February 27, 2014

Throw Back Thursdays

I've been posting #tbt photos on Instagram and Facebook for several months and I thought I'd make it a monthly feature here on my blog. Without further ado, here are some of my not-so-recent photos.

 Missing both of you, especially this week.

  #virginiabeach #2008 #beachbum 
 #readyforsummer #luvmygranddaughter

 #stjohnvirginislands #coralbay #1995

 #1995 #twuwuv

How to Carve a Turkey 101

Summer of 1996

#californiagirl #happyplace
#wamthofthesun #1979 #nofilter #delmar

Rach and Amy
 at our wedding reception 25 years ago

December 10, 1983 
#bestdayofmylife #ihaveathirtyyearold

Our Thanksgiving gift six years ago
 #anniedog #instadog

My grandmother, Mardie Searles. 
Miss you every day!

Papa and Amy

Mom & me 

February 25, 2014

Letters From Skye

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Historical Fiction
2013 Random House Audio
Readers: Elle Newlands, Katy Townsend, Adam Alex-Halle and Guy Burnet
Finished on 12/1/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail, Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.

I listened to this epistolary novel three months ago and while I found it somewhat predictable, I enjoyed the audio performance and was entertained from start to finish. Fans of historical fiction such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or nonfiction such as 84, Charing Cross Road, (both of which are also epistolary works) will undoubtedly find it equally charming.

February 23, 2014

Book Signing!

Shameless plug for my husband! He (and several other local authors) will be doing a book signing at the SouthPointe Barnes & Noble (in Lincoln, NE) on Saturday, March 1st, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Copies of his new Dana book and the earlier Slocum book will be available, so come on by and get your signed copy, or just hang out and say hi, get a cup of coffee, maybe buy some books or magazines. We're looking forward to seeing everyone who can make it! Can't be there? Get your copy here. Or that OTHER dot-com, if you must. 

Early Reviews:
Stephen M. Buhler
Rod Scher is an ideally informative and amiable companion as he follows Dana on his exciting and exhausting voyage—he places Dana fully in his time and place, offering historical and cultural contexts for the writer's experiences, observations, and expressions. Scher knows how to inspire a sense of historical imagination in his readers, without forgetting who we are now. Scher can be proud of his own achievement in bringing such factual detail and humane judgment to this edition.
Patricia Wood
An enjoyable and fascinating look at a [classic]. The modern reader navigating Dana’s story is given a global view in retrospect, which adds much to Dana’s narrative and offers a glimpse of the views and opinions of that time and place. Scher’s The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast takes a classic tome and repackages it with seafaring terms defined and historical references in place, thereby transforming it into a gripping tale for any avid sailor, history buff, or literary aficionado to enjoy.
E. Michael Jackson
Rod Scher has done it again, this time with his brilliant annotation . . . . Scher’s annotation reopened this classic for me. This is a careful and thoughtful work, never dry and often with a subtle twist of humor, yet always sensitive to Dana’s themes. Reading this annotation brings young Dana’s chronicle into sharp, poignant relief in an almost new and very exciting way.

February 22, 2014

Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
2014 Ballantine Books (imprint of Random House)
Finished on 11/21/13
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place comes a new memoir that examinees the bond—sometimes nourishing, sometimes exasperating, occasionally divine—between mothers and daughters.

When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly, who left childhood sure that her mom—with her inviolable commandments and proud stoicism—would forever remain her father’s understudy.

After college, Kelly took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting. But soon after savings dwindled, and she realized she needed a job. That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny. And there, in that house in a suburb north of Sydney, she suddenly heard her mother’s voice everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and direction, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked.

This is a book about the differences between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it’s about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

I discovered Kelly Corrigan’s early prose several years ago when I stumbled upon her website (Circus of Cancer), while scouring the Internet for information about my youngest brother’s cancer. Shortly thereafter, I got an ARC of The Middle Place and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kelly was the author. I found myself completely absorbed in this memoir, marking passages and nodding my head in agreement. A few years later, I did the exact same thing with Kelly’s poignant new book, Lift, which I read twice in two weeks. I became a big fan and started following Corrigan’s blog and watching her YouTube videos, eager for a new book to add to my collection. I have now read all three of Kelly Corrigan’s memoirs and they each have spoken to me about various aspects of my own life. I can hear her voice in my head as I read and, as with her YouTube clips, her memoirs make me laugh out loud in one instant and bring tears to my eyes in another. As her editor states in her letter to readers at the beginning of the ARC for Glitter and Glue:
Here’s the thing about Kelly Corrigan: You can’t read her books without wanting to be her best friend. It’s just that simple. As soon as you turn this page, you’ll see what I mean. It’s like the best of all magic tricks, the way she puts readers under her spell, and it doesn’t take long. One minute, you’re starting a new book, and the next, it’s as if you’re sitting across the table from the author, listening to her tell her story over a cup of coffee.

I wish I lived in Manhattan Beach, California. Not only do I have family there (and it’s on the beach!), but I could have had the chance to meet Kelly today at Pages A Bookstore (which is less than half a mile from my aunt’s house!) where Kelly was having a book signing. This past week, she was at The Tattered Cover in Denver (almost close enough!) and Santaluz Country Club in San Diego (where I have more family and friends). Next month she'll be in Dallas (at the Highland United Methodist Church), which is where my daughter lives. Somehow, I doubt she’ll be in Nebraska anytime soon.

But back to the new book, which I actually read three months ago. (Yes, I am still trying to catch-up…) I was hooked from the first page, reading slowly, savoring it as long as possible. As a daughter, and also the mother of a grown daughter, I enjoyed all the passages about Kelly and her mom, once again finding myself nodding in agreement as I read. The majority of the memoir focuses on Kelly’s time as a nanny to a family in Australia and while I enjoyed that part of the narrative, I longed for more about mothers and daughters. I guess it’s time to re-read Lift!

Take a look at Kelly’s most recent YouTube clips about Glitter and Glue here and here. This is also a favorite.

You can find my reviews for The Middle Place and Lift here and here.

February 13, 2014


Vilma Reading a Book, 1912
Tavik Frantisek Simon

Today marks the 8th anniversary of Prairie Horizons (previously known as Lesley's Book Nook). On previous anniversaries, I talked about this wonderful community of book bloggers and how much I value my friendships with each and every one of you. I also talked about the books I've read over the years and offered gift cards to show my appreciation for your loyal readership. This year I was going to list my favorite book for each year of blogging, but as I looked back over my Top Ten lists, I realized that there is no way I can narrow that selection down to merely eight titles. Honestly! Could you?!

So, instead of giving you less than a dozen of my favorite titles, you're going to get a whopping 50. That's right. 50 of my favorite books read in 8 years. How's that for a recommendation list? ;) In no particular order, here they are:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Laskas

Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik

Dispatches From the Edge by Anderson Cooper

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

In the Woods by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French

The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (print & audio)

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (print & audio)

Mudbound by Hilary Jordan

Lift by Kelly Corrigan

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen 

Faithful Place by Tana French

World Without End by Ken Follett (audio)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (audio)

Room by Emma Donoghue

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (audio)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (audio)

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (audio)

Gone by Mo Hayder

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Little Princes by Conor Grennan (audio)

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (audio)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audio)

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan

Broken Harbor by Tana French

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin (audio)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Replay by Ken Grimwood

As usual, you can find my reviews by clicking on the links.

These are all amazing books, my friends. Some are very well-known and popular, but there are quite a few hidden gems that I hope you take time to read. Thank you all for your recommendations. Without you, I may never have discovered these fantastic books.

I'd also like to say thank you to all the remarkable authors who have taken the time to either send me private emails or leave comments on my posts. It's always a thrill to hear from an writer and even more so to have an exchange of messages over the years. Each and every one of you in the above list have left an indelible mark on my soul through your writing and I am so thankful for your talent, your wisdom, and your dedication to your craft.

I typically read 50 books a years, so maybe I should take a year off from all the new releases and re-read each of these books. I would certainly be guaranteed a year of fabulous reading, wouldn't I? Not to mention a year off from reviewing. ;)

February 12, 2014

Bird's-Eye View (II)

I've never been a fan of gazing out the window while flying, but now that I can take photos, I can't wait to get up in the sky! We had such clear weather when we flew to Oregon in December and I wound up taking dozens of photos. Wish I knew where we were for all of them. These were all shot with my phone and I plan to use my real camera next time around.

Near Las Vegas


Looks like snow, but it's actually fog.


Click on photo for larger view.

February 8, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple
2012 Hachette Audio
Reader: Kathleen Wilhoite
Finished on 11/17/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Author’s Blurb:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle – and people in general – has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence – creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a daughter’s unflinching love for her imperfect mother.

I love epistolary novels and I wish I had taken the time to peruse the print edition of this novel rather than jumping right into the audio version when it appeared in my library queue. Listening to every detail of an email, fax, memo, police report and TED talk becomes tedious and interrupts the flow of the narrative; after all, most people skim right over those aspects of a printed document.

However, Bernadette’s rants about the Pacific Northwest (and Microsoft) are hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud, thankful that I was at work, pretty much alone, although I do recall the cleaning lady giving me strange looks every once in a while. ;)

Final Thoughts:

While I enjoyed Semple’s snarky humor, this quirky novel was a bit too annoying (and even sad) at times and in the end turned out to be a “meh” read. Good, but not great.

February 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday


A sun dog (or sundog), mock sun or phantom sun, scientific name parhelion (plural parhelia), is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun.

Sundogs may appear as a colored patch of light to the left or right of the sun, 22° distant and at the same distance above the horizon as the sun, and in ice halos. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but they are not always obvious or bright. Sundogs are best seen and are most conspicuous when the sun is low. (Wikipedia)

Click on photo for larger view.

February 2, 2014

A Fatal Grace

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series #2
2007 Blackstone Audio
Reader: Ralph Cosham
Finished on 10/24/13
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Welcome back to Three Pines, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas… and murder.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate a woman’s murder, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that no love was lost on the victim. But even if everyone hated her—her husband, lover, and daughter among them—how is it that no one saw her get electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake in the center of town?

Gamache digs beneath the surface of Three Pines to find where the real secrets are buried. But other troubles like ahead for the detective. It seems he has some enemies of his own… and with the coming of the bitter Northern winter winds, something far more chilling is in store.

Louise Penny has quite a following. She has written nine books in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and her fans eagerly await each new installment. I read the first in the series (Still Life), and later listened to that same story on audio to reacquaint myself with the cast of characters before moving forward and reading this book. I decided to continue with the series on audio rather than the print version and while I enjoyed the book, it took me almost three weeks to finish. Unlike the psychological thrillers I enjoy listening to, the books in this cozy series are more serene, and I found my mind wandering as I listened while I worked. At one point, I had to go back and listen to a chapter a second time to sort out some of the details, and I found that if I didn’t listen over the weekend, I had to backtrack once again to refresh my memory.

Final Thoughts:

I haven’t given up on Louise Penny and Armand Gamache, but I do think I’ll wait until I have more time to settle into the print versions. These books might be better read over the course of just a few days rather than an entire month!