Sep 29, 2008

The Sunday Salon: If It's Not One Thing . . .

This is not going to be my regular Sunday Salon post. Obviously, it's now Monday and I'm a day late! That's the first clue things are not going well with me. I just can't seem to get a head lately. Everything I touch blows up in my face, or more specifically, lightening strikes it and blows it up. Since the latest strike two weeks ago, I'm still living without a microwave, which is killing me, without an oven, which will become a bigger issue as the holidays get closer but thank God I DID get a replacement coffee pot thanks to my BFF! When you don't drive you don't have the liberty to just run to the store and pick up whatever you need. Everything must be planned.

Then last week things were put into perspective for me. It was a terrible week for two very special people in my life, making my little trivial problems seem not so bad. For one, my best friend's mother died and even though it was expected, it doesn't make it any easier when it finally happens. Then the next day my boyfriend's nephew died when the plane he was piloting had engine trouble on take off and crashed in upstate New York. So here I am with two of the most important people in my life and they are both hurting and I can do very little to help them. Suddenly my lack of appliances felt unimportant and stupid.

The reason I am a day late in posting my Sunday Salon post is that my brand new computer of less than two months is acting crazy! It decided to shut down all on its own for no reason and then I got the dreaded 'Blue Screen Of Death' that said FATAL ERROR! What???!!! So needless to say I am sans computer at home and using the computer at my office to get this done - which I shouldn't really be doing considering the mound of paperwork I have on my desk!

Since I won't be online until I get my computer back, I'm dedicating this week to catching up on my reading. Given the events of last week, I haven't really had the mindset to read so I've really fallen behind. I found myself in a bit of a rut and just didn't have the desire to crack open a book. Do you ever get like that? Anyway, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I hope everyone had a wonderful Sunday and I look forward to catching up on my blog reading when I get my computer back. I'll see you then!

Sep 26, 2008

Friday Fill Ins 91

Here are this weeks Friday Fill Ins. My answers are in bold.
1. Cooler weather and cooking/baking seasonal foods are some of the things I'm most looking forward to in October.
2. Sometimes I worry too much.
3. You don't know where life will lead you and that's why there is a saying, "never say never"!
4. When I'm down, I try to remember there are people out there going thru worse things than me.
5. At my house reading a book or at my computer is where you'll find me most often.
6. A rainy day is good for getting inside house chores done or for reading a book.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to a quiet evening at home, tomorrow my plans include buying a new microwave and coffee pot to replace the ones that were hit by lightening last week and Sunday, I want to visit my parents who have been away for three months!

Sep 25, 2008

Giveaway of The Book of Lies

Bermudaonion is having a giveaway of THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer. You have until the 29th of September to enter so you have plenty of time. Click here for an interesting post on Brad Meltzer and the book along with the details on how to enter.

Booking Through Thursday: Well That Was Different

What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?

And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?

It didn't take me long to come up with an answer to this question. Many years ago, my BFF got me to read FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC by V.C. Andrews. She was a huge fan and had read all of her books. I decided to give it a try and WOW - I can say I hadn't read anything like that ever! At first I didn't know how to feel about the book. The content felt odd and almost bad. Up until that point I hadn't read any book containing incest or anything like that. But the strange thing was I couldn't stop reading it. I don't know if I can say I liked the book, but yes, it did stretch my boundaries and I may have even had a nightmare or two. That book stayed with me for a long time. I even went on to read PETALS ON THE WIND and a few others. I read this book in my early 20's and I come from a small town and I know I was naive when I was young, but that book really opened my eyes to a whole new world of literary fiction for me.

What about you? Have you read V.C. Andrews books and if so, how did they make you feel? Or if not, what book do you consider really different?

Sep 22, 2008

Five Changes Meme

In catching up on my blog reading this weekend, I came across a meme that was interesting to me. My blog buddies J. Kaye and Beastmomma each posted the Five Changes Meme. The tagging rules do not apply to me as i wasn't tagged by anyone, but I still wanted to participate. So, here is my list of 5 ways blogging has affected me, either postively or negatively.

1. Since the fourth grade, I've always been a reader. Of course there were years in my late teens that reading took a bock seat to other things, but I always went back to my books. Before blogging (BB), I would typically only read a book every couple of months, but since I began blogging, the quantity of books I've read is what has changed the most. I became aware of so many other book bloggers and read their reviews and recommendations and my TBR list was born! Now I'm reading at least 4 books a month!

2. The next biggest change would be in my reading choices. BB I was stuck in the rut of only reading one particular genre. For instance, there was a Danielle Steele phase; later there was a John Grisham phase - you get the picture. I am happy to say that through blogging, I have read some of the most entertaining books that without blogging I wouldn't even know about. For that, I will always be grateful.

3. I've never taken any writing classes, but writing has always interested me. I used to write poetry in my teens and early twenties and dreamed about being a writer. I always wanted to write a short story, but never got around to actually finishing one. Blogging about the books has given me an outlet for that desire. I enjoy writing the reviews as much as I enjoy reading the books themselves. I take my review writing very seriously and really think about what I'm going to say about each book. I try never to give anything away so as to not spoil anything for the ones who haven't read the book yet. And I keep it honest. I think that's what people want and expect from book bloggers. Not to take anything away from the mainstream professional book reviewers, but as non-paid reviewers who do it because they love it, its a more non-biased review. That is sure to bring on a whole other debate, so I'll stop there . . . for now.

4. Another way blogging has changed me is that I've learned so much about the internet and computers in general and all the little things like chiklets and snipets and widgets that I never knew anything about before! I don't know how I survived without my Google Reader BB! I remember when I first learned about it. I dedicated a whole post to it! In other words, blogging has made me smarter!

5. The most important change to me is that since i began blogging my world has grown immensly. As some of you may know from reading my blog regularly, I suffer from an eye disease that is slowly stealing my sight. My life has drastically changed in the last few years and I'm confined to my home a lot of the time. I don't have the freedom to just pick up and go like most people. Not only do my books take me places I can never go, but the blogging world has introduced me to some of the most wonderful people. My first Blogger friend was Lisa at Books On The Brain. When I first saw her site, it blew me away. She has always been so kind to me and I honestly feel she is my friend. And there are many others. Without blogging I would never have met these wonderful, caring people. I don't have to leave my house to have a warm chat with a book buddy or get some laughs from others. Before blogging I didn't have such a positive outlook on my future, but that all changed in January when I found blogging.

Sep 21, 2008

The Sunday Salon

Oh how I wish I could say that I read a lot this past week, but that simply is not the case. I just couldn’t seem to get any decent reading time in. The book I’m currently reading is OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson. I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile now and please don’t get the impression that just because I’ve hit a rut this week I’m not enjoying the story, because that is not what is happening. This week was hectic for me. Some of you may remember that back in June my house was hit by lightening and I lost all my electronics . . . Well, it happened again. Wednesday afternoon I came home to darkness and the smell of burnt electric. I’m not quite sure what happened, but the power company told me it was lightening. However, thanks to my DVR I know exactly what time it happened and according to my neighbors who were home, it wasn’t even storming at that time. I intend to get to the bottom if it. Well, whatever it was took out my stove, microwave and most importantly my coffee pot! Ok, so maybe the stove is more important, but the coffee pot is a close second. So along with all that drama, I’ve also been fighting a sore throat and have just been feeling a little under the weather. I’m hoping to get back on track starting today.

In book news this week, I posted a review of MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan. You can read that review here. I loved the book and now I’m anxiously awaiting her next release. Ms. Jordan is no doubt a very gifted writer and I enjoyed her storytelling very much. Please take a moment to read my review. I know I probably sound like Ms. Jordan’s publicist, but I feel her book is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Also this week I finished the audio book of Sarah Addison Allen’s (of Garden Spells fame) novella, IN MY DREAMS. It’s the first audio cd I’ve listened to and I found it to be very good. You can find it at BelleBooks. Look for that review in the next day or so.

Even though I didn’t get a lot of reading done, there was some excitement at Books & Cooks this week . . . I won my first book!! Thanks go out to The Literary Feline for hosting the giveaway of Joshua Henkin’s book MATRIMONY. I feel like possibly the last person on Earth to read the book, but all I can say is - better late than never! I got an email from Mr. Henkin this morning letting me know my signed copy is on its way and he’s also asked me to host my own giveaway in October. So be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more information.

I hope all of you get to spend a relaxing day doing what you want to do. I look forward to visiting your blogs to see what you’re reading. For now I’m off to grab my book and a glass of iced tea and start reading! Then later I’ll be checking out the blogs. Take care!

Sep 18, 2008

Friday Fill Ins # 90 we go!

1. There is no need to worry about things you can't control.

2. Where in the heck did the year go?

3. Reading only a few chapters this week is all I managed to do.

4. Prospects for transportation to work in the mornings were slim.

5. To be patient is the message.

6. Simplicity and tranquility are are what I strive for.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to getting a head start on my house cleaning, tomorrow my plans include cleaning out spare closets and Sunday, I want to enjoy the day and get some reading and blogging done!

Booking Through Thursday: Autumn Reading

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

Living in Florida, we really don't have Autumn. It just goes from being hot and humid one day to suddenly being cooler. There's no gradual change here. My reading choices don't change season to season, nor do my reading habits. I don't have kids so I'm not stressed for time like readers with kids are. However, I still struggle to find more reading time. Later in the year when it does get cold here, the leaves will start to fall and I'll have plenty to keep me busy outdoors at my house and I'm sure my reading time will suffer. In the middle of winter, which is January - February here, I spend more time indoors and hopefully will spend more time curled up with something hot to drink and a good book.

Do you have a favorite reading season?

Sep 16, 2008

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a reandom page.Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Don't include any spoilers!

My two teasers this week are from page 44 of OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson:

My father could not have told me all this, not with all the details; but that is the way it is printed in my memory, and I do not know whether I began filling out this painting at once, or if it is something I have done over the years. But the cold facts of the matter could not be contested, what happened had happened indeed, and my father look enquiringly at me across the table as if I could say something sensible about all this, because I maybe knew the people in the dramabetter than he did, but all I saw was Jon's white face and the rain falling on the rushing water of the river as he pushed off and let the boat drift out and down with the current towards the house where he lived and those who waited for him there.

Sep 15, 2008

Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

This is the loins of the land. This lush expanse between two rivers, formed fifteen thousand years ago when the glaciers melted, swelling the Mississippi and its tributaries until they overflowed, drowning half the continent. When the waters receded, settling back into their ancient channels, they brought a rich gift of alluvium stolen from the lands they’d covered. Brought it here, to the Delta, and cast it over the river valleys, layer upon sweet black layer. - page 316

In the early 1940's when Henry McAllen brought his wife Laura, their two little girls and his racist father, Papy, to the farmlands of the Mississippi Delta, they could not know the impact it would have, not only on their family, but on others around them.

Life on a cotton farm was completely different than what Laura was used to. No running water, no electricity, no inside bathroom and in the rainy season, nothing but mud all around. But she had no choice but to make the best of it - that’s what wives do for their husbands. And if she ever started to forget, her callous father-in-law was right there to remind her.

MUDBOUND is the story of two families, each just trying to get through the day to day of farm living. For the McAllen’s, things were rough, but they own the land and make the rules. Unlike the Jackson‘s, a negro family who live on McAllen land and work for them. The second world war had ended and two soldiers came home to the Delta and even though the world was changing, life in the Delta stayed the same. As if time stood still, blacks still had their place and if they didn’t want any trouble, they obeyed the old rules. So when Ronsel Jackson returned home from the war a decorated hero, it was difficult for him to go back to being just a negro who wasn’t allowed to walk through the front doors of stores or ride in the front seat of a car with a white man. Henry McAllen’s brother, Jamie, also came home from the war a much different person. His nightmares chased away sleep and haunted him. The only way to fight them was the bottle. Despite warnings and threats from the locals and their own families, an unlikely friendship began between Ronsel and Jamie and set off a chain of events that would forever change the two families.

Click here to see the trailer for MUDBOUND.

This debut novel from Hillary Jordan is an amazing accomplishment. Her storytelling is flawless and her description of life during this time is simple yet captivating and at the same time, heartbreaking. The story follows the lives of seven people, six of whom take turns telling the story from their own prospective in alternating chapters. With each person, Ms. Jordan captures the very essence of their personality. She does a fantastic job of transforming into that character completely. This only adds to her masterful storytelling.

I absolutely loved this book. The story takes off immediately and a connection to the characters is quickly established. The closer I got to the end, the faster I read. While reading the book, you get the feeling something bad is looming, but you don’t know what it is. With each chapter, the story unfolds and you get closer to it. Even though the subject matter of racism is troubling, MUDBOUND is a pleasure to read. It’s on the top of my list of best books I’ve read this year, ranking up there with A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Art of Racing in the Rain. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a compelling story of family secrets, friendship and sacrifice. It’s the complete package. It’s not hard to see why Ms. Jordan earned the Bellwether Prize, the award for promoting literature of social change.
To learn more about Hillary Jordan please visit her website at You will also find a Readers Guide to download for those who are interested in choosing this book for your book club. It would be an excellent choice. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Southern Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (a division of Workman Publishing)
Published: March 2008
Pages: 324
Rating 5 out of 5 stars (Highly Recommended)

Sep 14, 2008

The Sunday Salon: In The Kitchen

Hello Saloners! I had a pretty interesting week. I had my first author guest on Wednesday. In case you missed it, you can click here for that post from Kathleen McCleary. Also I drew a winner to receive a copy of her book HOUSE AND HOME. And the winner is BEASTMOMMA! Congratulations! I hope you will enjoy the book.

I finished MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan this week and I’ll have my review in a few days. I’m also still reading OUT STEALING HORSES and so far I’m enjoying it. In the mail this week I received another book from author Catherine Ryan Hyde. I read her book CHASING WINDMILLS few weeks ago and enjoyed it so much, she asked me to read her latest. It’s a Young Adult piece called THE DAY I KILLED JAMES. From what I’ve read about it, I’m sure it will be a terrific read. I’m anxious to get started, but I have a few a head of it first.

Today I’m going to get back to something I’ve gotten away from lately. As my blog is called Books and Cooks, I thought it was time to share a recipe I'll be making today. I love to cook and I typically try to cook something new or special on Sundays. This recipe isn’t exactly new - I’ve made it once before and loved it. One of my new favorite flavors is curry. I think it’s the earthiness I like, the nutmeg/cinnamon combo perhaps. So today I’m making a chicken curry dish. Here’s the recipe - it’s pretty easy and with Fall just around the corner, I think it’s perfect for the season and it doesn’t take a lot of special ingredients.

Winnipeg Chicken Curry

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 chicken breasts (or you can use chicken tenders)
  • 2 cups chicken stock, heated
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (you can use milk, but it won’t be as thick)
  • salt & pepper
Heat butter in large frying pan.
When hot, add onions; cook 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
Mix in curry powder and cook 3-4 minutes over low.
Add chicken and stir; season well.
Cook 2-3 minutes over medium.
Pour in chicken stock and bring to boil.
Continue cooking 9-10 minutes over medium low heat. Mix cornstarch with water; stir into sauce. Cook 1 minute. Pour in cream and bring to boil; cook 2-3 minutes and season well.

You can either serve it over rice or noodles. I also like to have a green vegetable and some cinnamon applesauce with this meal. I like it because it’s not overloaded with curry flavor, so if you’ve never had curry before, this would be a great way to try the spice for the first time. And your kitchen will smell wonderful! I found this recipe on Recipezaar, a great website where people share all kinds of dishes.

Well, that’s it for me today, I’m going to go read for awhile, then come back and check in on some other Saloners to see what you're reading. And then later I have a tasty meal to prepare for dinner. Yummy! By the way, if you do decide to try the recipe, I'd love know how you liked it! Enjoy!

Sep 12, 2008

Friday Fill Ins #89 we go!
My answers are in bold:
1. I enjoy the little things in life.
2. My future is something I wonder about often lately.
3. In your heart, you knew you should've gotten more done today.
4. Take mutual respect, add a little chemistry and you end up with the potential of a good relationship.
5. Life has gifted me with an amazing mother.
6. Sipping a rum runner on the beach is an instant vacation.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to finishing the book Mudbound, tomorrow my plans include hanging out with my honey and doing some blogging and Sunday, I want to start a new book, watch some football and veg out!
P.S. There's still time to enter for a chance to win HOUSE AND HOME by Kathleen McCleary. Click here for details!

Sep 10, 2008

TLC Book Tour: Author Guest Kathleen McCleary

Today is a special day for Books & Cooks book blog. My very first author guest! I am honored to welcome the author of the very popular HOUSE AND HOME . . . Kathleen McCleary! The book was released in July and readers loved it! It's the story of Ellen Flanagan, a woman who seemingly has it all - a sexy husband, two beautiful young daughters, her own business and a house that over the years she has turned into a warm, loving home for her family. Then things happen that make it impossible to keep the house. Anyone who has loved their home, cared for it as if it were part of the family, then had to leave it, knows the heartache that can bring. When I read her book in July I simply did not want to put it down. You can read my review here. There's also a wonderful book trailer here that is worth seeing.

HOUSE AND HOME is Kathleen's first published novel and I recently asked her what changes this has brought to her life. I am pleased to welcome her to Books and Cooks!

How Life Has Changed Since I Became a Published Author

So I have to admit, I can daydream with the best of them. When I sold my first novel last year in a “pre-empt” after multiple publishers were interested, it was hard not to have some pretty big fantasies of runaway success. I saw my book atop The New York Times bestseller list for weeks on end. I envisioned a call from Julia Roberts, or Diane Lane, to say how much she loved the novel and was dying to star in a film version (with Reese Witherspoon in a rare, bad-girl role as Jordan). I perused million dollar houses online in some of my favorite places, such as Cannon Beach, Oregon and the San Juan Islands. I started contemplating which charities would make the best use of my generous donations. Now, two months after publication, here’s the reality. I’ve been lucky enough to get some fantastic publicity (rare for a first-time author) in O at Home, The New York Times, Family Circle, and USA Weekend, as well as in many terrific online sites (,,, and a host of terrific book blogs). But other than watching my Amazon ranking, which varies wildly from hour to hour (it’s 954! Oooh, wait a minute, now it’s 286,954!), I have no idea how well the book is selling. Hollywood has not yet called. No one has stopped me on the street to say Oh, my God, I saw your photo on the jacket of that amazing book I just read. You’re Kathleen McCleary! I’ve been visiting bookstores wherever I happen to be to see if they’re carrying the book and to offer to sign a few copies, so they’ll have autographed copies to sell. Every single bookseller has had to look me up in a database and then hunt around the store to find the book. One or two have asked me not to sign too many copies because they can’t return the autographed ones if they don’t sell. It’s humbling. The other day in Barnes & Noble I noticed the big CLEARANCE racks by the front door, with hardbound books selling for as little as $1.99. “So you realize I’m about six months away from the big sale rack here,” I said to my husband. He laughed, but it’s true. Here’s a statistic I found: More than 50,000 new fiction titles were published in the U.S. last year, which averages out to 960 a week. Yikes. And how many of those go on to become best-sellers, let alone best-sellers for more than a few weeks? And of those, how many are by first time authors? I’m willing to guess it’s just a handful. So since I became a published author, here’s what my life is like: I get up at 6:15 to get my youngest daughter up and on her way to school by seven. I try to walk with a friend for an hour after that. Then I drive my oldest to her school, and come home and write for a few hours. After that I do laundry, run errands, clean the bathroom, and perform a thousand other mundane chores before leaving to pick up my oldest at school and start the whole soccer/gymnastics/dance class car pool. I try hard not to look at my Amazon ranking. Don’t get me wrong, getting my novel published is the culmination of a life-long dream and is an accomplishment that I cherish each and every day. I LOVE having my book out there, I LOVE getting letters from people who have read it and been touched by it in some way. I’m enormously proud of the book; I’m enormously grateful for the support my husband and children have given me throughout the whole process. I’m blown away by the openness and generosity and passion of my readers. But I’m still scrubbing my kitchen floor myself, and dreaming about that house on Cannon Beach, with the views of the sun setting over the ocean.

Maybe when I sell book number two…..

Well Kathleen, I will definitely be looking for your next novel! And I would just like to thank you for taking the time to share your experience and for being my first author guest! I wish you nothing but continued success and that home on Cannon Beach! And now I'm happy to announce that Kathleen has graciously provided a copy of HOUSE AND HOME for me to give away to one lucky reader! All you have to do is leave a comment here for Kathleen. The contest will run through this Saturday (13th) at midnight (EST). The winner will be drawn at random and I'll post the results on Sunday the 14th.

You can learn more about Kathleen and HOUSE AND HOME by visiting her website at or I'd like to take a moment and thank TLC Book Tours for sponsoring this event and for being so helpful to me. Be sure to look for these upcoming stops on Kathleen's tour:

Friday, September 12th - Breaking the Spine
Monday, September 15th - She Is Too Fond Of Books
Wednesday, September 17th -Caribousmom
Thursday, September 18th - Age 30 - A Year of Books
Monday, September 22nd - Booking Mama
Wednesday, September 24th -The Inside Cover
Friday, September 26th - In the Shadow of Mt. TBR

Monday, September 29th - Displaced Beach Bums

TLC Book Tours

Sep 9, 2008

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a reandom page.
Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

My two teasers are from page 138 in the novel MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan, a wonderfully written story of post-WWII in the Mississippi delta.

You couldn't help but watch him; he had that kind of force. He glanced over at me curiously and I realized he's caught me staring.

This from Laura McAllen, the wife of a cotton farm owner, at seeing a colored man in an Army Sargeants uniform, which was unheard of in Mississippi at the time.

Sep 7, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Changes

I’ve kept a close eye on the Caribbean this week with all the storms brewing out there. We Floridians got lucky with Gustav and Hanna, but Ike looks like he may be trouble for us. It was a short work week, but a week full of changes. My BFF, a fabulous first grade teacher, had her world turned upside down when the school board followed through with major cut-backs and a lot of teacher lost their jobs. Fortunately, she did not lose hers, but was moved to a different school, which changed both our lives. She used to take me to work every morning, but since she goes the opposite direction now, its not possible. Luckily, I was able to find another ride to work, although it just isn’t the same. We’re both adjusting and making the best of it but mainly just being thankful we both have jobs to go to.

Bookwise, I had a decent week. I finished CHASING WINDMILLS by Catherine Ryan Hyde. You can read my review here. This was the first book of Ms. Hydes I’ve read and I’m looking forward to reading her latest, THE DAY I KILLED JAMES very soon. I don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction, but after hearing such positive things about it, I don’t want to miss out. It promises to be just as engaging as CHASING WINDMILLS.

I started two other books this week. OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson, a Norwegian writer, and MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan, a first time author who has won the Bellwether Award for this novel. My intention was to focus on OUT STEALING HORSES first, but I find myself going back to MUDBOUND. I’m just 80 pages in, but already I’m captivated by the story and connected with the characters. Ms. Jordan‘s prose is flawless. I love her storytelling. She takes us back to the 1940’s post-war south and the story of two brothers and an African American war hero who go home to the Mississippi Delta to much different welcomings. I think its safe to say I’ll be spending my time today reading MUDBOUND, along with watching some much anticipated football.

As far as the week ahead, I’m very excited! Why? you ask? Kathleen McCleary, author of the very popular HOUSE AND HOME will be joining me for a guest post and book giveaway! All courtesy of TLC Book Tours! Please stop by on Wednesday, September 10th!

Tell me, what book do you have your nose buried in today?

Sep 4, 2008

Book Review: Chasing Windmills

CHASING WINDMILLS is the story of Sebastian and Maria, two young people living in New York City whose lives are ruled by someone else. They are simply going through their young lives doing what they're told to do and thinking what they're told to think. Sebastian is a seventeen year old who lives with his controlling father who home-schools him. He's never been allowed to have friends or do things normal kids do. His father has forced his opinions on him with a strict hand and has raised Sebastian in a most unnatural way. Now that he's getting older he begins to wonder about the world beyond their apartment. He finds a friend in Delilah, an older black woman who lives in their building, who takes an instant liking to this overly sheltered young man. They secretly go on daily walks and she opens his eyes to the possibility that there are other ways to live. They form a bond and Sebastian finally has the trusted friend and confidant he has longed for.

Maria is a young woman in her early twenties and has two kids with a man she's been with since she was fifteen. Carl is the only man she's ever been with and he is going to make sure it stays that way. He watches her every move and if she does anything to provoke him or make him question her actions, there is a price to pay. Maria has resigned herself to the fact that this is the way her life is going to be forever. Her sister, Stella is her only living relative and she's very outspoken against Carl and his abusiveness towards her younger sister, but she's powerless to change it, mostly out of fear of what he would do to Maria.

One night while riding the subway to escape their controlled lives even for a little while, they lay eyes on each other for the first time. They feel an instant attraction and connection. They don't speak, but each of them returns to the subway the next night in hopes of seeing each other again. And they do see each other. In the days to follow they start talking and even though they know very little about each other, they are willing to risk everything to spend time together. One day after a close call with Carl, they make a decision that will change both their lives forever.

I was thrilled when I received an email from Catherine Ryan Hyde asking me if I'd like to read and review her book. I had just learned that she was the author of Pay It Forward, the book that was made into a movie starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey. Even though I didn't read that book, I knew the movie was amazing and all amazing movies begin as amazing books, right?! As soon as I started reading, I felt connected to Sebastian and Maria and I liked who they were. However, I think my favorite character was Delilah. Her interaction with Sebastian was so caring but not pushy. She was exactly what he needed and she knew just how much to give. We never really learn a lot about her, but we know she's a wise woman and she takes her friendships very seriously. Maria also has a strong woman in her life as well with her sister, Stella. You figure out pretty quickly that she calls 'em like she sees 'em. I like her quirky Tarot card reading and also that she doesn't really care what people think of her.

The story is told by Sebastian and Maria in alternating chapters, each from their own perspective as if they are talking to the reader. That enables you to really get to know them. The chapters are not long which makes for a quick read and also makes it nice if you get interrupted or have to stop often. The storyline moves along nicely and never drags. The plot was very good and well thought out. I love the writing style of Ms. Hyde. There's no fluff, just substance. Aside from the love story between Sebastian and Maria, there were other things happening that give depth to the story. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, this is not just a love story. It's also a story about choices, consequences and forgiveness. Another thing I loved about this book as a reader is that it didn't have a predictable ending. I hate predictable! In this case, you didn't know what was going to happen until close to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I want to thank Catherine Ryan Hyde for sending it to me. It is definitely one of my favorite books so far this year. I would describe it as a poignant, off-beat romance that is very refreshing. I encourage those of you in book clubs to add this to the list of choices for your club. I assure you there would be interesting discussions based on the material.

One of my favorite things about reading a book is that moment when suddenly you figure out what the title of the book really means. That is an AHA! moment for me and I love it! My AHA! moment came pretty early on in this book and it all just clicked. Before reading the book I couldn't figure out what windmills had to do with New York City. I've never actually been there, but I'm pretty sure, there's none there.

If you'd like to learn more about Catherine Ryan Hyde and her other books, please visit or check out her My Space page here.

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Flying Dolphin Press
Published: March 2008
Pages: 272
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Booking Through Thursday: Peer Pressure

Today's BTT question is a good one:

I was looking through books yesterday at the shops and saw all the Twilight books, which I know basically nothing about. What I do know is that I’m beginning to feel like I’m the *only* person who knows nothing about them.
Despite being almost broke and trying to save money, I almost bought the expensive book (Australian book prices are often completely nutty) just because I felt the need to be ‘up’ on what everyone else was reading.

Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? If you are a reviewer, etc, do you feel it’s your duty to keep up on current trends?

I can say wihout hesitation that No! I do not cave in to peer pressure when choosing books to read. The example of the Twilight series is a good one. I know everybody and their brother reads those books, however I'm in the minority because books in that genre simply don't appeal to me. That can be said of Dean Koontz and others as well. My BFF would love nothing more than for me to read Koontz's latest book, but its just not one I think I'd enjoy. (not to mention the fact that clowns freak me out! Sorry B) There are too many other books I'd rather spend my time with. Nothing against those writers, I'm sure they are great books. Given the large number of people who camp out on the night a very popular book like that is released, its fair to say their readership is not suffering. There are so many wonderful books out there, a lot of which don't get the exposure they deserve. I would rather read a book that I am drawn to than one that I should read because everyone else is reading it. Typically, I don't gravitate to the 'mainstream popular titles'. Some of the best books I've read don't make it to the number one spot on The New York Times list.

With that being said, I do take recommendations from fellow readers seriously. But first and foremost the theme of the book needs to interest me. I think that sometimes a book is labeled a success based on the number of copies sold, rather than the content of the book. You can sell a million copies of a bad book and consider it a succcess, but at the end of the day, you still have a bad book.

As a reviewer, I don't feel pressure to be 'up' on current reads. As I mentioned, there are too many books out there to choose from that deserve attention, not just a select few. As a review, I evaluate each book for its content, not comparing it to the latest popular trend.

Granted, when I choose not to read a book that is very popular, I'm not able to participate in discussions, but on the other hand, I'd be spending my time reading something else that is equally as good, but overlooked by some. And by reading it, I could introduce it to someone who normally wouldn't know about that book.

This was a great BTT question! What are your thoughts?

Sep 2, 2008

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a reandom page.
Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

My two teaser sentences are once again from CHASING WINDMILLS by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I finished the book this morning, but I think it still qualifies as my current read. Here they are:

The closer I got to her, the clearer I could see her face, and the more I saw her face, the more I saw something pleading.
Something scared.

This from Sebastian as he waits for Maria at the subway for the last time. As I said, I finished the book this morning so I'll be posting my review in the next day or so. Please stop by!