November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

at the Arboretum
 (Dallas, TX)

For more Wordless Wednesday photos,
 go here.

November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I awoke
this morning
with devout
thanksgiving for
my friends, the
old and the new.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am so thankful for all of you. Whether you're a longtime visitor (coming up on seven years!) or new to this little blog of mine, I am very grateful for your friendship, love and support. I wish you a lovely day with your family and friends.

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin.
Henry Alford
"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come," 1844

November 18, 2012

The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
2010 Random House Audio
Length: 36 hours and 52 minutes
Readers: Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
Finished: 10/14/12
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
R.I.P. VII Challenge

"Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King's The Stand and Salem's Lot in that lab at Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon's Swan Song, Battlestar Galactica and even Cormac McCarthy's The Road." The Washington Post

Publisher’s Description: 

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear — of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey — spanning miles and decades — toward the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

I’ve had a copy of The Passage ever since it was first released back in 2010, but it wasn’t until I decided to participate in Carl’s R.I.P. VII Challenge that I finally took it down from the shelf. Actually, I downloaded the audio version (all 36 hours and 52 minutes!) from my library, but occasionally flipped through the book for clarification of a specific passage. I was reading another large book (The Thorn Birds) at the time, so the audio turned out to be the perfect way to manage this tome. And, I think The Washington Post nailed it when describing the book as a mash-up of The Stand, Swan Song, Battlestar Galactica and The Road. With the exception of BG, I found myself comparing the story to these outstanding post-apocalyptic tales, all of which I loved, by the way.

In spite of the audio format, I still took over a month to complete this read, partly due to the fact that it’s just so very long, but also because I found myself repeating tracks for clarification or to remind myself of a certain group of characters. As with The Stand, there is a large cast of characters, as well as a shift in locations and plot threads. Scott Brick does an excellent job with the narration, performing each chapter with perfect pacing, and the sense of urgency and raw emotion the book demands. I was quickly drawn into the story and in spite of the length, found myself wishing it were longer. Thankfully, it turns out to be the first in a trilogy, so I can look forward to enjoying more of this saga.

Final Thoughts: What begins as a terrifying story filled with vampire-like creatures (one which might have caused a nightmare or two), turns out to be an exceptionally imaginative (and highly addictive) post-apocalyptic tale of both love and survival. I have the ARC of The Twelve in my stacks, as well as the audio version on my Nano, but it will be a few months before I return to Amy Harper Bellafonte’s story. The holiday season is upon us and my concentration level requires something a bit more uplifting and light-hearted.

Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along; an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin's The Passage. Read fifteen pages and you'll find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: Read this book and the ordinary world disappears. ~ Stephen King

November 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

For more Wordless Wednesday photos,
 go here.

Edit: Now why in the world did I think today was Wednesday??

November 6, 2012

Song du Jour

Happy 24th Anniversary to my best friend. Love ya, Rod!

November 5, 2012

The Devoted

The Devoted by Jonathan Hull
2012 Dancing Muse Press
Finished 10/13/12
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

" ... a compelling, complicated and true-to-life novel that becomes something of a cross between old world romance and World War II historical.

This book has some rare and beautiful gems ... detailing (sometimes poetically) the nitty-gritty aspects of war along with subtle nuances of love.

This ... grand story is full of tragedy and passion, political upheaval and death, and moral conundrums ... less a true war story and more a unique family drama -- made more charming by the vagaries and power of love and relationships, and bonds that make life worth living." (

Publisher’s Blurb:

From wartime Italy to the American West, Jonathan Hull takes readers on a heartrending passage through the lives of three families torn by history and bound by an unshakeable—and at times forbidden—devotion.

Ryan Brooks never forgot the powerful hands that pulled him from the wreckage of his parents’ station wagon that summer in 1960 when he was ten and his childhood came to a fiery end during a family vacation. Thirty years later, Ryan returns to Wyoming to thank the dying rancher for saving the life he is still trying to be worthy of. The chilling sight of Mike O’Donnell’s deeply scarred hands is just the beginning of Ryan’s journey as he soon finds himself caught between the rancher’s captivating—and married—daughter, Shannon, and his mysterious Italian wife, Alessandra.

When Mike’s deathbed confession sets Ryan on a search for the truth of what really happened the day his parents died, he unearths a long-buried secret that leads to a mountain cave in Northern Italy and Alessandra’s dangerous love affair with a haunted young German soldier. As past and present collide in an intricately woven story of love and redemption across generations and continents, Ryan discovers that the answers he seeks are inscribed deep in the heart of those whose lives—and courage—he must measure against his own.

Reading slumps. We’ve all been there, struggling to find the next great book to pull us out of our misery. We blog about our unfortunate situation, pleading for suggestions to rid us of the mediocrity of our recent choices. We commiserate with those in similar funks, offering suggestions to break free from the endless cycle of dull, boring books. But how often do we blog when we’re on a roll? When we read book after book that exceeds our hopes, satisfies our longings, and hits our Top Ten lists? Not very often, I’d guess.

Well, I’m on a roll and I owe it to Dewey’s Read-a-Thon and Jonathan Hull. I began Mr. Hull’s recent novel, The Devoted, a few days before the Read-a-Thon began and wound up spending the majority of the day of the challenge curled up in my husband’s comfy leather chair, drifting back and forth between a ranch in Wyoming and a mountain community in Northern Italy. I could not stop reading, nor did I want to. I fell under the author’s spell, sharing his characters’ sorrow and heartaches, just as I did many years ago when I first discovered another wonderful book entitled Losing Julia.

Losing Julia is one of my all-time favorite novels and Jonathan Hull’s first novel. I first discovered the book in 2000 and was mesmerized by the beautiful prose, interwoven plotlines and heartbreaking love story. It is one of the loveliest wartime novels I have ever read, right up there with The Book Thief. Yes, I know. "Lovely" and "wartime" hardly belong on the same page, let alone the same sentence, but Hull (and Zusak) has such a way with words. Here are a couple of my favorites from Losing Julia:
Last night I dreamed that I met a young boy who told me with the saddest eyes that he was never born and I asked how could that be and explained very slowly and quietly that his father had died at the front. And then I looked behind the boy and I saw hundreds of thousands of children, just standing there. Infinitely mute.

It is said that life is too short and that’s quite true, unless you are lonely. Loneliness can bring time to its knees; an absolute and utter standstill.

I’ve always judged places and times by how lonely they felt. The entire Midwest, for example, strikes me as horrifically lonely, Indiana more so than Wisconsin and Wisconsin more so than Ohio or Illinois. Coasts are dependably less lonely than inland areas while the warmer latitudes are noticeably less lonely than the colder ones. Hardware stores feel lonely while bookstores do not. Mornings are lonelier than afternoons, while the hours before dawn can be devastating. Vienna is lonelier than Paris or London, while Los Angeles is lonelier than San Francisco or Boston. The Atlantic Ocean is lonelier than the Pacific while the Caribbean is not lonely at all.

And then there are nursing homes.

I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Devoted from the author and am happy to report that it is just as wonderful as Losing Julia. I marked a few passages, but even taken out of context they reveal too much, so I’ll let you discover them on your own.

Final Thoughts: I reread Losing Julia with my book club back in 2001 and it was just as wonderful as the first time around. The Devoted does not disappoint and I look forward to revisiting this new story in the coming years. The Devoted (and Losing Julia) will appeal to fans of Markus Zusak, Kent Haruf, Leif Enger and Mark Spragg.

About the Author:

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Hull spent ten years as a correspondent at TIME, including three as the Jerusalem Bureau Chief. His reporting has ranged from the Gulf War and the Palestinian uprising to presidential politics and the troubled underside of American society. A cover story he wrote on youth violence won the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for magazine. The best-selling author of Losing Julia and The Distance from Normandy, lives in Sausalito, California.

November 4, 2012

Cookbook Addiction

Seriously. Do I really need another cookbook? I may not have nearly as many as some of you, but I'm sure my husband would say that I have plenty. In fact, I have several that I just had to buy last year, but from which I have yet to sample a single recipe. One of the hazards of working in a bookstore is handling all the beautiful new cookbooks that arrive every holiday season. There are so many that I'd love to own; here's just a small sample!

How about you? Are there any cookbooks on your wishlist this Christmas? Or, better yet, any that you'd suggest I add to my list? ;)

And if you're as curious as I am, I just counted my cookbooks. I own 53, which I'm sure pales in comparison to some of your collections. Guess I'd better add a few more to mine, don't you think?

Please visit Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

November 3, 2012

Khaled Hosseini's Upcoming Release

I just read the following on! I'm very excited, as I loved Hosseini's previous novels. was reported that Khaled Hosseini’s new novel, And the Mountains Echoed, will release on May 21st from Riverhead Books. According to Hosseini, "My earlier novels [The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns] were at heart tales of fatherhood and motherhood. My new novel is a multi-generational family story as well, this time revolving around brothers and sisters, and the ways in which they love, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for each other. I am thrilled at the chance to share this book with my readers."