Dec 23, 2013

Review: Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story by Freddie Owens

This debut novel, mainly set in Kentucky, is a coming of age story told by a young boy who recently lost his father, gained a stepfather and lives in a world he struggles to understand or like.

When Orbie's mother, Ruby, remarries after the death of his father in a factory accident in Detroit, everything changed. Victor, the stepfather, has new dreams in Florida so the family heads south. They stop in Kentucky, where Ruby's sharecropper parents live and Orbie is told he is going to stay there while Victor and Ruby go on to Florida to 'get things settled'. They are also taking Orbie's little sister with them. Orbie feels completely abandoned in this strange place and counts the days until they return to get him.

Orbie blames Victor for the changes in their lives and he senses that he is not the man his mother thinks he is. As the days and weeks go by, Orbie reluctantly befriends a physically handicapped black boy named Willis and he even begins to understand the ways of life in this Appalachian town.  But the most amazing discovery is in meeting a black man named Moses, who is Willis' caretaker. Moses is said to be some sort of medicine/healer man with magical powers through snake charming. Through strange dreams and magical events, Orbie welcomes the visions that appear to him and the messages they bring but he must decide what is real and what to believe.

My Thoughts:

This is a startling debut that tells a riveting story from this boy's perception. Even though Orbie is young, his insights are sharp. He is a bright and loving boy, even in his most stubborn moods. I instantly felt protective of him from the beginning, knowing how deeply he felt the loss of his father. What makes this story so authentic is the perfectly pitched vernacular of the Appalachian people. It may take some readers a few pages to get into the rhythm, but once there, the words flow seamlessly. Freddie Owens painted such a vivid picture of this life with genuine characters, I couldn't help feel as if I was transported back in time.

Though at first I had difficulty relating to the magical elements of the story, I realize it was not the author's fault, but my own. I've read several books containing this element this year and in each case, I resisted the idea at first. I've come to realize that as much as I want to, it takes me longer to appreciate it and accept it into the stories. That said, in the end, I did find it captivating and felt it made this story special. The fact that it wasn't too much or over the top helped.

The mystery surrounding the death of Orbie's father and the business that Victor was embroiled in kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. There was definitely something amiss with him and I like that Orbie wasn't afraid to question it. I also liked how Orbie grew to appreciate and love his grandparents and realized they were very good people.  

As a debut novel, I found THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN to be a big success and I would recommend it, especially to lovers of Southern Fiction, who can also appreciate magical realism. If you are interested, the Kindle version of this novel is available at Amazon for just .99 at this time.

Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher:Blind Sight Publications
Published: November 2012
Length: 324 pp

Dec 18, 2013

Audio Review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Set in rural North Carolina some fifty years ago, NECESSARY LIES re-opened my eyes to injustices that were being carried out against lower class citizens under the guise of 'the law' during that time. The Eugenics Program, which was in affect from 1929 to 1975, was seldom talked about but frequently utilized in order to control the population in areas where living in poverty was common. Here's more about the book, taken from Amazon's website:

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.
When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.
Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

My Thoughts:

Like most people, I'm sure, I hadn't heard the word 'Eugenics' since i was in high school and even then, I probably didn't fully understand what it really meant. Well, this book brought all of its ugliness to the forefront in a way that I will never forget. 

Jane Forrester is an unlikely person to tell this story because her life is so drastically different from the people the Eugenics program affected.  She could have very easily turned her back on the people she was assigned to assist while working for the county and just went along with it, but she simply couldn't do it. Even as her brand new picture perfect marriage to a doctor was being threatened, Jane simply could not let it go. For Jane, the secrecy and lies that were told to the victims in order to get them to comply proved to be more than Jane could bear. This story was told in such a vivid, authentic fashion that made it hard to imagine. Not only was the story authentically told, the characters were so genuine, it was like they were plucked right out of a time machine.  Chamberlain focused mainly on two families, which made it easier to form a connection with those characters and get to know them and ultimately the secrets each family harbored.  

I got so wrapped up in Jane and Ivy's story, that I'd forgotten the book began as a flashback.  I've read many books lately that went back and forth from past to present and, quite frankly, I'd grown tired of that format, but in this instance, it didn't bother me at all because most of the story was told as if it was happening at that moment. I had been totally transported back in time and was completely absorbed until at the end of the book, I was once again back with Jane's grown daughter many years later. 

Though the subject matter was a bit difficult, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think its important to remember even the most unpleasant parts of our country's past in order to remind us how far we've come. Because of a time issue, I chose to listen to the audio version of this book and I was completely satisfied with that decision. Alison Elliot did an incredible job with the narration. The southern vernacular was spot on and the individual characters were unmistakably unique and pitch perfect. Definitely a five star performance. 

NECESSARY LIES would be a terrific selection for a book club with the wide range of topics to discuss. I'm sure it would be a very lively conversation. I would highly recommend this book, especially to readers who have an interest in Southern culture. 

Author: Diane Chamberlain (@D_Chamberlain)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: September 2013
Length: 10 hrs 51 mins

Dec 9, 2013

Guest Reviewer: HER: A Memoir by Christa Parravani

Today's review is from one of my closest friends, also an avid reader, Emerson J. Clauss, III. Emerson loves to read and focuses more on non-fiction books. Today he is sharing his thoughts on a memoir that admittedly was rough to read at times but well worth it.

HER: A Memoir by Christa Parravani

A memoir for sure, but so much more.

At times, a difficult story to read and re-live with Christa, about her and 'Her' identical twin sister, Cara, set around their lives in the Boston area.

As identical twins, they lived so much of their lives as one, which becomes the challenge for Christa after the tragic death of Cara.  This is a tale of life, tragedy, death and the survival of the human spirit over evil, at least for one twin.   It is the story of how our lives are a complex jumble of relationships, decisions and choices; how we meander through what makes up our lives.  Christa shares a view of how much more complicated this is when you are two people, living so close, almost as one being.  

Cara's life spirals out of control after a brutal attack and rape; such a violent act and violation from which she never recovers.  This book shares some of the tales of growing up twins, their family life after their mother's divorce from their father; a second marriage that also fails and their unbreakable ties that bind them and keep them so close through all of life.

Christa reveals the inside thoughts and struggles Cara experiences for years after the attack; a failed marriage, drugs, alcohol, and a strange detachment from many of the things that bound them together for years.

HER  chronicles some bizarre actions from Cara, in an immense struggle to stay close to her sister, who is trying to hang onto her own life and also facing challenges.  Christa portrayed this most human life struggle with such clarity, candor and honesty. The story is riveting and her survival is certainly a struggle after Cara's death.  She is ridden with guilt, remorse and the conflicting desire, after several years of difficult times with Cara, of wanting to be by her side, even in death.  And these feelings are almost undeterred.
A great read, even as you are facing the attack, the aftermath, and the ensuing unraveling of so many lives around the twins. This book is hard to put down.  As you read on and hope for survival and redemption, you'll be cheering for Christa's survival.

I heard of Christa and Cara's story on an NPR interview and just had to pick up the book.  I'm glad I did, it was a superb if not sobering story, but offers triumph and hope in the end.

Author: Christa Parravani @cparravani
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: March 5, 2013
Length: 321 pp
Reviewed by: Emerson J. Clauss, III 

Nov 11, 2013

Review: Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

*No Spoilers!

'Do you believe in miracles'? Sounds like a simple question, but William Ashe had no idea how important his answer would be to Shandi. It would change her life. And his. Forever.

Driving to Atlanta from the small country town where she lived with her mother and her brilliant three year old son, Natty, Shandi was preparing to head to college and the next phase of her life. Her best friend Walcott was helping her move, just like he'd helped her since they were little kids growing up next door to each other. When they stopped at a jiffy store for cold drinks, there was no way Shandi could have known how much it would change her life. The moment she laid eyes on William, she felt an instant connection and knew she wanted to love him and have him love her back. The fact that he saved her and Natty's lives just made it more obvious, to Shandi anyway, that they were destined to be together. But William Ashe isn't your normal, average guy. He's exceptional and though he is oblivious to Shandi's wishes, he still has the power to make a profound difference in her life.

My Thoughts:

Plain and simple, this is my favorite Jackson novel yet.  I initially was thrown by the title of this book, but after reading it, it is absolutely perfect and I get it. That is always the icing on the cake for me when the title means more than you think it does. I thought it was ingenious. In this case, in order to tell Shandi's story, Jackson had to tell someone else's. How creative and refreshing! OK, I'll stop gushing about that and get to the meat of this review.

 I enjoyed all of the characters, even Shandi's step-mother and I felt Ms. Jackson did a great job of creating characters of various backgrounds and lifestyles. Our world is a hodge-podge of diversity and I appreciate how she brought that into the story so naturally.

The storyline of what happened to Shandi was original but one that affects many young girls in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives - being out in the world without the immediate shelter of their parents' protection while away at college. As I mentioned earlier, William's story is an impressive one and so unlikely in most love stories you run across. The unexpected connection between Natty and William was heartwarming and beautifully written. I'm having a hard time saying all I want to say without include any spoilers. All I can say is, this is not just a love story. It is so much more. I loved this book and I think it's Joshilyn Jackson's best work to date.

Though the book doesn't actually release until November 19th, visit She Reads Blog THIS WEEK for a chance to win your very own copy. I promise you won't want to miss this book! Thank you to She Reads Book Club for a fantastic November selection!

Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: November 19, 2014
Length: 320 pp
Source: Publisher/She Reads Book Club
Recommend? Absolutely!!!

Nov 10, 2013

Audio Review: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.
Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother - and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised - and constantly revised - by the killer.
(Summary taken from publisher)

My Thoughts: (No Spoilers)

Though THE SNOWMAN is the seventh book in the Inspector Harry Hole series, it is my first but in my opinion, it didn't take away anything for me not reading the first six books. This thriller stood on its own very well and there was no confusion regarding previous characters or storyline. One of the reasons I wanted to read this book now is that I heard Martin Scorsese is directing the film version and I always like to read books first when they're made into movies. I chose the audio version because, frankly, it was purely a time issue and also I was intrigued by the narrator's voice. Robin Sachs did an impressive job with all the characters and he sounded very believable in his interpretations. In my opinion, not just anyone could tell this story.

Since I am new to Nesbo's work, I can't compare it to previous books, but I thought it was very good. The mystery of the killer is told in an intelligent, clever way that makes you stop and follow Hole's train of thought. Hole, himself, is a no-nonsense, focused man who obviously has demons of his own but he is likable just the same. He's gruff and says what he means. I'm sure there are many layers to this character that I would have learned in the previous installments, but I do feel like I got a good understanding of this flawed man.

The storyline was very thrilling albeit a bit disturbing and I found myself turning off my iPod after dark! I tend to dream about books or TV shows that I read or watch right before bedtime. It's like my brain doesn't know when to shut down. I enjoyed the story and following Inspector Harry Hole as he followed clues and even when he made his mistakes. I don't read a lot of serial killer themed books, but if I get the craving again, I will definitely reach for another Jo Nesbo book. I'll probably start at the beginning of this series and eventually catch up. I loved the setting being in Oslo, Norway. It kind of reminded me of Stieg Larsson's trilogy that I absolutely loved! As a side note, this was the perfect time for me to read this book because of the time frame. In both the story and in real life, it's early November and the snow has begun to fall in Oslo.  .

Author: Jo Nesbo
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: May 10, 2011
Length: 15 Hrs 38 Min
Recommend? Yes!

Nov 1, 2013

JICYMI: October

Hello November! Today I'm trying something new here on Southern Girl Reads blog. I had such a fantastic book month in October and I just want to do a quick rundown of the books and audios that I spent time with Just In Case You Missed It. 


I started off the month with a new-to-me series from Louise Penny. Its the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series, or you may know it as the Three Pines Series. I read the first two books in this Agatha Christie-esque series this month and got hooked immediately. I love the characters in these books and the Canadian setting only adds to its allure. There is no doubt I will be reading all of the books in the near future. Louise Penny is a terrific mystery writer and I'm just glad I discovered her when I did. JICYMI, here are links for my reviews of the first two books:
This next review was by far the most visited post for the month. It was the October Book Club pick for She Reads Book Club. THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes. I got close to 400 views on this post, which, for my lil' ole blog was fantastic! This was my first Moyes book and I LOVED it!! JICYMI, here is the link for that post:
I also listened to a couple fantastic audio books this month. I've really come to enjoy my audios and both of the narrators in these books were simply AMAZING! I highly recommend them both. 
I participated in one of Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking posts and I was completely overwhelmed by the number of visitors I received and the lovely comments, especially since I'm not a regular poster for that weekly event. I posted a simple recipe for a apple/cranberry topping for oatmeal and apparently it was  a big hit! JICYMI, you can find that recipe here:
I finished up the month with a review of a book that one of our fellow blogger friends wrote. SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is Karen Harrington's follow-up to her first book, JANEOLOGY. I was so happy to receive an advance copy from Karen and I am thrilled to say this book was terrific! I love books told from a child's perspective and Karen hit it out of the park with this one! JICYMI, please check out my review here:
Well, that was my month and I couldn't be happier with the response and comments I received. November is shaping up to be just as good so I'm excited about whats to come. There are so many books that I can't wait to get my hands on and to share them here on SGR. I'd love to know what you think of my JICYMI idea. 

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Reading!! 

Oct 31, 2013

Review: Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

I read Karen Harrington's first novel, JANEOLOGY a few years ago and really liked it and SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is the follow-up to that book.  However, it is a great stand alone novel.  Its now ten years after Jane Nelson's mental collapse when she drowned her two-year old son, Simon and nearly drowned his twin sister, Sarah. Its now ten years later and Sarah lives with her father, Tom, in Garland, Texas and her mother is in a mental institution.

Life hasn't been easy for the Nelson's with all of the publicity surrounding not only Jane's trial but also Tom's trial.for not doing enough to protect his children, even though he was at work when it happened.  Though Tom is a loving parent, he still struggles with what his wife did and his way of dealing with it is to bury it, never talk about it and try to drink it away. Every once in a while, people find out who they are and all the publicity starts all over again, so they move to a place where no one knows them. All their moving around has been hard on young Sarah and it takes a toll on her relationship with her father. His refusal to talk about it and Sarah's need to get answers drives a wedge between them and makes Sarah feel like she has no one in her life she can talk to. So when her teacher offers a voluntary summer assignment to write letters to a favorite fictional character, Sarah turns to her favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus Finch. Through her letters to Atticus, she divulges her secret thoughts, wishes and plans not to mention her fear of being crazy like her mother.

Aside from her letters to Atticus Finch, Sarah is dreading the summer because her dad always makes her go to Houston to stay with her grandparents. But she has big plans and she's sure they won't happen in Houston.  If only she could convince her dad she's old enough to stay with him in Garland she could have the summer of her life. She may even be able to show him she's old enough to know more about the mother she barely remembers.

My Thoughts:

SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY has a young protagonist that reaches in and grabs your heart. Sarah Nelson is also the narrator and Harrington does a fantastic job of writing this story from her twelve-year old perspective. In my opinion, she nailed it. She may be young and unsure of herself, but Sarah is bright, articulate and she loves words, which makes her even more endearing to me.

As a young adult novel, this is a home run but Sarah's story is appealing to mature readers as well. Her family has suffered a tragedy and since Sarah feels like she can't talk to anybody about it, she writes letters to someone she trusts, even if that person isn't real. Her conversations with Atticus have a child's honesty in them. I loved reading those letters.

Another part of the story I loved was Sarah's friendship with elderly next door neighbor, Mrs. Dupree. That was an unexpected nugget and it even reminded me of a relationship I shared with an older neighbor after moving to Florida and not knowing anyone. That was one of my favorite parts of the book. I also loved another neighbor, Finn. What a great character! Even though he is nineteen and obviously much older than Sarah, he took the time to realize that she was a very intelligent girl. He was kind and he made time for her.

There is so much about this book that I loved. It was engaging, had great characters and the story was believable. The issues Sarah deals with are so current: peer pressure, single parenthood, alcoholism - all dealt with very well in this book. Sarah also has a great sense of humor and the way she explained things made me laugh sometimes.  I think this is a great book for young readers.  In fact, I'm giving a copy to my friend's 13-yr old daughter, who also enjoys reading, with the hope that she will share it with her friends.

It doesn't even matter if you haven't read JANEOLOGY, although I highly recommend it! This is a great second novel for Karen Harrington. It proves to me that there is a definite place for her in the literary world and I'm excited to see what's next from her.  I'd like to thank Karen for sending me an advance copy of this terrific book. I enjoyed it immensely.

By the way, you can read my review of JANEOLOGY here and check out Karen's website at

Author: Karen Harrington
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published:: August 20, 2013
Genre: YA
Length: 304 pp
Source: Author, Karen Harrington
Recommend? Absolutely Yes!!

Oct 28, 2013

Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A FATAL GRACE is the second book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series that is set in Canada.  Again, the brilliant, thoughtful inspector is called to the tiny village of Three Pines, south of Montreal to investigate a murder. He is not new to the community since he had another investigation there about a year and a half earlier. He took an instant liking to the close-knit and friendly village as well as the townspeople.

In this case, he is investigating the death of a woman who had recently moved to Three Pines but was not well-liked by the villagers. She was a brash, ambitious, rude woman in search of her fortune by way of writing books and selling products to promote her self-proclaimed philosophy of life, which was to not show any emotion. In her mind, keeping your feelings hidden was the secret to success and fortune. Chief Inspector Gamache sets out to learn about her life and to figure out who would profit from her death. Since CC was not a nice person,  there are several prospective suspects to choose from: her unlikely  match of a husband, her lover who really can't stand her, or it could even be a fellow villager since it is obvious no one seems to be mourning the loss of CC de Poitiers.

My Thoughts:

I was so excited to get further into this series because Chief Inspector Gamache is such a wonderful character. His kind, observing eyes and quiet demeanor are attributes for his job of finding murderers. All of the characters of  Three Pines are so interesting and their quirky relationships with each other are genuine and even funny.

In A FATAL GRACE, there are actually two deaths being investigated and though I thought I had the mystery solved halfway though, I still kept questioning if I was right. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through the story and that is because of the likable characters and well thought out plot. The stories in the series are slow paced and thoughtful, filled with smart characters who know their way around books and art and so much more. They are interesting people and they make for interesting stories.

What I also like about this series is that as we get to know the people, we realize there are many layers to them and even though the book has ended, not all of the revelations have been made. There is always something left to carry on into the next installment.  More layers to peel away, you could say. There is also the underlying notion that someone is out to get Gamache. Maybe even someone from his own team. It wasn't so clear in the first book, but it is undeniable in A FATAL GRACE.

The bottom line is, if you're looking for a  fast, edge of your seat thriller, you won't find it here in this series. What you will find is a carefully revealed mystery woven around many twists and turns so that in the end, the true killer is still a surprise.  I've enjoyed the first two books very much and, in fact, since they take place around Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively, now is the perfect time to get started with the series. They have helped get me into the holiday spirit that is upon us.

Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: May 2007
Length: 332 pp
Source: Borrowed from public library

Oct 26, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Don't Settle for Boring Oatmeal

In today's cooking post I'd like to share an easy, quick way to spruce up your average oatmeal that will turn it into a real treat. Now that the Fall season has arrived (even here in Florida!), I'm turning to warm cereals for breakfast that leaves me satisfied and warms me up from the inside out.

Oatmeal is one of those cereals that is like a blank canvas. Left by itself, its not much to get excited about but by adding a few simple ingredients, it can be a masterpiece. I took a recipe from Bobby Flay's show, Brunch @ Bobby's and changed it just a little to make it work for me. He called it Apple Pie Oatmeal, but I just call is Yummy! Here's what you do:

In a medium saucepan add:

  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. water
  • a dab of butter
Bring to a boil, then simmer until sugar is dissolved. While that is cooking down, peel, core and dice 1 Granny Smith apple. Add to mixture and continue simmering until apples are soft but not mushy. While the apples are cooking down, prepare your oatmeal.  I like to add a tablespoon or so of brown sugar to my oatmeal when it is almost done cooking for an added sweetness. When apple mixture is cooked, transfer to glass dish so the mixture will stop cooking so the apples retain their shape and don't get mushy.

Serve oatmeal and top it with apple mixture with a touch of heavy cream or just plain whole milk on top. It's like having dessert for breakfast!

The great thing about this recipe is not only how quick and easy it us, but if you have left over topping, it keeps very well overnight in the fridge and can be heated up quickly the next morning while you make your oatmeal.

I know this is just a simple idea, but I've enjoyed it so much this week, I had to share it with y'all today. Please let me know if you tried it and what you thought..I promise, you'll never look at oatmeal the same again!  Have a wonderful Saturday and thanks for stopping by today!

For more Weekend Cooking posts, stop over at Beth Fish Reads, who hosts this fun weekly event. I'm sure you'll come away with some great foodie ideas.

Oct 25, 2013

Audio Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I don't know why I put off reading this book for as long as I did, but thank goodness I finally got the good sense to read it. Even though I've had the book in print version for several years, I decided to go with the audio after sampling it on And it proved to be a great decision.

About the Book (Taken from Goodreads):

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

 My Thoughts:

Simply put, this book was outstanding.  I've read many books about WWII but not from the prospective that Markus Zusak painted for us with these wonderfully human characters.  My heart was stolen by Liesel from the very start and also with her foster father, Pappa. But singling them out isn't fair to all of the other people in her life like Rudy, her best friend, and Max, the Jew secretly living in their basement. Each one of the amazing characters had such a special purpose in this story and Mr. Zusak did a brilliant job bringing them to life. 

The story takes place in such a bleak time in our world's history and Zusak shows us how it was for the German people under Hilter's rule living in this small town. He shows that not all German's agreed with what was happening and the reader is shown the fear they lived in even from their own neighbors.  Liesel's foster parents showed so much courage by hiding Max in their basement, but they were terrified each and every day that someone would find out. 

The thing that intrigued me the most was that the narrator of this story was Death. In my opinion, that decision took this book to a whole other level. Not only did Death tell the story but also gave insight and even put feelings to the job he had to do.  And that takes me once again, to the writing. I was blown away by the phrasing - taking a simple act or thought and putting it in a way that just made me stop for a moment and think about what I'd just heard. The writing in this book is without a doubt at the very top of my list of all the books I've ever read in my life. That's a huge statement, I know, but I absolutely stand behind it.  

Now I get to the audio review. Allan Corduner did an amazing job. His deep, penetrating tone was spot on for the character that he portrayed.  I've read some audio reviews that said it was too much, but I strongly disagree. For this book and that character, he was perfect. Death is scary and even daunting to some and his voice brought that and much more. If you haven't yet read this book, try a sample of it on and see for yourself. Personally, I'm so glad I chose to listen to this modern classic. This book moved me to the point of hot tears and has stayed with me. It is a wonderful book. 

With the release of the movie version coming soon, now I am expecially excited to see these characters come to life. You can watch teh movie trailer here

Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: September 2006
Length: 13 Hrs 56 Min
Recommend? YES, YES, YES, YES YES!!!!!

Oct 23, 2013

Audio Review: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

After nearly thirty years of marriage to Wesley Carter, a very successful Atlanta business man, Leslie Ann Carter has an epiphany in a hospital in Scotland. There she is following her golf-loving husband half way across the world so he can live out his dream of playing golf at the best courses and when she falls and breaks her arm, he basically leaves her to fend for herself. Feeling hurt and and frustrated, that event sets off alarms in Les's mind and she begins questioning her life. The circle of friends she used to have is gone because her husband's friends have moved on to much younger women who Les feels no connection to whatsoever. She feels completely taken for granted by her entire family, especially Wes, so she decides to do something about it. She packs up and goes to her hometown, Charleston, South Carolina to house sit for her brother for a month. Its the best place in the world to recuperate from her injury and to figure out if she wants to change her life. Who wouldn't want to stay in the stately historic home in the heart of Charleston with its beautiful surroundings, divine food and ...her first love from high school? 

My Thoughts:

Its been quite awhile since I've read anything by Dorothea Benton Frank. I've read many of her previous books and always enjoyed the stories and locations but mostly the characters. The same can be said of THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE.  The characters were very believable and most of them were likable. But I must say that the thing that really drew me to this audiobook was the incredible narration by Robin Miles. I was flitting through's new releases one day and I sampled this book and it had me from the first sentence. Southern accents can be tricky and if not done right can put off listeners very quickly. But Ms. Miles' performance, not only of Leslie Carter, but the entire cast, including the male characters, were absolutely spot on. Les's exasperation and Wes's hostility towards his wife's change in attitude were very well done. Wes is a man used to getting his way and his wife seldom questioned him or his actions. After Les woke up and realized her life wasn't what she thought it would be at her age, she decided to do something about it and Wes was clearly not having any of it. 

I loved the relationship between Les and her brother, Harlan and I really loved that she packed up and went to Charleston, one of my all-time favorite cities, to stay in his beautiful old home to re-assess her life. Honestly, I was a little jealous of Les and her lovely surroundings and the slow and casual tempo of her summer spent in her hometown. 

The writing was true DBF. She made me feel like I knew this woman and I had no trouble relating to her story at all. I thought it was clever how she started off with Les and Wes each in their therapy sessions. It gave insight and background to each of the characters and it showed their personalities, both good and bad. I thought it was a interesting way to show the development of the characters.

Overall, I'm glad I took the time for this book, however,. I can't say that I was blown away by the story, though it was a completely satisfying experience for me. It is a character driven story with flair and a genuine storyline. I appreciate the bravery Ms. Frank showed in Les to go out and make her life what she wanted it to be, even after 30 years of marriage. 

Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: HarperAudio
Published: June 11, 2013
Length: 11 Hrs 38 Min
Recommend:? Yes, especially for a beach or vacation read. 

Oct 7, 2013

Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes & Giveaway!

Until now, I had never read anything by Jojo Moyes, so when my book club chose THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND as our October selection I was very excited. The reviews I'd read about her books were really great so I had high expectations.

About the Book:
(No Spoilers)

This is the story of two women who are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for what is special to them. They are so similar yet separated by distance and time. The thing they have in common is a portrait painted in the early 1900's that, if possible, would tell an amazing story.

The book begins with Sophie, a French woman living in a German occupied village in 1916. Her husband Edouard, an artist, is on the front lines fighting in the war while Sophie tries to keep her family safe under harsh German rule.

The second part of the book takes place in 2006 and introduces Liv, a young English widow living in London still trying to come to terms with the loss of her husband even though its been four years since his death.

Like Sophie, Liv feels she is losing her grip on everything that is dear to her. She can barely afford the magnificent home her architect late husband built and she's facing the reality of having to sell it. The one thing that comforts her is the painting he bought for her ten years ago while on their honeymoon in Spain. The painting has become a living, breathing thing to Liv that she treasures more than anyone else possibly could. When she receives legal papers on behalf of the artist's family that the painting was part of stolen collection of art confiscated by the Germans during the war, Liv is determined to fight the suit. The more she learns of the painting and it's muse, the more determined Liv is to win at any cost.

My Thoughts:

This one was easy - I LOVED it! It was so beautifully told, especially Part 1 which was Sophie's story of enduring war-torn France and all the injustices to the French people.  I liked how Jojo Moyes dedicated the entire first part of the book to that character and time period. When I began the second part, it was such a contrast, I almost felt I was reading a different book except for the common denominator - the painting. That painting brought the two stories together seamlessly. What I noticed right away when reading Liv's story was the drastic change in the writing. They were both spot-on and true to the time periods and people they represented.  Moyes' storytelling talent is amazing. Even though you're pretty certain what's going to happen, its still a surprise when you read it.

I've discovered lately that I have a fondness for novels written about art and this book only made that more evident to me. I was taken in by the history of the painting and how it traveled over the years to finally end up with Liv in 1996. The painting became one of the main characters and I loved that about it.

The characters, both from the past and present, were so life-like and genuine. I even felt bad for the German Kommendant for the life he led in the German army. There really isn't much else for me to say. This is one of my favorite books this year and once again, I have She Reads Book Club to thank for introducing it to me. THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND is wonderful and I recommend it highly, especially if you enjoy historical fiction, art or just great literature.

GIVEAWAY!! The She Reads Book Club with the generosity of Pamela Dorman Books is giving away copies of 3 Jojo Moyes books to one lucky winner! For details and entry information, go to Good luck to you!!

Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (Viking/Penguin)
Published: August 2013
Length; 384pp
Source: Publisher/She Reads Book Club

Oct 5, 2013

Review: Still Life (A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny

I came across this book while perusing Goodreads a few weeks ago. It seemed to be exactly the type of mystery I was looking for. I love mystery series and this one seemed a little different than the 'cozy' mysteries I've been reading, though I suppose, technically it still is classified as a 'cozy'.

In STILL LIFE, the first book of the series, veteran Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, with the Surete du Quebec, is called to a crime scene on Thanksgiving Day to the small village of Three Pines outside of Montreal where an elderly woman has been killed, possibly murdered, by an arrow through the heart. Gamache and his team quickly descend on the tight-knit community and begin their investigation. With it being hunting season, the suspect list starts out very broad, but as Gamache observes the residents and gets to know some of them, important clues come to light. On top of heading this disturbing investigation, he is also tasked with training a new recruit to his team, Agent Nichol. Though she first appeared bright and promising, she soon shows her immaturity and lack of respect to both the residents of Three Pines and to Gamache, himself.  For reasons that are beyond some, Gamache continues to try to help her learn not only how to be a good investigator, but also to learn something of herself as well.

My Thoughts:

I am so happy that I found this series! When I was on Goodreads, I noticed that several of my friends had read it and really enjoyed it and I wondered how I'd missed it. The characters, especially the chief inspector completely drew me in. Gamache has a fatherly sense to him that makes you instantly trust him to do what's right. What I also enjoyed was getting to know the different residents of Three Pines and their quirks. Some of them are likable right away, while others were not likable at all to me. But they were all so believable and they each added to the story.

Speaking of story - Louise Penny sure knows how to write a compelling tale. Let me be clear, this is not a fast-paced who-dun-it. It is a slower paced, methodical mystery that patiently weaves through time and character to create a suspenseful outcome. I also have to mention that I love the title of this first book, STILL LIFE. Before reading it I thought I knew what the title meant, but as I read on, other meanings began to develop in my mind.   A great title always gives me an added appreciation for the author and their work that was definitely the case here.

 I'd heard of Louise Penny before, but had never taken the time to look into her work. Now that I have, I am a big fan. For me, all other series are going to be put on the back burner for awhile until I read a few more of this wonderfully engaging series. I guess you could say I'm hooked. For lovers of mystery series, in my opinion, you can't go wrong with this series. If you hurry, you can pick it up for $2.99 at the Kindle Store!

STILL LIFE (Chief Inspector Gamache #1)
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: September 2008
Published: Minotaur
Length: 321pp
Source: Purchased as Kindle Daily Deal

Sep 29, 2013

The Sunday Salon: A Preview of New Releases Headed My Way

Thankfully, Mother Nature has not let me down. We are finally enjoying some fall-like weather down here in Florida. Now, that's not to say it won't get hot again before it's all over, but I'll take what I can get. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love having the windows open and giving my air conditioner a break but the best part is getting up early, grabbing a cup of coffee and a book and enjoying the cool morning air on the porch. Soon, the heat from the sun won't run me off as quickly and I can stay out there as long as I like.

Along with the promise of cooler weather, is the anticipation of some great new books coming out in the next few months. I've been really lucky lately with the books that have found their way to my mailbox and inbox. Here are some of the new books that will be arriving very soon. These are courtesy of St. Martin's Press. Click on the titles for more information and cover image.

The publisher is touting this as a 'thrilling contemporary  ghost story with both horror and heart'. And Stephen King has raved about it as well, so it didn't take me long to add this to my list of choices.

  • LOST LAKE by Sarah Addison Allen (February 2014)
Since I am a huge fan of Ms. Allen's, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an advanced copy of her latest! It was a no-brainer for me.

There is a lot of talk about this debut novel becoming a huge bestseller. This moving saga tells the story of four Wisconsin-born friends who grow up together. One of them never left their small town but the other three moved on to bigger lives. Now, years later, they are all back home but secrets, old hurts and differing memories arise that change all their lives. I haven't really explained it well, but I'm really looking forward to this one.

This is a biography of one of my favorite rock bands ever, the Allman Brothers Band. I'm a huge southern rock girl and I was even lucky enough to meet Greg Allman many, many years ago at a friend's house right here in Ocala. This is sure to be an enlightening history of this legendary band.

This novel has been described as 'haunting' and 'moving', so naturally I was in right away. It focuses on one couple, at their best and at their worst. When I saw that Richard Russo, who is the king of great sagas, raved about his book, I knew I couldn't miss it.

A funny Christmas tale featuring two of my favorite MKA's characters, Weezie and her best friend Bebe. I am so happy to be able to read this for the holiday season. I'm sure these two crazy Savannah girls will provide me with many laughs and adventures. Wouldn't miss this for anything!


Those are just a few of the books I'll be featuring here on my blog in the coming months. I hope you'll check 'em out. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Jessica Hatch for the generous opportunity to have first crack at these new releases.. 

Now I'm off to make my first batch of chili for this new season and do some reading. Enjoy your Sunday and hopefully some terrific Fall weather! 

Sep 24, 2013

Review: Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook

Sandy Sullivan is a professional home stager, living in Boston with her tennis-loving husband and college graduate son who has moved into their basement and rarely comes out. Though she stages homes for a living she can't seem to get her own family on board when she wants to 'clean up' their family home so it can be put up for sale. After constant prodding, begging and bitching to no avail, Sandy is at her wits end. So when her best friend mentions that her new boyfriend just bought a hotel in Atlanta in desperate need of some updating, Sandy takes the job. Her family is stunned and can't believe she's actually going to Atlanta, even her newly married daughter who lives in Atlanta is shocked. Sandy's plan to stay with her daughter and son-in-law during this process is derailed when her daughter tells her she's headed back to Boston for some training for her job, leaving Sandy to stay there alone with Chance, her very southern son-in-law she barely knows.

Her motive for this plan was to force her family into action and that by the time she returned home, the house would be ready to put on the market. But she didn't plan on missing her family so much and feeling so disconnected from her own life, not to mention being in a city that is so different from Boston. To add to the stress, she thinks her best friend's boyfriend is cheating on her, which puts her in a very uncomfortable situation. The time she spends away from her loved ones and her experiences in Atlanta gives Sandy a fresh outlook on life and the people around her.

My Thoughts:

BEST STAGED PLANS is my first Claire Cook book and it is all that I thought it would be. Claire's characters seem like real people to me. They are certainly anything but perfect but they are good people. I liked Sandy Sullivan right away, especially her sense of humor. In fact, I know some people who are very similar to her in a lot of ways. I really enjoyed the friendship with her best friend. That is a special relationship for any woman and it came across very sincere and honest. The interaction with Chance was so realistic and comical at times. I really enjoyed those parts as well.

Throughout the book, Cook offers up simple anecdotes about friendship, marriage and tips for clearing up clutter in your own home and even how to properly pack a suitcase. These tips took me by surprise but I found myself making mental notes and I bookmarked each one.

I'm glad I finally took the time to read one of Claire's books. It was exactly what I was looking for at the time. It made me laugh and it made me think. I don't read a lot of chic lit but I plan to be entertained by Claire Cook again.

 BEST STAGED PLANS (Kindle Edition)
Author: Claire Cook
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: June 2011
Length: 256pp
Source: Purchased

Sep 19, 2013

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

THE VIOLETS OF MARCH is my second Sarah Jio novel, although it was actually her debut. The first one I read, BLACKBERRY WINTER, completely won me over so it wasn't a hard decision to read this one next.

About the Book:

After having a such a successful life in her twenties, both professionally and personally, now in her thirties Emily has found herself in a much different place.  Her career as a best-selling author seems to be at a standstill and her marriage to Jake, the seemingly perfect husband, is now over. Her best friend is worried about her so when Emily's elder great-aunt Bea invites her to Bainbridge Island for a long overdue visit, she encourages Emily to go hoping it will give her some clarity and closure and help her to move forward with her life.

Once she arrives at the Island, many old memories rush to her of summers spent there as a child. She doesn't know why her family stopped going there when she was a teenager and she is met only with silence and evasiveness when she tries to find out.

When she discovers a red velvet diary in the room she is staying in at Bea's house, she is at first reluctant to read it for fear of intruding on someone's privacy, but her curiosity gets the better of her and she begins to read. The diary is dated 1943 and although the names are different, the people are amazingly familiar to her. It is impossible for her to stop reading, especially when the person who left it for her urges her to read it completely.

Emily settles into life on the island and runs into people from her past life that she hasn't seen in years. Though she feels excited and surprised, it is also a bit overwhelming. When she meets Jack, the grandson of a neighbor who lives down the beach, Emily is overcome with confusion. Why does she feel she is betraying a marriage that is already broken?

Eventually, the diary takes on a life of its own and the lines between Emily's life and the diary are blurred and impossible to separate.  The secrets of her family's past, and the story written in the diary are heading right into Emily's life and she rushes to figure it all out so that she can make the decisions for her own future.

My Thoughts:

There are a couple things right off the bat that I liked about this book even before I read it: The beautiful cover! The story within a story concept and the location of Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. As a Seattlean, Jio incorporates so much of the city into her books that it actually becomes a its own character.  She is turning me into a Seattle-lover! I would love to visit there one day to see for myself how beautiful it is.

As for the book, I really liked Emily right away. All of the characters were original and very believable to me. Bea was a prickly character but I liked her and it was obvious she only wanted the best for Emily. In my opinion, the story-telling in this debut was done well and kept moving at a good pace that kept my attention and even had me guessing.  The diary story was fascinating and I liked the way Jio weaved it into the present. It felt like I was in the room with Emily as she read it. I love stories taking place during that era so its easy for me to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed THE VIOLETS OF MARCH. My only problem is to figure out which Sarah Jio book to read next.

Author: Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume
Published:  April 2011
Length: 304 pp
Source: Purchased

Sep 15, 2013

[TSS] Review: Opal Fire by Barbra Annino (Stacy Justice Mystery #1)

I am always on the lookout for a new mystery series and I was particularly happy to find this one because its a paranormal mystery. Since I enjoyed Sookie Stackhouse so much I was on the lookout for something along those lines. Well, I believe I've found it with Stacy Justice. 

Stacy lives in Amethyst, Illinois, where she works as a journalist for the local paper. Her grandmother, Birdie, and two great-aunts run a bed and breakfast there and another aunt owns the bakery. Her best friend and cousin, Cinnamon, runs one of the local bars called The Black Opal.  

Amethyst is a close-knit town but the residents tend to raise their eyebrows at Stacy's family for their strange beliefs. You see, they are witches. They don't flaunt their actions but they have been known to hold odd ceremonies with their capes, chanting strange verses from time to time. Though Stacy isn't sure she believes all the witch stuff, she loves her family dearly, so she listens with an open mind, albeit a skeptical one. She hasn't fully accepted the fact that her elders believe she has powers of her own. 

Being the investigative reporter she is, when The Black Opal mysteriously catches fire and almost burns down, Stacy does everything she can to find out what happened. Things get complicated when a body is discovered in the cellar of the bar and Stacy begins to experience some not-so-natural episodes. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes for her and her family. 

My Thoughts:

This book turned out to be exactly what I thought it would be: A fun story with a good mystery, entertaining characters and a little magic thrown in. Its not over-the-top with the paranormal element, which I like. Its a quick read that has a lot of humor throughout.  I laughed out loud many times. The dynamic between Stacy and her cousin, Cinnamon, is loving and well-worn. By that I mean, its obvious these two have been close for a long time and they know everything about each other, the way best friends do. 

Along with the mystery of the fire and the dead body in the basement, the end of the book sets up what will surely be a big part of future installments. I enjoyed reading this first book and I'm sure I will continue with the series. There are four books so far, with the most current being released this past July. Amazon is offering these books at the Kindle Store at a great price. I took advantage of that and downloaded them all.. 

If you're looking a fun, paranormal series, this would make a great choice. Sometimes I need something light and quick as a change of pace. With the Halloween season fast approaching, this would be the perfect time to get started.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: December 18,  2012
Length: 289 pp
How I Found Out About This Book: Kindle Daily Deals

Sep 11, 2013

Audio Review: Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer (Clifton Chronicles 3)

This is the third book in Jeffrey Archer's acclaimed Clifton Chronicles and it is one of my favorite series, especially as an audio.

About the Book:
(No Spoilers)

This installment picks up right where the second left off with Giles Barrington and Harry Clifton waiting to find out who will be the successor to the late Hugo Barrington for the family corporation. The result of the vote is revealed and all seems well until Giles marries. Unfortunately, Giles is the only one smitten with Lady Virginia and that point becomes quite clear when the late Lady Elizabeth Barrington's will is read.  Giles is devastated but Lady Virginia is enraged. As the years go by, the story begins to focus more on Harry's son, Sebastian as he grows up and attends university. The story also introduces the daughter Harry and Emma have adopted, whose young life is already filled with secrets, even though she, herself, is not yet aware. 

Time usually heals wounds, but Lady Virginia's wounds are still fresh so she enlists the help of an old nemesis from Giles's past to help her gain control of Barrington Industries. Unfortunately, Sebastian ends up getting caught up in her web of deceit and he is unknowingly falling right into a trap. It is up to Giles and Harry to figure out what is really going on and who is behind this betrayal before its too late.  

My Thoughts:

One thing I really like about this series is the pace at which things happen. There is no lull or stalling of the plot between books. With some books, they may feel rushed or maybe that would cause a disconnect for the reader, but Jeffrey Archer is such a master storyteller that it is completely seamless.

I loved the addition of the new characters in Sebastian's life and how they fit into the story and though Sebastian does inhabit much of the book, Harry, Emma and Giles are still front and center as well.  Just when I thought we'd heard the last of Captain Fisher, he resurfaces to cause more trouble for the family.

I'm sure I would still like this series if I were reading the print version, but I am so glad I listen to these books. The narrator, Alex Jennings, is absolutely perfect. I love listening to his voice as he reads the pages to me. His smooth British accent is both calming and enjoyable to listen to. His inflections for the different characters are subtle yet distinctive. He is one of my favorite parts of this audio series.

Another thing I appreciate about Jeffrey Archer's writing is his ability to leave such a wonderful cliff-hanger at the end of each book.  I thoroughly enjoy his writing and I'm always completely satisfied with where the story takes me. I will continue to read The Clifton Chronicles for as long as Mr. Archer comes up with new adventures.

BEST KEPT SECRET (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: St. Macmillan Audio
Published: April
Length: 11 Hrs 15 Min

Sep 10, 2013

Review: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I am especially excited to talk about THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by Liane Moriarty because it was such a surprise to me. I didn't really know what to expect and I suppose I was prepared for your run-of-the-mill womens fiction. WELL!! That is not at all what it turned out to be and I couldn't be happier! But before I get more into what I thought about this new release, here's a bit about the book. (No Spoilers)

What would you do if you discovered your husband of many years had been keeping a secret? Not just a little secret but a life-altering, devastating secret that affected many people? That is exactly what happened when Cecelia Fitzpatrick found a letter addressed to her by her husband written some 12 years earlier with the instructions 'To Be Opened Only In The Event of My Death. With her husband on a business trip to the US and Cecelia at home with their three daughters in Australia, she promises him she won't open it. But when John-Paul cuts short his trip and returns home to Australia immediately after she told him that she found the letter, she is even more suspicious and worried about the contents. 

Tess is a happily married mother of one who has a fulfilling job in the ad agency she started with her husband and cousin. She is happy in both her personal and professional life and lives each day with not too much worry of what lies ahead. That all changed in an instant and leaves Tess asking herself how she could've not seen it coming. 

Rachel is an older woman who is still suffering the loss of her teenage daughter some twenty-eight years ago and has never really recovered.  Janie was seventeen when she became missing and was found dead in a park hours later. Though Rachel had another child, a son, she was never able to get over Janie's death or to show Rob the love he needed. 

These three women are connected in different ways and secrets play a big part in those connections. As the truths are revealed, new revelations are discovered that still have the power to change lives forever. Even the most innocent people are forever affected. 

My Thoughts:

I couldn't have been more delighted with this book. It turned out to be much more than I was expecting and it had me riveted. The characters are terrific, even though I didn't really like one of them. OK, it's Rachel. I thought she was a hard woman who didn't think much of people. Granted, its understandable considering what she's gone through in her life, but she was a bit prickly. That being said, I also believe that is what made her such a great character. Cecelia was seemingly so perfect that you didn't want to like her but you couldn't help it. And Tess, well, I felt sorry for Tess - for awhile anyway. 

Aside form the great characters, the story was written very well, laying the story out bit by bit.  I also liked the way the author introduced the connections of the characters in a slow manner, allowing all of the history between them to be revealed and absorbed in a natural way.  This made the story all the more realistic and natural.  Deep inside this story is a mystery that is so powerful and life-changing.  That's the part I wasn't expecting. It made this novel and stand-out for me. One of my favorite parts was actually the epilogue. It was very revealing and I enjoyed that very much. After reading it, I felt like I was the one who held the secrets. It was great!! 

I realized I was really into this book when I found myself thinking of these women throughout my day when I wasn't reading. I'd be making the bed and Cecelia would pop into my mind and I'd start trying to put myself into their situations and wonder what I would do. In my opinion, when a book stays in your mind even after you've finished it, that's a good book!

If you are in a book club this would make a terrific selection. There is definitely a lot to discuss and questions to be asked.  I have to thank my book club She Reads Book Club for choosing this thought-provoking book. I am looking forward to our discussion later in the month! 

Just one last note: My friend Kathy and my Aunt Nancy, who both live in Ohio but do not know each other, saw on my Facebook page that I was reading this book and they told me they were both reading it at the same time I was! I never discussed this book with them and that is what made it so random! They both loved it, in fact, Kathy told me the epilogue was also one of her favorite parts and the book is one of her favorites of the year! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who just plain loves a great story! 

Author: Liane Moriarty
 Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam  
Published: July 30, 2013
Length: 416 pp
Source: Publisher

Aug 30, 2013

Review: Mandatory Release by Jess Riley

As a fan of Jess Riley's work, I was pleased when MANDATORY RELEASE came out so soon after her December 2012 release of  ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE, that I really enjoyed. I liked her cut-through-the-crap, tell-it-like-it-is characters in that book, so I was anxious to see what she was putting out there this time. Turns out, it was something old that she made new again. MANDATORY RELEASE is actually a novel she started years ago, then scrapped and now its been finished and released.

About the Book (from Goodreads)

Thirty-year-year-old Graham Finch spends his days trying to rehabilitate inmates and his nights trying to rehabilitate his heart - until a new coworker, his high school crush Drew Daniels, walks through the prison gates one hot summer morning.  Drew is on the run from a painful past that's nearly crushed her faith in love. Together, they might just have what it takes to mend their hearts.  If only their way to fining one another were easier than working with convicted felons.

My Thoughts: (No Spoilers Included)

This story is about two people trying to overcome circumstances that they find themselves in and not let it define them. Its told in alternating voices of Graham Finch, in the first person and Drew Daniels, told in the third person. The reader really gets to know where Graham is coming from and how he really feels about his life and the blows he's been dealt. I won't go into detail, but Graham's life is nothing like he'd planned. He finds himself in a completely different situation that could happen to anyone. He tries to maintain a 'normal' life and when Drew re-enters his life he would give anything to have a second chance with her but he's almost too afraid to let himself believe it could happen.

Drew has returned to her hometown to live with her parents in her old room after some devastating event has happened in her life, though we don't learn what that is until much later in the book. Little by little, clues are dropped and the guessing continues about what could have happened that up-ended her life so drastically.

Both Drew and Graham are very likeable characters, albeit a little broken and I quickly found myself rooting for them. This is not a complicated story - its just a story about forgiveness, inner strength and the power of love. What I took away from this book is that though life will sometimes deal you a bad hand, its how you overcome it that defines you, not the other way around. You can't lock yourself in a box and wear protective armor for the rest of your life. You have to put yourself out there or you'll never know what could happen.

The writing in this book is true Jess Riley. Its straightforward, and has just the right amount of dark humor. Its apparent that Drew has a great fondness for her Dad and his love of birds and I liked how Drew talked about that with Graham, knowing she was still learning life's lessons through those things. I also appreciate the title of the book and its many meanings. Its the perfect title. This book comes from a true place, as Ms. Riley used her own personal experiences working in a correctional facility in a basis for the book. It was very real and believable, as were the characters. I'm glad that Ms. Riley had the opportunity to go back and finish this book the way she wanted to because I think its a worthwhile read and I'm happy that I took the time to read it.  Oh, and if you hurry, you can pick this gem up for 2.99 at the Kindle Store!

Author: Jess Riley @jessrileywrites
Publisher:CreateSpace Independant Publishing Platform
Published: May 2013
Length: 310 pp
Recommend: Yes, definitely.

Aug 25, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Summer Break

Hello everyone! I took a short hiatus for a month or so but I'm anxious to get back to posting regularly again. I find I like to take a break during the long, hot summer days - it always makes me feel rejuvenated afterwards. I thought I'd ease back into things with a little catch up post.

Another reason I slacked off a bit is I was going through some changes with my eyes and adjusting to a little more loss of vision. Although its a gradual thing, its still jarring to notice the changes. Therefore, I'm becoming more and more dependant on my Paperwhite Kindle and less on actual books. My computer also has some issues so I wasn't able to download any audios for a time but I think I have that figured out. I'm looking forward to September for some great books!

Okay, so its no secret that I loved the Sookie Stackhouse mystery series and I was very disappointed when the series ended earlier this year. I like the quirkiness and well, the just plain fun of those books and I was wondering what I would replace it with. Well, wonder no more! Recently I stumbled across a fairly new series written by Barbra Annino called the Stacy Justice Mysteries. Its a paranormal cozy mystery series that is magical, entertaining, and laugh out loud funny! I'm reading the first book, OPAL FIRE now and I am really liking it. I do believe Stacy is my new Sookie! Not that Sookie can be replaced, mind you! I was very lucky to have gotten the first four books for 1.99 each as a Kindle Daily Deal recently. The last book just came out in July and they are quick reads so it'll be easy to get caught up.
With the film version of THE BOOK THIEF coming out I felt it was high time I finally got around to reading it! I've had the book for years but it kept getting pushed aside. Well, no more! Again, due to my deteriorating vision, I used one of my precious Audible credits and downloaded the audio version. I'm so excited to get started! The narrator, Allan Corduner is going to be AMAZING! Another great audio I'm looking forward to is CITY OF THIEVES that I also just downloaded. This one has been on my TBR list for awhile.

During my little break, I didn't stop reading all together. I did get some books read and I'll have several reviews that I'll be posting in the coming days. I hope you'll stop back by and check them out. I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer and spending time with some great books!