December 26, 2012

The End

Good friends and good books --
Things we want to hang on to forever.

After nearly seven years of blogging, I have decided the time has come to say goodbye. At least from this vantage point. I can't begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed sharing my passion for reading, cooking, gardening, music and traveling with all of you on these pages, but I've grown weary of the process. Instead, I look forward to reading for the pure pleasure of escaping into a book without the intrusive thoughts of which passages to mark or which scenes to describe in my review. I look forward to enjoying a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal without feeling the urge to grab my camera in order to document the event for a blog entry. And, I look forward to curling up with a book during the hours I'd normally devote to composing and publishing my posts.

And yet, I can't just simply walk away from this wonderful world of blogging. You, my dear friends, have become so important to me during these past few years. You've cheered me on in the good times and held my hand (albeit, virtually) and offered words of comfort during some very difficult days. I am blessed to have come to know so many incredibly loving people and I thank you for your friendship and the kindness you've bestowed upon me. But as I said, this is only goodbye from this side of the screen. I still plan to visit your blogs and look forward to keeping in touch via email and Goodreads. I may be ready to free up several hours a week, but I'm not ready to go cold turkey and completely unplug! ;)

I think Kay summed it up quite nicely when she decided to stop blogging:
Be well. Be happy. Read a lot or not a lot if you don't want to. Mostly, my wish for each of you is that you live and glory in the present and in the richness of the time we have here on this earth. Life is short. Tell someone you love them every day.

And so, I'll see you around the Blogosphere.

Be well.

With love,


December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your loved ones
a very Merry Christmas!

Last Minute Shopping

Still looking for that perfect book to give this holiday season? Take a listen to this wonderful program on NHPR. I plan to refer back to the show in the coming year.

December 20, 2012

2012 Year End Survey

1. Ten favorite books read in 2012?

2. Most disappointing book?

3. Most surprising books of 2012?

4. Book(s) you recommended to people most in 2012?

5. Favorite authors you discovered in 2012? 
  • Gillian Flynn
  • Mo Hayder
  • Justin Cronin
  • Jenny Wingfield

6. Most thrilling book in 2012?

7. Book you most anticipated in 2012?
  • Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsovler

8. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

9. Most memorable characters in 2012?

10. Most beautifully written books read in 2012?

11. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

12. Book you can't believe you waited until 2012 to finally read?

13. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2012?
A good marriage drags a long tail of memory behind it. A single word or gesture, a tone of voice can conjure up so many remembrances. Laurie and I had been flirting like this for thirty-odd years, since the day we met in college and we both went a little love-crazy. Things were different now, of course. At fifty-one, love was a quieter experience. We drifted through the days together. But we both remembered how it all started, and even now, in the middle of my middle age, when I think of that shining young girl, I still feel a little thrill of first love, still there, still burning like a pilot light. (Defending Jacob by William Landy)

14. Authors which you would like to read more of in 2013? 
  • Gillian Flynn
  • Mo Hayder
  • Donna Leon
  • Justin Cronin

15. Books that had a shocking ending?

16. Best children's book read in 2012?
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

17. Any challenges you completed in 2012?

18. Any read-alongs you completed in 2012?

19. Blogging plans for 2013?
  • To be announced...

December 16, 2012

The Prophet

The Prophet by Michael Koryta
2012 Hachette Audio
Length: 11 hours and 49 minutes
Reader: Robert Petkoff
Finished on 11/12/12
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Two brothers in a small Midwestern town: one the high school’s beloved football coach on the verge of a state championship, one scraping by as a bail bondsman. Their sister was abducted and murdered when they were teenagers, and they’ve been divided since that day. Now a new killing with ties to both of them has forced a painful and adversarial reunion.

Michael Koryta, widely hailed as one of the best young thriller writers at work today, has written his first masterpiece—an emotionally harrowing, unstoppably suspenseful novel that shows why Dean Koontz has said, “He’s now on my must-read list.”

I don’t think I’d ever heard of Michael Koryta until one day when I glanced through an ARC of his latest book, The Prophet. I decided to give it a try, after reading the following from the cover of that ARC:

What do the #1 bestselling writers Lee Child, Stephen King, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Scott Smith, Ridley Pearson and Dean Koontz have in common?

They all love Michael Koryta.

Now read his greatest thriller ever, The Prophet.

I’ve gotten so I really enjoy listening to mysteries and thrillers, so when the audio version came up in my library queue, I decided to skip the ARC and give the audio a try. In spite of the unremarkable reader (Robert Petkoff), the narrative held my interest, especially during the football scenes. I’ve become quite a fan of college football (Go Big Red!), so I had no trouble picturing the plays as described by Koryta. Unfortunately, it’s been a month since I finished the book and the details of the actual mystery have already faded. I wrote in my journal that The Prophet is a bit reminiscent of Defending Jacob, but today I have to idea why I thought this!

December 14, 2012

Wordless Friday

Newtown, Connecticut
December 14, 2012

December 10, 2012

29 Years Ago...

I fell in love.

Happy Birthday to my lovely daughter.

December 9, 2012

The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
2009 Penguin Group Audio
Reader: Simon Vance
Length: 14 CDs, 18 hours
Finished: 11/2/12
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)
R.I.P. VII Challenge

From the author's website:

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners – mother, son and daughter – are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own.

But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.

I chose The Little Stranger as my second selection for this year’s RIP VII Challenge (hosted by Carl). I’ve read one other book by Waters (The Night Watch) and was anxious to give her latest novel a read. After hearing such good things about Simon Vance, I decided to go with the audio book rather than the paperback. Vance lived up to all the praise I’d been hearing and is now one of my favorite readers (next to Jim Dale).* His performance was outstanding! Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about the novel. I was expecting a much scarier tale, something more in tune with Stephen King or Dean Koontz. The Little Stranger is a psychological thriller, and one that kept me guessing clear to the very end. And yet, in spite of listening to the entire book, I found it somewhat anticlimactic. Hundreds Hall is a creepy house with strange, unexplainable occurrences affecting the lives (literally) of those who come in contact with it, but it wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the house in Anne Rivers Siddon’s novel, The House Next Door or Stephen King’s The Shining. I’m not sorry I read it, but I did have my hopes set higher for a stellar read.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the audio book well enough to finish, but it’s not one I feel compelled to rush out and buy in print. The Little Stranger should appeal to fans of The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfield) and Don’t Look Now (du Maurier).

*While searching for more books narrated by Simon Vance, I discovered that I’ve already listened to him. Twice! I’d completely forgotten that he was the reader for the Steig Larsson trilogy. I’m looking forward to listening to more and am open to recommendations. I see he narrates A Tale of Two Cities, which was one of my favorite books when I was in high school. I may just have to give that a re-read!

December 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Crape Myrtle Allee
Chihuly at the Arboretum
Dallas, TX

Click on the photos to view with a black background.

For more Wordless Wednesday photos,
 go here.

December 2, 2012

Anna Karenina

Loved it! Great cast, costumes, sets and musical score. I'm so glad I saw it on the big screen!

December 1, 2012

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel About Marriage, Motherhood and Mayhem by Sonya Sones
2011 HarperCollins
Finished on 10/15/12
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb: 

My name is Holly.
This story is about me—
a writer who’s way behind
on her deadline.

But, honestly,
how can I concentrate on my work
when my fiftieth birthday’s
rushing at me like a freight train,

my hormones are making me feel
like a Szechuan flambé,
and my eighty-year-old mother’s
biting her nurses?

Not to mention the fact that my daughter’s
just begun applying to colleges
(none of which are within
a thousand-mile radius of home),

and lately my husband’s been
such an irritating, finger-pointing stinker
that I’ve found myself dreaming of ways
to spend his insurance money…

My name is Holly.
This book
tells my story—
a coming-of-middle-age story.

I’ve been blogging for close to 7 years and every so often I get the urge to pack it in and call it a day. This tends to happen when I fall behind with my reviews and the feeling intensifies during the holidays, when my job (which I love) zaps all my energy and leaves me with zero motivation to do much of anything, even on the weekends. It’s during moments like those that I think I should quit blogging, quit Facebook, quit Pinterest (ack, what a time suck!), quit all my book-related subscriptions and return to life as it was before I discovered this community of book lovers. But then I come upon a beautifully written review echoing my thoughts, or a tantalizing recipe, or a recommendation for a book that I may never have discovered on my own, and I realize that this new life is exactly where I want to be. I just need to remember to remain true to myself and not let that inner voice nag at me to get those reviews written. I’m not getting paid to do this, and thus, there are no commitments or deadlines to review all of the books I’ve read. So I keep going and continue to read my favorite blogs. And it’s there that I find a gem in the rough such as The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus. I am exposed to dozens upon dozens of new books each week at work and it can be overwhelming, to say the least. So when I read a review such as the one Nancy wrote (followed with other wonderful and intriguing reviews by Staci and Kathy), I take note and make it a point to give the book a try.

I honestly can’t remember if Nancy sent me a copy of Sones’ novel, or if I finally broke down and bought one myself, but it wound up on a shelf in my office where it remained for several months. When I decided to participate in Dewey’s Read-a-Thon this past October, I remembered I had a copy of this book and knew it was a perfect choice, as it’s a novel in verse. This was the absolute perfect book to read as the evening wound down. The pages flew and before I knew it, I’d finished 250 pages in just under an hour and a half. I could have easily finished the entire book that night, but I finally had to quit. I was reading in bed and it was almost impossible to stifle my laughter; I kept worrying that I was going to awaken my husband with my constant snickering. I have over a dozen passages marked with sticky notes, many of which involve marriage and motherhood, but I thought the following would resonate with pretty much everyone. I honestly believe I’ve had this conversation with AA:

Trying to Reserve the Flight That Will Take Samantha to College

Automated Voice:
Thanks for calling
the American Airlines Advantage desk.
Para Español, diga “Español.”


Automated Voice:
What’s your Advantage number?


Automated Voice:
That’s FBB5376. Right?

Automated Voice:
I’m sorry.
Please say your Advantage number again.


Automated Voice:
That’s FVV4367. Right?

No. You are not right.
You are not even slightly right.

Automated Voice:
My apologies. I didn’t get that.
Please say your Advantage number again.


Automated Voice:
That’s STD5376? Right?

You have got to be kidding me…

Automated Voice:
I’m sorry. I seem to be having
some trouble understanding you.
Please say your Advantage number again.

Just let me speak to an agent!

Automated Voice:
Do you want to talk to an agent
about travel within the United States,
Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands?


Automated Voice:
I understand you’d like to speak to someone.
Let’s find out what you need first
and then I’ll get you to the right place.

Agent! Agent!

Automated Voice:
Okay. Do you want to speak to an agent
about travel within the United States,
Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands?

Agent! Agent! AGENT!

Automated Voice:
I’m sorry. I didn’t get that.

Of course you didn’t get that.
You’re a machine, for chrissake.
You can’t “get” things.
You have no ears.
 And in case you haven’t noticed—
you have no heart.
So quit telling me how sorry you feel.
You can’t feel sorry.
You can’t feel anything.
Because you are nothing but

Automated Voice:
I’m sorry. I didn’t get that.

See what my blogmates have to say about The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus:
Highly recommended. A roller coaster emotional ride that's so fresh and unique and funny that you'll probably shove it into the hands of your friends, like I did -- especially if you're nearing 50 and can relate. I laughed, I cried, I passed my copy around. When my friend Lisa handed the book back to me, she said, "I loved this book! And, I'm only 45!" The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is great fun. I think anyone can enjoy and appreciate it, except perhaps teenagers or maybe a few young, upwardly mobile folks who refuse to think so far ahead, but those who like to read anything will likely still love it because it's a good story. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is definitely a new favorite of mine, a 5/5. (Nancy, of Bookfoolery and Babble)
Recommend? Absolutely...especially for those 40+! So many things that Sonya Sones writes about will hit home with you. Being a child, teen, falling in love for the first time, having children, empty nest, losing the spark within your marriage, divorce, finding love again, infidelity, aging parents, sagging body parts (very true!) and just about getting this book and I guarantee that you will find yourself laughing one minute, sighing the next, and maybe shedding a few tears! Rating: 10/10 (Staci, of Life in the Thumb)
When I first starting reading reviews of The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, by Sonya Sones, I figured it wasn’t for me. After all, I thought the title was rather silly and the novel is written in verse, and I don’t “do” poetry. Thank heavens my friend Julie urged me to give it a try, because I absolutely adored this book! I suspect it’s somewhat autobiographical but, I felt like Sones was peeking at my life and writing about it. I laughed and cried as I read this touching and heartfelt book. I started to mark passages as I read it and found that I was marking everything, so I gave up. The sentiments in this book are gorgeous and emotional and I found I could relate to so much of it. (Kathy, of BermudaOnion’s Weblog)

Be sure to click on the links to read Nancy, Staci and Kathy’s complete reviews. A portion of Staci’s is even written in verse!

Final Thoughts: Sones had me laughing out loud one minute and crying the next (not to mention longing for a sequel). This novel will appeal to women of all ages, especially those who are married with children. Highly recommend!