Dec 16, 2012

[TSS] Kindle Paperwhite 3G - My Thoughts

Hello and Happy Sunday! Today I thought I'd do something a little different.  With all of the great new technology out in the world these days, there is just so much to choose from it can be hard to keep it all straight. Its hard to know which devices are right for your individual needs. That's why I thought I'd talk about the newest Kindle product, the Kindle Paperwhite 3G. Over the last year, I've been using my Kindle more and more. In fact, most of the books I've read this year were on my Kindle 3G. Although I do miss adding actual books to my library, due to my progressive retinal disease, it is becoming harder and harder to read paper books. Sometimes the print is so light and small, it is almost impossible for me and ends up giving me headaches. Large print books are much more expensive and bulky so I don't care for them too much. I do, however, request those when borrowing from the library.

I have been very happy with my Kindle 3G and I read much quicker when using it. Since I've had it for awhile, it is the older version with the keyboard instead of the touch screen, but I was OK with that too. That said, I still had an issue with lighting. Since RP makes my eyes appear to have a white film over them all the time, (which I call The Fog), I have to use a reading lamp and position it above my shoulder so the light shines directly on my Kindle in order for me to read. If I am in a brightly lit room or outside, I don't have as big a problem because of the glare-free screen. But when you're trying to relax sometimes you don't want to have to have all the lights on full blast to read. Kind of takes away from the experience, ya know? So I always have a small-ish movable lamp over my shoulder. It's becoming like a growth on my back and I'm tired of it! So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Amazon introduced the Kindle Paperwhilte with the built-in light! Why didn't they think of this sooner??

So I ordered one as an early Christmas present for myself and I couldn't be happier! And even though I have WiFi at my house, I opted for the 3G as well. I realize that for almost the same money I could've gotten the Kindle Fire and that's what people say to me. They wonder why I didn't get it instead. And honestly, that is partly the reason I'm writing this post. The answer is simple. The screen on the Kindle Fire is not conducive for my eyes. It is more like a computer screen and it would just be too hard on my already maxed out eyes. It would be really cool to have the Fire and be able to do all the great things it offers, but frankly, I have a PC for that. I use my device strictly for reading (and playing word games) so the Paperwhite was made especially for my needs.

One of the other things I love about it is the Touch Screen. If I'm honest, I was a little concerned about it before, because I thought I'd be hitting it all the time but it was very easy to get used to. Another obvious change in the Paperwhite is how clear, crisp and bold the fonts are! It is so much brighter and the light is MAGNIFICENT!! You probably won't find anybody else as excited about that light than me! OK, I'll say it - I'm in love with it! I can absolutely read ANYwhere now and because the device pulls the light back down to itself, there is NO GLARE AT ALL!

The speed of the Paperwhite is amazing as well. There is no delay whatsoever when turning pages. It's just instant. And if you want to look up a word in the built-in dictionary, just touch the word to highlight it and a few seconds later, the definition is staring you in the face!

Surprisingly, the Paperwhite is even smaller than my older Kindle because there is no keyboard. It's about the size of a trade size paperback, maybe even smaller. I tuck it in my purse and take it everywhere with me. You never know when you might get a few minutes of reading in, especially when you rely on others to take you places and you find yourself sitting and waiting for someone to pick you up. It makes time pass very quickly.

There are many other great features about this device that I didn't address but I wanted to hit on the ones that were most important in my decision making. Please leave me a comment if you have something you'd like to add, even if you feel differently about this device. I'd like to hear your comments. I hope this post is helpful to anyone thinking about buying a reading device or upgrading to a new one and trying to decide which one is for you. There are a lot of choices out there but for people with eye issues, in my opinion, the Kindle Paperwhite is the way to go. I couldn't be happier with my choice and also to be rid of that annoying reading lamp that has been following me around for years!

Dec 13, 2012

Review: Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French (Audio Version)

Tana French is an author I've heard so much about but had never read any of her books. Recently when BROKEN HARBOR was released, I read so many great reviews from my fellow bloggers/book lovers that I couldn't put it off any longer. I chose the audio version instead of the printed version but I'll get into that a bit later. First, here's a bit about the book.

The Book:

This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series featuring Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy. This time around he is partnered up with rookie cop Richie Curran. They are investigating the brutal murder of a seemingly well-to-do family with no apparent ties to anything illegal. But when the investigation turns up financial problems and strange issues regarding their home and the development it was built in, many questions arise. Fortunately, one member of the family survived the attack but instead of helping, only seems to bring more questions to light.

At the same time, Mick is dealing with some personal issues involving his younger sister causing him to be preoccupied, which could be very detrimental to his career if he doesn't get a handle on it. He and his new partner seem to be getting on well and he has high hopes that it will turn into a professional relationship he can come to count on. An arrest is made pretty quickly, but Richie begins testing Mick as to if they have the right person in custody.

To make matters worse, the town of Broken Harbor, outside of Dublin, where the murders occurred has a deep significance to Mick and his family which adds even more stress as all eyes are on him to solve this horrific case.

My Thoughts:

Even though I hadn't read any of the previous books in this series, I didn't hesitate to pick this one up, especially after reading so many other reviews.  Although I'm sure there is a lot to learn about this character's past in those books, I feel confident that It didn't take away from this story. That said, I would like to go back and read the first three books.

I found the story intriguing and I liked Mick right away. He has a kind of underdog feel to him. Having not read the previous books, I got the feeling that he had a lot of people against him, therefore, I felt he had something to prove. That made me root for him all the more. I did like his connection to his new rookie partner and I had high hopes that would turn out. As far as story goes, it did have some twists and turns with several different possible outcomes. I liked that it wasn't predictable.

The secondary theme in this book involved Mick's family and a tragedy that happened many years before in Broken Harbor, the same location as the murders. This factor gave the story a complexity and I felt it blended with the story nicely. That said, I did find myself getting annoyed with the character of Dinah, Mick's emotionally troubled younger sister. That brings me to the narration of the audiobook.

I did enjoy the audio version, however, the character of Dinah really got on my nerves. I didn't care for her voice at all and was happy when her scenes were done. I know it must be difficult for men to do women's voices, but I felt this interpretation was too high-pitched and whiny and I just didn't care for it at all. I think that if I had read the paper version my feelings for this character may have been totally different.  That being said, I was entertained by the story and I probably would read more from this series, though I doubt I'll choose the audio version next time. Although I did enjoy the book, I have to be honest and say that I didn't love it but I am glad I took the time to read this author.

BROKEN HARBOR (Dublin Murder Squad #4) Audible Audio Edition
Author: Tana French
Narrator: Stephan Hogan
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: July 2012
Length: 19 Hrs 59 Min
Source: Purchased

Dec 10, 2012

Musing Mondays: Unfinished Business

Today's musing poses the question: What was the last book you couldn't finish and why? This musing is courtesy of

My Answer:

Very seldom do I ever not finish a book. I'm usually pretty good about sticking with a book until I am done, even if I am not loving it. However, over the summer I was prodded by a close friend to read E.L. James' FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. I put it off as long as I could, then I finally gave in after she actually put her copy in my hands and said 'Just READ it!!'. What else could I do? She absolutely loved it, told all of her friends to read it and I knew it would make her happy. So, I began reading.

Now, I'll start off by saying, I do not consider myself a book snob at all. However, I generally don't follow the masses when it comes to my reading choices. (I still have not read the Twilight Series!! Shocking, I know!)  The thing I noticed right off the bat was the constant over-use of phrases such as "Holy*hit!", "Holy *uck!", etc. The expletives didn't bother me, but the repetitiveness certainly did. I was already sick of it just a few chapters in.  Even if I could overlook that aspect, what I really disliked was the story in general. I realize my opinion may not be a popular one, given the hoards of women who read and loved this book, but as an avid reader, I feel that there are simply too many other writers out there who write fantastic literature and have spent their lives perfecting their craft and those are the types of authors I choose to support. If that makes me a snob, then so be it.

As far as the sex parts of the book goes, that didn't bother me at all. I am a women who enjoys great sex and am not afraid to try new things so I am not a prude, nor do I get offended easily. I simply just didn't feel the need or desire to read a whole book about it, especially a story I felt was lacking.

I made it almost halfway through the book, then one day I asked myself what value I would be taking away after reading this book and I couldn't come up with an answer. I saw the other books on my nightstand that were waiting for my attention and I realized I would much rather be spending my times with those instead.

For more musings, please visit MizB at Should Be Reading each Monday! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful week in books!

Dec 8, 2012

Review: The Secret Sense of Wildflower by Susan Gabriel

Probably one of the best surprises this year almost slipped by me. I was asked several months ago to read Susan Gabriel's THE SECRET SENSE OF WILDFLOWER but unfortunately that request got lost in all the emails I receive and I didn't realize it until much later. Luckily for me, I did finally get the opportunity to read this coming of age story taking place in the mountains of Tennessee in the early 1940's. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads this year. It is a gem, and I am so happy to share it here today.

About The Book: (No Spoilers Included!)

Twelve year-old Louisa May "Wildflower" McAllister, has never gotten over the death of her father who was killed in a work accident the year before. The youngest of four girls, she was truly Daddy's girl. Not only because of their close bond, but she is more like him than the others, a fact that seems to upset her mother, who is also grieving terribly.

On the anniversary of her father's death, something happens that will change Wildflower's life forever. It wasn't her fault, she wasn't looking for trouble, but she is terrified her mother will never see it that way or ever be able to forgive her.

This is a story of family, loyalty, forgiveness and love surrounding a young girl who is simply trying to find her way in a world she doesn't even fully understand at such a tender age. With the help of her sisters and an aunt who shares a special 'sense' with Wildflower, she learns the lessons life is teaching her, no matter how cruel and hard these lessons can sometimes be.

My Thoughts:

This is the type of book that I crave to read. It's beautifully written in lyrical prose that I found myself slowing down to re-read. It has such a deep familial core, yet also has a darkness that makes you keep reading.. All of the characters are so true to the era and Appalachian culture and are all very believable. It is a true Southern tale. There are both great relationships and some very difficult ones that add even more layers to this story. Part of what makes it more complex is how Wildflower, while still coming to terms with her father's death and the changes it brought to the entire family, she is now burdened with even more difficult circumstances that cause her to fight even harder for a better life.

What I really like is that Wildflower is telling the story from her own perspective. It brings such an innocent honesty that grabs your heart and doesn't let go. I'm a sucker for a story told through a child's eye and Ms. Gabriel interprets this protagonist beautifully. Though it has some disturbing moments, the story, as a whole, is wonderful and shouldn't be missed.

This is definitely a story that will stay with me for a long while and recommend it highly. I am thankful to Susan Gabriel for sending me a copy and for forgiving me for not getting back to her sooner. To learn more about this author visit her website and follow her on Twitter @susangabriel   

Author: Susan Gabriel
Publisher: Wild Lily Arts
Published: April 2012
Genre: Coming of Age, Southern Fiction
Length: 224 pp
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Dec 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

Teaser Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Its a great way to get inside of some new-to-you books. Anyone can participate. Here are the guidelines:

  • Grab the book you're currently reading
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Choose two sentences to share
  • List the title, author, and page number (or location) that you took your teasers from
  • Please do not include any spoilers in your teasers
My teasers are from THE RIVER WITCH, the debut novel by Kimberly Brock. I like to call it 'mystical Southern Fiction'. I've only just begun reading it, but already I'm completely drawn into the story and it's characters. Here are my teasers . . . 

Magic, like glitter, like dust, could slip right through your fingers.  Before you knew it, a wonder could mix with the plain old earth beneath your feet until you could no longer tell the difference at all. ~ Kindle Edition Location 746

That is just a sampling of the beautiful writing within the pages of this book. I am really looking forward to the rest of this story. To learn more about this talented writer, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @kimberlybrock 

Nov 29, 2012

Review: The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister (TLC Book Tours)

This much anticipated follow-up to Bauermeister's THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS takes the reader back to Lillian's restaurant, but not for more cooking lessons. Lillian's is once again used as the cozy backdrop for the story but in a more subtle way. You still get the loving feel of the ingredients that go into the dishes she serves there, but a few characters from the first book are the obvious stars, along with some new faces who help tell their life stories.

The story picks up several months after the first book ends while the cooking classes are in between sessions. Lillian is, of course, front and center and we learn how her life has changed in those months. Others from the cooking class that are big parts of the story are Chloe, the insecure, former busser that Lillian hired; Isabelle, the older woman who is struggling to hold on to her precious memories; and Tom, the widower who lost his chef wife way too young to breast cancer. We add to them, the story of Al, Lillian's accountant who has made Lillian's an important part of his daily life; his wife, Louise, who has never been to the restaurant, nor ever met Lillian; Finnigan, the very tall, perceptively quiet dish washer who seems to know more than his nineteen years should allow; and we also meet Isabelle's son, daughter and grandson.  Each of these additional characters create more layers to an already developing storyline that, like each course of a fine dining experience, is like a memorable, delicious treat.

My Thoughts:

I can honestly say I didn't have any idea where this second book was going to lead. With so many interesting characters in the first book, there were many options for the author to take. I had really taken a liking to Chloe and even had a protective feeling over her, so I was really happy that she was a center point in this book. It was nice to see how she was becoming more sure of herself and I especially enjoyed her relationship with Isabelle. The character of Al was a complete surprise and.  I initially found him to be a bit odd. His relationship with his wife, Louise, was also a bit strange yet later in the story, I felt bad for her for being left out of so much of Al's life. It certainly proves a point I, myself, learned in my own marriage: That you can live with the person you are supposed to be the closest to in life, but much later down the road find that not only does that person not know the real you, but you begin questioning everything you thought you knew about them. Its a harsh reality that some can overcome but many cannot. I'd have to say, however that the new character of Finnigan was my favorite. He is wise for his age, kinder than most, and has such a subtle way with people and that really struck a chord with me. I like the possibility of he and Chloe making a go of it. (It's OK, I really didn't give anything away there!)

To wrap this up, I'll simply say this book was the perfect sequel that also leaves so many more possibilities for future releases.  Not surprisingly, the prose was lovely and had the same warm ebb and flow as we've come to expect from this talented writer. Erica Bauermweister, with the help of Lillian, had me yearning to be in a kitchen, laying out fresh goods and produce just collected from the farmer's market, and planning what herbs and spices to add to make delcious treasures to serve people I care about. That is how chefs and people who love to cook feel about food and this book brings all that out while at the same time telling the character's stories beautifully. If you couldn't tell already, I really enjoyed this book and I will always look forward to what is next from this author

There are many stops on this blog tour and you can find the entire list here. Be sure to visit these other blogs for more insights and opinions to this nove..  Special thanks to Lisa @ TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Scheduled Publishing Date: January 24, 2013
Pages: 228
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Nov 24, 2012

Thankfully Reading 2012: Day 3 Challenge

Today's challenge question has to do with bookish family memories.  Jenn has asked us...What family bookish memories do you have? 

Well, this one is a bit harder for me to answer because, unfortunately, not many members of my family are readers. I remember discovering my love of books and reading in Mrs. McPherson's fourth grade class. Not long after, my aunt and uncle gave me a very special Christmas present. I don't even know if they realized how special it was to me. They gave me the entire set of Laura Engalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books! I coveted those books and guarded them with my life! They were beautiful! That is my favorite family bookish memory!

I hope you enjoyed my answer to this challenge question....Now its back to reading!!

Nov 23, 2012

Thankfully Reading: Day 2 Challenge

For the second day of Thankfully Reading Weekend Jenn has asked this question: What Book Are You Most Thankful For This Year? 

My answer to this question came to my mind so quickly and easily. It is THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE by Jenny Wingfield. It is a debut novel that I absolutely LOVED.  Southern Lit at its absolute finest. And I am not alone in my feelings about this book. I read this as part of a TLC Book Tour and the other participants loved it as well. You can read my review here. It is the book I've recommended the most.

Its A Thankfully Reading Weekend!

You won't find me at any retail store on this Black Friday! Or any Black Friday for that matter. I'm not one to fight crowds  and get up at 3:00 am to get a bargain. Honestly, I've never really understood the whole thing, probably because I'm not a big shopper. What I choose to do instead is to stay home and participate in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend Read-A-Thon, hosted by Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves. This year, she has invited Jennifer from Literate Housewife to be her co-host!  For more info head over to Jenn's blog and to sign up. Its not too late and there are no rules to follow - its just a weekend full of books and reading! Seeing as how I wound up in the ER yesterday getting 10 stitches in my finger and the fact that my left hand feels like a club, reading at home is a good place for me to be this weekend!

I've got several books I'm going to be reading from that I'm excited about. And I'll be posting my progress on Twitter here:  @SouththrnGrlReads And you can follow all the participants using the hashtag #ThankfullyReading.

Some of the books I'll be reading from include LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel, THE SECRET SENSE OF WILDFLOWER by Susan Gabriel, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE by Jess Riley and I'm going to start a re-read of Faulkner's classic THE SOUND AND THE FURY. I'm also going to continue listening to BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French. That should keep me busy all through the weekend, don't ya think?

So, I'm off to start reading....

Nov 19, 2012

Review: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson (Audio)

Whenever I pick up a Jashilyn Jackson novel I know without a doubt that I am delving into a story that is going to grab my heart and not let go. But I also know there's going to be some laughs along the way. In A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY, that couldn't be more true.

This heartwarming story of three Southern women from three generations in the Slocumb family is centered around Mosey, Liza's daughter. Liza hasn't had it easy since becoming a mother at a very young age, but there is no mistaking her love for her daughter. Liza's mother, Jenny, who was also young when she had Liza, has one rule: You always put family first. That's why when Liza showed up on her doorstep after being gone for almost two years with her baby girl on her hip, Liza didn't hesitate to take her and the toddler in. Since Jenny hadn't seen them since Mosey was just itty-bitty, she was thrilled to be a part of her grand-daughter's life and feel into the role as matriarch swiftly and smoothly. It was obvious to Jenny that Liza had some issues but she didn't press it - she was just happy they were finally back home where they belonged.

When Mosey is fifteen, the Slocumb's world is turned upside down when while removing a tree from the back yard to make room for a swimming pool, a small grave is unearthed. This shakes the Slocumb women to the core. Jenny is shocked, Liza, who has suffered a stroke and cannot communicate well is visibly shaken and Mosey is determined to find out who the grave belongs to and why it was in their back yard. Each of these women, in their own way, are looking for answers but in the process discover even more secrets about their family. It is Jenny who is bound and determined to do whatever she must do to keep their small family in tact, hopefully before the police figure it out first.

My Thoughts:

This story has everything I'd expected it to have: love, friendship, loyalty, humor and a little small-town drama.  The characters were rich in so many ways. I instantly loved Jenny, the too-young-to-be-a-grandmother, grandmother, who loves her family unconditionally and will do anything to protect it. Liza, even though held captive in her own body due to a stroke, fought for her family as best she could, and Mosey was simply a terrific character with no fear and a sense of adventure that she didn't back down from. The supporting characters rounded out the story, giving it a believable small-town feel.

Ms. Jackson reveals the secrets of the Slocumb women beautifully through the voices of each character as they share in telling the story. I chose to listen to this on audio after I sampled it on and heard Joshilyn Jackson's own voice as the narrator. It was pure perfection! It didn't feel like I was listening to a book, it was more like I was sitting with a fellow southerner who was telling me the story of her family. She did an amazing job of channeling each character all the while leaving me totally entertained and satisfied.

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is one of those books that after you finish it, you miss the people in the story and feel the hole they've left in your heart when they're gone. This is one of my favorite Joshilyn Jackson novels and I recommend it highly!

Author: Joshilyn Jackson publish Date: January 2012
Length: 12 hrs 25 min / 352 Printed Pages
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Nov 7, 2012

Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (Paperback)

THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister is one of those books that was stuck on my mind since it came out in January 2009.  As a lover of cooking and all things food, I knew right away that I  wanted to read this book and I had every intention of doing so, but it just never happened. The only excuse I have is that there are simply too many great books out there and not enough time to get to all of them. Its a flimsy excuse, but it's all I got. That said, with the follow-up being released soon and being included on the tour, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally get it read.

This beautifully written story of Lillian, a restaurant owner and cook, who closes her doors on Monday evenings to teach a cooking class, is the perfect book to read if you're looking for something calm, soothing and just plain lovely.  The story begins with how and why Lillian has such a love for food and cooking. You get a real feel for what kind of woman she is and, in my case, I instantly adored her. Her calm and graceful persona brings out the goodness of those around her, especially her students, who all seem to adore her as well.

As the classes continue, the reader is given insight to each of the people who show up eager to learn the next lesson and what brought each of them to be taking this class. With each passing week, the students are also learning more about each other, new friendships are formed through their interests in cooking and, thanks to Lillian, they begin to appreciate the simplicity of good food.

My Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this book and the journey in getting to know the students in the cooking class. Lillian is a great character and had a warmth about her that is inviting and soothing. Simply put, this is not a book filled with twists and turns and second-guessing about motives. This is a book that should be savored like a nice glass of wine after dinner - a book not to be rushed through. The characters are interesting and each of their stories are important and I enjoyed them very much.

This book is a quick read that is perfect for those times when you've just finished an intense book and are looking for something to make you feel good inside. All of the reviews that I read back when this book was first published were right on. I'm really looking forward to THE LOST ART OF MIXING, the follow-up to this book. I'll be posting my review later this month (the 29th), as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Published: January 2010
Pages: 261
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Oct 21, 2012


Hello and Happy Sunday! I hope all of you are enjoying a fabulous weekend! Fall has finally arrived down here in Florida so the weather has been beautiful. We even awoke to temperatures in the upper 40's this morning. Even though its already up to 75, it is still very pleasant.

And now I'm going to make the day even better for one lucky person. The winner of JAMIE OLIVER'S GREAT BRITAIN  cookbook is . . .

Lakeside Musing!!

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in my giveaway! And once again special Thanks to Jamie Oliver, Hyperion Publishing and TLC Book Tours for including me in the tour of this very unique cookbook! 

Oct 17, 2012

Jamie Oliver Cookbook Review & Giveaway!

Today I'm posting a review of a new cookbook, JAMIE OLIVER'S GREAD BRITAIN  I'm sure many of you who watch the Food Network are familiar with Jamie Oliver. Not only has he hosted his own cooking shows, The Naked Chef and Jamie At Home, he also has made it a mission to help ensure that children get a healthy lunch while at school. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution really opened eyes and showed how desperately school lunches need to be altered.

And now Jamie has a new mission. It is to show what Great Britain, has to offer the culinary world.  In the beginning of the book, Jamie doesn't try to mask the common belief that his homeland hasn't been known as a leader in the food world. But his love and loyalty for his country are evident when he speaks of the dishes England is historically known for and where they originated from. And in some cases, origins are quite surprising. In the opening pages of this large, almost 400 page cookbook, Jamie's enthusiasm for the recipes included is clear. His intentions are to share not only classic dishes that the British are known for but also include some new classics that prove to be both delicious and current, as compared to other great culinary locales  without sacrificing the integrity of historical British food.

Jamie's personality certainly comes through in this big, beautiful book. It is colorful, interesting and fun, which is no surprise.  The recipe categories include Breakfast, which is one of my favorites, Pub Grub, Afternoon Tea, Sunday Lunch, New British Classics and even Wild Food, featuring recipes made with wild game, such as rabbit, pheasant and venison. There are also categories for vegetables, puddings, seafood and condiments. This cookbook definitely has it all.

I thought I'd share a recipe from the book that caught my eye right away. i know many of you, like me, are tea drinkers so this is for you. It's from the Afternoon Tea section:

Earl Grey Loaf

6 Earl Grey Tea Bags
14 oz Dried fruit, such as raisins, golden raisins, cherries, cranberries
1 Orange
1 Large Egg
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Cusp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 whole nutmeg for grating
1 lemon

Put 4 of the tea bags into a measuring jug and add 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Leave to brew for a few minutes, then remove the tea bags.  Put the dried fruit into a large mixing bowl, grate over the zest of the orange and pour over the hot tea.  Give it a good stir, then cover and leave to one side for a few hours, ideally overnight - so the fruit sells and soaks up all the tea.  

When the fruit is compeletely rehydrated, preheat your oven to 350F. Line a 4-cup loaf pan with parchment paper. Whisk the egg and add to the bowl of fruit along with 1 cup of the sugar.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice and a few good gratings of the nutmeg, and squeeze in the juice of the orange.  Mix until you have a dough-like consistency (it might seem a little bit dry but it'll be fine). Spoon the mixture into your lined pan and bake in the oven for around 1 hour 10 minutes, or until cooked through.  

Meanwhile make your syrup.  Put the 2 remaining tea bags into a pan with 3/4 cup water and the zest and juice of the lemon.  Gently bring to a boil, removing the tea bags after a couple of minutes.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and bring back to the boil without stirring - keep it on a medium heat so that you have a steady boil for around 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by half and you have a lovely golden syrup. Pour this into a jug. 

As soon as the loaf comes out of the oven, use a toothpick or a skewer to make lots of little holes in the top, then pour the syrup all over it.  Once the syrup has been absorbed, transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Serve with a cup of tea and some butter. 

I have not made this recipe yet, but I intend to, especially with the cooler weather on it's way. Just think how delicious it would be with a cup of Earl Grey! 

In my opinion, this cookbook may not be for everyone, but would be perfect for the cook who is looking for something different and wants to expand their culinary knowledge. There are recipes with ingredients that you wouldn't normally use but are fun and interesting to try. With that in mind, I think it would be a great gift idea for the advanced cook or someone who isn't afraid to cook outside the box. 

Thanks to Hyperion and TLC Book Tours, I have a copy to give away to a lucky winner. Simply leave a comment about this post along with your email address.  The drawing will be open until Saturday, October 20th at midnight and a winner will be drawn at random.  The winner's name will be posted on Sunday, October 21st here on Southern Girl Reads.   

For more reviews and thoughts on JAMIE OLIVER'S GREAT BRITAIN and for more chances to win your own copy, please check out the rest of the tour. A complete list can be found here.

I'd like to thank Lisa at TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour. I have rhoroughly enjoyed reading through this beautiful book and look forward to trying out some of the recipes. 

Sep 27, 2012

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

There should be a warning label on this book. It should read: 'the reader will develop deep feelings of protection and love' for the delightful Cecelia Rose Honeycutt, the young protagonist in this wonderfully written story'. Two of my favorite things in books are stories of strong Southern women and stories told from a child's perspective. In SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman, I got that and so much more.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee hasn't had the normal childhood a kid her age in the 1960's should have. She lives an isolated life without the typical childhood friendships, games and sleepovers. Living in a small Ohio town with her frequently absent father and a mother who seems to forget she's the mother, CeeCee has had to grow up pretty quickly. When not in school, she spends most of her time looking after her mother, Camille, a former southern beauty queen who suffers from strange, and sometimes bizarre behavior, that commonly wasn't talked about.  There is one person in her life that CeeCee is close to and that is Mrs. Odell, the elderly widow who has lived next door ever since CeeCee was a baby. They have developed a close bond and CeeCee loves her like a grandmother.

After Camille unexpectedly dies, CeeCee is surprised when her father makes the decision for her to go live with her great aunt on her mother's side in Savannah, Georgia. Although this is the place her mother used to dream of going back to one day, CeeCee is devastated by this decision.  This is upsetting to CeeCee for many reasons, including the rejection she is feeling from her father, not to mention she's never been anywhere outside of their little town and more importantly, she is reluctant to leave Mrs. Odell, her only friend.

CeeCee puts on a brave face and makes the move to Savannah with her Great Aunt Tootie, who has promised her a summer she won't forget. Right away CeeCee sees how different life is in a Southern town and especially in Aunt Tootie's grand historic house with its beautiful gardens and lovely, spacious rooms that are swimming in the Georgia sunlight.

As CeeCee settles into life in Savannah she meets the women in Aunt Tootie's circle of friends, but CeeCee has never met women like these. Strong, independent women that leave their mark on the world and have such grace about them...well, most of them anyway. But the woman who has the most impact on CeeCee is Oletta, Aunt Tootie's maid for many years. 

Over the course of the summer, CeeCee experiences life as she has never known it bringing with it fun, adventure, and even fear but most of all, self discovery.  With the help of these strong Southern women, CeeCee begins to realize that her mother's destiny isn't necessarily her own. She just has to be strong enough to choose her own path and follow her own dreams. 

My Thoughts:

Let me first start off by saying I can't believe it took me so long to read this lovely book. I remember when it first came out and the blogs were going crazy over it.  I put it on my TBR list and now, here we are. The only thing I can say is, the bloggers were right! I fell in love with CeeCee and my heart ached for the way her mother's illness affected her.

The characters in this book are strong and likable and they each play important roles in CeeCee's life in showing CeeCee how different we all can be without it being a bad thing. I especially liked the relationship CeeCee had with Mrs. Odell, her neighbor in her old neighborhood in Ohio. Personally, I had an instant connection to that relationship because as a girl of 14 my parents moved me from a small Ohio town to Florida while my older sister stayed behind to graduate. I found myself feeling alone for the first time, not knowing anyone and feeling very isolated until I met our elderly neighbor, Virginia. We spent many afternoons together sitting on her porch swing, sharing stories. She became an important person in my life just as Mrs. Odell became important to CeeCee. Another relationship I really enjoyed was the friendship that formed between CeeCee and Oletta. Cee Cee learned many things from her much older friend like what life was like in the South when you are black. I loved the protectiveness CeeCee felt over Oletta and I think CeeCee brought out a softness in Oletta that had been missing since her only child had died.

I loved everything about this book and obviously it ranks up there with my all-time favorites.  Reading this book was one of the highlights of my summer, re-instilling in me that the Southern Fiction genre is the heart and soul of the literary world. It's books like Hoffman's SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT that are the proof.

Author: Beth Hoffman
Publisher: Penguin
Published: October 2010
Pages: 320 pp
Rating: 5 Wonderful Stars out of 5

Sep 26, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Wisdom of Hair

It has been entirely too long since I've participated in "Waiting On" Wednesday but I'm so happy to be here today sharing the novel I've run across in my bookish travels. The book is THE WISDOM OF HAIR by Kim Boykin and it's scheduled release date is March 5, 2013. It is Southern Women's Fiction and this is Ms. Boykin's debut novel.

Here is a little about the book taken from -

"The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy's funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life."
In 1983, on her nineteenth birthday, Zora Adams finally says goodbye to her alcoholic mother and their tiny town in the mountains of South Carolina. Living with a woman who dresses like Judy Garland and brings home a different man each night is not a pretty existence, and Zora is ready for life to be beautiful.
With the help of a beloved teacher, she moves to a coastal town and enrolls in the Davenport School of Beauty. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Cathcart, she learns the art of fixing hair, and becomes fast friends with the lively Sara Jane Farquhar, a natural hair stylist. She also falls hard for handsome young widower Winston Sawyer, who is drowning his grief in bourbon. She couldn't save Mama, but maybe she can save him.
As Zora practices finger waves, updos, and spit curls, she also comes to learn that few things are permanent in this life--except real love, lasting friendship, and, ultimately... forgiveness.

As a lover of all things Southern, I love reading about strong Southern women so it is easy to understand why I am so anxious for this release.  I can't wait to share it. For more information on Kim, visit her web page at

To discover more yet-to-be-released books, be sure to visit Breaking the Spine for other "Waiting On" Wednesday blog posts every Wednesday.

Book Info:
Genre: Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: March 5, 2013
Length: 304 pp
ISBN-10:  0425261050
ISBN-13:  0425261057

Sep 13, 2012

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn's latest book has received a lot of attention since it's release earlier this year and I was very eager to read it as well. I actually went to the bookstore and bought the hard copy edition. Many books I read these days are usually on my Kindle but I wanted to have the complete experience with this book. Having never read any of Ms. Flynn's previous books, I didn't know what to expect and that only added to my excitement. It killed me to have to wait a few weeks to crack it open because I had other books I had committed to and needed to finish. Finally, it was GONE GIRL's turn!

This riveting story of a wife disappearing on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband being considered a suspect with all of his strange behavior, has all of the elements of a great suspense novel. Right off the bat, I noticed the unique way in which Flynn told this disturbing story. She used two sources to tell the story that alternated between each other. The first chapter started out with the husband, Nick Dunne,  talking about the day of his wife, Amy's disappearance. Chapter two was told through Amy's journal that she had been keeping for what appeared to be a long period of time. Her journal gave insight to how the two met and ultimately were married. The chapters alternated in that manner throughout the book.

Because its hard to give a synopsis of GONE GIRL without giving key points away, I'm not going to do that here. I'm simply going to speak about what I liked or disliked about the book, in vague terms so as not to ruin it for those who have yet to read it.

Right from the start I felt a distrust of Nick Dunne. His behavior alone gave the impression that he definitely was hiding something. And on the other hand, I really liked Amy. From her journal she seemed like an intelligent, likeable young woman who, although led a somewhat sheltered and charmed life, didn't flaunt it or act better than other people.

The book is broken into three parts that defined the changes in the storyline. In Part 1, aptly named Boy Loses Girl, it was pretty much your basic story of a wife gone missing and the husband, of course, being the person that is investigated the most. But that is where the common elements end. When I reached Part Two, it became something very different and my curiosity was instantly piqued. So I must say that in the beginning, when people asked me how I liked the book, I said, 'It's good', without alot of conviction.  but as I went further, it definitely got better and better and more twisted. I was relieved about that because I really wanted to love this book and live up to the hype it was receiving.

Overall, I was very happy with the book and glad I chose to buy it right after it came out and add it to my library.  I thought it was an original idea and I became quickly connected to the characters, even though there were one or two I didn't like. I'm not one hundred percent sure I liked the ending though. It was different than I expected but left me saying, 'Wow...'. And probably, that is exactly what Gillian Flynn wanted. If that is the case, she did a masterful job.

Generally speaking, if I've read a book that I really liked and it later becomes a movie, I am usually disappointed in the film version. But with Reese Witherspoon slated to play Amy Elliot Dunne, I will be very interested to see the movie when it comes out. I don't yet know who is playing Nick Dunne but casting is going to be very important in order to make it work. I have no doubt the book will be better, however.

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crown
Published: June 2012
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Sep 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Soup Season is Coming!

I realize that for many people, Fall weather is still a dream, but we are in the last stages of warmer weather and I, for one, am really looking forward to all the wonderful recipes of Fall. So I just couldn't resist sharing my new recipe for a hearty soup I developed earlier this week. I love a nice hearty soup, especially one that I can put into the crockpot, forget about it and this recipe is perfect for that as well!

I call this my Hearty Potato, Bean and Kielbasa Soup.  Kielbasa has always been a staple in my family and we've prepared it just about every way you can imagine. But I especially like it in soups. It has such great flavor and the longer the soup sits, the better it gets. First I'll show the stove-top method for this deliciously flavored soup. It only takes about 40 minutes to make, which is another reason I love it.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 nice sized carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, mined
32 oz. chicken broth (or half chicken/half beef)
2 large russet potatoes, cubed
1 can cannelloni beans, undrained
1 pd Kielbasa, sliced and halved (if you like smaller pieces, quarter the slices)
1 can cream soup (celery, chicken or mushroom)
8 oz.(or 1 soup can full)  whole milk
white mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large soup pot, saute carrot, celery, onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. About 5-6 minutes. Add garlic last so it doesn't scorch and get bitter-tasting. You'll also want to season these with a pinch of salt and pepper so the flavor is layered throughout. Then add cubed potatoes and stir around for just a minute, then add broth and bring to a nice simmer. Add basil, oregano and bay leaf, or whatever combinations of seasonings you prefer. Stir and cover simmering until potatoes are just tender. Add sliced kielbasa and beans. Continue simmering for several minutes, then add cream soup and milk. Continue to simmer while soup begins to thicken a bit. If you like a thicker soup, you can add a milk/flour thickening to get your desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through - about 5 minutes. If you are adding mushrooms, do so now. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving. This soup is delicious served with slices of crusty bread.

If using a crockpot, simply put all ingredients and seasonings in crockpot, adding liquids last. Give it a nice stir to combine and cook on low for 8 hours or until vegetables and beans are soft.

One great thing about this recipe is that the longer it sits, the more flavor the kielbasa brings to the soup.  Another thing I love is that you can do so many variations of this recipe depending on what you have in your pantry. If you don't like the beans, omit them and add two more potatoes. Or add a can of whole kernel corn to make it more like a chowder and add some sweetness to the dish. You could even add a pinch or two of Cayenne pepper for a spicy soup.

When I made the soup earlier this week, it made great leftovers and reheated perfectly. It kept its consistency - not thick but also not runny. It was perfect for my taste. And I hope it is for yours too. This is the type of soup I thrive on and I'll probably never make it the same way twice. That's the beauty of it. I hope you will try it out and if you do, I'd love to hear how you liked it. Thanks for allowing me to share my love of soup with you.

For more great cooking posts, be sure to stop by BethFishReads for Weekend Cooking every Saturday!

Aug 14, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Audio Version)

John Green's latest, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, is the first book I've read by this author.  I was encouraged to listen rather than read by many fellow book lovers who raved about the audio version narrated by the amazing Kate Rudd.  This story about two teenagers battling cancer who meet in a support group is not something that you'd think would make readers want to run out and grab up this book. But they would be wrong, so very wrong.

With this book, Green has written a beautiful, brutally honest, raw story of two extremely intelligent and wickedly witty teenagers who, through all of the ups and downs of their illnesses, still manage to keep trudging on without ever feeling sorry for themselves, yet being acutely aware that they, most likely, will die long before their parents. They do not hide this knowledge, but use it to get everything out of each day they have left. 


Plain and simple: I ADORED THIS BOOK!! It kind of seems funny (in an odd way) that a book with this topic would be something I would love but if you've read it, you completely understand. If you haven't, you need to read it NOW. 

The first thing you notice about this book is how perfect the characters are. Hazel Grace Lancaster is our narrator and main character. She is a very bright girl, battling lung cancer for most of her 16 years. She is a delight - sweet, smart and loves her parents and worries about them as much as they worry about her. The relationship she has with them is so honest and loving and so true to the story. Then there is Augustus Waters. He is the boy Hazel meets in Support Group and falls for instantly. Augustus is just as bright and interesting as Hazel and there is a connection immediately. Another favorite character is Isaac, Augustus' friend who after losing one eye, may also lose his other to cancer. But Isaac seems to be more upset about his girlfriend dumping him than being blind for the rest of his life. Just another way Green reminds us that life does go on. 

I love that Hazel is a reader and that her love of one book in particular has such an impact on her that it literally changes her life. I love that Augustus cares for Hazel so much that he reads the book and is just as into it simply because it's important to Hazel and Hazel is important to him. The conversations between these two young people are so stimulating and quick and witty that you sometimes forget they are kids. I got so sucked into their conversations and just held on trying to let every carefully selected word sink in. 

There are way too many things I loved about this book to name them all here in this post. I will simply summarize and say it was truly a treat to listen to. I was completely immersed in Hazel and Augustus' lives and felt a connection to them right away. I laughed, I cried and it made me think. I like books that make you think. Even though I knew this book would not have a happy ending (don't worry, I'm not giving anything away here), I couldn't stop listening. This book is a Wonder and not surprising, it is one of my favorites this year. If I had to say one thing about the possibility of you reading this book, I would say this: Please Don't Let The Premise Deter You From Reading This Remarkable, Inspiring, Lovely Book. 

A book about death and dying doesn't have to be dark and sad. John Green proved it in THE FAULT OF OUR STARS by showing us the possibilities we all have even under the most discouraging of circumstances and the things we can learn from each other if only we open our minds.  

Author: John Green
Publisher (Audio): Brilliance Audio
Published (Audio): January 2012
Length: 7 hrs 14 min
Source: Purchased (
Rating: 5 Wonderful Stars out of 5

Aug 8, 2012

TLC Book Tour Review: The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe

 THE COLOR OF TEA is a sneak-up-on-you debut novel by Hannah Tunnicliffe that was released in June. I'm going to come right out and say it - this book was a difficult one for me to review. When invited to the tour and reading the summary, although the premise sounded interesting, I wasn't bowled over but thought to myself  'This will be a nice book.'  It caught my attention mainly because I am a huge tea lover and it piqued my curiosity as to how that aspect was going to fit into the story.

Grace is at the center of this story about a married English woman living on the island of Macau with her Aussie husband.  They desperately wants to have children but all of their attempts have ended in heartbreak.  After one last experiment and subsequent failure, the realization that it is most likely never going to happen hits Grace pretty hard.  She and Pete struggle to accept their family of two without really even talking about it. Knowing how upset Grace is, Peter is reluctant and frankly, unequipped to handle her delicate state. As a distance grows between them, Grace throws all of her time and energy into opening a cafe, not even knowing if she can make it work, but feeling as if she has nothing to lose.

My Thoughts:

As I mentioned earlier, this book crept up on me. At first, I did have a hard time getting into the rhythm of the story and honestly, it took me until at least half-way through to develop a connection to Grace. It wasn't that I disliked her, I just didn't understand her completely. She was a hard character for me to get to know. Partly, I believe, because of the conversations she has through letters written to her mother, who is obviously absent. Mostly, the letters left me more confused and leery about Grace . Additionally, the letters left me distracted, which made it hard for me to connect to both the story and to Grace. That said, I did appreciate that the letters became a symbol near the end and revealed their purpose. I just didn't love that part of the writing. Once I was able to develop a connection to Grace, I began enjoying her story and getting to know the people who became important to her. Because of my love of tea and baking, I really enjoyed reading how she developed the recipes for the macrons and the daily running of the cafe.That part was very enjoyable to me and in fact, re-ignited my own love of baking. I also liked the locale of Macau.

The supporting characters around Grace were lovely and in my opinion were the heart and soul of this book. If I was to be brutally honest, I would have to say I liked the supporting characters more than that of Grace. Though as I'm writing this, I remind myself that flawed characters are what make books really good, so maybe I'm being too hard on Grace. This is one reason I've had difficulty making up my mind about this book. At first I didn't care for it, then it grew on me, then I really liked it but it had parts that definitely bothered me. But all in all, I would say I enjoyed it more than I didn't. I would encourage you to read it to decide for yourself. It is definitely one that had me all over the place. Please check out these other blog stops to read other reviews of this debut novel.

Author: Hannah Tunnicliffe
Publisher: Scribbner
Published: June 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours via NetGalley
Source: Scribbner and TLC Book Tours via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jul 26, 2012

Audio Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This book, published in 1938 is a classic and as an avid reader, I am ashamed to say that, up until this point, I had never read it. This novel by Daphne du Maurier has been loved by so many and I knew it would be a real treat.  Although I've had the book on my shelf for several years, I decided to listen to the audio version when the chance arose.

Publishers's Summary

Rebecca, a dark psychological tale of secrets and betrayal, is Daphne du Maurier's best-loved work and was named Best Novel of the 20th Century at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.
After a whirlwind romance and a honeymoon in Italy, the innocent young heroine and the dashing Maxim de Winter return to his country estate, Manderley. But the unsettling memory of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, still lingers within. The timid bride must overcome her husband's oppressive silences and the sullen history of the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, to confront the emotional horrors of the past.

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, there are many classics that I have not read and REBECCA was always at the top of my To Read list. I chose the audio version because I knew it would go faster as I was already reading two paper books at the time.  First, let me say the narrator, Anna Massey, did an outstanding job with all of the characters in the book. Her subtle voice of Mrs. de Winter and her commanding voice of many of the other players show her versatility for this audio. Her voice is perfectly suited for this type of book and the locale of England. I really enjoyed her interpretations.

I love these Gothic-type stories centered around ancient homes and estates and the people who inhabit them and so the story did live up to my expectations. That said, I did expect a little more danger than was in the book. I loved the interaction between the sinister Mrs. Danvers and Mrs. de Winter, creepy as it sometimes was. I found it interesting that the reader is never made privy to the name of the current Mrs. de Winter. She is never called by her first name. The ending was a surprise and I was satisfied with it and left feeling that I wanted more. So, for me, that is what a good book does.

I had built this book up in my mind so much that I was afraid I would be disappointed but I am happy to say I am not. One day, I may go back and read the book because I think maybe I would have really enjoyed that a little better. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the audio but sometimes there is nothing better than reading it page by page, especially a classic like REBECCA.

Author: Daphne du Maurier
Published: (Audio) January 2009
Publisher: (Audio) AudioGO
Length: 14hrs 52mn
Source: Purchased from
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Jul 22, 2012

[TSS] Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris

If you are familiar with my blog at all, you will know that I have a soft spot for Sookie Stackhouse.  That couldn't have come as a bigger surprise to myself. Vampires and supernaturals aren't exactly my thing. But a few years ago when I took the plunge and said, 'Why not?', I found I enjoyed the quirky characters and adventures.. So, here I am at book 11, DEAD RECKONING and things are really heating up.

Since Sookie now knows about her fairy heritage, her fairy uncle and cousin are knee deep in her life and she's not sure if that's such a good thing or not. She's got a lot of question, if only she could talk to her Great, great, great grandfather Niall, but he is not in the human world and she really doesn't know if she can trust him even if we were. Sookie also discovers a very important heirloom left to her from her grandmother that leaves her with even more questions about her past and, ultimately the future. She's not sure what this heirloom really is, but there is no one she can ask for fear that it could put her in danger if the wrong people find out she has it. To add to her problematic life, Eric is under pressure from Victor, the regent, working under the king of Nevada, who has taken over Louisiana, making life dangerous for Eric Northman, the Sheriff of Area 5 and Sookie's lover/husband.

There's a lot of stuff that goes down in this book concerning a lot of the different supes living in Bon Temps and Shreveport. And as always, Sookie is in the middle of it. As with all of the books in this series, questions get answered from characters that we may not have seen much of lately. And also, some characters that are constant are always evolving and changing along with the story. I think that's why the series doesn't get stale for me. With every book, there are new things about old characters that tie in with the story perfectly. To me, that's what a good storyteller does. I really liked the ending of this book and it made me ready to jump right into the next one. Each new book begins only a few weeks from when the previous book left off, so there's not alot of time in between. It's like one long continuous story.

At this point, Sookie feels like an old friend and I'm anxious to get to DEADLOCKED, the 12th book which was released this past May. It will be interesting to see how it sets the stage for the final book of the series.

Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jul 20, 2012

Review: Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Audio)

Like many people, I saw this book making it's rounds in the blogging world and I saw the high praise it was garnering but I didn't think it would be a book I would enjoy reading. I kind of put it on the back burner of my mind until one weekend I was watching CBS Sunday Morning ( One of my favorite shows). They were interviewing a WWII POW by the name of Louis Zamperini and as it went on, things were becoming familiar to me. Finally, I said, 'Wait a minute! I know who that is!' I realized then that Louis Zamperini was the man from UNBROKEN. After watching that amazing interview with both he and the author, Laura Hillenbrand, I got right up, went to and downloaded the audio right then. There was no way I was going to miss his story.

In UNBROKEN: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Hillenbrand chronicles the incredible life of US Air Force Lieutenant Louis Zamperini. In 1943, as a bombardier aboard a B24 on a rescue mission, Zamperini and the rest of the men on board, were shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  Only three would initially survive the initial crash and were left adrift, clinging to a life raft. For over 40 days they drifted with no food except for the fish and birds they could catch and only occasional rain water to drink. Ultimately, just two would make it off that raft alive, only to be captured by the Japanese and held prisoner for nearly four years.

Hillenbrand also tells about the family members of these POW's and how they coped with the news that their loved ones were 'lost at sea' and presumed dead. Some accepted the news, others refused to believe until absolute proof was shown. The title is perfect. It most definitely is a story of survival, resilience and redemption.

My Thoughts:

Typically, this isn't the type of book that I would read, but it is a book that I'm so glad I did. We've all learned about WWII in school, but after reading, or in my case, listening to this book, I feel like what I learned in the classroom was simply insufficient. Regarding this audiobook, the first thing I recognized was the commanding, authoritative voice of Alex Jennings, the narrator. I recognised his voice immediately.  Jennings is an accomplished actor with a voice that is tailor-made for this type of audio. It makes you want to sit up straight and listen intently.

Although there were a few parts that were simply too painful to listen to, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip back in history that is this book. I learned things that I probably did learn while in class, but didn't retain for whatever reason. I suppose that as an adult, history comes across a lot different than when you are a teenager in high school. Even more now, I can appreciate the sacrifices of all of the POW's and their family's in a way that I don't believe I did before this book. It is an extroridinary book.The statistics given in the book alone are staggering and eye-opening to say the least.

An interesting side note is that since Laura Hillenbrand suffers from Agoraphobia, the fear of leaving your house, she wrote this book without meeting Louis in person once - their only conversations taking place over the phone. Only after the book was published did they actually meet. In fact, Zamperini presented her with his medal from the war saying, he was only held prisoner for a few years, while Hillenbrand has suffered her entire life with this disorder. What an incredible gesture form an incredible American.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to readers who enjoy history. For me, the audio was the way to go. I think I enjoyed the audio version more than I would have the printed version, but either way, I'm really glad I read it.

UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAR II Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption
Author:  Laura Hillenbrand
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: November 2010
Length: 14 Hours
Source: Purchased from
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Recommend? Yes, especially the audio version

Jul 18, 2012

Winner of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingield Announcedsta

I'd like to thank those of you who stopped by and shared your thoughts on this fabulous book! Many of you had already read it and loved it as much as I did! Jenny Wingfield so deserves the accolades she is getting from this stunning debut and I am so happy that I could be a small part in it. Many thanksto TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour. OK, enough gushing about the book - now its time for someone else to read it and share their thoughts! 



Congratulations Stacy and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!! 


Jul 16, 2012

Review & Giveaway! The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (A TLC Book Tour Event)

There are no spoilers in this review

THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE is the story of a preacher looking for a church  to call his own.  It's the story of a young girl, full of equal parts spunk and goodness who wants nothing more in the world than to have a true friend - someone she can share all her deepest thoughts with. It's the story of a little boy who is deathly afraid of his daddy and has every reason to be, and it's the story of a man who fought for his country, gave a big part of himself to it yet his biggest battle took place after he returned home from the war.

THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE isn't just about Sam Lake, the preacher, though.  It's more about his family and how their life changes the summer of 1956 when they move back to rural Arkansas to live on his in-law's farm while he figures out his next move. But the real gem of this wonderful story is Sam's daughter, Swan, who desperately wants to be like other kids (not a preacher's kid) and to have a true friend.

At the core, this is a story of one family, raised on love, respect and goodness and another family, the Ballenger's, raised on fear, violence and hatred.  Ultimately becoming a story of good versus evil.  The Lake/Moses family have nothing in common with the Ballenger family, other then there are two kids, Swan Lake (gotta love that name!) and Blade Ballenger, who meet under unusual circumstances and strike up an unlikely friendship. A friendship that undoubtedly brings danger to Swan and her family.

My Thoughts:

There's no other way to say it - I LOVED THIS BOOK! It is the kind of Southern Literature that I enjoy most. The story definitely has dark undertones that have been compared to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I feel like if it's being compared to that book, Jenny Wingfield has done something right! Once I read that she also wrote the screenplay for THE MAN IN THE MOON,  (Reese Witherspoon's debut movie from 1991), I wasn't at all surprised by how much I loved this book. Though a good Christian family is at the forefront of this story, early on I became acutely aware that a darkness was looming. You know its going to come, you just don't know when or how. I even found myself wanting to call out 'Watch out!' or 'Oh no!' 

The driving forces behind this amazing story are the characters, especially Swan, Blade and my favorite character, Toy Moses, Swan's quiet but strong uncle. Jenny Wingfield does a superb job taking us through the lives of Samuel and Willadee and their three children, Willadee's mother and Toy Moses and his wife, Bernice. She gives us a glimpse of each one's persona without bogging the story down with too much information, all the while not taking away from the intense story that unfolds seamlessly. .

The beautiful writing is perfectly paced and made the pages slip quickly by.  I experienced so many emotions while reading this book: happiness, love, sorrow, fear, horror, outrage.. More than once I had a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face. In fact, the last hour of reading I used up all my tissues. The poignancy in this novel is so prevalent and is what helped to made it a favorite of mine. I didn't find anything cliche about this novel at all. I found it relative to the time in which it was based and the character were genuine and original.

Without a doubt THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE is the best book I've read this year. Once I started, I didn't want to stop. This book is much more than Southern Literature, its GREAT Literature! As for Jenny Wingfield, I am on the lookout for whatever she does next.

I am thrilled to be able to give away a copy of this book, thanks to Random House and TLC Book Tours. Simply leave a comment with your email address link so that I can contact you. The contest will end Tuesday, July 17th at midnight and the winner will be posted here on Wednesday, July 18th. Entrants are limited to the US only.

Be sure to check out these other blog stops on the tour to see what other bloggers are saying about this book!

Author: Jenny Wingfield
Publisher: Random House
Published: July 10, 2012
Pages: 352
Source: TLC Book Tours & Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Jul 8, 2012

[TSS] Review: The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer (Clifton Chronicles #2) Audio Version

One of the great benefits of the book blogging community that I am so blessed to be a part of is that I am constantly introduced to new-to-me authors that I may not have otherwise come into contact with. This is especially true of Jeffrey Archer and his series, The Clifton Chronicles. I was lucky enough last year to have won the audio of the first book in the series, ONLY TIME WILL TELL, from Anna over at Diary of an Eccentric. I was unfamiliar with Jeffrey Archer, not having read anything by him, but as soon as I started listening, I was completely drawn in.

The series centers around Harry Clifton, a young man from the town of Bristol, England. The first book, having been about Harry's childhood and his questionable parentage had a startling ending with what I consider to be a terrific cliff-hanger. In this follow-up, THE SINS of the FATHER, the story picks up right where the first left off. While the first book takes place entirely in England, this book takes us to America as well.

Harry, now a grown man, finds himself not only in a land he is totally unfamiliar with but also ensnared in a situation that could prove to end his life as he knows it. When Harry left England, he also left behind Emma, the woman he loves. With all the questions surrounding his paternity, that love is seemingly condemned but Harry vows to prove that Emma's father is not his own, so that they can at last have a life together. But the obstacles that Harry encounters along the way may well get him killed in the process. Unbeknownst to Harry, Emma has set out on her own to find him, even if it means going to America herself to bring him home. Being that it is the beginning of World War II and America has now entered the war, Harry finds himself fighting not only for his own personal freedom but for the freedoms of many country's.

My Thoughts:

In my opinion, the performance of this audio is stellar. The narrators, Alex Jennings and Emilia Fox are perfectly suited, putting this audio series at the top of my list. Add to that the story of Harry's questionable paternity, Emma's unwavering efforts to prove he did not die at sea as reported and following the lives of his loved ones, makes this a great story.

All of the characters are likable and very believable.  Even Hugo Barrington, Emma's scoundrel of a father, is the perfect villain who is always on the verge of getting away with all of his misdeeds. Each of the characters takes their turn in telling their stories and in doing so, Jeffrey Archer unfolds the story in layers that left me with many Aha! moments. When one character is speaking, it often sheds light on facts that a previous character was unaware of, therefore layering the plot perfectly. I just loved it!

The only downside to this series that I can see is that now I have to wait until the next book to find out what happens, because as with the first book, I was left with another great cliff-hanger! Jeffrey Archer is a master storyteller so it is easy to figure that I highly recommend this series. I'm sure the printed version would be equally as entertaining but if you enjoy audios I encourage you to give this one a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.

THE SINS OF THE FATHER (Clifton Chronicles #2)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: May 2012
Length: 10h 9m
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5