Mar 31, 2011

Review: Ghellow Road by T.H. Waters

On the cover, it states that GHELLOW ROAD is 'a literary diary of a young girl's journey'. That young girl is Theresa Waters, the author. Theresa is the second of two children, born in 1965 to doting parents. The story begins when Theresa is a young girl and continues until she goes to college. There are a few years in the beginning that the Waters family seemed like any other: happy, loving, content. But soon things began to change and as hard as Theresa's outgoing father tried to camouflager what was really happening within their family, he could only cover up so much. Theresa's mother's behavior became more and more disturbing and even as young as she was, Theresa soon realized there was definitely something wrong. Rainy's bouts of despondency and paranoia became more regular and began to affect both children and the marriage. Eventually, a tragic event changes their lives forever and for the first time, Theresa is forced to navigate through the demons of her mother and try to piece together the most normal family life she can. She finds refuge in the friends she makes at school and when she reaches her teenage years, she spends more and more time away from home, enjoying the normalcy of her friend's lives. Life on Ghellow Road was anything but normal and this book takes a heartbreaking and poignant look in to the world of mental instability and a very brave and resilient young girl who has to fight every day to find happiness and peace, the things she wants the most.

My thoughts:

When I was contacted about reading this book, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew that coming from the point of view of a child, it would probably be a very honest and raw interpretation of a very difficult time. What I found was so sad that I would often think of her even when I wasn't reading. Having had a wonderful childhood with two amazing parents, I couldn't imagine what her life must have been like. I'm only a year older than Theresa and while reading her story, I couldn't help but compare my life to hers. It made me even more grateful (and even a little guilty) for the years that I was allowed to be a kid and not have to worry about anything because I had the security and knowledge that my parents would take care of me. Theresa had that taken away from her and that in and of itself is heartbreaking.

The book is written somewhat like a diary, having no chapters, just breaks in the story. It moves along quickly, highlighting important times and events in her family's life.

What struck me as I kept reading was the repeated resilience of Theresa, especially in her adolescent years. Those years are difficult under the best of circumstances and for Theresa they were made even worse by her mother's odd, unstable behavior and complete lack of responsibility towards her children during her periods of absence. Theresa basically raised herself and even held down part-time jobs during summer vacations. She never gave up - just trudged on. That is impressive. It angered me that during the times when her demons were under control, Rainy put her own life first and Theresa and her brother were left to fend for themselves. I'm not even a parent and I had a hard time with that.

One of the saddest things is the divide that developed between Theresa and her brother. During a time when they should have leaned on each other, Rainy simply shipped him off and seemingly showed little emotion or concern for him again. The result of that action would come back later and rock Theresa to the core.

As I mentioned, the book ends when Theresa is eighteen and heading to college. It is amazing to me that she even made it that far without more serious damage. I think having grown up in the 70's played a big part in Theresa's ability to bounce back and take control of the next phase of her life. I don't mean to say that it made it any easier, but given everything that is out in the world today, I think there would be much more dangerous consequences. I would love to know more about Theresa's life now that she is an adult and find out if her family has healed somewhat from the pains of past.

This is an interesting and insightful book and I am very grateful to Ms. Waters for contacting me to read it and highlight it on my blog. Reading stories such as Theresa's should make the rest of the world see just how important it is to understand mental illness and the effect it has on their families. This book certainly has made me appreciate my family. I would encourage you to read GHELLOW ROAD. Even though it is a tough read, it is impressive and I promise it will linger in your mind long after you've read the last page.

Author: T.H. Waters
Publisher: Verefor Publishing Company LLC
Published: October 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 302
Source: T.H. Waters
Grade A

Mar 26, 2011

The Saturday Skinny: WW Week 8 - Blueberry Squares

Thanks for stopping by for The Saturday Skinny where, as you know, I've been tracking my weight-loss experience using Weight Watchers Online. I'm pressed for time this morning, so I'm going to get right to the numbers, then I'm going to share a yummy dessert recipe with you that I found on the WW site.

At my weigh-in this morning, I lost 3 pounds, bringing my total loss to 13.8 in 8 weeks! After having a disappointing result last week, this has obviously made up for it! I really pushed hard this week and was even stricter than normal. Another plus was that I walked 2 miles every day. I stayed slightly under my 29 point daily allowance and I ate A LOT of fruit. Wednesday was tough because I was at my sister's apartment cooking meals for her and it all looked so good, but I didn't even take a bite of anything. My sister, who is as tall as I am (5'9") is very thin and is actually trying to gain weight. She's always been thin and has been anorexic in the past, so I try to make her meals that are helpful in gaining weight so that she won't have to have the B12 shots from the doctor again.

Now I want to share a dessert that I made this week that is absolutely fantastic! Its called Blueberry Squares and it is the easiest thing you'll ever make in your life - I promise!

1 can Light Blueberry Pie Filling (or any flavor you like)
1 box Angel Food Cake Mix

Preheat oven to 350. Put cake mix in large bowl and add pie filling. Mix gently until well incorporated. Spray 9 x 13 cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before cutting. Makes 24 squares of cake at 2 PointsPlus value each.

I used light cherry pie filling and it was so good! I split the cake and shared it with my friend Brenda, who is also on WW with me. The angel food cake is so light and moist and the cherries made it really tasty. You could even add a dollop of Cool Whip for 1 more point and still have a great treat! I will definitely be making these again. Even if you aren't on WW, this is a great dessert to make for the summer. If you try it be sure to let me know what you think of it.

Thanks again for stopping by to check my progress - your encouragement means so much! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Mar 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 3.22.11

Hello and thanks for stopping by today for Teaser Tuesday! Its a great way to sneak a peak into some really great books. By now I'm sure you know the rules, so let's get right to the fun. . .

My teasers today are taken from THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters. I've had this book on my radar and finally couldn't stand it anymore, so I added it to my Kindle just last week. I love Gothic novels and this one is proving to be just what I wanted it to be. I'm not very far into it yet (only 16%) but already I'm drawn to the characters and mystique of Hundreds Hall. Here are my teasers:

He blinked, mistaking my tone, taking me seriously for a second. Then he met my gaze-met it properly for the first time that day, perhaps for the first time ever; finally 'seeing' me - and he smiled. ~ Location 859-65 Kindle Version

For more teasers or to play along, stop by Should Be Reading every Tuesday.

Mailbox Monday

I haven't participated in Mailbox Mondays for awhile because, frankly, I don't receive as many books each week as some of you do, but this week I'm happy to say I have three to share! There have also been some changes at Mailbox Monday! This month I'm Booking It is hosting. For a complete list of Mailbox Monday Blog Tour Stops for 2011, visit Mailbox Monday.

Here are the books I've added this week:
There's been some great things said about this exciting espionage thriller from Cumming. I don't normally read books of this type, but I'm going out of my comfort zone and really looking forward to the change in genre. Click here for more about the book. Thanks to St. Martins Press for sending my review copy.

This is the second book from LePore that I now have but I have yet to read either of them. It sounds fascinating and I think I'll like it, but once again, its a bit out of my genre comfort zone. I'd like to thank Goodreads First Reads for sending me this copy.
  • 61 HOURS by Lee Child -

This is a week of firsts for me and it is also true with this book. My birthday was last week and I decided to treat myself to a new-to-me author. That's right! I've never read anything by Lee Child! I know the Jack Reacher series has been out for a long time, but I've heard so much about this book and my Aunt just finished it and loved it so I thought I'd try it. I've always wanted to read Lee Child's work and I think this is a good place to start. The story sounds exciting!

Thanks for stopping by today and allowing me to share my new books with you. For more Mailbox Mondays, please visit I'm Booking It. Have a great reading week!

Mar 19, 2011

The Saturday Skinny: WW Week 7

Hello and thanks for stopping by to check out my progress on my Weight Watchers Online program. I knew this was going to be a difficult week for a few reasons. But before we get to that, lets do the numbers. . .

After my weigh-in this morning, I was a little disappointed. I gained just under a half a pound. I know it's not much, but this is the first week I didn't lose any weight. I know its bound to happen because its all part of it. .4 is a a fraction of a pound so I'm just thankful it wasn't a whole pound - or more!

Like I mentioned, I knew this was going to be an if-y week. The first reason was that it was my birthday week so my mom and sister took me to lunch at Red Lobster and I treated myself to a few things I hadn't had in a long time: Caesar Salad, those delicious cheese biscuits they so liberally bring to your table and some stuffed mushrooms. For my meal, I ate grilled Mahi with a very small baked potatoe that I didn't eat all of and some steamed broccoli. I didn't have any cake or anything but I did have sweet iced tea that was loaded with sugar. I probably would have been okay if I would've worked out every day but I took one day off to go to the beach and of course, I didn't work out on my birthday either. All in all, it could have been much worse. I basically broke even, and it only gives me more incentive to push harder next week.

As for the rest of the day, I'm heading outside to work in my yard. There are a ton of leaves still out there chanting my name. All of the trees are lovely during summer, but they sure are a lot of work in the Spring. It's going to be a nice workout.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your Saturday!

Mar 15, 2011

W.W.W. Wednesdays: 3.16.11

Hello and welcome to W.W.W. Wednesdays where we answer these 3 questions:
  • 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 just started reading THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters. I've seen mixed reviews of it but what draws me to it is the story of Hundreds Hall and the Gothic nature of the writing. I'm also listening to THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta. It is very good so far.

  • What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished CLEANING NABOKOV'S HOUSE by Leslie Daniels that just came out this month. This is a debut novel and I will have my review very soon.
  • What are you planning to read next?
I'm currently on a waiting list at the library for WINTERS BONE by Daniel Woodrell and I hope to get to it soon. If not, I have another review book, THE TRINITY SIX by Charles Cumming that I am very excited to read. The Washington Post gave it a great review and besides, I'm in the mood for a really good crime mystery.

For more W.W.W. Wednesdays, please stop by Should Be Reading.

Mar 12, 2011

The Saturday Skinny: WW Week 6 - A New Goal!

Hello and thank you for stopping by for The Saturday Skinny, where I track my experience using the Weight Watchers Online program. I have just completed my 6th week and I must say, I am absolutely thrilled with my progress. So let's get down to the numbers . . .

I weighed in this morning and I lost 2.4 pounds this week! That brings my total weight loss to 11.2 pounds in 6 weeks! This week is extra special to me because I've reached my first goal weight that WW set for me. I'm very pleased and it only gives me more incentive to keep on going.

I never expected to have such great results so quickly, but it just goes to show how this system works. I do stick to it very closely, track everything I put into my mouth and I exercise at least 30 minutes every day. I haven't fallen off the wagon since Valentines Day with the wine. The best part is I'm not going hungry. I think what works for me is that I eat a lot of fruit as snacks and I get the most out of the Smart Ones frozen dinners by adding a protein such as grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp to the side dishes and I add vegetables to the dinners that already have the meat included. This enables me to have a complete meal without leaving the table hungry. I've also discovered sherbet again! I love sherbet and I can have 1/2 cup for dessert for only 3 points. It may not sound like a lot, but really, it is just enough for me. Portion control was always my downfall and I've worked hard to get that under control. I've also found some great new fiber bars from Kellogg's that are so delicious, I feel guilty eating them and they, too, are only 3 points. The Dark Chocolate Almond is my favorite!

In closing, I would just like to thank my family for being so supportive of me on my weight-loss journey. They are so encouraging and never tire of hearing me talk about eating healthy or when I drag them to the walking trail with me. My hope is that when I go back to my doctor this summer, he will be able to lower the amount of blood pressure medicines I take to reflect my weight change. I have an enlarged heart on the right side, so I know I will never be totally off of the meds, but I'm hopeful that I can reduce the dosages at least.

Thanks again for stopping by and be sure to tell us about your progress as well. I realize many of you living up north don't have the advantage of the warmer weather like I do, but it will soon be here! Your encouraging words mean so much to me! Have a great week everyone.

Mar 9, 2011

Review: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception by Nancy Martin

In this first book in a new series from Nancy Martin, we meet Roxy Abruzzo. She is the step-sister of Mick Abruzzo from Martin's well known Blackbird Sisters series. Roxy is a tough, strong-willed single mother who owns an architectural salvage company in Pittsburgh. Roxy hasn't had an easy life, but she is determined to give her daughter, Sage, every possible opportunity to have a better life and that includes going to college. Roxy just needs to figure out a way to pay for it, preferably without the help of her mob boss Uncle Carmine Abruzzo who is always trying to get Roxy to come work for him.

In the series opener, Roxy is one of the last people to see Julius Hyde, an ultra rich business man, alive. Roxy was at the residence which had recently been burned down by his estranged and very angry wife. Julius called Roxy in to salvage what she could from the ornately decorated mansion. While there, she talked to Julius and sensed something was wrong. Hours later, she learned that he'd been shot and killed, apparently moments after she'd left the property.

A murder investigation ensues and Roxy is listed as a person of interest, but she soon learns some Hyde family secrets and forms her own list of suspects, mainly centering around the family. Things get even more complicated when a valuable Greek statue is reported missing from the garden of the Hyde estate. As Roxy moves through her list of potential suspects and bullets start flying, she realizes she can't trust anyone but feels an obligation to find out who murdered Julius, even if it means giving up something that could change her life forever.

My thoughts:

As a big fan of Martin's Blackbird Sisters Series, I was really looking forward to being introduced to Roxy Abruzzo. The first thing you notice is that she is one tough cookie. She is nothing like Nora Blackbird! I like Roxy's toughness but I did grow a little weary of it after awhile. Some of the stunts she pulled were a little hard to swallow and I wondered, Does this woman ever sleep? There were a lot of quirky and original characters to keep up with and a few I thought could've been left out. The sub plot of the missing statue, for me, didn't pan out like I hoped it would. That part of the story just didn't gel with me.

There was a lot going on in this story but I felt much of it was added just to make Roxy look tough. We did learn a little about why Roxy is the way she is, but it was so quick I had to go back and read it again to make sure I caught it.

I suppose I may have had such high expectations for this new series because I enjoyed the Blackbird Sisters series so much. In my opinion, spin-offs are never as good as the original and I'm sorry to say that is how I feel about OUR LADE OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION. That said, it does have its moments and is a fun, quick read. Will I give it another try with the next installment? Of course I will, but with lower expectations.

Author: Nancy Martin
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: March 2010
Pages: 320
Grade: C

Mar 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Cleaning Nabokov's House

This week my teasers are from a debut novel by Leslie Daniels. It is called CLEANING NABOKOV'S HOUSE. I talked about it a little bit in my Sunday post and you can read that here if you'd like. The teaser sentences today are from a point in the book where the main character, Barb, is driving back from New York City after a meeting with Sotheby's where they gave their opinion of whether or not the index cards she found that make up a manuscript were authentic and did, in fact, belong to Vladimir Nabokov...

My teasers:

I pulled up one of the index cards in my mind's eye. Sometimes he wrote so fast that not a single i was dotted. he was going places. That was one of the elements of passion: urgency. He had no time for complacency, for boredom. Wasn't that a sure mark of genius? ~ page 114

Teaser Tuesday is hosted each week by MizB at Should Be Reading. Its a great way to get a glimpse into some great books!

Mar 6, 2011

The Sunday Salon: A Perfectly Gorgeous Day

Today has been one of those Sunday's that I've done exactly what I've wanted to do and nothing that I had to do. That said, tt would've been nice to be able to sleep past seven o'clock, but Jax, my cat, had other plans. So after feeding him and opening the patio door so he could go out and lay in the rising sunshine, I put the coffee on and made my way to my comfy chair with my book and read eighty pages before I knew it.

The book I'm reading is a debut novel by Leslie Daniels, Cleaning Nabokov's House and it just came out last Tuesday. The author was kind enough to send me a copy and it is the perfect book for the reading mood I am in these days. It's a little quirky, sometimes sad, yet sometimes silly. The main character of the book is a woman who has left her all-knowing, always right husband, lost custody of their two children and basically has nothing but a few clothes, a beaten-up car and a house she's renting that the great Vladimir Nabokov used to own and reportedly lived when he wrote Lolita. Her life is nothing without her children and she lives for the days they come and visit.

I'm only a hundred pages in but its starting to get interesting because she has found a manuscript, supposedly written by Nabokov about Babe Ruth. It sparks a fire in her that she hasn't felt in a long time and gives her an idea. She wants to get the manuscript published for the world to read and at the same time show her ex-husband a thing or two about herself.

Like I said, the story is just beginning but I think its going to get better and better. I took a short break from reading and went for a two-mile walk with my Weight Watchers partner, Brenda and her American Bulldog, Snoopy. It's an absolutely gorgeous day with a big breeze and the sun has finally burned off the clouds from earlier today. Its been somewhat of a quiet day and I'm looking forward to a long shower, then getting back to my book while I listen to the NASCAR race live from Vegas on TV. Later, I'm going to grill some chicken and veggies for dinner.

This is what Sunday's are supposed to be like, I think. I hope your Sunday has been exactly what you wanted it to be as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Mar 5, 2011

The Saturday Skinny: WW Week 5

Hello and welcome to the second installment of my new feature, The Saturday Skinny! Today brings then of my fifth week on Weight Watchers Online. I weighed in this morning and now I'm up to a total of 8.8 pounds lost. I was hoping to reach the first goal of 9.4 pounds that WW set for me but......there's always next week.

I stepped up my exercise this week by walking two miles instead of one. There was, however, two days that I did not work out at all. One of those days was just being lazy and the other, I had been to the chiropractor and was told to go home and rest my back and stay off my feet. Ugh!! Next week I plan to walk two miles every day or at least walk one mile and use the elliptical for 30 minutes. I am a bit disappointed that I only lost one pound this week, but I'm trying to keep it in perspective. At least I've lost weight every single week since I've been on the plan. It may not have been what I hoped for but its still a loss.

I can tell by my clothes that I'm losing weight. I've worn shirts that a few months ago were too tight and uncomfortable to wear, so that makes me feel great and gives me incentive to keep going. I have so many clothes in my closet that I bought last summer and only wore once or twice so its like I already have new clothes!

Things are going really well, however there is one aspect of being on this kind of a lifestyle change that I'm starting to miss. I'm not what you'd call a big drinker by any means, but I do enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine a couple of times a week. I have abstained from all alcohol but I'm really craving it lately. I did have a couple of glasses of Chardonnay on Valentines Day a few weeks ago, and believe me, I paid for it. I only lost a half a pound that week. I know that I can have a glass of wine if I want, but depending on red or white, that is 3 or 4 points. That may not sound like a lot but when you have to count every point you put in your body, you really want to savor them and make them count. So, do I really want to use 4 points for 1 glass of wine? Who can have just one glass of wine anyway?! So, I will keep on the track and once I reach my first WW goal, I will reward myself with a nice glass of vino.

So, that brings me to a question for those of you who have been on a weight loss prgram and really made an effort to abide by the rules. What was your biggest weakness and were you able to stick to the plan or was it too strong of a temptation? I'd love to hear your answers.

Thanks for stopping by to check my progress. I really appreciated your comments last week - they encourage me to keep going, so Thank You!! Have a great Saturday and please stop by again next week to see it I've reached my first WW milestone!

Mar 3, 2011

Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

If you're going to sit down with a David Sedaris book, I highly recommend you do so with the audio version. There is something to hearing his stories in his own voice that just makes it even better. ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY is the first Sedaris book I've read, after years of a friend telling me to 'just do it'! And now I'm glad that I did it. This strange title will make sense once you've read this book and it will make you chuckle every time you see it.

In this, his foutth book, Sedaris talks about some of his life's experiences and how they shaped who he is today. Its autobiographical in a satirical way. He talks about his childhood, siblings and parents and then moves on to college life and thereafter. All of his stories are filled with funny, detailed observations and will have you laughing out loud. The story about his embarrassment of having to go to speech therapy classes in high school for a lisp and how he learned to use alternative words so that he wouldn't have to pronounce certain letters that brought attention to his affliction were hilarious. As was his learning to speak French while living in France years later. Keeping in mind that the book was published in 2000, right before technology really blossomed to what it is today, Sedaris talks about his hatred of computers for taking all of the attention and respect away from the beloved typewriter. There are many insightful stories such as these. Goodreads has a great description of this book that you can read here.

My Thoughts:

I chose to listen to this book on audio, so I downloaded it to my iPod and listened as I worked out on my elliptical machine. It was the perfect choice. It made time fly by and kept my mind off of the boredom of working out alone, not to mention, it had me laughing out loud much of the time. I especially liked when he talked about trying to outsmart the speech therapist and also when he tried to speak French, but there were so many other stories that I loved too. His father and his relationship with his kids is also a big part of the book and although funny, is poignant as well.

Most of the audio book is done with regular narration but there are other parts that are recorded with a live audience. During those parts, its easy to see why people flock to his readings. It's not a huge book, only 288 printed pages, a little over 5 hours on audio and, I believe, well worth the time. Sedaris is, for me, an author I will probably always listen to rather than read. It's just better that way.

Author: David Sedaris
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Published: 2000
Pages: 288
Grade: A
Would I recommend this book? Yes!