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June 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Seattle, Washington
June 2013

Click on image to enlarge

June 24, 2013

Under the Dome

From Shelf Awareness:




Under the Dome, a 13-part series based on Stephen King's novel (media tie-in edition available from Gallery Books), premieres tonight on CBS at 10 p.m. In a positive review, the New York Times wrote: "You can say goodbye to your next two Monday nights, and possibly--if past for once is not precedent--the whole summer's worth."

From Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television, the series "has a cinematic pedigree that gives it a good shot at transcending superficiality," the Times added, praising screenwriter Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) and a "pretty appealing" cast that includes Mike Vogel, Britt Robertson, Alexander Koch, Rachelle Lefevre (A Gifted Man) and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad).


I'm not a fan of mini-series (and I plan to wait to watch this on dvd), but I decided to join several blogger friends and read Under the Dome this summer. The official start date of the readalong (aka #DomeAlong Readalong) was May 25th. I began on the 26th and I'm not even halfway through the novel. The readalong ends on July 27th, so I think I can manage to meet that goal!

If you're a fan of King's or want to give this book a try, it's certainly not too late to sign up. Natalie, of Coffee and a Book Chick, is our readalong hostess, so stop over and check out all the details!

Nat asks us a few questions...

Show us your copy! Audio or print?

Ebook, although I really wish I had it on audio, as well. 

Have you read Uncle Stevie before?

Oh, yeah! I even posted a list of my favorites (as of 2007), which you can find here.

What are you familiar with about Under the Dome or Stephen King?

I wasn't familiar with anything prior to beginning the book. Since I don't watch TV (we watch a lot of our favorite shows on Netflix), I haven't even seen the trailer.

What are you looking forward to?

At this point, I'm looking forward to that moment when I get sucked in and can't put the book down. I think I'm close, but it hasn't quite happened. Yet. At least I'm to the point where I feel like I've got a handle on the cast of characters.

Thanks, Natalie, for organizing this event! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write my kick-off post. Let's blame it on my early summer travels, shall we? I also want to thank Trish & SuzieQ for their ongoing encouragement on Twitter. :) Y'all are the best readalong pals!

June 23, 2013

Benediction



Benediction by Kent Haruf
Fiction
2013 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on 5/22/13
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)




Publisher’s Blurb:

From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado.

When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad's condition stirs up of her own mother's death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times. Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benediction captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants.

I’ve read all of Kent Haruf’s novels, beginning with Plainsong (which I thought was wonderful) and ending with Eventide (which I loved, even though it broke my heart). I wasn’t terribly impressed with his earlier works (Where You Once Belonged and The Tie That Binds), which I read later, but that didn’t stop me from feeling excited when I discovered he had a new novel this year. As with his previous works, Benediction is set in Holt, Colorado, and as with all of these novels, Benediction is a quiet, thoughtful story. One might call it spare. And yet it’s not simple, but rather rich and languid and quite mesmerizing.

And yet, in spite of the beautiful prose, Haruf’s new novel failed to knock Eventide from its place of honor as my favorite. I enjoyed the novel, but I never really came to care about any of the characters. Early on, I found it a bit confusing and wound up going back to the beginning in order to take note of the names and relationships between each of the characters. I even set it aside, waiting to devote more time to reading, hoping to be swept away. I packed the book in my carry-on bag and started reading (actually, re-reading) from the first page, as my plane took off for Oregon, and I wound up reading the entire book, finishing just as the plane began its descent into Portland.

Haruf, who was born in eastern Colorado, writes what he knows. Holt is based loosely on Yuma, Colorado, where Haruf once resided.

On the land:
They drove out from Denver away from the mountains, back onto the high plains: sagebrush and soapweed and blue grama and buffalo grass in the pastures, wheat and corn in the planted fields. On both sides of the highway were the gravel county roads going out away under the pure blue sky, all the roads straight as the lines ruled in a book, with only a few small isolated towns spread across the open country.

On death and dying:
He sat and drank the beer and held his wife’s hand sitting out on the front porch. So the truth was he was dying. That’s what they were saying. He would be dead before the end of summer. By the beginning of September the dirt would be piled over what was left of him out at the cemetery three miles east of town. Someone would cut his name into the face of a tombstone and it would be as if he never was.

Final Thoughts:

I’m not sorry I read Benediction, but I am a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be one I could gush about. It’s an absorbing and satisfying read, and one which tugged at my heartstrings as the finale drew close, but it didn’t have the same magic I discovered in Plainsong and Eventide. Having said that, I do believe it’s time for a reread of those novels. I’d love to listen to them on audio, but unfortunately, they’re not available through my library. Perhaps it’s time to join Audible.com

June 11, 2013

Indiscretion



Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
Fiction
2013 HarperCollins Audio
Reader: Robert Petkoff
Finished on 5/12/13
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)





Publisher’s Blurb:

With the evocative power of The Paris Wife and the aching vulnerability of John Irving’s books, Indiscretion is a heady and addictive debut novel, set in the present day, in which the idyllic lives of a wealthy and glamorous husband and wife are upended when they meet an impressionable and ambitious young woman.

Harry and Madeleine Winslow have been blessed with talent, money, and charm. Harry is a National Book Award-winning author on the cusp of greatness. Madeleine is a woman of sublime beauty and grace whose elemental goodness and serenity belie a privileged upbringing. Bonded by deep devotion, they share a love that is both envied and adored. The Winslows play host to a coterie of close friends and acolytes eager to bask in their golden radiance, whether they are in their bucolic East Hampton cottage, living abroad in Rome thanks to Harry’s writing grant, or in their comfortable Manhattan brownstone.

One weekend at the start of the summer season, Harry and Maddy, who are in their early forties, meet Claire and cannot help but be enchanted by her winsome youth, quiet intelligence, and disarming naivete. Drawn by the Winslows’ indescribable magnetism, Claire eagerly falls into their welcoming orbit. But over the course of the summer, reverence transforms into dangerous desire. By Labor Day, it is no longer enough to just be one of their hangers-on.

A story of love, lust, deception, and betrayal told through the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend Walter, a narrator akin to Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Indiscretion is a juicy, deeply textured novel filled with fascinating true-to-life characters—an irresistibly sensual page-turner that explores having it all, and the consequences of wanting more.

I first discovered this book after reading Bellezza’s post last autumn. A few weeks later, the ARC arrived (unsolicited!) in my mailbox. As usual, it wound up on a stack of recently acquired ARCs where it sat for half a year. Meanwhile, the audio book appeared on my library listing, so I downloaded the book and finally decided to give it a try even though I had the ARC. I’ve come to realize that I do this quite often: I wind up with a book in which I’m mildly interested, but pass it over for others until the audio version comes along. With that said, I was happy to have both formats, as I found myself wanting to mark passages as I listened.

Bellezza was quite accurate in her assessment of this debut novel. She says,
Charles Dubow explores what happens when we find ourselves discontent with what we have, and pursuing what we think we want, through his novel Indiscretion. It is a visceral novel, compelling from start to finish, as we are unable to pull ourselves away from the relationships between the youthful Claire, the Botticelli-like Maddy and National Book Award winning writer Harry which is told through the point of view of Walt, Maddy's childhood friend.

and
The novel is steamy, and sexy, but not in a meaningless Shades of Grey sort of way. Every word is intentional, put there to show us the effect of our choices not only on ourselves but on those we love. As my mother has said to me more than once, "Often our lives spin on a hair." She means that one chance encounter, one swift decision, can irrevocably change our lives forever. This novel shows us just that.

Reading (or rather listening to) this novel was like watching the proverbial train-wreck. I could see what coming (or so I thought) and yet I couldn’t pull my eyes (well, ears) away from the impending disaster. I typically spend several weeks listening to a single audio book, but I couldn’t keep from grabbing my Nano, listening at every possible opportunity, and I wound up finishing this book in less than a week! The reader, Robert Petkoff, isn’t one of my favorites and his “whispery” voice for the female characters bothered me early on. Dubow’s compelling narrative, however, was able to keep me fully engaged and I was quickly able to ignore Petkoff’s flaws.

On memory:
The poet A. E. Housman wrote of the “land of lost content,” and how he can never return to the place where he had once been so happy.

When I was younger, I greatly admired the poem’s sentiment because I was not old enough to realize how banal it was. The young invariably cherish their youth, incapable of imagining life past thirty. The notion that the past is more idyllic is absurd, however. What we remember is our innocence, strong limbs, physical desire. Many people are shackled by their past and are unable to look ahead with any degree of confidence because they not only don’t believe in the future, they don’t really believe in themselves.

But that doesn’t prevent us from casting a roseate glow over our memories. Some memories burn brighter, whether because they meant more or because they have assumed greater importance in our minds. Holidays blur together, snowstorms, swimming in the ocean, acts of love, holding our parents’ hands when we are very small, great sadnesses. But there is much we forget too. I have forgotten so much—names, faces, brilliant conversations, days and weeks and months, things I vowed never to forget, and to fill in the gaps, I conflate the past or make it up entirely. Did that happen to me or to someone else? Was that me who broke his leg skiing in Lech? Did I run from the carabinieri after a drunken night in Venice? Places and actions that seem so real can be entirely false, based purely on impressions of a story told at the time and then somehow subconsciously woven into the fabric of our lives.

After a while it becomes real.

On the beach:

I know most people find the beach restful and restorative, but some beaches have special healing powers. For me, this is that beach. It is a place I have explored since childhood, and I feel as comfortable here as I would in my own house. I tolerate the occasional intruder the way any host would but am always secretly glad to have the place to myself again. Put me down on a stretch of sand in the Caribbean or Maine, and I will certainly appreciate it, but it’s not quite the same thing. In some places the water’s too cold, or too warm, or too green. The shells are alien to me, the smells unfamiliar. But here it is perfect, and I will come here as happily in January as in August. There are few days I look forward to more than that first warm day when I feel brave and resolved enough to withstand the still-frigid temperatures and the only other creatures in the water are neoprene-clad surfers and the fish, and I dive into numbing, cleansing cold.

Final Thoughts:

I’m surprised this novel hasn’t received as much attention as say, Gone Girl. It’s an addictive read, with a skillfully crafted plot and fully realized characters. The pacing is even, the writing is vivid, and the tension is taut. Although I thought I knew what was about to happen, I was often surprised. I am eager to see what Charles Dubow has next to share with his readers and certainly know I won’t wait so long to pick up his next endeavor. Heading to the beach? Grab a copy of Indiscretion. You won’t be disappointed.

June 8, 2013

The 5th Wave



The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Fiction – YA Post-Apocalyptic
2013 G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished on 5/5/13
Rating: 4.75/5 (Outstanding!)





If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans. ~ Stephen Hawking

Publisher’s Blurb:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, just one rule applies: TRUST NO ONE.

Now it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

From award-winning author Rick Yancey comes a gripping epic of catastrophic loss, unthinkable odds, and unflinching courage.

I don’t read a lot of teen fiction. Other than The Book Thief (which became a widely popular cross-over novel with adult readers and is one of my all-time favorite reads ever), there have been less than a handful of teen novels that have piqued my interest. While I enjoyed The Hunger Games and Twilight, the sequels were disappointing and I quickly grew tired of all the teenage angst. However, I love a good post-apocalyptic story (The Stand, Swan Song, The Road, and The Passage, are just a few of my favorites), so when the ARC of The 5th Wave arrived I knew I wanted to read it, but decided to let my husband have first dibs. I figured he could save me some valuable time, if he felt it was poorly written or not compelling enough. Well, surprisingly (as he rarely ever reads teen fiction), not only did he finish the book, he thought it was very good. And, much to my relief, not filled with a lot of angst.

I dove into the book as soon as I finished The Light Between Oceans (something I rarely do, as I like to have a little break between books, if only a few hours) and was immediately drawn into Cassie and Evan’s stories. Other than a few instances in which I thought that Cassie’s internal monologues depicting her romantic attraction toward another character were beginning to feel overly saccharine, I loved the book. While not as intricate or sophisticated as The Stand or Swan Song, it was highly entertaining and much better than I had anticipated. With that said, I will continue to hold out hope that the second installment (yes, this is the first in a trilogy) doesn’t follow the trend of disappointing sequels.

Final Thoughts:

The 5th Wave is a tautly written page-turner, sure to satisfy readers of all ages and appeal to fans of Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. I look forward to the next novel in this trilogy, but meanwhile, I plan to check out Rick Yancey’s backlist. Any recommendations?

Go here to read Justin Cronin’s (best-selling author of The Passage and The Twelve) review of The 5th Wave.

June 6, 2013

Still Life


Still Life by Louise Penny
Armand Gamache Series #1
Mystery
2006 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Reader: Ralph Cosham
Finished on 5/2/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)




Publisher’s Blurb:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

I’ve been meaning to return to this series for several years. In all, there are now eight books, with the ninth (How the Light Gets In) due out in August. Since it’s been well over six years since I first encountered Louise Penny’s debut novel, I decided to listen to the audio of Still Life to reacquaint myself with the characters before moving on to A Fatal Grace. Looking back on my original review, I see that my initial reaction was a bit more positive than this second encounter. I gave it an 8/10 (very good) rating and wrote:
It took me a few chapters to settle into this debut novel, but once I got a handle on all the various characters (many of whom were possible suspects in the death of Ms. Neal), I couldn’t put it down, anxious to get back to my reading and trying to solve the crime as I went about my daily activities.

Still Life is not a hard-boiled thriller, but rather a gentle “drawing room” mystery in which the chief investigator relishes a warm café au lait and flaky croissant as he ponders the details of the crime, while enjoying the peacefulness of the village as dawn breaks.

Gamache is a likeable character, reminding me a little bit of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport (although, not quite the womanizer and much more well-read). I have a feeling Gamache and Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir will become another favorite duo and I look forward to Penny’s next installment (Dead Cold), due out next spring.
Final Thoughts:

I have a couple of books that I’m anxious to read in the next few weeks, but I won’t let much more time elapse before I pick up A Fatal Grace (aka Dead Cold). I’m eager to see why this series has become so popular among mystery lovers.

Have you read any of Louise Penny’s mysteries? Which is your favorite?

June 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon

Me with my nieces (Maddie & Emily)
 and nephew (Caymon).
Photobombed by a zombie. ;)

June 2, 2013

Hello, Oregon!

Last week I was in Oregon helping my mom celebrate (belatedly) her 80th birthday. It was a wonderful trip and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my parents, as well as catching up with my three brothers and their families. Unfortunately, my husband (who rarely ever gets sick!) came down with a killer head cold and wound up staying home. We were all disappointed that he couldn't join us, but we managed to enjoy ourselves, in spite of his absence.



Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay






McMinnville


McMinnville


Dayton










Nye Beach
Newport






Little Whale Cove



Next up, Seattle!