Jan 27, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Heavy

Today's BTT question is about large, heavy books:

What's the largest, thickest, heaviest book you've ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

My response:

I have to admit that I tend to shy away from large, heavy books. But to answer the question, the biggest book I've read was a paperback version of LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry at 943 pages. I might also add that I read that book in a week because the mini-series was coming to TV and I wanted to read it before it started. I read at every waking moment. I was doing nails for a living back in 1990 and I kept my book in my drawer and any minute I could steal a few pages, I did. The book remains one of my all-time favorites. And the mini-series was equally as wonderful! Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall - you can't go wrong with that!!

Be sure to stop by Booking Through Thursday for more answers from readers or to play along.

Jan 23, 2011

The Sunday Salon: 1.23.11

As we near the end of the first month of 2011, I am faced with the end of football season...sigh. It seems I wait all year for it and before I know it, its over already. I love Sundays in the fall and winter when I curl up on the couch with a book and have the comforting sounds of whistles blowing, helmets cracking and fans cheering. For me, that is what makes my weekends complete. So, with both the NFC and AFC Championships being played today, its no secret how I'll be spending my afternoon. I'll be in heaven. I've chosen my teams for the Super Bowl and now I wait. I'm taking the Chicago Bears, mostly for old times sake over the Packers (although I'm afraid the Packers will outplay the Bears) and I'm picking the mighty Steelers over the Jets.

As for my reading material, it will be something light that doesn't require a lot of concentration, so I'm setting aside WATER FOR ELEPHANTS for the day and picking up DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris, a book I started a few months ago and never finished. Vampires and football - yep, that works for me.

I had planned to get a lot of reading done this past week, but once again, life got in the way. I came down with a terrible stomach flu last Sunday evening that kept me down for 3 days. This winter sure has been brutal to me in terms of sickness. I'm hoping I've seen the last of it now. On the upside, I didn't eat for all that time, so I lost a few pounds. Not really the way I wanted to achieve that, but I'll take what I can get.

I did manage to post a book review last week of THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti. You can find it here if you'd like to read it. That is truly a unique book that I enjoyed immensely. I've been listening to THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom the last few days and I'm really enjoying it. I'm halfway through and will likely finish it mid-week. I've spent more time listening to it than reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, so I haven't made much progress there, but I hope to change that this week.

So that is my plan for the day and I hope that whatever you have going on makes you happy and puts a smile on your face. Thanks for stopping by today!

Jan 20, 2011

Review: The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

I've had THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti on my shelf for a while now and every time I scanned past the title I would say I really need to read this! I knew it was going to be an interesting tale and believe me, it certainly did not let me down. Here's a blurb from the back of the book to tell you what the story is about.

Twelve-year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is one of the mysteries that Ren has been trying to solve his entire life - as well as who his parents are and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony's Orphanage for boys. When a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren's long-lost brother, his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and gives Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? As Ren is introduced to a life of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves, he begins to suspect that Benjamin holds the key not only to his future but to his past as well.

My thoughts:

This book was pure delight and entertainment for me. It is one of the most unique and adventurous tales I have ever read. That is what makes a great literary work, in my opinion. When you add to that the incredibly original cast of characters, it makes the story that much better. First and foremost, there's a one-handed orphan boy, a hard of hearing landlady who SCREAMS EVERYTHING SHE SAYS, a giant of a man who befriends Ren, a harelip girl who works in a mousetrap factory, not to mention a dwarf. And that's only a few of the great characters in this book. And yes, there are many characters but because of their uniqueness, they are not at all difficult to keep straight.

There's a lot going on in this story of day to day survival and it all moves along at a rapid pace, taking the reader from one escapade to the next. There was always a sense of urgency that something bad was going to happen right around the corner, but at the same time, great friendships and loyalties were being made to settle the nervous energy. It gave balance to the story and, I think, was very well written.

Ren is a smart and interesting boy who touches the hearts of the people he comes in contact with. Benjamin is a scoundrel that I wanted to like from the beginning but didn't know if I could. I loved all of the adventures, even though some were creepy and I was completely pleased with what I thought was a perfect ending.

I know many of you have had this on your TBR lists, as I did, and I want to encourage you to make the time to read it. I'm so glad I did. It's a story for all ages and I think is a 'new classic'. That's just my opinion and you may disagree with me but you won't know unless you read it!

Author: Hannah Tinti
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
Published: 2008
Pages: 368
Grade: A

Jan 16, 2011

The Sunday Salon: My Week in Reading - Or Not

Happy Sunday! I trust everyone survived the week and the terrible cold that has gripped the nation! Fortunately, I live in the only state that didn't have snow this past week! But that doesn't mean it wasn't cold! Yes, it does get cold in central Florida. In fact, yesterday it was 27' when I got up! I've recently figured out that even though I wasn't born here (I moved to Florida in 1979) I am a thin-blooded Southerner! I just can't take the cold. I've just been away from it too long I guess.

Well, this week certainly didn't give me much time for reading as I'd hoped it would. I spent some time at my sister's new apartment helping her get acclimated. She is 99% blind and that 1% she does have isn't very helpful. So I went and cooked a bunch of meals for her to freeze and made her some really great Mexican soup for her to have when she got home from shopping with her friend. She was so happy, loved the food and is already looking forward to what I'll make her this coming week. Luckily, I LOVE to cook so it makes me happy too. Plus I can try out new recipes on her!

As far as reading goes, I did finish THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti, which was such an entertaining adventure. I haven't had time to write the review, but I plan to have it tomorrow hopefully. I started listening to THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom the other day and I'm really enjoying it. The narrators are terrific. One of them, in fact, did the narration for PRECIOUS, that I listened to last month. I'm hoping to be able to finish that book later this week. My plan was to start reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen lsst week, but I didn't actually open the book until last night. I was so exhausted that I got only 5 pages read and I was nodding off. Hopefully, I'll have better luck this week.

I joined Audible.com this week because I've discovered that I really love listening to audio books. Previously I'd listened from CD's but I enjoy my iPod much more. I find that my mind doesn't wonder as much when I listen through the iPod. Audible.com was a cinch to install on my computer even though I did have to call them once because they don't support Google Chrome. But the technicians couldn't have been any more helpful and polite. I'd definitely recommend this site to anyone looking for audio downloads. I believe I see many more audio books in my future.

So, that's it for me this week. Not too much book-related progress but I'm hopeful for this week. Today I'm spending the day reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and watching the NFL Playoffs. None of the teams I've wanted to win so far have done very well, so I really don't have a horse in this race - I just don't like the New England Patriots, so I guess I'm a Jets fan today!!! I hope everyone has a wonderful day and a good reading week ahead.

Jan 12, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays: 1.12.11

To play along, answer these three simple questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you plan to read next?
My Responses:
  • What are you currently reading?
The other day, while browsing the Kindle Store, I came across Joanne Fluke, a writer I've heard so much about yet never read. She writes The Hannah Swensen Mystery Series. Readers have enjoyed her fun bakery murder tales for years and Kindle was offering the first book, THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER for a steal at $2.99, so I grabbed it. It's a fun, light read that I enjoy between books with heaver content. I'm also starting WATER FOR ELEPHANTS this week. This is a book I simply must not put off reading any longer. I have such high expectations and am really looking forward to it.

  • What did you recently finish reading?
I finished two books this week. One was BACK CREEK by Leslie Goetsch [Review] and last night I finished THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti. I'll be posting that review later in the week.
  • What do you plan to read next?
Although it isn't set in stone, I'd really like to read THE QUEEN OF PALMYRA by Minrose Gwin.

Be sure to stop by Should Be Reading for more W.W.W. Wednesdays or to play along.

Jan 10, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Good Thief

Today is Tuesday and that means its time for a teaser! All you have to do is grab your current read, let if fall open to a random page and choose two teaser sentences to share! Be sure to list the title, author, and page number of the book you've taken your teasers from. Also, be careful NOT to include any spoilers! MizB at Should be Reading hosts this weekly meme so be sure to drop in over there for many more teasers!

My teasers are from THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti. I'm almost finished with this one and it sure has been an interesting ride! Here are my teasers -

Tom tried to pour another glass, but the bottle was done. He scowled. "So big when you were setting off. I knew you'd come back empty-handed."
"I'm not empty-handed," Benjamin said. "I have a boy." - page 61

Currently Reading


Recent Review:

Jan 9, 2011

Review: Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch

The summer of '75 brought a lot of changes to eighteen-year-old Grace Barnett's small-town life. Never really feeling like a part of the group around kids her own age, she felt more content at home on the Creek with her beloved books. Her older sister, Lillian, was the popular and outgoing one, but she's been gone for five years after having a blow-up with their father that no one really talks about.

Early in the summer of '75, Grace was the only witness when a boater fatally crashed into a neighboring dock on the Creek. Everyone, including the investigators, assumed it was an accident, but Grace couldn't shake the feeling that they were wrong. That day started a chain of events that would affect Grace forever. Days later, without so much as a word, her mother left on another of her mysterious trips, but this time it felt more permanent and Grace was left feeling that the responsibility of her family was on her shoulders. To complicate matters, her sister suddenly reappears, obviously with her own troubles, but is unwilling to open up about it. Grace is left to try to mend the rift between her withdrawn father, who is drinking too much, and her sister.

The whole time Grace is walking on eggshells around her family, she is also toying with new feelings and emotions that all girls her age eventually experience. Her closest friend is Cal, a Vietnam War vet that lives on a boat on the other side of the Creek who is rumored to be a little 'different' ever since returning home from the war. Grace's growing feelings for Cal begin to take her over and lead her to places she's never been.

But the most difficult thing Grace is dealing with is her mother's strange behavior and the feeling that she's never coming back - at least not for good. Grace decides to go to her mother's family home in North Carolina to get some answers from her mother and hopefully bring her home.

My thoughts:

The premise of BACK CREEK, the Virginia locale and the character of Grace is what initially drew me to this coming of age story. I also liked the year in which it took place. I grew up in the 70's and it was a special time - when you weren't afraid to leave your doors unlocked and life wasn't so complicated - at least it didn't seem like it was. I don't read a lot of Young Adult novels but this is one I didn't want to pass up.

The beautiful, sometimes lyrical phrasing made the book an easy, enjoyable read. The words flowed easily and the pages turned almost by themselves. I really enjoyed Leslie Goetsch's writing in this debut novel very much.

That being said, I will admit to feeling a bit let down with the outcome. That's not to say I didn't like it, I was just expecting a little more. The build-up was there and I was ready for something that I felt didn't quite make it. I feel that perhaps the point the author was ultimately trying to make may have been done with too much subtlety. On the other hand, I liked all of the characters - they were both believable and likable. Back Creek itself was a major character and through Goetsch's words, became a very real place that I could quickly and easily picture in my mind.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed the book very much and would definitely recommend it, especially to younger readers because I do think it carries a good message. Leslie Goetsch is an author that I wouldn't hesitate reading again.

Author: Leslie Goetsch
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Published: February 2008
Pages: 240
Grade: B-

Jan 8, 2011

It's My Blogoversary!!

It is hard to believe its been 3 years today that I started this book blog. Although when I began I don't think I knew what kind of blog it was going to be. I honestly didn't think anybody would really read my blog. I just thought it would be a fun place to express my thoughts. Then I discovered book blogs . . . and the rest is history!

Over these last three years, I have met and become friends with some amazing people. I am so grateful for those relationships. And through the wonderful array of books I've read, I know that I've also grown as a person. I can't imagine why anyone would not want to be a reader! To me, its a never-ending learning experience. My non-reader friends ask me sometimes how I know about certain topics or even little useless facts and my answer is simple: I'M A READER. it's amazing what you can learn if you only allow yourself to be opened up by a book. I've always been interested in geography and when I read certain books that take place in faraway places, I get out my atlas and I find it on the map and I learn about that area. To me, that is part of the enjoyment of reading.

Even though I've lost some of my sight and the freedom to drive or to venture out on my own, it isn't keeping me from learning about the world around me. Recently, I looked at the stats on my blog and I was excited to see that I had visitors from such faraway places as South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden and India to name a few. That gives me such a sense of joy that my little 'ole blog is reaching people all over the world. I'm so thankful that my book blogging has given me that joy and sense of accomplishment.

I'd like to thank the many visitors for your continued support of Books and Cooks. You all are like old friends to me and I don't take that lightly. You all inspire me to want to do better. Book people are exceptional people and I am proud to be in your company. I am really excited about this new year and I hope to make my blog an intesting place for you to visit.

Jan 6, 2011

Friday Finds: A Couple of Mysteries

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading where we share books that we've discovered during the week. They can be old or new, it doesn't matter! Its a great way to pass the word around about new-to-you books.

My Friday Finds:
This crime fiction novel written by two Swedish authors has gotten rave reviews and has put them in the same category as Stieg Larsson. This book was named Sweden's Best Crime Novel of the Year in 2009. This English version was just released this week. You can read a brief synopisi here on Amazon.

This book was released last month to positive reviews and it sounds to me like a promising new mystery series. It has some paranormal elements in the form of a ghost of a murdered collegue but it doesn't sound like it's too over the top. I like a little paranormal with my mysteries - how 'bout you? I think it sounds like a fun series to try. You can read the synopsis here on Amazon. If you're a Kindle user, ou can download it for only $5.99, which is a great deal!

Those are my finds for the week What books did you discover in your travels this week? Be sure to visit Should Be Reading for more finds and to play along! Have a great Friday!

Jan 5, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays 1.5.11

To play along, answer these three simple questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you plan to read next?
My responses:
  • What are you currently reading? I'm reading BACK CREEK, a debut novel from 2008 by Leslie Goetsch and I'm also reading THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti.
  • What did you recently finish reading? I finished up an audio book a few weeks ago of PRECIOUS by Sapphire. [Review Here]
  • What do you plan to read next? I'm planning to read REBECCA by Daphne Du Mauier. I'm also planning to read THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST by Stieg Larsson some time this month - whenever they finally decide when to release the trade size paper back this month. Another book I'd love to start reading is WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen. I've had it on my shelf forever yet I don't know why its taken me so long to read it. I hear its a wonderful book!
What books have you been reading lately? If you'd like to participate in W.W.W. Wednesdays, please visit MizB at Should Be Reading.

Jan 3, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 1.4.11

The book I'm teasing you with today is BACK CREEK by Leslie Goetsch. In 1975, eighteen-year-old Grace Barnett, a recent high school graduate, is living out her last carefree summer on the creek and preparing to start college at Virginia University in the fall. But the summer brings a lot of change to Grace and her family - the return of her sister after five long years, a mysterious boating accident on the creek near their home and her mother's sudden absence with no explanation or warning. My teasers are from page 73.

Who could believe that Tommy's explosive accident, not even a week old, had disrupted these sights? Standing on the deck, watching the water flow out toward the York River and the Bay, I was reminded of the larger forces that are always at work. Life didn't stop long for much of anything.

This is just a small sample of the lyrical writing style of Leslie Goetch in her debut novel from 2008. I've had this one on my shelf for quite some time and I'm really glad I picked it up and started reading. I will finish it by the end of the week and have my review soon after. I hope you'll stop by to read my review!

If you'd like to participate in Teaser Tuesday, follow these simple guidelines:
  • Grab your current book
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Choose two teaser sentences to share
  • Do not include any spoilers!!
  • List the book's name, author and page number you took your teasers from
Teaser Tuesday is hosted each week by MizB at Should Be Reading and is open to anyone.

My Favorite Reads of 2010

Although I didn't read as many books last year compared to years past, I still managed to read some truly awesome books! I can't think of one book that I just didn't care for or was a chore to finish - well, maybe one . . . But I do hope to get back to EAT, PRAY, LOVE this year and hopefully finish it. I hate abandoning books, no matter how much they may irritate me.

The biggest surprise for me in books was Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. I put off reading the first two until last year when I finally decided to give them a try to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Everywhere I turned, these books were there and people were talking about them and I just couldn't take it anymore! I wanted in on the conversation! Financial intrigue isn't a genre that I typically gravitate towards, but it became clear right away that there was so much more to the story than just that. I quickly became sucked in to the Vanger family history with all the strange people and developed an instant liking for Mikael Blomkvist. But Lisbeth Salander stole my heart! This misunderstood girl with a mysterious past won me over and I devoured the first two books.

I can honestly say THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE was my favorite book that I read last year. [Review Here] It kept me on the edge of my seat and I hated when it was over. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO [Review] was my second favorite book. I was happily surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. I completely understand why it could be a difficult one for some to get through with all of the history and characters to learn, but I feel it was time well spent and worth every page.

A few other books that stayed with me long after reading them were:
  • UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson [Review]
  • ROOM by Emma Donoghue [Review]
  • JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington [Review]
  • SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy [Review]
  • THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS by Randy Susan Meyers [Review]
  • ON FOLLY BEACH by Karen White [Review]
I also discovered some really great authors last year including Joshilyn Jackson. I loved her wit and strength of character in BACKSEAT SAINTS [Review]. I'm planning to go back and read more of her earlier work this year. A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick [Review] left me scratching my head, while the memoir FORGIVING TROY by Thom Bierdz [Review] moved and saddened me. The audiobook PRECIOUS by Sapphire [Review] absolutely horrified me.

Those are just a few of the many great books I read last year and I'm looking forward to many more this year. Right now I'm reading THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti and BACK CREEK, a wonderful Young Adult book by Leslie Goetsch. This summer I'm hoping to do a read-a-long of ANNA KARENINA with my friend Staci from Life in the Thumb so if you have an interest in joining us, please let us know. It should be a really great experience!

Thanks for stopping by and reviewing my favorite books of 2010. I wish you continued happiness and many, many great books!

Jan 2, 2011

The Sunday Salon: A New Year!

Happy New Year Saloners and fellow book lovers! I don't know about you but I'm really looking forward to a fresh new year! For me, the end of 2010 was brutal. Mainly because I felt like I was sick for half of December. Christmas was completely blown over in my family because, except for my Dad, we were all sick! We finally did get to celebrate on New Years Day. My mother (with some help from yours truly) made fabulous traditional New Years Day fare including a pork roast, sauerkraut, and because we do live in the South - black-eyed peas! It was a terrific day with some much welcome warmer weather.

For one reason or another, 2010 was a difficult blogging year for me. I started out strong, but eventually had trouble staying on focus and keeping with my schedule of posts. I could sit and analyze it and break down all the reasons why, but I'll save you from all of that and just state my proclamation for 2011.

January 8th will be the 3rd Anniversary of Books and Cooks and I really want this to be the best year yet! I feel a renewed 'want' to have a better blog this year. So I'm looking forward to more regular posts including more book reviews. In order to do that, of course, I will need to read more books. I haven't actually counted the books I read in 2010, but I know it wasn't anywhere near books read in 2009. Also, I'm looking forward to reading some books that I've had on my shelves for awhile, along with some old and new classics. REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier, THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak and ANNA KARENINA by Tolstoy to name a few. Each of those books have me very excited.

I invite you to continue to visit Books and Cooks and journey with me through the incredible world of books that is at our fingertips. Books offer so much to so many and I'm proud to consider myself a part of this book blogging community that has undoubtedly left its mark. I wish all of you a wonderfully prosperous New Year that is filled with exciting stories and learning experiences through the books we read.

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