Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - One Vacant Chair; Joe Coomer

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Today's pick is a book I bought 10 years ago and still haven't read - it has a 5 star rating too (I am pathetic - this must change in 2014).

One Vacant Chair - Joe Coomer
Graywolf Press - 2003
" PERHAPS OUR LIVES ARE SUSTAINED by a suspense of dying.  These are the things I know and everything else is in between.  Grandma Hutton called Aunt Edna to her deathbed and then decided to linger for twenty-two years.  She measured her life with spoons, the brimming spoons of medicine or milk or soup that my aunt balanced with a painter's sure grip over her own cupped palm, her free hand mimicking in form and movement the dull spoon's bowl, her arm the narrow handle.  My grandmother, for the last few years of her life, answered the telephone as if she were standing at the mouth of a dark cave, halooing for a lost soul.  When someone answered she was always taken aback.  That's how we talked to her at last, by phone, everyone but Aunt Edna.  Then the family returned to Fort Worth for the funeral like separate drops of condensing water pooling in the bowl of a cold spoon, a last offering to an old dead woman none of us cared for.  That's not true.  Aunt Edna missed her."

 What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Perpetual Bucket List ~ Books I Meant to Read

  (nope it's not a challenge)

In January of 2013 I created a reminder list of my top 20 books I had always meant to read but never did. As the year progressed I crossed them out and linked reviews as I worked through the list. With 2013 coming to a close I managed to read 9/20 on my list. For 2014, I'm adding 20 more books to this list and make this a perpetual working list.  

As you might recall, with the exception of a handful of books, I do not save my books once I've read them (too many books to reread), so I'm trying to read and purge my shelves of mostly hardcovers first.

Below was my list 20 for 2013 (plus an additional 20 for 2014)
  1. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky; Heidi Durrow (2010) - 4/5 (Nov-2014)
  2. David Copperfield; Charles Dickens
  3. The Chosen; Chaim Potuk (1967) - 4.5/5 (May-2013)
  4. Excellent Women; Barbara Pym (2005)
  5. Sweet Thursday; John Steinbeck (1955)
  6. Naomi; Junichiro Tanizaki - (1924) (2001) - 4.5/5 (Jan-2013)
  7. On Chesil Beach; Ian McEwan - 2007 - 4.5/5 (June 2013)
  8. Post Office Girl; Stefan Zweig (2008)
  9. The Giant's House; Elizabeth McCracken (1997) - 3.5/5 (April-2013)
  10. Passing On; Penelope Lively (1990)
  11. Mangus; John Fowles (1985)
  12. The Garden of Eden; Ernest Hemingway (1986) 3.5/5 - April 2013
  13. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water; Michael Dorris (2003)  3/5 - (Aug-2013)
  14. The Lizard's Cage; Karen Connelly (2007)
  15. In the Woods; Tana French (2007) - 4/5 (Jan-2013)
  16. The Girls; Lori Lansens (2006)
  17. By George; Wesley Stace (2007)
  18. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne; Brian Moore(1922/2010) -  5/5 (Feb-2013)
  19. Half of a Yellow Sun; Adichie (2007) - 4.5/5 (Sept-2013)
  20. Cassandra at the Wedding; Dorothy Baker (1962)
  21. The Broken Teaglass; Emily Arsenault (2010)
  22. Amigoland; Oscar Casaras (2009)
  23. Kings of the Earth; Jon Clinch (2010)
  24. One Vacant Chair; Joe Coomer (2003)
  25. My Cousin Rachel; Daphne DuMaurnier (1951)
  26. The Clock Winder; Anne Tyler (1972)
  27. The Road Home; Rose Tremain (2008) 3.5/5
  28. Flannery, A Life of Flannery O'Connor; Brad Gooch (2010)
  29. The Wilderness; Samantha Harvey (2009)
  30. N0S4A2; Joe Hill (2013)
  31. Mountains of the Moon; I.J. Kay (2012)
  32. Rush Home Road; Lori Lansens (2007)
  33. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest; Stieg Larsson (2010)
  34. The Group; Mary McCarthy (1989)
  35. Stoner; John Williams (2006)
  36. Trespass; Rose Tremain (2010) (April-2014)
  37. The Violent Bear it Away; Flannery O'Connor (1960)
  38. Straight Man; R. Russo (1997)
  39. Random Acts of Heroic Love; Scheinmann (2009)
  40. And Then There Were None; Agatha Christie(1922) Sept-2014
Have you read any of these?  Do you have a "bucket list for books"?

Mailbox Monday - December 30th

Rose City Reader is our Mailbox Monday host this month. Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia as a way of sharing your new books and having fun at the same time.

My mailbox was loaded these last (2) weeks of 2013. Here's a peek at what was inside.

(5) audiobooks

(7) arcs

Friday, December 27, 2013

Favorite Reads in 2013

As 2013 comes to a close I have mixed feelings about my year in books.  While I exceeded my goal of 125 books (I read 158), and had a lot of enjoyable reads, I think I felt less pleasure reading in 2013.  Several of the books I read made me feel like I had to read them because I requested them.  I'm grateful yet, accepting "free books", places a certain amount of pressure on me, and often makes the reading experience itself, less enjoyable......do you know what I mean? 

For 2014, I'll be accepting fewer "free books" and doing more reading by mood. There is something uplifting about selecting a book off your personal shelves and curling up with it on a whim.  I do still plan to read a combination of physical books, eBooks and audiobooks in 2014, as well as some kids books.

Here's my favorites of 2013 --read them --

Top 10 Fiction Read in 2013

 The Goldfinch; Donna Tartt


 The Dinner; Herman Koch

 Flora; Gail Godwin
 The Night Guest; Fiona McFarlane
 Doctor Sleep; Stephen King 
 Fin & Lady; Cathleen Schine
Kiss Me First; Lottie Moggach
Top 5 Non Fiction Read in 2013

Top 10 YA and Kids Books Read in 2013

Eleanor and Park; Rainbow Rowell  
You are Stardust; Elin Kelsey and Soyean Kim
Dog-Gone School; Amy and Ron Schmidt
The One and Only Ivan; Katherine Applegate

Open This Little Book; Jessie Klausmeir

 Building Our House; Jonathan Bean

A Year With Marmalade; Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 2013

May all my readers who celebrate Christmas enjoy the special peace and love that comes from spending time with those you love.

 The last (2) days have passed in a blur. Most of my free time has been spent baking in preparation for Christmas -- (4) batches of cookies, a pecan pie, cheesecake, chocolate cream pie and cupcakes so far. Tomorrow morning will be the real food preparation for Christmas day.  I look forward to time spent with family.

With my birthday and Christmas so close together, Santa always comes early to our house.  I wanted some modern kitchen gadgets this year.  I couldn't be happier with my presents......see hints help. (I'm planning on experimenting with lots of new recipes once I retire next year).

 apple green - Kitchen Aid mixer

stainless Cuisinart food processor 
Taking a (1) week break from blogging. and hope to end the year with a post of my favorite reads of 2013 - Merry Christmas to All.

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - A Christmas Hope; Anne Perry

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? I just started this one today and am enjoying it.

 A Christmas Hope; Anne Perry

 "CLAUDINE BURROUGHS DID NOT LOOK FORWARD TO THE PARTY.   This November, 1868, it had been bitterly cold. The kind of chill that creeps into one's bones and makes the ache. Now it was early December and warm again. People were predicting the mild spell would last.  Here in London there might not be any snow! Most unseasonal".
 What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Second Chance Dog: A Love Story; Jon Katz

 Ballantine Books (Random House) - 2013

A sucker for underdog stories where the animal triumphs, the title, The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story, by Jon Katz really caught my eye.  In this story the author was living in upstate New York on Bedlam farm in 2007. His marriage of 35 years was ending, and he was looking to find meaning in his life.  Katz meets an artist by the name of Maria Wulf whose marriage of 20 years was also ending. Although the two had felt a definite spark, there was a another hurdle to their relationship.

Maria's 4-legged protector was a rottweiler-shepherd mix who had been abandoned and had been living in the wild in upstate New York.  The dog, which Maria named Freida was adopted from a shelter. The dog was aggressive and protective of her savior, Maria. So for Jon winning Freida's trust was probably the bigger challenge in the new relationship.

There isn't a lot to say about this book except that I thought this story was fairly well written. I enjoyed reading about the transformation of  not just a "second chance" for Freida, but for Jon and Maria as well. Much of this book is their story and the difficulties they faced with broken relationships, depression and anxiety.

3.5/5 stars (arc)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Preservationist; Justin Kramon

 Pegasus - 2013

The Preservationist was a fast paced thriller that hooked me early on. The story takes place on and around a college campus with several flawed characters at its center.

There is Julia Stilwell, a shy, naive, college freshman who spent some time in an institution after the death of her brother for which she bears some guilt. There's Sam Blount, a weird guy twice Julia's age who works on campus and is obsessed with Julia. Sam has a mysterious past he is hiding. He's also the first guy Julia has ever had sex with.  Marcus is also a student at the college, who shares Julia's interest in music. The two become friends. Marcus is also shy and infatuated with Julia, and when he learns about Sam, he is quick to anger and suspicion. Marcus is also hiding a secret. 

Around campus there have been some hair raising incidents and two students have been raped. Clues make you wonder whether one of Julia's male friends could be responsible?

Told in alternating points of view, and very short chapters makes The Preservationist a very quick and pulsating read. There isn't a lot of character development, and honestly there are no characters you'll warm up to, but the real excitement is just trying to guess who the most deranged of the bunch really is. Julia makes some stupid decisions without giving them much though, but despite that, this is a novel that kept me riveted. A perfect psychological thriller for when you feel like a quick read, but are short on reading time.

4.5/5 stars (review copy)

Eleanor & Park; Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park, is a story which takes place in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska over the course of one school year. It's the story of two teens who don't fit into the mainstream very well. Eleanor is the new girl who stands out at her new school. She has flame red hair, bigger build and dresses different. She is picked on constantly by other girls and the target of mean pranks as well. 

Park is half-Korean and although his life is a lot better than Eleanors, he feels like a misfit. He isn’t new in town, but feels isolated because he like comic books and music that is different to most teens. When no one else will let Eleanor sit down on the bus on her first day at school, Park motions to her to sit next to him. Each day they sit next to other and begin to talk.  Neither has ever been in a relationship before, and slowly their friendship blossoms to something more.
Park's relationship with his parents is strained at times, but his home is safe, he has plenty to eat and his parents are in love. For Eleanor, Park is the only thing that makes her life worth living. Her home life is horrible, she lives with her mom and abusive, hard drinking, step-father Ritchie. She shares a room with her four younger siblings, and their bathroom does not even have a door on it.

What a great story!  I am so happy I took the time to listen to this book that everyone has been raving about.  The readers, Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra perfectly captured these two teens.Their relationship seemed very realistic. I felt like I experienced their joy and their pain, rooting for them all along. Heartbreaking at times, it is a story that I highly recommend.

5/5 stars (library audio book)

Waiting on Wednesday - Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; Chris Bohjalian

Is there a book that you recently read about, that hasn't been published yet, but that you are anxious to read? This week's pick for me is one I'll have to wait over 6 months for, but it's by a favorite author and think it sounds great.
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
Doubleday - July 2014

A heartbreaking and wildly inventive new novel from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls. —      

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington, Vermont. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault--was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily knows that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates to safety after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever--and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Delivering Death; Julie Kramer

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Today's pick will be released on January 7th.

Delivering Death; Julie Kramer
Atria / Emily Bestler Books - 2014

" A guard checked a number against the ID bracelet on the man's wrist while marking his name off a clipboard as he stood in line.
Another chained the man's cuffs to his waist and shackled his feet together, so he had to shuffle to board the prison bus behind other stumbling inmates in orange jumpsuits.  He heard some snickering among the jailers about something called 'diesel therapy.' The term puzzled him, but amid the scuffling and stern faces, he had no time or nerve for questions."
 What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mailbox Monday

Rose City Reader is our Mailbox Monday host this month. Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia as a way of sharing your new books and having fun at the same time. 

This weeks new arrivals included:
Have you read any of these?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow, Candles, Christmas

My Birthday Wish Came True
We just may have a White Christmas!

It's really cold but just so pretty outside. Today the family is going out for Sunday Brunch for my birthday - it's an annual tradition. Mr and Mrs Claus are there as well so it's so much fun with the little one.

This week flew by in a blur with so much going in at work (non work-related). There was a staff appreciation holiday breakfast one day, lunch with the president another day, wellness lunch another day. As my husband always says, "how do people get any work done where you work?"  Truth is working in an academic environment is just so different from most jobs. They are employee friendly - great about arriving late and leaving early, last minute time off, and they try to do a lot of little things for us as well like summer picnics, turkey raffles etc. because there are no year end bonuses for us like in a corporate environment.  The biggest perk however, for me, is the annual winter break where the college closes and pays us to stay home. This year I'll be off from Dec 20th - Jan 6th with pay! I'm so excited. Hope have a nice slower paced time to prep for Christmas,  go to Vermont for a few days, lunch with friends and time with granddaughter as well and I'm sure I'll see a few movies and read a few books as well.

This week's plans include: picking up a few small gifts, wrapping them, baking cookies, writing a few reviews: Eleanor and Park (loved it) and The Preservationist (really good as well), and thinking about my Top 10 list for 2013. Have you decided on your best reads for 2013 yet?

Have a Nice Sunday All!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Forgiven; Lawrence Osborne

Hogarth - 2012

David Henninger, is a British physician who likes to drink a bit too much. He and his wife Jo are an unhappy couple and have been for a while. They've accepted an invitation for the weekend at a lavish estate owned by Richard an old college friend of Davids and his partner, Dally. The estate is located deep in the Moroccan desert. David has already been drinking, the roads are dark and unfamiliar, when suddenly out of nowhere two men leap out from the side of the road. The young men, presumably, were trying to sell fossils by the roadside. David swerves the car but can't stop in time before hitting one of the men and killing him while the other runs off into the desert night. 

Not sure what to do and certainly not thinking clearly, David puts the dead young man in the car and brings the dead body to the estate hoping to get advice on how to deal with the situation.  The hosts try to keep things quiet but word spreads among the servants and before long the father of Driss, the dead boy, is notified and arrives to claim his son's body. The family is poor and the dead boy's father and the host encourage David to return to the dead boy's home in the desert to help deal with the situation. By agreeing to this he hopes they see this as his way of seeking forgiveness. His wife Jo, seems relieved that she won't have to deal with his husband for a few days. She remains behind with the other party-goers trying to pretend that nothing has happened. Everyone seems to enjoy a bit too much of everything: food, booze, sex and drugs.

The Forgiven is very different from anything I've read in a long while, and although there isn't a lot of action, it's what happens behind the scenes that hooks you. The story doesn't even flow all that smoothly, yet there is was this constant feeling of foreboding that compelled me to read on. The interaction and comments from the guests and the servants showcase the great divide between the very rich and the poor and between the Moroccans and the Infidels. This is one of those novels where none of the characters were likeable, yet I was still compelled to keep reading.  The ending was perfect and totally unexpected as well.

Worth Reading - 4.5/5 stars (arc and eGalley)