Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October in Review - Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

It's hard to believe that there are only (2) months left in 2012, although the first half of 2012 was fantastic for us on a personal level: a first grandchild and first house for my son and his wife,  the frustrations continue with trying to sell my parents house.  We will not be able to close the deal because of title issues that still need to be resolved.....that means we need to winterize and have the first floor boarded up for the winter, and with a 100 year old house I'm don't get a good feeling about having to do this.  On a more positive note, we were spared damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy - heavy winds and rain but no power loss. We are so thankful.

I am still pretty pleased with my reading for 2012 as I set a goal of 125 books, and I won't have any trouble reaching that number.  For October, here's what I read:
  1. Winter of the World; Ken Follett - 4.5/5 audio and print
  2. Comet's Tale; Steven Wolf and Lynette Pawdwa  - (eGalley) - 4/5
  3. Peaches for Father Francis; Joanne Harris - 4/5 (no review yet)
  4. The Bartender's Tale; Ivan Doig - 5/5 (eGalley and audiobook)
  5. In the Tall Grass; Stephen King and Joe Hill (audio) - 3.5/5
  6. The Round House; Louise Erdrich - 4.5/5 - (eGalley)  (no review yet)
  7. Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World; Sabina Berman - 4/5 (ARC)
  8. The Inn at Rose Harbor; Debbie Macomber (audio-in progress) (DNF) (was looking for something light, but just not my cup of tea)
  9. Beautiful Ruins ; Jess Walters - 3/5 (audio) no review yet
For the remaining (2) months of the year, there are several books I want to read. Here's a little list I put together so I don't get sidetracked.

November and December Plans
  1. The Cure for Grief; Nellie Hermann
  2. Live By Night; Dennis LeHane
  3. The Panther; Nelson DeMille
  4. The Secret Keeper; Kate Morton
  5. The Dog Stars; Peter Heller
  6. The Orchardist;  Amanda Choplin
  7. The Light Between Oceans; ML Stedman
  8. Cascade ; O'Hara
  9. Flight Behavior; Barbara Kingsolver
  10. Cold Light; Jen Ashworth
Do you have any year end reading plans?

[Please forgive me for not visiting your blog lately, I hope to remedy that this weekend.]

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring an intro a hardcover sitting on my shelf that I've been curious about. Has anyone read it?

Scribner - 2008

The Family Galaxy

"Ruby Bronstein was nine years old the winter she found a gun.  It was a Tuesday in December; she and her family were on vacation in Maine.

That morning, after breakfast, Ruby stood by the window of the closed-in side porch, watching her brothers.  They were far out on the beach, moving across the expanse in front of the house and then stopping; a cluster of dark, stop-and-go bodies like raised, mobile moles on the pure flat of high tide."

My first reaction to this paragraph was --"who the heck goes to Maine in December for vacation?"

Would you keep reading?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Salon - Tracking Hurricane Sandy - October 28th

Hello, fellow bloggers and friends. What is your situation with Hurricane Sandy? If you are in the path of the storm --be safe.

Flashlights, water, extra food, full tank of gasoline - check!  As we hunker down in preparation of hurricane Sandy, and this is "for real" for us on the East Coast, I thought I better get busy and do an all encompassing post. I am pretty sure we'll be without power at some point during the next several days.  For us the wind has picked up already and the air felt heavy and weird this afternoon, although the worst for us is suppose to be tomorrow and possibly Tuesday. Governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have declared a "state of emergency". Some evacuations have taken place. We are expected to see winds up to 60 mph and up to 5" of rain.

This seems like some sort of cruel pre-Halloween joke once again this year, as exactly (1) year ago was our freaky-Halloween snowstorm that downed trees and paralyzed our area for many days.

October 30, 2011

Last October - 2011

Of course when you work at a private institution where most of the students live on campus, they rarely cancel work, however, they are okay with us staying home unless you are consider essential personnel, so when I wake up tomorrow I'll know more.  Last year's freak storm, we were only without power for (1) day as we live within (1) mile of major drug chain, banks, supermarket and gas stations so fortunately they tend to get our power back quicker than others in town.

What I've been up to this weekend ----
  • Had a nice visit from my little cutie this morning. She's (6) months old already and rolling over, sitting up pretty well, loves real food, babbling away, and is always smiling. She's in the 93rd percentile for head size, 85th percentile for height (29.5"), and 50th percentile for weight - yep the numbers game begins at birth. She loves books already too -- (that's my granddaughter ;)
Bibliophile By the Sea
  • Just (1) new book by mail, which was great as I just donated over (50) books last week. I did get several eBooks though.
Lazarus is Dead; Richard Beard - Europa Edition (from a PBS member)
Too Bright to Hear, Too Loud to See; Juliann Garey (SoHo Press)
Ordinary Grace; William Kent Kruger (Atria Books)
Indiscretion; Charles Dubow - (William Morrow)

Take care all!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In the Tall Grass; Stephen King and Joe Hill

Author:  Stephen King and Joe Hill
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: audio
Reader: Stephen Lang
Source: publisher
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 3.5/5 
Recommend: yes

I began the collaboration by Stephen King and son, Joe Hill without knowing very much about it and was immediately drawn into the story by the audio book reader, Stephen Lang, and by the is really short, just (2) discs, I was pretty grossed out but I'm still recommending it to horror fans.

Obviously, "the tall grass" is significant, but the main characters in this story are a brother and a sister, Becky and Cal DeMuth; the two are very close.  Becky is expecting a baby (unplanned), and she and her brother decide to take a cross county trip.  As the two are traveling down a Kansas road and decide to pull over at a rest stop. Their windows down, they hear a voice, what sounds like a child's voice calling from the "tall grass" along the roadside. The child sounds like it is lost or in trouble so they decide to try and help, but then they hear what sounds like a woman scolding the child for calling out for help. His mother?

It is at this point that I started to get an unsettling feeling, and he it got progressively dark, twisted and evil from that point on, oh and I have to mention the word "gross" yet again. This story was certainly resonate of the earlier horror-fests of the 80's that King had written.  Try it if you dare.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World; Sabina Berman

Author:  Sabina Berman and Lisa Dillman
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes

In this unique novel, the narrator, Karen Nieto was raised by a mentally ill mother and left to wander alone aimlessly along the beach near her family's business, a tuna cannery. It isn't until Karen's mother dies and her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the failing family business, that she realizes how this poor girl has been living, allowed to wander dirty and naked along the beach in Maztatlan.

It isn't long before Karen's life completely changes for the better, and for the first time she is able to see herself as Karen, a person, instead of just "me". Limited in many areas especially socially because of her autism, yet, in other areas she is practically a genius. She realizes she is different, but she does not see herself as limited. Most important, she is happy in her skin.

I enjoyed the way this story was written, and Karen's voice and reactions to things that happen seemed very realistic for an individual with autism. I was impressed with how well Karen was able to deal with the significant events in her life despite of her lack of social skills caused by her limitations that resulted. Worth Reading! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Bartender's Tale; Ivan Doig

Author:  Ivan Doig
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Edition: eGalley and audiobook
Reader: David Aaron Baker (excellent)   
Source: Edelweiss and Library(audio)
Setting: Montana
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 5/5 
Recommend: yes

The Bartender's Tale is a tender coming of age story set in beautiful, rural, Gros Ventre, Montana in 1960.  As the story begins, the young narrator Rusty Harry has been living a miserable life in Phoenix, Arizona with his father's sister, Aunt Marge. Rusty is constantly being tormented by his older cousins.  One day Rusty is rescued by his single father Tom Harry, and he is taken from Arizona back to Montana where Tom runs the Medicine Lodge saloon.  Although they get off to a rocky start but before long it's obvious that Rusty's life has changed for the better.

Rusty doesn't have any real friends until, Zoe, the daughter of the new diner owner moves into town.  They become best friends and spend their after school times in a room above the saloon doing homework, and learning about real life through a hidden peep-hole vent that looks into the saloon. From that vantage point the two get a crystallized view of what adults talk about and the messes they can often get themselves into.

The Bartender's Tale is one of the best stories I've listened to this year. The reader, David Aaron Baker is fantastic and makes for a captivating novel.  What makes this story so special is that it beautifully captures how I imagined small town life to be in the early 1960s. The sense of place was warm, friendly, and yet not without problems, yet the beauty of Montana shines through and through.  The author is a master at letting you get to know his characters, and by the end, making you feel like they've been people you've known for many years.  Rusty was an awesome narrator for a 12 year old - perceptive, curious and I especially enjoyed watching him discover skeletons in hist father's closet along the way.  At times I felt like a voyeur in this saloon as Rusty, Zoe and I watched the goings on through the floor vent above.

Add to all this, an old fashioned, clean story about a single dad and his son, an interesting historian by the name of Delano Robertson who cruises into town to interview Tom and stays for the summer, a woman from Tom's past and her daughter, and rural life in Montana comes alive.

An old fashioned story that you'll long remember, do yourself a favor and read this special book. Although this is my first experience reading anything by Ivan Doig, it won't be my last. 

Winter of the World; Ken Follett

Author:  Ken Follett
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Dutton
Edition: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 4.5/5 
Recommend: yes

Winter of the World, by Ken Follett is Book #2 of the Century Trilogy. It follows The Fall of Giants which was published in 2010 , and it covers the period of history from 1911 through 1924 with World War front and center.  Book #2, Winter of the World, is another hefty tome at nearly 1,000 pages covering the years 1933 through 1949, and follows the rise in power of Hitler and Stalin as well as World War II and Pearl Harbor.

I was happy to see the (5) somewhat inter-related families return in this installment. The families run the gamut when it comes to nationalities - significant players include Americans, Russians, Germans, Welsh and Englishmen.  It's refreshing to see that once again, although a work of fiction, the story seems so very real because Follet has a way of expertly weaving "real characters" like FDR, and Harry Truman into the story.

Expertly researched, the novel covers so many facets of life and global events from a major, worldwide economic Depression, unemployment, hunger, Hitler's rise, the atomic bomb and the bombing of Pearl Harbor -- I'm sure I left something out.  It's not all about history either, it's the dynamics between individuals and families that make this novel work so well. There is romance, touching scenes involving families, all of which result in an obviously page-turning story about a world in major turmoil.

It's one of those series where once you begin reading, you'll be in for the long haul.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring an intro from an eGalley I'm planning on starting soon. 
(W.W. Norton)

"It was a stricken love, but still love. It was the kind of love that gazed up at you from the bare white-flood of your headlights -- a wide-eyed love with the meekness of grass eaters Soft fur, pink tongue, and if you got too close a whiff of mulch on the breath. This was the love she cherished for her husband .

The love had other moments. Of course it did. But its everyday form was vegetarian."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mailbox Monday - October 22nd

Hosted at Mailbox Monday Blog for the month of October.

Despite purging many physical copies of books lately and opting for eBooks, I still managed to acquire (7) new books this past week which I hope to enjoy.
 Hope you had a great week as well.

Sunday Salon - October 21st - Tale of the Sale of the Haunted House

My Tale of the Sale of the Haunted House

For the last (2) months I've been trying to sell my parents 100-year old (2) family house. Although my parents died 25 years ago the house has been occupied by various family members until recently. We had a quick offer who ended up backing out after the home inspection found some issues with the foundation as well as some other issues, but because it was "priced to sell" we quickly found another "cash" buyer who plans to rehab the house.  

We hired a company to do a clean out of the house, basement, shed and 2-car garages.  We followed the state regulations on smoke and carbon detectors to the tune of $260.00, but the fire dept still made us jump through a few more hoops before they would give us the required certificate for closing. But then after a  $50.00 check we got the certificate we needed.......good for JUST (60) days or we must jump some more. 

We were so happy to be closing by October 10th ----- but then they found some issues with the title that delayed the closing date. FORTUNATELY - the new buyers are investment buyers who agreed to delay the closing until the end of the month --whew ---The title issue has now been addressed and we should be good to close by the end of next week...yay. All the while I have been taking time off from work to make all these things happen, and have no vacation or personal time left. (I do have sick time though and this is making me sick:)

BUT NOT SO FAST we haven't closed yet!! Yesterday, my worst fear became reality. Since the house has been totally vacant for (3) weeks now, I've been going there about once a week to make sure everything was okay. Yesterday morning I arrived to find the back porch door wide open, and the (2) doors to the basement wide open.....any guesses why that might have happened?

Copper heating pipes (1/2) of them were cut out of the basement - they must have gotten spooked before finishing the job, and left 1/2 intact......Do you now see why we call this the "haunted house"? It feels like someone doesn't want this house to leave the family. It has been a (2) month nightmare with nothing....nothing.... going smoothly.

I do have a wonderful realtor who got her plumber friend there already for an estimate. They also secured the house in case they perpetrators come back to finish the job. When the police arrived to take a report, they said this is about the 100th case they have had in this city - all involving vacant houses with "for sale" signs in front of them or "new construction". 

We are hoping since the buyer will be rehabbing the house, that we can just give him a credit at the closing, and still close by the end of the week.....PLEASE wish me luck -- on a positive note I've lost 8 lbs since we listed the house in August -- yup when I'm stressed I eat less and clean more:)

Now for Stuff about Books
  • I've been on a book purging frenzy - I've donated about 50 unread books that I no longer feel I will ever want to read, and since I've reached the point where I prefer eBooks to hardcovers (at least), there will be more on their way to the library book sale as well.
  • I've become more of a minimalist the older I've gotten and seem to be annoying by clutter lately. I'm NOT a "neat freak", just don't like stuff everywhere.
  • I have several reviews to catch up on: Winter of the World; Ken Follet (very good); Peaches for Father Francis; Joanne Harris (a fun read); Bartender's Tale; Ivan Doig (liked it a lot).
  • Almost done with Stephen King and son Joe Hill's new book, In the Tall Grass (just 2-cds) and if i may just GUSH about Louise Erdrich's new and highly addictive book, The Round House (see my Tuesday - First Chapter ~ First Paragraph post) - it's awesome (about 1/3 through so far).
  • Reading plans for this week - finish The Round House and In the Tall Grass; begin Beautiful Ruins (possibly on audio) and hope to begin The Panther; Nelson DeMille as well - 
Have a good week everyone and thanks for letting me rant:)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - October 20th

Saturday Snapshot

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.

Country Apple Streusel Cake

Easy and Yummy

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Comet's Tale; Steven Wolf with Lynette Padwa

Author:  Steven Wolf with Lynette Padwa
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Algonquin
Edition: eGalley  
Source: NetGalley
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes

I'm always a sucker for spirited animal stories so Comet's Tale seemed to be a good choice.  It's a story about a physically broken man and an abused greyhound.

The author, Steven Wolf, a once physically active former attorney, had no choice but to retire early at the age of 42, when he was stricken with a debilitating spinal condition.  Upon the suggestion someone he meets, he decides to adopt a retired racing dog who like many dogs of this breed, had been confined to a cage all of his life. The sad eyes of one particular greyhound, made the decision easy for him.   Comet, was the former racing dog, and little did the author realize at the time, both desperately needed each other for different reasons.

Once adopted, Comet, the shy, mistrustful dog had to learn the very basics of what most dogs learn as puppies.  Wolf had the patience necessary to teach Comet that not every human is to be feared and that there is a better world outside of the confines of a cage.  As if the two were meant to be together, Wolf's health condition soon takes a downhill turn after adopting Comet. Before long the author soon needs more help with very basic tasks that many of us take for granted. It is at this point when Comet is taught to perform certain tasks, like those performed by other service dogs. Before long Comet becomes a valuable and necessary part of his daily life -- it's a touching experience to read about.

It's one of those stories where some unexpected misfortune strikes, and a decision must be made. We can either be depressed and grumble about the "lemons of life", or act to make the best of the situation and enjoy the "lemonade" instead.  The author is a sympathetic individual, who was forced to move to the West (AZ) because of his health issues, while his family remained on the East Coast for work and school.  I liked reading all the details the author shared about the greyhound breed, even the sad details about life as a racing dog.
I was happy I had a chance to read this story, it was a nice break for all the fiction I've been reading, and it made me appreciate my health as well as my relationship with my pets all the more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery; Louise Penny

Author:  Louise Penny
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Macmilllan Audio
Edition: audiobook
Reader: Ralph Cosham (good)   
Source: Library
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes

Louise Penny is back with her 8th Chief Inspector Gamache and his partner Beauvoir mystery. This time instead of the charming village of Three Pines, the pair is off to investigate a murder at a 200 year old abbey.  The abbey in Saint-Gilbert-Entreles Loups, is a place where 23 Gilbertine monks now live and it appears there is a murderer among them, but who and why?

The abbey is also a place which hasn't had visitors in hundreds of years. The order once believed to be an extinct, is one where all monks have taken the vow of silence, the exception to their silence is the beautiful sound which results from the Gregorian chants -- sometimes referred to as "a beautiful mystery", or the "voice of God".

Initially I thought, this would be a sleeper when I read "vow of silence", but there is plenty to hold the reader's interest with this mystery.  I found the setting that the author created to be so cozy and contemplative despite the fact that a murder has occurred here. The descriptions evoke the peacefulness and solitary experiences in the lives of these monks.  It made the reading experience feel so cozy.

The great thing about reading Louise Penny's mysteries is that most of her novels have a cozy village setting, often Three Pine, but although this story takes place outside of that village, it's still a very good mystery.  Another great point about this author's mysteries is that although some of the same characters return, and they are well developed characters you'll enjoy, you can read these mysteries out of order and still be able to step right in and not be lost.  I've read most, but not all of the 7 previous books by the author and I would highly recommend this mystery as well as others by the author.

The audio book was read by Ralph Cosham, who does a great job.  I'm rating this one 4/5 stars as I felt the ending fell a bit flat - still worth trying this one though, especially for readers who enjoy a great setting.

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring an intro from an eGalley I'm planning on starting soon. This author is one I could count on in the past, but this intro is questionable I thought?? What do you thing -- keep reading? 

Harper Collins - October 2, 2012

"Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation.  They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves.  Nevertheless the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks.  They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry them loose.  My father wiped his palm across his forehead and damned their toughness.  I was using a rusted old dandelion fork with a splintered handle; he wielded a long, slim iron fireplace poker that was probably doing more harm than good.  As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sensed  roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year's seedlings."

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mailbox Monday - October 15th

Mailbox Monday - the weekly even where book blogger share their recent acquisitions from the previous week (2 weeks in my case). I'm pretty sure October's host is Marcia.

Hope you received some great looking books as well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - October 13th

Saturday Snapshot

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.

Remaining outdoor flowers of 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gone Girl; Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author:  Gillian Flynn
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Random House
Edition: eGalley
Setting:  NY and MO
Source: Edelweiss
Date Completed: September/2012
Rating: 3/5 
Recommend: possibly

As a fan of this author's first two novels,  Sharp Objects and Dark Places, I was anxious to see for myself what all the hype surrounding her latest novel was all about.Gone Girl, released in June, 2012, and at times I felt like I was the only one who hadn't read this one.  You know how sometimes when there is so much hype, you can get that disappointed feeling when your done?  Yup, that is what happened to me... I felt let down.

In this novel, 30-something Nick and Amy Dunne were once a fairly happy young couple living in Brooklyn, NY. Well, on second thought maybe they weren't so happy after all, but I digress. In the 90's both were writers until a downturn in the economy left them both unemployed.  

When Nick learns that his twin sister Margo has also lost her job and has moved back to their hometown in Missouri to care for their dying parents.  Nick tells his sister that he and Amy will be moving to Missouri as well, doing this without even checking with Amy.  Nick and Margo, borrow the last of Amy's trust fund money to buy a bar in town. Then on the eve of their 5th wedding anniversary Amy goes missing.  She she just leave? Was she kidnapped, or did  Nick have something to do with her disappearance?

Told through alternating points of view past and present by Nick (of Amy) and through diary entries by Amy (about Nick) prior to her disappearance, it quickly becomes impossible to determine the truth from the lies. Who's the psychopath?  Both Amy and Nick were equally disturbed, in my opinion, and one thing was certain for me -- they deserved each other.  Honestly, I don't think I've read anything in a long time with (2) such detestable individuals.

Although the author did a good job creating an engaging psychological thriller, and the twists and turns were unexpected, the ending aggravated me. In the end I was disappointed at myself for caving to the hype.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring an intro from an eGalley I'm reading now.

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along. 

"My father was the best bartender who ever lived.  No one really questioned that in a town like Gros Ventre, glad of any honor, or out in the lonely sheep camps and bunkhouses and other parched locations Medicine country, where the Medicine Lodge saloon was viewed as a nearly holy oasis.  What else was as reliable in life as sauntering into the oldest enterprise for a hundred miles around and being met with just the right drink whisking along the polished wood of a prodigious bar, along with a greeting as dependable as the time of day?  Not even heaven promised such service. Growing up in back of the joint, as my father always called it, I could practically hear in my sleep the toasts that celebrated the Medicine Lodge as an unbeatable place and Tom Harry as perfection of a certain kind behind the bar."
Would you read on?
[ This is my first read by this author, and I must say that I am pleasantly surprised thus far] 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Red Pony; John Steinbeck

Author:  John Steinbeck
Publication Year: 2011 (audio) (1933-novel)
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Edition: audiobook
Reader: Frank Muller (okay)   
Source: Library
Date Completed: September/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes

Most of you have probably read this classic in school at some point, but for me it's been decades, so i thought it was time for a refresher. Honestly, all I remembered was - a little boy, a "red pony" and a sad story.

Jody Tiflin is only 10 year's old when his father surprises him with a pony which he names Giliban.  Jody develops a bond and a sense of responsibility with Giliban and then something happens to the pony, which leaves Jody with feelings of sadness, anger and even rage.  Jody's trust in Billy Buck, the horse trainer is tested as Billy lead the boy to believe the horse would be okay.  Jody takes his anger out by injuring small animals -- this was very hard to read.

Believing another colt for Jody might be the answer that will help heal, Jody gets to witness the birthing process, but yet another tragedy occurs, and although the colt survives, Jody seems to have no interest in it.

It's a story that reflects life's early heartaches that are experienced by many young, vulnerable children. 
John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony is an incredibly sad coming of age story.  It's the kind of story that will leave readers who are looking for a happy ending disappointed, but in classic Steinbeck style it's though provoking and easy to understand why it is a staple in many school curriculums.  The audio book reader was Frank Muller, his affect was a bit dry but yet somehow still appropriate for this story.

The Prisoner of Heaven; Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Author:  Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins
Edition: eGalley
Setting:  Barcelona
Source: Edelweiss
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 3.5/5 

It's hard to write a review when you finished the book a couple of months ago, and didn't take the best of notes along the way -- such was the the case with The Prisoner of Heaven, Book #3 (Cemetery of Forgotten Books)......please bear with me on this one.

The Prisoner of Heaven brings back some of the same characters as in the first (2) books: The Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game.  Interesting enough -- the second book, The Angel's Game, is actually a prequel to the series, but I digress.

Barcelona - 1950s, Daniel Sempre (married with a young child) and his father Senor Semper are both back in this novel running Sempre and Sons bookstore, but business isn't very good.  In this novel the mysterious book in question is an extremely rare and valuable edition of The Count of Monte Cristo.  Fermin Romero de Torres is back as well, but this time secrets from his past have a way of catching up with him, and the reader is transported back to the 1940's to learn more.

Dark and atmospheric, this novel is much shorter than the previous two, and although it kept me turning the pages, I didn't think it had the same level of suspense and mystery as the earlier books. 

Have you read this series? If not and are thinking about it, I would definitely read these in order.  It appears there will still be yet another installment to come.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Joanne Harris ~ Peaches for Father Francis Giveaway Package

The wonderful people at Viking have sent me a Giveaway package that (1) lucky winner will enjoy. (I am currently reading and really enjoying Peaches for Father Francis)

Many of you have probably read Joanne Harris’ best-seller Chocolat, (or maybe have fell in love with the movie). You will most likely remember wonderful character of Vianne Rocher. In Harris’ latest novel, PEACHES FOR FATHER FRANCIS (Viking;  On Sale: October 2, 2012; $26.95; ISBN: 978-0-670-02636-4), it’s eight years later and Vianne receives a letter from beyond the grave from her friend Armande, summoning her back from her life on a houseboat in Paris to the quaint village of Lansquenet where she used to run her chocolate shop.

Upon returning with her daughters Anouk and Rosette, Vianne discovers that everything and nothing has changed in the small village. Her adversary, Father Francis Reynaud, still feels persecuted and misunderstood—only this time he needs Vianne’s help. Her one-time best friend, Josephine, still has an ambiguous relationship with Vianne’s lover Roux, and, unbeknownst to Vianne, has an eight-year-old son born just days after Rosette. And Lansquenet itself has changed with the arrival of a large number of Moroccans. The cultural mix is welcomed by some and resented by others.

Ultimately, Vianne is left to unravel the mystery of newcomer Inés Bencharki, who is part of the new Muslim community and is stirring up things. Inés insists on dressing in the traditional full black veil, under which “she seems as impervious to hostility as she is to gossip, scandal or offers of friendship.” Tensions between these two communities reach a fever pitch and it’s up to Vianne to rescue Father Francis and to discover what’s really going on in Lansquenet before it’s too late.

About the Author:
Joanne Harris  is the author of the Whitbread Award-shortlisted Chocolat, which was made into an Oscar-nominated feature film, and eleven other bestselling novels.   She is published world-wide, in approximately 50 countries, and is the winner of several international and UK awards.  She is an Honorary Fellow at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and lives with her husband in Yorkshire .

I am delighted to be able to offer one lucky reader (US ONLY SORRY), copies of both Peaches for Father Francis and Chocolat along with peach truffles!  

To enter, leave a comment with your email address. Link your Tweet about it for an extra entry. 

Winner will be selected on Sunday, October 14, 2012. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring an intro from a book I'm listening to now: Winter of the World.

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along. 

Carla knew her parents were about to have a row. The second she walked into the kitchen she felt the hostility, like the bone-deep cold of the wind that blew through the streets of Berlin before a February snowstorm.  She almost turned and walked back out again.

It was unusual for them to fight.  Mostly they were affectionate--too much so. Carla cringed when they kissed in front of other people.  Her friends thought it was strange, their parents didn't do that. She said that to her mother, once.  Her mother laughed in a pleased way and said: "The day after our wedding your father and I were separated the Great War."  She had been born English though you could hardly tell. "I stayed in London while he came home to Germany and joined the Army."  Carla heard this story many times, but Mother never tired from telling it. "We thought the war would last for three months but I didn't see him again for five years." "All that time I longed to touch him." "Now I never tire of it."

Would you read on? This is book #2 of a proposed trilogy. I enjoyed the first book - Fall of Giants; Ken Follett.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dark Side; Belinda Bauer

Title: Dark Side
Author:  Belinda Bauer
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: trade
Setting:  England
Source: personal collection
Date Completed: September/2012
Rating: 3/5 
Recommend: unsure

A few years back I read Blacklands, by Belinda Bauer and really thought the author did a great job with her first novel.  Her more recent novel (2011), Dark Side actually takes place in the same little Exmoor village of Shipcott.  This time the story begins with the murder of an elderly woman, a who was confined to her bed and unable to fend off her attacker.  But who would want Mrs. Priddy dead and why?  Jonas Holly the local law enforcement official is initially active at the scene to investigate the murder. Oddly he was camped out on the front steps at the crime scene as times, as if the murderer would come back for some reason. Before long several other people end up dead as well, and Jonas' superior, Inspector Marvel, an interesting odd-duck of a character, brings in a team from another district to take over the investigation and Jonas is left to the sidelines, but not before the killer seems to be getting pleasure by taunting Jonas about his ineptness as an investigator. (I kept thinking what is up with this?). Although Jonas isn't happy about this change in responsibility, he is able to spend more time with his wife Lucy who has MS. I might add that Lucy seems to be quite the character herself,  her husband Jonas armed  his disabled wife with a knife for protection.

The setting seemed chilling and atmospheric at times, and the author did a great job with the pacing of the mystery.  There were several characters who could have been possible suspects --  always a good sign of a well plotted mystery.  I wanted to love this mystery and thought I might early on, but I had some real issues with the way the story ended. It just seemed strange to me. I think the author was either in a rush to wrap up the story, or just didn't think it through thoroughly.  Overall, I would just rate this mystery as okay, IMO, not as good as her debut novel Blacklands.

Mailbox Monday - October 1st

 Mailbox Monday's host for October is Kate at The Parchment Girl.

This weeks new books include:
  • Passing On - Penelope Lively (purchase) - A domineering old woman dies in a Cotswold village. Her death "releases" her two middle-aged unmarried children - a spinster librarian and a nature-loving schoolmaster - to make their lives.
  • We Sinners; Hanna Plyvainen (Amazon Vine) - The Rovaniemis and their nine children belong to a deeply traditional church (no drinking, no dancing, no TV) in modern-day Michigan. A normal family in many ways, the Rovaniemis struggle with sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and forming their own unique identities in such a large family. But when two of the children venture from the faith, the family fragments and a haunting question emerges: Do we believe for ourselves, or for each other? Each chapter is told from the distinctive point of view of a different Rovaniemi, drawing a nuanced, kaleidoscopic portrait of this unconventional family. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at the almost unbearable price of their close family ties, and those who stay struggle daily with the challenges of resisting the temptations of modern culture. With precision and potent detail, We Sinners follows each character on their journey of doubt, self-knowledge, acceptance, and, ultimately, survival.
  • NW; Zadie Smith (Penguin Audio) - North West London comes vividly to life in "NW", the new novel by the author of the bestselling "White Teeth" and Man Booker-shortlisted "On Beauty". This is the story of a city. The north-west corner of a city. Here you'll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between. Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds. And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell's door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation...Zadie Smith's brilliant tragic-comic new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan - as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone - familiar to town-dwellers everywhere - Zadie Smith's "NW" is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.
  • Frozen Heat; Richard Castle (  Hyperion ) - NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat arrives at her latest crime scene to find an unidentified woman stabbed to death and stuffed inside a suitcase left on a Manhattan street. Nikki is in for a big shock when this new homicide connects to the unsolved murder of her own mother. Paired once again with her romantic and investigative partner, top journalist Jameson Rook, Heat works to solve the mystery of the body in the suitcase while she is forced to confront unexplored areas of her mother's background. Facing relentless danger as someone targets her for the next kill, Nikki's search will unearth painful family truths, expose a startling hidden life, and cause Nikki to reexamine her own past. Heat's passionate quest takes her and Rook from the back alleys of Manhattan to the avenues of Paris, trying to catch a ruthless killer. The question is, now that her mother's cold case has unexpectedly thawed, will Nikki Heat finally be able to solve the dark mystery that has been her demon for ten years?
  • The Worst Intentions; Piperno (Europa - purchase) -
    Italy's leading daily newspaper called The Worst Intentions "a dangerous novel." Right from the title, wrote La Repubblica, this daring book "proclaims the furiously bellicose and iconoclastic spirit that drives it."
    Daniel is the thirty-three-year-old heir to the dappled fortunes of the Sonninos, a wealthy Jewish-Italian family whose staggering rise and fall during the years spanning the end of World War II and the beginning of the twenty-first century provides the richly colored backdrop to this remarkable tragicomedy. Daniel has inherited his grandfather's extravagant passions and his father's servility, as well as the excesses of his social class. He is also the victim of a crippling infatuation with Gaia, fountainhead of his erotic fantasies and fetishes.
    This novel will be justly compared to the works of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. An audacious, sumptuous saga about ritual and liberty, love and war, sex and betrayal, set in the opulent neighborhoods of contemporary Rome.
  • Faith Fox; Jane Gardam (purchase) - Faith Fox has led a life full of heartbreak and abandonment, lacking in simplicity and love—and she's not even one week old. She has suffered the unexpected and inexplicable loss of her mother in childbirth; her father, an overworked doctor grown callous with stress, has neither the ability nor the interest to take on the difficult task of raising his child alone; her grandmother, Thomasina, has decided to abscond to Egypt with a retired general rather than acknowledge and accept the loss of her daughter, whom she loved so distressingly well. And so Faith finds herself improbably at the rearing of her father's brother, Jack, an ascetic priest whose current endeavor is an occult "experimental community" comprised mainly of expatriate Tibetans. What ensues is a brilliant comedy of manners that revives the tradition begun by Jane Austen—an endlessly charming passage through the North and South of England that finally gives a major and lavishly gifted award-winning British writer the American readership she so richly deserves.
Hope you had a great week for new books as well.