September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

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September 17, 2013

Bloggy Break

Rod and I are heading to New Mexico for an early 25th anniversary getaway! I'll be back with lots of photos early next week.

September 15, 2013

Calling Me Home

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
2013 Blackstone Audio
Readers: Bahni Turpin and Lorna Raver
Finished 7/25/13
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

If Julie Kibler's novel Calling Me Home were a young woman, her grandmother would be To Kill a Mockingbird, her sister would be The Help and her cousin would be The Notebook. But even with such iconic relatives, Calling Me Home stands on her own; this novel uncovers a painful past that tells us so much about who we are, where we're going, and the people who are traveling with us. –Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home

Publisher’s Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Isabelle McAllister longs to escape the confines of her northern Kentucky hometown, but after her family's housekeeper's son rescues her from a Newport drunk, the boundaries seem smaller than ever.

Falling for a black boy in late 1930s Kentucky isn't just illegal, it's dangerous. Signs at the city limits warn Negroes, “Don’t let the sun set on you here.” Despite repeated warnings, Isabelle and Robert disregard the racial divide, starting a chain of events that threatens jobs, lives, and generations to come.

Decades later, black hairstylist Dorrie Curtis agrees to drive her elderly white client cross-country to a funeral. Over the years, Miss Isabelle has become more than just a customer, but the timing couldn't be worse. First, Dorrie's seeing a man she's afraid she could fall for, but one thing is more obvious than ever: Trust is not her strong suit. Second, she knows her teenager's in big trouble; he just hasn’t told her yet.

When a phone call from home confirms Dorrie's fears, Miss Isabelle's tale of forbidden love illuminates Dorrie’s dilemma, merging the past and present in a journey with unexpected detours and a bittersweet destination.

I’ve always been an avid reader, but prior to joining online book groups and blogging, I’m not sure where I found recommendations for a good book. I think more than anything else, I relied heavily on the publisher blurb and the praises on the back covers of books. Now, whenever I start to think about all the extra time I’d have to read if I were to give up blogging (posting as well as following), I remember all the great recommendations I’ve found through my blogmates, particularly those for audio books. I’ve listened to 13 audio books this year and most of those were chosen based on reviews and recommendations by other bloggers. I’ve really come to rely on JoAnn, Joy, Trish, Kathy, Diane, Juli and Staci for my on-going audio fix!

I first learned about Julie Kibler’s debut novel, Calling Me Home, from JoAnn (of Lakeside Musing). She wrote:
Multiple reader productions are usually a hit with me. In Calling Me Home, two stellar narrators team up to deliver an audio performance that is sheer perfection. I enjoyed Bahni Turpin in both The Help and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but Lorna Raver, a popular reader whose name I instantly recognized, was a new narrator for me. I have since added several of her other credits to my audio wish list.

This (and her 5-star rating) was all I needed to read. I loved Turpin in the audio production of The Help and I recently discovered Raver while listening to The Aviator’s Wife. Both of these women are now among my favorite audio readers. Once I downloaded the book from my library and started listening while shelving books at work, I was completely hooked! Once again, JoAnn’s recommendation did not disappoint. I laughed out loud and felt my heartstrings tugged, and yet this is not a sentimental story. It’s a compelling story, rich with authentic characters and dialogue, full of thought-provoking themes, and one which I can strongly recommend to readers looking for a meaty book to discuss with friends or a book club.

Calling Me Home is not only about racism and forbidden love, but also about trust and the power of friendship. While it’s difficult to mark passages while listening to an audio book, I did take note of this:
It’s funny how sometimes you find a friend— in the likely places—and almost immediately, you can talk about anything. But more often than not, after the initial blush, you find you really have nothing in common. With others, you believe you’ll never be more than acquaintances. You’re so different, after all. But then this thing surprises you, sticking longer than you ever predicted, and you begin to rely on it, and that relationship whittles down your walls, little by little, until you realize you know that one person better than almost anyone. You’re really and truly friends.

Final Thoughts:

In a perfect world, this book would not exist because, in such a world, there would be no conflict here, and hence no story. In a perfect world, the color of one’s skin (or for that matter, one's gender) should not be an issue when it comes to love and marriage. In a perfect world, the right to marry should not be dictated by bigotry, ignorance or fear. While we may never live in a perfect world, we’ve certainly come a long way. Highly recommend!

Click here to read an excerpt.

September 8, 2013

The Violets of March

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
2011 Plume
Finished on 7/22/13
Rating: 3/5 (Fair)

Publisher’s Blurb:

In a mystical place where violets bloom out of season and the air is salt drenched, a heartbroken woman stumbles upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world; she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Nearly a decade later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and an intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

Sarah Jio and her debut novel, The Violets of March, have been on my reading radar for a couple of years now, thanks to a few of my favorite bloggers. After returning home from two wonderful vacations in the Pacific Northwest, I decided there was no better time to give the book a read and return to Bainbridge Island.

How is it that Pam, Marcia, Staci and Kay all loved this novel and I came away from it feeling so let down? Unlike the others, I found the opening chapters lacking in substance and the overall story somewhat trite. The mystery is convoluted and I spent far too much effort trying to figure out which current day character might be representative of the people mentioned in the diary. This is a quick read, but it was a bit too fluffy for me.

Final Thoughts:

If you’re in the mood for a light, fluffy read this might be just the ticket. I don't know if I'll ever try any other books by Jio, but I do know that I'll return to Bainbridge Island!

September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Alliance, Nebraska

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September 2, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Teen Fiction
2012 Dutton
Finished 7/17/13
Rating: 4.75/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I’m not a very eclectic reader. I tend to stick to general fiction, mysteries, and memoirs. Every once in a while, I’ll pick up a book about World War II or a highly recommended science fiction novel, and this past year I’ve joined my granddaughter in some young readers. But I don’t usually read teen fiction. Oh, I got sucked into the Twilight series, as well as The Hunger Games, but I wouldn’t consider myself an avid fan. The teenage angst annoys me and I find myself getting impatient with the drawn out tension between the characters. However, in just three months, I’ve read three teen novels. Three! Since the first two were such big winners, and after hearing so much praise for John Green’s works, I decided to give The Fault in Our Stars a try. I didn’t read the jacket blurb and I ignored all the online reviews and dove in cold. Well, I knew it was about two teens with cancer, but that was it.

In a word, this was unputdownable! After only reading 70 pages, I knew I wanted to read everything by Green.

Yes, it’s sad (ok, heartbreaking) and it made me cry, but it’s a beautifully rendered story about friendship and first loves and, yes, loss. The writing is intelligent and humorous. The dialogue is authentic and tight. The characters come to life and I came to care about Hazel Grace and Augustus as if they were people I knew.

But I can’t tell you any more. It’s a book you have to discover for yourselves. And if I can’t convince you, take a look at all the accolades this novel has received:

TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012
An Entertainment Weekly Best Fiction Book of 2012
John Green is one of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainers of the Year, 2012
#1 New York Times Bestseller
#1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A USA Today Bestseller
International Bestseller
#1 Children’s Indiebound Pick
New York Times Editor’s Choice
The Huffington Post Best Books of 2012
A Booklist Books for Youth Editor’s Choice
The Horn Book Fanfare List
A Publishers Weekly Best Book
A School Library Journal Best Book
Unprecedented EIGHT starred reviews

And, from the author of one of my all-time favorite books ever:

A novel of life and death and the people caught in between, The Fault in our Stars is John Green at his best. You laugh, you cry, and then you come back for more.– Markus Zusak, bestselling and Printz Honor–winning author of The Book Thief

Final Thoughts: 

When I realized I had turned to the final page, I cried out, “No!” I wanted more. I wasn’t ready to leave these people and their story. So, I will buy a copy for my keeper shelf and I will read this book again. And I will share it with my granddaughter when she’s older. And I will anxiously await the release of the movie.