I was interested enough to keep going. Sokoloff was able to keep my attention throughout the book and I was anxious to return to it when I did have to stop reading from time to time. The book hints at the paranormal as well which gives it a mysterious element that I hope will become more prevalent in the future. The back story of the killer was a good twist and she even manages a link between the killer and the agent, albeit a distant one. That is one reason I feel like this series has a lot of potential. The growth of the characters and future encounters leaves the door open for another intriguing installment. BLOOD MOON is the second book and I already have it on my Kindle and will hopefully get to it before the end of year. .

If you're like me and enjoy audiobooks, you may be interested to know that the narrator of HUNTRESS MOON is non other than R.C. Bray, the voice of the astronaut in THE MARTIAN and, more recently, the narrator of DECENT by Tim Johnston, both of which I really enjoyed. So if you prefer audios, that is a good reason to pick this one up.

The Bottom Line:

For me, this book is a win. I give it 3.5 stars, because I had a few believability issues with the story, however, it has a paranormal aire about it so I took that into consideration. I think the stories will improve and I will be reading more from this series. It's the perfect type of book to be reading this time of year with Halloween approaching. It's a quick read, too, and that is a plus as well.

There are currently three books in the series with a fourth coming in 2016. For more information on Alexandra Sokoloff and her books, visit her website.

HUNTRESS MOON (Kindle Version)
Series: Huntress/FBI Book 1
Author: Alexandra Sokoloff
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: November 2014
Length: 373 pp

Oct 27, 2015

Guest Post: Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis Reviewed by Emerson Clauss

Once again, I've invited my friend Emerson Clauss to be a guest reviewer and he has chosen a wonderful memoir called GIRL IN THE WOODS by Aspen Matis.  He has a personal connection to the subject matter of the book and came away with some interesting insights.

GIRL IN THE WOODS: A Memoir by Aspen Matis

This is a seemingly familiar story of running away from something into nature to find yourself, except it has some new twists and sheds light on an epidemic in this country.  In GIRL IN THE WOODS, Aspen Matis shares her story of a campus rape, hers.  Crimes like this we see too often in the news and the incidence is rising in frequency, by most statistics.  Unfortunately she is the victim, yet becomes a gifted storyteller in her account of this act and her journey to overcome it.

Aspen tackles the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), which is notably one of the epic hiking experiences in the US.  She embarks on this journey armed only with some childhood wilderness experiences and little planning or preparation.  She takes on this epic hike as a "Thru Hiker", meaning her goal was to accomplish the entire route in one try, all  2,650  miles of it.  Aspen also makes the decision to do it in "light" mode; carrying only bare essentials, which add several times to her challenges along the way.

As an avid and experienced  outdoors person, I was almost appalled at her lack of prep and seemingly rash decisions at the onset of this adventure.  Then I recalled being 19; life then is full of those kinds of decisions.  Through her experience of this campus rape, she is left feeling empty, lost and in need of something drastic in her life.  She finds those things in herself on the PCT.   

I'll admit, I was attracted to this story for several reasons; first as an outdoorsman and secondly, I wanted some insight to how to deal with the subject of rape, especially with the victim.  I wanted to see a woman's perspective on how people treat her afterwards, how they are stymied with what to say and how to react.  And it was insightful how, probably because of our lack of knowledge and openness about these emotions surrounding this crime; those around her do not handle her or her feelings well.

It is such a quagmire of  emotions for everyone involved, most of us are ill equipped to deal with it well and be supportive of the victim at a vulnerable time of need; for their daughter, friend or sibling.  Along the trail, strangers begin to act oddly around her, in this little wilderness click on the PCT.  She is forced to make some statements and actions to dispel that miss-information and set some people straight.  She does well to explain to the reader, how this wilderness community rises up each spring then dies away each fall. 

The story has some real interesting moments, both in nature and in human relations.   She (obviously) makes it through okay, but sometimes only by luck and possibly a series of small miracles, and with the aid of "Trail Angels".   Her feat of surviving the PCT is something tremendous, no matter her motivation.  And her goal, to find herself again, is noble and heartfelt.  Aspen's story is unique, but also too familiar.  

I believe this is a good read for couch potatoes and outdoors people alike.  It is certainly one more MEN should read; for too many reasons to list here.  This book may offer us all some insight to how to help, talk to and support a woman in this trap of a most personal of crime against her.    GIRL IN THE WOODS even hints of a continuing mystery in its Epilogue... one I had to research myself and found immensely intriguing as a student of human nature.   

GIRL IN THE WOODS is definitely a good read.

Author: Aspen Matis
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: September 8, 2015
Length: 384pp

Oct 25, 2015

The Sunday Salon: A New Chapter for Me

I've had this post in mind for many weeks but had to put it off when my neck issues arose but now that I'm fully recovered I'm excited to finally share my news.  There are a lot of changes in store for me hopefully in the next 6 months.

After living in my house here in Ocala, Florida for 22 years, I've decided to sell it. My ex-husband and I bought the house in early 1993 a few years after we married. It was a perfect starter home for us and even after he bailed in 2000, I took over the mortgage alone and have continued living here. It was the perfect solution for me but as time has gone on and I've lost so much of my sight and become less independent, it's time for me to make a change. The house and property are too much for a partially blind single woman to handle. I need to get away from the stress of it and I would like to be able to start afresh without old memories lingering everywhere I look.

I'll begin showing the house to prospective buyers next month and hopefully the right opportunity will present itself. I'm so anxious for the next chapter in my life and to see what is in store for me. Admittedly, I had been in sort of a slump but now I am filled with hope and excitement for the future! Thanks for letting me share this special news here at the salon!

Even with all the preparations of selling my house, I have managed to slip in some books too. I'm actually a bit covered up with them! Here's what I'm reading now:

  • TENACITY by J.S. Law. This thriller is a review book centering around a naval investigator in the UK's Royal Navy. It's the first in a new series and from the comments I've read about it, it's a real page-turner. I've only just begun so I can't really say too much about it yet. Its release date is November 3rd.
  •  ALONG THE INFINITE SEA  by Beatriz Williams  This is my first Williams book and this book is the third book about a trio of sisters, though I'm assured that it doesn't matter that I haven't read the first two books. I've just received this one so I haven't even started it but hope to this week. It's also due out November 3rd.
  • FALLEN by Karin Slaughter  This is the 5th book in the Will Trent Crime Fiction/Suspense series that I've become obsessed with. 

I'm also listening to a new audiobook:

  • A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara  This book has created so much buzz I couldn't pass it up. It's a very long book which is why I chose the audio version. (Over 32 hours long!) I'm about 5 hours in so I have a ways to go! So far, I have two word for you: Character Development
Surprisingly enough, I've not taken on any new TV shows this fall.  I am, however, waiting for Chicago Med to start in November because I do watch the Dick Wolf Chicago Fire and PD series. They are two of my favorites and they do a lot of crossing over which is always fun to watch. With my books, audios and a few Netflix shows I just don't want to add anything else. 

So that's what's going on in my world. As for today, I'm taking a break from sorting out three bedrooms worth of 'stuff' and I'll be reading and watching some football. Yes, I'm a multi-tasker! As for dinner, I'll be creating my version of Chicken a la King, which has been a retro favorite of mine since way back when microwaves first came on the scene! I'll be making it up as I go along, so wish me luck! How hard can it be, right?!