Dec 15, 2010

Review: Precious by Sapphire (Audiobook Version)

By now I'm sure most of you are familiar with this heartbreaking story of Precious Jones, an illiterate, obese 16-year-old girl living in an incredibly dysfunctional home in Harlem. The book, originally titled PUSH, was published in 1996, and was Sapphire's debut novel. It's not an easy read and I found the audiobook especially raw.

PRECIOUS tells the horrific and disturbing story of her life dealing with a father who sexually molested her from a very early age and a mother who not only stood by and did nothing about it but who also abused Precious, both mentally and physically. She is sixteen and pregnant with her second child by her father when she begins the story, which is also the time she leaves the ineffective public school she's been attending and starts classes at an alternative learning school. Immediately upon starting this new school drastic changes occur. For the first time in her life, Precious becomes unafraid to speak up in class and share her voice with the other students, who have similar stories of abuse and neglect in their own lives. Over the course of two years we follow Precious on her journey to learn to read and write, with the ultimate goal of taking her GED test so that she can get a job and support herself and her children. With the loving support of her new teacher, Ms. Blue Rain, she is pushed to try hard and never give up, no matter what obstacles lie in her path.

My thoughts:

I went into this book with my eyes wide open, having a pretty good idea of what to expect and I have to say I was still shocked at what Precious endured in her young life. Aside from the obvious shock and horror of her home life is the fact that this girl was sixteen years old and could not read or write. That is unfathomable to me. She had absolutely no self confidence and had such dislike for herself that she simply sat for hours in the back of the classroom of her public school and did not move, speak or participate in any classroom activities - ever. To say that is unexceptionable in our society is a gross understatement. There are so many disturbing things happening all around Precious and it was all very hard to listen to.

I loved the character of Ms. Rain, the teacher at the alternative learning school. She became a shining light to Precious and was one of the few adults that truly wanted to help. Her mother was a pig and I hated any part of the book she was in. There is no way you can read/listen to this book and not have overflowing compassion for Precious. She is dealt one blow after another yet she sticks to her plan and doesn't allow anyone or anything to get in the way of her goals.

I'm glad I chose the audio version of this book. Since the content was so gritty, I wanted to 'get in and get out' so to speak. Reading it would've taken longer and I don't know if I could've endured it. The audio version was just over five hours and was much easier for me to handle. I do have to mention that the narrator, Bahni Turpin, did a fantastic job with all of the voices in this book. She was very believable and I feel she nailed it.

I gave this book 3 stars mainly because, even though I was happy that Precious was able to continue on with her goals for her life, I didn't particularly like the ending of the book. I think I was expecting a bit more finality. With that I mean, I wanted to know if she did, in fact, achieve her goal of getting her GED. I felt the book ended abruptly without that closure for me. That said, it is an incredible story, though it certainly isn't for everyone, but I'm glad I listened to it and I'm sure I won't forget Precious Jones for quite some time.

Author: Sapphire
Published: PUSH 1996; PRECIOUS Audiobook October 2009
Publisher: Random House Audio
Rating: 3 Stars

Dec 14, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 12.14.10

The rules are simple for Teaser Tuesday -
  • Grab your current read
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Select two teaser sentences to share being careful NOT to include any spoilers!
  • Name the title, author and page number of the book your getting your teasers from
Today my teasers are from THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti . . .

At first the screams were pleading. Ren could make out words. "Stop! Leave it on! Please!" the voice begged. ~ page 130

For more teasers and to play along, visit MizB at Should Be Reading each Tuesday. Its a great way to get a glimpse into some really good books.

Dec 9, 2010

Review: Falling Home by Karen White

In the last few years, I have become a big fan of Karen White's work, so when I received a copy of FALLING HOME in the mail unexpectedly, I was beyond thrilled. I had recently read (and loved) ON FOLLY BEACH, so I was sure I was in for another terrific story. Here's a quick rundown, but don't worry, I won't give anything away . . .

Cassie Madison is the protagonist in this story of family, love and sometimes, regret. She has been living in New York City for fifteen years since leaving her small hometown of Walton, Georgia, after feeling betrayed by the two people closest to her. Once Cassie got to New York she never looked back and vowed to put that part of her life behind her. However, the past comes rushing to meet her when she gets a call from her sister, Harriet, who tells her their father is dying and has asked her to come home. What Cassie thinks will be a short trip turns into months and she is forced to face the people that she felt betrayed her all those years ago and gave her the reason to leave. She finally meets her sister's children that she's never seen before and finds herself involved in a fight to save her historic family home.

Almost immediately there is a pull on Cassie's heart for the place she grew up and the people of the community who have known her since she was little. But just when she thinks its time to head back to her life and fiance' in New York, an urgent family crisis arises and Cassie is left to make a decision about her future and what she wants out of it.

My thoughts:

What I like about this book is that there is much more going on here than just the story of a scorned woman who goes home to rebuild old relationships. Obviously, the story of Cassie and why she left is the main premise for the book but it doesn't stop there. There is also an intriguing mystery surrounding her father and some secret letters she finds in an old letter box. There is also the story of an old house and what some people will do to try to destroy it. But most heartbreaking of all is the story of Cassie and her sister, Harriet, who have been estranged for fifteen years. Another aspect is that of the troubled relationship Harriet has with her oldest child, Maddie, who, like her Aunt Cassie when she was a teenager, doesn't feel like she belongs in Walton and wants desperately to be like her aunt. Cassie also finds herself being drawn to a man she didn't give a second thought about when she was younger, but since returning can't seem to fight the attraction she now has for him. I loved how each of these stories are interwoven seamlessly in such a natural progression, which makes it all very realistic.

Another plus is how lovely and likable the characters are - even the ones you know are up to no good. Honestly though, in the beginning I didn't know if I was going to like Cassie but fortunately, my feelings for her changed as time progressed, though I believe that could have been the author's intention all along. My favorite characters were Maddie and Sam Parker, the doctor and former classmate of Cassie. I loved how he always stood his ground with Cassie and was not afraid to tell her the truth about herself even though it would sometimes hurt her. I think we all need someone like that in our lives. It didn't hurt that Ms. White painted him as a confident, sexy man in jeans and cowboy boots. What woman wouldn't love that?! Hell, I'd love to find my own 'Sam Parker'!

As with other books I've read of hers, Karen White has completely satisfied me with FALLING HOME. I felt connected to the people and loved each of the scenarios that played out. I have to admit to even shedding a few tears. I also love the title, although in the beginning I didn't know what it meant. In a nutshell, I enjoyed this book immensely and it makes me even more determined to go back and read her other books I've missed along the way.

I'd like to thank Joy Strazza at Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting for thinking of me and sending me this wonderful book.

Author: Karen White
Published: November 2010
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 464
Grade: A
Will I recommend this book: Yes!

Dec 1, 2010

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse Mystery Book #3)

After recently reading a couple books with serious content, I was ready for something light and fun and that is when I reach for a Charlaine Harris book. One of my guilty pleasures is the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series. CLUB DEAD is the third book and it takes up with Sookie recovering from a broken heart after her vampire boyfriend, Bill, has apparently left her for another vamp, which is odd in itself. Here's a blurb from the back of the book to get you caught up...

There's only one vampire Sookie Stackhouse is involved with (at least voluntarily) and that's Bill. But recently he's been a little distant - in another state distant. His sinister and sexy boss, Eric, has an idea where to find him. Next thing Sookie knows, she is off to Jackson, Mississippi, to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. It's a dangerous little haunt where the elitist vampire society can go to chill out and suck down some type O. But when Sookie finally finds Bill - caught in an act of serious betrayal - she's not sure whether to save him...or sharpen some stakes.

My thoughts:

As with the previous two books in this charming series, I was completely taken in by Sookie and her group of misfit compadres. We also get to meet another character, a Were by the name of Alcides, who takes Sookie under his arm (his very big and muscular arm) and helps her around Jackson to find Bill. He is a great character and I loved the attraction that he and Sookie share. Bill's boss, Eric, is once again ever-present and he becomes less sinister to me during this story. Almost likable.

Although I didn't feel the mystery surrounding Bill's disappearance was as intriguing as the mysteries in DEAD UNTIL DARK and LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS, I still enjoyed it very much. The precarious situations that Sookie finds herself in were entertaining and kept me wanting to keep reading.

Unlike many Sookie fans, I have only watched a few episodes of the True Blood series on HBO. Honestly, I much prefer the books. I have all of these amazing characters etched in my imagination and when I saw the TV show, it kind of blew it all out of whack for me. I would much rather keep my mental pictures of all of them, so I have decided to stick to the books.

I can't say that this one is my favorite, but it is still worth the time in reading. I've already picked up DEAD TO THE WORLD (book #4) and have read a few chapters and I can already tell I'm really going to enjoy it.

Charlaine Harris
Published: 2003
Publisher: Ace Books
Pages: 292
Grade: B-

Nov 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Thankful For Reading (My Thankfully Reading Update)

As you may know, this is the second year of the Thankfully Reading Weekend Read-A-Thon. I participated last year and I loved it. It was my first read-a-thon. Its usually a great reading weekend for me because my BF always goes to Alabama hunting that week, so I have all the time in the world to read. So I signed up again, however, I didn't get the chance to read as much this time. I did manage to get some reading done yesterday, but only 147 pages. Today I'm hoping to read about as many. Even though I didn't get to read at all Friday, it was worth the time I got to spend with my sister. This year, Thankfully Reading has a different meaning for me . . .

My sister Linda is two years older than me and she suffers from the same hereditary retinal disease that I have but she is further along with it. In the last eight months or so, she has lost 99% of her vision. She has such a strong will and positive attitude that you never see her cry or feel sorry for herself. She is a real inspiration to me. I look at her and I know that I will be where she is in a matter of years. My disease is moving more slowly because I am a non-smoker and have been my whole life, whereas Linda, although not a heavy smoker, has smoked since her early 20's. Since neither of us drive, it is sometimes hard for us to get together since she doesn't live really close to me. However, after dinner on Thursday, she came home with me and spent the night and we stayed up late talking (and eating) and we had such a great time. Now, I am even more proud of her than before. It must be a scary thing to only have 1% of sight but she trudges right along. She lives alone and does very well as long as she's in familiar surroundings. She spent a big part of Friday with me as well and it made for a great holiday.

So even though I didn't get to read Friday, I am even more thankful that I CAN still read my books. I don't read as fast as others and sometimes my eyes get really tired and I have to stop, but I can still see the written pages in front of me. Maybe not as clearly but I can still see it through my cloudy tunnel vision. So this Thanksgiving that is what I'm thankful for. Hopefully next year I will still see well enough to participate in Thankfully Reading again.

Nov 22, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Earlier this year I read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and became completely immersed into the story of murder and financial intrigue, which, if I'm honest, kind of surprised me. This second book in the Millennium Trilogy is much different than the first. While THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was mostly centered around Mikael Blomkvist, this installment takes us into the life of Lisbeth Salander and her past that she tries desperately to keep private.

Here's a quick synopsis from THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE . . .

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no-one can find her anywhere. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, will not believe what he hears on the news. Knowing Salander to be fierce when fearful, he is desperate to get to her before she is cornered and alone. As he fits the pieces of the puzzle together, he comes up against some hardened criminals, including the chainsaw-wielding 'blond giant' - a fearsomely huge thug who can feel no pain. Digging deeper, Blomkvist also unearths some heart-wrenching facts about Salander's past life. Committed to psychiatric care aged 12, declared legally incompetent at 18, this is a messed-up young woman who is the product of an unjust and corrupt system. Yet Lisbeth is more avenging angel than helpless victim - descending on those that have hurt her with a righteous anger terrifying in its intensity and truly wonderful in its outcome.

My thoughts:

I'll just cut to the chase and state right here that I LOVED this book! Although I did enjoy the first book very much, I did grow tired of all of the character development and background information regarding all of the suspects surrounding the disappearance of Harriet Vanger some sixty years previous. But I hung in there and was completely satisfied with the outcome. The biggest contrast with this second book is that the character of Lisbeth Salander is front and center from the very beginning. It doesn't take long at all for things to start happening and once they do, it is a suspenseful ride filled with great characters and plot twists.

What I found impressive was that even though Salander is being hunted for murdering two people who were working closely with Blomkvist, the two of them don't actually come into contact until the last part of the book. But that doesn't mean they aren't involved with each other. I loved the way Larrson wrote this book. It completely had me from the beginning and didn't let go. It is hands down my favorite of the two books.

If you are one of those people who really had a hard time getting through book #1, I promise you won't have that problem with THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. It is edge-of-your-seat thrilling from beginning to end. I'm very much looking forward to the third book, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST. I'm planning to read it the first of the year. I resisted reading this series when it first came out because I usually don't get sucked into books with such
hype and mass popularity but my curiosity got the better of me and I can honestly say I'm really glad I made the exception. These books are definitely in my top 5 for 2010.

Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Vintage
Version: Paperback
Published: March 2010
Pages: 630
Grade: A+

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson (Kindle Version)

UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson is one of those books that as you read, you have more questions. Because of that, I want to be careful explaining the premise so nothing is given away prematurely. Here is a synopsis I'm borrowing from Goodreads:

Tillie Harris's life is in disarray—her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren't unpacked, and the telephone isn't even connected yet. Though she's not due for another month, sudden labor pains force Tillie to reach out to her estranged father for help, a choice that means facing the painful memories she's been running from since she was a little girl.

My thoughts:

The beginning of this impressive debut novel starts out with Tillie as a grown woman expecting her first child, which sets up the story. Then we are transported back to 1975 when Tillie was eight years old. This is where most of the story is told to us by Tillie. More than anything Tillie only wants to know where her mother is and why won't anybody tell her anything. Her father is busy with his work all the time and her older brother, Phil, just wants her to leave him alone.

One of my favorite types of books are those told through a child's eye. There's so much honesty and raw emotions and that is exactly what this book delivers. Starting out, we don't really know where Tillie's mother is or what happened to her yet as the story unfolds, we draw our own assumptions. The anticipation of finding out kept me turning the pages (or hitting 'next page' on my Kindle, as it were). When the answer was revealed, even though I thought I had it figured out, the confirmation took my breath away.

Another reason I am so fond of this book is that in 1975 I was only three years older than Tillie and I could recall and relate to many of the things that were happening at the time. Being a child during that time myself, I understand the philosophy that parents had back then that children were to be seen and not heard. Important matters weren't discussed with children, they were expected to just adapt to things as they happened. I thought Susan Henderson did a fabulous job of taking us back to that time. It was a much simpler time and much of it made me very nostalgic and brought back memories of things I hadn't thought of in years.

When I made the connection between the title and what it meant, that was another memorable moment for me. I was like, 'Ah, I get it now.' Those are always favorites moments for me as a reader and, I think, a sign of a good book.

The characters were not many, but they were very memorable. I loved Tillie as a little girl, both mischievous and inquisitive, though as a grown woman and expectant mother, I did have concerns about her. My favorite character was Mr. Woodson, Tillie's teacher. The relationship she had with him was heartwarming and made me happy that she had an adult in her life that she looked up to and felt she could trust completely given everything that was happening in her life at the time.

Even though the author revealed things slowly in this book, she didn't jerk us around. The story moved along in a way that kept it fresh and made me want to keep reading. Susan Henderson is definitely an author I will be looking out for in the future.

Susan Henderson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: September 2010
Pages: 336
Grade: A-

Nov 11, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue (Kindle Edition)

ROOM by Emma Donoghue is one of the hardest books I've ever had to get through. It's also one of the best books I've ever read. While reading this award-winning novel, I was often torn between thinking it was brilliant and thinking it was just too much. In the end, brilliance won out. Amazon named it a Best of the Month for September.

Here is a little about the book taken from the author's website.

Jack and Ma live in a locked room that measures eleven foot by eleven. When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world outside. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, ROOM is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child.

My thoughts

When I decided to read ROOM, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it was an extremely difficult subject matter and that it would probably keep me up at night. I was right. With the entire story being told through five-year-old Jack, I have to admit that it took me some time to get used to his vocabulary and speech but once I got used to it, it flowed. All I can say about this book is WOW! This is an incredible story of a young woman trying to raise her son in unthinkable conditions without allowing the horror of their situation to affect him. The innocence that Ma is able to maintain in Jack's mind is vital to his development in becoming a 'normal' kid.

There were times that I thought I just couldn't take anymore of the story but I knew changes were coming. It was worth all of the angst and sorrow I felt for Ma and Jack. Emma Donoghue painstakingly takes the reader through every minute of every day to establish exactly what it must have been like to be held captive while trying to make the best of it for the sake of her child. The lengths she goes to and what she endures is simply astounding.

As their story unfolds, Donoghue continues to share each moment and each new experience in such a precise and methodical way that it only makes it even more realistic. She also has done an amazing job of staying true to the telling of the story in a most unusual, effective manner. She never once waivers from Jack's own words or way of speaking and that is a feat in itself. She masterfully maintains a difficult writing style from a child's perspective all the way through the book. The writing is raw, honest and absolutely different than anything I've ever read in my life. This is a book that I am certain will stay with me indefinitely. That said, it is a book that will not appeal to everyone. I have to admit that there were times in the first quarter of the book that I didn't know if I could stick it out but I kept reading. For me, it was more Jack's way of speaking and the day to day details that wore on me, but then I realized that was the author's intent. She had to show the monotony of each day. This was their life. It was all they had and Ma was simply trying to make the best of it for her son. Once I realized this I also appreciated what Emma Donoghue had accomplished with this book.

Another wonderful thing about Jack is that he tells us his mother's story without even realizing it. Through things he sees and hears, he pieces together for the reader important details about his mother's life even before he was born. Most times, he doesn't even realize what he has actually learned. After reading this book its easy to see why Emma Donoghue has received such high praise. Will I recommend this book? Absolutely, but with a warning that it isn't an easy book to read, but well worth the journey.

Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: September 2010
Pages 336
Rating: A+

Oct 13, 2010

W.W.W. Wednesdays (10.13.10)

Answer these three questions to play along on W.W.W. Wednesday:
  • What book(s) are you currently reading?
  • What book(s) did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you planning to read next?
My responses:

  • What are you currently reading?
The two books I'm reading now are FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris and a new book by Emma Donoghue called ROOM.
  • What did you recently finish reading?
Last week I finished UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson.
  • What are you planning to read next?
Next up for me is Karen White's FALLING HOME, which comes out next month.

For more W.W.W.'s please visit MizB at Should Be Reading.

Oct 6, 2010

W.W.W. Wednesdays

The three easy questions we answer every Wednesday are:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you'll read next?
. . . and we call this W.W.W. Wednesdays and its hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

My answers:

What are you currently reading? I am reading FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris

What did you recently finish reading? Last night I finished UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson. I'll have my review up by the end of the week.

What do you think you'll read next? I'll be reading Karen White's FALLING HOME for it's release in November.

What's on your reading list this week?

Oct 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 10.5.10

You probably already know them, but here are the simple guidelines for this fun meme that MizB at Should Be Reading hosts each Tuesday. Anyone is welcome to play along!
  • Let your current read fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 teaser sentences to share
  • Do NOT include any spoilers!
  • List the title and page number of the book you're getting your teasers from
My teasers today come from a book that I have been devouring this week. It is UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson.

My reflection in the glass - a lost look in the eyes, a greasy mouth that turned downward on one side - showed that the feeling I'd had that morning had traveled with me. It was a stubborn sorrow that would go home with me as well. ~ Kindle Location 3977-83 (80%)
Tillie Harris is the narrator of this troubling story recounting the year in 1976 when she was eight years old and her mother disappeared and how the family dealt with it. Over time, Tillie realizes that her mother was different than the other mothers and everything is not always as it seems. I plan to finish this gripping book later today and will have my review before week's end.

For more interesting teasers, visit Should Be Reading.

Sep 29, 2010

W.W.W. Wednesdays

To play along, simply answer these three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you planning to read next?

My responses:

What are you currently reading? Although I don't make a habit of it, I'm reading two books right now. The first is FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris. I've wanted to read this since it first came out and now that the follow-up, CITY OF VEILS is out, I need to get busy! Also, my aunt (the only other reader in the family) is reading it with me. The other book is UP FROM THE BLUE by Susan Henderson. I just added it to my Kindle last night so I haven't actually started reading yet but plan to today.

What did you recently finish reading? Recently I finished STILTSVILLE, a debut novel by Susanna Daniiel [Review Here] and FORGIVING TROY, a compelling memoir by Thom Bierdz [Review Here].

What are you planning to read next? Next up for me is FALLING HOME by Karen White. I'm a huge fan of her work and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this one that is due out in November.

To find out what books other readers are enjoying, visit MizB at Should Be Reading for more answers to W.W.W. Wednesdays.

Sep 26, 2010

[TSS] Forgiving Troy by Thom Bierdz

The complete title of this hauntingly sad memoir is FORGIVING TROY - A True Story of Murder, Mental Illness, and Recovery. It is written by Thom Bierdz, an actor/artist who I first came to know through the very popular daytime soap The Young & the Restless back in the mid 1980's.

In this compelling book, Thom tells how he and his family cope with the death of their mother, Phyllis, in 1989 at the hands of their brother Troy. Troy is the youngest of four siblings in the Bierdz family living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He always required more attention than the other three children and by the time he reached his teens, it became a more serious problem for Phylis, who was a single mother after her husband walked away from the marriage years earlier without looking back.

With Thom living in Los Angeles, following his dreams of acting and painting, brother Gregg away at college and sister Hope married and focusing on her own family, Phylis was left to handle Troy the best she knew how. Over time Troy became increasingly agitated and even violent and ended up in trouble with the law. Though he was sentenced to various facilities, he always escaped and in the process attacked innocent employees, doctors and nurses. But the court system seemed not to offer much help because more and more the very facilities that could possibly help Troy refused to accept him because of his violent tendencies. With Troy becoming more secretive and angry, Phylis discovered frightening things about her 'miracle baby'. His anger towards Thom was evident in drawings her made depicting how he planned to kill his openly gay, famous oldest brother.

Then on July 14, 1989, Thom got the call that changed his family forever. Troy had beaten their mother to death with a baseball bat and all indications were that he was on his way to California to kill Thom next.

What follows in the pages of this unforgettable memoir is how the Bierdz family, each in their own way, deals with the devastating truth about Troy and that he took their mother's life seemingly at first, with little remorse. Thom Bierdz writes an amazingly honest and gut-wrenching account of the days and years that follow. Thom's fight with his own demons are a huge part of the story and in the end, helps him to understand and even try to forgive Troy not always with his sibling's support. Through all the years of coping and coming to terms, Thom struggles to deal with his own psyche - insomnia, his sexuality, his shame in his own violent tendencies, his inability to function in social settings and fear of the spotlight all fill his mind and make him question if he and Troy are, in fact, similar. Unfortunately, the tragedy of the Bierdz family doesn't end with Troy. The book, however, does end on a promising note and proves that unconditional love does exist even in the worst of circumstances.

My thoughts:

Once I started reading this book, I simply could not put it down. Not only did my heart break for Thom and his family, I became frustratingly annoyed by the judicial system with respect to people with mental disease. Troy was fortunate to have a brother as vigilant, loving and strong as Thom to be able to put aside his own grief to help his brother.

Not only is this a fascinating story, but the way the book is laid out is impressive. The chapters highlight important events in his family's life and takes the reader masterfully through the years following the crime. The book also includes many pictures of Thom's paintings that are impressive yet daunting. It's no wonder he has received such accolades and praise.

I'd like to thank Thom Bierdz for sending me this book that will resonate with me for quite some time. I've been a fan of his work on Y & R for years, but now having read his book, I have a whole new respect for him. I encourage you to pick up this book if you're looking for a true account of unconditional love. This book is available at

Author: Thom Bierdz
Publisher: Tom Bierdz, Inc.
Published: 2009
Pages: 288
Grade: A+

Sep 23, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Current Reads

It certainly has been awhile since I've participated in Booking Through Thursday and I must say, I've missed it and its good to be back!

This week's topic is about current reads. Here are the questions:

What are you currently reading? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? and Would you recommend it?

My responses:

Right now I'm reading a non-fiction book called FORGIVING TROY: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER, MENTAL ILLNESS, AND RECOVERY by Thom Bierdz. There are a few reasons I chose this book. Initially it was because I received a request from the author to send me a copy for review. Secondly, the author is an actor on the very popular soap opera, The Young & the Restless, which I have watched for many years, so I was familiar with who he was. Thirdly, I was intrigued by the mental illness aspect of the story and was curious to see how it played out. To say I'm enjoying this type of book sounds odd, but yes, it is an extremely insightful, interesting yet heartbreaking story that I am glad I chose to read. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers, especially those who have an interest in mental illness and subsequently, the judicial system with regard to dealing with these cases.

Click here for more Booking Through Thursday posts to see what books people are reading and why.

Sep 20, 2010

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

Frances Ellerby is twenty-six the first time she travels to Miami from her home in Atlanta for a friend's wedding. It is 1969 and summer is in full swing. When she accepts an invitation from Marse, a new friend she met at the wedding, to spend a day at a place called Stiltsville, she had no idea how her life was about to change.

Frances learnss that Stiltsville is a group of several houses built on pilings in Biscayne Bay that is accessible only by boat and that is where Frances would meet her future husband, Dennis DuVal. His family owns one of the stilthouses and Frances falls in love with its quiet beauty.The attraction between Frances and Dennis is obvious and Frances soon relocates to Miami and within a year they wed. They spend a lot of time at Stiltsville and Frances quickly adapts to the easy way of life that living in Miami offers. Through the years we follow Frances as her life with Dennis takes many turns: the birth of their daughter, Margo, hurricanes and illness, all play big roles in their life together. As she gets older, Frances recalls moments that changed and defined her life. Stiltsville is a place that is special to this family and represents a way of life that not many people are fortunate enough to experience. For them, it is a symbol of family

My thoughts:

STILTSVILLE is a great summer read. I live in Florida and it made me want to jump in the car and head south to Biscayne Bay to a stilthouse on the water. I could almost feel the calmness and quiet of the waves lapping gently against the pilings and feel the warmth of the sun beating on me through Daniel's writing. The story is told not in chapters but in sequences of time, representing important events in her life. Frances tells the story in a way that even though a lot of time is covered, it didn't get bogged down and moved along nicely. There were, however, a few times when the flashbacks were a bit long and I forgot the point the author was trying to make by sharing the memory in the first place. That said, it is an engrossing story that is very believable and well written.

The characters Daniel used are all very original and likable, although I never felt a closeness to Frances that I thought would develop through the book. She is a very nice lady who loves her family dearly, but I found her to be a bit standoffish, even cold at times. That's not to say I didn't like her because I did. I just didn't find her overly warm. And even though her relationship with her son-in-law was strained, I appreciated that she recognized his important role in the family and how much he helped out when needed. I really liked her relationship with Marse through the years and was glad their friendship withstood the test of time. Another favorite character was Bette, her sister-in-law. I was sad when she made the decision to move away from Miami with her partner.

Having lived in Florida for most of my life, many of the events Ms. Daniel mentioned in the book were very familiar to me, especially the student murders in Gainesville in 1990 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Gainesville is only 30 minutes from my home and I remember the fear that ran through the community while the murderer was being sought. She portrayed that event with great accuracy without it overtaking the story she was telling.

STILTSVILLE is very good womens fiction and tells a great story about love and family with loss and perseverance. It's a great first novel and I look forward to future books from her. Visit Susanna Daniel's website to learn more about the author, her book and to see some great photos of real stilthouses. Be sure to check out TLC Book Tours for more tour dates through October 11th.

I'd like to thank Lisa at TLC Book Tours and Harper Publishing for the opportunity to participate in this tour and for introducing me to such a promising new author. I recommend this book but will warn you - it will leave you yearning for the beach!

Author: Susanna Daniel
Publisher: Harper
Published: August 2010
Pages 320

Aug 19, 2010

Pray For Silence by Linda Castillo

PRAY FOR SILENCE is the second installment in Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder Series. Kate is the Chief of Police of small town Painters Mill, Ohio, which includes a large Amish community. She is no stranger to the Plain Life, being born into an Amish family herself. However, after enduring a traumatic event as a young girl, when Kate became of age, she decided not to join the church, which resulted in her being banned by the church, the Amish community and her family. Even though she doesn't live the Amish life, she still respects their beliefs and strives to keep a balance between the two cultures.

The peacefulness of small town life was brought to an abrupt end when an entire family was found brutally murdered with no apparent motive and little evidence left at the scene. The fact that the murdered family was Amish was even more baffling. The Plank family had recently moved to Painters Mill from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and had become well liked and respected by the other families within the district.

Even though Kate didn't personally know the Plank family, she felt a connection to them and given the brutal manner in which the two young daughters were assaulted, it affected Kate more than she cared to admit. It triggered painful memories of her own past that she has tried to put behind her.
Once again Kate enlists the help of Detective John Tomasetti, from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in Columbus, to help with the case and offer a profile of the murderer. But Kate also has her own personal reasons for wanting him there. They'd become quite close some ten months earlier when they first met while he was assisting her on a previous murder case. Their relationship is complicated yet she feels a certain reassurance and comfort from him that she neither expected nor knows how to handle.

When Kate finds a diary written by one of the daughters it begins to shed some light on what may have happened that terrible night and reinforces the fact in Kate's mind that even the Amish have secrets. It may well have been Mary Plank's secrets that got her entire family murdered.

My thoughts:

As in the first book, the story takes off right away with the quick discovery of the murder victims and subsequent criminal investigation. It's been roughly ten months since we first met Chief Burkholder and her small but effective staff. The list of suspects begins to grow. Not a lot of attention is put on the relationship between John and Kate, although there is a definite connection there. We do learn that John has been put on leave until he deals with some of his own issues, namely his addiction to prescription medications. He can not return to his job until he passes a drug test that he previously failed. His suspension, however doesn't keep him from assisting Kate on her murder case. What I like is that even though these two characters have such a strong chemistry, their relationship doesn't take away from the main theme of the book, which is the murder case. However, I actually found myself wanting there to be more going on with them.

The murder case is just as realistic and believable as the serial killer case in the first book and since most of the characters are carried over from the first book, I felt like I already knew them. The new characters involved in the investigation are equally as original and help give the story twists and turns.

The bottom line is that even though I wasn't as on the edge of my seat with this second book, I did enjoy the story and was completely satisfied with the outcome of both the murder case and how things were left between John and Kate. I think Ms. Castillo is smart in developing this relationship slowly and not making it center stage where it may take away from the main theme of the book. I look forward to seeing what the next case brings and if the romance will continue to grow. I would like to thank Mnotaur/St. Martins Press for supplying my review copy.

Author: Linda Castillo
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: June 2010
Pages: 320
Grade: B

You may also be interested in my review of SWORN TO SILENCE found here.

Aug 11, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I must first start off by stating that I don't normally read books that have had such a mass popular following as Stieg Larsson's books have had. A lot of books I read are written by authors who aren't so widely known or on the most popular books lists. I love reading new authors and quite honestly grow weary of hearing names like Patterson, Grafton, Koontz and others that get so much publicity in the mainstream market. I hate to sound cynical or biased, but I just don't fall for all of the hype that these popular books give off. That said, I made an exception with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. While on vacation earlier this year, I picked up a copy and vowed to read it at some point. A few months went by and for some unknown reason, I picked it up one day and decided it was time to see what all of the fuss was about. Another reason I wanted to read it was so that I could participate in conversations about the book based on my own experience and information. Let's face it, people are talking about this book everywhere!

I'm not going to try to sum up all of what goes on in this amazing book except to say that is a story with two main characters who are equally engaging and interesting. One is Mikael Blomkvist - journalist and part owner of a controversial magazine called Millennium. The other is a twenty-four year old social misfit who is as mysterious as she is smart. The story centers around criminal financial dealings and a forty year old missing persons case. You can find a complete synopsis here from Amazon.

My thoughts:

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said over and over again? I'll just get right to it: I really enjoyed this book! I mean, I LOVED it! I'll be honest, though. When I first began reading, I was concerned that with so many characters (and difficult Swedish names) I would have a hard time keeping them straight, but once I got into the story I realized I wasn't having a problem at all. The characters, especially Blomkvist and Salander are two of the most intriguing and original characters I've ever read about. They were so well developed that by the time they actually met each other in the book, each of their personalities was clear to me. I loved their exchanges and quickly regarded their new friendship as something real and honest.

The stories going on are masterfully interwoven and kept me turning the pages with anticipation. I'm not what I consider to be a fast reader but I read this book in a very short amount of time based on my usual timetable. I just simply didn't want to stop reading and was finished in 6 days and given that it was 600 pages, that really says something. One thing I like about this book is that there is so much happening and so much to learn about the characters. Though the mystery of what happened to Harriet Vanger back in 1966 is at the book's core, there are other sub plots that play huge roles and will no doubt surface later. There are also many unanswered questions about Lisbeth that I am looking forward to being revealed. In a great mystery, answers tend to lead to more questions and Stieg Larsson was a master at crafting a powerful mystery.

However, I'll be honest - if you're the type of reader who likes to quickly get to the action in a story, you may have a difficult time waiting through all of the development that takes place in this book. Even the most seemingly unimportant detail may well turn out to be a critical part in the story. There is a certain amount of patience needed for this type of book, but in my opinion it is well worth the wait.

The bottom line is that I loved reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates complicated, layered plots and intriguing characters. I found it to be wonderfully multi-layered and I thoroughly enjoyed peeling back those layers to get to the end. Many times books don't live up to the hype they get from being so popular which is why I typically shy away from those books. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the exception and I believe will not disappoint you if you choose to read it.

I can easily say this is my favorite book so far this year and even though I hated to see it come to an end, I am very much looking forward to the second book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. I have a feeling I'm going to love it every bit as much as this one.

Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Vintage Crime
Published: June 2009
Pages: 600 pages
Grade: A (Highly Recommended)

Aug 10, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: TGWPWF

If you'd like to play along on Teaser Tuesday, follow these simple rules. MizB hosts this weekly meme each week and it's a great way to take a peek inside some really great books!
  • Grab your current read
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Pick two sentences to use as teasers
  • List the name and page number of the book you're taking your teasers from
This week my teasers are from the second book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. There's so much talk about these books everywhere, so I'll just get straight to the teasers!

Salander was seething inside. She was so enraged that she tasted blood in her mouth. Now she was going to have to punish him. ~ page 197

I can say whole heartedly that as much as I enjoyed THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, I am enjoying this second book every bit as much - possibly even more! If you're looking for a book with well developed characters and a story that has many layers, you should really make the time to read this series.

For more teasers, visit Should Be Reading.

Aug 8, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Rainy Days and Book Sales

I'm getting a bit of a slow start on my Sunday Salon post for today, but I think the weather has something to do with it. It is so humid that it just sucks all of the energy right out of me. I've had a very leisurely morning that included making myself an amazing breakfast to get my day started off right. I made my version of an open-faced veggie omelet. I used zucchini and red bell pepper, topped it with melted cheese and sprinkled some garlic chives on top from my herb garden. I had whole wheat toast and fresh squeezed orange juice with it and it was fabulous! I don't normally eat a big breakfast, so this was a special treat that will last me through the whole day. I'd be happy to share my recipe with anyone who is interested in trying it. Just leave me a comment and I'll get it to you!

The storms have officially arrived early again today so it will be a great day to do some reading. I did venture out yesterday in between downpours and made my way to our library's quarterly book sale. This time they dedicated a whole room to fiction, which was a great idea. It made for a lot more room to browse. I found some books by authors that I've always wanted to read. Here's what I got:
  • Anne Rivers Siddons - UP ISLAND - Someone at the book sale highly recommended this one to me and since I've always wanted to read her work, thought it was a good sign.
  • Maeve Binchy - TARA ROAD - Binchy is such a popular and successful writer and I've been curious about her books and this one sounds fascinating.
  • Sue Monk Kidd - THE MERMAID CHAIR - Since THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES is one of my all-time favorite books, I snatched this one up as soon as I saw it!
  • Alice Hoffman - AT RISK - I grabbed this one up too simply because I haven't read any of her books and I figured this was a great place to start.
Looking at that list of authors, I think I did very well. That was the easy part - now the hard part is making the time to read them all! Of these books, i think I'll probably read Hoffman's first. I'm actually embarrassed to admit I haven't read anything by her. Have you read this book? If so, I'd love to know what you thought of it.

Since half the day is gone already, I think its time for me to grab my current book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, and start reading. I still have two reviews to post this week - PRAY FOR SILENCE by Linda Castillo and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson, so I do hope you'll visit again soon and check them out.

Hope your Sunday is a pleasant one filled with lots of time for reading!

Aug 4, 2010

W.W.W. Wednesdays

W.W.W. Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and to play along, all you have to do is answer these simple questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you planning to read next?
Here are my responses:
  • What are you currently reading? I just started reading THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE by Stieg Larsson and loving it already! The characters were so well developed in the first book and the story takes off right away.

  • What did you recently finish reading? I finished two books, which is not the norm for me, but they were both fantastic! The first one was THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson and the second was PRAY FOR SILENCE by Linda Castillo. I will be posting my reviews in the coming days, so please come back. I also posted my review of A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick and you can find it here. This book caused some varying reactions and it's been interesting reading how differently people feel about it. It's definitely a book that gets people talking. Have you read it?

  • What are you planning to read next? There are two books I'm planning next, one being non-fiction. It is FORGIVING TROY by Thom Bierdz. He is one of the actors from The Young and the Restless whose brother, Troy, beat their mother to death in 1989. Troy is mentally handicapped and this is Thom's story of how he and his family have dealt with this tragedy for the last twenty years. This is an award-winning book that I'm sure will leave an impression. The other book I'm planning to read is QUEEN OF PALMYRA by Minrose Gwin. I have to credit Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff with this choice. It was because of her rave review that I chose this book, plus the fact that I really enjoy books set in the south. I'm very anxious to start this one!
What books have captured your attention this week?

Aug 3, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Pray for Silence

Teaser Tuesday is where we readers/bloggers share a couple sentences from the books we're currently reading. It's a great way to get a feel for books you may be interested in reading for yourself. For more details and other teasers, visit Should Be Reading each Tuesday.

Today the teaser I'm sharing is from a book I actually finished yesterday. The book is PRAY FOR SILENCE by Linda Castillo. It's the second book in the Kate Burkholder series, the first being SWORN TO SILENCE, which was recently released in paperback. Here is my teaser from PRAY FOR SILENCE . . .

For a second, I can't speak or move or even think. Then my cop's mind switches on and the horrific details of what I'm seeing slam into my brain. ~ page 15

This is a great series from Linda Castillo that I have been enjoying very much. I'll be posting my review in the coming days, so I hope you'll come back to check it out.

Aug 1, 2010

[TSS] A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Usually when I finish reading a book, especially one that I've anticipated for a while, I come away with a pretty definite understand of how I feel about that book. When A RELIABLE WIFE made it's rounds on the blogs when it first came out in 2009, it instantly became, for me, a book I must read. Most of the reviews I read were favorable, which only made me want to read it more. But having now read it, I have mixed emotions about the book and that surprises me. Just in case you aren't familiar with the book, here's a brief synopsis (without spoilers).

Ralph Truitt, a successful and lonely widower living in the Wisconsin countryside in 1907, is tired of living alone after twenty years and puts a personal ad in a Chicago newspaper for 'A Reliable Wife'. He's not necessarily looking for love but companionship and possibly children in the future. His wishes are made very clear.

Catherine Land is the woman who answers the ad, looking for a new beginning in a place she's never been and hopeful that things will work out. Catherine is willing to go along with Truitt's objective, however, she has plans of her own. It becomes clear early on that she isn't who she says she is and she doesn't have Truitt's best interests at heart.

What follows is a story about trust, loyalty, love, and at the center of everything - lust. The story takes place in about a year's time and brings out the most basic of human desires: to live a happy and contented life.

My thoughts:

What I noticed right away in treading this book was Gookrick's unique writing style. It is direct and is told almost as if someone is standing there telling you their thoughts, at times, repeating certain lines to ensure you got their message. The story takes off immediately and the cold Wisconsin winter setting was perfectly described so that I could almost feel the winter's cold on my face.

I didn't think I was going to like Ralph Truitt at the very beginning, but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. He was a likable and realistic character, as was most all of the supporting characters. However, right away, I was leery of Catherine and her motives.

The story itself was an original one and considering the era in which it was based, I thought it was believable. Shortly after Ralph and Catherine are married, Ralph insists Catherine help him bring his long lost son home to Wisconsin. He hasn't seen the boy since he was a teenager but has had the famed Pinkerton Agency looking for him for many years. Catherine reluctantly agrees to travel to St. Louis to meet with the now grown man to encourage him to come home with her. That's when things really get intense. Nothing is as it seems and the story becomes riveting at that point. I was fascinated by what was happening and had to keep reading. I was pleased with the ending and I did feel a sense of relief once I was finished. I must say that it was a strange story with many twists and turns but I felt satisfied with the outcome and I'm glad to have read it.

That said, when people ask me what I thought of it, I still have trouble putting my finger on it. I can't say I loved it, although there were aspects about the story that kept me intrigued. Still other times though, I ask myself, What was the point of all of that? So you see, I'm still not quite sure how I really feel about it. I will just say, I was pleased with this uniquely strange story about a man looking for a woman to share his life.

Have you read this book? And did you have similar feelings about it or is it just me? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I do believe that this book is not for everyone. It has some racy parts that might make you blush if you're sensitive about talking about sex. As a whole, I would recommend this book but not to everyone.

Author: Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: Paperback January 2010
Pages: 320
Rating: 3 and a half Stars - I think!

Jul 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: TGWTDT

Today I'm taking my teasers from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson, a book I'm sure you all are familiar with. It's such an engrossing story and I am really into it. So into it that I have already purchased the Kindle version of the second book in the series. Now on to the teasers . . .

With the appearance of Nils Bjurman, the declaration of incompetence threatened to become a troublesome burden in her life. No matter who she turned to, pitfalls would open up; and what would happen if she lost the battle? Would she be institutionalized? Locked up? There was really no option. ~ page 230

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my teasers. I hope it left you curious. For more teasers visit MizB at Should Be Reading.

Jul 25, 2010

Sunday Salon: Dystopian Fantasy

Hello and thanks for visiting today! After receiving a review copy of a new book the other day, it has left me curious. The book was unsolicited and of course, I was happy to receive it but isn't the type of book I would typically choose for myself. It is dystopian fantasy, which I rarely read and it got me to wondering if this is a genre that many of you read? I know we all have our own tastes and preferences where books are concerned and I'm really interested in your answers.

The particular book I received is WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedo Okorafor. She is an accomplished and award-winning writer of young adult fiction, though this novel is her first foray into the adult genre. Being of Nigerian decent, she is known fo r incorporating African cultures into her science fiction writing. The title certainly grabbed my attention and I find the cover striking as well. After reading the book flap, I am actually really looking forward to reading it. For a quick synopsis of this interesting new book, click here to visit

Aside from receiving this new book, I also got my 50th Anniversary Edition of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I'm so happy to have it and I'm planning to read a little bit each evening to savor it and to make it last. Just in reading the first few chapters, I feel like I'm visiting an old friend and I find myself smiling a lot while I read. Isn't it wonderful when a book can make you feel so good?

I posted my review of a book I loved this week. It was BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson. You can find the review here. I will definitely be reading more of her previous books and looking forward to new ones as well. I know this book is making it's way around the blogs and if you get the chance, you really ought to read it, especially if you enjoy Southern Fiction. It's well worth the time.

I also finished reading A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick last week and will be posting my review in the next day or so. I'm happy that I finally read it, although it was a different sort of book.

This week I'm reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson and I am really into it. I didn't know if I would like the whole financial intrigue aspect of it but I am loving it and hate putting it down. In fact, with the scorching temps we're supposed to have here today, I'm planning on staying inside reading all day. Are you planning to spend your day reading? If so, what has your attention these days?