Feb 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Ghellow Road

This week I'm taking my teasers from GHELLOW ROAD by T.H. Waters. She calls it a novel, but it is patterned after her own life, growing up with her older brother and their parents while desperately clinging to the hope of having a normal family life.

My teasers -

As I now look back upon those tragic events, I stand astonished at how quickly my young, shattered mind was able to piece itself back together, at least long enough to christen the next chapter of my life. The destruction from within would patently lay in wait amidst a dense cluster of cattails and delicately painted butterflies until the last one migrated southward, never to return again. ~ page 117

Although unsettling at times this book is proving to be hard to put down. I only started it last night and already I'm half-way through it. I'm anxious to get to the end and find out what has happened to this little girl who only wanted to be normal in a family that was anything but.

For more teasers or to learn how to participate each week, please visit MizB at Should Be Reading.

Feb 27, 2011

[TSS] THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom (Audio Version)

It was hard for me to realize that THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom had been out for a year earlier this month when I started seeing it all over the blogs and Twitter. It grabbed my attention right away since I love stories of the South during this time period leading up to the Civil War. Most of the story takes place in Virginia on a tobacco plantation in Virginia called Tall Oaks. It spans a generation and is told in alternating chapters by the two main characters. Lavinia was only seven years old when her parents died while on a ship from Ireland traveling to America. Now an orphan, Captain James Pyke, the owner of the ship and Tall Oaks takes Lavinia as an indentured servant. She is handed over to the slaves in the kitchen house and it is there that she is raised. The other narrator is Belle, a young slave who runs the kitchen house and is given the responsibility of raising Lavinia. Belle is uneasy at first, but eventually settles into the unusual role. Without any spoilers to give the plot away, here is a synopsis of THE KITCHEN HOUSE found on Goodreads...

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

My Thoughts:

When I first heard the narrators voices when deciding to download this audio book, I knew right away I would enjoy listening to this story. Orlagh Cassidy (Lavinia) and Bahni Turpin (Belle) do equally impressive interpretations of these two strong characters. In my opinion, having the right narration can make or break an audio book.

I found the story of THE KITCHEN HOUSE perfectly paced and although Grissom doesn't rely on actual historical detail of the times, you get a real sense of what life must have been like growing up as a slave and being completely dependent on the slave owner. She concentrates more on the relationships of the people, both white and black. This is a story about family, loyalty and sacrifice that is realistic and heartbreaking.

Through the voices of Belle and Lavinia, I could picture the events playing out in my mind so vividly that I can say I've never enjoyed an audio more. All of the characters are authentic, as is the writing style for that time period. Grissom paints a beautiful lansdscape for the telling of this family's story. It may sound strange to use the term 'family' considering they are slaves but underneath the legalities of their ownership, there is a sense of family that weaves these two groups of people together over many years through tragedy and celebration. It is well written and worth reading. It is, in fact, one of my favorites so far this year. I would definitely recommend it.


Author: Kathleen Grissom

Published: February 2010

Grade: A+

Feb 25, 2011

Introducing...The Saturday Skinny - My Weekly Weight Loss Journey

Hello and Welcome to The Saturday Skinny! As some of you may have noticed from my Facebook page lately, I started a weight loss program at the end of January. My first ever 'real' diet. So, I've decided to add a new Saturday feature to my blog where I will chronicle my progress, obstacles I may encounter and my exercise routines. I'll also be featuring some good-for-you recipes and tips that you may want to try. With Spring around the corner, now is the time to get active and get on the right path for a healthier you!

Let me first start by telling you that the program I've joined is Weight Watchers Online but I don't consider it a diet, per se. I don't even like the word diet. This is more of a healthier way of life that I will continue with long after I've reached my ultimate goal. Most diets typically don't work because they have unrealistic expectations and once you go off of them, you gain the weight right back. This Weight Watchers Online program teaches you what to eat, how much to eat and what foods you have to be careful of. You don't have to give up that chocolate cake forever - just be mindful of how much of it you put in your body.

Exercise is another very important factor. As readers, we all know we're not getting any exercise flipping those pages or hitting the 'next' button on our Kindles! So, we have to make up for that immobility. Since I've had to retire, so-to-speak, I've put on at least 20 pounds. My doctor recently asked me what I'd been doing for fun and I said, 'Reading a lot of books' and he frowned and said, 'I meant for exercise'! Oops! The WW program (and my Doctor) suggests that we get at least 30 minutes of exercise every single day. And one of the best ways to exercise is simply by walking! Who doesn't enjoy a nice walk, right?

I've completed 4 weeks of WW and I've lost 7.6 pounds! I've found that the PointsPlus System works for me. Upon joining, they give you a PointsPlus calculator that you enter nutritional information into and it converts it to Points. This is very helpful in learning portion sizes and what foods to eat. Each week after you weigh in, you are given your PointsPlus Target. As you lose the weight, they reduce the number of daily points you can eat. I'm sure a lot of you already know how this works. I've been 20-25 pounds overweight a lot in my life and I've tried counting calories, eating all low-fat foods and nothing worked for me. But this PointsPlus System along with their fabulous eTools keeps me on track. And when I get discouraged I remember that I didn't gain this weight overnight and I'm not going to lose it overnight. It takes time and dedication. I'm doing WW with my good friend, Brenda, and we lean on each other and when our weigh-ins don't turn out like we'd hoped, we support each other and try harder the next week. We also walk at least 1 mile every day and sometimes 2 miles. I've even recruited my mom and sister to walk with me.

I hope that you will stop by each Saturday and if you are doing your own weight loss program, leave a comment and let me know how you are doing. We can encourage each other. Thanks for visiting today and i hope you'll come back soon!

Feb 22, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays 2.23.11

W.W.W. Wednesdays is hosted each week by MizB at Should Be Reading and all you have to do is answer these three questions -
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you plan to read next?
That all you have to do! Here are my answers:
  • What are you currently reading?
I am just about finished with a Nancy Martin book called OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION. Its a spin-off of her Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, but don't worry if you haven't read them because this series stands all on its own. Its full of quirky, fun characters and Roxy Abruzzo, the protagonist is a tough gal who makes her own rules.

I'm also listening to the audio book ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris. I'm three-quarters of the way done and I'm really enjoying it.
  • What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER by Joanne Fluke. This is the first book in the Hannah Swensen Series and you can read my review here. Its a cozy mystery and its also filled with yummy cookie recipes as an added bonus! I also finished listening to THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom, which I loved. I'll have that review very soon and I'd love for you to come back and check it out.
  • What do you plan to read next?
Next on my list is GHELLOW ROAD by T.H. Waters, a book I received from the author for review. Its a novel based on her life and from the reviews I've seen, it has done very well. I'll also be listening to another audio book, THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta and I'm very excited about it!

What books have your attention this week?

Feb 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 2.22.11

The rules for Teaser Tuesday are simple -
  • Let your current book fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 teaser sentences to share
  • Be careful NOT to include any spoilers
  • List the title, author and page number you took your teasers from
This week my teasers are from the first book in a new mystery series by Nancy Martin. You may remember Ms. Martin's Blackbird Sisters Mysteries. I love them and have read them all! This new series is a spin-off and the protagonist is Roxy Abruzzo. She owns an architectural salvage company. She's a tough gal who doesn't take any crap from anybody, even her uncle Carmine, a local mob boss who is trying to suck her into the 'family business'. Here are my teaaser sentences. . .

Roxy thought about what it meant that her daughter was dating the one kid with the most direct line of communication to the police department. She steadied herself on the newel. The chief of police's kid coming around on the exact week Carmine asked her to join his crew-that's all she needed. ~page 128

For more teasers stop by MizB's Should Be Reading each Tuesday. Its a great way to get a sneak peek into some great books.

Feb 20, 2011

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder - Hannah Swensen Mystery Book 1 (Kindle Version)

As a lover of mystery series, I have known about the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke for many years now. I've always wanted to read them, so when I saw Amazon had the first one for the Kindle for 2.99, I thought it was the perfect time. These books have been out for some time so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Here's a bit about the book, but don't worry, I won't give anything away. . . Hannah Swensen lives in a small town in Minnesota, where she owns and operates The Cookie Jar, her bakery/coffee shop business. She also does catering for special functions for many of the towns people. Hannah hasn't been in a serious relationship since she got burned by one of her college professors and she is perfectly content being alone for now. Her mother, Delores, on the other hand, works overtime to try to find Mr. Right for Hannah. Her sister, Andrea, is married to a deputy sheriff and they have a daughter, Tracey that Hannah is crazy about.

In this first book of the series, one of Hannah's friends, who also works at the local dairy and makes deliveries to her shop every morning has been murdered very near The Cookie Jar. In fact, Hannah was the unfortunate person to have discovered the body. Her brother-in-law Bill sees this case as an opportunity to show the Sheriff his skills and is hoping for a promotion to Detective if he can solve this case.

Naturally, Hannah is curious about the case and wants to help Bill. She stumbles upon some crucial information that implicates some well-to-do people in their little town. Before she knows it, she is up to her rolling pins in the investigation and with some help from her sister, she is determined to solve this case and find out who killed her friend. And thank goodness for her faithful employee, Lisa, because The Cookie Jar has never been busier!

My thoughts:

Joanne Fluke's CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER is a charming and entertaining read with likable characters. Hannah, the protagonist, is a confident, independent woman who isn't afraid to be alone and is there when her friends and family need her. The relationship with her mother is quirky due to the fact that she's always dodging Delores' matchmaking antics. Although she and her sister, Andrea are very different, they have a good relationship and are there for each other.

The mystery itself was very light and clues come to Hannah very easily, which did make it a little unbelievable for me at times. Although I did enjoy the trials and tribulations that Hannah went through and found them entertaining, I won't say this is one of my favorite mysteries but it is a very quick read and is perfect if you're looking for something light to read. That said, I will probably pick up the second book in the series, THE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE MURDER to see where this next case takes Hannah.

One thing that I do love about this series is the cookie recipes found throughout the book that Hannah sells at The Cookie Jar. There are some really good recipes and I do plan to test out a few. In fact, here's a very simple recipe that really made my mouth water . . .

Pecan Chews

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 cups brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped pecans
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350' F, rack in the middle position. Melt butter and add brown sugar. Mix well and let cool. Add beaten eggs and mix. Add salt, baking soda, vanilla, and nuts. Mix well. Add flour and mix until flour is thoroughly distributed.

Form dough into balls with your fingers. (The size of walnuts.) Place on a greased cookie sheet, 12 to a standard sheet. Press them down with a spatula coated with cooking spray so the dough doesn't stick. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies set up on sheet for one minute, then remove them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I don't know about you but those cookies sound Dee-lish and I will be trying them! I will also be trying the second book, THE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE MURDER as well. Sometimes you just want a fun book that you can breeze through and that is exactly what this book was for me. Joanne Fluke has a great website where you can learn about all of her books in the series, and there are many! In fact, her latest, the fourteenth in the series, THE DEVILS FOOD CAKE MURDER is being released this week!

Author: Joanne Fluke
Publisher: Kensington
Published: April 2000
Pages: 312
Grade: C

Feb 6, 2011

The Sunday Salon: A Super Day!

Hello and Happy Sunday! I can't believe that it's Super Bowl time already! Since my team didn't make it, I'm rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers today. My sister is having a little get-together at her apartment this evening and I'm planning to stay over night. She just got a huge, new TV that she can see better with so I'm sure the game is going to look awesome on it! I just hope its a good game and not one-sided.

This past week was an interesting one for me. I did something I've never done before and I'm excited about it. Yesterday I completed my first week of Weight Watchers. This is the first 'real' diet I've ever been on and I must say, I find it doable. I was fortunate to be born with my father's tall gene, so at least I have that on my side. I've never really had to worry about my weight until I quit work a few years ago and my activity level plummeted. Sitting around reading books, I've discovered, doesn't burn off many calories! I lost 3 pounds my first week, but I only worked out twice, so that tells me I need to get moving!! The diet itself isn't bad at all. I don't feel like I'm starving myself and I'm eating the right portions, which was always my downfall. I'm excited to get this second week underway and hope to lose 4 pounds by next Saturday. The Weight Watchers website is amazing and filled with all kinds of tips, recipes and community support. I would encourage anyone who needs to shed a few unwanted pounds to consider Weight Watchers. Its better than I expected. I'll be sure to keep you posted on my progress. I'm sure there will be times when I am frustrated but right now I'm feeling pretty good.

My book week wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, but I did manage to finish THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER by Joanne Fluke. I also started another audio book that I listen to while I work out. I'm listening to ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris. It makes the time go by so fast, plus I'm laughing much of the time. Last week I finished THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom, but I haven't had time to sit down and write my review. I plan to do that Monday, so please look for that review soon. The book I'm reading now is a mystery by Nancy Martin called OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION. It's a spin-off of her Blackbird Sisters Mystery series that I love. I'm reading that while I wait for my review copy of GHELLOW ROAD by T.H. Waters to arrive. Hopefully, this week will provide me with more reading time.

It's time for me to get busy and make some vegetable soup, then I have to make some South Georgia Caviar to take to Linda's for the game. Ever since I made it the first time several years ago, my friends and family request it every time we have a party! They're hooked!

Have a wonderful Sunday and thanks for stopping by!

Feb 2, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays 2.2.11

To play along, answer these three simple questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you planning to read next?
It's that easy! Be sure to visit MizB at Should Be Reading for more W.W.W.'s.

My Answers:
  • What are you currently reading?
I'm reading a fun mystery by Joanne Fluke. It's the first in her Hannah Swensen Mystery Series called THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER. There are actually 14 books in the series, which started in 2000, with a new book coming out within the month called THE DEVILS FOOD CAKE MURDER. I have a ways to go to catch up, but I'm sure it will be a fun ride!
  • What did you recently finish reading?
Yesterday I finished THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom. I really enjoyed this book based in Virginia in the late 1790's. The story was powerful, yet heartbreaking at times. I listened to the audio version and it was beautifully narrated. I'll have my full review up in a few days, so please come back to check it out.
  • What are you planning to read next?
I am expecting a review copy of GHELLOW ROAD by T.H. Waters, any day that I am anxious to start, but in the meantime I'm going to read Nancy Martin's latest mystery, OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION. I've read all of her Blackbird Sisters Mysteries and this one is a spin-off of that series. It should be a perfect read while I wait for the other book to arrive. I really enjoy these fun mysteries in between books with heaver or darker content. It gives me the break I need.

What are your W.W.W.'s this week?