May 25, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Blue: A Novel by Lucy Clarke

If you love atmospheric novels that completely draw you in and make you feel as if you are actually there inside the story, THE BLUE is definitely a book you shouldn't miss. It's hardcover release was August of 2015 but it came out in paperback just yesterday, May 24, 2016.  I became a fan of Lucy Clarke about three years ago after reading an advance copy of her debut novel SWIMMING AT NIGHT (released in the UK under the title The Sea Sisters). All of Clarke's novels transport the reader to breathtakingly beautiful locales. In THE BLUE the story begins in The Philippines with the final destination being the coast of New Zealand.

While vacationing in the Philippines, lifelong friends Lana and Kitty befriend the laid back crew of a boat named The Blue. They spend the day on the boat enjoying the sunshine, water and laughs that seem to come so easy for this group of misfits. The girls are so taken in by this very different lifestyle of sailing from coastal city to coastal city, that when the crew asks them to join them for the remainder of the trip, they both jump at the chance. The truth is neither one of the girls is all that anxious to get back to their 'regular' life in London with all it's disappointments and troubles.

Their journey starts off smoothly and they are soon lulled into the rhythmic patterns of sea life that the constant motion of waves bring. There is a democracy aboard The Blue where all decisions are voted on, but Captain Aaron is ultimately the one in charge and his word is not tested. Relationships among crew members are not tolerated for obvious reasons so when the chemistry between Lana and Denny, another crew member, becomes too hard to fight, they keep their tryst a secret. But living in such close quarters, secrets are hard to keep and as time goes on, Lana feels as though she's not the only one hiding something.

When one of the crew is discovered missing while at sea, accusation come out and Lana can't go along with Captain Aaron's plan to keep The Blue out of trouble with the authorities. She takes a stand, tries to find out what happened but at the same time ostracizes herself from the rest of the crew, including Denny and Kitty. She ends up making a decision that could change her life forever, along with her friendship with Kitty.

My Thoughts:

Each time I read a Lucy Clarke novel I yearn for the sun, sand and water of the ocean. Her storytelling along with the vivid imagery she creates is so realistic. In THE BLUE I could almost hear the sea water lapping against the side of the boat. It's ironic that the atmosphere was so calming but the story was filled with tension throughout. There was a perfect balance to it. This is why I'm such a fan of Lucy Clarke's work. Each of the characters were flawed and multi-dimensional and so very believable. Even though the plot was not a complicated one, the characters, each with their own issues, made it into a very suspenseful story with danger never far away. This book, especially, out of all of her books, makes me appreciate her subtle yet purposeful writing style.

Audio Performance Review:

The characters of THE BLUE are an eclectic group of people from different parts of the world. There are two Americans, two Londoners, one German, one Frenchman and an Ausie. Scarlett Mack is the only narrator and she did an outstanding job! Her dialect for each of these characters was spot on. Mack has a very easy tone to her voice making it a very pleasant listen. This was the first time I've listened to a Lucy Clarke book and I chose mainly because of time constraints with some print books I was also reading at the same time but in the end, it was a great decision. This ranks up there with some of my favorite audios. I'll definitely keep an ear out for more listens by Scarlett Mack. If you're planning a long car ride this summer, THE BLUE would be a great choice to listen as you travel.

If you've never read a Lucy Clarke novel, I encourage you to do so. You will be swept away by both the story and the beautiful settings she chooses. THE BLUE would be the perfect book to kick your summer reading off right.

THE BLUE: A Novel (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Lucy Clarke
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: August 2015
Length: 10 hrs 40 mins
Printed Length: 336
Source: Purchased thru Audible
Other Books I've Reviewed By Lucy Clarke

May 23, 2016

Review: The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

As a long-time fan, I look forward to the release of a new Mary Kay Andrews novel each Spring. Admittedly, my favorites go back a few years to Little Bitty Lies, Savannah Blues and Hissy Fit but I'm still enjoying her original and sometimes quirky characters and strong storylines. THE WEEKENDERS was no exception - in fact, it turned out to be more than what I've come to expect. There was a murder involved with more of a who-dunnit quality that I really enjoyed. Here's a quick synopsis . . .

Riley Griggs and her daughter, Maggy are headed to the North Carolina coast for the summer. The small island of Belle Isle was first developed by Riley's ancestors, making her family a fixture in the tight-knit community. Unfortunately, this summer won't be like previous summers because Rile and her husband, Wendell, have some difficult news to share with twelve year-old Maggy. After many months of fighting and basically living separately, they're getting a divorce. The plan is to break the news to their daughter over the Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of their summer retreat on Belle Isle with the rest of her family. But Wendell doesn't show up at the ferry on the designated day they were to meet. At first Riley assumes he's just bailing out on telling Maggy about the divorce but soon, Wendell's body is found in the marina and suddenly things get even more serious. Even as Riley is put on the growing suspect list, she is determined to find out who killed him, even as she learns that he has lost the house on the island due to foreclosure. With the help of her best friend, Parrish, she discovers that losing the house is just the tip of the iceberg. 

My Thoughts:

Over the past several months I've begun reading more books from the suspense and thriller genre and they sometimes get a little dark so I was ready for something more upbeat and less disturbing. Enter THE WEEKENDERS. An added bonus was realizing that even with the 'lighter' content, there was a change from her previous books. The big difference was the mystery aspect of who killed Riley's no-good lying husband. With several suspected characters, there was a lot ot think about while reading. Don't get me wrong, all of her stories are good, but this gave it a little more depth and I appreciated that. Of course, there was the usual romantic element along with friendship and the complications of family that are always prevalent in her books. There was also the more serious subject of juvenile Diabetes which fit nicely into this story and at the same time gave awareness to a growing problem in today's society.  I always love the locales MKA chooses for her novels and this was no exception. Having just moved away from Florida myself, I began missing the beach a little!

This is the perfect beach read for the summer, and for me it was a nice respite from some heaver books I've been reading. I think readers will like the murder mystery element as much as I did. In my opinion, THE WEEKENDERS puts Mary Kay Andrews back on top!

THE WEEKENDERS by Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: May 17, 2016
Print Length: 462:
Source: Publisher

May 22, 2016

The Sunday Salon: After the Big Move!

A lot has changed since my last post to this blog. Back in March I was preparing to move out of my house that I'd sold and pack up all my worldly belongings and move back to my home state of Ohio. Well, the move is done, I'm (for the most part) settled in my new apartment and life is slowly getting to a new normal. I was sidelined for well over a week with a terrible cold but I'm much better now. The weather, though I'm loving the cooler temps, is much different than what I'm used to and that has been another adjustment. I'm not typically a jacket-wearer, but here, you need to have one handy because the air is so different. But I can say without a doubt that I do not miss the sweltering humidity of Florida.

Though the actual move with the movers went smoothly, the car ride from Florida to Ohio was anything but. We left Florida in the wee hours of April 16 and that afternoon we'd made our way to Chattanooga, TN and stopped for lunch. A few hours later while going through Louden, TN, my mother's car blew a tire while going somewhere close to 70 mph. She and my sister and their three cats were in the car and they were following behind the car I was in with my best friend and her husband and we were pulling a small U-Haul trailer. The sound of screeching tires was so frightening, especially when I realized it was my 76 year-old mom's car that was making the noise. Her car was headed into a median with a very rough terrain, but luckily she side-swiped a sign that pushed her back onto I-75 and she was able to get the car under control and stopped without involving other cars or sustaining injuries. They were extremely lucky and we were all thankful no one was hurt, besides the car. (over $9,000 in mostly body damage) The accident held us up for about four hours but we were back on the road by 7:30 pm and continued on. Again, we are all incredibly grateful we all made it safely because it could have easily had a much different outcome.

It feels really good to be settled and to begin a new routine here in Amelia, Ohio. It's such a nice city and  so close to Cincinnati, where there is so much to do, unlike whee I moved from. I finally started reading again this month and now that I have my home office set up I'll start posting reviews that have been stacking up since March, when I had to be out of my house. It's also nice to have all my stuff out of storage!  Here's a peek at some of the books I'll be posting reviews for in the coming weeks::

  • THE WEEKENDERS by Mary Kay Andrews
  • COMETH THE HOUR by Jeffrey Archer
  • THE BLUE by Lucy Clarke
  • THE GUEST ROOM by Chris Bohjalian (Audio Review)
  • PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter (Audio Review)
The two books I'm currently reading are very exciting too. INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger is due out in June. It's my first from this author, but so far I am really into it. It's a physiological thriller in which the main character has the ability to see people who've crossed over. I am intrigued by mediums, so I'm really enjoying this book. I'm also listening to THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica, also a new author to me.

I'm looking forward to visiting the blogs now that I am all moved in to see what everyone else is reading.  I feel so out-of-the-loop! As for today, I plan to do some laundry and spend some time reading.  Thanks for taking the time to stop by today and please visit again soon!

Feb 28, 2016

The Sunday Salon: The Big Move

Happy Sunday everyone! As many of you may know, I've been a little absent from the blog lately while  trying to sell my house and prepare to move back to my hone state of Ohio.  I thought today would be a good day to post an update. Big changes are coming very quickly!

Fortunately, my house sold in just two months, which is a real blessing! The buyer is a very nice woman who I"ve had the pleasure of meeting. She is a widow and she has grandchildren that I'm sure will be spending a lot of time here playing in the yard and filling the house with giggles and laughter. After living here for 23 years, I'm happy to hand the keys over to such a nice lady.

I've had a range of emotions running through my brain since my realtor told me she accepted my counter-offer. My first reaction was relief, quickly followed by panic when she told me the closing date was March 11th! I was overwhelmed with the daunting task of cleaning out this 3-bedroom house. As part of the sale, I had to make some improvements such as re-shingle the roof and install a new drainfield. Luckily, through people I've met while working in the construction industry for so long, I was able to get these two things done much cheaper than most. Some really wonderful people stepped up and came through for me and made it possible to get this done in record time. I will forever be grateful for their help.

Now, I'm  within a week of moving out of my house and things are falling into place. I'm 90% packed, the movers are scheduled and it's all becoming very, very real. With the help of my wonderful sister-friend, Brenda, (already living in Ohio), she has helped me find and secure an apartment in my new city, Amelia, Ohio. She will fly down the week of April 12th and on the 16th, she will drive myself and my cat, Jax, to Ohio with my mom and sister following. It's a big move for my little family and we are so excited! My mom and sister will be living in Galloway, Ohio while I'll be in Amelia.

I will not be buying a home because with my disability, it is better for me to rent an apartment. I am simply not able to manage the upkeep of a home and property any longer. I'm down-sizing and will not have the worry of costly repairs and maintenance. My 2 bedroom apartment will be perfect. It even has a pool! I'm really looking forward to spending time with family members I've seldom seen in my adult life and re-connecting with friends from long ago. This is a very exciting time and I'm looking forward to the future! That is not to say I won't miss the people I'm leaving behind in Florida. This has been my home since 1979 and I plan to keep those relationships strong.

I've gotten so far behind in my book reviews and it's going to be a bit longer until I get settled in my new home. I hope you will please bear with me until all this craziness is over. I've got some really great books to share with you!

Since this is Oscar Sunday and the awards show is tonight, I'd like to take this opportunity to give thanks to all of the people who've helped me during this transition. Special thanks to: Emerson Clauss III, Emerson Clauss IV, Brenda Ryder, Kevin Whitaker, Susan Goebel, Julie Tankersly, Pam Drake, John Mills, John Hudson, Brendan Cromwell, Terry Rowe, John Rutledge, and most of all, Carol Amos (my mom) for your never-ending support and love! It takes a village to move a partially blind woman and these are them! Thank you all for everything! I am forever indebted to you!

The next time I post it will be from Ohio! I will be back with more book love very soon and in the meantime I'll catch you on Facebook and Twitter!

Jan 16, 2016

Non-Fiction Saturday: Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

As part of our Non-Fiction Saturday feature, Emerson Clauss is sharing his thoughts on another intriguing book. This New York Times best-selling author has written what some would call an unexpected and surprising book as unorthodox as she is. 

Review by Emerson Clauss


ACCIDENTAL SAINTS by Nadia Bolz-Weber is a most interesting book.   It is an easy read; it will pull you in and tweak every emotion you might have, some you weren’t even aware of.
Nadia, at first glance, the least likely (looking) pastor, shares some of her background, stories starting and maintaining a most unconventional church, her strange collection of misfit congregation and will make you laugh as you take it all in.  And this is not a book for just the religious or the disenfranchised; although that seems to be the origin and strength of her church, aptly called:  “House for All Sinners and Saints”.  The stories are human stories, ones that everyone can appreciate.
Without preaching here, Nadia’s book is brash, funny, sometimes vulgar… but always riveting.  I found myself wanting to help her at each turn, as part of this weird church.  You begin to feel like a part of her congregation, setting up tables and chairs for a night of meaningful discussion, some laughs and some plain old “shootin the shit”….
And, as you start reading this, and after looking at her picture on the book jacket; you can only imagine when she approached the church hierarchy to be commissioned her own church, how the heads were spinning, at first.  When she speaks of that same process and of her followers, you begin to understand where Nadia gets her strength and her faith to be doing what she does, with the congregation she collects along the way.   It’s downright inspiring.
I will admit, before reading this book, I had heard her interviewed on a radio show.  She was funny, irreverent and irresistible.  That sent me right out to find and read this book; a small part of her story.  
During the course of reading, I really felt inspired by her outreach and her brutal honesty about that work; her first instincts (which are sometimes not what a pastor would say or do), and the fact she is not perfect and lets us inside her world to see how she copes and which little voices she listens to and acts upon.
Refreshing is what I would call Nadia, her story, her work and her followers.  I found myself wishing I lived closer to her church and could attend; although she probably would lump me with those “straight people” she is not sure what to do with.
We could all learn a few things from this story and Nadia’s work; important lessons about grace, forgiveness and shedding prejudices we all have, to some degree.   To start with, go ahead and read this most enlightening and entertaining book.

To contact Emerson Clauss about this or other reviews email him at: ejclauss@gmail.com
ACCIDENTAL SAINTS: Finding God in all the Wrong People (Hardcover)
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publisher: Convergent Books
Publshed: September 2015
Length: 224 pp
Source: Purchased

Jan 5, 2016

The View From Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (Alexandria Series #2)

THE VIEW FROM PRINCE STREET is the second book in Mary Ellen Taylor's Alexandria Series that's full of history and family secrets, some dating back to the 1700's and others not nearly as old.  This is the continuing story of three families; the Shires, the McDonald's and the Smyth's, and how their pasts have forever linked them to each other. The first book, AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET, was more about the Shire family and it's history, especially how the women of that family tended to suffer from a curse that we now acknowledge as mental illness. In this new book, the story centers mainly around the McDonald and Smyth families, the the Shires are in the story as well. 

Rae McDonald has a reputation as being a cold, unemotional woman. Not unfriendly, just reserved and very private. She has a successful career but is not married and has no family left. She lives on what's left of the McDonald land that dates back over 300 years, but she struggles with her family's history and what legacy she will leave behind, if any. The discovery of a 'witch bottle' on her property in the previous book raised questions about the first known McDonald's and their journey from Scotland to the Virginia Colonies in the mid 1700's, along with Faith Shire, a woman thought to have been a witch. 

Lisa Smyth has returned to her hometown of Alexandria after getting word that her Aunt Amelia's health is failing and the Dementia she suffers from is invading more and more of her mind. Her plan is to sell the historic home Amelia's family has owned for many generations to pay for the cost of nursing facility Amelia now calls home. Being back in Alexandria means Lisa has to face her demons from seventeen years ago while at the same time hang on to her twelve years of sobriety.  

When Rae McDonald asks Margret McRae, the local historian to look into her family's past, she has no idea what secrets will be revealed but it's something she has to do even if her own secret is brought to light. Many secrets and painful memories for both Lisa and Rae are revealed and both women are forced to confront them head on. 

MY THOUGHTS:

Since I really enjoyed the first book of the series, I've been looking forward to finding out where the story would go this time around. Alexandria is such an old, interesting city and Mary Ellen Taylor successfully incorporates that history and nostalgia into these books.  As a history buff, I appreciated that aspect.  Like the first book, old letters written by one of Rae's ancestors were used to tell the historical part of the story. The letters were short but very relevant to the more current storyline without being a distraction. 

There are quite a few characters and at first it was a little difficult to keep everyone's connections
straight, but that very quickly resolved itself and wasn't a problem. The cast is developing nicely without being overwhelming. MET has even brought characters from her Union Street Bakery Series into this story. All of the players are in some way relative to one another. I haven't read the USB series, but the way they are introduced here, it doesn't matter. They are all very genuine characters with flaws and quirks that make them very believable. One of my favorite characters is Margaret, the historian. I love her open and funny personality and the way she effortlessly makes everyone feel at ease whenever she is around.

I feel this is a solid second installment with so many good relationships to build on in the future. There's a lot of substance to these stories that deal with serious topics such as alcoholism, mental illness, and adoption to name a few. MET writes about these sensitive subjects with the perfect amount of finesse that they require. I look forward to finding out what direction she will go in with the next book and I will definitely keep reading.  As a bonus,  along with some of the characters from the Union Street Bakery series, she has included a couple of cookie recipes at the end of the book that were featured in this story. One in particular, the Lemon Polenta cookie, I plan on making myself very soon. I'll let you know how they turn out!

THE VIEW FROM PRINCE STREET (eARC Copy)
Series: Alexandria Series, Book 2
Author: Mary Ellen Taylor (@METbooks)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: January 5, 2016
Length: 352 pp (Paperback)
Source: NetGalley

Dec 23, 2015

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews (Unabridged Audio Version)

It's been a few years since fans of Mary Kay Andrews' partners in crime pals Weezie Foley and Bebe Loudermilk have been heard from. In fact, the last time was in 2006 with her previous Christmas tale, BLUE CHRISTMAS. Readers were first introduced to the duo way back in 2002 in her smash hit SAVANNAH BLUES.

CHRISTMAS BLISS was released in 2013 and picks up with Weezie mere days away from her wedding to chef Daniel and Bebe very pregnant with her first child with beau, Harry, the deep-sea fishing captain. Both women seem to be charting near perfect lives but rough waters are soon on the horizon. As Weezie is making final preparations for her second, and hopefully, last wedding, her fiance is in New York City working as a guest chef in one of the city's premier establishments. As the days go by and the wedding gets closer, Daniel is almost impossible to reach. To make matters worse, newspaper clippings of photos with him and the beautiful owner of the restaurant cause Weezie's insecurities to surface. At the same time, Bebe gets a visit from a mysterious woman indicating that Bebe's divorce from her previous husband and con-man, Richard was never finalized, which means she is still married to him and could legally, according to the laws of the state of Georgia, could be considered her baby's legal father!

While Weezie jets off to NYC to find out what's going on with her fiance and his sexy boss, Bebe is determined to locate Richard and get divorce papers re-filed before Harry finds out she's still married before the baby comes.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE STORY:

Although I always love when MKA brings these two fun characters back, I was a bit disappointed there wasn't a little more substance to the story. I hate even saying that as it is a Christmas-themed book and it was charming in that regard. In the past, Weezie and Bebe have been through some crazy fun adventures and compared to those, this was a bit tame. That being said, I was glad to see both of their relationships moving forward, especially since it's been forever since we've heard form them. The story had all the charm as in previous books with the same fun characters and it was a cute story to read for Christmas time. However, I do hope that MKA won't wait so long to bring them back and maybe with more of an adventurous storyline.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE AUDIO PERFORMANCE:

When this book first came out in 2013, I received a hard copy from the publisher. Unfortunately, I only made it a third of the way through and had to set it aside because it was too difficult for me to read the print in the book. (My eyes had started getting worse at that time). I was very sad I couldn't finish the book then and felt terrible about it.  So earlier this month I used one of my credits at Audible and purchased the audio version so I could listen to it for this Christmas season. Better late then never, I say!

Kathleen McInerney did a good job of bringing these two lovable characters to life and her Southern accent was spot on without going overboard. Though I will say, later on in the book, it started to be a little syruppy for me. I know I'm just being picky and maybe I was a bit frustrated by the lack of adventure in the story, but I have to be honest. I think if there is to be a Weezie and Bebe Mystery Number 5, I will read it reather than listen.

The bottom line is this is a cute, quick Christmas-themed book that I don't regret reading at all. The characters are beloved and I will never give up on them. This book would make a great Christmas present and is perfect for reading on a Christmas break either from school or work.

CHRISTMAS BLISS (Unabridged Audio Version)
Series: Weezie and Bebe Mystery
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published:     October 2013
Length: 7 Hrs 39 Mins
Source: Purchased