Friday, January 31, 2014

January Reading Wrap Up

January got off to a rocky start for me as far as my reading was concerned. I started several books and couldn't commit to any one book for very long, even though they were are decent books. I attributed it to post holiday blahs.  Fortunately things improved by month's end and overall managed to finish (10) books, but this has been my worst month for reading in years:(

Here's what I finished in January - 
  1. Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life; Marta McDowell - 5/5 (Library)
  2. Sycamore Row; John Grisham - 4/5 (library - audio)
  3. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly; Sun Mi-Hwang - 5/5 (eGalley)
  4. Life After Life; Jill McCorkle - 4/5 (eGalley/ARC) 
  5. Jacob's Eye Patch; Beth Kobliner Shaw - 3.5/5 (library) 
  6. Five Days at Memorial; Sheri Fink - 4.5/5 (NFic)(arc/audio)
  7. The Good Luck of Right Now; Matthew Quick - 4,5/5 (arc - eGalley) 
  8. The Bird Skinner; Alice Greenway - 3.5/5 (arc - eGalley) 
  9. The Dalia Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring; D. Michie - 4.5/5 (arc-eGalley)
  10. Gemini; Carol Cassella - 4.5/5 (arc/eGalley) 
Favorite Book -

February Plans - 
How was your month in books?

Gemini; Carol Cassella

Gemini, Carol Cassella
Simon & Schuster - 2014

Charlotte Reese and ICU doctor at Seattle Beacon Hospital, so she is no stranger to dealing with individuals struggling to beat the grim reaper of death. Sometimes she must even make the critical difference in whether a patient lives or dies.

One night a Jane Doe is transferred to her unit from a rural hospital - the apparent victim of a hit and run. As Jane Doe's condition worsens, Charlotte finds herself with many unanswered questions about the victim and how to proceed with her care. There is no one there who knows the victim, and the police have no leads. Should extraordinary means be used for an unidentified comatose patient, and if so for how long?

Meanwhile, Charlotte's biological clock is ticking and her boyfriend Eric, a scientist is not anxious to take the next step because of a genetic risk he may pass on to his offspring.

The story is told in alternating story lines, one about Charlotte, her relationship with Eric and her patient Jane Doe, and another story from an earlier time beginning about two younger children named Raney and Bo, and later Raney, her husband Cleet and a son named Jake.  The reader knows that somehow these two stories are related, but just how is a mystery for a while.

I enjoyed this story a lot. I loved the setting, the detail, the characters, and the all encompassing feel of spirit, mind and body this story conveyed. Read It!

Carol Cassella, is not only a terrific writer, she is a practicing anesthesiologist as well. What makes her novels so riveting is the fact that she infuses medical detail and in this case genetics into her stories in a way that the average reader can understand.  Also, if you haven't read her previous novels, Oxygen and Healer, please do so, I think you'll be glad you did.

4.5/5 stars
(arc /eGalley)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Coming Soon To a Book Store Near You ~ The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals; Wendy Jones

While trying to prioritize my lengthy list of new books coming out in 2014, I decided to try a new feature on my blog. I'm hoping this idea will hopefully serve a few purposes: keep me focused on books I'd like to read, give a little PR to the authors (especially new authors) who worked so hard getting published, and to let other readers know about books that will be hitting the book stores soon (within the next 90 days). 

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today - 

Title: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals
Author: Wendy Jones
Publisher: Europa Editions
Pub Date: March 4, 2014

What's it about 

Under the heady influence of a springtime picnic and vague notions of obligation, young undertaker Wilfred Price blurts out a marriage proposal to a woman he barely knows. Much to his consternation, she says yes. As Wilfred attempts to extricate himself from the situation, his betrothed’s overbearing father presents further complications. And when Wilfred meets another woman he does wish to marry, a comedy of manners ensues. Set in rural Wales during the 1920s, Wendy Jones’s charming first novel is a deceptive, subtly humorous entrance to the mores and social conventions of a world gone by.
Sound like a book you might add to your wish list? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring; David Michie

David Michie - Hay House - 2013

As a cat lover, the title of this book,  The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring, appealed to me the moment I read about it.  It's a sweet read that makes you think about life and about what makes you happy. Honestly, it was a great book to read in the cold, gloomy, month of January after all the holiday celebrations are now long gone.

The cat, Rinpoche or HHC (His Holiness's Cat) is a beautiful Himalayan who was rescued by the Dalai Lama when it was young.  He is very cute and very wise as well, and a keen observer of life, people and other animals.  Before the Dalai Lama leaves on a long trip to the US, he gives HHC and assignment --- to find out "What Makes You Purr".

During his holiness's absence, HHC goes about life taking in all that he sees and hears. Along the way he shares his keen observations and musings about life among the local people, monks and store owners as well. The book is full of bits of profound wisdom that makes you think and take stock of what you have read. There is plenty to reflect on and the reader will come away with many ideas, some new, some old about how each of us might find more happiness in our lives.  Although I knew very little about Buddhism, and meditation, the philosophy that was ever so subtly infused was refreshing.  Learning about new ways to find happiness and what really matters, from none other than a wise feline was certainly something worth "purring" about as well.  A delightful read.

I can't wait to go back and read the first book by this author, The Dalai Lama's Cat. The author is a Himalayan cat owner himself.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy & egalley)

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Clever Girl; Tess Hadley

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 that releases in March.

"MY MOTHER AND I LIVED ALONE.  My father was supposed to be dead, and I only found out years later that he'd left, walked out when I was eighteen months old.  I should have guessed this -- should have seen the signs, or the absence of them.  Why hadn't we kept any of his things to treasure?  Why whenever he came up in conversation, which was hardly ever, did my mother's face tighten, not in grief or regret but in disapproval -- the same expression she had if she tasted food or drink she didn't like (she was fussy, we both were fussy, fussy together)?  Why did none of our relatives or friends ever mention his name? (Which was Bert, unpoetically.) What had he died of, exactly? ('Lungs,' my mother said shortly. She has hated his smoking.)"
What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bird Skinner; Alice Greenway

The Bird Skinner; Alice Greenway
 Atlantic Monthly Press - 2014
In The Bird Skinner, the protagonist, Jim Carroway has experienced it all -- war, love, loss of love, and most recently, even loss of limb.  He's spent his later years drinking too much, smoking too much and all of the excess has cost him the loss of a leg.  Unable to navigate life in NYC after his amputation, Jim leaves the city, the job he once held with the Museum of Natural History as a respected ornithologist, retreating to a small island in Maine where he spent his summers as a young boy.

His self imposed isolation and what seemed like a death wish to drink and smoke himself into the grave doesn't quite pan out when a spirited young daughter of Jim's former WWII buddy arrives for the summer before she heads off to classes at Yale.  It's the girl's visit that triggers flashbacks to Jim's past -- his WWII days, his marriage to his beautiful wife Helen who he lost way too soon. Each new revelation provides a piece of the puzzle to the despondent man Jim became.

The story begins in 1973 and travels fairly smoothly back and forth in time. I thought the writing was very good, but slow paced at times, and too depressing for me (especially in January).  Jim is certainly a complex character which the author did a terrific job fleshing out.   I enjoyed the descriptiveness of places traveled both near and far, and the thought provoking passages peppered here and there. I also found it interesting to learn a bit about ornithology in the process. Despite the good points,  I do have to admit that it took me a while to get through this book, not because it's lengthy,  but because it was just too much of a downer at times.  Not a book to dive into if you are feeling a little blue.

3.5/5 stars 
(review copy and eGalley)

Mailbox Monday - January 27, 2014


2014 begins a new home for Mailbox Monday. A place where bloggers tell other readers about the new books they received.  Here's my new loots for the last (2) weeks. Have you read any of these yet?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Feature - Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You

While trying to prioritize my lengthy list of new books coming out in 2014, I decided to try a new feature on my blog. I'm hoping this idea will hopefully serve a few purposes: keep me focused on books I'd like to read, give a little PR to the authors (especially new authors) who worked so hard getting published, and to let other readers know about books that will be hitting the book stores soon (within the next 90 days).  My intent is to make this a regular Thursday feature by inviting others to join in beginning next week. 

Here's my first pick:

Title: Coincidence
Author: J.W. Ironmonger
Publisher: Harper Periennial
Pub Date: February 2014
What's it about 

What determines the course of our lives? Chance . . . or destiny?

On Midsummer's Day, 1982, three-year-old Azalea Ives is found alone at a seaside fairground.
One year later, her mother's body washes up on a beach—her link to Azalea unnoticed.

On Midsummer's Day, 1992, her adoptive parents are killed in a Ugandan rebel uprising; Azalea is narrowly rescued by a figure from her past.

Terrified that she, too, will meet her fate on Midsummer's Day, Azalea approaches Thomas Post, an expert in debunking coincidences. Azalea's past, he insists, is random—but as Midsummer's Day approaches, he worries that she may bring fate upon herself.

Sound like a book you might add to your wish list? 
(Feel free to join me next Thursday, I'll be adding a Mr. Linky)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now; Matthew Quick

 The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick
Harper - 2014
From the author of Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick's soon to be released latest novel, The Good Luck of Right Now, will also be hitting the big screen in the future. It's a quirky, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, story about making the best of life when bad things happen.

Bartholomew Neil, 38, is the story's protagonist. He has led a sheltered life living all the while with his mother. He has never held a job and has no friends. He's smart, but when he mother dies after a battle with brain cancer, he has no idea how to navigate the world outside. He appears to suffer from Asperger's, but we never know for sure. We only know something is different about him that his limited his options in life.

The last few days before his mother passed away, she began to call him Richard. Since Richard Gere, the actor, was her idol, and he later finds a letter from R.G. in his mom's underwear drawer after she dies, Bartholomew is inspired to share his deepest thoughts with the actor seeking guidance. He believes since his mother embraced the Buddhist philosophy, as did RG, he might be the one to help him figure things out. His mom believed that when one person is experience good luck, someone else is having bad luck or suffering. In fact, when someone stole his mother's wallet, she was okay with it saying someone else was going to be able to buy food for their family because of it.

Bartholomew is given a grief counselor named Wendy who is also troubled, and she's someone he doesn't think he needs to be spending time with. She encourages him to try a support group, which he does reluctantly, and as he steps out a bit he meets a few other quirky and damaged characters like himself. Besides Wendy, there is Max, a foul-mouthed, young man with Tourette's whose grieving the death of his cat, Father McNamee, a defrocked alcoholic priest who comes to stay at Bart's house, and there is "girlibrarian", (Elizabeth) who he is somewhat attracted to. As their fractured lives converge, each is transformed in someway through the experience.

I liked this novel an awful lot and can already see that it would make a great movie.  Initially, I had a bit of an issue with the flow. I found it a little distracting as the story is rolled out in the form or letters or random thoughts written by the protagonist to Richard Gere.  However, Bartholomew and all of the characters are just so fully fleshed out and interesting, it didn't take me long to beginning caring about them and their issues and rooting for them to triumph.  It's a story that reminded me how important it is to remember that when life throws you some lemons you must force yourself to make.... lemonade.

Refreshing - read it. - 4.5/5 stars
(review copy and eGalley received from publisher & Edelweiss)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Five Days at Memorial; Sheri Fink

Crown - Random House Audio - 2013

Five Days at Memorial was an eye opening account of what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during and immediately following Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  The author, Sheri Fink, a doctor and medical journalist, who had worked in disaster relief in the past, spent six years investigating what led to the deaths of 20% of the patients at the hospital who were never evacuated.  Their bodies instead were housed in a makeshift morgue on one of the higher floors of the storm ravaged medical center.

Just what was the disaster and evacuation plan for the medical center? Who made the critical life and death decisions during the hurricane as to which patients would be transferred out and which would be left to die?

When the power went out and the generators eventually died, chaos resulted, and it appears that desperate times called for desperate measures. A doctor and two nurses were accused of euthanizing the sickest patients by over-medicating them and hastening their deaths.

What a fascinating story! The author reports the tragic story in a totally factual and unbiased manner, taking no sides and letting the reader draw their own conclusions.  The audiobook, read by Kirsten Potter was riveting.  Seeing to how various people reacted in desperate times was an interesting look at human behavior in crisis.  I do wish that some of the key staff, family members and patients were more fully developed, but I can understand that Fink's intent was to report her findings and not delve deep into the psyches and backgrounds of the people involved.

A scary look at just how unprepared one hospital was when disaster struck. 

Read It! 4.5/5 stars
(library audiobook)

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Gemini, Carol Cassella

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 that releases in March. Carol Cassella is an author who has pleased me with her work in the past, both Oxygen and Healer were winners with me.

Gemini, Carol Cassella
Simon & Schuster - March 2014

1 - charlotte

"It is natural law that all complex systems move from a state of order to disorder.  Stars decay, mountains erode, ice melts.  People get off no easier.  We get old or injured and inevitably slide right back into the elements we were first made from.  The organized masterpiece of conception, birth, and maturation is really only two steps forward before three steps back, at least in the physical world.  Sometimes when Charlotte lost a patient she thought about that and found it comforting--a reminder that she hadn't failed in what was ultimately an unwinnable game.  But if she thought about it too long, she had to wonder if her entire medical career was an interminable battle against the will of the universe."

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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Whole Lot of Nothing

(earlier this week at work)

Did you ever have a few of those weeks when you start a lot of stuff but never finish much? Blame it on a new year, too much to do, boredom, or a who cares attitude, that is how things have been going for me since I returned to work on January 6th after 16 days off.  

I've started a lot of books and they are actually interesting enough, but don't seem to accomplish much.  In between pages I find myself making Scrabble moves on my phone, read a few more pages and repeating the pattern.  I did finish (2) books, but I haven't felt like sitting down to review them yet either.  It seems more fun to sit in front of the boob-tube after work and watch my dh change channels between the liberal and conservative media, all while dh provides his humorous feedback on the Governor Chris Christie (NJ) debacle.

So here is what I've been entertaining myself with:

Finished - 
Started But not Finished -
(there are all good but I just keep staring at my stacks and starting more new books)
How's your January going?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - Be Safe I Love You, Cara Hoffman

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.  What book are you waiting for to be released?  I recently got this eGalley and thought it sounded good. What do you think?

Simon & Schuster - April 2014

A female soldier returns from Iraq carrying hidden scars of war in this exquisite, unflinching new novel from the author of So Much Pretty.

Cara Hoffman, whose first novel was called “powerful” by The New Yorker and “fearless” by The New York Times Book Review, delivers an impassioned story about the effects of war on women—as soldiers and caregivers, both at home and on the front lines.

Lauren Clay has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq in time to spend Christmas with her family. As she reconnects with her old friends, it’s clear to everyone in their rural New York town that something is wrong with Lauren. But her father is so happy to have her home that he ignores the warning signs—her odd behavior and the repeated phone calls from an Army psychologist. Things seem better when Lauren offers to take her younger brother Danny on a trip to visit their mother upstate. Instead, she guides Danny into the glacial woods of Canada on a quest to visit the Jeanne d’Arc basin, the site of an oil field that has become her strange obsession. As they set up camp in an abandoned hunting village, Lauren believes she’s teaching Danny survival skills for the day when she’s no longer able to take care of him. But where does she think she’s going, and what happened to her in Iraq that set her on this path?

With all the boldness and intelligence she brought to So Much Pretty, Cara Hoffman ignites the dark truth about war and homecoming in this literary page-turner that is sure to linger long after its surprising secrets are revealed.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - The Good Luck of Right Now; Matthew Quick

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 that releases in February. 
February 2014 - Harper


Dear Mr. Richard Gere,

In Mom's underwear drawer--as I was separating her "personal" clothes from the "lightly used" articles I could donate to the local thrift shop--I found a letter you wrote.

As you will recall, your letter was about the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, China--you were advocating for a boycott because of the crimes and atrocities the Chinese government commented against Tibet.

Don't worry.

I'm not one of those "crazy types."
 What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mailbox Monday - New Books

It's 2014 and a new home for Mailbox Monday. Originally created by Marcia of To Be Continued, you can find the linky list all year round at Mailbox Monday.  New books since January 2nd.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jacob's Eye Patch; Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw

 Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw
(Illustrated by Jules Feiffer)
Simon & Schuster - 2013
Jacob's Eye Patch is a true story for kids about what it is like to be different.  Jacob is a young boy who has worn an eye patch a few hours a day since he was only (5 days old), to treat "amblyopia", commonly referred to as "lazy eye".

Whenever Jacob goes out, people ask him or his mother about his eye patch. Normally Jacob doesn't mind, but today is different. He is in a hurry to get to the science store to purchase a light-up globe, but along the way people stop them to inquire about his eye patch and he is getting annoyed. At one point he takes the eye patch off and tosses it on the ground, but his mother always carries extras, so he's not off the hook.

At the end of the book there is a short narrative about how the real Jacob felt about the eye patch as well as his mom's perspective of how people should react when encountering someone who looks "different".

The book covers and important topic.  I liked the book, but there isn't a lot of attention to made regarding illustrative detail. It seemed at times what is going on and being said in words, and what was shown (illustrated) on paper didn't match, making for an almost confusing feel. I would recommend checking this one out at the library first, and then deciding whether to purchases it or not.

3.5/5 stars
(library book)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Life After Life; Jill McCorkle

Life After Life; Jill McCorkle
Algonquin - 2013

Life After Life is a novel about both living and dying. The cast of characters are the residents, staff and even some neighbors near Pine Haven Retirement home in Fulton, NC. Their ages range from 12-85.

Joanna Lamb is a hospice volunteer there who spends her time comforting the dying, as well as journaling their life.  Joanna has had her share of life's disappointments and sorrows as well. Looking to make amends with her dying father is what has brought her back to the area.  It is through Joanna that we get to know the other characters in this novel.

The focus of the story is about love and loss. It's about the things that happen in life that make us who we are. I enjoyed most of the characters along the way and felt like I got to know them as well. The experience was almost like learning about some of them as a kind of life to death obituary. The characters were very believable, and I enjoyed that the author added humor to many of their life stories as well.

I felt that at times the novel moved a bit too slow, and although I'm not sure how I would have chosen to wrap up this novel, the ending the author created actually made me mad.

Despite my issues with the book, I wanted to share a couple of quotes which really spoke to me -- for these (2) quotes alone made me happy that I read the book, and bumped up my overall rating a bit.

"WE live days and weeks and months and years with so little awareness of life.  We wait for the bad things that wake us up and shock our systems.  But every now and then, on the most average day, it occurs to you that this is it. This is all there is."
“If a nuclear disaster occurred, and you had to live out those final painful days just stretched out somewhere thinking about your life--This is who I am. This is what I love. This is what I believe--who would you want hearing your whispers? Or perhaps better: Who do you trust to hear your whispers? Whose breath do you want mingled with your own? Whose flesh still warm beside you?”
Have you read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
4/5 stars
(eGalley obtained through NetGalley)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly; Sun-Mi Hwang

Sun-Mi Hwang - 2013 - Penguin

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a fable that was originally published in Korea.  I was so moved by this story, I'll be recommending it again and again, and buying copies for gift giving.

At the heart of this story is Sprout, an aged, egg-laying hen who has spent her life caged in a tiny space. Her life has been spent laying eggs only to have each egg immediately roll away down an incline for the farmer to collect and sell. Her dream all the while has been to see life on the other side and to experience motherhood. She dreams of sitting on an egg, seeing it hatch and raising her young.

Aged and no longer of value to the farmer for egg production, she is culled and sent off to the "hole of death", but fortunately she manages to escape. Although she manages to experience joy of being free, she also must deal with the harsh realities of life on the outside. Saying anything more will spoil the story for others who have not read this one.

I know this is a fable, but it's also a pretty accurate portrait of life, not only for Sprout, but for humans as well.  I don't want to give away too much, but I was incredibly moved by this story. It's a thought provoking read about life, death, family and survival. I disagree with the reader who felt this story was targeted at younger readers. To me younger readers would miss the deeper meaning -- about believing in your dreams, acceptance and knowing when it is time to let go.  Trust me,  just read this gem for yourself - it is fewer than 130 pages . I think you will be glad you did. This book is a rare "keeper" for me.

5/5 stars
(copy received from & NetGalley & publisher)

Waiting on Wednesday - Summer House With Swimming Pool; Herman Koch

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.  What book are you waiting for to be released?  As a huge fan of The Dinner, Herman Koch, I squealed with delight when I learned of his new book for 2014. Not crazy about the cover, but based on the book's description,  it's a probably perfect. What do you think?

June-2014 - Hogarth
The blistering and addictive new novel from Herman Koch, author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Dinner.

When a medical mistake goes horribly wrong and Ralph Meier, a famous actor, winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser is forced to conceal the error from his patients and family. After all, reputation is everything in this business. But the weight of carrying such a secret lies heavily on his mind, and he can't keep hiding from the truth…or the Board of Medical Examiners.

The problem is that the real truth is a bit worse than a simple slipup. Marc played a role in Ralph's death, and he's not exactly upset that the man is gone. Still haunted by his eldest daughter's rape during their stay at Ralph's extravagant Mediterranean summerhouse-one they shared with Ralph and his enticing wife, Judith, film director Stanley Forbes and his far younger girlfriend, Emmanuelle, and Judith's mother-Marc has had it on his mind that the perpetrator of the rape could be either Ralph or Stanley. Stanley's guilt seems obvious, bearing in mind his uncomfortable fixation on the prospect of Marc's daughter's fashion career, but Marc's reasons for wanting Ralph dead become increasingly compelling as events unravel. There is damning evidence against Marc, but he isn't alone in his loathing of the star-studded director.

With characters that can't be trusted, an array of suspects, and two ethically charged crimes, Summerhouse with Swimming Pool reveals the narrative trickery that is Herman Koch at his best.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Bird Skinner; Alice Greenway

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 that releases this month. It takes place in Maine.

The Bird Skinner; Alice Greenway
Atlantic Monthly Press - Jan 2014

Fox Island, Penobscot Bay, Maine. July 1973

" Jim wedges the chair into the kitchen doorway, forcing the screen door open, lights his third or fourth cigarette.  The doctors told him not to.  Cut down on the drink, right down, and the smoking altogether.  To hell with that. He lost the leg anyhow.

The nicotine leaves him edgy and overly alert.  An irascibility that's hard to burn off, struck as he is in a wheelchair.  He could use a drink is the truth of it but he'll hold off for now.  It's the least he can do--not meet the girl half drunk."
 What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sycamore Row; John Grisham

Sycamore Row; John Grisham
2013 - Random House Audio
Some readers are considering this novel a sequel to A Time to Kill, which Grisham wrote some 25 years ago. Although readers will be transported back to Clanton, MS, 1988 and Attorney Jake Brigance, from the Carl Lee Haley trial returns, I didn't really consider it a sequel.

At the heart of this story is Seth Hubbard, an extremely wealthy man who was dying of lung cancer and is found hanging from a "sycamore" tree.  The day before he died, he left a new will, this one hand-written, in which he leaves the bulk of his estate (90%) to his black maid, Lettie Lang (5%) to his church and (5%) to his brother and excluding his two children.  Was Seth mentally sound when he wrote this will, and if so what compelled him to do what he did? 

Of course, with racial tensions still high in Mississippi at this time,  there are plenty of individuals who plan to do everything in their power to make sure the richest woman in Clanton, Mississippi is not a black woman named Lettie Lang.  A lengthy court battle ensues and Jake has plenty at stake.

This Grisham novel was very good and I liked the way the story unfolded. The reader was Michael Beck who did a great job with the narration and listening made for some entertaining commutes. The character development was good, a fair amount of twists and turns along the way to keep me engaged and curious, and best of all an ending that did not disappoint.  
4/5 stars 
(library audio)

Sunday Salon - January 5th - 2014

Well, it's back to work tomorrow after 16 days off....sigh.  Although I feel like I've been a slacker for over (2) weeks (haven't done a ton of reading), I did love being off and taking it day by day.  

Looking back I spent a few days preparing for Christmas: shopping, baking and cleaning and then cleaning up. We had a wonderful Christmas and the best part was just being together. Although having a little one around certainly added to the holiday joy, next year our Christmas joy will multiply as there should be (2) more little ones to celebrate as well.

One Christmas was over I was able to spend a little more time with my cutie, tried new recipes (veggie lasagne and pistachio cookies and pecan pie were hits) and played with my new kitchen gadgets. We ate out a lot, met friends that we only see a few times a year for lunch, went to the casino one day (an annual thing), enjoyed a snowstorm from indoors and celebrated a quiet New Year's Eve at home. We went to see Saving Mr. Banks (loved it) and watched a wonderful documentary with James Gandolfini (3x). It made me cry -- a special man whose life was cut short at 51. The documentary is Alive Day Memories - have you seen it?

As for reading, I only finished (3) books during my time off -- Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life, Marta McDowell (library book); Sycamore Row, John Grisham (audiobook); (no review yet) and  The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly; S. Hwang (no review yet).  I do have (5) books I hope to read in January - Five Days at the Memorial; Sheri Fink; Gemini; Carol Cassella; Life After Life; Jill McCorkle; The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring; Perfect; Rachel Joyce and One Vacant Chair; Joe Coomer.

How were your holidays? Have a wonderful week.