February 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Annie and her best buddy, Sundance. 
Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

February 25, 2013

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and hosted this month by Audra of Unabridged Chick.

It's been a while since I've participated in Mailbox Monday. This lovely stack of ARCs has been growing over the past month or two and I'm quite eager to dive in, although I'm not sure where to begin! I'm leaning toward the Zelda Fitzgerald novel, but maybe I should try to read them in order of publication dates. What do you think?

The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough

Motherland by William Nicholson

The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner

February 24, 2013

Off the Grid

Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy
Monkeewrench Series #6
2012 Putnam
Finished: 1/21/13
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

On a sailboat ten miles off the Florida coast, Grace MacBride, partner in Monkeewrench Software, thwarts an assassination attempt on retired FBI agent John Smith. A few hours later, in Minneapolis, a fifteen-year-old girl is discovered in a vacant lot, her throat slashed. Later that day, two young men are found in their home a few blocks away, killed execution-style. The next morning, the dead bodies of three more men turn up, savagely murdered in the same neighborhood.

As Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth struggle to link the three crimes, they learn that there have been similar murders in other cities around the United States. Piece by piece, evidence accumulates, pointing to a suspect that shocks them to the core, uncovering a motive that puts the entire Midwest on high alert and Monkeewrench in the direct line of fire. Before it's all over, Grace and her partners, Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, find themselves in the middle of a shocking collision of violence on a remote northern Minnesota reservation, fighting for their lives.

Sounds pretty gruesome, doesn’t it? Thank goodness for the levity provided by Gino’s smart-ass dialogue. His fear of flying scenes had me laughing so hard, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. The romantic tension between Leo and Grace helped keep the pages turning, as well. As I usually find with mysteries, the finale was somewhat anticlimactic (if not sappy), but overall this was an entertaining read. I only wish this talented mother-daughter writing duo would crank their books out more quickly. Two to four years between publications is too long for this fan to endure! Highly recommend!

February 12, 2013

7 Years!

I'm amazed that it's been seven years since I created this blog! And as most of you know, I have had my share of doubts, wondering if it's worth continuing. After my recent departure, I received some lovely comments and emails, which made me realize how much I truly enjoy this community of book lovers. Kind words such as these from Gerda in Holland:
I have never responded to anything, but I do read all your posts. So glad you decided to come back even in a different form. I live in the Netherlands and love your blog. Do it anyway you want to, but please, keep coming back, because reading your posts is big fun.
All the best!

and Lee:
I have been reading your book recommendations for close to 15 years now. Don't know what I would have done without them... 

and Deb:
Oh dear. I love to read your reviews (do you know how many books I've read because of you, Les?!)

and Anne:
I'm so bummed you are signing off! I have gotten many good book recs from your blog. I hope you will leave it online anyway as a reference of your past reads.

and Mary:
I've read so many book you have recommended, I've cried with you on sad anniversaries, and laughed with you at celebrations. 

and Janet:
I will miss your reviews, which have led me to some great reads and steered me clear of some not-so-great ones, as well as increasing the size of my to-be-read list.

Most of all, though, I'll miss the glimpses into your life through your photos and travel adventures.

and Bill:
I'm sorry to hear that, Lesley. You were my #1 source for book purchase ideas for the Palmyra Library.

I had no idea! Each and every friendship I've discovered through this blogging world has enriched my life and brought me great joy and comfort throughout the years.

So, will I be here in another seven years? Probably! :) 

Thank you all for making it worthwhile.

February 10, 2013

Milk Glass Moon

Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani
2002 Random House
Finished: 1/10/13
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Milk Glass Moon, the third book in Adriana Trigiani’s bestselling Big Stone Gap series, continues the life story of Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney as she faces the challenges and changes of motherhood with her trademark humor and honesty. With twists as plentiful as those found on the holler roads of southwest Virginia, this story takes turns that that will surprise and enthrall the reader.

Transporting us from Ave Maria’s home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Italian Alps, from New York City to the Tuscan countryside, Milk Glass Moon is the story of a shifting mother-daughter relationship, of a daughter’s first love and mother’s heartbreak, of an enduring marriage that contains its own ongoing challenges, and of a community faced with seismic change.

All of Trigiani’s beloved characters are back: Jack Mac, Ave Maria’s true love, who is willing to gamble security for the unknown; her best friend and confidant, bandleader Theodore Tipton, who begins a new life in New York City; librarian and sexpert Iva Lou Wade Makin, who faces a life-or-death crisis. Meanwhile, surprises emerge in the blossoming of crusty cashier Fleeta Mullins, the maturing of mountain girl turned savvy businesswoman Pearl Grimes, and the return of Pete Rutledge, the handsome stranger who turned Ave Maria’s world upside down in Big Cherry Holler.

In this rollicking hayride of upheaval and change, Ave Maria is led to places she never dreamed she would go, and to people who enter her life and rock its foundation. As Ave Maria reaches into the past to find answers to the present, readers will stay with her every step of the way, rooting for the onetime town spinster who embraced love and made a family. Milk Glass Moon is about the power of love and its abiding truth, and captures Trigiani at her most lyrical and heartfelt.

I first discovered Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani’s debut novel, over a dozen years ago. It was the summer of 2000 and we had just moved back to Lincoln after living in Fort Worth, Texas for a few years. There’s a lot about that particular summer that I remember quite vividly, but it’s funny how memory eludes us. I would’ve sworn that I loved Big Stone Gap—so much so that I almost re-read the book before I started in on the second in the series—but as I look back through my reading journal for that year, I see that I only gave it a “Good” rating. Apparently, I had a tough time getting interested, but after a few chapters, I was hooked. But still, only an average rating? Had I remembered this, I wonder if I would’ve bothered to continue with this series. Nonetheless, in an effort to start reading more from my shelves, I decided to try the sequel (Big Cherry Holler), but couldn’t get interested and set it aside. I wasn’t planning to continue with any more books from the series, but changed my mind after reading a few comments by readers who mentioned they liked Milk Glass Moon better than the second book. It turns out I did, too. I found it to be a bit reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford series, at least with regard to the setting (in the Blue Ridge Mountains) and the large cast of characters that make up the close-knit community. I also enjoyed reading the passages focusing on the relationship between Ave Maria and her only child, Etta, and found that the dialogue between the two rang true, especially to this mother of an only daughter.

Final Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised that I liked Milk Glass Moon as well as I did, especially after giving up on the second novel. I was also surprised to learn that it isn’t the final installment in a trilogy, but that there’s a fourth, entitled Home to Big Stone Gap. I don’t own a copy, but maybe I’ll see if it’s available on audio through my library.

February 5, 2013

Movie News

Every now and then, I am asked to name my favorite book. What a difficult question! I have read so many wonderful novels and works of nonfiction, and to name just one book is quite impossible. However, one of the first books to come to mind is Markus Zusak's amazing novel, The Book Thief. I've only read the story once, but it was so powerful that I know I will never forget the impact it had on me.

Today I was so excited to learn that the film of Zusak's novel is in production!! Go here to read more.

Sophie Nelisse 
(Liesel Meminger)

 Geoffrey Rush
(Hans Hubermann)

Emily Watson
(Rosa Hubermann)

 Ben Schnetzer
(Max Vandenburg)

Nico Liersch


February 4, 2013

Music Monday

Feeling Mortal 
(click here to listen to sample tracks)

February 3, 2013

Shut Your Eyes Tight

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon
Dave Gurney Series #2
2011 Books on Tape Audio
Reader: Scott Brick
Finished 1/7/13
Rating: 2.5/5 (Meh)

Publisher's Blurb:

A few months after the Mellery case pulled him out of retirement and nearly killed him, former NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney receives a call about a case so bewildering that the thought of not looking into it seems unimaginable—even if his wife, Madeleine, would rather he do anything but.

The facts of what has occurred are horrible: a bride, newly wed to an eminent psychiatrist at his mountain estate, is found decapitated, her head apparently severed by a machete. Though police investigators believe that a Mexican gardener killed the young woman in a fit of jealous fury, the victim’s mother—a chilly high-society beauty—is having none of it. Drawn further into the mystery, Dave is buffeted by a series of revelations that transform the bizarre into the truly monstrous.

Underneath it all exists one of the darkest criminal schemes imaginable. As Gurney begins deciphering its grotesque outlines, his most cherished assumptions about himself are challenged, causing him to stare into an abyss so deep that it threatens to swallow not just him but Madeleine, too.

With Shut Your Eyes Tight, John Verdon delivers on the promise of his bestselling debut, Think of a Number, creating a portrait of evil let loose across generations that is as rife with moments of touching humanity as it is with spellbinding images of perversity.

I was very impressed with Verdon's debut thriller, Think of a Number, (which I read in the summer of 2011), so when I came across the audio for this sequel, I jumped right on it. Unfortunately, it wasn't as compelling as the first book, and I found it difficult to maintain an interest in the characters and the mystery. So much so that it wound up taking me over a month to complete. However, since I loved the first book, I've decided to give Verdon another chance. Rather than listening to the audio version of Let the Devil Sleep, I plan to read it in the print format. My friend Joy gave this third book a positive review (which you can read here) and since she and I have very similar reading tastes, I'm willing to try one more in this series. 

February 2, 2013

A Month in Summary - January 2013

Has it really been almost three years since I've posted a monthly recap?! Near as I can tell, my last was in March of 2010. I think I stopped because it was too much work and I was constantly behind with my reviews and didn't want to post the summary until I could provide links to those reviews. Well, it's a new year and I have a new attitude. I'm going to color outside the lines! :) I'm going to list the books I've read and not worry about the links. The reviews will come in due time. 

My January reading was focused primarily on selections from my shelves (with the exception of my audio books). As tempting as it is to read the newest or upcoming releases, I felt like spending the month sampling from my personal collection. The good news is that I cleared out a bunch of books from one of my shelves. The bad news is that I gave up on several before finally settling on one. Here's how the month ended:

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon (audio) 2.5/5 (Meh)

Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiana 4/5 (Very Good)

Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy 4/5 (Very Good)

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (audio) 4/5 (Very Good)

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister 4.5/5 (Excellent)


Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

The Promise of Rest by Reynolds Price

Duplicate Keys by Jane Smiley

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

So how did I do with my plan to read from my personal library? Well, all of the DNF titles came from my shelves, but the only one in my completed stack is Milk Glass Moon. I borrowed Off the Grid on a whim and I had promised myself that I'd read my ARC of The Lost Art of Mixing before the hardcover was released on the 24th. I have an ARC of The Orchardist, but I only glanced at it once or twice (while listening to the audio) in order to mark a couple of passages.

But you're probably more interested in my thoughts on the books I read, rather than if I could follow through on my goal, right? Well, I'm hoping to get some reviews composed in the next few days, but suffice it to say that I was only disappointed in one of the books I finished.

My goal for February is to read from my stack of library books. Yep, I actually visited my local library for the first time in months! I was thrilled to find some books that I've been anxious to read, and I look forward to spending a guilt-free month supporting my public library system.