Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:

Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton - I adore these cozy mysteries about Hamish Macbeth in his corner of Scotland. I even had my husband watch the tv series with me, although they were not like the books, just because I love this character so much.  I thought I had read them all, but a few pop up that I missed. Review coming soon.

Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank - I love these beach books set in the south.  They are pretty easy to read, and this one was a great pick to read after Shadow of Night.  Review coming soon.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness- I loved this book! I enjoyed it so much more than the first one, which I really liked as well.  Review coming soon.

Reading this Week:

I am in a bit of a reading slump - I just can't find anything I am dying to read. I think this is because I have read so many great books in a row! 


The Waters of Star Lake by Sara Rath-  I picked this up at the library - the cover really appealed to me.  I love water and lakes.  

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare - I saved this series for such a time as this, when I felt all slumpy.  I have been reading her new series, Infernal Devices, but somehow missed this series, which I know is strange! I know I will enjoy these.  

Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton - Another Hamish Macbeth.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July Book Club - Garden Spells

Hostess: Erin (me)
Book: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Food: Pan Bagnat, Turkish Garbanzo Bean Salad (made by my MIL), Cheese and Crackers, Toasted baguette with Goat Cheese and Fig/walnut Jam, Lavender cookies, and homemade Honey-Lavender Ice Cream.
Wine of the Night:  Amour de Paris Peach and Babble 
Month: July

I love Sarah Addison Allen's books, and I picked Garden Spells for our July book club because it seemed the like a really good midsummer read, with overflowing gardens and magic.  Claire Waverly makes food that causes people to act in a certain way, a way that she chooses.  For instance, Honeysuckle wine can make someone see in the dark, and rose geranium added to food can cause people to think of past good times.  Her whole family had a special gift, but I liked Claire's the best.  Which is why I made lavender cookies and ice cream for my book club friends - unfortunately I don't possess any magic so they were just plain old lavender cookies and ice cream, no special magic added.  Although they were really good, if I do say so myself.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy them.  

Everyone read the book this time, and everyone seemed to love it.  It reminded most of us of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, with the sisters, one of them running from a bad relationship, the magic, a garden.  I loved reading all the lore behind the edible flowers, and would like to bake more from them, although I find the ingredients difficult to get. We did find Claire and Tyler's relationship romantic - like when he ate the apple that when eaten shows your future - Tyler only saw Claire.  We also thought it was funny that Hunter John went by the name Hunter John, both names, but maybe that is a southern thing. Our resident southern girl couldn't make it to book club, or else we could have asked her.  

It was a perfect fit for midsummer, and while I love all of Allen's books, this is my favorite. 

Next month is Jill, and her pick is Gone Girl. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:



Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser - Disappointing, had to abandon it.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - On the other hand, I absolutely loved this book!!

Reading this Week:


Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness - I have been waiting for this book! Yay!

Say Nice Things About Detroit - Review (kind of)

Title: Say Nice Things About Detroit
Author: Scott Lasser
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Twenty-five years after his high school graduation, David Halpert returns to a place that most people flee. But David is making his own escape from his divorce and the death of his son. In Detroit, David learns about the double shooting of his high school girlfriend Natalie and her black half-brother, Dirk. As David becomes involved with Natalie 's sister, he will discover that both he and his hometown have reasons to hope.As compelling an urban portrait as The Wire and a touching love story, Say Nice Things About Detroit takes place in a racially polarized, economically collapsing city that doesn't seem like a place for rebirth. But as David tries to make sense of the mystery behind Natalie 's death and puts back the pieces of his own life, he is forced to answer a simple question: if you want to go home again, what do you do if home is Detroit?

My thoughts:

I had to put this book down and walk away.  I had high hopes for this book, being a Detroit area resident (I won't lie, I don't live within the city, but south of it.).  Growing up, Detroit is the big city, the city my parent's used to go to, the one I started exploring when I got old enough to drive myself there, where I frequent now.  It is the city my grandfather used to drive my four year old brother around, showing him the sights, especially Belle Isle.   My husband is from the actual city, and his family still lives there, and I visit them as well, and know some of the neighborhoods.  A few of my friends are also real Detroit residents, as is my stepsister.  I grew up with the horror stories about Detroit and the good stories too.  

So I had expectations of this book, because of the title.  However, the book was so downtrodden, depressing, nothing good could happen.  Nothing good was happening.  13 year olds on drugs, steel workers with cancer, infidelity, dementia to name a few character storylines. The title itself seems to come from a tshirt someone in the book was wearing - a guy holding a gun to the head of a puppy, and the writing was "Say Nice Things About Detroit", the implication being if you didn't he would kill the puppy.   I just felt it perpetuated the beliefs about Detroit, focused only on the bad.  The violence and despair.  I was really hoping for a fresh take on the city, and I didn't get it.  

Since I didn't finish, maybe the book ended with a positive spin on Detroit.  I don't know.  But from what I read, it's just another slam on the city. I don't believe Detroit is all bad, but like all cities, it has its ups and downs.  Maybe I will give it another shot in the future, but as it stands now, I don't need to.

Wild - Review

Title: Wild
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Source: Barnes and Noble

Goodreads Summary:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 
Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My thoughts:

I loved this book times a million! I have never read a book so actively!  I cried like a baby in parts, wanted her to get her life together in others, and rooted for her to do well and complete the PCT as she wanted.  I couldn't believe that she had never really thru-hiked/backpacked before attempting the PCT.  I also couldn't believe she was doing it not only not as an experienced hiker, but that she wasn't in that great of shape, as a drug addict, and doing heroin a mere 48 hours before her hike.  This poor woman's life was spiraling out of control, circling the drain, until she started this walk, and found herself, forgave herself, and  also, forgave her mother.  I was impressed by her toughness and strength, her honesty, and by her own self acceptance. And I feel inspired to walk the AT or the PCT now myself!

I mentioned this was an active reading for me, in parts it became my own form of reader participation.  She talked about student loans; I remembered I had to pay mine.  She mentioned her POW/MIA bracelet; I got up and looked for mine. (I didn't find, I had taken it off for a medical procedure and now I don't know where it is)  She said that her last name was one of her own creation- after her divorce she felt she could not use her maiden name, nor her married name, and came up with Strayed, naming herself.  She had strayed in many ways - from her marriage vows, from the straight and narrow, from the norm, and then from society, in a way, in her thru-hike on the PCT.  I tried to think of what I would give myself as a last name; I am still thinking about it.  

Another observation: Cheryl spoke very frankly about her sexuality.  Her affairs while married, her desire for other hikers on the trail and men she met on her journey , the fact that she had packed 12 condoms hoping to use them - I found this very interesting, only for the reason that I have read other memoirs such as hers, by men, who do not once bring this up.  I just thought it was interesting - no judgement, just interesting. 

During Strayed's hike and journey, she carried books with her and also mailed new ones to herself, at her supply stops.  She burned most of the books as she read them, to lighten her load, but kept a few, and carried them the whole way.  She read ten books, not including guide books (if I remember right! I loaned the book out this morning) uncaring about the weight she would have to carry.  I would do this, I know it. But then I thought, what books would I want?  I haven't finished the whole list, but the ones I did come up with are, the most obvious first, Walden by Thoreau, Dharma Bums by Kerouac, the poems of Dylan Thomas, a Carol Goodman book, The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, and Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger.  I am not sure about the rest yet.  What about you? What books would you take?

Sharp Objects - Review

Title: Sharp objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart 
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

My thoughts:

Flynn's first book, and the one I read last.  Just as powerful, scary, and haunting, as the summary above says.  All of Flynn's books are haunting, I think.  You have to read them until you finish, all in a big swoop, and then they stick with you.  You think about it after reading it for a while, a reading "hangover" I saw it described somewhere recently, when you are still stuck thinking about a book.  

This book's main character probably bothered me the most.  Not because she has carved words into every inch of her body, but because she seems so not there, no personality, a living doll.  Camille can't forge real adult relationships, there doesn't seem to be that much to her through most of the book, she just floats through in a haze of alcohol and drugs.  And really, all the characters were unlikable and unpleasant.  You couldn't identify or sympathize with a single one.  Regardless of this, I couldn't stop reading this book, and was blown away yet again by the end.  

One part that really bugged me, and won't give anything away, is a part where Camille, a 30-something woman, goes to a high school age party with minors.  It freaked me out, and was really creepy.  My mom read this book at the same time as me, and when we spoke on the phone about it, she brought up the same thing.  It is a little thing, but it gets under your skin, creeps you out, and you don't forget about it.  Flynn has a way of making her entire books like this - just uncomfortable enough, mysterious, dark, creepy, yet you have to know what happens.  If you like thriller/mystery books, this author is for you.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Snapshot- July 14

Saturday Snapshot
It’s easy to participate – just post a picture
that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site

I had a wonderful, busy week with my family.

I went blueberry picking with my father and my super adorable and sweet nephew Brayden.  

My husband and I also went to the Detroit Zoomance, at the Detroit Zoo.  A very cool event in the evening for adults 21 and over.  We had a blast walking around, looking at the animals, and hanging out with my husband's brother and soon to be sister-in-law.

Zebras are my favorite!

I did a few other things too - the Art Fair in my town with my mother, and today, a spa day with my other future sister-in-law.  It has truly been a great week.

*please note all pictures are my own.  Please do not download them or use them electronically or any other way without my permission. Thanks!

Thornyhold - Review

Title:  Thornyhold
Author: Mary Stewart
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin's unusual eyes. When the child becomes a young woman, she inherits her dead cousin's house as well as her reputation among the local community as a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves.

My thoughts:

I read this during a terrible heat wave- I find I migrate to Gothic romance/mystery during the summer for some unknown reason.  Maybe it reminds me of The Secret Garden in some way. Or reading that book at my Aunt's house in the summer when I was little.  Anyway, I love to read books like this, while I am sitting in my air conditioned house and it is 95 degrees outside and climbing.  

Stewart reminds me of Barbara Michaels; she has a similar feel, in her story lines and actual writing.  Thornyhold was a perfect read the week I read it.  I had been knee deep in Gillian Flynn's books, which are good but very murky and intense.  It was a nice break, with its gentle story line and easy magic.   The mystery and suspense were minimal.  I had a hard  time personally with a few of the things that happened, regarding animals, yet none of the parts were so bad that I had to totally skip them. (as I had to recently in another book)  The end was predictable, but it was just the right time for this book for me.  I needed something simple and enjoyable, and this fit the bill exactly.  

Dark Places - Review

Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. 

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

My thoughts:

This book is really dark and twisted, as you might imagine from the title.  But what can you expect from an author who wants to write this way, and as she says on her website, "Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women."  When I read that, I knew I wanted to read all her books. It is just such a different viewpoint, and it really is fascinating.  Sometimes we forget what our own gender is capable of, almost sexist in a way, I hate to say.  Flynn's books are so rich in character and description, that she reminds you of this.  

I loved this book, and I loved that the main character Libby, as all the female protagonists in her books, is kind of unlikable.  She is pretty pathetic at first. living off the story of her tragedy, giving it life rather than moving on.  When she meets the Kill Club, she views it as a source to earn money, rather than working a real job.  She has always been secure in her role as the only survivor of her family massacre, steady and confident in her testimony that put her brother in prison.  As the story progresses, what she is looking for begins to change, as does her confidence.  

The book is written from multiple viewpoints, including Libby's mother's and her brother's.  I felt so sorry for her mom, I could really empathize with her, as a struggling mother. One particular scene stood out to me, where the mom is imagining what people must think of her children, in their ill-fitting hand me down clothes.  And then Ben...I don't know what to say. I don't want to say much more on this book, although I really want to.  I just don't want to ruin anything for the next reader.  I just highly recommend this book to anyone who likes this kind of gritty look at life. Like me. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn:   I love this author's books, and I had to read them all!  

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart:   Sometimes I just need to read a Gothic Romance.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn:  Ditto what I said about Dark Places.  (my reviews for these coming up soon)

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich:  Very disappointing.        

 Reading This Week:

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser:  Being from Detroit, I really look forward to reading this.  

Wild by Cheryl Strayed:  I was trying to wait for this to come in from the library, but I couldn't! I kept seeing it everywhere, and when I saw it here, I knew I needed to buy it.  

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens:  A recommendation from a friend, a perfect follow up to Gillian Flynn, I think.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Explosive Eighteen - Review

Title: Explosive Eighteen
Author: Janet Evanovich
Source: Barnes and Noble

Goodreads Summary:

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.
Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.
Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!
Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

My thoughts:

Boring! This series is dying a slow painful uninteresting death.  It was the same old crap - even Stephanie Plum mentioned while chasing a criminal she knew she would fail and fall into food, or have something else happen to her.  Her car keeps getting stolen, her apartment broken into - just the same stuff over and over.  And Ranger and Morelli seem frustrated with her too - but then she has been stringing them along how long now?  Hopefully she makes her choice soon and these books come to an end.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Title: 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author: Aron Ralston
Source: My nook

Goodreads Summary:

On Sunday April 27, 2003, 27-year old Aron Ralston set off for a day's hiking in the Utah canyons. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, Ralston, a seasoned climber, figured he'd hike for a few hours and then head off to work. 

40 miles from the nearest paved road, he found himself on top of an 800-pound boulder. As he slid down and off of the boulder it shifted, trapping his right hand against the canyon wall. No one knew where he was; he had little water; he wasn't dressed correctly; and the boulder wasn't going anywhere. He remained trapped for five days in the canyon: hypothermic at night, de-hydrated and hallucinating by day. Finally, he faced the most terrible decision of his life: braking the bones in his wrist by snapping them against the boulder, he hacked through the skin, and finally succeeded in amputating his right hand and wrist.

The ordeal, however, was only beginning. He still faced a 60-foot rappell to freedom, and a walk of several hours back to his car - along the way, he miraculously met a family of hikers, and with his arms tourniqued, and blood-loss almost critical, they heard above them the whir of helicopter blades; just in time, Aron was rescued and rushed to hospital.

Since that day, Aron has had a remarkable recovery. He is back out on the mountains, with an artificial limb; he speaks to select groups on his ordeal and rescue; and amazingly, he is upbeat, positive, and an inspiration to all who meet him. This is the account of those five days, of the years that led up to them, and where he goes from here. It is narrative non-fiction at its most compelling.

My thoughts:

I read this book thinking if it were me would probably just have died.  Aron Ralston is one tough dude, being of the right mind set to amputate his own arm to gain his freedom from his rock prison.  I was even more impressed by how calm he kept himself, and how rational and clear his thinking was, in order to even get to that point.

I have to say, I did tire of reading near death experience after near death experience - the story of being trapped by a boulder was interspersed with stories of other exploits.  Mountain climbing, canyoneering, hiking, biking, mountain skiing - all of his stories had the common denominator of almost dying.  Was it bad luck or a death wish?  His hours in the trapped in the canyon were cathartic in a way, with Ralston reviewing his life and how he treated the people he cared about.  He had been focused on what he was doing, and not as much as those he was doing it with.  He resolved that if he lived and made it out of the canyon, he would spend more time with his friends and family.

I love to read books about the outdoors, hiking, and all that, people vs. nature type things.  Grizzly Man, Walden, Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, and now this, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. It doesn't surprise me that out of these, Aron Ralston was one of the few that survived their misadventure.  He was determined, smart and possessed great ingenuity,  and with his survival, reminds people to never give up hope.