Jun 29, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays 6.29.11

To play along with this fun weekly meme, all you have to do is answer these three simple questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you plan to read next?
Here are my answers:
  • What are you currently reading? I've just started reading THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST by Stieg Larsson. I'm reading this with my BFF, Brenda, who I have sucked into this trilogy. She is on summer vacay from her elementary teaching job so she now has plenty of time to read. We're looking forward to reading it together.  I'm also reading Tim Tebow's memoir, THROUGH MY EYES.  Living right near The University of Florida, where he garnered so much fame, it is impossible to not be a fan. I am a member of Gator Nation, as is my sister, Linda. Since she is blind and cannot read the book, I am reading this book to her. It's a fun way for us to spend time together and she is really enjoying it. 
  • What did you recently finish reading? I recently finished reading THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters, BLOODSUCKING FIENDS by Christopher Moore and I also finished listening to the audio of THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta.  (Read review here)
  • What are you planning to read next?  I haven't decided what exactly I will be reading next but I have a few ideas.  SUMMER RENTAL by Mary Kay Andrews is one and I'm also waiting for CROOKED LETTER CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin to become available at the library. I also would like to read SISTER by Rosamund Lupton, especially after reading S. Krishna's Review earlier today. 
Be sure to stop by Should Be Reading each Wednesday to participate in this meme and see what other book lovers are reading. 

    Jun 26, 2011

    Audio Book Review: The Cypress House by Michael Koryta [TSS]

    This was my first experience with a Michael Koryta book and I thought the audio version would be a nice change, especially considering the supernatural elements used in the story, I was really excited to listen to THE CYPRESS HOUSE. Here's a quick synopsis from Audible.com:

    Arlen Wagner has an awful gift: he can see death in the eyes of men before it strikes. He's never wrong.
    So when Arlen awakens on a train one hot Florida night and sees death's telltale sign in the eyes of his fellow passengers, he tries to warn them. Only 19-year-old Paul Brickhill believes him, and the two abandon the train, hoping to escape certain death. They continue south, but soon are stranded at The Cypress House - an isolated Gulf Coast boarding house run by the beautiful Rebecca Cady - directly in the path of an approaching hurricane.
    It doesn't take Arlen and Paul long to realize that the storm isn't the only approaching danger - a much deadlier force controls the county and everyone living in it. But Paul refuses to abandon Rebecca to face the threat alone, and Arlen's eerie gift warns him that they'll never leave.
    My Thoughts:
    I'm kind of new to audio books so I haven't listened to a lot of them but the first thing that I liked about this one was the voice of the narrator, Robert PetkoffHis smooth tone and ability to effectively change his voice for the different characters made it an enjoyable experience.  I have difficulty listening to an audiobook if I can't settle into the narrator's voice. Maybe that's why I am sometimes hesitant to choose an audio version of a book.
    The story itself was interesting to me and I thought the time period of the mid 1930's gave it an exciting edge, given the supernatural twists.  Koryta didn't go over the top with his paranormal elements, which was another plus for me. The occasional and minimal use of sound effects when Arlan would 'see' dead people was just enough to bring on the creepy factor. I really enjoyed it!  
    Michael Koryta created believable and interesting characters and the relationships between them all were easy to follow and fit the story very well. He didn't waste any time with overly descriptive narrative and just got right into the story. I was hooked from early on. 
    The bottom line is that I was completely satisfied with this audio book and I am very much looking forward to reading more of Michael Koryta's work.  His latest book, THE RIDGE, is now available and getting great reviews.  The audio version is also narrated by Robert Petkoff.

    Author:  Michael Koryta
    Publisher: Hachette Audio
    Released: January 2011
    Length: 11 Hrs/54 Mins
    Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
    Source: Purchased from Audible.com

    Jun 20, 2011

    Teaser Tuesday: Bloodsucking Fiends

    It's been a little while since I've participated in Teaser Tuesday but it's always been one of my favorite memes. I love getting glimpses into books that catch my attention and I love sharing what book I'm reading with others. In case you need a refresher, here are the rules:

    • Grab the book you're currently reading
    • Let it fall open to a random page
    • Choose two teaser sentences to share
    • Be careful NOT to include any spoilers
    • List the title, author and page number of the book
    It's that simple. Today my teasers are from BLOODSUCKING FIENDS by Christopher Moore.  I just started reading last night and already I am hooked. Loving the humor and overall craziness of the story. It's just what I needed after some pretty tense books I've recently read. So, without further ado, here are my teasers . . .

    "I've seen him," the Emperor whispered.  "It's a vampire."
    Tommy recoiled as if he'd been spit on.  "A vampire florist?"
    "Well, once you accept the vampire part, the florist part is a pretty easy leap, don't you think?" ~ page 29

    Teaser Tuesday is hosted each week by Should Be Reading. Please stop by to check out all of the other teasers or to join in the fun and play along.

    Jun 19, 2011

    The Sunday Salon: A Special Weekend

    Hello everyone! I hope you all are enjoying your weekend so far. Mine has been a busy one starting with a visit with some out of state friends on Friday. The Pruddens are a terrific family that I met 21 years ago (Wow!) and even though they moved back to Ohio a few years later, we have been able to keep our relationship strong. We met for lunch and spent a few hours catching up over some really great Cuban food. I had such a wonderful time with them and afterwards, I felt so blessed to have such good people in my life. 
    Carol & Randy
    I hope you all are enjoying this special day to honor our fathers.  This year it's especially difficult considering the declining health of my dad but we tried to make the best of it. We attempted to go out for lunch as a family yesterday to celebrate the day but it just didn't turn out the way my mother and I had hoped. Dad wasn't feeling the best and truth be told, we probably shouldn't have attempted such an outing but we figured this would probably be the last Fathers Day we get to celebrate with him. To make matters worse, there is some tension between my sister and father, with neither of them willing to give an inch. Needless to say, it made for a difficult time. My mother and I, being the peace-makers of the family, were very disappointed to say the least.

    Last night I went to a luau with my sister and best friend, Brenda. There was music, food and frozen concoctions that made it really fun. It was a relaxing evening by the pool, which was just what I needed to get my mind off things.

    After taking a few weeks off from my strict Weight Watchers diet, I got back to work this past week. I lost 2 more pounds, which brings me to 26.5 pounds total. I got up early this morning, did my 2 and a quarter mile walk while it was still relatively cool, and now I'm looking forward to spending a quiet day at home.

    I know I told you about my summer reading list last week and I've already made changes to it! Like I told Ti (Book Chatter and Other Stuff), reading lists are like New Years Resolutions for me: I make them and I rarely stick to them! But I am going to try! Today I really want to finish THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters so that I can get started on BLOOD SUCKING FIENDS by Christopher Moore. My friend had this book in her car the other day and she told me I could borrow it and I was thrilled! I've heard so much about his work! I also will be writing an audio book review of THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta for this week.

    Thanks for taking the time to stop by today. Hopefully you are having a great weekend and spending it with people you love. Have a wonderful reading week ahead and please come back soon!

    Recent Reviews:

    Jun 15, 2011

    Review: The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block (TLC Book Tour)

    The past is not past for Katharine Merrill. Even after two decades of volatile marriage, Katharine still believes she can have the life that she felt promised to her by those first exhilarating days with her husband, Frederick. For two months, just before Frederick left to fight in World War II, Katharine received his total attentiveness, his limitless charms, his astonishing range of intellect and wit. Over the years, however, as Frederick’s behavior and moods have darkened, Katharine has covered for him, trying to rein in his great manic passions and bridge his deep wells of sadness: an unending project of keeping up appearances and hoping for the best. But the project is failing. Increasingly, Frederick’s erratic behavior, amplified by alcohol, distresses Katharine and their four daughters and gives his friends and family cause to worry for his sanity. When, in the summer of 1962, a cocktail party ends with her husband in handcuffs, Katharine makes a fateful decision: She commits Frederick to Mayflower Home, America’s most revered mental asylum.

    There, on the grounds of the opulent hospital populated by great poets, intellectuals, and madmen, Frederick tries to transform his incarceration into a creative exercise, to take each meaningless passing moment and find the art within it. But as he lies on his room’s single mattress, Frederick wonders how he ever managed to be all that he once was: a father, a husband, a business executive. Under the faltering guidance of a self-obsessed psychiatrist, Frederick and his fellow patients must try to navigate their way through a gray zone of depression, addiction, and insanity.

    Meanwhile, as she struggles to raise four young daughters, Katharine tries to find her way back to Frederick through her own ambiguities, delusions, and the damages done by her rose-colored belief in a life she no longer lives.

    Inspired by elements of the lives of the author’s grandparents, this haunting love story shifts through time and reaches across generations. Along the way, Stefan Merrill Block stunningly illuminates an age-old truth: even if one’s daily life appears ordinary, one can still wage a silent, secret, extraordinary war.
    ~ from Amazon

    My Thoughts:

    There are a lot of words that have been used to describe this unique book based on the lives of the author's grandparents: lucid, heart-wrenching, passionate, fascinating.  I would have to agree that all of those words aptly describe this book. It's also been described as a 'beautiful love story', but I have to admit I do not see it as such. Granted, I do not read a lot of books in the romance genre, but this, to me, is not what I consider a love story.

    I honestly did not know what to expect before I started reading THE STORM AT THE DOOR. I knew the foundation for the story, but I had no idea where Stefan Merrill Block was going to take me. As I started reading, I was looking forward to getting to know the characters and connect with them. However, I was disappointed when half-way through the book, I still hadn't developed an emotional connection with either Katherine or Frederick. I had compassion for both of them on a general level but not the deep connection I was anticipating.

    I believe that one reason I lacked a connection was the sterile, almost clinical writing of the author, in my opinion. The chapters alternate between Katherine and Frederick's viewpoints yet I didn't feel passion coming from either person. 

    That being said, the second half of the book garnered more interest from me than the first and I began to get immersed in the story, especially Frederick's experiences in the asylum and the repercussions he endured due to information he discovered about Dr. Cannon, who was in charge of the hospital.  

    Stefan Merrill Block shares a difficult story focusing on his grandfather's mental illness and the subsequent journey his family endured during those years in the 1960's. He brings to light that in those days people suffering from Bipolar Disorder often went untreated or were simply labeled 'mentally ill'. Late in the book, Block even reveals some similarities between himself  and his grandfather.  

    THE STORM AT THE DOOR is a troubling look at one man's life as he dealt with mental illness and the constant guilt and doubt that it brought to his wife after committing him to a hospital for the insane.  Instead of bringing her some measure of relief that Frederick was getting the help he needed, it made her question her decision and even the life she thought she had with her husband. 

    I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours and Stefan Merrill Block for including me in this tour. Please visit TLC's website for other stops on the tour.  THE STORM AT THE DOOR will be released  June 21st from Random House. 

    Author: Stefan Merrill Block
    Publisher: Random House
    Published: June 21, 2011
    Pages: 368
    Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
    Source: TLC Book Tours

    Jun 12, 2011

    [TSS] My Summer Reading List

    Hello and thanks for stopping by today! Its been a busy weekend for me so far and I'm looking forward to relaxing today and enjoying some reading time. I kicked off my weekend Friday with a margarita night with my two best girls: my sister and my best friend. It was a beautiful, breezy night so we sat on Linda's front porch listening to the wind chimes and just having some 'girl time'. The best part was there was no driving involved since Linda and Brenda live in the same community. We simply stumbled over to Brenda's, where I spent the night. Her daughter graduated from high school Saturday and we had to get up super early for that. Since I can't drive, it was easier for me just to spend the night. It was a great ceremony and as it turned out, I got to see several of my friend's kids graduate. It was a lovely day.

    So here we are staring summer in the face and its getting hotter by the day.  It's the perfect time to pick some good summer reads and there are a few that I am especially looking forward to. I don't read a lot of 'chick lit' but there are times when that is exactly what I'm in the mood for. I've been reading some pretty heavy stuff lately and its time to read something light and fun.

    New Summer Releases I'm Excited About
    There are two books that were released on June 7th that are definitely on my radar. The first is Mary Kay Andrews' SUMMER RENTAL. I am a huge fan of hers. I have all of her books and they are like crack to me. As soon as they come out, I devour them and then it feels like forever waiting for the next one! Her trademark Southern Fiction, mixed with witty and fun characters always make for a great read. It is perfect for this time of year and I'm sure I'll be reading it by the pool very soon.

    Another summer read I'm definitely getting is BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook. I have not read anything by this author and I just don't know how that is! I've read some great reviews and I'm really looking forward to this one as well.

    Tying Up Loose Ends
    One thing I have to do, though, is finish a couple books I've had to put aside for some ARC's. I am looking forward to getting back to Sarah Waters' THE LITTLE STRANGER and FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris, which just got lost along the way somehow. I'm also half-way through the audio version of STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens, which is very good. I also have the audio of THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo that is patiently awaiting my attention!

    I'm also on the waiting list for CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin at the library, but by the looks of it, its going to be awhile yet. There are also a few books on my shelves here at home I'd like to read before the end of the year: THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE and QUEEN OF PALMYRA, just to name a few.

    Aside from the two new summer releases, I'm not planning to buy anymore books for a long while. Not until I get some of the ones read that I already own. And I own some really great books! I'm getting a little nervous because my eye disease seems to have progressed over the last month or so and I can see a big change in my vision. I really want to get some of the books on my shelves read before I can't see the writing anymore. That is going to require a lot of restraint because I LOVE to buy books!!

    So, for the most part, that is what my reading schedule looks like for the foreseeable future. I'm sure I'll be making changes because even as I sit here and write this post, I'm thinking of ANNA KARENINA and THE BOOK THIEF that I also have on my shelves! One thing is clear: I need to get busy!

    What summer reading do you have planned?

    Upcoming Book Reviews:
    • THE STORM AT THE DOOR by Stefan Merrill Block (TLC Book Tour) June 15th
    • THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta  TBA