Sep 8, 2016

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand's THE RUMOR landed with a big splash last June. There was a lot of buzz about it yet I remember reading mixed reviews, which is why I put off reading it until this summer. This 'beach read' taking place on Nantucket Island centers around best friends Grace and Madeline and their families.  The story begins in the spring just when people are breaking out of their winter retreats and preparing for the arrival of summer residents.  Both women appear to be living the life; Grace with her successful real estate mogul husband, Eddie and their twin teenage girls Allegra and Hope, and Madeline, a published novelist with a loving pilot husband and their son, Brick. They both seem to have it all, but looks can be deceiving.

Madeline and Grace are both at a point in their lives where they feel stuck. One personally and one professionally.  In their small little town, there are eyes and ears everywhere and even the most innocent action can be interpreted as something it's not. But once it's out there, it's hard to reel it back in.

My Thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised to find out there were more levels to this story than what I had expected.  I liked that the kids also played a big part in the story. Each chapter was told from a different characters' point of view, which gave insight into that person. There were also chapters labeled 'Nantucket', which I thought was a clever way to get the townspeople's perspective as well.

I found the characters to be easy to relate to, personality-wise. Even though they had their flaws, they were good people. The character that changed the most, I felt, was Allegra, the beautiful twin who used her looks to charm her way through life. I loved Grace for all of her foodie and gardening flaire. I could also feel the loneliness she suffered at the hands of her family. Each of the characters had their own issues going on but the common threads were the love, loyalty and forgiveness for their loved ones.

The bottom line is I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would. I zipped right through it because the pace  never lagged and with all the different people telling the story, I was kept interested all the way through. This was the perfect book to wind up my summer reading list. I'm very glad I took the time to read it. This was my first Elin Hilderbrand novel but it probably won't be the last.

THE RUMOR: Kindle Edition
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: June 2015
Length: 367 pp
Source: Purchased

Sep 2, 2016

Review: The Children by Ann Leary

Since reading Leary's previous novel THE GO6OD HOUSE, which came out in early 2013, I have been anxiously awaiting her next release.  In May of this year THE CHILDREN was published and, finally, the wait was over. In THE GOOD HOUSE, the main character had such a bold presence and I was curious to see if this book mirrored that. Let's just say I was not disappointed with Charlotte Maynard at all.

Charlotte is a member of an old prominent New England family. It's not a traditional family but more of a modern family with its complicated family tree.  She is a 29 year-old recluse who seldom leaves the family home that sits on the best part of a beautiful lake, but that's not what makes Charolotte interesting.  The interesting thng is that Charlotte has a secret that even her family doesn't know about. She would love to be able to tell them all about it, but she has painted herself into a corner that she can't get out of without bringing herself down. 

The slightly odd but functioning family dynamic is going along smoothly until Spin, the favorite and youngest member of this disjointed family brings his fiance home for the summer. As the family gets to know this beautiful and successful woman, Charlotte's curiosity turns into something more. She's suspicious but no one will listen to her because of her hermit-like existence, no matter how much she insists that something just isn't right. As the summer progresses, so do the cracks in this family reveal themselves as never before.

My Thoughts:

I will get right to it and say that after reading this book I am an even bigger fan of Ann Leary. This multi-dimensional story is driven by interesting characters that made me not want to stop reading. The locale, the once beautiful and now worn down house on the lake, and the people were so vivid in my mind. Leary's writing style allowed the story to be revealed bit by bit which let me, the reader, learn things at the same time the characters did. It was an engaging read that kept my attention and curiosity piqued throughout.  

Leary has created a complex story with this flawed family and manages to do it with (mostly) likable characters. I found it to be original and current. I love that Charlotte is a blogger because I could relate to a small part of her world and appreciate it. At only 256 pages, it was a quick read but after finishing it I didn't pick up another book for several days because I was still processing the story. And it has stayed with me since. THE CHILDREN was a book I truly enjoyed reading. I even liked it more than THE GOOD HOUSE and I can't wait to see what she comes up with for her next novel. 

I highly recommend this book and hope you make the time to read it. Special thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with my e-copy. It is definitely on my list of top books that I've read this year.

Author: Ann Leary
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published:  May 2016
Length: 256 pp
Source: Publisher

Jun 28, 2016

Review: We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

No Spoilers Included!

Ever since I read DOMESTIC VIOLETS in 2011 I have been anxiously awaiting Norman's second book. I loved that debut novel and wondered what he would produce next. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed but when WE'RE ALL DAMAGED showed up on my Kindle Firsts promo, I snatched up my copy in a heartbeat!

What It's About:

This is a story about a guy who thought he had it all. A good job, a beautiful wife and a plan for their future together that would, one day, include a family of their own. Unfortunately for Andy Carter, his wife Karen had different plans. She blew his life apart when she told him she 'didn't want this anymore'. Now, it's a year later and Andy's life is so different he sometimes doesn't even recognize himself.  He lost his job, destroyed his best friend's wedding reception, along with that friendship, and left his Iowa hometown for New York City where he knew absolutely no one. He's working as a bartender for the only friend he has in The City when he gets a call to come home immediately. His grandfather is dying and his mother is demanding he come before that happens.

In the last year while Andy was sulking in The Big Apple, things in his old life have changed dramatically. Andy stumbles along trying to absorb the changes, not to mention the impending death of his grandpa. And then there's Daisy, the tatted up, strange woman he meets at the nursing home who says she's a friend of his grandfather...but can that really be?? Though Andy didn't think he was ready to go home yet, this is a trip he had to make. Back home, he'll see people he's known his whole life in different ways and meet new people who will change how he looks at himself.

My Thoughts:

There have been times when I've read a debut novel and loved it, only to discover the next novel by the same author fell flat.  Well, for me, that is certainly NOT the case with WE'RE ALL DAMAGED. This book was such a refreshing reading experience for me. The opening chapters, especially, were laugh out loud funny. I absolutely loved the snarky wit and characters that came alive within the pages. The Glitter Mafia which brought a very relevant social issue into the story was genius as was the battle his father had with the squirrels. He painted such a vivid picture in my mind that I couldn't quit laughing. I'll never look at a squirrel the same way again. Nancy, Andy's far right Republican mother was another brilliant character, though my views are very different from hers. All of the characters seemed so realistic to me and I enjoyed them all.

I've told you how funny this story is but it's not just funny. It's sweet, it's heartbreaking, sad, hopeful and lovely. It's about family, marriage, regret, forgiveness and awareness and compassion. As I'm sitting here thinking about the book, it reminds me again of how much I loved it. The sweetness of the story took me by surprise, especially when it brought me to tears.

WE'RE ALL DAMAGED is about a regular family in Iowa with problems that are not all that different  from other families'.  It's not a complex story but Matthew Norman, with his unique take on people, along with his incredible sense of humor makes it something very special. At 282 pages and as readable as it is, it's the perfect weekend read.  I imagine it would make for a great audiobook as well and would be perfect for a road trip this summer.  If you read and loved DOMESTIC VIOLETS, you certainly don't want to put off reading WE'RE ALL DAMAGED any longer.

Author: Matthew Norman
Publisher: Little A
Published: June 1, 2016
Length: 282 pages
Source: Amazon Kindle Firsts

Jun 14, 2016

Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian (Unabridged Audio Version)

As with all my reviews, No Spoilers are included!

When a successful, happily married father of a young daughter offers to host his younger brother bachelor party, Richard Chapman thought it would be a harmless night of drinking and would make his brother happy that he'd opened his beautiful home to his friends.  He'd even convinced his wife, Kristin, to consent and it was decided that she and their daughter would go to her mother's apartment in Manhattan for the night. The 'Bachelor' was the more rowdy of the two brothers so Richard wasn't too surprised when he found out that one one of his brother's friends had hired a couple strippers. But right away Richard felt the two exotic-looking girls were not your regular bachelor party strippers. The fact that they were accompanied by two very large Russian bodyguards made Richard even more nervous. As the night wore on, the men got drunker and the girls were doing more than stripping. Suddenly all hell broke loose, knives were drawn, blood was shed and by the end the two Russians were lying dead in the Chapman's living room and the girls were no where to be found. In the aftermath of the chaos, Richard's once perfect life would be threatened on several fronts: the Russian mob, blackmail, unemployment. Not to mention his wife was contemplating divorce. He could lose everything yet he couldn't stop thinking about Alexandra, the girl with the black hair,  and if she was safe.

My Thoughts on the Story:

Surprisingly, this is the first novel by Chris Bohjalian that I've ever read. I've heard so much praise for his work from fellow bloggers/readers for many years so my expectations were pretty high.  When choosing this book, I will admit the subject matter of sex trafficking did give me pause. It's a very disturbing issue and very relevant to our times and I wasn't sure I wanted to go there, but I ultimately did. I easily found myself immersed in the story and since there weren't a lot of characters it was easy listening. Things happened pretty quickly and I was very tuned in to the story. But for me, about half-way through it slowed and I found myself waiting for something more dramatic to happen. That's not to say there weren't dramatic parts, but I guess I was just expecting more. Events near the end of the book both baffled and surprised me, in good and bad ways. Having heard such wonderful things from Bohjalian's fans, I was expecting a deeper, more involved story and I just didn't get that.

My Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

The two narrators, Mozhan Marno and Grace Experience did very good jobs of bringing these characters to life, especially the part of Alexandra, the Russian girl. She made me totally believe her character. Her accent was perfection.  Looking back, I'm glad I chose the audio version for this book because I may have become distracted if I were reading the print version during the (much) slower parts.

The bottom line for me is that it was a good listen but a little underwhelming considering all the hype about Bohjalian's work I'd heard for years. My question is: Is this typical of all his books? Or is this one an exception? I will have to read another Bohjalian novel to answer those questions. And I certainly will, maybe in print the next time to see if that affects my opinion at all. Clearly, his fans loved this book but unfortunately, for me, it was just OK.

THE GUEST ROOM (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: January 2016
Length: 10 Hrs 10 Mins
Source: Purchased via Audible

Jun 7, 2016

Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Before INK AND BONE I had never read a Lisa Unger book, so I was very excited when I was offered an advance copy from the publisher so of course, I jumped at the chance! I was not familiar with her work so I really didn't know what to expect. Before reading this new book, I read up on Lisa Unger a bit and was surprised to learn that on June 4 she released a novella called THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS containing three short stories featuring Eloise Montgomery, a major character in INK AND BONE. Another happy surprise was the presence of paranormal elements in this book. I suppose I was expecting a straight-forward suspense novel but I realized this book was going to be more than that. It made me even more excited to start reading.

INK AND BONE is a paranormal suspense thriller featuring Eloise Montgomery, "a reluctant" psychic medium and her nineteen year-old granddaughter, Finley, who shares more than a bloodline with Eloise. Though Finley has known for a long time that she sees things most people don't, it isn't until a year ago when she moved to The Hollows in upstate New York to live with her grandmother, that she begins exploring the 'gift' she was born with. Eloise serves as a gentle guide for Finley as she tests the power and limitations of those gifts.

It's been close to a year since eight year-old Abbey Gleason was taken while on a hike in The Hollows with her dad and older brother. All hope has been lost but Abbey's mother, Merri, can't let go or give up. She hires private detective Jones Cooper, from The Hollows, because he works with noted psychic medium Eloise Montgomery. Merri knows this is probably her last hope of finding her daughter, but it's not Eloise who is sensing things about the case. It's Finley's turn to follow the 'signs' wherever they may lead.

My Thoughts:
(Contains No Spoilers!)

This was a well thought out story that I was very impressed with. It's multi-layered with rich, interesting characters.  What I enjoy about Unger's writing style is the way she reveals impactful information along the way.  I like to call them 'nuggets' and this book has them littered throughout, which kept my attention and focus. It also made the pages fly by. There was also a big twist that totally caught me off guard!

She uses two main perspectives to tell the story - one from the parents of Abbey Gleason and the other is Finley's but there's also Eloise's point of view as well, though not as prevalent. It's interesting because it allows the reader to know exactly what each party is going through and where they are coming from.

The subject matter of the story is disturbing yet Unger doesn't get explicit with the violent acts of the perpetrator though she eludes to them more later in the book. Many writers would include details that might be hard to take, but Unger uses a lighter touch without softening the story at all. That is really good for readers who like these types of books but don't particularly care for a lot of violence.

The paranormal aspect took this book to another level and I really enjoyed it. It was definitely present without being too over the top weird. I liked that fact that Finley was just beginning to understand her abilities and that made it easier for me to accept. I felt this was a great element to the story and makes me really happy to have read INK AND BONE. I like the paranormal genre but I have a hard time finding books that I like and this one filled that void for me.

As a first time reader of Lisa Unger's work, I am thrilled to say I am now a fan!  I'll be looking into more of her books and hoping that Finley Montgomery will come back one day. There's a lot there to build on with these characters and the location. The Hollows was it's own character and it was fantastic. And don't forget, about the novella, THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS - it would make a great companion piece with this book.  I'd like to thank Courtney Brach at Touchstone and Simon & Schuster, Inc. for the opportunity to preview this novel. I'm sure it will be a big hit this summer.

Author: Lisa Unger (@lisaunger)
Publisher: Touchstone
Published: June 7, 2016
Printed Length: 352
Source: Publisher

Jun 4, 2016

Audiobook Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

PRETTY GIRLS is the first stand-alone book I've read, or in this case, listened to by Karin Slaughter, though I'm a huge fan of her Will Trent Series. I was curious to see how she wrote and developed other characters apart from the series I was so used to. What I found was more intense, very complex characters, and in this case, a very difficult storyline. She takes psychological thrillers to a whole new level.

This is the story of a family deeply divided over events that started over twenty years prior. There used to be three sisters. Lydia and Claire were the oldest with Julia, a teenager, the youngest. The family was blown apart the day Julia disappeared without a trace. The not-knowing what happened to her leaves emotional scars on teh rest of the family. Claire and Lydia's relationship falls completely apart, with their mother adamately taking Claire's side leaving Lydia feeling totally alone and their father sinking into his own abyss of grief, guilt and despair. Lydia is, feeling totally ostracized from her family takes out on her own, cutting them off, with all loyalty from her family gone. It's now twenty years later and Claire's husband has been murdered right in front of her during a mugging. Claire's life is a fairy-tale compared to Lydia's, Her husband was extremely successful and she didn't want to for anything. Lydia scrimped and clawed for everything she has, which isn't much. While looking into her husband's dealings during the investigation into his murder, Claire finds shocking and frightening evidence that she didn't know her husband at all. In fact, what she discovers puts her in fear of her own life. Not knowing if she can even trust the police, she turns to the one person who has no reason at all to help her. After twenty years, Lydia knew that if Claire called her, it must be something very important, but there was no way she could have prepared herself for what was to come.

My Thoughts on the Story:
(No Spoilers!)

Having read Slaughter's Will Trent Series, I already knew that she doesn't hold back when writing her stories. I will state right off that this book, nor any of her books, really, are for the faint at heart. If you are easily offended by violence this book is probably not for you. I would have to say this is one of her most violent that I've ever read. Having said that, this was nothing less than what I've come to expect from one of the best suspense/thriller writers of our generation. It was a twisted, disturbing story but I was all in. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I read for an escape, which is why most of us read, I imagine. She is a no holds barred writer and is fearless, in my opinion. I have read that some readers thought this book in particular was too violent and there is an argument for that, I suppose, but like I applaud her unapologetic approach to writing great thrillers. It's important to not let the violence in the book take away from the incredible writing and storytelling with all of it's twists and turns. One thing I love about KS's work is that it's never predictable. She continues to surprise me with every book I read and this one was no exception.

My Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

I have listened to one or two of the Will Trent books and I didn't love the narrator but I was very pleased with Kathleen Early's performance in PRETTY GIRLS. She has a unique cadence to her voice and her storytelling kept me on the edge of my seat. In referencing her previous work, I learned that she has narrated Slaughter's Grant County Series, which I have not read. That encourages me to listen to that series as well.

At about 20 hours, this is a longer audiobook, but, for me, it flew by. At the time I was listening to this I had sold my home and was packing up to move to Ohio. It's tedious work but this audio make that task less daunthing. It kept me from being overwhilmed with what I was doing. That's why I love audiobooks. I listen when I'm cleaning or cooking and I get totally absorbed in the story and before you know it, my task is done. If you appreciate extreme psychological thrillers you should add PRETTY GIRLS to you listening list.

PRETTY GIRLS (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Karin Slaughter
Narrator: Kathleen Early
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Published: September 2015
Audio Length: 19 Hrs 59 Mins
Source: Purchased thru Audible

Jun 1, 2016

Review: Cometh the Hour (Clifton Chronicles #6) by Jeffrey Archer

I became a fan of Jeffrey Archer quite by accident.  About seven years I'd entered a giveaway that fellow blogger, Anna, at Diary of an Eccentric** was hosting.  The prize was the audio CD's for ONLY TIME WILL TELL, The Clifton Chronicles Book 1. I was the lucky winner and honestly wasn't familiar with the author at all.  Once I started listening I was immediately drawn to this family from Bristol, UK. Jeffrey Archer is an author I probably wouldn't have turned to on my own for whatever reason but I feel lucky that Anna introduced me to his work. Since then I've read every book in the series and I've realized and now appreciate what a wonderful storyteller he is. At the end of every installment, I know there is going to be a breath-taking cliff hanger! 

In COMETH THE HOUR, we have arrived in the 1970's and the world is rapidly changing for the Clifton/Barrington clan. Most of the story takes place in the UK, some in the US, with brief visits to Russia. There is more espionage, business back-stabbing and family secrets - some revealed, some not. This is a bit more of a serious book than some of the previous ones but Archer's quick wit is still present. 

With only one book yet to be released for this series, it is bittersweet knowing it will be coming to an end, but with only seven (total) books in the series, it wouldn't be difficult to read the entire series. Jeffrey Archer, in my opinion, is right up there with Louise Penny (Three Pines Series). What these two writers have in common is that they (I believe) write for the 'more mature' reader. I've said it all along and I stand behind that statement. If you've read Penny or Archer, I think you'd understand. So, if I could encourage a new series to someone, it would be The Clifton Chronicles. For me, it has been a total joy to read. It is very satisfying and always leaves me wanting more. 

COMETH THE HOUR (Clifton Chronicles #6)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: February 2016
Printed Lenth: 416
Source: Publisher

**Incidentally, Anna has another great giveaway happening now through June 5th. Click here for details.

May 29, 2016

The Sunday Salon: My Bookish Week

I've really enjoyed getting back into the swing of things last week, both with blogging and reading. The bottom line is, I'm happier when I'm busy. Though the number of comments is down, traffic to the blog is thriving, so I'm happy knowing people are visiting! Has anyone else noticed a drop in comments? (Just wondering)

A Look Back:

Last week was a productive week for me. I posted two reviews.  THE WEEKENDERS , is a new release from Mary Kay Andrews. Then I reviewed an audiobook, THE BLUE by Lucy Clarke. (It came out in paperback last Tuesday). Both of these books are great summer reads from two different genres.

The book I was reading last week is a yet-to-be-released psychological thriller by Lisa Unger called INK AND BONE. I'm a little more than half-way, so I'll be finishing it up this week. This is a new author for me. It's a lot different than what I was expecting. It has paranormal elements that were a surprise for me. I wonder, Do all of her books include paranormal activity? Luckily for me, I like it as long as it's not over the top weird and so far I'm liking this book. INK AND BONE hits shelves June 7th.

I started a new audiobook this week as well. It's another new-to-me writer. THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica is another suspense/thriller involving an abduction. I haven't gotten very far into it yet, (only about an hour or so) but I have liked what I've heard so far.

A Look Ahead:

I've got two reviews planned for this week if all goes well. COMETH THE HOUR by Jeffrey Archer, is book 6 of the Clifton Chronicles series. I've enjoyed it from the beginning and there's only one book left due out early next year.  The audiobook I'll be reviewing is from one of my favorite authors, Karin Slaughter. PRETTY GIRLS is the first stand alone novel I've read from her. I really enjoy her thrillers though I've heard some readers say her stories are too violent. Sometimes they are, and this one was tilting more that way, but it doesn't discourage me from reading them.

The books I plan to start this week are both new books from authors I've read before. Matthew Norman's WE'RE ALL DAMAGED and Ann Leary's THE CHILDREN are two of my most anticipated books. Both of thir previous novels were favorites of mine and I can't wait to get started. I'm not planning a new audiobook for this week. I'll just be finished up Kubica's and then I'll be waiting for END OF WATCH by Stephen King to be released in a few weeks. As you may know, it's the final book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy. It's bittersweet because it's coming to an end. The title alone makes me nervous and in true King fashion, I know it will end with a bang.

Wednesday, I'm excited to be attending a book discussion at the local library here in Amelia. I've never been there and my friend, Kathy is taking me. She's a big reader too! The book being discussed is the amazing ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT Anthony Doerr.

I want to thank you for stopping by and wish you all a Happy Memorial Day! I've been invited to a cookout Monday with my second family, the Whitaker/Franco clan. They're a bunch of crazies that I love so much and I know we'll be having a great time! Be safe and enjoy your holiday!

May 25, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Blue: A Novel by Lucy Clarke

If you love atmospheric novels that completely draw you in and make you feel as if you are actually there inside the story, THE BLUE is definitely a book you shouldn't miss. It's hardcover release was August of 2015 but it came out in paperback just yesterday, May 24, 2016.  I became a fan of Lucy Clarke about three years ago after reading an advance copy of her debut novel SWIMMING AT NIGHT (released in the UK under the title The Sea Sisters). All of Clarke's novels transport the reader to breathtakingly beautiful locales. In THE BLUE the story begins in The Philippines with the final destination being the coast of New Zealand.

While vacationing in the Philippines, lifelong friends Lana and Kitty befriend the laid back crew of a boat named The Blue. They spend the day on the boat enjoying the sunshine, water and laughs that seem to come so easy for this group of misfits. The girls are so taken in by this very different lifestyle of sailing from coastal city to coastal city, that when the crew asks them to join them for the remainder of the trip, they both jump at the chance. The truth is neither one of the girls is all that anxious to get back to their 'regular' life in London with all it's disappointments and troubles.

Their journey starts off smoothly and they are soon lulled into the rhythmic patterns of sea life that the constant motion of waves bring. There is a democracy aboard The Blue where all decisions are voted on, but Captain Aaron is ultimately the one in charge and his word is not tested. Relationships among crew members are not tolerated for obvious reasons so when the chemistry between Lana and Denny, another crew member, becomes too hard to fight, they keep their tryst a secret. But living in such close quarters, secrets are hard to keep and as time goes on, Lana feels as though she's not the only one hiding something.

When one of the crew is discovered missing while at sea, accusation come out and Lana can't go along with Captain Aaron's plan to keep The Blue out of trouble with the authorities. She takes a stand, tries to find out what happened but at the same time ostracizes herself from the rest of the crew, including Denny and Kitty. She ends up making a decision that could change her life forever, along with her friendship with Kitty.

My Thoughts:

Each time I read a Lucy Clarke novel I yearn for the sun, sand and water of the ocean. Her storytelling along with the vivid imagery she creates is so realistic. In THE BLUE I could almost hear the sea water lapping against the side of the boat. It's ironic that the atmosphere was so calming but the story was filled with tension throughout. There was a perfect balance to it. This is why I'm such a fan of Lucy Clarke's work. Each of the characters were flawed and multi-dimensional and so very believable. Even though the plot was not a complicated one, the characters, each with their own issues, made it into a very suspenseful story with danger never far away. This book, especially, out of all of her books, makes me appreciate her subtle yet purposeful writing style.

Audio Performance Review:

The characters of THE BLUE are an eclectic group of people from different parts of the world. There are two Americans, two Londoners, one German, one Frenchman and an Ausie. Scarlett Mack is the only narrator and she did an outstanding job! Her dialect for each of these characters was spot on. Mack has a very easy tone to her voice making it a very pleasant listen. This was the first time I've listened to a Lucy Clarke book and I chose mainly because of time constraints with some print books I was also reading at the same time but in the end, it was a great decision. This ranks up there with some of my favorite audios. I'll definitely keep an ear out for more listens by Scarlett Mack. If you're planning a long car ride this summer, THE BLUE would be a great choice to listen as you travel.

If you've never read a Lucy Clarke novel, I encourage you to do so. You will be swept away by both the story and the beautiful settings she chooses. THE BLUE would be the perfect book to kick your summer reading off right.

THE BLUE: A Novel (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Lucy Clarke
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: August 2015
Length: 10 hrs 40 mins
Printed Length: 336
Source: Purchased thru Audible
Other Books I've Reviewed By Lucy Clarke

May 23, 2016

Review: The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

As a long-time fan, I look forward to the release of a new Mary Kay Andrews novel each Spring. Admittedly, my favorites go back a few years to Little Bitty Lies, Savannah Blues and Hissy Fit but I'm still enjoying her original and sometimes quirky characters and strong storylines. THE WEEKENDERS was no exception - in fact, it turned out to be more than what I've come to expect. There was a murder involved with more of a who-dunnit quality that I really enjoyed. Here's a quick synopsis . . .

Riley Griggs and her daughter, Maggy are headed to the North Carolina coast for the summer. The small island of Belle Isle was first developed by Riley's ancestors, making her family a fixture in the tight-knit community. Unfortunately, this summer won't be like previous summers because Rile and her husband, Wendell, have some difficult news to share with twelve year-old Maggy. After many months of fighting and basically living separately, they're getting a divorce. The plan is to break the news to their daughter over the Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of their summer retreat on Belle Isle with the rest of her family. But Wendell doesn't show up at the ferry on the designated day they were to meet. At first Riley assumes he's just bailing out on telling Maggy about the divorce but soon, Wendell's body is found in the marina and suddenly things get even more serious. Even as Riley is put on the growing suspect list, she is determined to find out who killed him, even as she learns that he has lost the house on the island due to foreclosure. With the help of her best friend, Parrish, she discovers that losing the house is just the tip of the iceberg. 

My Thoughts:

Over the past several months I've begun reading more books from the suspense and thriller genre and they sometimes get a little dark so I was ready for something more upbeat and less disturbing. Enter THE WEEKENDERS. An added bonus was realizing that even with the 'lighter' content, there was a change from her previous books. The big difference was the mystery aspect of who killed Riley's no-good lying husband. With several suspected characters, there was a lot ot think about while reading. Don't get me wrong, all of her stories are good, but this gave it a little more depth and I appreciated that. Of course, there was the usual romantic element along with friendship and the complications of family that are always prevalent in her books. There was also the more serious subject of juvenile Diabetes which fit nicely into this story and at the same time gave awareness to a growing problem in today's society.  I always love the locales MKA chooses for her novels and this was no exception. Having just moved away from Florida myself, I began missing the beach a little!

This is the perfect beach read for the summer, and for me it was a nice respite from some heaver books I've been reading. I think readers will like the murder mystery element as much as I did. In my opinion, THE WEEKENDERS puts Mary Kay Andrews back on top!

THE WEEKENDERS by Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: May 17, 2016
Print Length: 462:
Source: Publisher

May 22, 2016

The Sunday Salon: After the Big Move!

A lot has changed since my last post to this blog. Back in March I was preparing to move out of my house that I'd sold and pack up all my worldly belongings and move back to my home state of Ohio. Well, the move is done, I'm (for the most part) settled in my new apartment and life is slowly getting to a new normal. I was sidelined for well over a week with a terrible cold but I'm much better now. The weather, though I'm loving the cooler temps, is much different than what I'm used to and that has been another adjustment. I'm not typically a jacket-wearer, but here, you need to have one handy because the air is so different. But I can say without a doubt that I do not miss the sweltering humidity of Florida.

Though the actual move with the movers went smoothly, the car ride from Florida to Ohio was anything but. We left Florida in the wee hours of April 16 and that afternoon we'd made our way to Chattanooga, TN and stopped for lunch. A few hours later while going through Louden, TN, my mother's car blew a tire while going somewhere close to 70 mph. She and my sister and their three cats were in the car and they were following behind the car I was in with my best friend and her husband and we were pulling a small U-Haul trailer. The sound of screeching tires was so frightening, especially when I realized it was my 76 year-old mom's car that was making the noise. Her car was headed into a median with a very rough terrain, but luckily she side-swiped a sign that pushed her back onto I-75 and she was able to get the car under control and stopped without involving other cars or sustaining injuries. They were extremely lucky and we were all thankful no one was hurt, besides the car. (over $9,000 in mostly body damage) The accident held us up for about four hours but we were back on the road by 7:30 pm and continued on. Again, we are all incredibly grateful we all made it safely because it could have easily had a much different outcome.

It feels really good to be settled and to begin a new routine here in Amelia, Ohio. It's such a nice city and  so close to Cincinnati, where there is so much to do, unlike whee I moved from. I finally started reading again this month and now that I have my home office set up I'll start posting reviews that have been stacking up since March, when I had to be out of my house. It's also nice to have all my stuff out of storage!  Here's a peek at some of the books I'll be posting reviews for in the coming weeks::

  • THE WEEKENDERS by Mary Kay Andrews
  • COMETH THE HOUR by Jeffrey Archer
  • THE BLUE by Lucy Clarke
  • THE GUEST ROOM by Chris Bohjalian (Audio Review)
  • PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter (Audio Review)
The two books I'm currently reading are very exciting too. INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger is due out in June. It's my first from this author, but so far I am really into it. It's a physiological thriller in which the main character has the ability to see people who've crossed over. I am intrigued by mediums, so I'm really enjoying this book. I'm also listening to THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica, also a new author to me.

I'm looking forward to visiting the blogs now that I am all moved in to see what everyone else is reading.  I feel so out-of-the-loop! As for today, I plan to do some laundry and spend some time reading.  Thanks for taking the time to stop by today and please visit again soon!

Feb 28, 2016

The Sunday Salon: The Big Move

Happy Sunday everyone! As many of you may know, I've been a little absent from the blog lately while  trying to sell my house and prepare to move back to my hone state of Ohio.  I thought today would be a good day to post an update. Big changes are coming very quickly!

Fortunately, my house sold in just two months, which is a real blessing! The buyer is a very nice woman who I"ve had the pleasure of meeting. She is a widow and she has grandchildren that I'm sure will be spending a lot of time here playing in the yard and filling the house with giggles and laughter. After living here for 23 years, I'm happy to hand the keys over to such a nice lady.

I've had a range of emotions running through my brain since my realtor told me she accepted my counter-offer. My first reaction was relief, quickly followed by panic when she told me the closing date was March 11th! I was overwhelmed with the daunting task of cleaning out this 3-bedroom house. As part of the sale, I had to make some improvements such as re-shingle the roof and install a new drainfield. Luckily, through people I've met while working in the construction industry for so long, I was able to get these two things done much cheaper than most. Some really wonderful people stepped up and came through for me and made it possible to get this done in record time. I will forever be grateful for their help.

Now, I'm  within a week of moving out of my house and things are falling into place. I'm 90% packed, the movers are scheduled and it's all becoming very, very real. With the help of my wonderful sister-friend, Brenda, (already living in Ohio), she has helped me find and secure an apartment in my new city, Amelia, Ohio. She will fly down the week of April 12th and on the 16th, she will drive myself and my cat, Jax, to Ohio with my mom and sister following. It's a big move for my little family and we are so excited! My mom and sister will be living in Galloway, Ohio while I'll be in Amelia.

I will not be buying a home because with my disability, it is better for me to rent an apartment. I am simply not able to manage the upkeep of a home and property any longer. I'm down-sizing and will not have the worry of costly repairs and maintenance. My 2 bedroom apartment will be perfect. It even has a pool! I'm really looking forward to spending time with family members I've seldom seen in my adult life and re-connecting with friends from long ago. This is a very exciting time and I'm looking forward to the future! That is not to say I won't miss the people I'm leaving behind in Florida. This has been my home since 1979 and I plan to keep those relationships strong.

I've gotten so far behind in my book reviews and it's going to be a bit longer until I get settled in my new home. I hope you will please bear with me until all this craziness is over. I've got some really great books to share with you!

Since this is Oscar Sunday and the awards show is tonight, I'd like to take this opportunity to give thanks to all of the people who've helped me during this transition. Special thanks to: Emerson Clauss III, Emerson Clauss IV, Brenda Ryder, Kevin Whitaker, Susan Goebel, Julie Tankersly, Pam Drake, John Mills, John Hudson, Brendan Cromwell, Terry Rowe, John Rutledge, and most of all, Carol Amos (my mom) for your never-ending support and love! It takes a village to move a partially blind woman and these are them! Thank you all for everything! I am forever indebted to you!

The next time I post it will be from Ohio! I will be back with more book love very soon and in the meantime I'll catch you on Facebook and Twitter!

Jan 16, 2016

Non-Fiction Saturday: Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

As part of our Non-Fiction Saturday feature, Emerson Clauss is sharing his thoughts on another intriguing book. This New York Times best-selling author has written what some would call an unexpected and surprising book as unorthodox as she is. 

Review by Emerson Clauss

ACCIDENTAL SAINTS by Nadia Bolz-Weber is a most interesting book.   It is an easy read; it will pull you in and tweak every emotion you might have, some you weren’t even aware of.
Nadia, at first glance, the least likely (looking) pastor, shares some of her background, stories starting and maintaining a most unconventional church, her strange collection of misfit congregation and will make you laugh as you take it all in.  And this is not a book for just the religious or the disenfranchised; although that seems to be the origin and strength of her church, aptly called:  “House for All Sinners and Saints”.  The stories are human stories, ones that everyone can appreciate.
Without preaching here, Nadia’s book is brash, funny, sometimes vulgar… but always riveting.  I found myself wanting to help her at each turn, as part of this weird church.  You begin to feel like a part of her congregation, setting up tables and chairs for a night of meaningful discussion, some laughs and some plain old “shootin the shit”….
And, as you start reading this, and after looking at her picture on the book jacket; you can only imagine when she approached the church hierarchy to be commissioned her own church, how the heads were spinning, at first.  When she speaks of that same process and of her followers, you begin to understand where Nadia gets her strength and her faith to be doing what she does, with the congregation she collects along the way.   It’s downright inspiring.
I will admit, before reading this book, I had heard her interviewed on a radio show.  She was funny, irreverent and irresistible.  That sent me right out to find and read this book; a small part of her story.  
During the course of reading, I really felt inspired by her outreach and her brutal honesty about that work; her first instincts (which are sometimes not what a pastor would say or do), and the fact she is not perfect and lets us inside her world to see how she copes and which little voices she listens to and acts upon.
Refreshing is what I would call Nadia, her story, her work and her followers.  I found myself wishing I lived closer to her church and could attend; although she probably would lump me with those “straight people” she is not sure what to do with.
We could all learn a few things from this story and Nadia’s work; important lessons about grace, forgiveness and shedding prejudices we all have, to some degree.   To start with, go ahead and read this most enlightening and entertaining book.

To contact Emerson Clauss about this or other reviews email him at:
ACCIDENTAL SAINTS: Finding God in all the Wrong People (Hardcover)
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publisher: Convergent Books
Publshed: September 2015
Length: 224 pp
Source: Purchased

Jan 5, 2016

The View From Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (Alexandria Series #2)

THE VIEW FROM PRINCE STREET is the second book in Mary Ellen Taylor's Alexandria Series that's full of history and family secrets, some dating back to the 1700's and others not nearly as old.  This is the continuing story of three families; the Shires, the McDonald's and the Smyth's, and how their pasts have forever linked them to each other. The first book, AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET, was more about the Shire family and it's history, especially how the women of that family tended to suffer from a curse that we now acknowledge as mental illness. In this new book, the story centers mainly around the McDonald and Smyth families, the the Shires are in the story as well. 

Rae McDonald has a reputation as being a cold, unemotional woman. Not unfriendly, just reserved and very private. She has a successful career but is not married and has no family left. She lives on what's left of the McDonald land that dates back over 300 years, but she struggles with her family's history and what legacy she will leave behind, if any. The discovery of a 'witch bottle' on her property in the previous book raised questions about the first known McDonald's and their journey from Scotland to the Virginia Colonies in the mid 1700's, along with Faith Shire, a woman thought to have been a witch. 

Lisa Smyth has returned to her hometown of Alexandria after getting word that her Aunt Amelia's health is failing and the Dementia she suffers from is invading more and more of her mind. Her plan is to sell the historic home Amelia's family has owned for many generations to pay for the cost of nursing facility Amelia now calls home. Being back in Alexandria means Lisa has to face her demons from seventeen years ago while at the same time hang on to her twelve years of sobriety.  

When Rae McDonald asks Margret McRae, the local historian to look into her family's past, she has no idea what secrets will be revealed but it's something she has to do even if her own secret is brought to light. Many secrets and painful memories for both Lisa and Rae are revealed and both women are forced to confront them head on. 


Since I really enjoyed the first book of the series, I've been looking forward to finding out where the story would go this time around. Alexandria is such an old, interesting city and Mary Ellen Taylor successfully incorporates that history and nostalgia into these books.  As a history buff, I appreciated that aspect.  Like the first book, old letters written by one of Rae's ancestors were used to tell the historical part of the story. The letters were short but very relevant to the more current storyline without being a distraction. 

There are quite a few characters and at first it was a little difficult to keep everyone's connections
straight, but that very quickly resolved itself and wasn't a problem. The cast is developing nicely without being overwhelming. MET has even brought characters from her Union Street Bakery Series into this story. All of the players are in some way relative to one another. I haven't read the USB series, but the way they are introduced here, it doesn't matter. They are all very genuine characters with flaws and quirks that make them very believable. One of my favorite characters is Margaret, the historian. I love her open and funny personality and the way she effortlessly makes everyone feel at ease whenever she is around.

I feel this is a solid second installment with so many good relationships to build on in the future. There's a lot of substance to these stories that deal with serious topics such as alcoholism, mental illness, and adoption to name a few. MET writes about these sensitive subjects with the perfect amount of finesse that they require. I look forward to finding out what direction she will go in with the next book and I will definitely keep reading.  As a bonus,  along with some of the characters from the Union Street Bakery series, she has included a couple of cookie recipes at the end of the book that were featured in this story. One in particular, the Lemon Polenta cookie, I plan on making myself very soon. I'll let you know how they turn out!

Series: Alexandria Series, Book 2
Author: Mary Ellen Taylor (@METbooks)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: January 5, 2016
Length: 352 pp (Paperback)
Source: NetGalley