Jun 30, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: 6.30

It's Tuesday and time for another Teaser! MizB at Should Be Reading hosts this fun weekly event, so if you want to play along, pop over there and let us know where your Teasers are! This is how it works -

  • Grab the book you're currently reading
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Select two sentences to share, being careful not to include any spolers
  • And don't forget to name the book so we know where your teasers come from
My teaser today comes from a book that I've had on my shelf for almost a year now. It seems something else always got in the way of me reading it, but no more! As with myself, I've seen it on a lot of TBR lists, but haven't actually seen many reviews for it on the blogs. The book is THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton.

We clinked glasses and I leaned back against my chair, sipping champagne and savoring the tang of bubbles against my lips. Throughout my long life, whenever I have had occasion to drink champagne i have been reminded of that evening in the servants' hall at Riverton. ~ page 69

This was Kate Morton's debut novel, published in April 2008 and tells the story of the Ashbury family in England during the time of WWI. The story is told by Grace some seventy or so years after a tragic event happened at Riverton back when she was a servant in the house. She's kept all of the secrets surrounding the Riverton house until now. As a filmaker is making a movie about the events, all kinda of memories are surfacing for Grace and she feels it may be time to tell the story - the true story of what really happened.

This book has kind of a gothic feel to it at times and even though I haven't gotten too far into the story, I already appreciate the beautiful prose of Ms. Morton. I find myself completely immersed and not wanting to quit reading to do things that need to be done around my house! I hope you enjoyed my teasers today!

Jun 29, 2009

Musing Mondays: Mid Year Stats

Today's Musing Mondays post is about mid-year reading . . . Now that we've come to the middle of the year, what do you think of your 2009 reading so far? Have you read anything interesting that you'd like to share? Any outstanding favorites?

My response:

I'm pretty happy with what I've read so far this year. I've kept a good balance of different types of books and genres. I'm planning to add more mysteries, possibly a series or two, to my reading list for the remainder of the year.

Out of the 20 books I've read so far, there are several that I really liked a lot. In lieu of naming just one as my favorite, I'm going to list the top 3 in random order.
Another book that deserves mentioning is IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote. Interestingly, according to Google Analytics, there's been more keyword searches for 'In Cold Blood' leading to my blog than any other keyword.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the year and many more great books! You know what they say, 'So many books, so little time!' How has your reading gone so far this year?

Recent Reviews:

Jun 27, 2009

[TSS] Review: The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

THE FIXER UPPER, the latest novel by Mary Kay Andrews was exactly what I've come to expect from this talented Southern writer. I've been looking forward to this release ever since I read about it on her blog when she first started creating the story. I thought the premise was clever, combining a dramatic story of political bribery and blackmail with just the right amount of Southern charm and romance. And lets not forget the wicked wit that is ever present in Ms. Andrews novels.

Here's what Harper Collins has to say about THE FIXER UPPER -

After her boss in a high-powered Washington public relations firm is caught in a political scandal, fledgling lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left almost broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father's offer to help refurbish Birdsong, the old family place he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia. All it will take, he tells her, is a little paint and some TLC to turn the fading Victorian mansion into a real-estate cash cow.

But, oh, is Dempsey in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. "Bird Droppings" would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismol–pink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There's also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey's distant relations, who has claimed squatter's rights and isn't moving out. Ever.

Furthermore, everyone in Guthrie seems to know Dempsey's business, from a smooth-talking real-estate agent to a cute lawyer who owns the local newspaper. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the pesky FBI agents who show up on Dempsey's doorstep, hoping to pry information about her ex-boss from her.

All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected—back home again.

One of the things I really like about Mary Kay Andrews' books is that she jumps right into the story on page one. By the end of the first chapter, you are well into what's happening. Another thing she is fantastic at is creatng the most interesting and fun characters. This certainly holds true in THE FIXER UPPER as well. I instantly liked Dempsey the moment I started reading her words. She may be inexperienced professionally, but she has a fighting spirit and a good heart that makes you want to pull for her from the beginning. The supporting characters are equally as likable and each have their own distinct purpose in the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Birdsong, the family home, and how, with the help of some locals, Dempsey sets to work in fixing it up. The underlining story of her ex-boss implicating her in illegal activities makes for a good balance of drama mixed in with this story of family and what it means to find out where you come from. And ultimately, where your life will take you.

I would encourage you to read this very entertaining book even if you're not usually a reader of chick-lit. Personally, I don't particularly like the term 'chick-lit'. I think it has a stigma that gives the wrong impression of a book. In this case, Is this a crime novel? No, it isn't. Is it full of drama? No, not really. What it is, is a thoughtful story about family, self discovery and the character of people. The story of Dempsey and her legal troubles that are looming over her are completely realistic and interesting but the experiences and people she encounters while fixing up Birdsong teach Dempsey more than any high-powered job in Washington D.C. ever could.

Once again, Mary Kay Andrews has written a book that was well worth the wait. I want to thank Book-Fan Mary for sharing her advanced copy with me after she found out how much I was looking forward to this book. Mary wrote her own review a few week ago and you can read it here. Also, there's a cute video of Mary Kay Andrews talking about THE FIXER UPPER here on Harper Collins' website. For more about Mary Kay and all of her books and to read her equally entertaining blog, click here.

Sometimes we just need a book that makes us smile while we read and ends up making us feel good. If you're looking for something to read this summer, you can't go wrong with THE FIXER UPPER.


Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: June 23, 2009

Pages: 432

Rating: 4 our of 5 Stars

Jun 26, 2009

Friday Finds 6.26.9

What great books did you discover this week? Friday Finds is hosted weekly by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Here's what I found this week:
  • THE BIG STEAL by Emyl Jenkins - This is the second book in the Sterling Glass Mystery Series, the first being STEALING WITH STYLE. After reading Carrie's review at Reading To Know, I was hooked. You can read her review here. This new addition to the series is set to be released in July.
  • BACK CREEK by Leslie Goetsch - This debut novel takes place in a fictiional small Virginia town and the writing of Leslie Goetsch has been compared to the early works of Pat Conroy. Publishers Weekly calls it 'an accomplished and impressive debut'. I discovered this book while visiting Staci's blog, Life In The Thumb. She wrote a great review [here] and is hosting a giveaway of this very intriguing book. The deadline is June 27, so be sure to stop by for your chance to win.
Did any books grab your attention this week?

Jun 22, 2009

Musing Mondays: Library Habits

Today's Monday Musing is about library borrowing.

Do you restrict yourself on how many books you take out from the library at a time? Do you borrow books if you already have some checked out? Do you always re-borrow books you didn't ge to?

My response:

Since I'm not a 'rapid reader' I generally only finish one book a week, so I don't usually borrow more than I think I can read. The most I borrow at one time is three books. That being said, if I check out a book I'm not sure about, I may add another one just in case. If I have a book out that I'm almost finished with I will check out more books, but I always try to finish the ones I have before getting more. Most of the time, if I didn't get to a book, I will re-borrow it. I guess I'm pretty strict on myself with my book borrowing, but I feel like if I know I won't get to a particular book, there may be someone else that would like to read it.

When DROOD came out, I immediately put my name on the list to borrow and it took awhile for it to become available, but when it finally did, I was in the middle of a few blog tours and ARC reading and I just didn't have time to read it. I returned it unread and now I'm on the list again. That's a pretty big book, so the wait is longer than normal, but I'm looking forward to trying again.

What are your library borrowing habits? For more musings, visit Just One More Page or click here.

Recent Reviews:

Jun 21, 2009

The Sunday Salon: First Day of Summer

First, I'd like to say Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers out there, but most especially to my own father, Lou. I've been blessed to have a father who, although he's faced health problems, at 74 is still able to do most things he enjoys, like cooking, fishing and making beautiful things in his wood-working shop. My father is also the family historian and keeper of family photographs. He and I have talked about working together on a genealogy project and since I'm not working anymore, I think the time is right to start. I'm looking forward to that very much. So, Happy Father's Day Dad!

Since the weather down here in Florida is downright sweltering these days, I'm not doing too much out doors. With the humidity, the heat index is nearly to 110 degrees! So I'll be staying inside today with a book and keeping an eye of the U.S. Open.

The book I'm reading today is the latest from Mary Kay Andrews titled THE FIXER UPPER. It's a stand alone novel about a young woman, working as a lobbyist in D.C. but after her boss is accused of many terrible things by the FBI he pretty much throws her under the bus. She needs to figure out what to do with her life, so she goes to a small town in Georgia, where her father lived as a boy and has inherited the old historic family home. Her plan is to go down there for a month or so, fix up the place and flip it and figure out her next move, professionally.

As with all of Ms. Andrews books, there's great wit, southern charm and wonderfully original characters that make it a great summer read. The book is being released this Tuesday, the 23rd. I'd like to thank BookFan Mary for graciously offering me her advanced copy. I'm about a third of the way into it and I'm already loving it. The thing I like about Mary Kay Andrews' books is that they're not all chick-lit fluff. There's always a great story to be told, usually about family or personal retrospect. I've read every one of them and I haven't been disappointed yet. Sometimes you just want to read a book that makes you laugh along the way.

I didn't get as much reading done last week as I'd hoped to. But I did post my review of THE PRUDENT MARINER by Leslie Walker Williams. You can read that review here.

As for the rest of today, I'll be staying inside with my book, munching on some cold, sweet melon my Dad brought over the other day. I hope y'all enjoy this first day of summer with a really good book.

Jun 16, 2009

Review: The Prudent Mariner

The prudent mariner will not rely solely on any single aid to navigation, particularly on floating aids. That was one instruction she clearly understood. ~ page 130

THE PRUDENT MARINER is the story of 10 year old Riddley Cross, her grandmother Adele, who is losing a battle with Alzheimer’s, her eccentric neighbor, Carver and various other members of Riddley’s family.

The Cross family lives on the Georgia coast of the Inter Coastal Waterway in 1970. It’s a time of change but you can still see and feel the old ways of the South without even looking very hard or very far.

One day, in her recently deceased grandfather’s den, Riddley finds some disturbing postcards from the past. Since Pauline, Riddley’s mother, told her she could have the postcard collection as a remembrance of her grandfather, Riddley didn’t see anything wrong with keeping them to herself. She’s used to keeping secrets. She was sure that if she showed those postcards to her mother, not only would she never see them again, they were sure to upset Pauline a great deal.

Soon it becomes evident that Adele can no longer live alone, so she is moved into the garage apartment so Pauline and the rest of the family can look after her. In no time at all, it’s clear that Riddley has a way with her grandmother, unlike Pauline, her husband Sam or the twins, Emmaline and Charlotte, who are a few years older than Riddley. Adele, who never was a big talker, has become even more silent, and like Riddley, has a fondness for wandering and also for the river that runs so close to their home.

Adele and Riddley soon make friends with Carver, the woman who lives next door and begin to spend time with her, which is another secret the two share. Though Riddley has put the postcards she found in a safe place where they won’t be seen, they are never far from Riddley’s mind and even her dreams. There is something oddly familiar about them that she can’t quite figure out and when she shows one of them to Adele, she gets a response that raises even more questions.

Leslie Walker Williams’ THE PRUDENT MARINER is a very well written novel with beautifully developed characters who tell a story that methodically unfolds as we are getting to know them. She has skillfully created a multi-layered plot loaded with family history and even an air of mystery.

Being a lover of Southern Fiction, I was very much looking forward to reading this debut novel. I loved the characters, especially Riddley and Carver. Ms. Williams allows us to get to know and understand all of the main character’s personalities and even their inner-most thoughts. This depth of charachter is a very important part of the telling of this story. There’s so much more than a little girl trying to figure out why certain terrible postcards are in her family’s possession. There’s also more to Adele’s story than just an old woman fighting a mentally debilitating disease. And finally, more to Carver’s complex personality than the eccentricities that the locals speculate about. All of these factors combined add up to a very enlightening, powerful story.

For me, it got better with every turn of the page. At times, I found myself holding my breath. The images that I formed in my mind from the writing were so vivid, I could almost see it playing out like a movie. In fact, I think this would make a great movie. It has a simplicity about it, but at the same time, so many stories are being told. I loved the final pages of this book. The water plays such an important role in this story - seemingly at times, in slow motion.

This is a great debut novel and I will not hesitate to read future works by Leslie Walker Williams. I am so pleased that my local library purchased their copy solely upon my request. Ms. Williams is also a writer of short stories that have appeared in many publications. THE PRUDENT MARINER was awarded the Peter Taylor Prize and the Morris Hackney Literary Award.

Author: Leslie Walker Williams
Website: www.lesliewalkerwilliams.com
Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
Published: October 2008
Pages: 298
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday 6.16.9

It's Tuesday and time for a Teaser!! This weekly event is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Here's what you do:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open it and let it fall open to a random page
  • Pick two sentences to share, being careful not to include any spoilers!
My teasers are from a book I just started reading this morning, but it's written by one of my favorite authors, Mary Kay Andrews. Here we go . . .

"I heard that much at church," Ella Kate said. "Way I heard it, you're mixed up with some Yankee congressman, and you and your boss, a married man, were in cahoots to try and bribe him."
"They were talking about me at your church?" I was mystified. And mortified. "Nobody in this town knows me." ~ page 175 of THE FIXER UPPER.

Yes, I know. I broke the rules this week and used more than two sentences, but I just couldn't stop myself. As I said, I only started reading this morning, but I can already tell I'm going to enjoy this book. I can always count on Mary Kay Andrews for a completely entertaining southern story. Absolutely perfect for the summer! It will be available for sale on June 23rd.

For more teasers, visit Should Be Reading or simply click here.

Jun 14, 2009

Musing Mondays: Award Winning Books

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about award winning books…

Do you feel compelled to read prize-winning (Giller/Booker/Pulitzer etc) books? Why, or why not? Is there, perhaps, one particular award that you favour? (question courtesy of MizB)

This is easy for me. My answer is No. That is not to say I don't make a mental note of their accomplishment and even jot down the title in my reading journal for future reference. I just don't seek out award-winning novels when I choosing a book. When I pick up a book to read, the story is what grabs me first. If the book also happens to be an award winner, then all the better, but it's not a criteria I consiously seek out. I have, in the past, read award winning books that, for one reason or another, I didn't care for all that much. Case in point: Last year I read OUT STEALING HORSES, an award-winning novel that I found just OK. (Even though I'm sure there are a lot of other readers who loved it). Earlier I read THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle, another award winner and really like it, but heard next to nothing about it from the reading community. I feel that just because a book won an award, doesn't mean I'm guaranteed to like it. I think that's impossible.

How do you feel about award-winning novels? Do you follow a particular list and try to read them? I can see where that might be an interesting 'challenge' to try, but it's not something that I do.

Sunday Salon: Some New Sites

Happy Sunday Saloners! Here we are again, so quickly. Since becoming 'retired' the days seem to go by even quicker than BR (Before Retirement). Lately, I haven't been too steady with my TSS posts, so it's nice to be back on schedule!

My plan, today, is to spend a leisurely day finishing my current read, THE PRUDENT MARINER. I'm actually off to a good start - I've been up for awhile, I have a big cup of my favorite Colombian coffee, some breakfast nibbles and my book. I'm ready to settle in and get lost in 1970's Georgia, where my protagonist's family lives on the bluffs of the Intercoastal Waterway. It's a time when things are changing, but living in the South means change comes slower than most places. Anyway . . . I should finish today and have my review posted later this week.

I discovered a few new online book/blogger sites this week that are pretty cool. BookBlips is a book news and social networking site. I've already 'met' several new book lovers/bloggers and I've only been a member for 3 days! Thanks to J.Kaye for introducing me to this cool place. I see a lot of you are already signed up. It's taken a few days to get the hang of it, but overall, I like it. As with anything - the more you use it, the better you get at it.

Another cool site is Readiac. I saw this mentioned on a couple different blogs this week but I haven't spent much time there yet. It looks like a great book community where you can meet and discuss anything book-ish! I plan to spend some time on the site this week to familiarize myself with it.

For now, I'm going to go read for awhile and come back later and catch up on some blogs. I hope you're having an enjoyable day with a great book, too!

You might be interested in:

My review of ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons here. (Posted 6/10/09)

Jun 12, 2009

Friday Finds 6.12.9

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading where we talk about books we became acquainted with during the week. It's fun to share new finds with other book lovers even though it means your TBR pile will likely never go down!

My finds for this week are . . .

I did some catching up on my blog reading this week and while visiting Bermudaonions blog I found two very interesting titles. One is a thriller by George Pelecanos called THE TURNAROUND. I'm a newbie to his novels but I think this one could turn me into a fan! Read Kathy's review here.

She also posted a wonderful interview with actor(Deadwood)/author James Beaver about his new book LIFE'S THAT WAY. It's a collection of emails he wrote during a period of grief and loss in his life. This book really has me intrigued. You can read the interview here.

Over at Bookfan-Mary I came across her review of a book called APRIL & OLIVER a debut novel by Tess Callahan. She says it was a real page turner for her. She also said -

" . . . April & Oliver pulled me in little by little until I couldn't put the book down. I found my jaw clenched in the tense mood until I noticed it relaxing near the end of the book."
OK, I'm in! I love jaw-clenc
hing books!! You can read her full
review here. So there you have it - my favorite finds for the week. What books did you find in your travels this week?

Jun 11, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: What's Your Niche?

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.) But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect soufflé. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.
What niche books do YOU read?

My response:

Even though I do spend most of my time reading novels, I do read an occasional non-fiction book. Usually a memoir but I don't consider that my niche reading. My niche reading used to consist mainly of cookbooks and cooking magazines since I LOVE to cook new stuff all the time. I constantly scour for new dishes. But over the last several years, my niche has changed to include anything I can get my hands on about alternative medicines. Mainly herbal remedies including all of the varieties of herbal teas.

My interest in herbal remedies started after I was diagnosed with my retinal disease. (almost 20 years ago). After being told by numerous doctors that nothing could be done, I wasn't about to just go home and sit and wait for my eyesight to leave me. I started researching vitamin supplements and foods that are anti-oxidant rich and contain other natural vitamins. I've always been a tea drinker and I soon discovered its healthful benefits as well. This was way before drinking green tea was fashionble.

The only difference is that now with the internet, I don't read many books, per se, on the subject. I do most of my reading online. I still keep a paper file with information and newsletters I receive from different foundations, but mostly everything is kept in files on my computer now. That being said, I own three books that are my herbal bibles; Two volumes of Alternative Medicine A to Z and a book on green teas and how to properly prepare them.

So that's my niche reading, what about you? Is there a particular kind of book that you have a passion for? For more answers to this BTT question, click here.

**As a side note, I have to assume that my consumption of these herbal remedies has helped me because my sister has the same disease and chose NOT to take herbal remedies and her disease has progressed much quicker than mine. Even though I will not get a doctor to admit it, I know in my heart this has helped me to sustain my vision and slow the progression of my disease.

Jun 9, 2009

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons (Paperback)

When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. ~ page 1

You’ve heard the saying “Good things come in small packages“? This is especially true in Kaye Gibbons’ novel, ELLEN FOSTER. With that first sentence, she grabs you and propels you into the world of 11 year-old Ellen, a neglected, abused child with an unusually old soul.

Everything about this little book is bold: the writing, the storyline and the characters, but especially the writing. Yet it also has a simplicity about it. The story is told by Ellen and written just as a child would tell it - as she thinks it. There’s no punctuation or proper grammar, just thoughts flowing out of her head, in her own words.

It’s my impression that Ellen lives somewhere in the South, circa the late 60’s, early 70’s, although it’s never directly stated. When the story begins she’s telling what her life used to be like and how it’s changed over a period of about a year. A year in which her mother dies, she’s left to fend off her abusive, alcoholic father and his friends until she is passed around from one family member to another, not feeling wanted anywhere. All she has ever wanted is to be a part of a normal family.

Like I mentioned before, this is a small book, only 125 pages, but I promise it’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished reading it. ELLEN FOSTER is Kaye Gibbon’s first out of eight novels. I was surprised when I read several reviews from readers who didn’t care for it, either because of the disturbing content or simply because of the way Gibbons used Ellen’s own way of speaking to tell the story. Ironically, that's what impressed me about the book. Without all the punctuation and grammar, it may be hard for some to read or understand until you get used to the style. One reviewer said it was the southern tone of it that made it hard for her to understand. That wasn’t the case at all for me. I don’t know if it’s because I live in the south, but I doubt it. In my opinion, it’s not so much a southern slang as it is a child saying it. However, maybe it’s a mixture of the two.

I’m getting the impression that this is a ‘writer’s book’. By that I mean, in reading reviews, it seems that writers love this book. I first became acquainted with ELLEN FOSTER on Scobberlotch's (Karen Harrington) blog. And later by Jayne Pupek and a few others while cruising Goodreads. I think they must appreciate the unique writing style as well as the dark storyline. As you know, both Karen and Jayne have their own experiences in writing successful books with disturbing content. I also think it’s one of those books that you either love or you don‘t.

I have the sequel, THE LIFE ALL AROUND ME BY ELLEN FOSTER and will be reading it this summer. On another note, Jo-Jo from Jo-Jo Loves To Read, posted a fantastic review of another Kaye Gibbons novel last month called CHARMS FOR THE EASY LIFE. That novel was made into a TV movie in 2002 starring Gena Rowlands and Mimi Rogers. You can read Jo-Jo's review here. Have you read ELLEN FOSTER or any of her other books? If so, I would love for you to share your thoughts.

Author: Kaye Gibbons
Originally published by Algonquin Books, January 1987
Vintage Paperback - 1990
Pages: 125
Rating: 4 our of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday 6.9.9

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for a teaser! This weekly event is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. You simply grab your the book your currently reading, let if fall open to a random page and choose two sentences to share, being careful not include any spoilers.

This week my teasers are from THE PRUDENT MARINER by Leslie Walker Williams . . .

Maybe the shock came from seeing a picture of something she had long heard about, but never seen. She had always thought that seeing suffering in the flesh was the worst. ~ page 147

Jun 8, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

 I'm very excited about the book(s) I'll be reading this week. I picked up Leslie Walker Williams THE PRUDENT MARINER from the library Friday afternoon and even though I have been busy doing non-bookish things for most of the weekend, I've managed to read the first few chapters and can tell that it's going to be a very interesting read.  This will be my primary book this week, but I'm also keeping THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton close at hand.  I've had this book on my nightstand, literally for months and months, but it seems to get buried somehow by others.  I've decided to stop neglecting this most interesting-sounding book and finally read it.   

Last week was a good book week for me.  I posted two reviews, one as part of a virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours, which was BEACH TRIP by Cathy Holton. [Review here] and the other was John Hart's THE LAST CHILD [Review here].  I also finished reading ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons and have that review planned for Wednesday. 

I promised myself that I would try to make my way through some other books on my nightstand before getting any new ones. but there is a book that has grabbed my attention and I may not be able to stay true to that promise.  The book is THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY by Jennie Nash.  Months ago I read a review at Booking Mama that first drew me to it and then a few weeks ago BooksAMillion featured it in their Book Preview Club, which allowed me to read the first chapter. Needless to say, I'm hooked.  Yes, I admit it - I have no will power when it comes to books! But at least I know I'm not alone! Right? 

Well, that is my plan for the week.  What's on your agenda?  Be sure to visit J-Kaye's Book Blog to see what other book lovers are reading this week. 

Jun 5, 2009

The Last Child by John Hart

THE LAST CHILD is the story of 13 year-old Johnny Merrimon who is still trying to deal with the abduction, a year earlier, of his twin sister.  Since Alyssa’s disappearance, the life that Johnny had known is nothing but a distant memory.  As if it weren’t hard enough to lose his sister, the tragedy also proved to be too much for his parents.  His father walked out and his mother retreated into herself, not able to function and leaving only a shell of the woman she used to be.  

Johnny and his mother aren’t the only ones who are tortured by Alyssa’s disappearance. Detective Clyde Hunt, the lead investigator on her case hasn’t been able to let go either.  With little to go on and no hard evidence, Detective Hunt has allowed the case to take over his personal life and has cast a shadow of doubt on his professional career. His wife has left him, his son hates him and he’s always being scrutinized by his superiors at work.

Feeling that everyone has given up, Johnny vows that he will not stop until he either finds Alyssa or someone who knows what happened.  With his mom out of it most of the time, he is left unsupervised and spends much of his time scouring for information on known pedophiles hoping to find some answers. Detective Hunt keeps a distant watch over Johnny, partly out of guilt and partly out of genuine admiration for the boy. When another girl goes missing, Johnny is in the middle of it, which makes him more determined than ever to keep looking for answers. Even when those answers point to the most unlikely people. 

John Hart weaves a very realistic tale of mystery and suspense that I really enjoyed.  This story has a very compelling plot and constantly leaves you asking questions.  Just when you think you may have something figured out, something or someone else enters the picture and the questions begin again. I found that the more I read, the faster the pages were turning. 

I love when a story unfolds without predictability and that is what John Hart has accomplished here.  There’s more to this story than a simple abduction and the subsequent crumbling of a family. It’s also more than just a cop feeling guilty over a lost child. Even the title of the book has deeper meaning than what it appears.  Hart reveals all of it masterfully.

At first I did think Johnny’s ventures into the dangerous world of pedophilia were stretched a bit, but I quickly changed my thinking.  If I was a resourceful, determined boy, as Johnny is, and was left to fend for myself, and wanted answers as badly as he does, there’s no doubt I would do what I felt I had to do.  It’s common knowledge that we all think we’re invincible when we’re young. 

THE LAST CHILD is the first John Hart novel I’ve read, even though I do own DOWN RIVER, for which he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2008. I don’t know why I have put off reading DOWN RIVER, but I am looking forward to it even more now and have moved it to the top of my TBR pile. 

Author: John Hart
Website: www.johnhartfiction.com
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: May 12, 2009
Pages:  384
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Jun 4, 2009

Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

After 23 years of little contact, four former college roommates reunite for a week-long tropical getaway on a small island off the coast of North Carolina.  Mel, Lola, Annie and Sara were so much a part of each others lives while attending Bedford University in the early 80's.  Mel and Sara's friendship went even further back to their elementary school days.  They knew each other the way sisters know sisters.   Their home lives were very different but that only deepened their understanding of each other even though they didn't always see eye to eye. Mel was the outgoing one and Sara could see through Mel's shenanigans. 

Mel came from a very wealthy family with a controlling, bullying father and a mother who was completely intimidated by her husband. Adding to the dysfunction was Mel's older, drug addicted step-brother, Junior.  Sara always liked visiting Mel's house to escape the rules that were expected to be followed at her family home.  Mel on the other hand, was so infatuated with Sara's family, especially her mother, who Mel was completely enamored with.  She loved the order and obvious care that Sara's mom put into everything she did. 

Annie was always the reliable one.  She always did 'the right thing' and she knew what was expected of her.  But in her senior year of college, Annie had a secret that she shared with no one.  That secret defined her life and it wasn't until this trip that she began to appreciate the choices and life she'd made. 

Lola was always the dreamer of the group. Being the daughter of the former governor of Alabama, there were certain expectations put on her.  Her domineering mother had more of a say as to what Lola's life would become than anyone.   

Now in their forty's, each of these women have their own reasons for feeling apprehensive about this beach trip.  Mel and Sara's friendship had suffered since their sophomore year of college when they met  J.T. Radford at a party.  Sara was instantly attracted to him, but being the shy one, she watched as Mel swooped in and with her beauty and outgoing personality stole his heart before Sara even had a chance.  Sara, more than anyone, knew that Mel would eventually break his heart but she kept her feelings for him buried.

Annie didn't know what to expect from this trip, but with her two sons now in college, she was feeling a bit out of sorts and being with the other girls from her college days was bound to bring up old memories and feelings that she has tried to put behind her. Was she ready for this trip? Or would she regret it? 

Lola was the hostess for this reunion.  The beach house they would stay in belonged to her husband, Briggs, her boyfriend from college.  The marriage was more of a deal her mother made rather than a union of love and respect.  Lola tried once right before college graduation to get out of the marriage, but that met with terrible consequences that Lola was still living with.  And one of the other girls had played a big part in it as well.  She was still the dreamer, but behind her breezy, little girl manner, was a woman who longed for something she may never have. 

BEACH TRIP by Cathy Holton is the perfect book for this summer.  Reading it made me want to pack a bag, hit the sand and be with my gal pals while drinking fruity, frozen concoctions. The binds of these friendships are flawlessly explored and secrets are revealed in a way that makes you say, I knew it! Cathy Holton doesn't show all her cards at once.  She does it beautifully, keeping the curiosity going while telling the stories of each of these unique women. 

Most of the story takes place in 2005, the year of the reunion, with flashbacks to their college years, revealing important events that shape their lives. Each of the characters has a likable personality and
 I found them easy to relate to.  Sara and Lola were my favorites - Sara for her devotion to her family and Lola for her vulnerability. 

As someone who lives in the South and loves Southern Fiction, I appreciated Ms. Holton's style of writing.  This is her third novel published by Ballantine/Random House Books and I'll be checking out the other two as well. If you'd like to learn more about Cathy and her books, you can visit her website, cathyholton.com.  If you'd like to read an excerpt from BEACH TRIP, simply click here

With summer knocking on our doors, kids being out of school and summer activities crowding our schedules,  having a book like BEACH TRIP to read is the perfect way to relax and enjoy the season. 

I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours and Cathy Holton for including me in this blog tour for BEACH TRIP.   For a complete schedule of tour stops visit TLC Book Tours.

Jun 1, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm starting my week off by finishing BEACH TRIP by Cathy Holton.  TLC Book Tours kicks off the blog tour for this breezy new read tomorrow at S. Krishna's Books and then I will be posting my review on Thursday.  After that I plan to finish ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons.  Then it's on to HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton while I wait for THE PRUDENT MARINER by Leslie Walker Williams to become available at the library.  It sounds like a lot, but really it isn't.  

Last week I finished THE LAST CHILD by John Hart. I'll have that review later this week as well.  I also posted my review of THE LAST BRIDGE by debut novelist Teri Coyne. You can catch that review here.  

As of right now, that's my schedule for the week, but things don't always turn out the way you think they will, do they? 

Thanks to J. Kaye for hosting this weekly event! What books are on your agenda this week?