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June 29, 2014

Landline



Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Fiction
2014 St. Martin’s Press
Finished on 4/7/14
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
ARC – Book on sale July 8, 2014



Publisher’s Blurb:

When Georgie McCool tells her husband she can’t spare the time away from work to visit his family at Christmas, she never expects him to pack up the kids and go without her. Maybe she should have expected that. Maybe Neal, who’s always a little bit mad at Georgie, has finally had enough. Alone with her memories and unsure of their future, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but it might be an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts… But what if Georgie and Neal would be better off if they never got married at all?

Rainbow Rowell inspired the young-adult world with Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and now she delivers that same fresh humor and heart with a thirty something love story that will resonate with everyone.


It is very rare that I read more than one or two books by a single author in any given year. As it turns out, I read three of Rainbow Rowell’s novels within a nine month span, so that must tell you something about how much I enjoy her writing. I adored her teen sensation, Eleanor & Park, and I was so pleased that her novel Attachments was just as entertaining. I was very excited when one of my co-workers shared her ARC of Landline with me and I dove right into it on my trip out to Oregon this past spring. It’s a good read, but not nearly as impressive these other two books of hers. I felt like the whole premise for communicating with a younger Neal was a silly plot device and so implausible that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough to thoroughly enjoy the storyline. I also think it would’ve have been nice to get Neal’s point of view, as we did with Park, in Eleanor & Park. Nonetheless, my heartstrings were gently tugged and I might have even cried as I read the final pages, had I not been sitting on an airplane, surrounded by strangers.

Final Thoughts:

Rainbow Rowell is definitely an author to keep tabs on. While her latest novel fell short of my expectations, I still plan to read Fangirl and will anxiously await her next release.

Click here to read my review of Eleanor & Park.

Click here to read my review of Attachments.

June 27, 2014

{this moment}

~ A Friday ritual ~
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

..........



June 26, 2014

How I Spent My Spring Vacation

Remember this?

 Spring Reading


Well, I don't think I did too poorly. I managed to read more than I thought I would, given that spring is usually a very busy time of year around here. I had a couple of trips out to Oregon (and other than the flights to and from, I rarely spend any time reading while on vacation), several pots to fill with pretty flowers, weeds to pull, a porch and deck to scrub, windows to wash, friends to entertain... did I mention the weeds?  I even managed to squeeze in a couple of bike rides.

So, what did I read from this lovely stack? In no particular order:

1. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Blunt (review pending, but it was very, very good!)

2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell (review pending)

3. The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes (review pending)

I also read four or five other books that weren't in this stack and I started All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is AMAZING!

Now to put together my summer reading list. I hope to spend my weekends relaxing out on the deck, ignoring the weeds and piddly housework. We have a young houseguest arriving a week from Saturday and a short getaway trip to Kansas City toward the end of July, but other than that, I should have plenty of time for reading, as well as catching up on my reviews, blog-hopping, and getting out on the bike trails. Yes, I am ever the optimist! ;)


June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday





Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
May 2014


Click on photo for larger image.

June 23, 2014

On What Grounds



On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
Coffeehouse Mysteries, #1
Mystery
2003 Berkley Publishing Group
Finished on 4/11/14
Rating: 3/5 (Good)




Coffee makes a sad man cheerful; a languourous man, active; a cold man, warm; a warm man, glowing; a debilitated man, strong. It intoxicates, without inviting the police; it excites a flow of spirits, and it awakens mental powers thought to be dead... When coffee is bad, it is the wickedest thing in town; when good, the most glorious. When it has lost its aromatic flavor and appeals no more to the eye, smell or taste, it is fierie; but when left in a sick room, with the lid off, it fills the room with a fragrance only jacqueminots can rival. The very smell of coffee in a sick room terrorizes death. (John Ernest McCann, 1902 Coffee Almanac)


Publisher’s Blurb:

Clare Cosi used to manage the historic Village Blend coffeehouse…until she opted for quieter pastures and a more suburban life. But after ten years and a little friendly cajoling from the owner (a fresh pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain was all it took), she’s back to the grind, serving coffee and solving crime—one cup at a time…

With a sprawling rent-free apartment directly above The Village Blend, her cat Java by her side, and plenty of coffeehouse redecorating ideas, Clare is thrilled to return to work. Until she discovers the assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere. Police arrive on the scene to investigate. But when they find no sign of forced entry or foul play, they deem it an accident. Case closed. But Clare is not convinced. And after the police leave, there are a few things she just can’t get out of her mind… Why was the trash bin in the wrong place? If this wasn’t an accident, is Clare in danger? And…are all detectives this handsome?


Once upon a time, many years ago (long before the advent of Starbucks and Keurig machines) I used to drink Folgers coffee. Nothing fancy, just black with one packet of Sweet & Low. Actually, I think I started drinking Yuban, but I haven’t seen that brand in at least 20 years. In any event, I bought coffee in a large tin can, which required a can opener, as opposed to the “newer” plastic containers with the peel-off seal.

My husband and I rely heavily on our 2-cup mornings before heading off to work and when we were drinking that particular blend, we thought it was good. Well, decent, but much better than the industrial strength pots that were brewed (and left to sit far too long on the burner) at work. Many years later (and after switching from Sweet & Low to Splenda), I was served the most delicious cup of coffee, brewed with fresh ground Kona beans. I suddenly realized what I’d been missing. Out with the 3 lb. container of Folgers and in with a coffee bean grinder and fresh beans from The Mill, a local coffee house here in town. We’d become sophisticated coffee drinkers!

I rarely drink coffee after I’ve had my two cups at home, but every so often, when I need just a little pick-me-up, I indulge in something decadent from the cafĂ© at my bookstore. My favorite coffee treat is a Salted Caramel Mocha, but it’s a seasonal drink, so I usually just get a Mocha. However, a few years ago my husband and I discovered Americanos and we’ve found a couple of coffee shops that make this simple, yet delicious cup of coffee. Who knew coffee could taste so good?!

In addition to improving our taste in coffee over the years, we’ve also upgraded our method for brewing that perfect cup. We’ve gone from our 1980’s Mr. Coffee (which I didn’t know how to use, but owned just in case we ever had company!) to a variety of coffee makers, including a Cuisinart Grind & Brew and a Melitta “pour-over-cup” brew cone. But now we feel like we own the Cadillac of coffee makers. Our Keurig not only gives us a perfectly brewed individual cup of coffee, but it allows us to choose our own favorite blend or flavor, ready to drink in far less time than it takes to brew an entire pot.

 
So, what does all this have to do with books? Well, after reading several glowing reviews for Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries on Nan’s blog, I decided to give On What Grounds a try. The book was merely ok, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn a few tricks of the coffee trade while reading this mystery. For instance…

On the Perfect Cup:
The perfect cup of coffee is a mystifying thing.

To many of my customers, the entire process seems like some sort of alchemy they dare not try at home.

If the beans are Robusta rather than Arabica, the roasting time too long or short, the filtering water too hot or cold, the grinds too finely or coarsely milled, the brew allowed to sit too long—any of it can harm the end product. Vigilance is what gets you that perfect cup—vigilance and stubbornness in protecting the quality.

On Espresso:
Stovetop espresso pots usually come in three-,six-, and nine-cup models. Using one is quite simple. First you unscrew the bottom of the pot and fill the base with water, up to the small steam spout. Then grind whole beans. (The Blend uses one heaping tablespoon of grounds for every 3 ounces of water.)

The term espresso refers to the method of brewing and not to the bean so a quality bean will give you a good cup, and the Village Blend suggest a dark roast like French or Italian.

Grind them into fine particles, but be careful not to overgrind. Beans ground too fine, into a powder, will make the brew bitter.

Once the proper amount is ground, place the grinds in the little basket provided with the machine, tamp it down tightly. The basket will sit above the water as you screw on the top part of the pot.

Next place the pot over low heat. In a few minutes, the water will boil. Steam will rapidly force the water up through the grounds and into the empty pot, filling it almost instantly.

On Storage:

Whenever I walk into a kitchen and see beans stored in a clear glass jar on the countertop, I shudder. Exposure to light will affect the beans’ freshness and the coffee will lose its flavor.

I shudder twice as violently when I see storage directions on some of those inferior grocery store coffee brands. They actually tell you to “Store your coffee in the refrigerator,” implying you should simply take the bag you just bought at the store, open it, and put it in the fridge to be retrieved daily. Big mistake!

When the storage bag or container is removed from the refrigerator or freezer for daily use, it exposes the coffee to moisture in the air. The container then goes back in the freezer or fridge, and the moisture condenses and ruins the coffee.

A refrigerator or freezer should be used for long-term storage only. A vacuum-sealed bag, for example, can be placed in the fridge or freezer and opened only when ready to be used. But once the bag is opened, the beans should be transferred to a proper container, and not returned to the fridge or freezer.

Also
Do buy fresh roasted coffee often and buy only what you will use in the next one or two weeks since the fresh smell and taste of coffee begin to decline almost immediately after roasting.

On Melitta Brewing:

[…]Water for the Melitta method should be heated just to boiling[…]

The trick with a Melitta is to pour slowly and stir, allowing the water to seep smoothly through the layers of grinds and into the carafe without channeling up. And of course, one must use a cone-shaped filter. Flat-bottom filters of any sort should be outlawed in my opinion, as they require more beans per fluid ounce of water to get the same strength of brew. Flat bottoms dissipate. Cones concentrate, saving beans and consequently costs[…]

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed reading On What Grounds, but I can’t say that I loved it, nor am I sure I want to read further along in this series. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of “cozy” mysteries, preferring a more intense thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat, heart racing. However, now that I’ve met the main cast of characters, I’m a bit curious to see what’s in store for Clare and the men in her life. And, there’s always the coffee-making tips and recipes to drool over!

June 20, 2014

{this moment}

 ~ A Friday ritual ~
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

.......... 



June 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday








Depoe Bay, Oregon
2014

Click on link for more information about this annual event.
Click on photos for larger view.

June 7, 2014

Birdman




Birdman by Mo Hayder
Jack Caffery Series #1
Mystery/Thriller
2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC (audio)
Reader: Damien Goodwin
Finished on 4/1/14
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)



Overview

Your worst nightmare is his dream come true....

A relentless debut novel filled with cutting-edge forensic and investigative detail, Birdman marks the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.

Detective Jack Caffery—young, driven, and seemingly unshockable—catches a career-making or career-breaking homicide in his first case as lead investigator with London's crack murder squad. A young woman's body has been discovered, dumped on wasteland near the Millennium Dome site in Greenwich, England. It's the most brutal degradation of the human form that the squad has ever uncovered. Caffery's well-deserved reputation is that of the most stoic of detectives, but his initial inspection of the corpse will forever sear his psyche.

One by one, four more corpses are discovered only steps away from the first. Five bodies, all young women, all ritualistically murdered with cunning precision. And when a postmortem examination reveals a singular, macabre signature linking the victims, Caffery realizes that he's facing the most dangerous offender known to the force: a sexual serial killer.

In the murky recesses of his own mind, Caffery harbors the haunting legacy of a loved one's slaying. What baffles him is that not a single missing person's report has been filed for any of the five young women. How has the Birdman chosen these seemingly perfect victims?

Now, as he employs every weapon forensic science can offer, Caffery knows that time is running out before the killer strikes again, and that he must put away his tortured past in order to safeguard the Birdman's next prey.

With refined craft and beguiling imagination, Mo Hayder is certain to skip the hearts of the most demanding readers of crime fiction.

It’s been almost exactly two years since I first read Mo Hayder’s intense thriller, Gone. I am very particular about reading a series in order, but when one of my friends insisted I read Gone, and not knowing it was the fifth in the series, I dove in. Looking back, I probably couldn’t have started with Birdman, as it wasn’t yet available in the U.S., but now that Mo Hayder has gained popularity over on this side of the pond, I can easily catch up on her backlist, as well her latest release, Wolf.

I read the print format of Gone, but decided to listen to Birdman when I saw it was available at my library. Damien Goodwin does a fine job as a reader and I was quickly transported Jack Caffrey’s modern-day England. The narrative kept my interest and while it’s been almost three months (!!) since I finished this thriller, I can still envision many scenes quite clearly.

Final Thoughts: Mo Hayder and Tana French have become my go-to authors when I’m looking for a fast-paced thriller. Both audio and print versions of these authors’ series work well for me, but I gravitate more toward the audios since they don’t require a lot of concentration and I can work while listening (or helping to fly an Airbus jet, even if only mentally!).

Click here to read my review of Gone.