Dec 15, 2011

Review: The King of Lies by John Hart

THE KING OF LIES is the first novel of two time Edgar Award winner John Hart  (The Last Child, Down River, Iron House) He is a North Carolina native, who went from defense attorney to novelist, writing crime thrillers based in North Carolina.  

About The Book - (from GoodReads)
Jackson Workman Pickens--known to most as "Work"--mindlessly holds together his disintegrating life: a failing law practice left to him when his father, Ezra, mysteriously disappeared, a distant wife who shares their loveless marriage, and an estranged sister who bore the brunt of their childhood trauma.
And then Ezra's body is discovered.
Set to inherit his father's fortune, Work becomes a prime suspect.  But so does his sister, Jean.  As much as Work's life was overshadowed by his domineering father, Jean's life was nearly destroyed by him. But does that make her capable of a vicious murder?  Fearing the worst, Work launches his own investigation, crossing paths with a power-hungry detective, a string of damning evidence, and the ugly rumors that swirl within his small, moneyed Southern town.
Desperate for the redemption that has eluded him for so many years and stripped of everything he once valued, he fights to save his sister and clear his name--in this poignant and thrilling anatomy of a murder and its ripple effect within a family and a community.

My Thoughts

Its no secret that I am a big fan of John Hart. The first book of his I read was THE LAST CHILD last year and I really enjoyed it. Earlier this year I read IRON HOUSE, his latest and I was blown away. 

THE KING OF LIES doesn't get off to a quick start like IRON HOUSE does, but Hart methodically lays the ground work for what is, I believe, a very good mystery.  The questions surrounding Ezra's disappearance and subsequent discovery of his remains keep the story going and has many paths to travel. The convincing list of suspects and their involvements with the victim creates a believable and engaging story. The fact that the lead detective only wants to focus on Ezra's son, Work, only makes the other suspects more visible, in my opinion.  

I did feel the story dragging a little bit about half-way through.  I was ready for a tempo change and, luckily, soon after after having that thought, things began to happen at a quicker pace and with more excitement.  That said, I was pleased with THE KING OF LIES. I'm happy I took the time to read it and I do plan to read his second novel, DOWN RIVER, at some point as well. 

Having read his three later novels, I have definitely seen the progression of a really great suspense writer. In fact, IRON HOUSE  is one of my top picks of this year. His writing gets more intense and exciting with each book.  Needless to say, I am anxiously awaiting his next release. 

Author: John Hart
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: 2006
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library

Dec 11, 2011

Audio Book Review: Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles #1) by Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicles, the new series by Jeffrey Archer (best selling author of Kane & Abel), beginning with ONLY TIME WILL TELL, is the coming-of-age story of Harry Clifton.  But this is so much more than a coming-of-age tale. It has an unexpected dark side that Archer delivers brilliantly as the story of Harry's life unfolds.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.

As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, I enjoyed this book so much that it even surprised me!  Sometimes family sagas can be long and drawn out and bordering on boring, but I was pleased to discover that was not the case with ONLY TIME WILL TELL.  The first thing I noticed in listening to this audio was the superb narration of Roger Allam. His smooth, even voice with it's pleasing English accent just makes you want to keep listening. It was perfectly suited for this novel. Allam does most of the narration but the voice of Harry's mother, done by Emelia Fox, was also spot on. 

The way Archer told this story about Harry's young life and into adulthood was different than just telling a straight-forward story. As we drifted from character to character, the story would overlap and that enables the reader to get the whole truth of events and how they really happened. There were many revelations made this way simply from listening to another character's point of view. I really liked this technique and that's what gave me many 'Aha' moments. I didn't find it confusing at all. 

The characters were fantastic and I especially enjoyed Old Jack, the old man living a secluded life at the shipyard who befriends Harry and looks out for him for years. It was an endearing relationship and made the story very special. All of the characters were well developed and with the interesting way Archer told this story, they seemed to constantly be evolving. 

There was a darker side of this story that made it unpredictable. I tend to like books with a darker side and although this wasn't dark like evil dark, it was dark enough to know that at some point everything would be out in the open and it wouldn't be good.  

I loved the way the first book ended and I am really looking forward to the next installment. Since I enjoyed the audio version so much, I believe I will continue with that format. After I finished this book, I felt an empty place and I actually missed hearing Harry's story told by Roger Allam.  

Special thanks to Anna at Diary of an Eccentric for hosting the giveaway with Macmillan Audio that enabled me to experience this story. 

ONLY TIME WILL TELL (Clifton Chronicles #1)
Author:  Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published:  August 30, 2011
Listening Length:  12h 41m
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5
Source: Giveaway Win from Diary of an Eccentric and Macmillan Audio 

Dec 4, 2011

Changes are Coming!

Happy Sunday to all you Saloners! I have an exciting announcement that I'd like to share with all of you.  In the coming weeks, there will be some big changes coming to Books and Cooks. As my 4th Blogoversary nears (January 8th) I have decided now is the time for me to create my own website and leave Blogger.  I've  been wanting to do this for quite some time, but it seems there's always something happening in my life that takes my attention. I'm hoping to start off the new year with my 'new' blog and I hope you will be there to share it with me.

First and foremost, there will be one major change - Books and Cooks will no longer be the name of the blog. Soon you will see Southern Girl Reads and that, my friends, is me.  I will have my own domain and it will simply be Short, simple and easy to remember. I hope you like it.

The site is up now, however, not much is there as we're just getting started developing the layout and adding components. My good friend and former co-worker, Gerald, at Lane Digital is doing all the hard work and I am simply telling him what I want.  It's all very exciting and I'm hoping it will be done before my Blogoversary. What a great present to myself!

In the meantime, I'll continue posting here, at Books and Cooks and you may see little changes here and there until we switch over to the new site. So please bear with me as I take this huge step - its kind of a learn-as-you-go experience for me.

I'm so blessed to be a part of this wonderful blogging community that has always greeted me with open arms and made me feel like I'm part of a family. Your contnued support and friendship means the world to me and frankly, I would be lost without it. Book bloggers are THE most awesome people and I'm happy and proud to know each of you. I can't wait to share my new endeavor with you and I hope you like the final outcome.

Thanks again for stopping by today and sharing my news with me. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions if you have any! I love input!! Take care and enjoy those books you're reading!

P.S. Remember -

Nov 30, 2011

Review: Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #4)

The Southern Vampire series featuring telepath Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress from Bon Temps, LA, and written by the amazing Charlaine Harris has become my favorite guilty pleasures.  I've been taking my time reading these books, mainly my 'in-between' reads.  I have enjoyed all four I've read but DEAD TO THE WORLD is my favorite by far. Here's a quick rundown on what this installment is about but don't worry, I won't give anythingt away.


After Sookie and a few of her two-natured friends rescue vampire Bill Compton in book 3, CLUB DEAD, she is looking forward to some piece and quiet without any drama. But, as usual, drama is always looking for Sookie. And it finds her on her way home from Merlottes's, the bar where she works, late one night. To her amazement, she runs across Eric, the Sheriff of Area 5, and owner of Fangtasia, a very successful vampire bar in Shreveport. She nearly runs him over with her car and upon stopping, discovers that he is not only buck-naked, but completely without his memory.  He has no idea how he got there, why he is naked and most frightening of all, he doesn't know who he is.

Never before has she felt such compassion for this normally over-confident, arrogant, not to mention very sexy vampire. But she can't help herself. Obviously, someone has put a spell on Eric which has turned him into a vulnerable, even likable vampire and Sookie simply cannot turn her back on him no matter how much she may end up regretting it later.

While Sookie and the other vamps try to figure out who - or what - has done this to Eric, she agrees to let him stay with her at her family home for his own protection. To make matters even worse, her brother Jason, has become missing and no one seems to know where he is. So Sookie, once again has her plate full.  Between worrying about her brother, taking care of Eric while concealing his presence at her house, Sookie is stretched pretty thin. Complicating the situation further is having this helpless, vulnerable version of Eric in her home. She is taken off guard by the innocence and caring nature of this new Eric. She must keep reminding herself that things will surely return to normal once the culprit is exposed and the spell is reversed.


OK, I've already mentioned that this is my favorite book so far and now I'll tell you why.  First and foremost, even though I am a Bill Compton fan, I've always enjoyed the chemistry between Eric and Sookie and Harris has taken it to a whole new level with this latest twist.

Another plus is that with each adventurous installment, we are introduced to more magical creatures. In this book, we encounter witches, faeries and even the deadly werepanthers. But Harris weaves these new characters masterfully with the already established vampires and shapeshifters. It makes for a great landscape of exciting storytelling.

I love that each new book starts within days of the previous books ending. It is like one continuous story and nothing is lost in between. I love the characters, old and new, in this book and the mystery of Jason's disappearance and Eric's spell makes for a very interesting ride. I love the unexpected change in Sookie's relationship with Eric, even though I'm a die-hard Bill Compton fan. I must warn you though - some of the scenes with Eric and Sookie are hot, Hot, HOT!! Charlain Harris has done a fantastic job with DEAD TO THE WORLD and makes me want to dive right into the next book! If you're looking for something different, quick and fun to read, pick up a Sookie Stackhouse mystery and you will not be disappointed!

Author:  Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace
Published: 2004
Pages: 304
Rating 4.5 out of 5

Nov 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 11.29.11

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, where each week we share a few teaser sentences with other book lovers to get a glimpse into the books being read. Its a great way to add to your TBR list! Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current book and let if fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 teaser sentences to share
  • Be careful NOT to include any spoilers!!
  • Name the title, author and page number of the book you are taking your teasers from
It's that simple!! Now lets move on to my teasers for the week. I'm currently reading THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins and I'm taking my teasers from page 84.

Perhaps the girl doesn't even remember me.  But I know she does.  You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope.

Although this isn't a genre that I read a lot of, I am really enjoying this book. My goal is to get all three in the trilogy read before the movie comes out in March.

To participate in Teaser Tuesday, please visit MizB at Should Be Reading for all the details. Thanks for stopping by and please do visit again!  Happy Reading!

Nov 16, 2011

Audio Book Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Annie O'Sullivan is a successful Realtor, and at 32 years old, feels she has her life under control for the most part. Her life isn't perfect, but she has a good business with new prospects, a beautiful home and a boyfriend who puts up with her hectic schedule and long hours of work. Her family life is not without it's issues: her relationship with her mother and step-father could be better, but time heals all wounds, right?

And then everything changed in an instant.  Annie was hosting an Open House for one of her listings and after a slow day, one last potential buyer pulled in the driveway.  Annie put on her best smile and greeted him at the door.  His name was David and he had one of her fliers in his hands. But he wasn't there to look at the house.  Before Annie knew what was happening, she had been grabbed, forced into his van and taken away from everything she knew - and no one knew she was missing.

She is groggy, confused and has no idea where she is. How long will it be before her boyfriend realizes she won't be making their dinner plans later that evening? Will he think she's just working late again? What is this man planning to do with her? How long will it take her family to realize she's missing?  And how will she survive?

My Thoughts:

When I first began listening to this audio, I thought it was going to be a frightening read - one that I wouldn't read at night, but I soon realized it wasn't frightening in that sense, but in a whole other sense. It unfathomable what she endures at the hands of this man she's never seen before, yet he seems to know about her life. The story takes off rather quickly with the abduction and a rhythm falls into place.  Each chapter begins with Annie at her therapist's office after the ordeal is over.  An ordeal that lasted en entire year. So, the question isn't Did she survive? The question becomes How did she survive being held captive for an entire year by a psychopath?

Each chapter begins with Annie opening up about certain aspects of her abduction. In each session, her tone starts out hard, almost flippant, and sarcastic but as she continues talking, her voice becomes softer and wistful, like it belongs to someone else. Like a movie she's watching in her mind. You can hear the changes happen and feel the feeling of utter amazement in her voice that this terrible thing actually happened to her.

Angela Dawe does a great job narrating this tragic story. You can hear the many emotions in her voice as she describes the day to day events of that year and how she struggles to fight her way back to a life she thought would always be there. I liked the way Chevy Stevens alternates the story between the abduction and her life after her release. It is a very effective writing style and makes for good storytelling.

The ending of the story has a shocking twist that I wasn't expecting.  It is a disturbing twist but in this crazy world we live in, it is completely believable, albeit harshly stunning. Overall, I was happy with the book and enjoyed it, though it was tough listening at times.  It is a very well told story that I'm glad I took the time to listen to.

Author:  Chevy Stevens
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: July 2010
Length: 9 Hr 6 Min
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Nov 9, 2011

Review: Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

FINDING NOUF is the first in a series written by Zoe Ferraris taking place in Saudi Arabia and centering around the disappearance of Nouf Shrawi, a teenaged daughter of a powerful, wealthy family. Nouf has been reported missing and the family hires Nayir al-Sharqi, a desert guide and friend of the family, to find her. They suspect an abduction but no ransom has been demanded.  Soon after Nayir begins his search, Nouf's body is found in the desert, a victim of an apparent drowning. Though the Medical Examiner closes the case, one of Nouf's brothers, Othman, quietly keeps Nayir on to find out what really happened to his sister.

Upon visiting the ME's office, Nayir encounters Katya Hijazi who works in the women's section.  Katya is one of very few women to have a professional job in their very strict culture.  Nayir, being extremely traditional, has a difficult time dealing with Katya and her involvement with the case.   Not only does she know the family, but she is also engaged to Othman.

With Katya's help in the lab, Naryir begins to uncover clues as to what may have happened to Nouf, but some clues lead to even more difficult and sometimes troubling questions.  Nayir fears the answers may bring him to a terrible truth and jeopardize his friendship with the Shrawi family.

My Thoughts:

One of the things I like about this book is that it's not your typical mystery novel. I love the Saudi Arabian locale and the culture it brought into the story. While Ms. Ferraris kept the mystery around Nouf's disappearance moving, she also successfully incorporated Nayir's inner conflict regarding his thoughts on women and what was proper behavior. Nayir lives a quiet, solitary life and he longs to know the love of a woman but scolds himself for having what he considers impure thoughts. The more time he spent with Katya working on the case only made Nayir more conflicted. His admiration for her was growing yet he often felt she was crossing a line and it was his responsibility to maintain a proper distance. Especially considering she was engaged to his friend. The two characters worked well together and was a natural fit.

The Muslim culture has always intrigued me so it was only natural that I enjoyed that aspect of the book so much.  That is what makes this such a unique series and one that I will definitely continue reading. The second book in the series, CITY OF VEILS was released by Little, Brown and Company in August of 2010. I'm looking forward to discovering the next case these two unique characters team up to solve.

Author: Zoe Ferraris
Publisher: Mariner Books
Published: May 2009
Pages: 320
Source: Purchased from Alibris  

Oct 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 10.18.11

Today I'm taking my teasers from John Hart's debut novel, THE KING OF LIES which was published in 2006. I'm a big fan of his later work and though I've read his last two books, I'd never read his first two. i'm correcting that omission now.

My Teasers:

Eventually, I arrived at the park, my house before me like a stranger's.  It glowed in the eerie light, and loomed taller than normal against the gunmetal sky.  The cops ere there, too, at least a dozen of them; and my neighbors, like my colleagues, had gathered for the feast.  ~ page 290 Large Print Edition

If you'd like to participate in Teaser Tuesday, simply follow these easy instructions;
  • Open your current book to a random page
  • Choose two teaser sentences to share, being careful NOT to include any spoilers
  • List the name of the book, author and page number you took your teasers from
  • Go to Should Be Reading and share the link to your post in the comment section
Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you enjoyed my teasers!
You Might Also Like:

Oct 17, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World of Books. where we discuss what books we've read, and what books we will be reading this week.

Last Week:

Last week I finished three books:

  • DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris - This is book four in the Sookie Stackhouse series and by far my favorite one yet! 
  • STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens - I listened to the audio version 
  • FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris - This is the first in the series taking place in Saudi Arabia that features Nayir, a desert tracker and Katya, a technician in the medical examiners office. 
Last week I reviewed 1 book that I consider to be one of the best books of 2011:

This Week:

I will be reading two books:

  • THE KING OF LIES by John Hart - This is his first novel from 2006 that I've wanted to read ever since I read - and loved - THE LAST CHILD in 2009 (his 3rd book)
  • ONLY TIME WILL TELL by Jeffrey Archer - I'm listening to the audio version and though I've just begun, I can tell I'm going to like it. It's the first in his new Clifton Chronicles series. 
I will also be posting reviews for DEAD TO THE WORLD and STILL MISSING, so please do stop back by and check them out.

Thanks for stopping by for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Oct 13, 2011

Review: Iron House by John Hart

Two time Edgar Award winner John Hart released this, his fourth novel, in July and having read and loved his third book, THE LAST CHILD, published in 2009, my expectations were pretty high. Fortunately, he did not let this reader down. Keeping with his style, the story was filled with twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat.

About The Book:
(No spoilers)

Michael and his younger brother, Julian, knew nothing of their family. Basically, they didn't have one. Abandoned at a tender age, they were taken in by an orphanage named for the mountain where it was located.  Iron House Orphange for Boys had once been an asylum for the insane and still had dark reminders of those long ago days within it's walls.

The two brothers were extremely close and with Julian being the younger, weaker boy, Michael took the role of Julian's protector. Growing up in the orphanage among other discarded boys and juvenile delinquents, life was very hard and even dangerous, considering the lack of supervision at the orphanage. Most of the time Michael was there when his brother needed him but one night the older, tougher boys caught Julian alone and this time his brother wasn't there to save him. After the beating Julian snapped and by the time Michael found him it was too late.   Quick decisions had to be made. With his brother in shock, Michael grabbed the evidence and took off, taking the blame with him. He ran far away and ended up on the streets of New York until he was taken in by a man who he would later find out was once a street thug but had become the head of one of the most powerful crime families in the state. Through his teenage years he groomed Michael and with his natural skills and level-headedness, he became a valuable asset to the organization.

Now in his mid 30's and the old man dying, Michael dreams of a life away from crime. The old man gives him permission to leave and start a new life, but it isn't going to easy. The boss's son is against Michael leaving and vows to hunt him down.  But he also has information on Julian and threatens to kill him if Michael tries to leave. Also at risk is Elena, Michael's girlfriend, who knows nothing of his life in the mob...and who is carrying his baby.

In the following days, Michael and Elena's lives are turned upside down as they makes their way to North Carolina to the family that adopted Julian to make sure he is protected. He was adopted by a State Senator and his wife right after Michael ran away from the orphanage and from the looks of it on the outside, Julian has everything he needs, including protection. But looks can be very deceiving. Once he is able to get to the inside of Julian's heavily guarded adopted family, Michael realizes a whole new set of dangers...and questions, some of which lead him back to Iron House.

My Thoughts

I'll just get right to it and say that I loved this book. The synopsis I gave is just the tip of the iceberg to what is going on in this story. John Hart effectively and successfully develops a multi-layered story that takes you from one gripping aspect to the next. This is not just a story about two brothers and a life of crime. IRON HOUSE has many elements that are brought together seamlessly while keeping the reader in suspense the whole way through. This book has more action than his previous books which only makes the story even more suspenseful.

There are many colorful characters that add other dimensions to the story, but Michael, by far, is the main character and my favorite. Although he is a tough mob enforcer, he also has a tender side that is brought out beautifully.  I began cheering him on early in the book. There is not one slow or dull part within these pages. There is more than just one mystery to this novel. Just when you think you have all the answers, something happens to leave you with more questions. I was completely satisfied with the ending and, in fact, hated to see it end. As I was reading, I kept telling myself that this book would make a great movie! I could even see someone like Russell Crowe playing the lead part...OK, I digress....

Bottom line: if you haven't read John Hart's work, you are missing out on some thrilling fiction.  While I eagerly await his next book, I am definitely going to read his first two: THE KING OF LIES and DOWN RIVER. I have no doubt I will be equally impressed. Critics have compared his style of writing to Grisham, but in my opinion, Hart takes it to a whole new level and shouldn't be compared to Grisham at all. If you are unfamiliar with this author, I encourage you to visit his website to learn more about him and his books. You can even read the first chapter right from the website.

I would like to thank Chelsea Smialek at St. Martin's Press for my copy of this thrilling new book. It is definitely on my list of top books of 2011. If you do read it, you will soon see why John Hart is my favorite Southern Suspense writer.

Author: John Hart
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: July 2011
Pages: 432
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Sep 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Finding Nouf

It's Tuesday and time for another Teaser! Here's how it works:

  • Grab your current book and let if all open to a random page.
  • Choose two sentences as your teasers
  • Include the title, author and page number you took your teasers from
  • Do NOT include any spoilers
Today I'm taking my teasers from FINDING NOUF by Zoe Ferraris. I had started this book several months ago but laid it off to the side because I had several books going at the same time. I'm really glad to be getting back to it because it really is good story. Not to mention that I'm fascinated by Saudi Arabian cultures.

My Teasers:

Although the comment was spoken modestly, it prompted him to think of the other reasons she might have come.  It was, in a way, an accusation: You think dirty thoughts.  He felt a brief indignation.  ~ page 133

Thanks for stopping by today for Teaser Tuesday! Be sure to visit MizB at Should Be Reading each Tuesday for more Teasers! 

Sep 22, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Public

This week's Booking Through Thursday asks:

Do you carry books with you when you're out and about in the world?  And, do you ever try to hide the covers?

My Answer:

Yes, I always have a book with me when I'm away from home. When I worked I would read on my lunch hour but even now that I'm unable to work, I still have a book with me at all times. Because I'm unable to drive, I depend on others to help me get around and sometimes that mean having to wait for someone to pick me up. I get a lot of reading done during those times.

No, I've never been ashamed of having people see what I'm reading. I think reading is very under rated and more times than not, people are curious as to what I'm reading. I've even had people say to me that seeing me with a book, encourages them to try to make more time to read. I think that is wonderful. I realize many people don't have as much free time to read as I do, but if the want is there, they'll make time to read even if its for just a few minutes a day.

Now that I have a Kindle, it is even easier for me to take a book along. It fits in my purse easily and I can whip it out anywhere! I believe the more people see other people reading, it can only be a positive influence, so I'm proud to show I'm a Reader!

Sep 20, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: A Vamp Thing

Teaser Tuesday asks you to:

  • Grab your current book and let it fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 teaser sentences 
  • List the title, author and page you took your teasers from
  • Go to Should Be Reading and post your answers to share with other participants
My Teaser:

I'm taking my teasers from DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris.  This is the fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I've been enjoying it every bit as much as Book one, DEAD UNTIL DARK. My teasers are from page 128

It didn't take much to make me happy.  A long night with a dead guy had done the trick. - Sookie on just having a very pleasurable night with the very sexy Eric.

Sep 18, 2011

[TSS] A Lot of Books and an eBook Offer!

Hello and thanks for stopping by today! I've spent the first part of my weekend sorting through my books. Not just sorting but moving them.  I've always wanted to make one of the bedrooms in my house a home library and that wish is finally coming true. I had to get rid of a few pieces of furniture and do some rearranging but it is starting to come together. Previously, I had my books spread out in different parts of the house and now I am able to keep them all together in my new reading room. Thanks to a few friends, I've acquired a couple of really nice book shelves and luckily, they match!

Yesterday was spent putting the bookshelves in place and gathering all the books.  As I was going through them and putting them on the shelves (Not in any order yet) I was hit with the reality that I have WAY too many books that I haven't read! I knew I had a lot but - Wow! I still have about 50 more books to move in there but I'll need another bookshelf. Once I get them all in the same room, I plan to arrange them all in alphabetical order by author name. I'm curious, how do you arrange your books? Title? Genre?

I'm really looking forward to finishing my new room and spending more time in there - although I'll have to share the room with Jax, my cat, because that's really his room. He sleeps in the recliner in there every afternoon. I may have to get another chair! Once I get everything situated and the room is complete, I'll share a photo but right now there's still too much to do. But it's shaping up nicely. I love walking down the hall and seeing all my beloved books in once place! It makes my heart happy!

On another note, I want to give a shout-out to Bonnie at Redlady's Reading Room. Yesterday she posted on Facebook a free ebook offer for Kindle and Nook users from Pixel of Ink. It's called The Everything Soup, Stew and Chili Cookbook and with my favorite time of year approaching, this cookbook sounds perfect.  I downloaded mine to my Kindle immediately and now I want to share it with you too. Just click on the title and it will take you there. Thanks again Bonnie!

I won't get much reading done today because I'm headed over to a friend's house to watch football and munch out on some yummy treats and drink some wine. Each of our favorite teams play in back to back games on TV so I'm sure it'll be fun. We're pretty serious about our football down here in the South! (Especially college football which pretty much dominates our Saturday's)  What are your plans today?

Thanks a lot of stopping by Books and Cooks today. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Sep 15, 2011

BTT: Replay

This week's Booking Through Thursday question asks:

Have you ever finished a book and loved it so much you went back and started re-reading it again? (And if so, please give us the titles!)

This is a simple one for me.  No, I've never done that. There have been books that I dearly loved and wished they'd never end, but for me, there are just too many fabulous books out there that I want to read for the first time.  I rarely ever re-read books, with only a few exceptions - the classics.  Right now, actually, I'm re-reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but the first time I read it was almost 30 years ago, so does that even count?! I'm enjoying it so much and re-discovering things in the book, its like I'm reading it for the first time.

As I'm writing this, I realize though, there may be one book that I re-read right after I finished it and that was when I was a young girl and the book was CHARLOTTE'S WEB. However, I don't know if I finished it the second time around.

How about you? Have you ever loved a book so much you re-read it right after you finished it? Be sure to check out the Booking Through Thursday blog to read more thoughts on this topic.

Sep 14, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesday

Hello and welcome to W.W.W. Wednesday, where we share the books that have our attention by answering these three simple question . . .

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

What are you currently reading?  I'm reading DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee.  I started both of these books a few months ago. I usually always have a Sookie Stackhouse book going that I read in between other more serious novels. (This is book #4 in the series) Its a quick, easy read that is my guilty pleasure.  I read a chapter of TKAM each night before bed. because I love the book and it puts me in a happy place.

What did you recently finish reading?  I recently finished and reviewed CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin. If you'd like to read my review, you can find it here. I also just finished IRON HOUSE by John Hart. I'll have more on that when I post my review in a few days.

What are you planning to read next?  That is a good question. When I'm not reading review copies, what I read depends on my mood. I was going to go the library to get some books yesterday, but I've decided that I want to spend some time reading the books I already have on my own shelves.  I have many to chose from. I may read THE LACE READER, or THE BOOK THIEF, which I've had for awhile now or THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.  i guess I'll know when I pick it up!

Stop by Should Be Reading if you'd like to participate in W.W.W. Wednesdays, but beware, your TBR pile will grow, I promise you! Thanks for stopping by! 

Sep 11, 2011

[TSS] Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Kindle Version)

As those who are familiar with my blog know, I am a huge Southern Fiction fan. I can say without hesitation that Southern Fiction is my favorite genre.  And after reading CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER, Tom Franklin, an Edgar Award winner, has become one of my favorite authors. 
(There are no spoilers in my post)

This story set in Mississippi tells of two boys who weren't supposed to be friends. But they were so much more than friends. it was a time when black children and white children weren't to spend time together. But these boys did - for a time.

A few short years later in high school though, they had gone their separate ways. Larry Ott didn't have any friends but Silas Jones had become a popular star baseball player and looked forward to a college scholarship to Ole Miss.  Life got much worse for Larry when local girl Cindy Walker disappeared after being on a date with Larry and was never seen or heard from again. The girl was never found and though the community blamed him, Larry never confessed to the crime. He simply had no explanation of what happened. His silence only condemned him further.

More than twenty years later, Silas returns and becomes the town Constable but he and Larry's paths do not cross. Then, eerily, another local girl disappears and all the speculation and accusations come flooding back and Larry's already solitary existence is made even more painful. As Silas, who believes in his heart his old friend is innocent, looks for answers, Larry fights for his life after an attack at his home leaves him in critical condition and under arrest.

My Thoughts

I was so anxious to read this book after reading some great reviews of fellow bloggers.  I waited two months for it at the library, then went ahead and downloaded the Kindle version instead.  It is s quick read with easy southern dialogue. Franklin paints a truthful, vivid picture of life in Southern Mississippi and the effect that years of accusations can have on one man and the sense of shame on another for not standing by his old friend.

The story is not a complicated one and is written with such simplicity and small-town feel that its poignancy is magnified.  Franklin allows the story to unfold in a natural manner allowing the reader to put the pieces together slowly while the revelations sink in. I felt such sorrow for Larry Ott and his family for how his life was formed because of a single night in his teen years. I struggled with my feelings for Silas but in the end, he won me over. The supporting characters added to the validity of the story and were very believable as well.  

Though he didn't over-describe the settings, Tom Franklin left me with such a realistic picture of this small town in Mississippi. I felt like it could be any small southern town down the road. And I can't not mention how much I LOVE the cover! It's just beautiful! This book has made me curious about his other work and I plan to familiarize myself with it. This book is one of my favorites of this year and I highly recommend it.  It's just good literature.

Author: Tom Franklin
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Published: October 2010
Printed Pages: 304
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Sep 8, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Queue

What are you reading now?
Would you recommend it?
What's next?

It's been awhile since I've participated in BTT but its nice to be back! Here are my answers:

What are you reading now?  I'm reading IRON HOUSE by John Hart. It's his fourth novel and the second one that I have read.  Its really good southern suspense.

Would you recommend it?  I absolutely would recommend this book. It starts off quick and doesn't stop!

What's next?  I haven't decided yet but I really want to read DOMESTIC VIOLETS by Matthew Norman.  I'm also considering reading THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry.   I've had that one for awhile and just haven't gotten around to reading yet.

I'm so glad you took the time to stop by today for my BTT post and I hope that you'll come back soon and don't forget to hit 'Join This Blog' to the left if you like what you see! Thanks again!

Sep 7, 2011

Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson

What really is there left to be said about this trilogy that hasn't been said over and over? It became a world-wide phenomenon and for good reason. I was a late comer to the scene, though, because I don't normally read this type of crime novel and I'll be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the books at first. OK, I said it. It's out there! But once I picked up THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO  and began reading, I couldn't stop. Truthfully, that first book was a tough one to get through with all its character development and background information, but I felt the payoff was well worth it. I know many of you didn't feel the same way.But I immediately went into THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and I loved it even more. There was much less detail and background and more of just a great crime story. Now we get to THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST....

My Thoughts

I loved the way this last book took off right from the ending of the second book. It didn't skip a beat. And in my opinion, it just got better and better. As usual with these books, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, especially with the realization of a secret society within the police operating under some very lethal people with many secrets to hide that would do anything to keep those secrets hidden. This was political intrigue at its finest. For me, this was not a book that you could just whiz through. I read each page intently so I could keep those characters straight in my mind and my reading experience was better for it.

I appreciated that Lisbeth Salander was in a guarded hospital room under arrest for much of the story but with the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she still managed to fight for herself and use her computer skills and contacts to expose those who were trying to do her harm. This book brought together everything we'd learned about Salander and her horrific past and answered all of the questions the first two books raised.

I was very satisfied with the ending of the book albeit a bit sad as well. I was so wrapped up those characters for so long I hated to see their story end. Stieg Larsson was definitely a wonderfully gifted writer and it is a shame he died so young and was unable to continue with more great stories.

I highly recommend this entire trilogy if you haven't read it. No one is more surprised than myself at how much I enjoyed it. And if you've read the first book and had trouble finishing it, please don't let that deter you from reading the next two books. They do get better.  

Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Knopf
Published: May 2010
Printed Pages: 576
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Sep 6, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Iron House

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It's Tuesday already and that means another teaser! Teaser Tuesday has always been one of my favorite memes to participate in because its such a great way to peek inside of the many different books that are currently being read. If you're not familiar, here are the guidelines -

  • Grab the book you're currently reading and let it fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 teaser sentences to share, being careful NOT to include any teasers
  • List the title, author and page number you took your teasers from
It's that simple! Today I'm taking my teasers from John Hart's new novel, IRON HOUSE. As is all of his work, its very suspenseful and full of twists and unexpected turns. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

Michael saw red as a day from childhood flashed into his mind with such clarity it was physical.  Julian was eight and had been missing for an hour when Michael finally found him in the same bathroom where Hennessey would later die with a rusted blade in his neck. ~ page 126

For more great teasers, visit Should Be Reading every Tuesday.

Sep 4, 2011

The Sunday Salon: A New Season

Happy Sunday and welcome to Books and Cooks! September brings a new season and along with it comes excitement! I'm looking forward to the next few months for a few different reasons. First, as you know, I've had a difficult summer with the loss of my father after a long battle with cancer. Its been hard to get used to the loss but we are taking it a day at a time. I'm hopeful that with the new season, it will bring a fresh start for my family.  With September also comes the college football season, which I am especially excited about. The first games were yesterday and my team, the University of Florida Gators did not disappoint. Although it wasn't a great match-up, a Win is a Win! We'll take it!

With everything going on, I still managed to read a few really good books in the last few months. The latest one was CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin. I'll be posting that review in the next day or so. Many of you told me it was a great book and you were right! Southern Fiction is my favorite genre and Tom Franklin did a terrific job. But more on that later this week.

I'm reading a new novel by John Hart right now. It's called IRON HOUSE. I became a big fan of his work after reading THE LAST CHILD a few years ago. His writing was poignant and gripping and so far this new book has proven to be equally as good. The story revolves around two brothers, Michael and Julian, who were abandoned as babies and grew up in an orphanage in North Carolina until Michael, who is the oldest, was ten years old. Julian, being younger and not as strong as his brother was always being tormented by the older boys. But Michael was there to protect him - most of the time. Tragedy struck one winter night and Michael was forced to run away from Iron House, leaving Julian behind. The story continues as Michael, now a grown man, working for the man who took him off the streets of New York as a boy, now wants out of the dangerous and violent life he was brought in to all those years ago.

I'm really enjoying this story so far and it promises to only get better. If you have never read John Hart and you like suspenseful, edge of your seat Southern Fiction, you should definitely check him out.

As for today, I have a very relaxing day planned.  When I'm not flapped out in my comfy chair with my book, I'll be online playing Scrabble with my cousin in Texas.  (She is the queen of Scrabble, but I'm beating her at the moment!)  John is away at a bow shoot, so its very quiet here today. I should get a lot of reading done. Enjoy the holiday weekend and please visit again soon!

Aug 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Southern Suspense

It's Tuesday and time for another teaser. This is a great way to get a glimpse into some really great books out there. If you don't know how to play along, here are the rules:

  • Grab your current book
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Pick two teaser sentences to share, being careful NOT to include any spoilers
  • List the name, author and page number you took your teasers from
Then go to Should Be Reading and post your teasers to share with other book lovers. Here are my teasers...

Jurisdiction, he knew, meant more than geography. It meant responsibility. ~ Location 2615 (Kindle Version)

CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin is a great Southern suspense novel that is such a quick read. I'm 65% done with it and it has held my attention throughout. Plus, I love the cover!  For more about the story, click here  Thanks for stopping by for my Tuesday Teaser! Please visit again soon!

Aug 11, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Re-Visited!

In honor of one of my favorite books of 2009, THE HELP, making it's big screen debut this week, I have decided to re-post my review of this terrific book. This book has so many qualities that have helped to sustain it's rightful place in the literary world. It's funny, it's sad, it's poignant and above all, it brings to the forefront an important part of our country's heritage that none of us should ever forget. It deals with racism, loyalty and friendship.  If you've never read this book or listened to it on audio, which I hear is FABulous, you're cheating yourself out of a  wonderful experience. I encourage you to make the time for THE HELP.

Here is my review originally posted on March 31, 2009

It's 1962 and Skeeter Phelan has returned to Longleaf, her family's cotton farm in Jackson, Mississippi after graduating college from Ole Miss. Her mother still insists on calling it a plantation, a term Skeeter would rather forget. According to her mother, coming home from college with a degree wasn't enough. She is reminded almost daily that most girls come home with fiance's, but not Skeeter. Getting married is not on the top of her list. She has a dream of becoming a journalist.

Her two best friends, Hilly and Elizabeth are both married with young children and are very involved in the community. Like Skeeter's family they have black maids who cook, clean and take care of the children, with whom they become very close. Skeeter, herself was raised by a black woman who worked for her family for 29 years. But when she came home from college she learned that she was gone and no one would tell her why. Constantine was like a mother to Skeeter and she felt ashamed that she didn't show enough appreciation for the woman who dedicated much of her life to raising her.

As she spends more time with her friends, Skeeter notices things that she wouldn't have given a second thought to before. Maybe it's because of Constantine's mysterious absence or could it be she's seeing her friends through different eyes?

When Hilly makes a big deal about Elizabeth's maid, Aiblileen, using the same bathroom the family uses, she convinces Elizabeth to talk her husband into building one in the garage for the help. Skeeter can see the humiliation on Aiblileen's face while the other two white women talk openly in front of her about their fear of catching diseases from blacks. Skeeter begins to realize how degrading this is for Aibileen and she doesn't like it.

Skeeter gets hired on at the local newspaper to do a weekly column on housecleaning, but since she's never actually done any, she gets permission from Elizabeth to ask Aibilieen for help. In writing these articles, Skeeter and Aibileen get more acquainted and eventually Skeeter confides to her that she wants to write about important things - not household cleaning tips. She wants to write a book from black women's perspectives on what it's really like to work for a white woman in Jackson. An honest, truthful account. But Skeeter can't do this alone. She'll need Aibileen's help to convince other maids to come forward, because no black woman is going to talk to a white woman about that. Not without someone they know and trust being there. If word got out they could lose their jobs or worse. Both women understand that this could be a very dangerous thing. It is, after all, the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the year Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own front yard by the KKK right there in Jackson. Skeeter's decision to write this book will have a profound effect on her life. Lines will be drawn and choices will be made that cannot be undone.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett is without a doubt on my list of Best Books of 2009. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Kathryn Stockett speaks the language of the south seamlessly with her truly unique and believable characters. The voices of the three women who tell this incedible story are genuine and at times raw with emotion. Her skilled storytelling has a mix of drama, humor and a true sadness at the reality of what life was like in the South before the Civil Rights Movement.

Living in the south myself, and having been cared for by a black maid when my family lived in New Orleans when I was a baby, at times I felt shame for how these women were treated by their white employers. They went to work everyday leaving their pride at home while they were made to feel less than, while raising and loving their white babies with little or no gratitude at all. That was very evident with the character of Aibileen, which was my favorite character. Aibileen tells much of the story and her voice painfully portrays the hurt and struggles of her life.

Aibileen's best friend Minny is quite a character who I adored. I loved her sense of humor and even her defiant nature, especially when trying not to show affection for people she didn't want to like. I laughed the most when Minny was talking. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny each have their own reasons for getting involved in such a project. Many people they know will likely never understand why they would put themselves in so much danger.

As it states in the back of the book and on her website, Kathryn Stockett tells this story with experience, being raised by a black maid herself in Jackson, Mississippi. It's obvious this is a subject near to her heart. You can feel it in her writing. I can't say enough about this wonderful book and would recommend it highly to anyone looking for a deep, satisfying story of a painful time in our nation's history.

Author: Kathyrn Stockett
Publisher: Putnam
Published: February 2009
Pages: 444
Rating: 5 out of 5 (Amazing!/Wonderful!/Highly Recommended!)

Aug 7, 2011

Review: Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story #1) by Christopher Moore [TSS]

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS is the first book in Moore's vampire love story series and I'm really glad I took the time to read it. It was just what I was in the mood for AND its a very quick read so I read I was done with it in just a few days..

About the Book: (no spoilers)

The story takes place in San Francisco, which I personally find to be a very interesting city.  This is where we meet Jody, who woke up dazed and confused one morning in an alley under a Dumpster not knowing what happened or how she got there. To make the situation stranger, her right hand is severely burned but seems to be healing rather quickly. Soon she figures out she has been transformed by a menacing vampire and she needs to find some answers. But there's a problem - now that she's a vampire, she can't be out during the day so she's going to need someone's help. That's when she meets Tommy, a newcomer to San Francisco who who works the night shift at a grocery store. At first Tommy doesn't know she's a vampire and he does what Jody asks, with little resistance. But eventually, the truth comes out. To compound Jody's problem, theres a murderer on the loose and the cops are snooping around because Jody and Tommy seem to have a connection to all of the victims. Together they work to find the real killer without revealing their own secrets.

My Thoughts:

BLOOKSUCKING FIENDS is a fun story that was perfect for the mood I was in when I had the opportunity to borrow it from a friend. I don't read a lot of vampire-themed books but I do enjoy them occasionally. I liked the humor Moore uses and the play on words in the chapter titles. The book is filled with original, quirky supporting characters that help move the story along and create twists and turns. I love The Emperor, a strange little guy with two dogs that lives on the streets and seems to know everything about everybody. He is still somewhat of a mystery even after finishing the book.

The bottom line is that I was completely entertained with this first book of the series and I will read the second book, YOU SUCK at some point, probably the next time I'm looking for something light and quick. I'm glad I finally made time to read one of Christopher Moore's books. I'd heard so much about him and now I'm one of his fans.

Author:  Christopher Moore
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: March 2008
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Jul 31, 2011

The Sunday Salon: My Family's Loss

Hello and Happy Sunday to you.  Today's post will be a short one - not a book related post but more of an explanation of why I've been so out of touch in recent months. As some may know, my dad has been battling cancer for several years now and in the last two or three months his health began to decline rapidly and he was in pain much of the time. Sadly, this past Wednesday, my dad lost his battle with this terrible disease.  They gave him about 7-10 days on Monday but he lasted only two days. Although there is a big whole in our lives now without him, we are comforted knowing that he is not suffering any longer. My mom was an angel to my dad in his final days and took care of him at home until his last breath. I am grateful that I was able to spend a day with him a few weeks ago when he was still relatively himself.  We even shared a meal together and had some good conversation. That was his last somewhat normal day. I will always be thankful for that day.

I'd like to thank those of you who have left me supportive comments these last months whenever I've mentioned my dad in my posts.  My blogging friends are always so sweet and supportive and it means more to me than I can say. Thank you so much for your support and your prayers.

I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and blogging more. I have been so preoccupied and have neglected the blogs for awhile but I'm anxious to get back to reading them regularly. Please accept my apologies for not being present and keeping up with all of you. I have been able to get through a few books though, but I still need to  write my reviews. I'm hoping to get to them later this week.

Again, thank you for your support and I hope to get back in the loop of what everyone is reading very soon. I've really missed the interaction with my fellow book lovers.  I will see you on the blogs real soon.

Jul 14, 2011

Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Kindle Version)

I love books about houses, especially old houses that seem to have a life and mind of their own. THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters is about that and much more. This Gothic story takes place in the countryside of England back in the 1930's, and the house, known as Hundreds Hall, has been in the Ayres' family for many generations.  The hardships of the war have left its toll on the family and Hundreds.  Many of the rooms in the old grand house have long since been closed off and are unused.  Though the family is still looked at with much respect from the community, it is obvious that Hundreds Hall does not show the same grandeur it once did. The Ayres' only employee two servants - one full time to assist the remaining three family members. Here's a synopsis from Goodreads:

The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline-its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

My Thoughts:

I became engrossed in this book moments after I began reading. I loved the setting and the time period of the 30's.  Dr. Faraday does a terrific job of telling this story of what happened in his life during the years he was the primary physician to the Ayres family. He paints a vivid, yet haunting picture of Hundreds Hall and the family living within.  He is very detailed in his account and some might say too detailed.  It does make for a long story, but in my opinion, it was worth the time. Through Dr. Faraday I was able to get an in depth knowledge of life at Hundreds Hall.  

The characters Ms. Waters created were so unique and perfectly crafted and developed all the way down to the young maid, Betty, who worked in the Hall. The supporting characters were equally as believable and interesting as the main characters and added to the twists and turns of the story. 

The Gothic tone of the book along with its paranormal effects reminded me of one of my favorite books, THE THIRTEENTH TALE, which I loved. THE LITTLE STRANGER constantly left me guessing and wondering what could possibly happen next.  The strange occurrences were just enough to give off that haunting feel without going too over the top.  The relationship between Caroline Ayres and Dr. Faraday developed so slowly and naturally that nearing the end I was surprised how much I really wanted to see the two of them together. The author cleverly left me hopeful that something may happen between them at any moment. That anticipation added to the mystique, in my opinion. 

This was my first foray into Sarah Waters' work and I was completely satisfied with it. It is a bit wordy, but  honestly, that really didn't bother me because I was enjoying the story. I would recommend THE LITTLE STRANGER to readers who enjoy a book that develops slowly while leading you on a mysterious journey. 

Author: Sarah Waters
Publisher: Penguin Publishing
Published: April 30, 2009
Length/Pages: 716 KB/480 printed pages 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars