Jun 27, 2017

Book Review: The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

THE CONFUSION OF LANGUAGES is a debut novel that follows the lives of two Army wives living in an expat community in Jordan where their husbands are stationed.  One of the women is used to the rules and regulations the Army brings with it.  She also understands how dangerous living in the Middle East can be for Americans. The other is new to this world, is a bit naive and has a free spirit that causes constant friction between the two unlikely friends.

All of Cassie's warnings fall on deaf ears until an incident occurs and Margaret sets out on her own under an innocent pretense. leaving Cassie behind to watch over Margaret's toddler until she returns. While waiting Cassie finds Margaret's journal and against better judgement starts reading. What she learns about Margaret's life since arriving in Jordan frightens Cassie and as more time passes, she is more sure  than ever that something terrible has happened.

My Thoughts:

The plot of this debut is not complicated, but the locale and the cultural themes makes it very interesting and extremely relevant to out times. Americans soldiers being stationed in the Middle East, sometimes with their families in tow, can be complicated and dangerous  especially with tensions running high. This brings an unquestionable authenticity to this novel.  Most of the story takes place in one day with flashes in time as the journal is read and memories being called out. It's a clever way to tell the story, but admittedly, it was a bit frustrating to me because I wanted to stay in the present and find out what was happening. There are other layers to the story as well: jealousy, secrets, and marital discord.

I found the characters in this book to be genuine and believable, though I connected more with Cassie because, like her, I'm a rule follower and I'm also not a parent, not by my own choice.

The bottom line:  I think this is a impressive debut about a subject that hasn't been over-saturated.  It was realistic, current and the layout was well thought out. Siobhan Fallon is an accomplished writer and award-winner for her short stories. She has actually lived in Jordan and currently resides in Abu Dhabi, which explains the authenticity in her writing. And one final observation, I think the title is perfectly accurate.  

Author: Siobhan Fallon
Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA)
Publish Date: June 27, 2017
Length: 333 pp
Source: Publisher

Jun 12, 2017

Audio Review: The Whistler by John Grisham

As with all my reviews, there are NO SPOILERS included

I always considered myself a dedicated John Grisham fan even though I did taper off from reading a few of his books in the late 2000's. But I picked up again with SYCAMORE ROW which was released the summer of 2013. (Has it really been 4 years?!) As you probably know, that book was a very rare sequel to his breakthrough novel, A TIME TO KILL. That is what ultimately led me to read Grisham again and I'm glad because I really enjoyed getting back into his writing. It made me realize how much I missed it. So when THE WHISTLER came out, I didn't hesitate. Like SYCAMORE ROW, I also chose the audio version.

THE WHISTLER takes place in the Florida Panhandle, which is a change for Grisham, as most of his settings are in Mississippi.  At the core of the story is judicial corruption. Lacy Stoltz is an investigator with the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct, or the BJC. She is not a cop, but a lawyer and it is her job to look into complaints filed and see if there is grounds to investigate. Lacy and her partner meet with a man going by an alias and tells them he has evidence of a judge that is 'in bed' with a developer, known to be a part of the Coast Mafia, that built a resort and casino on Native American land and are now helping themselves to money generated by the casino. An investigation is underway and it promises to be a case like no other.  But like all mafias, these people will do anything to keep from being caught. Lacy understands from the start how dangerous this investigation could get, and when someone close to her is murdered, she is more determined than ever to bring all of the culprits to justice.


ON THE STORY:  As I began listening, there was a bit of confusion with getting all of the players straight in my mind. There were aliases being used and so many details that set the stage. I really had to pay attention to make sure I had everything right in my mind. Once I did that, the story wasn't hard to follow at all. It was classic Grisham all the way through and I enjoyed it.  That being said, this book didn't exactly have me on the edge of my seat like others have done. It was a good story, totally believable and realistic, just not the heart-pounding stuff I love from him. For that reason, I'm glad I chose the audiobook. If I were actually reading, it may have felt a little slow in places. I did think that writing a story involving casinos on Native American land was a great idea and very current to our times. I had seen an interview with Grisham where he explained he didn't have a cause he was fighting for with this book, that he wrote it for the pleasure of writing. But I feel like there is truth to this story.

I liked the character of Lacy and fell in with her immediately. All of the the characters were portrayed realistically, even the ones I didn't like. I actually wouldn't mind seeing Lacy Stoltz show up in future books. I think the BJC and it's employees could be a great backdrop for possible future stories.

ON THE AUDIO PERFORMANCE:  The narration was done by Cassandra Campbell and this is the first book I've heard her do. She did a great job and I liked the way she kept a smooth, steady pace. I will definitely put her on my list of preferred narrators as I listen to more and more audiobooks as my sight worsens.


On Goodreads, I gave this book 4 stars. If I were to get more specific, I would say it's on the lower end of that score. The narration helped me to decide on the final rating. Speaking as a Grisham fan, I'm glad I read the book even though it didn't grip me like some of his others. I do plan also to read his new book, CAMINO ISLAND. I will end with saying that though this was far from my favorite Grisham novel, I still enjoyed it and if anyone asked me, I would recommend it, but also let them know I didn't find it overly compelling.

THE WHISTLER by John Grisham
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Audiobook Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 2016
Length: 13 Hrs 10 Mins

Jun 11, 2017

The Sunday Salon: I'm Still Here!

I feel like I've made more than one comebacks in the last year, but here I am again! Happy Sunday and Happy Summer as well! It's been four months since I last posted on the blog but it's been a busy time for sure. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've relocated to Columbus, Ohio and I'm all settled in and as of this past week, I'm back online with my antiquated computer, thanks to my brilliant cousin, Shawn. It feels so nice to be up and running again. Though I haven't been on the blog, I have been reading and listening to audios. Here's what I have in store in the coming weeks on the blog..

I will have my review of John Grisham's THE WHISTLER. I listened to this one and I really enjoyed it once I got all of the characters straight. I'll be posting my thoughts in the coming days. I also will be featuring a new release in a week or so of a new book called THE CONFUSION OF LANGUAGES by Siobhan Fallon.  This was an interesting book that is very current, topically, because it centers around two wives stationed in Jordan with thei Armyr husbands. Cultural differences are front and center in this novel. I don't want to say too much more, but look for my review on June 27th, its release date.

I'm currently listening to the latest release from Jeffrey Archer and his Clifton Chronicles Series.  Through the last seven years readers have followed Harry Clifton and his family since the 1920's. I'm not finished yet, but right now we are in 1985. It has been an wonderful journey with politics, espionage, humor and suspense to name a few.  THIS WAS A MAN is the seventh and final installment. I plan to have that review in the coming weeks as well.

I also will be sharing thoughts on some other books I've read that are not newly published, but are very good reads. In the last months I've been doing more pleasure reading than newly published review books. I hope you will come back and see what I've had on my book shelves.

I'm so thankful to be settled here in Columbus, the place where I was born and spent my young years. I'm near my mom's side of the family and I love spending time with them. I'm looking forward to a great summer filled with lots of fun and books. Please come back and visit often!

Feb 4, 2017

New Year, New Adventure!

After taking a brief hiatus from the blog, I am back, once again. I hadn't really planned on being absent for so long, but with the holidays and all that goes with it, time flew by. So, here we are, already in the second month of 2017! Though I haven't been posting, I did do some reading, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Along with the changes happening out in the world this new year, there are also some changes going on in my life as well. As some of you may recall, I made a big move last Spring from Florida to my home state of Ohio. After living in the Sunshine State for over 35 years, it was a big adjustment. Since April of 2016 I've been living in a little town called Amelia, outside of Cincinnati. I have friends living here and it has been nice being around them but I feel like another change is necessary, so this Spring I will be relocating about 90 miles north to Columbus, where my family lives and close to where I grew up as a child. This will be my final move and where I plan to stay. I have my mom's side of the family there along with many friends I grew up with.  Every couple of months. I've been visiting there, but I think it's now time for me to make the move.

So you see, along with the holidays, I've been busy making moving/living arrangements which severely cut into my blogging time. Now that everything for the move has been finalized, (except for the packing! Yikes!) I plan to get caught up on some reviews that I've got stacked up. They will most likely be mini-reviews though. For those aware of my retinal disease, it is still actively progressing, and I have noticed more loss of sight over the last few months, but I am still able to read from my Kindle and I am still listening to and loving my audiobooks.  I plan to continue reading and blogging for as long as I can see the screen. Last month was my 9th year of blogging! I still get enjoyment from it along with a sense of purpose that is very important to me. It helps me to get up every day without feeling like I don't have anything to contribute. Losing my sight is something I deal with every single day but having books to read or listen to and my blog to share my thoughts gives me a boost that you can't imagine. And when I can't see the printed page any longer, I will concentrate soley on audiobooks. But until that time, I am grateful for every single thing I can still see. Actually, reading is the easy part. The hardest thing is the blog. I do okay until Blogger makes changes to to the platform, then I'm lost. I also have a very hard time keeping up with the mouse. It is as big as I can make it but my eyes don't focus together any longer so a lot of times, by the time I find my mouse, I've forgotten what I was doing! Ha! It takes me a lot longer to post things. I will probably have to cut down on the amount of links included because those really eat up my clock. That being said, let's move on...

To get things started off, here is a quick review of an sudiobook I listened to last fall. This one slipped through the cracks and I only recently realized I hadn't written a review.

END OF WATCH, as you already know, is the third and final installment in the Detective Bill Hodges trilogy. It began with the explosive MR. MERCEDES, and continued with FINDERS KEEPERS. In this final book, the title pretty much says it all. I'll start by reiterating that I'm not exactly a die-hard King fan like some of my fellow bloggers, but I have read a few. This trilogy was a side-step from his usual horror themed books as it was more crime fiction than horror. I can say that totally for the first two books, but in END OF WATCH, there was much more of the typical King that we've all known. Mind control was a big part of the conclusion of this story.  And for me, I didn't mind it at all. The other two books focused mainly on the crime aspect but near the end of FINDERS KEEPERS, it was evident something else was beginning to take hold. It was a seamless transition and fit the story well.

I loved that all of the characters from the first two books were also present here. Bill Hodges was a great character and his relationships with his fellow crime-busting partners were special and genuine. The story wrapped up nicely, leaving no questions unanswered. Though this was not my favorite book of the series, I enjoyed it just the same. MR. MERCEDES was the best book in my opinion.

As far as the audiobook, the entire trilogy has become one of my favorites of all time. That is due to the extraordinary work of the narrator, Will Patton. He used his voice expertly to bring life to each of these characters, never missing a beat and all being so distinguishingly different. Bravo to him!

I would highly recommend, not only these books, but the audio versions as well. If you have a long trip ahead or are looking for something different to listen to, I suggest giving them a try. They will suck you in and time will fly!

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: June 7, 2016
Length: 12 Hrs 54 Mins

Sep 8, 2016

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand's THE RUMOR landed with a big splash last June. There was a lot of buzz about it yet I remember reading mixed reviews, which is why I put off reading it until this summer. This 'beach read' taking place on Nantucket Island centers around best friends Grace and Madeline and their families.  The story begins in the spring just when people are breaking out of their winter retreats and preparing for the arrival of summer residents.  Both women appear to be living the life; Grace with her successful real estate mogul husband, Eddie and their twin teenage girls Allegra and Hope, and Madeline, a published novelist with a loving pilot husband and their son, Brick. They both seem to have it all, but looks can be deceiving.

Madeline and Grace are both at a point in their lives where they feel stuck. One personally and one professionally.  In their small little town, there are eyes and ears everywhere and even the most innocent action can be interpreted as something it's not. But once it's out there, it's hard to reel it back in.

My Thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised to find out there were more levels to this story than what I had expected.  I liked that the kids also played a big part in the story. Each chapter was told from a different characters' point of view, which gave insight into that person. There were also chapters labeled 'Nantucket', which I thought was a clever way to get the townspeople's perspective as well.

I found the characters to be easy to relate to, personality-wise. Even though they had their flaws, they were good people. The character that changed the most, I felt, was Allegra, the beautiful twin who used her looks to charm her way through life. I loved Grace for all of her foodie and gardening flaire. I could also feel the loneliness she suffered at the hands of her family. Each of the characters had their own issues going on but the common threads were the love, loyalty and forgiveness for their loved ones.

The bottom line is I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would. I zipped right through it because the pace  never lagged and with all the different people telling the story, I was kept interested all the way through. This was the perfect book to wind up my summer reading list. I'm very glad I took the time to read it. This was my first Elin Hilderbrand novel but it probably won't be the last.

THE RUMOR: Kindle Edition
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: June 2015
Length: 367 pp
Source: Purchased

Sep 2, 2016

Review: The Children by Ann Leary

Since reading Leary's previous novel THE GO6OD HOUSE, which came out in early 2013, I have been anxiously awaiting her next release.  In May of this year THE CHILDREN was published and, finally, the wait was over. In THE GOOD HOUSE, the main character had such a bold presence and I was curious to see if this book mirrored that. Let's just say I was not disappointed with Charlotte Maynard at all.

Charlotte is a member of an old prominent New England family. It's not a traditional family but more of a modern family with its complicated family tree.  She is a 29 year-old recluse who seldom leaves the family home that sits on the best part of a beautiful lake, but that's not what makes Charolotte interesting.  The interesting thng is that Charlotte has a secret that even her family doesn't know about. She would love to be able to tell them all about it, but she has painted herself into a corner that she can't get out of without bringing herself down. 

The slightly odd but functioning family dynamic is going along smoothly until Spin, the favorite and youngest member of this disjointed family brings his fiance home for the summer. As the family gets to know this beautiful and successful woman, Charlotte's curiosity turns into something more. She's suspicious but no one will listen to her because of her hermit-like existence, no matter how much she insists that something just isn't right. As the summer progresses, so do the cracks in this family reveal themselves as never before.

My Thoughts:

I will get right to it and say that after reading this book I am an even bigger fan of Ann Leary. This multi-dimensional story is driven by interesting characters that made me not want to stop reading. The locale, the once beautiful and now worn down house on the lake, and the people were so vivid in my mind. Leary's writing style allowed the story to be revealed bit by bit which let me, the reader, learn things at the same time the characters did. It was an engaging read that kept my attention and curiosity piqued throughout.  

Leary has created a complex story with this flawed family and manages to do it with (mostly) likable characters. I found it to be original and current. I love that Charlotte is a blogger because I could relate to a small part of her world and appreciate it. At only 256 pages, it was a quick read but after finishing it I didn't pick up another book for several days because I was still processing the story. And it has stayed with me since. THE CHILDREN was a book I truly enjoyed reading. I even liked it more than THE GOOD HOUSE and I can't wait to see what she comes up with for her next novel. 

I highly recommend this book and hope you make the time to read it. Special thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with my e-copy. It is definitely on my list of top books that I've read this year.

Author: Ann Leary
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published:  May 2016
Length: 256 pp
Source: Publisher

Jun 28, 2016

Review: We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

No Spoilers Included!

Ever since I read DOMESTIC VIOLETS in 2011 I have been anxiously awaiting Norman's second book. I loved that debut novel and wondered what he would produce next. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed but when WE'RE ALL DAMAGED showed up on my Kindle Firsts promo, I snatched up my copy in a heartbeat!

What It's About:

This is a story about a guy who thought he had it all. A good job, a beautiful wife and a plan for their future together that would, one day, include a family of their own. Unfortunately for Andy Carter, his wife Karen had different plans. She blew his life apart when she told him she 'didn't want this anymore'. Now, it's a year later and Andy's life is so different he sometimes doesn't even recognize himself.  He lost his job, destroyed his best friend's wedding reception, along with that friendship, and left his Iowa hometown for New York City where he knew absolutely no one. He's working as a bartender for the only friend he has in The City when he gets a call to come home immediately. His grandfather is dying and his mother is demanding he come before that happens.

In the last year while Andy was sulking in The Big Apple, things in his old life have changed dramatically. Andy stumbles along trying to absorb the changes, not to mention the impending death of his grandpa. And then there's Daisy, the tatted up, strange woman he meets at the nursing home who says she's a friend of his grandfather...but can that really be?? Though Andy didn't think he was ready to go home yet, this is a trip he had to make. Back home, he'll see people he's known his whole life in different ways and meet new people who will change how he looks at himself.

My Thoughts:

There have been times when I've read a debut novel and loved it, only to discover the next novel by the same author fell flat.  Well, for me, that is certainly NOT the case with WE'RE ALL DAMAGED. This book was such a refreshing reading experience for me. The opening chapters, especially, were laugh out loud funny. I absolutely loved the snarky wit and characters that came alive within the pages. The Glitter Mafia which brought a very relevant social issue into the story was genius as was the battle his father had with the squirrels. He painted such a vivid picture in my mind that I couldn't quit laughing. I'll never look at a squirrel the same way again. Nancy, Andy's far right Republican mother was another brilliant character, though my views are very different from hers. All of the characters seemed so realistic to me and I enjoyed them all.

I've told you how funny this story is but it's not just funny. It's sweet, it's heartbreaking, sad, hopeful and lovely. It's about family, marriage, regret, forgiveness and awareness and compassion. As I'm sitting here thinking about the book, it reminds me again of how much I loved it. The sweetness of the story took me by surprise, especially when it brought me to tears.

WE'RE ALL DAMAGED is about a regular family in Iowa with problems that are not all that different  from other families'.  It's not a complex story but Matthew Norman, with his unique take on people, along with his incredible sense of humor makes it something very special. At 282 pages and as readable as it is, it's the perfect weekend read.  I imagine it would make for a great audiobook as well and would be perfect for a road trip this summer.  If you read and loved DOMESTIC VIOLETS, you certainly don't want to put off reading WE'RE ALL DAMAGED any longer.

Author: Matthew Norman
Publisher: Little A
Published: June 1, 2016
Length: 282 pages
Source: Amazon Kindle Firsts