Wednesday, August 31, 2011

R.I.P. VI

I'm Weak - A Favorite Fall Challenge
It's one of my most favorite times of the year, partially because of Carl@ Stainless Steel Droppings -  RIP Challenge! This is the 6th RIP Challenge (my 4th year participating). The challenge runs from September 1- October 31....right up until Halloween. 
RIP stands for Readers Imbibing Peril and there are many "perils" (or levels) to choose from. I try to make this one easy on myself since it only lasts (2) months, so I've chosen: 

  •  Peril the First: Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (my very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.
  • Possible Choices:
  1. Darkness, My Old Friend; Lisa Unger - 4/5 (audio)
  2. Duma Key; Stephen King - 4/5
  3. Those Across the River; Christopher Buehlman - 4/5 
  4. The Night Strangers; Chris Bohjalian 4/5
  5. A Trick of the Light; Louise Penny - 4/5 (audio)
Won't you consider adding a bit of madness into your life this Fall??

August in Review - What a Month!


August was a month to remember on the East Coast!
Wondering just what September has in store?

I have mixed feelings as we move into September, and wave the warmer weather away.  I enjoyed summer, but love the current 75-80 degree temps (no humidity) and 55 degree nights with no AC on.  I feel blessed to have survived an earthquake and a  hurricane tropical storm ~ unscathed. Our hearts go out to those who suffered any losses as a result.

In August I did enjoy watching a variety of birds at our new feeders from my deck, and LOVED having time off from work to enjoy the nice weather (we did have an extra nice summer for the most part).

I had a fun month with the books that I read in August as well.  I read (11) books and reviewed (9) so far.
  1. Mice; Gordon Reece 3.5/5  
  2. Alice Bliss; Laura Harrington - 4.5/5 (review) 
  3. Save Me; Lisa Scottoline  - 2/5 (audio)
  4. A Good School; Richard Yates - 4/5 
  5. Fallen; Karin Slaughter - 4/5 (audio) 
  6. A Good Hard Look; Ann Napolitano - 5/5 (review) 
  7. The Lost Daughter; Elena Ferrante - 4.5/5 
  8. Child Wonder; Roy Jacobson - 4.5/5 (review)
  9. Maine; J. Courtney Sullivan - 4.5/5 (audio)
Read but not Yet Reviewed 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Favorite  Fiction Book - A Good Hard Look; Ann Napolitano  - 5/5 
  • Favorite Audio Book -  Maine; J. Courtney Sullivan (4.5/5) 
  • New authors -   6/9- YTD - 57/84
  • Review Books - 6/9 -YTD - 39/84
  • 5 star books - 1/9 -   YTD - 21/84
  • 4 star books - 6/9-    YTD - 51/84
  • 3 star books - 1/9 -   YTD - 8/84
  • 2 star books - 1/9-    YTD - 3/84
~~~~~ Challenge Progress ~~~~~
  • 100+ Reading Challenge - 84/100
  • Reading From My Shelves Project - 41/50
  • Audio Book Challenge - 23/20 - COMPLETED
  • eBook Challenge - 8/20
  • Europa Challenge - 2/4
  September Reading Plans
How was your month for books?

Waiting on Wednesday ~ The Invisible Ones; Stef Penney

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently...


January 5, 2012 - Putnam
(about the book)
Small-time private investigator Ray Lovell veers between paralysis and delirium in a hospital bed. But before the accident that landed him there, he'd been hired to find Rose Janko, the wife of a charismatic son of a traveling Gypsy family, who went missing seven years earlier. Half Romany himself, Ray is well aware that he's been chosen more for his blood than his investigative skills. Still, he's surprised by the intense hostility he encounters from the Jankos, who haven't had an easy past. Touched by tragedy, they're either cursed or hiding a terrible secret-whose discovery Ray can't help suspecting is connected to Rose's disappearance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GIVEAWAY ~ The Night Circus; Erin Morgenstern

Doubleday - September 13, 2011

I wanted to thank Jillian W. from Doubleday for offering me an ARC as a giveaway, of one of the most talked about, soon-to-be-released books.  Here's a description in case you are not familiar with the novel:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
-----------------------------------------------
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First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). This week's selection has my interest.  This week's pick is for a Read-A-Long with Jo@ BiblioJunkie. We'll be posting our reviews on September 15th in case you want to join in.
(historical romance)
" WHEN THE EAST WIND BLOWS UP HELFORD RIVER THE shining waters become troubled and disturbed and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores. The short seas break above the bar at ebb-tide, and the waders fly inland to mud-flats, their wings skimming the surface, and calling to one another as they go.  Only the gulls remain, wheeling and crying above the foam, diving now and again in search of food, their grey feathers glistening with the salt spray."
 (I have to admit that I wasn't wowed by this intro for some reason, however, 25 pages into it, I'm quite happy)  What do you think about the intro?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Our host for August is: Staci-Life in the Thumb
Past week's arrivals
Purchases

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene - Update

Sunday - 8/28/2011
7:00 pm - the worst seems to be over (except for wind - rain has stopped). Thankfully were fared much better than some people when know. No damage to our home that we can assess, no basement flooding or downed trees in our yard.  Thank you for your concern.  I feel terribly for those who experienced significant loses.

---------------------------------------------------
We are still doing okay here with Hurricane Irene as of 9:25 am on Sunday. Fingers crossed, prayers said. Thanks for all of your caring comments. I appreciate that.

-------------------------------------------
8/26/2011
Earthquake a few days ago, and now we are expected to be in the path of Hurricane Irene as well. My personality is pretty low key, but Mr. Bib by the Sea is Type A, so extra flashlights, water, food, pet supplies, 2 full tanks of gasoline have been purchased and tomorrow the patio furniture and plants will be taken indoors.

My biggest priority today was buying coffee and getting a pedicure and my hair done as I've been off for a few days. I mean "priorities right". If I can't get out for several days at least my toes and hair will be pretty!

Seriously, many parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are predicted to be right in the direct path of the hurricane - Sunday morning  is when we expect to head for the finished basement and hope for the best. Waves are expected to reach 20++ feet in some areas.  Many businesses have already announced closings through Tuesday.

As for us, we have huge pine trees very close to our deck and sliders, and also large palladium windows in our living room, so if trees come down, it could spell disaster.

If you don't see any posts from me after Saturday for a while, it may be that we have had major power outages. Our power company, called us already with a safety recording in preparation for Sunday's weather.

I will be thinking of you and hoping everyone will come out of this unharmed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Maine; J. Courtney Sullivan

Title: Maine
Author:  J. Courtney Sullivan
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House Audio
Edition: audio book and ARC
Reader: Ann Marie Lee (very good)
Source: Library and publisher
Date Completed: 8/23/2011 
Setting: Maine
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

As I'm sure you guessed, Maine, is the setting for J. Courtney Sullivan's latest book. Once a litle beach cottage, but now a  spectacular beach front home. The land was won by Daniel, the late husband of the novel's matriarch, Alice Kelliher, back in the 1940's.  Over a 60 year period the family shared both happy and sad times together at the beach house. However, after too many summers filled with family friction, the family started booking separate times for each to enjoy the summer home.

The story follows three generations of strong-willed women.  Alice, now 83, is packing up boxes at the summer home, with very specific plans in mind. Alice lives in Massachusetts most of the year. Her daughter Kathleen, lives in California. She's a worm farmer (yes that's right), and she moved clear across the country in the hopes of having fewer run-ins with her mother Alice.  There is also Maggie, daughter of Kathleen, granddaughter of Alice. She's a writer from New York.  The other woman is Anne-Marie, daughter-in-law of Alice, who is married to Alice's son Patrick.

Alice has a blunt and abrasive personality -- always calling things as she sees it. She's has some issues and secrets of her own, that she isn't anxious for her family to find out about.  But, Alice isn't the only one with issues, and secrets.  Kathleen is a former alcoholic, who doesn't get along with her sister-in-law Anne Marie.  Kathleen's daughter, Maggie is also harboring a secrets.  Anne-Marie is the family perfectionist, obsessed with everything about doll houses. She also is the family peace keeper, or at least tries to be. She tries to do everything well, but yet, she harbors secrets of her own.

This was a  very good audio book, with the great reader.  The characters were everyday people, with all their imperfections, each carrying a decent share of emotional baggage. Their issues were real as well: alcoholism, single parenthood, divorce, widowhood, loneliness, dating issues and even Catholic guilt.  The women in this book brought out the best and the worst in each other.  The chapters alternate between the perspectives of each woman, covering memories from as far back as 60 years to the present -- all over the course of one single summer.

This is a great book to read on the beach or one to pack in your suitcase for a warm-weather vacation.  I think many women will enjoy this one.

Saturday Snapshot ~ Shades of Red

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.
Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
This Week's Theme.....

Shades of Red
Male - House Finch 
(Finally found something squirrels hate)
Safflower seeds
Female Cardinal
Nervous Birds have never seen these at the feeder

Can anyone identify my deck plant? 
Trumpet Plant?? Climber, red, it's an annual

Friday, August 26, 2011

Child Wonder; Roy Jacobson

Title: Child Wonder
Author: Roy Jacobson
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Location: Norway
Date Completed: 8/25/2011 
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

It's the 1960's, and Little Finn is an 8 year-old boy who lives with his mother Gerd, in a working class area of Oslo. It's been just he and his mother for a while, since his parents divorced, and his father later died in an industrial accident. Finances were a problem, so his mother went to work part-time in a shoe store to help out. She later decides to take in a lodger for extra money and places an advertisement. One of individuals who sees the ad is Ingrid, a drug-addict, former wife to Finn's father. She has a 6 year-old daughter named Linda who seems, initially to have some sort of psychological or medical issues.
"Nothing was any use. Linda would just hold a pencil and write letters and draw, the tip of her tongue hanging out of the left corner of her mouth and her cheek pressed against the paper, so concentrated that there could be no doubt that she was on a journey into a world where either a Norwegian primary school nor bewildered half-brother or step-mothers could pursue her. Linda was not of this world, one day I would come to understand this --she was a Martian come down to earth to speak in tongues to heathens, to speak french to Norwegians and Russian to Americans. She was destiny, beauty and catastrophe. A bit of everything. Mother's mirror and Mother's childhood. All over again. The last remaining fragment of that which will never vanish. God must have had a purpose with her, a secret plan --but what?
Before long, not only will Finn and his mother have a lodger living with them -- a man named Kristian, who has a fascination with words and numbers. His half-sister Linda also moves in with them as well. Finn is intrigued by the new lodger who spends a lot of time alone in his room. He brought along a television when he moved in, which is a big deal for Finn and his mother. With Kristian and little Linda suddenly a part of their lives, everything changes dramatically for each of them. Gerd sees much of her own sad life as a child through Linda. She begins to give more and more attention to Linda who has issues of her own. Despite his mother pulling away from him and to Linda, Finn is extremely protective of his half-sister. When others tease and try to bully the girl Finn intervenes. Over the course of a summer, in Finn's world he becomes witness to some real issues of adulthood.

Child Wonder, is a wonderful story; it is both sad and uplifting all in one. Little Finn as narrator worked beautifully. He was extremely bright and keenly observant. I found it extremely heartfelt when he tried to take on the role of a protective, older brother. Initially, I had a bit of trouble with the translation, which slowed down the speed at which I would normally read, but after a while, I was so into the story, that I was happy for my slower pace. This is a story to savor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Until the Dawn's Light;Aharon Appelfeld

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently...

October 11, 2011 -Schocken
(amazon website)
From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer (?One of the best novelists alive? ?Irving Howe): a Jewish woman marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-century Austria, with disastrous results. —   — A high school honor student bound for university and a career as a mathematician, Blanca lives with her parents in a small town in Austria in the early years of the twentieth century. At school one day she meets Adolf, who comes from a family of peasant laborers. Tall and sturdy, plainspoken and uncomplicated, Adolf is unlike anyone Blanca has ever met. And Adolf is awestruck by beautiful, brilliant Blanca?even though she is Jewish. When Blanca is asked by school administrators to tutor Adolf, the inevitable happens: they fall in love. And when Adolf asks her to marry him, Blanca abandons her plans to attend university, converts to Christianity, and leaves her family, her friends, and her old life behind.

Almost immediately, things begin to go horribly wrong. Told in a series of flashbacks as Blanca and her son flee from their town with the police in hot pursuit, the tragic story of Blanca?s life with Adolf recalls a time and place that are no more but that powerfully reverberate in collective memory.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). This week's selection has my interest.
September 27, 2011-Graywolf Press
"It all started when Mother and I had some decorating to do.  That is, I painted the lowest part of the wall, as I was rather lacking in height--it was a struggle--while she stood on a kitchen chair and concentrated on the bit below the ceiling.  At that time it actually took several months to finish one wall. But one evening Fru Syversen came round, eyed our handiwork, her arms folded across her ample bosom, and said:
 "Why don't you try wallpaper, Gerd?"
Any thoughts on this opening paragraph? (I happen to love children as narrators, and ~ so far so good.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday - August 22

Our host for August is: Staci-Life in the Thumb
Past week's arrivals
These were Guilty Purchases
Hope you received lots of great books as well!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Lost Daughter; Elena Ferrante

Title: The Lost Daughter
Author: Elena Ferrante
Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Europa Editions
Edition: trade softcover
Source: personal collection
Location: Italy 
Date Completed: 8/20/2011 
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes
 
When I posted the intro to this book on Tuesday, several bloggers mentioned that the cover seemed creepy. Well let me just say, now that I've completed this book, the doll on the cover image is significant to the story, which is somewhat creepy as well.  That being said, I enjoyed this very different book, and think many of you might as well.

Leda is a 47 year-old divorced woman, and mother to daughters, Bianca and Marta, now 22 and 24. The girls have recently moved from Italy to Toronto, Canada to live with their father.  Leda is well educated and teaches at the university in Florence, Italy.  Leda was not upset when her daughters moved away, in fact it was quite the opposite:
"When my daughters moved to Toronto, where their father had lived and worked for years, I was embarrassed and amazed to discover that I wasn't upset; rather, I felt light, as if only then had I definitively brought them into the world. For the first time in almost twenty-five years I was not aware of the anxiety of having to take care of them. The house was neat, as if no one lived there, I no longer had the constant bother of shopping and doing the laundry, the woman who for years had helped with the household chores found a better paying job, and I felt no need to replace her."
It's summer and since she is feeling happy about her new freedom, Leda decides to rent a beach house for six weeks, on the Ionian coast, near Naples.  She packs her books and lesson plans for the coming school year and is planning to relax by lounging on the beach by day.

Early on she becomes fascinated by the interactions of an attractive young mother named Nina, and her young daughter, Elena. She also intently watches little Elena's interactions with her doll, which the girl calls by several different names.  Several other family members visit the family on the beach as well. One day Leda notices the child by the waters edge,  so she returns her to her mother who was lying on the beach blanket and hadn't noticed the child  had wandered to the water.  Another day when the family leaves the beach for the day, Leda notices that Elena's beloved doll was left buried in the sand. This incident upsets Leda, and suddenly this event, along with the interactions of mother and child, opens a floodgate of memories for Leda of her own days as a young mother.  Some of the incidents which she recalls of things she did, and ways she reacted to her own daughters --were cringe-worthy.

This brief novella, just 124 pages, is sure to evoke emotions among readers, especially mothers. Narrated in the first person, this deep journey into a mother's psyche, gives the reader plenty to think about. Marriage,  motherhood, personal freedom, sacrifice and career fulfillment are some of the conflicting issues that surface in this work.

Initially, I thought I might have a problem with the flow of the story due to the translation, but that was not the case. Once I got into the rhythm and into what was going on in Leda's head, I was hooked. I liked this one a lot, and would definitely recommend it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Snapshots - Shades of Brown


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.
Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
This Week's Theme.....
Shades of Brown
Libby - age 14
Once an indoor/outdoor cat and a terrific hunter, for the last (3) years she's been indoor only and still love to stalk mice (furry ones that smell like catnip - Very spry for her age. She does have (2) different color eyes since about the age of about (8), but it doesn't affect her vision. The vet says that sometimes happen with calico cats (something about the pigment).


Not sure of age, but I'm guessing young ~ he was pretty fearless and tiny.
My SIL's Dog - Mica
(he's about 3 and a puppy mill rescue from GA - very sweet)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Good Hard Look; Ann Napolitano

Title: A Good Hard Look
Author: Ann Napolitano
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Penguin
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Location: Georgia
Date Completed: 8/14/2011 
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes - Don't Miss it!

A Good Hard Look is an amazing story that just might be my favorite book of 2011.  The novel is a work of fiction, with author Flannery O'Connor as a main character during the last few years of her life.  A life cut short at 39, from complication of Lupus.

The story opens in the 1960's, to the sounds of many screeching peacocks, which belonged to Flannery O'Connor.  The author lives with her mother Regina on their farm Andalusia - Milledgeville, Georgia.  It is the evening before the wedding of Cookie Himmel, a southern belle, and Melvin Whiteson, a wealthy New Yorker.  The two met in New York, Melvin  had recently lost his parents, and Cookie was never comfortable in the big city. In fact, Melvin was the only person who ever noticed her she claimed. The couple moving to Georgia, Cookie's hometown.  The night before the wedding, and they are staying at Cookie's parent's home are they, along with most of the townspeople, are awakened in the middle of the night to the screaming peacocks.  The peacocks are a foreshadowing of the bad things to come for some of the people in the novel.

 "Flannery spent her afternoons motionless in her porch chair, watching the peacocks stalk the lawn. The birds soothed her; their bright colors and disdainful expressions were precisely what she wished to see.  Flannery held her breath when a peacock opened his feathers into a blistering rainbow. She exhaled only when he shut it back down.  A fierce blue fan was revealed, then an auburn one.  The long feathers were decorated with moons and suns and peering eyes.  These displays were more frequent than usual.  The birds were generous with Flannery, seeming to sense her need for beauty.  She dreamed about the night --they crowed and bullied and flaunted their coats across her consciousness."

Flannery and Cookie grew up together, their mothers were friends. Cookie is not fond of Flannery ever since Flannery made one of her Wise Blood characters out to resemble her.  After the wedding, while Cookie keeps her distance from Flannery, and busies herself with ladies groups and community events, Melvin stops over at Flannery and Regina's house to pick up a wedding gift (she offers them a peacock). He begins to find her intriguing.  Although Flannery is pretty ill at this point and sometimes has difficultly walking, she is determined and focused on the writing of her second novel. Melvin notices she seems to enjoy life more than anyone he has met. So very different from his wife Cookie, he finds reason to spend time with her, like teaching her to drive. Although the friendship is innocent, he keeps his visits secret from his wife, and when Cookie becomes pregnant, he tries to work on his relationship with his wife.

I loved the contrast between Cook and Flannery. Flannery is so open, blunt and honest, and very matter of fact -- "she is who she is". She tells Melvin that he is wasting his life and needs to learn how to live, and not just pass the hours each day.  Cookie, is all about outward appearances, and as a result she feels very insecure around Flannery who she thinks is judging her.  There are a few terrible things that happen is this novel, and this is where the title: A Good Hard Look, seems just perfect.  It is at these times of crisis that each of the characters involved, (and there are a few more I haven't mentioned), must take " a good hard look" at what and why something sad has happened to them or a loved one. Each must search their souls to decide what is really important in life.

The author did a fantastic job of creating memorable characters and giving the reader a feel for what small town life is like --a place where everyone seems to know everything about everyone, and where secrets don't stay secrets forever.  As a reader, I was able to feel empathy for the situations that occurred as a result of choices people made.  The writing is beautiful, the novel is heartbreaking at times, but the characters are so very human. This book is a keeper - Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently....another great looking cover this week IMO.
 

Little Brown and Company
December 7, 2011

After the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and "Saint of Cabora," flees with her father to Arizona. But their plans are derailed when she once again is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution. Besieged by pilgrims and pursued by assassins, Teresita embarks on a journey through turn-of-the-century industrial America-New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. She meets immigrants and tycoons, European royalty and Cuban poets, all waking to the new American century. And as she decides what her own role in this modern future will be, she must ask herself: can a saint fall in love?

At turns heartbreaking, uplifting, and riotously funny, QUEEN OF AMERICA reconfirms Luis Alberto Urrea's status as a writer of the first rank.
 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). This week's selection has been chose for my Europa Challenge, and the first paragraph in someway spoke to me.
Europa Editions, 2008 

"I had been driving for less than an hour when I began to feel ill.  The burning in my side came back, but at first I decided not to give it any importance.  I became worried only when I realized that I no longer had the strength to hold onto the steering wheel.  In the space of a few minutes my head became heavy, the headlights grew dimmer;  soon I even forgot that I was driving.  I had the impression, rather, of being at the sea, in the middle of the day.  The beach was empty, the water calm, but on a pole a few meters from the shore a red flag was waving.  When I was a child, my mother had frightened me, saying, Leda, you must never go swimming if you see a red flag: it means the sea is rough and you might drown. That fear had endured through the years, and even now, although the water was a sheet of translucent paper stretching to the horizon, I did not dare go in: I was anxious, I said to myself, go on, swim: they must have forgotten the flag, and meanwhile I stayed on the shore, cautiously testing the water with the tip of my toe.  Only at intervals my mother appeared at the top of the dunes and shouted to me as if I were still a child: Leda, what are you doing, don't you see the red flag?"

 What are your thoughts about this opening paragraph?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fallen; Karin Slaughter


Title: Fallen
Author:  Karin Slaughter
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: AudioGo
Edition: audio book 
Reader: Shannon Cochran (very good)
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 8/13/2011 
Setting: Georgia
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

Fallen, is an action packed thriller featuring Special Agent, Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The audio book, read by Shannon Cochran, opens with a frightening scene that pulled me in early on, and lovers of crime thrillers will most likely be pleased.

Faith's newborn daughter Emma is being cared for by Faith's mother, Evelyn, a former Atlanta police chief. Evelyn was forced into early retirement after corruption in her narcotics unit was discovered.  When Faith finds herself running late to pick up the baby, she tries calling her mother, but there is no answer after several attempts to make contact.  Faith's mind starts to wander first, being logical about when her mother and the baby might be, but then she starts to panic.

When she arrives at her mother's house, there is blood at the door steps, her baby is inside of the shed (but unharmed), she calls for backup.  Upon entering the house one man is dead, a confrontation with two others ensues, the house has been ransacked and her mother is nowhere in sight.  What happens next will prove to be Faith's worst nightmare.  Not only is her mother missing, but Faith's actions are questioned as a result of what occurred at her mother's home.

Will Trent, Faith's partner, is determined to help her find her mother, and to get to the bottom of why her mother was targeted.  Was it something related to what happened while she was police chief, or was something else going on?

Karin Slaughter does a great job with character development. Her characters are fully explored, and readers of her two earlier novels in this series: Undone and Broken, will see that secrets about the key characters pasts are fully explored. The details are revealed in such a way that I found even the most flawed characters seemed all the more sympathetic, with the exception of Will's wife, who was so unlikeable, that I wished her out of the story permanently.  In the end, it seemed pretty likely that another book in this series might follow.  Could you read this book without reading the other two? Yes, but in my opinion you will get a better feel for the characters if you were introduced to them beginning with Undone, and get to see how each character has evolved.  I thought this novel made for a very good listening experience.

Mailbox Monday - August 15th

Our host for August is: Staci-Life in the Thumb
Past week's arrivals
Hope your mailbox was full last week as well!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Satarday Snapshot - August 13

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.
Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
 New Bird Feeder ~ New Birds
(click to enlarge)
Downy Woodpecker ?
Gold Finches
House Finch ?
Uninvited Guest
(don't you just hate unexpected company?)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Good School; Richard Yates


Title: A Good School 
Author: Richard Yates
Publication Year: 1978 
Publisher: Picador
Edition: trade softcover
Source: personal copy
Location: Connecticut
Date Completed: 8/7/2011 
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

A Good School,  Dorset Academy in Connecticut, is the setting for this very short novel -- just 178 pages and seven chapters long. The school is an all male prep school on the brink of financial disaster. The story takes place around the time World War II began. From what I've read about the author, Richard Yates, this novel seems to be the most autobiographical of those I've read: Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade and Disturbing the Peace.

The first person narrator, we learn as we read, is William Grove (Yates??) who had been teased, hazed and repeatedly humiliated . Grove's grades slip, he takes up smoking to try and fit in, and eventually finds his niche at the school while working on the student newspaper, and becoming editor-in-chief.  Like Grove, many of the boys at this school were sent o this school simply because their family had exhausted other options, and wanted their sons to be away from home.

The novel does not have a terribly exciting plot, but rather focuses on typical schoolboy dramas like: rowdiness, teasing, sexual antics, and many of the boys, just seeing what they could get away with, without getting caught. The are also inappropriate relationships going on behind the scenes between teachers and spouses of teachers, as well as office politics and infighting that you might find in just about any organization today.  The reader gets a good feel for what is going on with several of the students and staff, as Yates is extremely skilled in peeling away the layers of the characters he creates. Even the flawed characters, seemed to have something about them that made them feel so real -- so very human.

Although this was not my favorite Yates novel to date, it is still a worthy read, reminding me somewhat of A Separate Peace, back from my early days in school.  Young men just entering adulthood, with little or no preparation for war, be called to serve their country, and the once free-spirited days of youth and innocence become all but a memory.  Recommended

Like William Grove, Richard Yates came from a dysfunctional family. A child of divorce, he too was sent off to a boarding school in Connecticut, at about the time this novel takes place. He also worked on the school newspaper, which is how he became interested in writing. After graduating, Yates joined the army and went off to war.  I still have not grown tired of this author, and look forward to trying his biography and a few more works of fiction.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently.....just look at this cover....


Grand Central Publishing
January 2012

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Save Me; Lisa Scottoline


Title: Save Me
Author:  Lisa Scottoline
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Edition: audio book 
Reader: Cynthia Nixon (good)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 8/2/2011 
Setting: Philadelphia area
Rating: 2/5
Recommend: no

Save Me, tells the of a mother who tries to protect her young daughter from bullies. Rose McKenna is like most mothers, she will go to any length to protect her children. Her daughter Melly was born with a large purple birthmark on her cheek.  When cruel children began to tease Melly at her previous school, Rose convinced her husband to move the the suburbs of Philadelphia, so that Melly could have a fresh start. They couple also has a very young son.

In Melly's new school, Rose volunteers as a lunch mom, so she can briefly be there for her daughter.  One day two vicious girls begin to tease Melly about her birthmark. One girls even goes as far to put grape jelly on her own face to imitate Melly's birthmark.  Melly is reduced to tears, running off to the bathroom.  Just as that happens, there is a loud explosion in the cafeteria's kitchen, which results in fire, smoke and panic.

Roses must decide whether to run into the bathroom to rescue her daughter or to escort the bullies out of the building first.  Her decision makes her out to be evil and uncaring in the eyes of the public. One of the bullies is seriously injured in the explosion and three other people die.  Soon Rose is being sued for her actions.  Rose is determined to get to the bottom of the explosion and to clear her name in the community.

What happens next is where the story went downhill for me.  Rose gets herself involved in her own personal investigation, putting herself in harms way in the process. She pretends to be someone she isn't, so she can gain access to information.  What suburban, upper middle class, mom with two young children would do such a thing?  Isn't this what police and attorneys are for? The story also seemed to drag in parts and really didn't work for me as contemporary lit or as a mystery. Even though the reader was good, in the end I was pretty disappointed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Chapter Paragraph (s) Tuesday Intros


Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). This week's selection has been getting some amazing reviews.
Ann Napollitano
" The peacocks tilted their heads back and bellowed and hollered their desires into the night.  They snapped their shimmering tails open and shut like fans.  Behind each males pointy head, a green-bronze arch unfurled, covered with a halo of gazing suns.  The females brayed and shook their less-attractive tails in return.
" The birds didn't care that it was the middle of the night, and they didn't care who they were disturbing. They didn't care that there was a wedding tomorrow, or that the groom, who had just arrived from New York City, was lying beneath a lace canopy at his in-laws' house, paralyzed with fear.  They didn't care that his fiancee startled awake in the next room and toppled out of her high bed, and they certainly didn't care that the rest of the small Georgia town was also awake twitching in their beds like beached fish."
 What are your thoughts about these (2) opening paragraphs?

(A fictionalized story about author Flannery O'Connor)