Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

From Goodreads: Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."

I finally picked this one for my "L" book for the A-Z Reading Challenge and I am so glad I did. Once I sat down to read, it caught my attention right away and I fnished it up a day later neglecting my chores to read and read some more. I really enjoyed the glimpse into the town of Salem. I had heard of Salem before (of course) but had no idea of what it might be like today with the tourists looking for witches in the historic parts of town. I also enjoyed the idea of island life described through the eyes of a "townie". That contrast of tourists versus locals is really a timeless theme. I also loved the characters - even the bad ones held my interest. Somewhat of a spoiler discussion from here on out so stop reading if you haven't read it yet! As I read, I knew there was something I was missing. I even thought of the movie Sixth Sense and tried to figure out if there was a ghost. I knew there was one ghost, Eva, but suspected there may be another one. But even though I was actively investigating what the mystery might be...I did not figure it out and, boy, was I surprised. Surprised in a good way. Surprised in a way that made me want to go back and reread the book with this new information - which I did in small parts but not all the way through (I was most interested in the Jack piece of it). Overall, this is one of the better books I have read lately. I think it will stick with me for awhile!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday started by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). This month Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Mari at MariReads. Stop by there to check out everyone else's mailboxes.

This is the Maeve Binchy version of Mailbox Monday! Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors. Her books are usually set in a place where the pace of life is slower like a village in Ireland or Greece. Her stories allow me to imagine what life would be like if I wasn't always rushing around - that's a great escape!

From Goodreads: In The Return Journey, Maeve Binchy brings us sons and lovers, daughters and strangers, husbands and wives in their infinite variety—powerfully compelling stories of love, loss, revelation, and reconciliation. A secretary's silent passion for her boss meets the acid test on a business trip....A man and a woman's mutual disdain at first sight shows how deceptive appearances can be....An insecure wife clings to the illusion of order, only to discover chaos at the hands of a house sitter who opens the wrong doors....A pair of star-crossed travelers take each other's bags, and then learn that when you unlock a stranger's suitcase, you enter a stranger's life. In their company are many more, whose poignant, ironic, often humorous stories—unforgettable slices of life—make up The Return Journey, a spellbinding trip into the human heart.
I found this one at a used book store and it is one I didn't have in my collection so I snatched it right up. Just one afternoon out in the hammock ought to get me through this one!

From Goodreads: After many happy years of marriage and raising a family, Brian and Kathleen suddenly find themselves a bit lost in life. Midwesterners who’ve never traveled, Kathleen decides that what she and Brian need is a vacation, and with the help of an enthusiastic travel agent she plans a trip to Ireland in search of her roots. In beautiful, quaint Lisdoonvarna, to the couple’s surprise, they find themselves in the midst of a joyous yearly gathering dedicated to celebrating the life and work of a late Irish poet, and they rediscover something much more important than evidence of long-dead ancestors: their love for each other and for life itself.
This one I found on IBooks. Haven't had nearly as much luck finding bargains on IBooks as I have on Kindle but this kind of makes up for it! I'm super happy to read a 99-cent short story by an author I love!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

From Goodreads: Miranda is overjoyed when she meets Greg at a cocktail party. Greg is handsome and funny, but he has not told Miranda everything about himself, such as the pregnant wife he has just abandoned.

This was a fun book to read; it is Brit chick lit done well with a cast of interesting characters in both posh situations and working class ones as well. You have to abandon reality to accept all the coincidences that make the plot work but because I liked the characters and wanted to see each of them get their due (whether their due was happiness or utter humiliation), I was happy to suspend my disbelief! This is the second Jill Mansell book I have read, the first was Millie's Fling. I enjoyed them both as e-book bargains, Millie was free and Miranda only 99 cents. That marketing technique certainly hooked me because Jill Mansell is on my list now of authors I like!

This counts toward the e-book challenge. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Good is God? by Philip Yancey

From the Amazon product description: Journalist and spiritual seeker Philip Yancey has always struggled with the most basic questions of the Christian faith. The question he tackles in WHAT GOOD IS GOD? concerns the practical value of belief in God. His search for the answer to this question took him to some amazing settings around the world: Mumbai, India when the firing started during the terrorist attacks; at the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; on the Virginia Tech campus soon after the massacre; an AA convention; and even to a conference for women in prostitution. At each of the 10 places he visited, his preparation for the visit and exactly what he said to the people he met each provided evidence that faith really does work when what we believe is severely tested. WHAT GOOD IS GOD? tells the story of Philips journey--the background, the preparation, the presentations themselves. Here is a story of grace for armchair travelers, spiritual seekers, and those in desperate need of assurance that their faith really matters.

This was just okay for me. It probably was not a good choice for me in audio and would have been better in print. The book is a compilation of speeches that Yancey has given. Each speech is preceeded by an introduction to the location and situation of the speech; the introductions are filled with anecdotes. Then he reads the speech, the speeches are also also filled with anecdotes. So it was hard for me to keep track of where I was in the book because the feel of the introductions and the speeches were so similar that I would confuse them. They were interesting but they all seemd to run together as I listened. I think in print, it would be more apparent where you were and you could kind of mull over and let one section "settle" before you moved on to the next. My other problem was that it was narrated by the author. His voice was very soothing, really very soothing, so soothing it was to the point that it reminded me of an old Saturday Night live bit, it was just too much. So I was plugging away at it because it was a freebie I won and I always feel like I ought to finish those. i was getting more detached from it and less interested when I bought Can you Keep A Secret? and took a quick six hour break to listen to that. When I returned to What Good Is God? I was ready to listen again, more attentive, and really enjoyed the last few discs. That's what leads me to say it would be better n print when you could read and stop, read and stop, rather than audio where it just keeps coming at you whether you are ready or not.

Thank you to Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress for hosting the giveaway that sent this book to me.

Here is the author's website: http://www.philipyancey.com/home/about

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

From Goodreads: Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:

Secrets from her mother:
I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur.
Sammy the goldfish in my parents’ kitchen is not the same goldfish that Mum gave me to look after when she and Dad were in Egypt.

Secrets from her boyfriend:
I weigh one hundred and twenty-eight pounds. Not one eighteen, like Connor thinks.
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

From her colleagues:
When Artemis really annoys me, I feed her plant orange juice. (Which is pretty much every day.) It was me who jammed the copier that time. In fact, all the times.

Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world:
My G-string is hurting me.
I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.

But come Monday morning, Emma’s office is abuzz about the arrival of Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO. Suddenly Emma is face-to-face with the stranger from the plane, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her. Things couldn’t possibly get worse—Until they do.

I was 6 discs in to listening to What Good is God? when I spied this one on the shelf of a thrift store for $1.50. I snatched it right up because I LOVED this book in print. I bought it, read it, and passed it on. Then repeated that whole cycle TWO more times when I came across it at tag sales and such because it just made me laugh each time I read it. As soon as I got in the car, What Good is God? came right out of the CD player and in went Sophie Kinsella. Now, I worry a little bit about what that says about my character that I would so easly turn away from a work of theology and evangalism for some Brit chick lit but that's exactly what I did and I am happy with my choice. The narrator had a great accent that brought the characters to life. The book was abridged for audio and I did notice when they left out one of my absolutely favorite lines but I just added the line back in in my head and laughed aloud remembering it. Enjoying this book again, for the first time on audio, was a joyous 6 hours. If you enjoy the occasional chick lit, this is a great one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"I'm Black and I'm Proud," Wished the White Girl

From Goodreads: Living within a "Black World" and coming to know racism first-hand is rarely the path traveled by the average white American. Lynn Markovich Bryant shares her story of living within a black environment and dealing with racism.

I found this memoir fascinating because of the "inside look" it gave to race relations in Beaufort during integration and the repercussions still affecting life here today. Although I was fascinated by the book, I had a hard time deciding if it was the actual story or if it was more of the then and now look at the community with which I am intimately familiar. As I read, I wondered if someone from another part of the country would appreciate it less or more reading it without knowing the landmarks and some of the people described. It was a fast read and the sequence of events was for the most part fairly linear which allowed me to keep track of things easily. While I am glad that the author used her real voice as she wrote, there were times that I found the asides distracting. Lickety split I am passing this one on to a friend so I have someone to discuss it with and I'll be checking back on Goodreads to see what other readers have to say!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's On Your Nightstand? May 2011

This monthly feature is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month. Click on the logo to go and check out all the participants.

On the bottom is I'm Black and I'm Proud wished the White Girl, it's by a local author about her experience growing up in small town south in the sixties as a child in a multi-racial family. She's white but identified more with the black community and felt more accepted there as well. It's been very interesting so far.

Next is The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe. I won this one from the Goodreads First Reads program and am enjoying it thus far.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac is one I couldn't get through on audio so have decided to try the print and see if that is better for me. I'll be honest, I'm not laying any money down on it. I find that the books that appeal to intellectual males, tend not to appeal to me. (Broom of the System comes right to mind)

Finally on top is an audio I came across in a thrift shop, Strangers in Death by JD Robb. She has written approximately a kazillion of these "in Death" books and I have read exactly one, Memory in Death. It's not something I would sit down and read (too many more preferred books in my TBR pile) but it will pass the time in the car!

This same picture was on my March nightstand post! I've made zero progress towards picking out reading an "L" book for the A-Z Reading Challenge so that is still on my "to-do" list! Hopefully I won't be saying that again in June or July!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday started by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). This month Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Mari at MariReads. Stop by there to check out everyone else's mailboxes.

It was Spring book sale time at our local library! That usually results in stacks of new books coming into my house but not this year. I exercised some serious self-control as I am wondering if my house is going to sink down into the earth under the weight of all my TBR books! It was NOT because I thought I was leaving with the rapture and there just wouldn't be time to read. This is what I bought....

From Goodreads: In 1986, Susan Jane Gilman and a classmate embarked on a bold trek around the globe starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent backpackers for roughly ten minutes. Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche and Linda Goodman's Love Signs, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads—hungry, disoriented, stripped of everything familiar, and under constant government surveillance. Soon, they began to unravel—one physically, the other psychologically. As their journey became increasingly harrowing, they found themselves facing crises that Susan didn't think they'd survive. But by summoning strengths she never knew she had—and with help from unexpected friends—the two travelers found their way out of a Chinese heart of darkness.This has been on my mental wish list FOREVER - or at least since it made the round on blogs two summers ago! I like the author already because she has such clever book titles - her others are Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress and Kiss my Tiara so I am going in with high hopes!

From Goodreads: On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling North America with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road a work of lasting importance. I have had this one on audio for probably a year now and I've thrown it in the CD player twice only to pull it back out again as it didn't hold my attention. When I saw the paperback version sitting on the book sale table, I thought, "Maybe that's the way to go." So I bought it hoping that maybe a combination of print and audio will draw me in. It's one of those books that some people describe as life changing. But, on the other hand, looking at Goodreads there were plenty of one and two star people out there so if I don't succeed, I am not going to beat myself up about it. But I am going to give it one more try!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Forever Friends by Lynne Hinton

From Goodreads: Welcome back to Hope Springs, the small southern town introduced in the bestselling Friendship Cake, in which the women of Hope Springs Community Church first came together to whip up a cookbook like no other -- a project that turned out to be an ideal recipe for friendship. Now, Lynne Hinton returns with her engaging storytelling and brings the friendship of these delightful women to life once more in the third installment of the beloved Hope Springs series.

I've read the first book in this series, Friendship Cake, and the fourth book in the series, Christmas Cake, and this, the third book in the series, Forever Friends. So I am out of order and missing one altogether but overall, still enjoying the series as a light read. Even though the main characters have stayed the same through the series, I have had a little bit of trouble keeping track of who is who, I do chalk that up to reading out of order because I have some of their back stories mixed up in my head! Each book also has sub-plots involving other people in the community and those have been interesting and easy to follow. The author, Lynne Hinton, was a pastor and her faith is a part of the books but it is not overwhelming by any stretch. I think in one of my other reviews, I compared the series to the Mitford series and that is still my impression. I have my eye out for Hope Springs and Wedding Cake because I would like to read those too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday started by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). This month Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Mari at MariReads. Stop by there to check out everyone else's mailboxes.

I had one book come through my mailbox for review. The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.
Here's the description from Goodreads: Four very different women embark on a transformational journey that follows the migrating monarchs across the United States to Mexico. The story begins when Luz Avila's grandmother, the local butterfly lady, purchases an old, orange VW bug for a road trip home to Mexico. When she unexpectedly dies, Luz is inspired to take her grandmother's ashes home. In the manner of the Aztec myth of the goddess who brings light to the world, Luz attracts a collection of lost women, each seeking change in their lives. The Mexican people believe the monarchs are the spirits of the recently departed and Luz taps into ancient rituals and myths as she follows the spectacular, glittering river of orange monarchs in the sky to home.
I've started this one already and it has been good so far. I was surprised by the gradnmother's death so soon into the book but shouldn't have been. It is right there in the blurb that it happens right away - but, nevertheless, I still was surprised that it happened right away!

Mary Alice Monroe is a local author so I was very excited to get this particular book through the Goodreads First Reads program - I'm happy to win any book but winning one I already had on my mental wish list is especially thrilling! I've read one of her's before Time Is a River but apparently never posted about it (imagine that!) and I have another, Sweetgrass, here in my TBR stack. The other one that got a lot of publicity was Last Light Over Carolina. She's written probably a dozen more but I don't know anything about the others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eclipse Bay by Jayne Ann Krentz

From Goodreads: Jayne Ann Krentz borrows from the legend of the Hatfields and McCoys and throws in a few echoes of Romeo and Juliet in her latest saga of romance and intrigue. Eclipse Bay is the first in what promises to be an exciting new trilogy. Death and desire walk hand in hand in the tiny town of Eclipse Bay, located along the rocky coast of Oregon. The steep cliffs and crashing waves are no less hazardous than the nasty secrets that many in town keep. And at the heart of it all is the generations-long rivalry and hostilities between two families: the Hartes and the Madisons.

I needed an "E" book for the A-Z Reading Challenge and before I had a chance to explore some suggestions, this audiobook fell in my lap and the lazy easy thing to do was just pop it in and listen! Despite being written in 2000, it took me straight back to the early '80's when I read lots of "sweeping sagas" with family feuds and romances. I gave it a 2 on Goodreads because it was fairly easy to tell where things were going with the romance right from the first minute so the convulated path it took just felt contrived. The characters were very soap-opera like - the good girl, the bad boy, the eccentric aunt - no one who I really related to and liked. But, I spend so much time in the car that I am over being picky, it was "listenable" and I enjoyed it for what it was!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where I've Been...

I haven't posted in almost a month! Have you wondered where I have been?
One of the biggest things that has kept me busy the last few weeks has been Relay for Life. I was a team captain honoring a dear, sweet friend who is in the thick of her cancer battle. Since January I have been coordinating meals for the family and things really heated up when it came time for the actual Relay event. We did great. We fund raised double what our goal was, we had great participation, and I know my dear sweet friend felt loved and supported.
The next thing that kept me busy was preparing to host Bunko. For years I was in a relaxed Bunko group; all that hosting involved was throwing out the card tables and opening the wine. We all had kids and jobs and pets and life was crazy so we ignored the mess and focused on the fun. But that group disbanded and I have ended up playing with a very different sort of crew. These twelve women are mostly retired or perhaps work part-time, they have grown children or no children, and their homes are big, beautiful, spotless mansions on the water. Bunko is preceded by a sit down dinner for all twelve - a lot more preparation! They are a lot of fun but they are used to good food and clean houses - those things require a lot of effort on my part! Our house was suffering from some neglect, the worst being where the puppy had chewed three holes in the wall during her chewing stage! So hosting Bunko involved painting both my kitchen and the hallway and getting some landscaping accomplished. There were a dozen other things that should have been done but those chores took up three solid weekends so we just ran out of time! Now we have until my turn next year to accomplish the rest!

We have also started Spring sports here at the RoundFile home. Youngest is playing flag football in a church league. That's not too bad, one practice during the week and a game on Saturday. Teen is a different story, rec league soccer is quite a time commitment. He has two practices during the week (sometimes an extra one to make three!) and a week night game and a weekend game.
Spring break kept me busy too. One thing about living at the beach, people do come visit! I had friends come from Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Not all together - these were all separate visits. Only one actually stayed at my house but I did spend time visiting with everyone and organizing get togethers. There has been a lot of eating going on 'round here! I am almost to my pregnancy delivery weight - Lord, have mercy!!!

Yesterday was a trip to Clemson to bring BookTiger home for the summer. She has finished freshman year. I am now the proud parent of a college sophomore!

Other things this week - a funeral today and a wedding tomorrow and a baby shower Sunday! So...that's where I've been, probably more than you wanted to know! I have read a little bit, I hope to get those books posted soon. I have 300 posts backed up on my Google Reader but hope that I will get to those soon too! I miss my blog and my blogging friends - I'll be back!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In the Name of Honor by Richard North Patterson

From Goodreads: Home from Iraq, a lieutenant kills his commanding officer—was it self-defense or premeditated murder? An enthralling novel of suspense about the high cost of war and secrets

The McCarrans and the Gallaghers, two military families, have been close for decades, ever since Anthony McCarran—now one of the army's most distinguished generals—became best friends with Jack Gallagher, a fellow West Pointer who was later killed in Vietnam. Now a new generation of soldiers faces combat, and Lt. Brian McCarran, the general's son, has returned from a harrowing tour in Iraq. Traumatized by wartime experiences he will not reveal, Brian depends on his lifelong friendship with Kate Gallagher, Jack's daughter, who is married to Brian's commanding officer in Iraq, Capt. Joe D'Abruzzo. But since coming home, D'Abruzzo also seems changed by the experiences he and Brian shared—he's become secretive and remote.

Tragedy strikes when Brian shoots and kills D'Abruzzo on their army post in Virginia. Brian pleads self-defense, claiming that D'Abruzzo, a black-belt martial artist, came to his quarters, accused him of interfering with his marriage, and attacked him. Kate supports Brian and says that her husband had become violent and abusive. But Brian and Kate have secrets of their own, and now Capt. Paul Terry, one of the army's most accomplished young lawyers, will defend Brian in a high-profile court-martial. Terry's co-counsel is Meg McCarran, Brian's sister, a brilliant and beautiful attorney who insists on leaving her practice in San Francisco to help save her brother. Before the case is over, Terry will become deeply entwined with Meg and the McCarrans—and learn that families, like war, can break the sturdiest of souls.

This one was kind of interesting. The topic of PTSD is certainly timely, more and more of our service members are plagued with mental health issues when they return from combat. The murder mystery was not riveting so the numerous repetitions needed throughout the story got tiresome. Patterson did a great job nailing the characters, I may not have liked them all but they were certainly people I recognized and could relate to. There was a potential "big twist" and I was ready to listen through the murder scenario a thousand times to have my suspicions either confirmed or denied! That part had me hooked. My final thought is that the narrator was a little tough to get used to - I never really warmed up to his voice but I did get used to it so that it didn't bother me as much as the book went on (weak praise at best, I know!).