Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm back

My computer is all fixed...hopefully I will be back on track tomorrow with some reviews and stuff. Thanks for being patient.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Computer Issues

It appears my laptop has been infected with a virus which keeps causing it to crash. Hubby tried to fix it but I now need to take it somewhere to have it looked at. Until then, I will be without a computer so posts with be sparse for the foreseeable future. Hopefully I will be back online within a week!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (audio book)

From the back of the audio case: It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets - secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg's moving new novel, unearthed truths force on seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the past?

Laura Bartone anticipates her annual family reunion in Minnesota with a mixture of excitement and wariness. Yet this year's gathering will prove to be much more trying than either she or her siblings imagined. As soon as she arrives, Laura realizes that something is not right with her sister. Forever wrapped up in events of long ago, Caroline is the family's restless black sheep. When Caroline confronts Laura and their brother, Steve, with devastating allegations about their mother, the three have a difficult time reconciling their varying experiences in the same house. But a sudden misfortune will lead them all to face the past, their own culpability, and their common need for love and forgiveness.

Read by: Joyce Bean

Favorite quote: "There is an art to mending. If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony of its worth."

My thoughts: I have really come to enjoy Elizabeth Berg's books. I love how she tackles the deeper issues in life in her books, describing them in a way that makes you think about what's going on in your own life. In The Art of Mending, she explores the secrets of a Midwestern family, centering around the troubled relationship between the mother and her daughter, Caroline. The book touches on alleged abuse, the makeup of families and even death. It is about a family's decision whether or not to repair (mend) their relationships after there has been a great tear through the fabric of their lives. It makes you think about whether there are relationships in your life that need mending. I found it interesting that this book is not told from the point of view of the abuser or the abused, but rather from a sibling's point of view. In so doing, once the issue of abuse is brought up, both the narrator and her other sibling start to re-think their own memories and realize that things were not always as they appeared to be. Elizabeth Berg deals with this issue both sensitively and humorously, and even manages to have some suspense built in as bit by bit the entire story of the abuse comes out. I look forward to both reading and/or listening to more of her work, as she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: 10th Anniversary by James Patterson

First line: This was the day I was getting married.

From the inside cover: Detective Lindsay Boxer finally gets married, but a missing newborn and a series of violent attacks push the Women's Murder Club back to full throttle before the wedding gifts are even unwrapped.

Detective Lindsay Boxer's long-awaited wedding celebration becomes a distant memory when she is called to investigate a horrendous crime: a teenage girl is badly injured and left for dead, and her newborn baby is nowhere to be found. Lindsay discovers that not only is there no trace of the criminal - but the victim may be keeping secrets as well.

At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano is prosecuting the biggest case of her life - a woman has been accused of murdering her husband in front of their two young children. Yuki's career rests on a guilty verdict, so when Lindsay finds evidence that could save the defendant, she is forced to choose. Should she trust her best friend or follow her instinct?

Lindsay's every move is watched by her new boss, Lieutenant Jackson Brady, and when the pressure to find the baby begins interfering with her new marriage to Joe, she wonders if she'll ever be able to start a family. With James Patterson's white-hot speed and unquenchable action, 10th Anniversary is the most deliciously chilling Women's Murder Club book ever.

My thoughts: I always look forward to the spring because that means a new Women's Murder Club book will be released and this year it was 10th Anniversary. As is usually the case with Patterson, this book was filled with short chapters, a fast-paced plot, suspense, and lots of twists and turns along the way. In 10th Anniversary, there are three cases going on that involve three of the four women. Lindsay, who gets married in the very beginning of the book, is assigned the case of a missing baby and the teen mom who keeps confusing the details of her story. Yuki is working on a huge murder case that she really needs to win and also starts dating Lindsay's boss. Cindy, dealing with job insecurity, starts investigating a series of assaults for the newspaper and her relationship with Lindsay's partner is still going strong. Claire seems to take a back seat in this story, making some cameo appearances every once in a while. Perhaps this is because she recently had a baby? My favorite part of this series is the deep friendship these four women share - a friendship that has certainly been put to the test time and again, surviving death, kidnapping, and dating a friend's boss or partner. With each installment of the Women's Murder Club, we get more insight into each of the women and I love "catching up" with all that's going on in their lives. I hope that this series has many more anniversaries to come! 

(I purchased this book.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Post: Deborah Cloyed

Please join me in welcoming Deborah Cloyed, author of the new book, The Summer We Came to Life to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Deborah talks about the modern world of dating.

An Ode to Modern Dating
By Deborah Cloyed

When my book The Summer We Came to Life opens, Samantha, age 29, has accepted a marriage proposal from a rich, successful, handsome French movie director.  Samantha and her best friends are still mourning the recent death of their ‘fourth musketeer,’ so the proposal becomes a metaphor for all the choices faced by the modern woman.  Should she really marry him and be absorbed into his world and life? Throughout a vacation in Honduras, her best friends and their parents’ love stories help Samantha evaluate her life and decide what’s next for her as an artist, woman, and human being.  Her friend Kendra faces an unexpected pregnancy, and has to decide whether to stay with the father, her boyfriend, or not.  For third friend Isabel, finding a man is the least of her problems. 

Welcome to the modern world of dating, where women happily stay single into their thirties.  They delay motherhood, focusing on their careers and personal fulfillment, or they proceed on their own terms through adoption or single motherhood.

When I wrote the book, I was fascinated by this phenomenon I’ve observed all too closely living in New York and Los Angeles.  Five of my best girlfriends and I started The West Clovernook Society, a club that combines resources to raise money for charities.  These women are gorgeous, successful, and headstrong.  Two out of six are married.  And those two are the only married women I know!  I socialize with dozens of thirty-something women that love to gossip about their dating travails, but in reality are in no hurry to give up the single life. 

And for the women who do find love, they’ve already experienced a decade of the Sex and the City phenomenon whereby their girlfriends function as soul mates, protectors, and support system. 

As for me, I live with my boyfriend, my childhood best friend and two writer-actor guys in a huge house in the Hollywood Hills.  Certainly, the rules have changed for what’s expected of a thirty-two year old woman.

In The Summer We Came to Life, we see the girls navigating love and loss, but we see the parents’ stories from the 60’s in 70’s during the Iran Revolution, US Civil Rights, and Panama.  After living in Honduras and Kenya, I went back to my parents’ home in Northern Virginia to write the book that was bouncing around in my head.  It was the first time I’d spoken to my parents about love and history as an adult.  I heard stories I had never heard before – about racism, politics, love, and revolution in the 60’s.  It got me thinking about all the ways dating, love, and marriage have changed.  And the ways it will always be the same.

Read The Summer We Came to Life, and write to me about your own love stories, no matter what your age, gender, or background.  From writing the book, I have learned that everyone has a fascinating, heartbreaking, hilarious story to tell.  And I’d love to hear it! 

About the author: Deborah Cloyed lives in Los Angeles, in Humphrey Bogart’s old room with a view. As a photographer, travel writer, or curious nomad, she’s previously resided in London, Barcelona, Thailand, Honduras, Kenya, and New York City. She’s traveled to twenty other countries besides, several as a contestant with her childhood best friend on CBS’ The Amazing Race. She runs a photography school for kids and is happily at work on her next book – a nonlinear love story set against the political violence in Kenya 2007-2008.

Thank you Deborah for contributing this great guest post and thank you Eric at Planned Television Arts for coordinating it.

Review: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

First line: Birth and death are the two occurrences in a person's life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots.

From the back cover: Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends - Isabel, Kendra, and Mina - on a vacation somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they've created a lifetime of memories. This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends - the closest thing she has to family - Mina's death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gives Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

My thoughts: I found this to be quite an interesting read. It is a unique look into the lives of best friends as they support and lean on each another through the ups and downs of life. Told from the perspective of Sam, her two best friends, and their multicultural mix of parents, it hits on a wide variety of themes, including love, grief, politics and even quantum physics. Six months after losing the fourth member of their group, Sam, Kendra and Isabel are still mourning Mina. Coming together to help each other in their grief, the girls and their parents meet in Honduras, where Sam struggles with a huge decision - should she marry her French playboy boyfriend, Remy? Like many women do, Sam turns to her best friends for help. This in turn prompts the best friends' parents to weigh in with their own love stories that they'd never completely told their daughters. These stories are defining moments from their lives: the civil rights movement, the Iranian revolution, and a brief marriage to an aristocrat. This is a book that really makes you value the importance of friendship and also will have you taking a look at those important decisions you've made in your life. I can see this as a great book club pick.

I received a complimentary copy of The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed from Eric at  Planned Television Arts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods

First line: "We have an idea," Laila Riley announced when she and Connie Collins turned up in Jess O'Brien's office at The Inn at Eagle Point on a Saturday night.

From the back cover: Jess O'Brien has overcome a lot - the challenges of attention deficit disorder, the near bankruptcy of her beloved Inn at Eagle Point and her self-perception as a screw-up in a family of overachievers. Now she's ready to share the future with a man. Her friends persuade her to join a dating service - but she gets no takers! Which is fine with her childhood friend, psychologist Will Lincoln, who's already chosen the perfect man for Jess: himself.

Will has loved Jess practically forever. He knows her faults and her strengths. But for all Will's sincerity and charm, Jess fears he views her as some psychological case study. With her family and the town of Chesapeake Shores behind him, Will finally makes his case. But is it enough to convince Jess to take the risk of a lifetime?

My thoughts: This is the sixth book in Sherryl Woods Chesapeake Shores series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What I especially like is that books five, six and seven are all being released in a period of three consecutive months which means I don't have to wait a year to find out what happens next. I have to say that is probably one of the biggest complaints about some of the series I read - having to wait so long for the next book.  

Moonlight Cove is a light, heartwarming story mainly focusing on the relationship between Jess O'Brien and Will Lincoln, but also following the budding romance between Connie Collins and Thomas O'Brien. Jess and Will have know each other forever - Will being good friends with Jess's older brothers. Being diagnosed with ADD, Jess is not known for sticking with or following through on many things, relationships included. Will, now a psychologist, has carried a torch for Jess since he was fourteen and now he needs to decide if the time has come for him to move on. Connie and Thomas's relationship started back in the previous book, Driftwood Cottage, and here in Moonlight Cove we see them take a few steps forward. Both relationships are, of course, major topics of discussion for the huge, boisterous O'Brien clan - busybodies and matchmakers extraordinaire. I think this is what really draws me to this series - the big family always butting in in some one's life. Coming from a large family (I am the oldest of 7!) I can totally relate to this and love seeing it happen in print. I am eager to read the next installment, Beach Lane, which is on hold at the library (in spot #1!) and will be mine as soon as it comes in.

(I borrowed this book from the library.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blog Tour and Review: Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

First line: Here's how I knew something about my life had to change.

From the back cover: Kelly Mills Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her ordinary middle-American existence and her neighbors' seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding but exhausting. Meanwhile, Kelly's own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Suddenly energized, Kelly takes charge of her middling life, devising a midlife makeover plan to get out of neutral.

From page one, Kelly's witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan - she places Post-it notes all over her house and car - will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will connect emotionally, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career.

Here, Home, Hope will surely appeal to readers of chick lit and other women's fiction titles who are ready to transition into something new in their own life.

My thoughts: I love when I read a book and it makes me evaluate choices I have made in my life. Here, Home, Hope did just that. I felt that many times throughout the book, I could completely relate to Kelly, the main character in the book. While I don't have children of my own, I do have an incredibly supportive and amazing husband that has allowed me to explore many different options these past two years. 

In Here, Home, Hope, Kaira Rouda explores the courage it takes to reevaluate present circumstances and to then find ways to reshape and reinvent life. It tackles a subject many women can identify with - what happens when the kids don't need you as much? When is it time to want more for yourself? Being an entrepreneur herself, the author was able to create Kelly - a life-like character, empowering her as she starts her own home staging business, reconnects with friends and helps solve the seemingly myriad problems in her friends' lives. While much of the book is quite humorous, it also tackles some serious emotional issues such as addiction and eating disorders. I laughed often at how Kelly tackled her mid-life crises and reinvention, cried when issues got real and emotional, and rooted for the characters all along - including the teenage anorexic that Kelly takes under her wing. One of my favorite parts of the book were the T2C notes (things to change) that Kelly writes them down and posts them throughout her house. I found them to be pretty inspiring and even thought of a few changes that I could make myself.

I found this to be a fast, quick-paced book and one that will definitely be finding a permanent spot on my bookshelf so I can refer back to that T2C list. The cover is also very appealing - hydrangeas, especially blue ones, are one of my favorite flowers! I look forward to reading more from Kaira Rouda.

About the author: Kaira Rouda is a former newspaper columnist, reporter, contributing magazine editor, and freelance writer for numerous regional and national publications. The previous author of Real You Incorporated (Wiley, 2008), Kaira created Real Living Real Estate, the first national women-focused brand in real estate and now the fastest growing international brand.

She is the recipient of Best Entrepreneur of 2008 from Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and Entrepreneur magazine placed Real Living on its “Top 50 Fastest-Growing, Women-Led Companies” list. During her twenty-year career in marketing, Kaira has received multiple ADDY, Webby, Telly, Communiator, Prism, WebAward, and W3 awards. She is one of Forbes’ top 30 women to follow on Twitter.  Here, Home, Hope is Kaira’s debut fiction novel.

 I received a complimentary copy of Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda from Jessica at BookSparksPR  as part of the tour.

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? (5.23.11)

It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

Didn't get quite as much reading done as I had hoped last week, but I am looking forward to the holiday weekend coming up to catch up - provided the weather is good, I will be down at the boat club reading while hubby sails!

Books Completed last week:
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (audio library book)
  • Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda (review book)
  • The Summer We Came To Life by Deborah Cloyed (review book)
Reading Now:
  • When the Killing's Done by TC Boyle (book club book, library book)
  • Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen (library audio book)
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (book club book, mine)
  • Releasing Gillian's Wolves by Tara Woolpy (review book)
  • Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr (e-book)
  • The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan (review book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods
  • 10th Anniversary by James Patterson
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
  • Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda
  • The Summer We Came To Life by Deborah Cloyed
Contest information:

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In My Mailbox (55) 5.22.11

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store.

For Review (2)
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner
Creed's Honor by Linda Lael Miller 

Library (0)

Purchased (5) - From Library and Church Book Sales
1st To Die by James Patterson
2nd Chance by James Patterson
Kiss the Girls by James Patterson
Roses Are Red by James Patterson
Violets Are Blue by James Patterson

Free Downloads (0) 

Borrowed from family member (0)

From Paperback Swap (0)

Won (1) 
An e-Reader sleeve made by Bonnie at Hands and Home - I'm so excited to start using it with my NookColor - Thanks Bonnie!!!


What's in your mailbox?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Virtual Book Tour and Guest Post: Darien Gee (giveaway, too!)

Please join me in welcoming Darien Gee, author of Friendship Bread to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Darien guest blogs about what inspired her new novel.

Enjoy and be sure to enter the giveaway!

The Bread That Inspired a Novel

If you’re never heard of Amish Friendship Bread, your life is about to change forever. Mine certainly was.

Amish Friendship Bread is similar to a quick bread except it’s made with a sourdough starter. If you’ve ever seen (or smelled) a bag of fermenting batter, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s something you won’t likely forget.

Amish Friendship Bread is similar to a chain letter in that after ten days you’re asked to divide the starter into four portions, keep one for yourself and give the other three portions away to lucky (and unsuspecting) friends or neighbors so that they can do the same. After five rounds, there will be 1,024 bags of starter floating out there. After ten rounds: 1,048,576.

That’s a lot of starter to emerge from one bag of the stuff.

I’m often asked if Amish Friendship Bread is really Amish. I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone else does, either. There’s no documented evidence of its origins, and I know some people’s suspicions are raised when they see instant pudding listed among the ingredients. But what I do believe is that the inspiration behind the bread is undoubtedly Amish in nature. It’s about friendship and community, about sharing what you have with others and expressing gratitude for the good things in your life.

Friendship Bread was inspired by my own experience with the bread, when my daughter brought it home along with a bag of starter she’d received from a friend. I was eating the last few crumbs when I started to think about a woman who receives the starter and just doesn’t want to do it. I saw a sadness hanging over this character and I knew I wanted to find out more. I started writing and the story quickly took shape—more importantly, it soon became clear that the book wasn’t about any one person, but an entire community ready for change and connection.

Friendship Bread is about what can happen when one person is willing to reach out and help another. It may seem like an overly simple solution, but maybe it’s not as insignificant as we think. Maybe there’s more power in it than we realize, and all it takes is one person who’s willing to give it a try.

About the author: Darien Gee lives with her husband and three children in Hawaii. She is the bestselling author of three previous novels (Good Things, Sweet Life and Table Manners) written under the name Mia King. You can visit Darien Gee’s website at www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com. And check out the Friendship Bread Kitchen Facebook fan page. 

Thank you Darien for contributing this great guest post, and thanks to Cheryl at  Pump Up Your Book  for coordinating it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Virtual Book Tour, Review and Giveaway: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

First line: Leon adjusts the 25mm Plossl eyepiece and swings his scope toward the heavens.

About the book: It’s more than just a recipe—it’s a way of life. 

For fans of Kristin Hannah and Kate Jacobs, Darien Gee’s deeply felt and utterly charming novel follows two estranged sisters, three newfound friends, and—ultimately—a whole town brought together by a simple loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

In Avalon, Illinois, a woman and her young daughter return home to find a plate of Amish Friendship Bread along with a bag of starter on their doorstep. There’s no note, just a yellow sticky with the words, “I hope you enjoy it.” The instructions tell them to feed the starter over a ten-day period, then bake two loaves and share the remaining starter with three other people.

At the insistence of her five-year old daughter, Julia Evarts reluctantly follows the instructions. Soon, the bread and its starter are making their way through the town of Avalon, touching the lives of its residents in ways both comical and unexpected. Julia befriends Madeline Davis, 74, owner and proprietor of Madeline’s Tea Salon and Antiques who harbors a secret of her own, and Hannah de Brisay, 28, a concert cellist who relocates to Avalon after the premature end of her career and marriage.

Julia’s sister, Livvy, is struggling with her own loneliness as she and her husband, Tom, try for a child of their own. Julia’s husband, Mark, is tired of the sadness that seems to have taken over their lives for the past five years. As the town of Avalon becomes overrun with the Amish Friendship Bread starter, a kernel of a story presents itself and activist and reporter Edie is quick to jump on it, even if it means pointing a finger at Julia as the instigator and dividing the small community that they live in.

When a neighboring town is devastated by high floods, Julia and her friends supply loaves of the bread to the residents and volunteers. As word spreads, so does help. Soon the entire town of Avalon is doing their part to aid their neighbors in need as they put their differences aside. Friendship Bread is a captivating, engaging novel about life and loss, friendship and community, and what endures even when the unthinkable happens.

My thoughts:  I had never heard of friendship bread until reading this book and now I want to bake some myself and then try some of the variations that are included in the back of the book. In Friendship Bread Darien Gee weaves a tale of mystery, intrigue, humor, infidelity, tragedy and how a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter and a recipe bring a community, family, and friends, old and new, together.

The story centers on three residents of the town of Avalon who find themselves at a crossroads in their lives: Julia, whose grief for her son has alienated her from her husband, her sister, and her parents; Hannah, who must come to terms with the possibility that her marriage may be over; and Madeline, who is seeking to make amends for the past. The lives of these three women intertwine thanks to an Amish Friendship Bread starter left at Julia's door. As the baking and gifting of the bread spreads through Avalon, Darien Gee's narrative not only continues on the three women's growing friendship, but also touches on the influence the bread has on their neighbors and ultimately, on the whole town. From just 1 bag of Amish bread starter, new friends are made, families are brought back together, and women start trusting in others and their selves again. By the end, Operation Friendship Bread brings the entire town together. At Madeline's Tea Salon, there was a room made for the "The Amish Friendship Bread Club," the growing group of women brought together by the culinary treat and made it their ongoing mission to bake for families, organizations and communities in need.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to Darien Gee's next Avalon novel!

About the author: Darien Gee lives with her husband and three children in Hawaii. She is the bestselling author of three previous novels (Good Things, Sweet Life and Table Manners) written under the name Mia King. You can visit Darien Gee’s website at www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com. And check out the Friendship Bread Kitchen Facebook fan page.

 I received a complimentary copy of Friendship Bread by Darien Gee from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour.

Giveaway Information:

The publisher has provided one copy of Friendship Brad to give away to one of my readers.  Entries are open to those from the US and Canada only.

To enter leave a comment including your email address.

For extra entries (leave a separate comment for each entry):

+1 Follow this blog (If you are already a follower, just mention that in the comment.)
+1 Blog about this giveaway (Posting the giveaway on your sidebar is also acceptable.)

3 entry maximum. 
Don't forget to LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each entry.

Thanks to everyone for entering! Good luck!

AT 6 PM, EST, JUNE 2nd


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber

First line: "I think Dad wants to get back together," Bethanne's daughter, Annie spoke with studied nonchalance.

From the inside cover: In the middle of the year, in the middle of her life, Bethanne Hamlin takes a road trip with her daughter, Annie, and her former mother-in-law, Ruth.

They're driving to Florida for Ruth's 50th high-school reunion. A longtime widow, Ruth would like to reconnect with Royce, the love of her teenage life. She's heard he's alone, too...and, well, she's curious. Maybe even hopeful.

Bethanne herself needs time to reflect, to ponder a decision she has to make. Her ex-husband, Grant - her children's father - wants to reconcile now that his second marriage has failed. Bethanne's considering it...

Meanwhile, Annie's out to prove to her onetime boyfriend that she can live a brilliant life without him!

So there they are, three women driving across America. They have their maps and their directions - but even the best-planned journey can take you to a turn in the road. Or lead you to an unexpected encounter - like the day Bethanne meets a man named Max who really is a hero on a Harley. That's when Bethanne's decision becomes a lot harder. Because Grant wants her back, but now there's Max...

From Seattle's Blossom Street to the other end of the country, this is a trip that could change three women's lives.

My thoughts: This is the latest in Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street series and I was lucky to get it quite early from my library - the benefit of reserving new books! I enjoyed this book even though it didn't focus too much on Blossom Street and the friends we've come to know and love - maybe the next installment will head back to Blossom Street and allow us to catch up with those friends.

A Turn in the Road is a fun, emotion-filled story about three women at a crossroads in their lives. What happens when the man who turned your life upside down six years ago by asking for a divorce, decides he wants you back again? Bethanne is confronted with just this issue and decides to go with her ex-mother-in-law on a trip across the country, telling herself she will use this time to decide what she wants. At the same time, Bethanne's daughter Annie is having her own romantic troubles and decides the trip will give her time to think things over. Along the way, we come to find out that Ruth has been struggling with her own romantic woes - part of the reason why she was so insistent on taking this trip to begin with. Armed with maps and a carefully planned trip that will take them from home to their destination, they through caution to the wind and end up taking side trips and deviating from their initial plans. Along the way they meet some interesting new people and learn more about themselves and each other. I hope we have not seen the last of any of these characters in the next Blossom Street book.

(I borrowed this book from the library.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? (5.16.11)

It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

As busy as last week was, I did manage to get in a lot of reading time - I finished 5 books! Now if I can only get caught up on the reviews, I will be in great shape!

Books Completed last week:
  • A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber (library book)
  • Pandora's Daughter by Iris Johansen (audio library book)
  • Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods (library book)
  • Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (review book)
  • 10th Anniversary by James Patterson (mine)
Reading Now:
  • Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda (review book)
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (library audio book)
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (book club book, mine)
  • The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed (review book)
  • When the Killing's Done by TC Boyle (book club book, library book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:

Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber
  • Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods
  • Friendship Bread by Darien Gee
  • 10th Anniversary by James Patterson
Contest information:
  • None right now - check back soon!

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

First line: It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she'd been told.

From the back cover: A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book - a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the dooms Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

My thoughts: This was my book club's selection for our April meeting and I absolutely loved it. Our discussion of the book was interesting and lead to many different takes on some the themes of the book, mainly, would you have told your child about her past?

The Forgotten Garden is a multi-layered novel with complicated characters and a highly intriguing storyline that attempts to solve a mystery that occurred long ago. The story is told through the perspectives of three women: Nell, who is found when she is four years old, abandoned on a dock in Australia, with very sparse clues to her identity; Eliza, who is the mysterious Authoress whom Nell vaguely remembers and whose book of fairy tales is in Nell's tiny suitcase; and Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter, who tries to put together all the pieces of the puzzle after her grandmother's death. What I loved about this atmospheric, fairytale-like novel was that Morton tells the story of these different, but connected, women, but she doesn't give everything up right away. She weaves back and forth between 2005, 1975 and 1900, between Australia, London and Cornwall and gradually reveals the story, peeling back the layers bit by bit to reveal the truth a little at a time. Morton tells her story not only through the actions of her characters but also through fairy tales interspersed throughout the book and provide clues to the mystery's final solution. At times, the book reminded me a little of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which is going on the to-reread list) and then low and behold - there is a cameo of this author in the book. 

While the size of the book is a bit daunting (it's almost 600 pages), I read it in two days - I was hooked from the first page and had a hard time putting it down. This is the first book I've read by Kate Morton, and I will definitely be checking out her other books.

(I purchased this book.)

In My Mailbox (54) 5.15.11

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store.

For Review (1)
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

Library (1)
When the Killing's Done by TC Boyle (book club book)

Purchased (3)
10th Anniversary by James Patterson
The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzanne Dunn
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Free Downloads (0) 

Free from the library discard pile (1)
Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson

From Paperback Swap (0)

Won (0)

What's in your mailbox?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Pandora's Daughter by Iris Johansen (audio book)

From the back of the audio case: For as long as she can remember, successful young physician Megan Blair has tried to silence the voices in her head - voices that bring her to the edge of madness and terror. Megan possesses psychic powers that have been dormant for years, hidden deep in the past she's tried so desperately to forget. But now everything has come to a boiling point - someone is trying to kill her, and others are trying to use her, including the deadly and seductive Neal Grady. Shocking secrets about her life and her mother's death bombard her as she fights to take control of her heritage and save herself and everything she believes in. Grady holds the key to understanding her future, a future in which Megan's life will never be the same. 

If she survives to have a future.

Read by: Jennifer Van Dyck

My thoughts: I love Iris Johansen's books and was excited to pick this one up in audio - it's the first of her books I have listened to and it was pretty good. While I am not a huge fan of the paranormal, I found that in this case, the addition of the variety of psychic gifts and the accompanying explanations of the levels of abilities enhanced this story. Experiencing Megan's abilities alongside her and the emotions resulting from them added a sense of urgency and tension to the story. Pandora's Daughter is a very compelling story. There is non-stop action with a little history and romance thrown in in this fast-paced thriller. The suspense is skillfully done, keeping me hooked from the first chapter. I found myself wanting to stay in the car and drive around some more so I could continue on the roller coaster ride of emotions. Having already read Quicksand, an Eve Duncan book, where Megan makes an appearance, I felt I wanted to know more about Megan and so I went back to read/listen to Pandora's Daughter, which was published six months earlier. The characters were well-developed and I hope that we have not seen the last of Grady, Harley or Renata and that Megan makes more appearances as well.

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Spotlight: The Final Alice by Alycia Ripley

About the book: Alycia Ripley was always obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. In her latest book she uses that obsession to paint a fantastical and thrilling tale of good versus evil. This is not the Alice of your childhood. It’s an entirely new slice of Wonderland for a very modern audience.

Cruel office managers, sadistic cheerleaders, and a two-headed contractor are only some of the obstacles Alice must face and eliminate in order to own her role in a family well versed in nightmarish fairy tales and spiritual riddles.

About the author: Alycia Ripley is a graduate of Syracuse University and received her M.F.A in Creative Writing from New York University. Her first novel, Traveling with An Eggplant, was published in 2005. She is an editor of the Voices from the Herd anthology as well as a frequent magazine and website contributor. Interested in more information about the author? Visit her website at www.alyciaripley.com.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Virtual Book Tour and Guest Post: Margaret George

Please join me in welcoming Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Margaret guest blogs about choosing which voice to use in writing.

Finding Your Voice—Writing in the Third Person—or First? 

Big choice---major fork in the road---third person or first?  If you choose wrong, you’ll have to go back and start all over.  They each have their strong points and their limitations but in the end you need to decide which will tell your story better---hopefully without having to write it both ways just to find out. 

When I was starting out, the first person was totally out of favor.  I was told no one wrote first person. It was true that some classics were written in the first person---The Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby---but it was thought either too difficult or too confining to be used in most modern stories. 

But for the story I wanted to tell---what went on in the mind of Henry VIII when he behaved so outrageously---only the first person would do.  Otherwise the reader is still standing outside and looking on, bewildered.   

The first person is deceptively easy at first, because it seems the most ‘natural’ way of writing.  It’s the way we think and talk, after all.  But it’s full of pitfalls.  Its very ‘naturalness’ proves an excuse to sloppiness, to a feeling that this must be convincingly real because it’s written as “I.”  But it takes genuine craftsmanship to make it real.  

Generally the first person should be used when you already know what happened,   but you want to know why.  Or you want to spend a lot of time inside someone’s head and it isn’t an inconvenience to be stuck there, to be limited to seeing and hearing only what that person sees and hears.  Obviously Henry VIII needed to be first person.  So did Helen of Troy---we all want to know what it felt like to be the most beautiful woman in the world and to cause the most famous war in the world. First person cannot be beaten for immediacy and verisimilitude. 

Mary Queen of Scots as a character challenge was totally different, in that so many things were happening simultaneously elsewhere that impinged on her and the reader needed to know.  The third person was needed here.  The third is good for suspense, because you can show two different frames and know what each side has at stake.  There were many plots, and many villains and many other spies and two-faced people, and Mary was ignorant about a lot of it.  Irony, scene changes and machinations are best handled by the third person.  

By this point in my career, the first person viewpoint was making a comeback, and today so many historical novels are written in the first person.  One way around the limitation of vision to one character has been to have two (or sometimes more) first person narrators, which gives extra perspective.  Multiple voices or narrators can also be used in the third person, but that can get very busy. 

Just as you are naturally left or right handed, you probably are stronger in one or the other viewpoint.  It’s good to be able to do both in case you run into material that insists on one or the other, but you will obviously gravitate toward either first or third.  

Often afterwards a reader doesn’t remember whether a book is first or third person, but if viewpoint is used correctly, it should be such an important element of the book that you can’t imagine it written any other way, and it’s an invisible part of the story.

About the author: Margaret George is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra.  Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters.  We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is Elizabeth I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training. 

She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC.  Interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology. 

You can visit Margaret George’s website at www.margaretgeorge.com.

 Thank you Margaret for contributing this great guest post, and thanks to Cheryl at  Pump Up Your Book  for coordinating it.
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