Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Reading!!


It's three days into the official start of summer.  My inbox has been filled with the books that I have to read this summer.  So I've taken what they have given me and made my own list of books I hope to get the chance to read(probably not all this summer though).

Here is what is on my list:

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

China Dolls by Lisa See

In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco's exclusive "Oriental" nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco's Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum

Despite the success of his first solo show in Paris and the support of his brilliant French wife and young daughter, thirty-four-year-old British artist Richard Haddon is too busy mourning the loss of his American mistress to a famous cutlery designer to appreciate his fortune.

But after Richard discovers that a painting he originally made for his wife, Anne -when they were first married and deeply in love-has sold, it shocks him back to reality and he resolves to reinvest wholeheartedly in his family life . . . just in time for his wife to learn the extent of his affair. Rudderless and remorseful, Richard embarks on a series of misguided attempts to win Anne back while focusing his creative energy on a provocative art piece to prove that he's still the man she once loved.

Skillfully balancing biting wit with a deep emotional undercurrent, debut novelist Courtney Maum has created the perfect portrait of an imperfect family-and a heartfelt exploration of marriage, love, and fidelity.

 Lay It On My Heart by Angela Pneuman

This piercing, sly debut novel tells the story of one unforgettable month in a Kentucky girl's thirteenth year. Charmaine Peake's prophet father has been committed to a psychiatric institution. Her mother, forced to rent out their house and move them down to a trailer on the river, won't stop telling Charmaine things she doesn't want to hear-from marital details and middle-aged doubts to uncomfortable preoccupations with Charmaine's changing body. A sanctimonious missionary kid has taken over her real bedroom, where Charmaine discovers his stash of strange and questionable photos. She is being tested at every turn: Where will her choices take her? And her faith? She tries to pray ceaselessly as her father taught, but with so much upheaval, even God seems to have changed.


The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee by Marja Mills

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship.

In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.

Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.

The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.

Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

  A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?
  Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
  Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.  

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

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

What is on YOUR summer reading list?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review--The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Liesel Meminger is 9 years old and it is 1939.  Her mother is taking her and her brother to live with another family where they will be safe.  Unfortunately, the brother doesn't make it.  Liesel takes only two things with her to her new home; the memory of her brother and her first stolen book, The Gravediggers Handbook.

When Liesel arrives on Himmel street in Molching, Germany, she is greeted by Rosa and Hans Hubermann.  They welcome her into their home and she immediately is to call them Mama and Papa.  Even though Liesel is illiterate, Hans works with her every night when she is awakened with nightmares of her brothers death.  They retreat to the basement to do their reading.

For 5 years, Liesel lives on Himmel street during one of the most treacherous times in Germany.  She makes friends and enemies along the way and steals 5 more books.

First I would like to thank Victoria Doughertyfor recommending this book to me.  I have always been a fan of historical fiction and this book did not disappoint in any way, shape or form.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I could see myself on Himmel Street with Liesel.  I could see what she could see and I could feel the torment she went through.  I thank God every time I finish a book like this because I live in a place and a time where these things aren't a constant worry for me.  I don't have to have my possessions packed and ready to go when I raid sirens going off.  I don't even hear raid sirens.  This is a book everyone needs to read if they haven't.

Another thing I found very interesting in this book was that it was narrated by death.  If that's not enough to make you want to read this...One of my favorite passages in the book is this "Here is a small fact...You are going to die."  Simple but true.  One day we all will die.  I hope and pray it is not in the way that the multitudes of people died in this book, but I know that one day it will happen.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's Goin' on??

Currently I am reading some exciting books and am looking forward to reading so many more this summer.  Currently I'm reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak .   This book is soooo good.  There are not enough hours in the day for me to read this book.  I'm about half way through and look forward to the times that I have time to read.  I am currently listening to Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter on the iPod.  This is the second book of hers that I am reading.  The Book Thief is a book pal read I'm doing.  I had a Goodreads friend pick this book for me.  Blindsighted is the group read for the group A Good Thriller on Goodreads.  Karin will be doing a Q&A specifically for this book on July 1st in that group.   This is what I'm looking forward to reading this month...

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty 

Watch Me Die by Erica Spindler

The Accident by Linwood Barclay

I hope to get them all done by the end of the month.  So many books, so little time.  What are you reading this month?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review--Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Thanks for the MemoriesThanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Justin Hancock is a guest lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.  He is also a curator for a museum in London which is his new home.  Recently divorced and uprooted from Chicago to be closer to his daughter who is studying ballet.

Joyce wakes up in the hospital to discover that she has just lost her baby and she now knows a lot of things she didn't know before.  Especially Latin and about European architecture.  How could she just know these things?

Then when Joyce leaves the hospital and as Justin is leaving Dublin to return to London, a chance encounter.  When they see each other there is an instant connection.  One that neither of them can explain, but both of them feel.  When they 'run' into each other throughout London and Dublin, but never get the chance to officially meet the connection is stronger.  But what is it that is drawing these two closer together?

Thanks for the Memories reminds me a lot of the movie Return to Me with Minnie Driver.  Joyce has somehow 'inherited' all of Justin's memories, thoughts, and intelligence, from one simple act of kindness.  Can you imagine waking up in the hospital one day and suddenly you are fluent in another language that just a few days earlier you wouldn't even know existed.  Seeing people you have never met, but feeling as if you are old friends.

This was a cute story that makes you think about the connections people can have without ever realizing it.  This book made me laugh out loud a few times and it definitely made me think about what goes into our bodies at the hospital.  This is a great chick-lit book.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review--Forever Layla by Melissa Turner Lee

Forever LaylaForever Layla by Melissa Turner Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received this book from Story Cartel, in exchange for an honest review.**

David Foster is 17 years old, a few days away from being 18, on the road as a sound guy for his best friend, Michael's Band, and his life is about to change forever.
Layla is 24.  She's in town from California and when she see David for the first time, like this, she's not quite sure what to do.
How does Layla know so much about David?  Did his friends put her up to this as a prank for his birthday? But Layla knows things he would never tell Michael.  So as David gets to know Layla better and as she gets to know the David she already knows in a whole other way, they form a bond that is not so easily broken.

Forever Layla is a story of love, happiness, trust, and science all wrapped up in one.  David is living in 1994 and Layla shows up in his life from 2014.  David is the kind of man every girl dreams of meeting, but Layla is afraid to mess up his life what she already knows.  How can she make a life with him without giving away too much about who she is and how and why is now in his life.

This is a very well written book and it was very difficult to put down.

I loved the story of David and Layla.  I was rooting for them to be together Forever as the title suggests.  Their love was intense and amazing.  To have a love like that with someone that you are willing to give up so much of yourself in order to make them happy and make their dreams come true.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading a Recipe

Besides reading literary works, I also enjoy a good cookbook.  I especially enjoy cookbooks with recipes to prepare in my slow cooker.  Tonight I'm trying something new and roasting a chicken in my crockpot. Has anyone ever done that?  I found a few different recipes online, as my cookbooks didn't have a recipe for this.
When you find a new recipe do you follow it directly?  Mostly I follow a recipe to the letter the first time I am preparing it.  I want to make sure whatever it is, it's going to taste as good as it looks in pictures.  Some things, like the chicken I'm roasting, I use my own spices that I enjoy on that type of food.  I'm trying to live a salt free life, which is not as difficult as a wheat free life, so I rarely use salt unless a new recipe calls for it.  A lot of items that you have to bake call for salt.  I wonder why that is?

Here is a picture of my collection of cookbooks.  Until I've had them out like this, I didn't realize that I had such an affinity to Southern Living.

What is your favorite recipe?  Share it with me in the comments, if it's not a family secret!!

My Cookbooks

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review--Playmates by Jess C Scott

Playmates (Wilde Twins, #1)Playmates by Jess C. Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.**

Tania and Trevor Wilde are twins.  They live in a small lake town with their parents.  Every night their parents have "wine time" where they hurl bottles and insults at each other.  Tania and Trevor spend "wine time" in their room wishing they could be anywhere else and making a plan to get away.  The Wilde family is the definition of a dysfunctional family.  Mom is abusive towards Tania and Trevor feels helpless to stop it.  Then she invites strange men into the home while dad is away working.  The next day, though, she will have bible study with some of her friends.  Dad, is not exempt from the dysfunction.  He is a professor at the local community college and brings home co-eds to the basement.

Tania frequently thinks about death and often coaxes Trevor to the dark side.  She doesn't have many friends so she counts on her brother to fill that void.  Then an unfortunate incident takes place and makes them both a lot darker.

Playmates, is a psychological thriller about killer kids.  While this book did not have me on the edge of my seat, it held and captured my attention.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next.  I look forward to the next titles in the Wilde series.  Bedmates and Soulmates.

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