Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? ~ April 29th

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:


The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs: I never expected what I got from this book. Mystery and history, I like it. 

Defending Jacob by William Landay:  Holy Crap! That is what I have to say about this book. Lol. Definitely a book to read. I am going to check out the rest of Landay's books too. Review after book club, since this is our book club book. 

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews: Not my favorite by Andrews, but I didn't dislike it. First, one of the main characters has an English Setter, just like me! And second because I really like food.

Reading This Week:


The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb: This looks perfect to me for a rainy spring afternoon.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: Didn't get to this last week. May not this week either! But I am going to try.

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: I love Brennert's books, and I can't wait to read this one!

I may not get to everything this week, or anything really, because I am in charge of this:

The school's Scholastic Book Fair. It is fun yet exhausting! And all the proceeds go to the school library, where I work.  It is a full week, but a worthwhile one.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Snapshot - April 27th

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. (no pictures from the internet!)

This is Rorschach, Rory for short. He is around the neighborhood, chasing birds and climbing trees. I am not sure if he belongs to anyone, but he eats at our house.  He is shy and I am definitely going to get him fixed, as soon as I find out the answer to the ownership question. 

The Apple Orchard ~ Review

Title: The Apple Orchard
Author: Susan Wiggs
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother's beloved necklace—despite Tess's advice. To Annelise, the jewel's value is in its memories.

But Tess's own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she's never heard of.

Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. A place where falling in love is not only possible, but inevitable.

And in a season filled with new experiences, Tess begins to see the truth in something Annelise once told her: if you don't believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you've not made the right kind of memories.

My Thoughts:

I remember visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and standing in front of an exhibit with a boat.  The exhibit was dedicated to Denmark during World War II, and how they saved almost all of the population of Jewish people.  They rowed their people to safety under the cover of night. I was struck by the heroics of this nation. The Denmark Rescue saved 7,200 people, a momentous act of bravery and compassion.

The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs includes some of this history. She handled this sensitively, and with the respect that the subject needs. She did not reduce it to some literary device or  add it to give the book more weight. It added to the book in a way that taught as well as told the back story.

That being said, there were lots of twists and turns to the book.  I thought for a minute that it was going to be like The Parent Trap, and then the story spun down a different path.  There were a few loose ends that I didn't feel were resolved, but this looks to be the first in a series, so perhaps resolution will occur in the following books.  There was also a scene that didn't make sense- all of a sudden a character is in the story in a part he wasn't before, without being introduced into that scene. It was very confusing for a second!

I thought the characters were fun and diverse, and I liked them all, but I liked Isabel the best. I hope we get to know her better in the future, but for now, I enjoyed reading about her cooking and baking. Their were some delicious sounding recipes at the beginning of each chapter - some of them made me long for summer even more than I already do.  I could imagine reading this book in my yard, enjoying the sun eating fresh tomato slices and drinking Pellegrino. Or a Californian Pinot Grigio. Yum!

Overall I think this book has a lot to offer -mystery, romance, history.  If you like any of this in the books you read, give this book a try.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yoga Bitch ~ Review

Title: Yoga Bitch; One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment
Author: Suzanne Morrison
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

What happens when a coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking, steak-eating twenty-five-year-old atheist decides it is time to get in touch with her spiritual side? Not what you’d expect…

When Suzanne Morrison decides to travel to Bali for a two-month yoga retreat, she wants nothing more than to be transformed from a twenty-five-year-old with a crippling fear of death into her enchanting yoga teacher, Indra—a woman who seems to have found it all: love, self, and God.

But things don’t go quite as expected. Once in Bali, she finds that her beloved yoga teacher and all of her yogamates wake up every morning to drink a large, steaming mug…of their own urine. Sugar is a mortal sin. Spirits inhabit kitchen appliances. And the more she tries to find her higher self, the more she faces her cynical, egomaniacal, cigarette-, wine-, and chocolate-craving lower self. 

Yoga Bitch chronicles Suzanne’s hilarious adventures and misadventures as an aspiring yogi who might be just a bit too skeptical to drink the Kool-Aid. But along the way she discovers that no spiritual effort is wasted; even if her yoga retreat doesn’t turn her into the gorgeously calm, wise believer she hopes it will, it does plant seeds that continue to blossom in surprising ways over the next decade of her life.

My thoughts:

I apparently have the same sense of humor as a 5 year old - and Suzanne Morrison at 25 years old.  I laughed my way through a lot of this book, to the point of tears, crying and hyperventilation.

Part of the humor for me was fart jokes, and fart stories. I have no idea why they have so much power over me; my husband only has to say the word to make me laugh. And this book talks frequently about passing gas. It makes sense. If you say yoga, people say fart. I have heard it happen in class, I am sure we all have heard it. I have even read articles on Do You Yoga that address it. I manage to be mature in class, so that I do not embarrass anyone, and pride myself on being yogic. Just like Suzanne in the book - she fights laughter, does laugh, and later tries to understand and relate to a fart, when the unthinkable happens and she lets one go in class herself. She tried to be detached, but later says , "I want to die. And I can't stop laughing. I'm in strait-jacket territory." I of course was laughing my head off reading all this.

This is not the only thing that made me laugh - Morrison so perfectly describes all the phases one goes through when practicing yoga, and the other personalities that show up in classes as well, that I recognized these same type personalities in my own classes. Many of these characterizations struck a chord with me, and some of them made me giggle and nod my head in agreement.

On a more serious note, Yoga Bitch is also about one woman's search for something more, something beyond her and beyond this world. Something like God. Morrison searched for enlightenment from her mat, covered in sweat, sore and stretched out, looking for God. Within Buddhism, within Christianity, from anywhere that seemed to prove that there is something greater out there. Her beliefs come and go, and she can't seem to find just the right fit, until someone says something to her at the end of the book that describes her search and herself dead on.

It is easy to identify with Morrison.  We have all been there in one way or another. She seems approachable, and makes yoga seem approachable as well. She is my new hero.

This book is written in honestly and with humor, and I think this is a book that could be enjoyed by anyone. (Unless they don't like fart jokes)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? ~ April 21st

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:


Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison: I absolutely loved this book!! Review will be up Wednesday.

The Night is Watching by Heather Graham: This book was fun and escapist, which is good, because those are the exact reasons I pick this series up, hoping that they are. 

The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila: I thought this book was interesting. There are a few recipes I want to try, and in fact, I am going to try one out tomorrow. I will keep you posted!

Canning for a New Generation by Lianna Krissoff: I picked this up from the library, read through it, and knew that I needed it, so I immediately bought it for my iPad. 

Drinking and Tweeting and Other Brandi Blunders by Brandi Glanville: Guilty Pleasure Number One: I am addicted to the Real Housewives franchise. And Brandi is one of my faves. So I indulged in her book this weekend. 

Reading This Week:



Defending Jacob by William Landay: This is our book club pick for the month. I am looking forward to reading it, the premise sounds kind of like The Mourning Hours, which I loved!

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews: As soon as the springtime weather kicks in, I always turn to an Andrews book. 

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: Team Jem!

The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs: Because apples are the most perfect fruit. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Night is Watching - Review

Title: The Night is Watching (Krewe of Hunters)
Author: Heather Graham
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

The dead of nightThe Old West town of Lily, Arizona, is home to the Gilded Lily, a former theater…and bawdy house. These days, it offers theatrical productions geared to tourists, but the recent discovery of a skull, a real skull, among the props and costumes shakes everyone up.

So, who do you call? The Krewe of Hunters, a special FBI unit of paranormal investigators. In this case, it's agent Jane Everett. Jane's also a talented artist who creates images of the dead as they once were. But the Krewe always works with local law enforcement, and here that means Sloan Trent, former Houston cop and now sheriff. His great-great-grandmother was an actress at the Gilded Lily…and she's not resting in peace.

Then more remains appear in the nearby desert. As they search for answers, using all the skills at their disposal, Jane and Sloan find themselves falling into danger—and into love.

My thoughts:

I have read a majority of the titles in this series, and I have to say, I like this one the second best! Heart of Evil, the first in the series, remains my favorite.  However, I really liked this one!

This book takes place in Arizona, in a town similar to Tombstone, an old west ghost town.  This is not a setting where I usually read - I enjoyed the change up! But who couldn't love a book with cowboys, gold, a history of wild west shootouts, and outlaws?

The Night is Watching is a fun, entertaining book, with some crazy plot twists! I had no idea who the culprits were. I was just as shocked at finding out whodunit as I was when I was a  little girl watching Scooby Doo, and they pulled the mask off the bad guy.

This is definitely a book to pick up if you are looking for a quick read and a mystery with an ending you didn't see coming; a book to read on a sunny day with storm clouds gathering in the distance.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

Do you ever have those weeks where you are completely over scheduled?  That has been my week and weekend. Most of it has been super fun, but some of it has been super tedious and stressful.  I also started working on my seed plantings for the garden - I am really looking forward to putting it all in the ground and watching things grow. 

I went with a few friends to Ft. Wayne in Detroit - I had never been there and always wanted to go. From the area that it is in, you would never know there is such beauty on the other side of the fence.  And then a few of my carrot shoots growing, that I planted at the beginning of the month.

Read Last Week:


Watership Down by Richard Adams: My all time favorite book. I have been leisurely reading this book, savoring it. You will never look at rabbits the same way again after reading this book.

Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr: Wow, amazing look at the harder side of yoga. 

Reading This Week:
I probably won't get to them all, but what the heck right? I might as well try!

The Night is Watching by Heather Graham: I never got to this last week, so here it is again.

From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin: I received this from NetGalley, I can't wait to read it!

Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison: I think I am on a yoga book kick.

The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila: I have been waiting for this book from the library forever! If I like it, I am going to buy it for sure. If I have time, I plan on making a few things from it this week. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga - Review

Title: Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga
Author: Benjamin Lorr
Source: Library (but saw on The Relentless Reader)

Author Benjamin Lorr wandered into a yoga studio—and fell down a rabbit hole

Hell-Bent explores a fascinating, often surreal world at the extremes of American yoga. Benjamin Lorr walked into his first yoga studio on a whim, overweight and curious, and quickly found the yoga reinventing his life. He was studying Bikram Yoga (or “hot yoga”) when a run-in with a master and competitive yoga champion led him into an obsessive subculture—a group of yogis for whom eight hours of practice a day in 110- degree heat was just the beginning.

So begins a journey.  Populated by athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, legitimate medical miracles, and predatory hucksters, it’s a nation-spanning trip—from the jam-packed studios of New York to the athletic performance labs of the University of Oregon to the stage at the National Yoga Asana Championship, where Lorr competes for glory.

The culmination of two years of research, and featuring hundreds of interviews with yogis, scientists, doctors, and scholars, Hell-Bent is a wild exploration.  A look at the science behind a controversial practice, a story of greed, narcissism, and corruption, and a mind-bending tale of personal transformation, it is a book that will not only challenge your conception of yoga, but will change the way you view the fragile, inspirational limits of the human body itself.

My thoughts:

I love my yoga classes. I love hitting the mat and letting go. I practice the easy, "YMCA"like yoga though I guess. Mostly vinyasa type classes. I have never tried Bikram Yoga, because of the heat factor. I have high blood pressure (hereditary, yay) , and  I was always afraid I would stroke out. Well, after reading Lorr's book, I am sure that I would have!

Lorr wanders into yoga, his only intention being to try different forms of exercise and to achieve his goal of weight loss.  He takes a Bikram class, then another, then another, and eventually becomes a devotee. To me, the classes truly do sound like hell! I am interested in trying to the postures, but I am too much of a wimp to repeatedly subject myself to the discipline. Because that is most definitely a major aspect of Bikram, discipline, mental and physical.  Lorr goes on to Teacher Training, and passes a class that sounds like boot camp for yoga.  Attendees vomit, sob,  faint, become dehydrated, and in some cases have more serious side effects, like seizures. But if you take this away, you have a practice that sharpens and strengthens you, from the inside out. You must be strong mentally and physically to achieve these poses and to hold them, all within a room that is heated to 105 degrees.

As the story rolls along, we are introduced to many big names in yoga, in all styles of Bikram and back bending. We learn as well, that Bikram, them man behind the yoga, is a narcissist, a chauvinist, an abusive parent that his students are always trying to please. The more I read, the less I liked the man. But you do have to say one thing for him, he does know yoga.  I was more impressed with Tony Sanchez and wished that I could take his class. It just sounded more like what I imagine yoga to be.

The competitive aspect: When I read these two words together, it just seemed wrong. How can yoga be competitive? Well, I learned how. Competitive yoga contestants are at the peak of their practice. They are strong and flexible, and can perfectly demonstrate a pose.  The goal is not to win - it is more to inspire others with the depth of their practice, and to inspire themselves to be there.  This is a good article if you are interested. And it has pictures! I have to admit that I tried to get into some of these poses, the ones I had the most slight chance of attempting. Certainly not anything with back bends or my feet on my head or anything like that. I tried standing head to knee pose - and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could almost do it! Lol.  I could stand with my leg out like that, holding it, I just couldn't make it quite that straight. The others though, forget about it.

Lorr did a phenomenal job showing all aspects of Bikram yoga, the good, the bad, the obsession, the pain.  He introduced us to so many different ideas and people in the yoga community, all with varying memories and beliefs.  Sometimes I even felt like I was in that hot tent with him at Teacher Training. I really enjoyed this book, and now I know, Bikram is not for me. I can see why some people would love it - I might even try it, if I thought it wouldn't be detrimental. It is definitely a practice that makes you understand your body, and your mind, while strengthening both.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Read Last Week:

I reviewed all three of these books together - they all shared a similar premise, although they all elicited a different response from me.


The Clover House by Henriette Lazardis Power: Ah, this book had promise. Parts of it were so good! But some of it was annoying.  

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black: I didn't like this book very much at all. 

Girls in Trucks by Kathy Crouch: This one I actually liked! Sarah was a bit of a lost soul, yet I felt she had good intentions.  

Reading This Week:


Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr: I love yoga, and Jennifer at The Relentless Reader loved this book, and I like her blog, so it seemed logical that I read this book. 

The Night is Watching by Heather Graham: I received this from NetGalley - I am looking forward to a book that I am pretty sure has a happy ending, after the books I read last week. 

Watership Down by Richard Adams: This is my favorite book ever. I have read it so many times I could probably recite it.  If I lived in the world of Farenheit 451 this would be my book.  I always like to revisit this world in the spring, when the bunnies are running around the neighborhood and in my yard, although my dog Penny likes to chase them. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Snapshot - April 6th

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. (no pictures from the internet!)

I took this on vacation in Shenandoah National Park at Big Meadows Lodge- one of my favorite places ever.  I would take every vacation there if I could, but I am sure my husband wants to at least see a few different places. ;) It has been on my mind, since we have been talking about next year's trip, trying to decide where we want to go.  My hubs just got a new job, so this year we will just go on a little trip. But next year - the sky is the limit!

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Clover House, The Drowning House, Girls in Trucks

I read three books this week so far, and all of them have a similar feel.  There is a main character, a woman with a career, who is unhappy in their relationship for one reason or another. They go somewhere else, that used to be home or like home or not like home at all.  They are not faithful to their man. They realize their mother has a secret, in some cases one that shapes their own life and destiny.  They wander around searching for this secret most of the book.  I felt I might have OD'd on this them; I probably would have liked all these books better, had I not read them all the same week.  The settings are all gorgeous, that in itself is worth a lot to me.

First up, first read: The Clover House by Henriette Lazardis Power:

This book was written from two points of view, present day Callie, and her mother Clio's, during WWII.

Clio's story: Clio grew up in Greece within a wealthy family during the war.  The family had a prospering business, a city house, and a farm. At some point the farm and business are lost, and Clio becomes alienated from her siblings. Her story is fascinating, a tale of bravery and shame.  

Callie's story: Callie and her mother were never close. Her mother always seemed to be longing for something more. Now as an adult, Callie seems to be the one longing for something more. With an esteemed career and a lawyer fiancee, Callie is left feeling unhappy. In Greece, she seems annoying, self pitying, and reckless.  And unfaithful.  I have a hard time with cheating characters - I can't really care about them.

However, the end of the story was hopeful. I liked this book, I just didn't go crazy over it.  I also tried to google what a clover house would look like, and I couldn't find anything. That part, with the clover house, was the best in the book.  

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

Clare returns home to Galveston after a personal tragedy. She and her husband, who is a lawyer, are not recovering from this tragedy well together. When she gets a call beckoning her back home, she goes. 

I loved the imagery in this book - languid, yet wild, like water.  Clare spends much of her time researching a local legend about Stella, who is said to have died during the big Hurricane, and whose house she lives next to.  She spends the rest of her time searching for her old boyfriend Patrick.  I was pretty bored with this book for most of it - you seem to be seeing the characters from underwater, there is a feeling of disconnection to them all.

The end was interesting for a second - it was a good secret her mom was keeping. I guess Clare always felt kept at a distance from her mom, just as Callie did in The Clover House. There was also a hint of abuse from Clare's father, that was very disturbing, especially since it was never stopped. All in all, this book was  my least favorite of the three.  

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

If The Drowning House was my least favorite, this book was my absolute favorite. I won it from the Introverted Reader Southern Reading Challenge, and I will definitely read more books by Crouch.  

 A reader emailed Crouch asking about the cover, is the girl walking away  or moving toward something? Crouch replied that it was a good question, and that it summed up her whole book.  

Sarah is always hop skipping around, never landing.  The book itself is written in this way - hop skipping forward in time, from one moment to another, just like Sarah. The reader gets these small windows of what Sarah is like. Confused, lost, unable to stay in a committed relationship, and when she does stay, she chooses bad men to stay with.  

The end, like Clover House, is hopeful. I liked the book, although I didn't always agree with Sarah's choices. But unlike the other two women, I felt like Sarah tried to keep in a relationship and wanted love, where the other two threw it away. This book is reminiscent of Pam Houston, whose books I love.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Never Let Me Go - Review

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Source: Library

From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

My thoughts:

Lately we have been hanging out at my friend's house on Friday nights - they are simple, involving music, wine, scotch, assorted snack items.  Conversation is wildly varied - video games, to work, to music, and maybe even sometimes books.  A couple of weeks ago, I made the comment that I hate science fiction, hate it loathe it will never read it.  I will fantasy, but not science fiction. Bleh. If it has a plot that relies on technology, or god forbid, takes place in space, don't even tell me about it. I am that close minded. Lol.

So my friend challenged me to read this book, which is classified as science fiction. But I beg to differ - I didn't think it was necessarily science fiction.  Maybe that is because I liked it though.

I also really really happen to love books that are set at a boarding school or university. This book begins with Kathy and her friends and fellow students living an idyllic life in the middle of the English countryside.  They are encouraged to be creative; they even shows where they can purchase artistic works by the other students.  You know though, that something is wrong, and is not as picture perfect as it may seem.  The teachers, or Guardians, sometimes hint to the students about their future, what they will learn, what they should learn now even maybe.

And you do find out what the secret is, pretty early on. This didn't make me less interested, it actually made me wonder if things were about to change. The main character, Kathy, is a thinker and an observer.  Maybe she is going to change their future, maybe things will be different.  I don't want to give much away, so I won't say.

I am interested to know what any of you who have read this thought - science fiction or no? What did you think of the ending?