Dec 23, 2015

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews (Unabridged Audio Version)

It's been a few years since fans of Mary Kay Andrews' partners in crime pals Weezie Foley and Bebe Loudermilk have been heard from. In fact, the last time was in 2006 with her previous Christmas tale, BLUE CHRISTMAS. Readers were first introduced to the duo way back in 2002 in her smash hit SAVANNAH BLUES.

CHRISTMAS BLISS was released in 2013 and picks up with Weezie mere days away from her wedding to chef Daniel and Bebe very pregnant with her first child with beau, Harry, the deep-sea fishing captain. Both women seem to be charting near perfect lives but rough waters are soon on the horizon. As Weezie is making final preparations for her second, and hopefully, last wedding, her fiance is in New York City working as a guest chef in one of the city's premier establishments. As the days go by and the wedding gets closer, Daniel is almost impossible to reach. To make matters worse, newspaper clippings of photos with him and the beautiful owner of the restaurant cause Weezie's insecurities to surface. At the same time, Bebe gets a visit from a mysterious woman indicating that Bebe's divorce from her previous husband and con-man, Richard was never finalized, which means she is still married to him and could legally, according to the laws of the state of Georgia, could be considered her baby's legal father!

While Weezie jets off to NYC to find out what's going on with her fiance and his sexy boss, Bebe is determined to locate Richard and get divorce papers re-filed before Harry finds out she's still married before the baby comes.


Although I always love when MKA brings these two fun characters back, I was a bit disappointed there wasn't a little more substance to the story. I hate even saying that as it is a Christmas-themed book and it was charming in that regard. In the past, Weezie and Bebe have been through some crazy fun adventures and compared to those, this was a bit tame. That being said, I was glad to see both of their relationships moving forward, especially since it's been forever since we've heard form them. The story had all the charm as in previous books with the same fun characters and it was a cute story to read for Christmas time. However, I do hope that MKA won't wait so long to bring them back and maybe with more of an adventurous storyline.


When this book first came out in 2013, I received a hard copy from the publisher. Unfortunately, I only made it a third of the way through and had to set it aside because it was too difficult for me to read the print in the book. (My eyes had started getting worse at that time). I was very sad I couldn't finish the book then and felt terrible about it.  So earlier this month I used one of my credits at Audible and purchased the audio version so I could listen to it for this Christmas season. Better late then never, I say!

Kathleen McInerney did a good job of bringing these two lovable characters to life and her Southern accent was spot on without going overboard. Though I will say, later on in the book, it started to be a little syruppy for me. I know I'm just being picky and maybe I was a bit frustrated by the lack of adventure in the story, but I have to be honest. I think if there is to be a Weezie and Bebe Mystery Number 5, I will read it reather than listen.

The bottom line is this is a cute, quick Christmas-themed book that I don't regret reading at all. The characters are beloved and I will never give up on them. This book would make a great Christmas present and is perfect for reading on a Christmas break either from school or work.

CHRISTMAS BLISS (Unabridged Audio Version)
Series: Weezie and Bebe Mystery
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published:     October 2013
Length: 7 Hrs 39 Mins
Source: Purchased

Dec 19, 2015

Non-Fiction Saturday: A Common Struggle by Patrick Kennedy & Stephen Fried

It's Saturday and that means another great non-fiction book recommendation and review from Emerson Clauss for Non-Fiction Saturday. The book, A COMMON STRUGGLE deals with the sensitive, but very current topic of mental health.

A COMMON STRUGGLE by Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried is a book highlighting the courage and sacrifice to share a personal story of one person’s shortcomings and “demons”.  Kennedy shares his personal tribulations dealing with mental health challenges, so as to enlighten us and show us there are solutions to these problems.  The book is not a “tell all”, like the many we have seen about the Kennedy clan.  Only when it helps tell his story, does Patrick include the influence of his immediate family, then the more encompassing, Kennedy extended Family.  Obviously, his immediate family, including his most famous and notable father Ted, are in his story.
With the topic of mental health so much in the news today, but rarely talked about in depth or with solutions and treatment in mind, Kennedy pierces that veil.  He speaks openly of his battles, sometimes daily, to function in the real world.  He is brutal in his honesty and shares how his family and congressional staff, after election to public office, help him function daily and sometimes cover for his dis-function.
Probably most of us cannot imagine the pressure “A Kennedy” grows up under; that alone is probably overwhelming.  Add to that, personality traits that are genetic as well as destructive habits totally ingrained in your familial culture; the fact he or any Kennedy child survives this gauntlet is amazing.  
Patrick chronicles his battles, while in school, onto college and into public life.  This is an insider’s account of what a young adult, from a prominent family does, as he moves from the protected world of private schools and colleges, into adult life; with all that he implores to try to be functioning ‘as expected’.  
His coping mechanisms include prescribed medications, others drugs used not from prescriptions, alcohol abuse, and how quickly all of this can get out of control.  For someone who is already struggling with very complex issues before any medication/alcohol abuse; this is a big challenge.
In following with so many of his family’s decisions to enter public life, Kennedy chooses the same.  He starts small, than runs for the US Congress; winning a seat in Rhode Island.  He uses this platform to start in earnest, his fight for Mental Health parity, for inclusion in insurance offerings and covered health issues, and for de-stigmatizing the diagnosis itself.  He expends much of his time and political capitol on this most personal issue; he has (had) some big successes we still benefit from today
The only thing I had to keep fighting to keep out of my head while reading this book, is that Patrick chronicles what and how a person of privilege is able to afford help, hire folks to assist, and always have his family’s wealth to count and fall back on for assistance; something most us would never be able to afford; a safety net we do not have.  
If this story could get lost in this privileged reality, Patrick does well to bring it back down to earth.  He shares how important certain people become; the ones who understand the illness and those who will support your recovery, every minute of every day.  This book is full of personal insight and raw feelings; it is compelling.
At the time Patrick was in Congress, he made Mental Health his obsession.  He has since made its awareness, discussion and availability of treatment, his life’s work through his foundation and ongoing efforts today.  

For anyone who has struggled with mental illness and available treatment, this is an important book. For anyone who has tried to help someone with mental health issues, whether successful or not; this book is helpful.  For anyone who wants to make a difference in our society in reference to mental health and how it affects us all; this book is a must read.

I** If you'd like to discuss this book or other non-fiction with Emerson, he can be reached at

Authors: Patrick Kennedy & Stephen Fried
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Published: October 5, 2015
Length: 425pp

Dec 5, 2015

Non Fiction Saturday: Red Notice by Bill Browder

As regular readers of SGR blog know, I don't spend a lot of time reading Non Fiction. My long-time, RL friend, Emerson Clauss, has been a guest review several times and I've decided to make him a permanent contributor so he can share what he discovers in that genre with my readers.  He keeps me tuned in to so many great non-fiction books and his enthusiasm is contagious. I'll be sharing his book on what I will be calling Non-Fiction Saturday! The book he is spot-lighting today is one I have every intention of reading.

RED NOTICE by Bill Browder is a fantastic tale of intrigue, high finance, spies, big investments with surprises at every turn.  What makes this book an amazing read, is that it is not only a true story, it will pull every heart-string you have, will leave you hoping for the best in our modern world and how the "world" in Russia works; today with Putin at the helm.
Browder starts his story of financial wizardry with his struggle to make a name for himself in the world of high finance and big deals; the dreams of Wall Street.  He makes early inroads into the business the old fashioned way; with a good education, good instinct and plenty of hard work and gutsy moves.  
Bill finds himself looking for a way to differentiate himself in a pool full of sharks, and finds a niche in Russia.  Along the way, he gives us mere mortals a view into the world of high finance and big investing.  He weaves a great story of relationships, educated gambles and how the investment world works.
Russia creates a challenge for Bill and his new company, his associates and most importantly, his well healed investors.  It is a challenge with huge rewards, for what he has stumbled into and uncovered.  As Russia is trying to enter the new era of open borders and inviting outsiders into their economy, Browder finds some market and valuation anomalies that make the risk worth pursuing.  And pursuing he does.
With his new company, Bill assembles a team to research and vet all sorts of obtuse information about particular Russian companies and the folks who run them.  At each turn he is more surprised and astounded; how could these fantastic deals not have been found by anyone else...
Browder and his company spend years developing their business and investments in Russia, through some monumental changing times for Russia and the "Federation".  Russia is undergoing a lot of ups and downs, economically, socially and in the business world.  However, the realities of doing business in Russia soon comes home to roost.
This true story starts sounding like an exciting Bond movie, except the players are real, have real lives and families.  It does keep you on the edge of your seat. After a while, I was unable to put the book down, and had to know what happened next.  And, when Bill's story started intersecting with current international news and the circumstances surrounding these events, it became that much more intriguing.
For all of the players in this real life drama, the stakes get higher at every turn, and they find that the old ways of Russia, with government being controlled by the infamous oligarchs; is alive and well.  Possibly, the old ways of Russia have never gone away, and have never gotten better, despite the face the Kremlin tries to put on.  
Bill and his comrades become more aware of this, when the attacks begin on them, their investments and people who represent and do business with them.  And as most American are aware, the government in Russia is scary at best, sinister at its worst.  
The clandestine meetings, phone calls and face to face visits will keep you riveted to every turn of this tale.  The courage of the people working for Bill and with him to salvage the best of a worsening situation is inspiring.  Unfortunately this courage taunts the Russian government to unleash its wrath, to the demise of one of Bills associates, Sergei Magnitsky, soon to be killed in prison after his arrest.

What is so heartening about this drama, playing out in real time for Bill and his associates, is how many people stayed courageous to help each other to safety under some extreme risk and stress, to extricate a few of them from Russia, and to eventually avenge Sergei's death in a most unique way.  Bill puts his business life on hold in the late stages of this dilemma and sets his site on safeguarding his associates and pursuing justice for Sergei.
He puts his intelligence, strenuous work ethic and earnest efforts (and I'm sure considerable money) to extracting some justice from the folks in Russia responsible for his friends death and for his own persecution.  This brings him squarely into the middle of some heavy world politics, where the stakes are high; but his personal risks are still bigger.  After all, he has angered the Russian Government, one where Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer is now President.  Putin does not like to lose or be shown up... we have all heard the stories, rumors of his detractors disappearing.
Browder lays much of the workings of Putin's Russia right on the table; and survives to tell this story.  And it is a riveting story, one that will bring a tear to your eyes more than once; after you are pulled successfully into this drama.  And there is much to learn about this story in the archives of recent history in news accounts.  I know I will be digging further into this; it's too intriguing not to.
To say this story is "told", would put it into the past.  Two things about that:  some of the story is still in the news and the players are still involved; one is a pissed off President Putin.  And yes, we have all heard  stories of assassinations traced back to Putin or his cronies...  
Bill closes his book with one thing I would like to quote him talking about countermeasures to safeguard himself and his family: "...this book.  If I'm killed, you {the reader} will know who did it.  When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know... That simple act will keep the spirit of Sergei Magnitsky alive and go further than any army of bodyguards in keeping me safe."   
This book is an exceptional read, hard to put down, even for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Bill Browder has the courage to share his story, the story of his friend, Sergei Magnitsky and that of enduring courage, the strength of the human spirit at its best.   If this book fails to pull you in and hold your attention and heart... you may want to check for a pulse.

Author: Bill Browder
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: Reprint Edition October 2015
Length: 416 pp


Nov 22, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Back to the Books!

Happy Sunday all! I haven't done a post in awhile where I talk about the books I'm currently reading and listening to so I thought I'd do that today. I'll also update you on the status of my decision to move to Ohio. It's a rainy day here in central Florida, which doesn't bother me at all. It will make for a relaxing book-reading day for me.

With Thanksgiving days away, I'll be taking a break from clearing out my house in preparation of selling it. It's a lot of work when you've lived there for over 20 years, not to mention it's even harder when you are literally half blind.  I hired a guy to come and work in my yard last week and he did a great job! Now if only the leaves would stop falling! Hopefully, I'll be ready to start showing the house the week after. My mom and I met with a realtor last Monday (she's selling her house also and moving with me.) and that made it all seem very real! I know her house will sell very quickly but mine will probably take a bit longer as there are repairs that need to be done. Bur for the right buyer, it would make a great investment. I have a few people interested in looking at it so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Since my recovery from surgery, I've been making up for lost time with the house chores so that hasn't left a lot of time for reading. On the other hand, I am making progress with audios. I love that I can work around the house and listen to my books. It makes the time fly by! But at the end of the day when I think I'll have an hour or so to read, I'm so exhausted I can't stay awake past the first few pages. So my book reading is suffering.

I have two review books I need to read. I've started one called TENACITY by J.S. Law. It's a thriller set in the UK and centers around an investigator with the Royal Navy. She is probing a possible suicide on the British submarine, TENACITY. It's the first book in a new series that others have described as "riveting". I'm very anxious to get back to it. This book was released on November 3rd.

The other book is ALONG THE INFINITE SEA by Beatriz Williams. I've been very curious about her books over the last couple of years but haven't yet read one. So when her 'people' sent me a copy I jumped at the chance to read it. This one is in the historical fiction genre and has a bit of a romance. I was wary of the romance part because I don't usually read books for romance but I was assured it's a subtle element. I haven't read a historical fiction novel in awhile so I'm looking forward to this one. This book was released on November 3rd as well.

I have two audio books going right now but I had to take a break from one of them. A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara is a very long book at over 33 hours and it's a gut-wrenching story. I've reached the half-way point and decided to set it aside for just a bit.

The other audio I started last week is by an author with whom I've become quite smitten. Lucy Clarke's THE BLUE is her third novel and though I'm only about 2 hours in, I'm already totally engrossed and connected to the characters. All of Clarke's books have an adventurous aspect to them as they always revolve around the sea. THE BLUE is about a crew of a 50' yacht that is sailing from The Phillipines to New Zealand and the mysterious goings on amongst this group of people who haven't known each other long but each has a story aching to come out. I have grown to love Clarke's beautiful writing and how she is able to draw the locale into the story and make it seem like it is within reach of the reader. She is a lovely writer and is becoming a favorite of mine. I especially liked the Prologue of this book for it's wonderful prose. I even went back and listened to it twice! The narrator, Scarlett Mack, is doing a terrific job, especially with the different dialects of the characters.
I'm also moving forward with Karin Slaughter's Will Trent Series in between all these other books. I'm on Book 5, FALLEN, though I'm only about 25% done. There are seven books so far in the series and I am really missing it. I desperately want to get back to it. Her crime fiction/suspense writing is amazing but for some it's a bit violent. I have her latest, a stand-alone novel called PRETTY GIRLS on audio but I haven't started it yet. Probably won't get to it until January. :(

The other day, I went through my Kindle and took note of all the books I haven't read yet and I was ashamed of myself! I think it's time for me to ban myself from buying anymore books at least for the rest of the year, if not longer. I have some wonderful books that I'd even fortotten about!

So, that's what's going on in my book world. I'm hopeful I'll make a big dent in my reading this week and I can't wait! I'm starting today! First up I need to finish TENACITY and FALLEN. That is my first priority.

Usually I like to cook on Sunday, but I'm taking a break there too. Yesterday I made a recipe my mom makes all the time that is a cheesy, potato casserole. So I'll just be heating that up, adding a veggie and probably put some chicken in the toaster oven to bake. Easy, peasy!

Now I'm off to get comfortable and start reading! I'd also like to wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 14, 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King (Unabridged Audio)

In this second book of the Bill Hodges Trilogy Stephen King takes us into the mind of a reader obsessed with a series of books. John Rothstein, the writer of the series and creator of the iconic protagonist, Jimmy Gold, has not released a new installment in years and has been living an isolated existence, almost in obscurity for many years.  Morris Bellamy is obsessed with Jimmy Gold and is infuriated about the way Rothstein has left the character. Bellamy is so consumed by this obsession that he, and two accomplices break into Rothstein's secluded home and steal the money he purportedly kept in a safe. While cleaning out the safe they also find several filled notebooks of the aged author's writings. Bellamy is convinced these notebooks are the next installments of the series not yet released.  

After hiding his treasure, Bellamy is then sent to prison for an unrelated crime. As the years pass he dreams of the day when he can reclaim the notebooks and prove that Rothstein had, in fact, written another Gold book.  When finally released he discovers his treasure is gone and he sets out to find it.

My Thoughts on the Story:

Immediately, I was excited about the story featuring an obsessed reader. Morris Bellamy is a low-life but he is no dummy. He is totally obsessed with these books and will do anything to get those notebooks back. It has now been a few years since the Mercedes killings when we first met retired cop Bill Hodges. He isn't present right away, but King enters him into the story very naturally. Along with Hodges, Jerome and Holly are also included, which I really liked. They  sre an odd group of friends that you wouldn't think would have anything in common with each other, but their bond is evident. There are also a few minor characters from book one. For me, the story was original and had me riveted from the beginning. I have only read a few of King's other books but I really enjoy the way he reveals details in these crime fiction books. He doesn't throw everything at you at once. It's like peeling layers of an onion. I enjoyed it very much. There was just as much suspense as in the first book so it made the listening time go by very quickly.

My Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

As with MR. MERCEDES, Will Patton was exceptional. I've always been a fan of his acting ever since I first saw him in the Costner/Hackman film NO WAY OUT. His talent is unending. The way he can so smoothly distinguish between characters is total perfection. He brings such life to these people and makes them totally believable.  His ability to use so many different inflections of his voice for all these characters and keep them all straight is amazing. He is one of my all-time favorite narrators.

The Bottom Line:

I was curious where this second book would take us and if it would be a continuation of MR. MERCEDES.  I liked how King told a new story but kept it related to Book One. And even though I wasn't as blown away with this one as I was with MR. MERCEDES, I still really liked it. I'm looking forward to the final book. Lastly,  I have to mention the cover! It is as great as the previous one with its subtle hints! It's a great read in any form, but if you're looking for a new audio, I highly recommend giving this one a try. Will Patton is wonderful and makes the whole experience even better.

FINDERS KEEPERS (Unabridged Audio)
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published:  June 2015
Length: 13 Hrs 5 Mins (448 pp)
Source: Purchased from

Nov 5, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As a lover of Southern Fiction and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I was actually nervous to read this book. I had read the reviews and the criticism beforehand which only added to my nervousness. I wanted it to be great. I wanted it to be just as wonderful as TKAM. But realistically, I knew that wasn't possible. Even before reading it I felt it was unfair to compare it to the giant literary work we have loved and coveted for over fifty years.  I still feel that way now after reading it.

When I began reading, it felt odd that Jean-Louise was now a grown woman, living in NYC and it took me a while to get used to that fact. I know, it's silly, but that'a how I felt. Once I shed the dream of having Scout back in the same form, the story grew on me. Yes, by that I mean I wasn't in love with the story right away. It took some time to warm up to it. So much had changed but, like real life, it's a normal progression.  Along with Jem's absence in the book, one of the first aspects that surprised me was the change in Calpurnia's relationship with the family. A true sign of the times, I realize it is a reflection of how life was changing in the south with regard to African Americans. But much like Jean-Louise, it caught me off guard and I felt a sort of loss. The South was evolving and so were it's people.  Because Jean-Louise had moved North for school, she didn't see the slow progression of this change and upon returning home that new reality slapped her in the face. Scout never saw Cal as black, she was just Cal and she loved her. She never saw the division and she didn't want to see it now.

The book is a sharp contrast to TKAM in that it shows not only how much the South waschanging, but also Jean-Louise's realization that Atticus may not be the man she thought he was.  As she struggle to accept these changes, she questions what she always thought to be true.  All she wants is for things to go back to the way she remembered.  Seeing a parent through grown up eyes is sometimes difficult, especially when the image you have of that person is almost god-like, as in Scout's case with Atticus. I remember well the first time, as an adult, I saw a flawed version of my own father and how hard it was for me to come to terms with him not being perfect. That is what Jean-Louise is dealing with here.

Unlike many readers, I didn't feel like this book showed Atticus as being a racist. In fact, I didn't find him much different than in TKAM. Jean-Louise made assumptions about her father and in true Scout form, reacted before looking at the whole picture. I feel like a lot of the readers who also saw him as racist did the same thing. He was still a man fighting for his community with all its changes, but doing it in a different way. Some see it and some don't. The book became more emotional to me as it went on and by the final pages, I had a lump in my throat that almost choked me. It was in those pages that I came to my final opinion about the book. It moved me and I'm so glad I read it. I had no idea what to expect going in but what I got was an appreciation for Harper Lee's view and her talent.

One final note, the title was a mystery to me at first but now that I've read the book and I understand where that phrase comes from and what it means, I totally get it and think it is the perfect title.

The Bottom Line:

I strongly suggest reading this book but only if you've already read TKAM. Don't try to compare the two books, just go into it with an open mind. I flew through it and will more than likely read it more than once. It's not often we get the chance to have a highly regarded writer of a piece of classic literature offer something such as this and I commend Harper Lee for her courage in doing so.

GO SET A WATCHMAN (Kindle Version)
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Harper
Published: July 2015
Length: 288 pp
Source: Purchased

Oct 31, 2015

Bliss House by Laura Benedict (Kindle Edition)

If you're looking for a book perfect for Halloween, BLISS HOUSE may fit the bill for you. It's a spooky, ghost-filled story centering around a generations-old mansion that is clearly haunted and doesn't mind making it's inhabitants known.

Rainey Adams bought the old family home with the hopes that moving her daughter, Ariel, to Virginia from St. Louis would help her recover from a tragic accident that left her both physically and mentally maimed. It was their house that exploded from faulty wiring that caused Ariel's severe injuries and took the life of her beloved father, with whom she was so close. Since it was her mother's project, Ariel holds some resentment against her mother and their relationship has suffered greatly. Though Rainey has heard some stories about the house, she has a distant familial connection to it and hopes that in fixing it up it will give she and her daughter a fresh start. 

Once a grand home located in rural Virginia, it doesn't take long to realize there's something off about Bliss House. The creep meter goes way up when the morning after Rainey hosts her first party, a house-warming, one of the guests is found dead, causing a lot of unease and old fears in the community.

Simultaneously, there's another story connected to the house being told, the events of which reveal themselves in flashback chapters. It involves the relationship between a young couple from the 1980's that turns into something very frightening and disturbing. 

BLISS HOUSE is a dark, haunting tale with the main character being the house itself with its history of madness, not to mention murder. Rainey doesn't want to believe that the old beautiful home she has so much invested in could be a bad place, but the longer they are there, the more sinister it becomes. Even more troubling to Rainey is the changes happening to her daughter.

My Thoughts:

There is a lot going on in this book. There is the the house with its hidden rooms and runnels leading to who-knows-where; there's Rainey, the loving and broken mother fighting to help her daughter get her life back and, hopefully, along the way repair their damaged relationship; and the story of the young couple that is fighting to come out even though some people will do anything to keep it hidden. And there's the contractor Rainey hired to renovate the house who's wife becomes the latest victim of Bliss House. 

The story is not hard to follow, although I was skeptical about how the two different stories were going to come together. I'm not a huge fan of going back and forth in time, but those chapters were not long and drawn out so it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Rainey's story was a sad one and I immediately began rooting for her with what she hoped to accomplish in buying Bliss House. . 

The story was original but there were so many characters that it made it harder to connect with. Some aspects of these characters, I felt, were there just for shock value which made it feel forced. BLISS HOUSE was released in 2014 and is the first in a series. The second book, CHARLOTTE'S STORY, which came out October 15, 2015 actually takes place in the 1950's and divulges more of the mansion's deception. Since there were so many loose ends at the end of BLISS HOUSE, I thought the second book might pick up with some of the many characters but I don't believe that is the case. There is also a third book yet to be released.

The Bottom Line:

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in this book.  Too many characters, and I didn't love the flashback story. It felt disjointed. Initially I liked the premise but it just went in too many directions for my taste. As far as the second book, I may give it a try but I'm not running to pick it up. All that being said, BLISS HOUSE is a good one to read this time of year with Halloween being upon us. If you've read it and have a different opinion, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

BLISS HOUSE (Kindle Edition)
Series: Bliss House, Book 1
Author: Laura Benedict
Publisher: Pegasus
Published: June 2014
Length:  449pp
Source: Purchased

Oct 28, 2015

Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

This award-winning thriller that came out in November of 2014 was subsequently named Best eBook Original Novel. This is the first book in the Huntress/FBI Series.

In this premier installment Sokoloff has us following FBI Agent Matthew Roarke as he tracks a most unique suspect: a female serial killer. In fact, one of the victims, a fellow agent working undercover was on his way to meet Roarke and was killed almost right in front of him. As a former profiler,  Agent Roarke digs into the lives of the previous victims and develops a theory that he is reluctant to offer full disclosure to.

My Thoughts:

I found the premise of the story interesting and was curious to see where it would go. In my experience, I haven't read many thrillers with a female serial killer so I thought that was a bold move on behalf of Alexandra Sokoloff. That being said, there were a few times I felt she was reaching a bit but I was interested enough to keep going. Sokoloff was able to keep my attention throughout the book and I was anxious to return to it when I did have to stop reading from time to time. The book hints at the paranormal as well which gives it a mysterious element that I hope will become more prevalent in the future. The back story of the killer was a good twist and she even manages a link between the killer and the agent, albeit a distant one. That is one reason I feel like this series has a lot of potential. The growth of the characters and future encounters leaves the door open for another intriguing installment. BLOOD MOON is the second book and I already have it on my Kindle and will hopefully get to it before the end of year. .

If you're like me and enjoy audiobooks, you may be interested to know that the narrator of HUNTRESS MOON is non other than R.C. Bray, the voice of the astronaut in THE MARTIAN and, more recently, the narrator of DECENT by Tim Johnston, both of which I really enjoyed. So if you prefer audios, that is a good reason to pick this one up.

The Bottom Line:

For me, this book is a win. I give it 3.5 stars, because I had a few believability issues with the story, however, it has a paranormal aire about it so I took that into consideration. I think the stories will improve and I will be reading more from this series. It's the perfect type of book to be reading this time of year with Halloween approaching. It's a quick read, too, and that is a plus as well.

There are currently three books in the series with a fourth coming in 2016. For more information on Alexandra Sokoloff and her books, visit her website.

HUNTRESS MOON (Kindle Version)
Series: Huntress/FBI Book 1
Author: Alexandra Sokoloff
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: November 2014
Length: 373 pp

Oct 27, 2015

Guest Post: Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis Reviewed by Emerson Clauss

Once again, I've invited my friend Emerson Clauss to be a guest reviewer and he has chosen a wonderful memoir called GIRL IN THE WOODS by Aspen Matis.  He has a personal connection to the subject matter of the book and came away with some interesting insights.

GIRL IN THE WOODS: A Memoir by Aspen Matis

This is a seemingly familiar story of running away from something into nature to find yourself, except it has some new twists and sheds light on an epidemic in this country.  In GIRL IN THE WOODS, Aspen Matis shares her story of a campus rape, hers.  Crimes like this we see too often in the news and the incidence is rising in frequency, by most statistics.  Unfortunately she is the victim, yet becomes a gifted storyteller in her account of this act and her journey to overcome it.

Aspen tackles the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), which is notably one of the epic hiking experiences in the US.  She embarks on this journey armed only with some childhood wilderness experiences and little planning or preparation.  She takes on this epic hike as a "Thru Hiker", meaning her goal was to accomplish the entire route in one try, all  2,650  miles of it.  Aspen also makes the decision to do it in "light" mode; carrying only bare essentials, which add several times to her challenges along the way.

As an avid and experienced  outdoors person, I was almost appalled at her lack of prep and seemingly rash decisions at the onset of this adventure.  Then I recalled being 19; life then is full of those kinds of decisions.  Through her experience of this campus rape, she is left feeling empty, lost and in need of something drastic in her life.  She finds those things in herself on the PCT.   

I'll admit, I was attracted to this story for several reasons; first as an outdoorsman and secondly, I wanted some insight to how to deal with the subject of rape, especially with the victim.  I wanted to see a woman's perspective on how people treat her afterwards, how they are stymied with what to say and how to react.  And it was insightful how, probably because of our lack of knowledge and openness about these emotions surrounding this crime; those around her do not handle her or her feelings well.

It is such a quagmire of  emotions for everyone involved, most of us are ill equipped to deal with it well and be supportive of the victim at a vulnerable time of need; for their daughter, friend or sibling.  Along the trail, strangers begin to act oddly around her, in this little wilderness click on the PCT.  She is forced to make some statements and actions to dispel that miss-information and set some people straight.  She does well to explain to the reader, how this wilderness community rises up each spring then dies away each fall. 

The story has some real interesting moments, both in nature and in human relations.   She (obviously) makes it through okay, but sometimes only by luck and possibly a series of small miracles, and with the aid of "Trail Angels".   Her feat of surviving the PCT is something tremendous, no matter her motivation.  And her goal, to find herself again, is noble and heartfelt.  Aspen's story is unique, but also too familiar.  

I believe this is a good read for couch potatoes and outdoors people alike.  It is certainly one more MEN should read; for too many reasons to list here.  This book may offer us all some insight to how to help, talk to and support a woman in this trap of a most personal of crime against her.    GIRL IN THE WOODS even hints of a continuing mystery in its Epilogue... one I had to research myself and found immensely intriguing as a student of human nature.   

GIRL IN THE WOODS is definitely a good read.

Author: Aspen Matis
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: September 8, 2015
Length: 384pp

Oct 25, 2015

The Sunday Salon: A New Chapter for Me

I've had this post in mind for many weeks but had to put it off when my neck issues arose but now that I'm fully recovered I'm excited to finally share my news.  There are a lot of changes in store for me hopefully in the next 6 months.

After living in my house here in Ocala, Florida for 22 years, I've decided to sell it. My ex-husband and I bought the house in early 1993 a few years after we married. It was a perfect starter home for us and even after he bailed in 2000, I took over the mortgage alone and have continued living here. It was the perfect solution for me but as time has gone on and I've lost so much of my sight and become less independent, it's time for me to make a change. The house and property are too much for a partially blind single woman to handle. I need to get away from the stress of it and I would like to be able to start afresh without old memories lingering everywhere I look.

I'll begin showing the house to prospective buyers next month and hopefully the right opportunity will present itself. I'm so anxious for the next chapter in my life and to see what is in store for me. Admittedly, I had been in sort of a slump but now I am filled with hope and excitement for the future! Thanks for letting me share this special news here at the salon!

Even with all the preparations of selling my house, I have managed to slip in some books too. I'm actually a bit covered up with them! Here's what I'm reading now:

  • TENACITY by J.S. Law. This thriller is a review book centering around a naval investigator in the UK's Royal Navy. It's the first in a new series and from the comments I've read about it, it's a real page-turner. I've only just begun so I can't really say too much about it yet. Its release date is November 3rd.
  •  ALONG THE INFINITE SEA  by Beatriz Williams  This is my first Williams book and this book is the third book about a trio of sisters, though I'm assured that it doesn't matter that I haven't read the first two books. I've just received this one so I haven't even started it but hope to this week. It's also due out November 3rd.
  • FALLEN by Karin Slaughter  This is the 5th book in the Will Trent Crime Fiction/Suspense series that I've become obsessed with. 

I'm also listening to a new audiobook:

  • A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara  This book has created so much buzz I couldn't pass it up. It's a very long book which is why I chose the audio version. (Over 32 hours long!) I'm about 5 hours in so I have a ways to go! So far, I have two word for you: Character Development
Surprisingly enough, I've not taken on any new TV shows this fall.  I am, however, waiting for Chicago Med to start in November because I do watch the Dick Wolf Chicago Fire and PD series. They are two of my favorites and they do a lot of crossing over which is always fun to watch. With my books, audios and a few Netflix shows I just don't want to add anything else. 

So that's what's going on in my world. As for today, I'm taking a break from sorting out three bedrooms worth of 'stuff' and I'll be reading and watching some football. Yes, I'm a multi-tasker! As for dinner, I'll be creating my version of Chicken a la King, which has been a retro favorite of mine since way back when microwaves first came on the scene! I'll be making it up as I go along, so wish me luck! How hard can it be, right?! 


Oct 17, 2015

[TSS] You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes (Unabridged Audio Version)

Finally I'm back after having surgery to remove a ruptured disc in my neck and I couldn't be happier to be getting back into my old routine. I have several reviews to post to get caught up and I thought I'd start off with a bang!

YOU by Caroline Kepnas was quite a listen! I was looking for something fresh and different and I found it with this audio. The story is about Joe Goldberg, an intelligent guy who runs a book shop in NYC. The aging owner of the shop is more than happy to let Joe handle the day-to-day so Joe has the run of the place.

When Beck, an aspiring writer and college student, comes into the shop Joe is quickly smitten. Beck is sexy and she flirts with Joe and by the time she leaves, Joe is convinced that Beck wants him as much as he wants her.  And when Joe wants something, he gets it. No matter what. At first glance he comes across as a nice, kind of good looking guy with enough intellect to carry on interesting conversations but there is a side of Joe that can be quite scary. He gains access to Beck's phone, email and social media accounts and begins assimilating himself into her life and manipulating her friends without them even knowing it.  When he realizes she is involved with another guy Joe doesn't like that at all. As weeks go on, Joe is able to maneuver in and around Beck's life even more and the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred.  He obsesses over her 24/7 and all he thinks about is having her. Though Beck flirts with him and leads him on, she continues to hold him at arms length which just makes him more determined.

Joe's obsession with Beck quickly turns dangerous for the people in her life who get in the way of his plan to have her all to himself, which is what he thinks she wants too. Beck has no idea what a dangerous game she is playing.

My Thoughts on the Story:

I was looking for something new and different to listen to while I recuperated and this certainly fit the bill! The story takes off immediately with Joe meeting Beck and the outrageous thoughts he has and the bluntness of his desire for her was a startling beginning and it never let up.  Joe is the only one telling this story and he is talking directly to Beck, as if she can hear every word. It makes for a very intense read. To find that kind of creative and unusual writing style in a debut novel surprising and wonderful. Caroline Kepnes made a bold move with this book and I think it paid off in a huge way. YOU is as much a fast paced thriller as I've ever read and I didn't want to stop.  To put it bluntly, I was all in.

OK, all that being said, I have to make you aware that this is a very sexually explicit book. If sexual situations and dialogue don't bother you, you will be fine. I am by no means a prude but I even found myself blushing a time or two. I just had to throw that out there so you would be prepared if you take my advice and read this book, which, by the way was an Amazon Best Book of the Month last September when it came out. Another thing about this book is how current and relevant this story is in this age of technology and social media. Joe was able to hack her devices and Beck had no idea. That is scary in and of itself.

My Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

There is no other word for Santino Fontana than BRILLIANT!  His portrayal of Joe was nothing short of amazing.  I'm quite sure that hearing him narrate this book is why I enjoyed it so much. It's odd - it's a twisted story about a scary guy but I couldn't help feeling drawn to him.  Even though Joe was scary, there was something magnetic in Santino Fontana's voice that kept me riveted. I believe this is my favorite audiobook so far this year.

The bottom line is this is a great debut novel that I would recommend highly. I would also recommend the audio version. (You'll thank me later) I'm very anxious to see what Caroline Kepnes has up her literary sleeve next. Her new book, HIDDEN BODIES, hits shelves in February.

YOU (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Narrator: Santino Fontana
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: September 30, 2014
Length: 11 Hrs 6 Mins
Printed Length: 432 pages
Source: Purchased thru Audible

Aug 30, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Tough Week Ahead

I'm having trouble grasping that September is here. I've been seeing commercials about 'Fall' but here in Florida we're a long way off from having cooler weather! This has been one of the toughest summers in my life and hopefully this week will mark the beginning of a much better season.

Getting My Health Back!

In early Summer - June 4th to be exact, I woke up in terrible pain, unable to move my left arm away from my body. I'd been suffering from shoulder soreness for years that would come and go but this was totally different. I was referred to an orthopedist who took an X-ray, told me I had Tendinitis, gave me a shot of cortizone and  sent me home.  Long story short - it didn't work. Fast forward to mid August and 2 MRI's later, I was finally diagnosed with having a 'massive' herniated disc between my C6 and C7 vertebrae. I'm scheduled to have surgery this Thursday to remove the bad disc. Since I've never even been a patient in a hospital before, I'm a little nervous but I'm told it's a fairly common operation and I only have to stay one night in the hospital. I'm so looking forward to the relief it's going to give me! I doubt I'll be posting much in the weeks following, especially the first 3 weeks but I'll be back better than before!

The Books!

I haven't been able to do much this summer but I have managed to read some really great books. last week I read GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee. As I read it I liked it but didn't love it, but those last chapters really moved me and I came away really glad I read it. I will say this: I don't agree with all the negative hype this book received when it first came out and all the outrage about Atticus not being the man we thought he was. I didn't look at it that way at all and I wonder if those people really read the book and understood what was being said in the way only Harper Lee could say it. I'll expound more on that when I post my review but for now that's my small opinion.

I also discovered a couple new-to-me authors. I finished HUNTRESS MOON by Alexandra Sokoloff, which is the first book in the paranormal FBI thriller series. It was a quick read that kept my attention while I was living in my reclining chaise unable to move.  I'll be posting my review in the coming weeks. I have the second book, BLOOD MOON and I'll probably read it later this year.

I'm reading a good summer ghost story right now that I'm enjoying so far. It's called BLISS HOUSE and it's by Laura Benedict. I like that it takes place in Virginia and the main character is this old historic house that has terrorized people for generations. I'm only about a third into it but it's a nice change of pace.  I'm hoping to finish it before Thursday.

While I recover from surgery, I'm also going to continue with Karin Slaughter's Will Trent series. I'll be starting Book 4 BROKEN.  Previously I listened to Book 3, but I didn't enjoy the audio as much as reading the actual book.

So that's my plan for the next several weeks. Don't know how often I'll be checking in but I will definitely keep reading and try to visit some of your blogs.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great reading week!

Aug 22, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston (Unabridged Audio)

This debut novel by noted writer Tim Johnston made a big splash when it came out in January. I immediately added it to my list of books to read this year. The story involves the Courtland family from Wisconsin.  The parents, Grant and Angela, are working through some troubles in their marriage while their daughter Caitlin prepares to start college in a few months and their younger son, Sean, struggles with being overweight and all of the stigma that goes along with that. 

For their family vacation, Caitlin, a competitive runner, chooses the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. so she can condition her body in the rough terrain offered there. Early one morning Caitlin and Sean leave their parents at the motel and set out for the trail. Sean, on a mountain bike and Caitlin on foot, ascend the mountain but decide to veer off of the main trail just a bit.

Back at the motel, Grant and Angela are trying to rekindle their fractured marriage. They receive an urgent call from the local Sheriff explaining that their son has been involved in an accident and is the hospital. When asked about their daughter, Caitlin, the Sheriff is confused and informs them that Sean was found alone and there was no sign of Caitlin.   

My Thoughts:

Tim Johnston doesn't make you wait long for things to start happening in this gripping debut. Right away I had a good grasp on the dynamic of this family so my connection to them came easily. The Courtland family is a likable group although my least favorite family member was Angela. She is not a strong person and when her story was being told through a lot of flashing back to earlier times, it was confusing to me. She not only was dealing with a missing child but still grappling with a tragedy that had happened to her as a teen. 

There is a big sub plot revolving around Grant that kept the story moving and helped to develop Grant's character. At first I thought I knew where that story was going to lead but fortunately, it took another turn, totally removing the predictability factor altogether. Needless to say, that was a welcome surprise. 

When I chose the audio version of this book, I didn't realize the male narrator was R.C. Bray so when I heard that voice I was really happy. Bray was the unforgettable voice of astronaut Mark Watney in THE MARTIAN, one of my favorite audios ever. This was a much different character and he pulled it off brilliantly. I admit, in the beginning I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get the astronaut out of my subconscious, but that turned out not to be a problem at all. He was Grant Courtland, emotionally tortured and heartbroken father. The female narrator, Xe Sands also did a good job but didn't blow me away. Admittedly, I sometimes have difficulty with female narrators, especially during the vulnerable side of a character, so the reason I didn't enjoy her interpretation as much is probably solely on me. 

 The bottom line is I found this to be a great debut novel worthy of the buzz it created. It told a tragic story from different perspectives, allowing the reader to fully understand each character. Is is a perfect book? No, but as a debut I think it was really good and I would recommend it. I enjoyed the audio a lot but I can see where the printed version would also be a great experience. This is not a complicated suspense thriller, it's simply a well-told mystery with great characters. Tim Johnston is now on my radar so I'll be anxiously awaiting his next book. And by the way, look at that cover! I love it! 

Author: Tim Johnston
Narrator: Xe Sands and R.C. Bray
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
Published: January 6, 2015
Length: 11 hrs 31 mins
Source: Purchased (Audible)

Aug 20, 2015

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about THE GOLDFINCH is Why did I wait so long to read this book?! I initially started reading it last year, set it aside (for no good reason) then finally picked it up again in June.  At almost 800 pages, it is a chunkster and my first impression was that it was a bit 'wordy' for lack of a better term, but I knew at some point I would return to it. I just didn't know how incredibly glad I would be once I did finally finish it. Donna Tartt has written one heckl of a book and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 thus confirming the awesomeness of this book.

The story centers around Theo Decker, a teenage New Yorker living with his mother after his father left them both behind a yar or so earlier. Though Theo has a lot of mixed feelings about his Dad's abandonment, he and his mom are adjusting to the changes fairly well. They are very close and she is the center of his world. Tragedy strikes and Theo is thrown into yet another different world but this time he feels totally alone and not sure what his future will hold. I won't even try to write my own synopsis for this literary treat because I wouldn't do it justice but you can read one from Goodreads here.

I'll start off saying that not everyone will agree with my opinion of this book. Clearly there have been many mixed reviews.  I believe this is one of those books that you either love ot hare for whatever reason. And I hope that if you haven't read it, you will give it a try and see where you land.

Theo's story is a complex, adventure that is heartrendingly sad and chaotic and very well developed.  Now that I've finished the book, I realize that the 'wordiness' of the book that I previously found annoying, was necessary in order to give the reader a full and complete picture of Theo and his life. It made me so very connected to the story - like I was right there as he was living his life. Although there were some parts that were hard to take and I felt they sort of dragged on, it certainly didn't diminish my experience. I know it took Ms. Tartt awhile to write this book and after reading it you can see why. There are so many details that simply couldn't have been left out, in my opinion. No doubt it is a deeply interwoven story that sucked me in further with every single page.

Now to the characters...Ah, the characters!  I found them fascinating and they will remain in my mind for quite some time. Some more than others obviously. They were remarkable - some in a good way and others not so much but they were all memorable.

Boris, Theo's long time friend is one of my two favorite characters, though some who've already read the book may think that is a odd choice considering what kind of person he turned out to be. Personally, I felt dawn to him and even though some of his actions were extremely questionable, I found him endearing and loyal to those he cared for. Boris will stay with me for a long time. My other favorite was Hobie, who obciously loved Theo as a son. I'm purposely not going into any detail about why I loved these two characters so much because I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read it. There is a host of other wonderful characters that are so original and they all have a part in making this a wonderful story.

This book is not for the faint of heart.  It is disturbing at times but it is an amazing story that I found totally engrossing. I don't think I've felt this moved or connected to a novel since maybe The Kite Runner. It enveloped me, entertained me, shocked me and awed me. Maybe that sounds a bit much to some but that is how I feel about it. I'm so grateful I finally got off my butt and read it. It was a fantastic reading experience, easily making it my favorite read so far this year.  In a nutshell, this book is the reason I read: To be moved and I certainly was moved.

THE GOLDFINCH (Kindle Edition)
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Published: October 2013
Length: 760 pp
Source: Purchased

Jul 30, 2015

Throw Back Thursday: My Introduction to Magical Realism

Today I'm continuing my monthly feature of going back in time to 2008, my first year of blogging. It's interesting to see how my blog has changed, along with the books I read and the way I write reviews and other bookish posts.

In the summer of 2008 I was introduced to a new author who's first book had come out the previous year (August 2007). It was a fellow blogger who raved about this book and since it was a new genre for me I wanted to give it a try. The author was Sarah Addison Allen and the book was GARDEN SPELLS! At that time I didn't read any fantasy or paranormal type of books and honestly, I had never heard the term 'magical realism' before. I was so curious! 

Once I began reading I was instantly captivated by the story of the Waverly sisters and their special apple tree and all the family secrets that came out in their 'magical' recipes and concoctions. I flew through that book and so began my first adventures into an intriguing genre of books. 

From that moment on, I was a fan of Sarah Addison Allen. Her latest, FIRST FROST, which came out earlier this year is a sequel to GARDEN SPELLS  and though I haven't read it yet, it is on my list. I've read all of her other books and I've loved them all. 

If you enjoy a lighter touch of  the paranormal and great stories of family and friends you must try Sarah Addison Allen's books if you haven't already. They are charming, entertaining and fun. For my review of GARDEN SPELLS from 2008, click here

Jul 26, 2015

Sleep Tight (DCI Tom Douglas #3) by Rachel Abbott - Kindle Edition

(As with all my reviews, this post contains no spoilers)

Robert Brookes gives a whole new meaning to the term 'controlling'. Olivia Brookes met her husband at a very difficult time in her life and he seemed to be the knight in shining armor she needed at that time. The young single mother had had a couple of difficult years and then she was dealt another devastating blow with the loss of her parents.  She was totally overwhelmed and barely able to function so when Robert stepped in and took control she accepted his help without much resistance. Soon he was indispensable and eventually a romance developed between them. Now, years later, with three small children, Robert is even more oppressive and Olivia basically is watched 24/7.

After arriving home from a two-week business trip, Robert comes home to find Olivia and the children gone. He calls the police who come to investigate and alarm bells go off almost immediately. Tom Douglas, the chief inspector, remembers Olivia from the case he worked years previously when her parents had died. There's something not quite right but Tom can't put his finger on it.

What ensues is a painstakingly difficult investigation into the disappearance of this mother and her children but the police don't quite know if they're investigation a missing person's report or possibly even a murder at the hands of Robert Brookes. Inspector Douglas  must be careful not to tip his hand and make the situation even more dangerous, especially for the children.

My Thoughts:

At first I didn't realize this book was part of a series, Book 3 in fact, but I decided I would read it anyway.  Though there was some back-story with a few of the characters I wasn't privy to, I don't think it took too much away from the story. The book started off strong so it didn't take me long to get into the story. I felt that way through most of the book but a little more than half way I began to sense a redundancy, like the police were a step behind me in figuring things out when I thought they'd already done so. It wasn't real bad but enough to make me wish things would move on quicker.

As with any series there were a few sub-plots, one that involved a complicated relationship Inspector Douglas has with a woman he's been seeing and another incident that centers around his recently deceased brother.  I'm hoping these two story lines will be addressed further in the next book. This story was a bit dark, which doesn't bother me and there was a good amount of mystery. I do intend to continue on with the next installment, called STRANGER CHILD and I'm hoping my connection to the characters will continue to develop.

Since I'd never read anything by this author, I'm glad I now have some sort of reference to her and as I mentioned, I will give the next book a try. I can't say I loved this book but it was a good, fast read (under 300 pages) that held my attention so I'm glad I took the time to read it. The bottom line is it wasn't one of my favorites but certainly worth the time in reading.

SLEEP TIGHT (DCI Tom Douglas #3) Kindle Edition
Author: Rachel Abbott
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing
Sold By: Amazon Digital
Published:  February 24, 2014
Length: 284 pp
Source: Purchased thru Kindle Daily Deals

Jul 5, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Enjoying the Holiday Weekend

It's been a fairly quiet Fourth of July weekend but I actually like it that way. Yesterday I was at my mom's and we feasted on pulled BBQ pork sandwiches that she made along with potato salad, coleslaw and, at the last minute, deviled eggs, because it's just not a holiday meal in our family without them. For dessert I surprised my mom with a coconut cake. My mom is the most selfless person I know and she's always going out of her way to please others and since not many of us like coconut, she rarely enjoys her favorite cake so I made one for her. Before dinner, we drank a couple wine coolers and munched on spinach dip and crackers while we played a game of Hawaiian Rummy. We started playing this card game this Spring and now we're addicted to it. It's a lot of fun, especially when you want to get away from the TV for awhile and when it's just too hot to be outside. We actually try to play a couple times a week.

Today I get the benefit of one of my favorite parts of a holiday: the leftovers! I even had a deviled egg as part of my breakfast this morning and there'll be BBQ sandwiches for later! No cooking today! Yesterday on BBC America they ran a marathon of Star Trek: The Next Generation so, being the geek I am, I recorded them while I was gone. I started watching them last night and continued on this morning. I'll be watching on and off today. When I'm not watching TNG, I've decided to pick up THE GOLDFINCH and read it today. I began this book about a year ago but it's a chunkster and I only got about 100 pages in before stopping. I hate to leave books unfinished and I really do want to read it so while I'm in between audios and books, I'm going to put a big dent into it. I just finished Rachel Abbot's SLEEP TIGHT on Friday and I am about to start Tim Johnston's DESCENT on audio this week, after finished MR. MERCEDES last week. (Review here).

Along with THE GOLDFINCH I'll probably start another book this week. Either Rachel Abbott's STRANGER CHILD or something else....I haven't really made up my mind yet. I'm trying to read books I already have on my Kindle before buying anymore.

On a personal note, it's been a rough few weeks for me for a couple of reasons. My shoulder, though it is still bothering me, has gotten slightly better. At least I am able to lie down to sleep now. The really hard thing is that a few weeks ago my best friend of more than 25 years moved to Ohio to be near the rest of her family who'd moved up there about 7 years ago. Brenda is a big part of my life and was always very helpful with my vision issues (she was often my chauffeur and my personal shopper). We've been through a lot together and it was so difficult to say good-bye to her. Thankfully, with all the technology today, she doesn't seem that far away but it's taken getting used to not having her right around the corner. The upside is that she's living in my home state and I have a lot of relatives that don't live far from her. It goes without saying I'm really looking forward to going up for a visit!

For now, I'm off to watch one more episode of TNG then I'm sinking my nose into THE GOLDFINCH for at least a few hours before stopping for lunch and more space exploration! Tonight is the NASCAR race over in Daytona but we're supposed to get more severe storms this evening so I don't know if the race will be affected or not. Fingers crossed that it doesn't get rained out.

Hope you all are enjoying this beautiful weekend! Happy Birthday, America!!!

I hope you all are enjoying this wonderful holiday

Jul 2, 2015

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Unabridged Audio Version)

OK, so it's been a while since I've read Stephen King. Twenty-one years in fact. That's right - the last King book I read was INSOMNIA way back in 1994 and I really did like it. I don't have an excuse for not reading him after that, only that I started getting into legal thrillers around that time.

MR. MERCEDES begins with a terrible act of violence against innocent people waiting in line at a job fair. King doesn't keep the identity of the assailant a secret, rather he allows the reader to get to know him quite well. His weapon of choice is a classic Mercedes sedan that he had stolen from an unsuspecting older woman. After mowing down and killing several people (this is not a spoiler), he simply drives away, parks the car and slips into the darkness.

Bill Hodges is the detective from the case who is now retired and who has never gotten over the fact that the case remains unsolved. It nags at him daily to the point that he fantasizes about ending his own life. This line of thinking is halted when he receives a taunting letter in the mail presumably from the killer.

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, I am not a reader of horror novels and I don't really know all that much about Stephen King but when I became aware that he had written a detective novel, that intrigued me. Then I learned that it would become a trilogy and I was really interested. I do know that King doesn't normally write detective stories and with my affection for crime novels, I knew I couldn't pass this up.

With the attack at the job fair happening at the very beginning, you don't have to wait long to get sucked into the story. I liked that King doesn't hide who the killer is from the reader. Knowing who he is and also that he could be any Joe Blow down the street is actually more frightening than wondering who he is. On the outside he seemed like a normal guy but as more and more of his life and personality were revealed, he became more and more sinister. Although I didn't love the ending of the book, it was easier to accept knowing there are more books to come.  It seems kind of weird to go on about a book with such a disturbing story but Stephen King takes us to a place where we would never go and that's what's so exciting about his work. .

Bill Hodges is a no nonsense type of guy who is wracked with guilt over not being able to solve this case. He's a bit rough around the edges but a very smart and likable man. I developed an affection for him right away. He's flawed but he's a good man and I think he's a great character for the focus of this new trilogy.The supporting characters in this book were diverse and very unique and I look forward to reuniting with them in FINDERS KEEPERS, the second book that was just released last month.

I would rate the story 4 stars but I easily give the audio performance 5 stars. That is due to the incredible job by actor Will Patton. I can say without hesitation he is my very favorite narrator. His interpretations of these characters were so meticulously done. He didn't just read the story, he acted it out with his voice. Simply put, he was amazing. I don't know if he received an Audie for his work or not, but he certainly deserved one. He's the main reason I chose this book in audio form and why I'll be listening to the next two installments as well. So overall, I would rate this book a 4.5 and I would recommend it highly, especially to readers who've never read Stephen King before.

MR. MERCEDES (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published:  June 3, 2014
Length:  14 Hrs 22 Mns
Source: Purchased from Audible