July 30, 2017


Gemini by Carol Cassella
2014 Simon & Schuster
Finished on November 18, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In Seattle, an unidentified and unconscious accident victim is admitted to Dr. Charlotte Reese's intensive care unit. As Jane Doe's condition worsens, Charlotte finds herself becoming increasingly consumed by her patient's plight, both medical and personal. Who is this woman? Why will no one claim her? Who should decide her fate if she doesn't regain consciousness--and when? Charlotte is forced to confront these issues head on--especially when her boyfriend, Eric, a science journalist, becomes involved. In their pursuit of the truth, in their quest for solutions, Charlotte and Eric find their relationship put to the test. It is only when they open their hearts to their own feelings toward each other--and toward life itself--that Charlotte and Eric will unlock Jane Doe's shocking secret.

Filled with intricate medical detail and set in the breathtaking Pacific Northwest, Gemini is a vivid novel of moral complexity and emotional depth from the bestselling author of Oxygen and Healer.

Gemini has some of my favorite elements that make for a great read: a detailed medical drama, a decent mystery, and a Pacific Northwest setting (Seattle, Bainbridge Island, and Port Townsend, in particular). What is it that we readers so love about a book that explores a familiar region, whether it's one we've visited or in which we've resided? The familiarity? The desire for some armchair travel? While I love discovering new locations in the books I read, it is those that are familiar that make me happiest.
If it was terrible weather for sailing, it was perfect for crossing the sound. The sun was still low on the eastern horizon and every riffle of water flashed a silver-blue mirror. The triangle of Mount Baker pierced the northern haze and the snowy dome of Mount Rainier shouldered the south, like two great pillars holding sea and sky apart for life to play out between them. It made Charlotte feel insignificant and grand all the same time, so impermanent in the vast landscape that it was blindingly obvious the only way to matter at all was to cling to every moment even as you leaped into the next.
The docking announcement sounded overhead and they walked back to the car; the hold was chilly and dark and Charlotte turned the heated seat on until they were out on the road and back in the sun. They drove across Bainbridge Island and the small Agate Pass Bridge, which connected it to the peninsula, then half an hour later crossed the massive Hood Canal Bridge, hinged in the middle for the passage of nuclear submarines heading from the Bangor submarine base. The land in this corner of the country was splattered in channels and islands like a messy afterthought or creation. Charlotte had lived in the Northwest all her life and couldn't memorize the puzzle of earth and ocean, only the names of the few towns and beaches that attracted summer tourists and their money. She and Eric should have taken some weekends here, gone hiking or to one of the lodges on the coast. There just never seemed to be enough time. Here and there a finger of tribal land touched the highway, marked by fireworks stands and pickup trucks advertising fresh-caught salmon and fresh-dug clams. Deeper into the peninsula the air was ripe and the stench and dairy cows and horses where massive barns loomed over modest homes. Then the clutter of the town began, sparse at first-- a nest of abandoned cars, a small grocery , a bar, a hamburger stand.  

I loved this novel just as much as Oxygen, which also grabbed me from the opening pages. I was able to figure out part of the mystery early on, but it wasn't until I almost finished that I learned the reason for Renee's hospitalization. It took me three weeks to read the book, but through no fault of the author. I was simply too distracted with the election and work to concentrate on much of anything. (Yes, this is a long overdue review!) I'm looking forward to reading Healer and anything else Cassella writes.

About the Author:

Carol Cassella, M.D., is a practicing anesthesiologist, novelist, and speaker. She majored in English literature at Duke University and attended Baylor College of Medicine. She is the bestselling author of the novels Oxygen and Healer. Carol lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, with her husband and two sets of twins. Visit the author at CarolCassella.com.

Click here to read my review for Oxygen.

July 28, 2017

Looking Back - How To Live In the Heartland

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

How to Live in the Heartland by Twyla Hansen
1992 Flatwater Editions
Finished in March 1997
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

My Original Notes (1997):

Poetry by a horticulturist, living in Lincoln, working at Nebraska Wesleyan. Poems deal with childhood, adulthood, and aging with respect to life on a farm and in small towns. Familiar settings (9-Mile Prairie, I-80, prairie). Issues dealing with fertility, sensuality, sexuality, instinct, family, cycles of life. Not difficult to understand, yet the poems don't rhyme or sound melodic. Not bad, yet none struck me as great.

My Current Thoughts:

I still own a copy of this collection, so I decided to thumb through the pages and see if I could find a couple of favorite poems. Sadly, only one sparked any joy, which was disappointing as I had hoped to find several that might remind me of Nebraska, home to me for almost 25 years.

Nine-Mile Prairie, Mid-May

out here on a hilltop
you discover
how brief sunset lasts
watching the red ball
sink into the dust
shadows paling
the flat-chested hills
now knitted in green

down in the gullies
cool willows and elms
thicken with gnats
birds scatter
bedding down the day
the gradual loss of light
slowing all things
to still-life

toward moonrise
deer step out of hiding
owls sweep their prey
bullfrogs chant in mud
in step with the breeze
bluestems rise and fall
cottonwoods rattle
wild indigos bloom

each day the repetition
of sun and wind and sun
you feel it breathe
from the bottom
of its deepest roots
this tallgrass relict
exhales its stored-up heat
back to the stars

About the Author:

Twyla Hansen was born and raised in northeast Nebraska. She was raised on the farm her grandparents had purchased as immigrants from Denmark in the late 1880s. Hansen earned her BS in horticulture and MA in agroecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including How to Live in the Heartland (1992), Sanctuary Near Salt Creek (2001), and Potato Soup (2003), which won the Nebraska Book Award for poetry. Hansen collaborated with rancher and writer Linda Hasselstrom on the collection Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (2011); the book won the Nebraska Book Award in poetry and was a finalist for the Willa Literary Award and the High Plains Book Award. 

Hansen’s writing has appeared widely in periodicals and anthologies. She is a creative writing presenter through the Speakers Bureau of the Nebraska Humanities Council. In 2013, Hansen was appointed Nebraska State Poet. She lives and works in Lincoln, Nebraska.

July 26, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Great Dune (elev. 220 feet)
 at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
View to the south to Cascade Head
View to the north to Cape Lookout
 and Tierra del Mar
Pacific City, Oregon
July 25, 2017

Click on images for larger view

July 22, 2017

My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
2016 Random House Audio
Read by Kimberly Farr
Finished on October 21, 2016
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.

After reading Bellezza's glowing review for My Name Is Lucy Barton, I knew I had to give it a chance, in spite of my disappointment in The Burgess Boys (which I did not finish). I read Amy and Isabelle many years ago, and more recently Olive Kitteridge, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit. I wish I could echo Meredith's praise for this particular book, but it failed to move me, even after listening to the audio, which I started as soon as I finished the print edition. I can't remember the last time I did that, but I really wanted to give it another chance since Meredith loved it so much. My Name Is Lucy Barton was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, BookPage, and LibraryReads. I am obviously in the minority, as I barely gave it an average rating. 

July 21, 2017

Looking Back - Yonnondio: From the Thirties

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Yonnondio: From the Thirties by Tillie Olsen
1980 Virago (first published in 1974)
Finished in March 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Yonnondio follows the heartbreaking path of the Holbrook family in the late 1920s and the Great Depression as they move from the coal mines of Wyoming to a tenant farm in western Nebraska, ending up finally on the kill floors of the slaughterhouses and in the wretched neighborhoods of the poor in Omaha, Nebraska. Mazie, the oldest daughter in the growing family of Jim and Anna Holbrook, tells the story of the family's desire for a better life – Anna's dream that her children be educated and Jim's wish for a life lived out in the open, away from the darkness and danger of the mines. At every turn in their journey, however, their dreams are frustrated, and the family is jeopardized by cruel and indifferent systems.

My Original Notes (1997):

Another very good book, but bleak and depressing. Written very poetically. Reminded me of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Man vs. industrial "monster." De-humanizing. Very harsh.

Set during the Depression.

My Current Thoughts:

I haven't a clue what this book was about, other than what I read of the publisher's blurb. Not exactly memorable.

About the Author:

Tillie Lerner was born on a tenant farm in Nebraska, the second of six children of Samuel and Ida Lerner, Russian Jewish immigrants who left their homeland after their involvement in the failed 1905 revolution. She grew up in Omaha where her father worked as a painter and paperhanger and served as State Secretary in the Nebraska Socialist Party. Tillie was strongly influenced by her parents' revolutionary heritage and by their humanistic and socialist beliefs. From a young age Tillie was a voracious reader, and though she dropped out of high school after the 11th grade ending her "formal" education, in her words, "public libraries were my sustenance and my college." (from the author's website)

July 19, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Depoe Bay, Oregon
July 18, 2017

Click on images for larger view.

July 16, 2017

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
2016 MacMillan Audio
Read by Georgia Maguire
Finished on October 21, 2016
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)

Publisher's Blurb:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Behind Closed Doors is a suspenseful, unputdownable thriller that grabs you from the opening pages and doesn't let you go, even after you have long finished! I looked for every excuse to find time to listen to this book. It's compelling, chilling, disturbing and menacing; everything I like in a thriller. I hated Jack, who is the classic evil wolf in sheep's clothing. The tension in this book is evenly paced and while I found myself holding my breath, fearful of each dark corner, I had to stick with it and see if the ending was satisfying. Maybe not a happily-ever-after, but not ambiguous either. I tried to think of why I shouldn't give this a perfect rating and couldn't come up with a thing, other than the absence of lyrical passages. For this genre, though, that isn't one of my requirements, so... 5/5 stars!

Georgia Maguire is the perfect reader for this audio. Her accent, as well the tremor in her voice when Grace was frightened, made me believe everything that was happening was REALLY happening. It seems strange to say that I loved a book that involves such an evil, sadistic character, but I was spellbound and couldn't wait to return to the audio. The storyline and characters invaded my dreams and I still find myself thinking about the book and Grace's situation after all these months. Behind Closed Doors is one of the best psychological thrillers I've read. Fans of Sleeping with the Enemy (remember that creepy movie with Julia Roberts?!), Girl on the Train, and Gone Girl will not be disappointed. Intense!

July 12, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Gleneden Beach, Oregon

This is pretty much how I've been feeling for the past two months!

Click on image for full size version.

July 5, 2017

Heading West - Day Five

Day Five:

Pendleton, Oregon to Depoe Bay, Oregon
326 miles
5.5 hours
Sunny until we hit the coast.

Click on photos for larger view.

Eastern Oregon looks a lot like Nebraska.

Tree farms

First glimpse of the Columbia River.

Mt. Hood

The Dalles Bridge and Dam

Doppio Coffee in Hood River

Quick stop at Multnomah Falls. We'll return when we have more time to spare.

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Willamette Valley

D River Beach, Lincoln City. Almost home!

This could wait until morning!

July 2, 2017

New Name!

Now that we've moved to the coast, Prairie Horizons doesn't really work for this blog anymore, so I'm trying out a new name. Since I'm posting about our adventures, as well as books, I decided not to use Lesley's Book Nook, either (although that remains in my URL with Blogger). I was also going to add "fish tacos, brews, and chasing sunsets," but that got too wordy and was voted down by my husband. :) We're picking up our Canadian 19 foot Escape travel trailer in August, so that's where the backroads come in. Lots of road trips on the horizon! So, unless I change my mind in the next day or two, you're now reading Coastal Horizons... books, beaches, and backroad adventures. I hope you enjoy all that I plan to share in the coming months. 

Rod & I are settling in to our new home and community and loving retired life (although we've never been so busy!). I hope to share more pictures in the coming weeks, but here are just a few from yesterday. We volunteered to help clean up our private cove, which gets a lot of driftwood from the winter storms. It was a lot of fun and a great way to meet more neighbors.