Monday, January 31, 2011

(13)Save As Draft by Cavanaugh Lee

Ten years ago I did not even own a computer. Ten years ago I did not even own a cell phone. Ten year ago online dating was thought to be taboo and creepy. Now it is 2011 and not only do we have three computers in my home, but our cell phones are portable computers that we never leave home without and texting is more common than phone calls, at last in my marriage. We are more apt to text than we are to actually dial the phone. It is just a sign of the times.

Save as Draft is a novel of those times. Izzy has decided to give online dating a shot. She joins eHarmony and has met a guy that she really connects with, at least through emails. The night before they have their first date Izzy finds herself kissing her best guy friend, Peter. She is so conflicted that she cancels her date with Marty, well , reschedules anyway. Even after an amazing first date Izzy finds herself thinking about Peter. She breaks it off with Marty and finds herself head over heels in love with Peter. Their relationship is on the fast track to a "happy ever after" until Peter's demanding work schedule has him working more and more. Izzy starts to feel neglected and conflicted about their relationship. She is so hurt by Peter's neglect that she is not sure their relationship can survive.

Told in strictly email, text, & twitter format, I am not really sure what to say about Save as Draft. The author took creative liberties with the timeliness of social media such as Facebook & Twitter with her flashbacks, but I let that one go. Overall I really enjoyed the novel. I fell a little in love with Izzy, myself, and I could relate to her frustrations as I have a workaholic husband myself. But, (there is always a but) I was not happy at all with the ending, but I could see where some of you may find it brilliant. I found it completely unfulfilling. I will be interested to hear what you think after you have given it a read. Save As Draft will be on the shelves of your favorite bookstores starting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

(12)The Bird House by Kelly Simmons

Annie Biddle is a Grandmother with secrets. She tries to hide the fact that she forgets dates and times from her son, Tom and his controlling wife, Tinsley. Annie knows that if they catch wind of her little missteps, they will prevent her from spending time with her eight year old granddaughter, Ellie.

Annie has more secrets than just her faulty memory. There is the truth about what happened to her daughter, Emma. There is also the truth about the real love her life. And it is only when Ellie enlists her help with a project that Annie realizes that keeping secrets is a long honored tradition passed down from generation to generation.

I enjoyed The Bird House. It was a well written family drama about relationships, secrets, and the impact they may have for generations to come. Annie is a wonderfully written character. The "fun Grandma" who gets great joy from spending time with her Granddaughter and will not let anyone stop her from spending time with her. It was also very satisfying to see Annie put her controlling Daughter-In-Law in her place. While a little dry in some places, overall, The Bird House was a good read.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

(11) Miracles, Inc by TJ Forrester

I had zero expectations when I picked up Miracles, Inc., the debut novel by TJ Forrester. I knew it was about a televangelist, but I truly thought that it would be a dry novel that I probably wouldn't even finish. I was way wrong. The characters are well written, and the story is engaging, in that "can't look away from a train wreck" kind of way. It was a fast and furious type of read that will give this debut author longevity with his new fans.

Miracles, Inc. is about a young, charismatic slacker who has been handpicked to become the next big thing. His charming demeanor and his handsome looks have tent revival owner, Miriam, positive that Vernon L. Oliver will have the crowds eating out of his hand and opening their pocketbooks wide open. She is right. From his first "performance", when he rides his new Harley on to stage, he is destined to be more popular than Jim Bakker or Joel Osteen. He marries his girlfriend, the tormented Ricki, and his life is great. Until, of course, it isn't. With money and power come great risks.

When we are first introduced to Vernon, he is a guest of the State of Florida, on death row. The once revered Reverend is now counting down the days to when the State will take his life. We, his audience, do not know why he is on death row. In fact it isn't until the last third of the book that we discover what his great crime was. The author flashes us back and forth, from Vernon before he was the all powerful televangelist, and now, as he sits on death row. As his story continues, the reader really becomes quite fond of Vernon, as one would become fond of the scruffy little next door neighbor kid. He has had a rough life and has done some crappy things, but underneath it all, he has a heart of gold and just wants to be accepted. That fondness makes it hard to read further into the book, as his "day" draws near, but to stop reading would be like turning your back on that scruffy little kid.

I really enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. I am not giving it a "Best of" because it didn't really evoke extreme emotions, but it did keep me hooked from the first page. I am not sure how I feel about the ending. I don't want to say too much to give it away, but the end seemed a little forced. Even though the end was not what it could have been, I really enjoyed this book and I think it is well worth the read. The author did a great job of bringing Vernon into our world, wild excess, horrible flaws, and all.

Disclaimer to my readers: To be completely honest, I can see where some of the devout might have problems with this book. If you go into it knowing that the book is about a shill, and the rise and fall of that shill, then you are less likely to be offended by what takes place. Some of the concepts of this book and actions of the characters could be considered offensive to some. Others will just take it as the satire it was meant to be. Either way, I would LOVE to hear what you think about this book! You can find it on bookstore shelves this week!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(10)The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Andreas sisters have grown up their whole lives in the shadows of Shakespeare. While other kids their age were vegging in front of the television, Rose, Bean, & Cordy were cutting their teeth on the works of Shakespeare. Their father is a professor at the local college, and therefore Shakespeare became the wise elder of the family. They turned to him for answers to all of their problems.

The Weird Sisters, named for the witches of Macbeth, are now in their late twenties and early thirties. Cordy is finally returning home after years of wandering aimlessly, but the family does not know that she is returning home pregnant and she is unsure of who is the father. Bean is returning home from New York after being fired from her job for embezzling. And Rose, the eldest daughter, is returning home in order to prepare for her marriage. Their timing couldn't be better, though, for as they all return home, their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Weird Sister tells the tale of three of them, back under their parents roof and trying to deal with the mess they have made of their lives, all the while dealing with the harsh reality that their parents are not immortal. Peppered with Shakespearean quotes and references, this book is the ultimate read for bibliophiles everywhere. The style of writing is quite unique. The narrator is an non-existent fourth sister. Someone who is intimately connected to each of the sisters, yet sees them for who they are and loves them anyway. That style of narration baffled me for a while, before I just decided to go with it. I kept expecting some "big announcement" of a fourth sister yet to be introduced to us. In the end I thought it was brilliant. The narration gave us incredible insight to the Weird Sisters, what they truly thought about each other, but most of all, the incredible strength of their bond as sisters.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was hard for me to finish it because I didn't want to say "good-bye" to my new friends. Having grown up as a solitary book lover in a very large family, I really enjoyed seeing how much reading was a part of this family. As I said earlier, it was such an integral part of their family dynamic, I was almost jealous. You don't have to be a Shakespeare lover to enjoy this book, while Shakespeare is at the heart of the family, the bond of the Weird Sisters is at the heart of this book, and that is something most of us can relate to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(9)The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

I have been a fan of Cecelia Ahern for years. Her book, P.S., I Love You was instrumental in fostering my love for all things Irish. I mean, really if you have read my blog for more than five minutes you know that I LOVE Irish Chick Lit. So to get my hot little hands on an ARC of Cecelia Ahern's was a dream come true. Until.....

The Book of Tomorrow is about sixteen year old Tamara Goodwin. Tamara's world has been rocked by the suicide of her father. Tamara & her mother are forced to leave Dublin to live with relatives in the country. There is meek Uncle Artie and the wretched Aunt Rosaleen. Aunt Rosaleen is doing everything in her power to make her life miserable. To pass the summer days, Tamara checks out a book from the mobile library. She is shocked to discover that it is a blank book that starts filling up magically with tomorrow's diary entries. As Tamara gets a glimpse into the future, she starts to realize that the answers may lie in the past.

Ms. Ahern tries to go for the "gothic" feel, with the creepy Aunt and the Mother that seems to be held hostage in an upstairs room. The attempt falls short, though. The gothic feel just falls flat. Tamara comes across as a spoiled brat and the rest of the characters are just so one dimensional the story could have been so much more.

Not every author hits a home run every time they write a book. The Book of Tomorrow wasn't a HORRIBLE book, Lord knows that I have read worse, I just felt that it didn't live up to the author's potential. Here is hoping the year goes by fast and her next book is more like her older books.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

(8)Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

So I had this major epiphany while reading Call Me Irresistible, Susan Elizabeth Phillips new novel. I am old. When I first started reading her novels, if memory serves me, twelve years ago, I looked at the "heroes" in her novels with somewhat of a hero-worship. Meaning, oh they were the elder, wiser men. The "hero" in Call Me Irresistible is 32 years old. *gulp* Three years younger than me.

Once I got past the realization that I am old, I really found myself enjoying Susan Elizabeth Phillips' new book. We got to see some old friends again. Like Jake & Fluer Koranda. And Francesca & Dallie Beaudine, among others. The eyes of the country have turned to Wynette, Texas. President Jorick's daughter, Lucy, is set to marry Ted Beaudine. When Meg Koranda shows up for the festivities, she can see her best friend, Lucy, is miserable. Marrying Wynette's golden boy would be the worst mistake. And before you know it, Lucy runs away, leaving Meg to face the disdain and anger of an entire town. What she did not expect was to fall in love. Both with Ted and Wynette.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is known for her strong female characters. They are funny, intelligent, tough and resourceful, and they always get the guy. I have enjoyed her novels for over ten years and I am thrilled that she has the staying power to capture my attention ten years later. I truly hope that we get to enjoy her novels for ten years more!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

(7)These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

I was first introduced to Heather Gudenkauf two years ago with The Weight of Silence and I wasn't all that impressed. Well, let me tell you that her Sophomore attempt was MUCH more enjoying. The characters had more depth, the story was a little more captivating, and the plot was, in my opinion more suspenseful.

The story opens up with 21 year old Allison Glenn getting out of prison and entering a half way house. As the reader peeking in, you know she was in prison for murder, but it is several chapters before it is revealed who it was that she killed. And it is shocking. The complete opposite of what I had guessed. The story follows Allison as she reenters society and tries to put her life back together, getting a job and contacting her sister, Brynn, are the two most important things in her life. But as she completes both tasks, the whole story starts coming to light in a devastatingly heartbreaking way. You find it is a bit harder to remain hateful towards the killer. Things are not always what they seem, as you will soon find out.

I don't want to say too much and give away the important details, but These Hidden Things was a good read and so much more better than her first book. Check it out for a fast Saturday read, you can thank me after you have finished flying through the pages.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Years Ago Today....

Three years ago today I posted my first book review with Blogger. I had been posting reviews on MySpace, but even then, I could see that MySpace was not going to have the longevity that I felt necessary for my reviews.

In three years I have read and reviewed 387 books. My blog has been read over 50,000 times by readers in more than 75 countries. I have posted 775 times. Everything from book reviews, to author interviews, to book related gift ideas and of course book related quotes. My first review on this blog was House Lust . I must say here it is three years later and I still have House Lust. I have read great books, horrible books and everything in between. I have discovered new (to me) authors and have kept up with old favorites. I have gone through dozens of layouts, although I think I will be sticking with this one, but I am not making any promises.

Blogging has become an important part of my life. I have come to think of my readers as my friends. There is a whole book blogging community that challenges me to be a better writer, a better reviewer. I know that I have a long ways to go, but, I read their blogs and think "I want to be like them when I grow up!" Reviewing books gives me the opportunity to do what I love, read, and share that love with the whole world. What more could a girl ask for?

What does the future hold in store? Well, I suspect more reading. LOL. As blogging trends ebb and flow I will try new features, remove old ones, see what works and what doesn't. I am always open to what you, my readers, are interested in seeing on my blog. What interests you? What would you like to see? But, above all, I promise you this, I will always be reading and I will always share with you my thoughts on what I am reading.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

(6)You Know When The Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

I have always believed that we owe the men and women of our military a debt so large that it can never be repaid. But what I have recently come to realize is that we also owe the families of our military personnel a huge debt of gratitude as well.

Siobhan Fallon has written a compelling collection of stories loosely connected about the families left behind at Ft. Hood during a deployment. They are powerful snippets of what life is like at Fort Hood when the men are gone. Her stories tell tales of loneliness, adultery, PTSD, sisterhood, and so much more.

I think Remission, the story of Ellen Roddy, whose husband stayed behind at Ft. Hood because she had been diagnosed with cancer was my favorite. It was emotionally gripping and given my family's history with cancer this past year, it really touched my heart to the point of tears.

The other story that really got my attention was Leave. Nick Cash is convinced that his wife is cheating on him, rather than tell her he is coming home, he arrives, breaks into their home and stakes her out from the basement of their home, waiting to catch her in the act. It is so chilling that, at first I felt cheated by the ending, then I realized the brilliance of the decision to leave it up to the readers imagination.

You Know When The Men Are Gone was far more powerful than I thought possible. The husband of a very dear friend of mine will be deploying at the end of the month and Siobhan Fallon has given me some insight as to what she will be going through. It makes me want to deploy to North Carolina to help her while he is gone. I always used to thank military personnel for their sacrifices, but in reality, the sacrifices their family make for our country are just as great. To them, the wives and children of the deployed, I say emphatically, THANK YOU.

You Know When The Men Are Gone will be released on Tuesday, January 20th, and you can purchase it at any of your local bookstores.

(5)Running the Books by Avi Steinberg

For some completely random reason I am fascinated by prison life. I think it started when I was young, impressionable, and stumbled upon the HBO series, Oz. It was a hardcore show about prison life. Certainly not for the weak.

Avi Steinberg is a Harvard graduate and writing obits for a Boston paper. While his classmates go out into the world and make a name for themselves, Avi finds himself in a library. A prison library. He was completely unprepared for how his life would change as a prison librarian.

As expected, Avi encounters all kinds of convicts from pimps, prostitutes, con-men and thieves. What Avi doesn't expect is that Avi starts to genuinely like some of them. He helps them research, he helps them plan their futures and he helps them dream. But in prison, just like life, things don't always go as expected.

I enjoyed Running The Books. It was well written and the author did a good job of being fair, yet realistic to the prisoners and their reasons for being in prison. Avi is a genuinely likable guy, albeit a bit naive. His experiences at the prison seem to wisen him beyond his years. His story is part humorous, part heartbreaking, and totally engaging. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it satisfied my morbid prison curiosity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

(4)Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey

I admit it, sometimes I buy a book because of the cover. I don't read reviews or even much of the synopsis. Some people consider it a cardinal sin, but I admit I am guilty of it. I saw the cover of Winter Bloom and saw the word "Ireland" in the synopsis and I added it to the cart.

Winter Bloom was not really what I expected. I bought it thinking it would be a really fluffy Irish Chick Lit, but it was really much heavier than I anticipated, but with a real upbeat ending.

Eva has suffered the worst loss imaginable. Her husband and infant daughter were killed in a car accident. Leaving her to raise their son, Liam alone, she is struggling with the weight of her life. One day Eva passes an overgrown garden in Dublin and she sees the potential to bring the garden, and herself back to life. She posts a community announcement hoping to get an army of volunteers. Instead two people show up. What she does not realize is that those two people need the healing power of gardening as much as she does. As they make progress in the garden, they make progress in their lives and form a bond that becomes a lifeline for all of them.

The characters of Winter Bloom are so complicated with several layers to their personalities. The author does an incredible job of taking us back in time to share with us what they each went through to get them there today. Their stories are painful to read. Uri's story had me in tears, it was a really powerful tale. Tara Heavey did a phenomenal job. This was the first book I had read of hers, but I assure you I will be looking for more!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Censorship or A Sign Of The Times?

Any true Bibliophile has a copy of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in their personal library. This is a copy of my personal library. Admittedly I haven't read it since high school, but I keep a copy because it is not only literature, but it is history.

Last week the Literary world was shook up by news that Alan Gribben, an Auburn University teacher, was going to publish a new edition of Huck Finn in which "racially sensitive" language has been removed.

Really? Mr. Gribben is arrogant enough to believe that he can take one of the greatest literary works in all of history and make it better by removing the "racially sensitive" language?As a public domain novel, any one of us can edit and publish the book anyway we want. Heck, we could edit Jim to be Jane and Huck to be Buck. But that doesn't make it right.

Has our world has become so hypersensitive to "Political Correctness" that we need to alter some of the worlds finest pieces of art. What is next? A robe for Michelangelo's David? I understand how upsetting certain terms are for people of all races to read, but works like Huck Finn remind of us why such terms are no longer part of our everyday language.

It is disheartening to me as a Bibliophile and prospective author to think that in 100 years some schmuck may take my work or some of my favorite works and "edit" it to suit the climate of the times. Honestly, I hope Mark Twain comes back to haunt Mr. Gribben and anyone else arrogant enough to try and change his great works of art.

But those are my thoughts, I may be wrong.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

(3) The Vitamin D Solution by Michael F Holick PH.D,MD

I knew virtually nothing about Vitamin D until just last year. My husband was hired as the computer nerd for a company that does health and wellness fairs. The company's big focus right now is Vitamin D. So when we moved to Casper last year, we both had our blood tested and what do you know we were vitamin D deficient. My husband was so low it didn't even register, and my levels were in the teens. That started my interest in vitamin D.

The Vitamin D Solution caught my eye because of that interest. I wanted to learn more. I had heard some random pieces of information and I wanted to see what Dr. Holick had to say. It was somewhat eyeopening. He even has a theory that the dinosaurs may have died out because of a vitamin D deficiency. But here are a few pieces of info for you that I did not know...

"A lack of Vitamin D will interfere with the appetite-suppressing hormone whose job it is to regulate your body weight. "

Well that could possibly explain a lot. LOL. I also learned that an obese person needs 2-3 times more the daily IU to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D.

"Vitamin D made in the skin lasts twice as long in the blood as Vitamin D ingested from the diet"

Ever since we got our blood tests back last winter, my husband & I take a vitamin D supplement. We tried several different kinds before committing ourselves to this one. Which is only $5 at Walmart. Given the above quote though, it is no wonder my husband's levels were so low. I mean he is a computer nerd night owl that used to go weeks without seeing the sun when he worked from home. But we live in Wyoming now, where summer is the best two weeks of the year, so even though we get outside more than we used to, we rely on supplements.

Finally, the following statistic hit home with me given my Aunt's passing from breast cancer this past year.
"Women who are deficient in vitamin D at the time they are diagnosed with breast cancer are nearly 75% more likely to die from the disease than women with sufficient vitamin D levels."
We even had a conversation about vitamin D during my last visit with her at the Hospice House. She had remarked that the doctors had been giving her vitamin D pills during her recent hospital stays. After reading this book, I am not surprised.

Vitamin D is such a critical part of our health, deficiencies of this vitamin has been linked to so many different health issues that it is vital we maintain healthy levels. And that is harder than I ever thought. Eating well and taking supplements is not going to cut it. What do you know, our mom's were right! Fresh air and sunlight are important to living a healthy life!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

(2)The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

I like a good mystery. I am pretty sure that I have shared that tidbit of information with you before. It has been a while since I have read a good, solid mystery.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning was a really good mystery to quench my thirst. The Scent of Rain & Lightning is set in a small Kansas town halfway between Denver and Kansas City. It is one of those towns that is "ruled" by one family. When one of the sons is murdered twenty-six years ago and the only grandchild is left orphaned, the Linders are confident in their accusations. Now it is twenty-six years later and the Governor is releasing the man convicted of the crime. Little Jody is now in her late twenties and is living in fear of that man returning to Rose, Kansas.

In dealing with her fears, Jody starts asking questions and starts to realize that her father's killer may still be on the loose.

Nancy Pickard is an incredibly talented author. Her mysteries are subtly written and deeply engaging. The characters are rugged, rough, and exactly what you will find in a small Midwestern town. I thought I had the "whodunit" figured out, but I was wrong. I wasn't really shocked at the big reveal, but it was not who I had pegged for the real killer. Overall a great book to escape with on a cold night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

(1) How to Bake A Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal

Okay, I am having a tough time with the internet here is crossing my fingers that this post will actually post.

I have been following Barbara O'Neal ever since I got the ARC of her first novel. As anti-cooking as I am, yes I said it, I hate to cook, I have enjoyed her novels that all have food as a central theme in one way or another. How to Bake a Perfect Life is no different.

Ramona Gallagher is a daughter, a sister, a mother, soon to be a Grandmother, and most of all, she is a baker. A professional baker. She has gone against her family's wishes and started her own bakery. She is barely holding on to the bakery when tragedy strikes her daughter's fledgling family and Ramona is called upon to watch over a feisty thirteen year old girl. Will she be able balance the care of a thirteen year old girl with the work necessary to keep her business afloat?

How to Bake A Perfect Life was a really good book with a nice balance of great bread recipes. Ramona is a wonderfully written character. She wants to take care of those she loves, yet she also craves someone to take care of her. Her mothering instincts though are what makes her so likable to me. Ramona has a kind heart and a gentle soul and made this book the great read that it was.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!!

With the New Years resolutions. I have been thinking about New Years resolutions pretty frequently over the last few weeks. What it boils down to is that New Years resolutions are nothing but goals. If you set goals and come up with a plan to achieve those goals and have some way to hold yourself accountable, well then goals should me met. Right?

I am posting my goals for 2011 with the hopes that you (my devoted readers) will help hold me accountable. First up, my personal goals:

  1. Exercise three days a week and eat healthier.
  2. Write a monthly budget and stick to it.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Maybe when I was single, but now I have my enabler, err, my husband. I need to get his support on both items or else I am doomed to failure. Now, he isn't a bad guy, but when I say "Let's order pizza" he responds with "what kind?" So a little, okay a lot, willpower will be necessary in order to succeed.

My blog goals are a little more detailed and a little more in depth. They include goals that will help me develop my talents and increase my exposure in the blogging community.
  1. First and foremost - read 125 books in the year 2011. After all, I am all about books. In 2010 I read 175 books. Beings that I have the full time job and exercise goals that will take up time, I am setting my goal at 125. How many books do you think you can read in 2011?
  2. I want to increase my daily blog hits. I know you probably don't care, but I get about 50 unique hits a day. I would like to double that. Doable, right? I have some ideas in which to do that, but I can't give away all of my secrets, right?
  3. I want to incorporate Twitter more to my blog and incorporate my blog into Twitter, increasing traffic to both.
  4. Finally, I want to participate in NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Which is usually in the Fall. Starting in January I want to prepare for that month and I want to complete the novel that has been on my mind for years.
Pretty loft goals, huh? I am really looking forward to 2011. It is my second year of marriage, my second year living in Wyoming and the first year of the rest of my life.

Now it is your turn. What kind of goals are you setting for yourself in 2011? Do you have weight loss goals? Reading goals? Financial goals? Share them! We will keep each other accountable.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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