August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

My lands are where my dead lie buried.

Click on photo to enlarge.

August 26, 2013

Mailbox Monday

I've been trying to ignore all the new ARCs at work (and I haven't requested any from Shelf Awareness for months), so my stack for the past month or so is pretty meager. But I'm not complaining. I have more than enough to read! As a matter of fact, looking back on my last Mailbox Monday post (dated February 2013), I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read one single book from that large stack! And looking back even further (Mailbox Monday dated July 2012), I realize that I've only read four of those books. You all know how that goes, though, right? 

So, I'm hoping to get to these three gems before my next Mailbox Monday post. I'm a big fan of Joyce Maynard and quickly snatched up the ARC of After Her when it arrived at work earlier this summer. I thoroughly enjoyed Labor Day, which I read almost four years ago, but my all-time favorite is The Usual Rules. That coming-of-age novel hit my Top Ten List for 2005 and it's one that I hope to find time to eventually re-read.

My dear friend and fellow blogger, Bellezza, sent me a copy of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. As you might recall, I fell in love with Rowell's Eleanor and Park earlier this summer and will make certain to read Attachments before the end of the year. As a matter of fact, I may just have to jump right into it as soon as I finish my current book. 

Bellezza, ever so generous, also sent me a copy of Beth Hoffman's Looking for Me. I wasn't as enamored with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt as other readers, but Bellezza has convinced me to give Hoffman's latest novel a chance. I think she knows me well and I trust her judgement, so I'm happy to give this book (with its lovely cover art) a read.

Many thanks to Bellezza for the lovely books and big thank you to Kathy of BermudaOnion's for hosting this week's Mailbox Monday.

What's in your mailbox this week?

Click on the links to go to my earlier reviews.

August 25, 2013

The Sunday Salon

It's been at least a couple of years since I've participated in The Sunday Salon, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to catch up on a variety of topics, with hopes of rejuvenating my blogging mojo. If you've been a faithful follower, you might have noticed that the majority of recent posts have been photographs. While I haven't been reading nearly as much as usual, I still have several books to review. They are:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (loved it!)

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio (not as good as anticipated)

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler (wonderful audio book)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (can't wait to read more by this author!)

The Good House by Ann Leary (perfect reader for the audio)

It's been nice to have a lot of winners in the stacks, although I did give up on a couple, as well:

Run by Ann Patchett (couldn't get interested)

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas and Found Happiness by Dominique Browning (yawn)

I'm currently reading Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel (author of Stiltsville). I loved her debut novel, but have yet to be sucked into this one. However, I'm holding out hope. I love the Florida setting!

I haven't been listening to very many audio books this month, as I've been on vacation since the 10th. (I typically listen to audios during the first two hours of my shift at the bookstore.) Yesterday, on my drive home from the Omaha airport, I started Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West by Hampton Sides. This non-fiction title came highly recommended after a good friend learned about my upcoming trip to New Mexico. I've only listened to a little less than an hour, so I'm anxious to get back to it and see what's in store for Kit Carson.

In other news, it is hot, hot, hot! And windy! We've been very fortunate this summer, enjoying lots of mild temps and rain, but August and September are typically brutal. It looks like we'll be in the upper 90s/triple digits for the next five days. I'm already longing for fall and, yes, winter.

In spite of the heat, I spent a large chunk of my day sitting on the porch with a cool drink and my current book. Our 11-year-old granddaughter was here for two weeks and flew back home yesterday morning. We had another awesome summer visit with this sweet girl and I was feeling a little lonely. She's such a smart, articulate, funny, and thoughtful person. I thoroughly enjoy her companionship and wish she lived closer! Anyhow, I probably should have run to the grocery store and done some housework, but I threw my back out on the last day of our road trip and I've been trying to take it easy, hoping it will feel better so I can return to work tomorrow! Hard to ignore all the dust bunnies and dog hair from the past two weeks, though. 

I plan to post pictures from our five-day road trip to South Dakota (Black Hills and the Badlands) later this week. We had a great time, with the exception of the last day. Not only was my back killing me, but the drive home from Valentine, Nebraska is long and boring. We were all happy to get home and sleep in comfortable beds!

If you've read this far, you deserve a couple of photos, don't you think?

Alliance, Nebraska

Beautiful granddaughter 
(soon to be in Middle School!)

Stretching our legs!
South Dakota

South Dakota

Valentine, Nebraska


And now it's time to head out to the porch with my book and a glass of wine. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Custer State Park
South Dakota
Road Trip 2013

August 14, 2013

August 9, 2013

Under the Dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King
2009 Scribner eBook
Finished on 7/9/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)


On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a selectwoman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

I’ve read quite a few books by Stephen King, but I’m not a diehard fan who anxiously awaits his new releases. I’ve never read the Dark Tower series, and I’ve let a lot of his early works go unread. However, I’ve enjoyed quite a few from his extensive backlist (a list of my favorites can be found here), but it’s been six years since I visited King’s scary world. And, as I re-read my review for Dreamcatcher, I noticed that it had been many, many years since I’d read anything by King. I suspect the length of his more recent works has something to do with this. When Under the Dome was released, I gave it a cursory glance, but was put off by the sheer enormity of the novel. But I’ve recently read a few chunksters (The Passage and The Twelve), so when a few blogmates suggested a read-along, I decided it was time to give it a try. I chose to read the book on my husband’s Simple Touch, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. I doubt I would have hauled that tome (1088 pages in the paperback edition) around with me on vacation, but I was frustrated with King’s large cast of characters and trying to sort out their relationships was more difficult with the eBook. I’m used to being able to flip back and forth in a book and it took me longer than normal to get a sense of who was important and who was a throw-away character. I also kept glancing down at the page number (a total of 1349 in the eBook), feeling anxious that it was going to take me forever to finish the book. Well, it wasn’t forever, but it did wind up taking me 6 weeks! The first half was a challenge, but once I hit the halfway mark, I was fully engrossed and couldn’t put it down. With that said, though, I also couldn’t wait to start reading something new!

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline, and was somewhat relieved that it wasn’t a typical horror story. I could read the book at night, walk my dog without getting freaked out by the storm drains, and look through a photo album without worrying about the people coming to life. I also liked the frequent nods to other books (Alas, Babylon; On the Beach; and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series) and writers in general. Fun stuff! I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure out the cause of the Dome and was a bit let down with the final explanation, but not so much that it ruined the experience of reading such a long book.

Final Thoughts: 

A big thanks to Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick for hosting the DomeAlong. Also, a huge thank you to Trish and SuziQ for keeping me motivated via Twitter. Without their encouragement, I may have quit long before I got hooked. While I enjoyed reading Under the Dome, I’ve decided to skip the TV series. I’ve heard it’s based very loosely on the novel and I have a feeling I’d wind up disappointed. Maybe after a year or so, when the story isn’t as fresh, I can give it a try.

August 7, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Sundog over Kitsap Peninsula
Edmunds ferry to Kingston
June 2013

August 3, 2013

The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Fiction – Historical
2013 Random House Audio
Reader: Lorna Raver
Finished 7/4/13
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)

From the author’s website:

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles's assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator's wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life's infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator's Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

I believe I may have been a fighter pilot in another life. I’ve always been fascinated with jets and especially marveled at their amazing speed when I lived in Southern California. We were often treated to flybys when we lived in Tierrasanta, which is southeast of Miramar Air Station (formerly known as “Fightertown USA”). While most of my girlfriends were drooling over Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in the infamous volleyball scene in Top Gun, I was getting my thrills watching the mock dogfights with F14s, flown by Maverick (Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards).

I was also a huge fan of the Blue Angels, attending their air shows at Miramar, but also enjoying their practice runs as they prepared for their shows, flying low over University Towne Centre when I worked for a biotech company in the area. I never grew tired of watching those amazing jets as they flew overhead, practicing their formations, startling as the roar of the jets approached.

The irony, though, is that I am actually afraid of flying. But, apparently, I’m in the minority, at least in my family. You see, I come from a long line of pilots. My great Uncle Kris flew in the Air Force (retired as a General), as well as for Pan American Airlines. My great Uncle Ed (he and Uncle Kris were married to my grandmother’s sisters) flew in the Army Air Corps during WWII and the Korean War and was also a pilot for Pan Am. Both of Uncle Kris’ sons flew; Kraig was a Navy pilot, flying off aircraft carriers and Kris was an Army helicopter pilot. 

Nate Searles

Nate and Mardi Searles

My grandfather was also a pilot. He started out flying biplanes in the Army Air Corps and flew for Pan Am, flying to South America doing mapping and also carrying passengers. He flew the Clipper ships to Hawaii and wound up flying 707s, all for Pan Am. It was when he was with Pan Am that he met Charles Lindbergh. My grandparents always had big Christmas parties and Lindbergh was invited to come to their home in Woodside, California in 1947. My mom, who was 14 years old, got his autograph, which I now have framed and hanging in my house.

So, that was a very long-winded way of telling you that I’ve always been fascinated with flying in general and with the Lindberghs in particular. I tried to read Bring Me a Unicorn: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1922-1928 many years ago, but couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I didn’t abandon hope, though, and later went on to listen to her classic memoir, Gift from the Sea, which I thought was marvelous. When Melanie Benjamin’s historical novel, The Aviator’s Wife, was released, I knew I’d have to give it a try. I listened to the audio and thought it was exceptionally good. Yet, as I became completely immersed in Anne’s world, I grew to dislike her husband more with each passing chapter. Some may argue that he was a product of the times, but I say he was a complete cad! There’s a part of me that’s almost embarrassed to have his framed autograph hanging in my home, but in spite of his seemingly fascist political views and numerous infidelities, one can’t argue that he wasn’t a genuine aviation hero. But it was Anne’s story that appealed to me and I look forward to a second reading of Gift from the Sea. I’m also curious about their children, especially daughter Reeve, and have her memoirs, Under a Wing and Forward from Here, in my stacks, which I hope to get to later this fall. I’m not sure, but I may eventually try Scott Berg’s Lindbergh, although it’s not high on my list.

Charles and Anne Lindbergh

Anne and baby Charles

Final Thoughts: There are so many new historical novels focusing on the wives and lovers of famous men and I was a bit skeptical about The Aviator's Wife, having had a slightly disappointing experience with The Paris Wife. I was hesitant about reading The Aviator’s Wife, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s an excellent novel and audio book! I was familiar with the bits and pieces of trivia/gossip centered on this famous family, but Benjamin brought their stories to life and I learned a great deal, inspiring me to read even more about their lives. I wish I belonged to a book club. This would make an excellent choice for a lively discussion! Highly recommend!

Audio Notes: Lorna Raver’s performance is exceptional and I look forward to listening to more books read by her. As a matter of fact, the next book on my Nano was Calling Me Home, read by Lorna Raver. What a lovely surprise!