Monday, November 17, 2014

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

What I finished:
An Unexpected Grace by Kristin von Kreisler was our last book club selection.  I still have to get my review ready, but I can tell you that most of my book club (including me) did not care for this one.

What I'm listening to now:
When I requested All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner, I must not have realized that it was about a woman struggling with an addiction to pain killers.  This is a great story that has my attention every step of the way.

What's next:
Our book club won copies of And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini from ReadingGroupGuides.com, so that is what I will be picking up next.  I'm so excited to read Hosseini's next novel.

So that is what has been keeping me busy, how about you?  Life has been pretty crazy, obviously limiting my time available for blogging.  So please know if I don't stop by, that I'm thinking of you!  Between working full-time, and keeping a handle on my home and other activities, it's all I can handle.  I remember when I would try to post something every day, now I'm lucky to post a review once a week.  But that's ok!  There is just too much of life that I want to enjoy, I guess!





Thursday, November 6, 2014

Audiobook Review: Love Life by Rob Lowe

Title:  Love Life

Author:  Rob Lowe

Narrator:  Rob Lowe

Unabridged Length: 7 hrs, 35 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website

When Rob Lowe's first book was published in 2011, he received the kind of rapturous reviews that writers dream of and rocketed to the top of the bestseller list. Now, in Love Life, he expands his scope, using stories and observations from his life in a poignant and humorous series of true tales about men and women, art and commerce, fathers and sons, addiction and recovery, and sex and love.

In Love Life, you will find stories about:

• Kissing Unexpectedly
• The secrets they don't teach you in acting school
• His great, great, great, great, great-grandfather's role in the American revolution
Parks and Recreation, Behind the Candelabra, and Californication
• Trying to coach a kids' basketball team dominated by helicopter parents
• The hot tub at the Playboy mansion
• Starring in and producing a flop tv series
• Camping at Sea World
• Playing saxophone for president Bill Clinton
• The first journey to college with his son
• Warren Beatty
• The benefits of marriage

Throughout this entertaining book, you will find yourself in the presence of a master raconteur, a multi-talented performer whose love for life is as intriguing as his love life.


My Review:
Let me start by saying how much I appreciated this audiobook narrated by Rob Lowe.  When I listened to Stories I Only Tell My Friends, I found myself laughing quite often.   This book still had a few humorous moments, but overall it carried more of a serious tone.  Lowe didn't hold back with his life experiences once again and my heart just melts as he proclaims his love for his wife.  

When I think back on the book, it is hard to pick just one story that stuck with me more than any other.  One instance that brought tears to my eyes is when he shared with us about his stint in rehab.  This was obviously a turning point in his life as he came to accept how drugs and alcohol were controlling his life.  The part that really got to me was the therapy session about the NFL player.  How the entire group came together to support and comfort this man when no-one else would was beautiful.

The other "Holy Smokes" moment for me was when he was telling us about his experience with the Nip/Tuck television series.  I absolutely loved this show, clearing my calendar once a week so as not to miss an episode.  I won't say any more about this in case you are a Nip/Tuck fan too!

I truly enjoyed all Lowe's stories in this book and having him narrate just enhanced my listening experience.  I was able to pick up on the love and emotions regarding the subjects he was talking about.  With themes of love, family, career, and opportunities, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I highly recommend this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection, especially if you are a fan of Rob Lowe.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Teaser Tuesday-Nov. 4

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

This week my teaser is from An Unexpected Grace by Kristin von Kreisler:
"Because he seemed like he was trying to look prosperous.  Janitors don't usually wear sports coats and ties."

pg. 39

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Audiobook Review: Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany

Title:  Safe With Me

Author:  Amy Hatvany

Narrators:  Cassandra Campbell, Joy Osmanski, Rebekkah Ross

Unabridged Length:  10 hrs, 23 mn.



Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose child, Maddie, survived only because hers had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of the successful transplant that saved their fifteen-year-old daughter’s life. Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

A masterful narrative, shaped by nuanced characters whose fragile bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a triumph.


My Review: 
This was a beautifully crafted story that puts us in the lives of those personally effected by a tragedy.  The story is told from three different perspectives in alternating chapters and Hatvany did a great job of bringing these characters to life for us.  The narrators in the audioversion were equally exceptional.

Maddie is the young girl who has spent the majority of her life in and out of hospitals because of her illness.  Had it not been for an organ transplant she received a year ago, she would probably be dead today.  She finds herself struggling with her identity and even goes as far to create a Facebook page with an entirely different persona.  The name on her secret Facebook page is Sierra and she looks like a twenty-year-old supermodel.  Sierra possesses all the looks and qualities that Maddie does not.

Olivia is Maddie's mom, and is thankful for every day that her daughter breathes life.  Olivia has been keeping a secret throughout her married life that is about to unravel.  She has been able to protect Maddie so far and believes if she stays under the radar she can continue with her escapade.  But this becomes nearly impossible when she meets Hannah, who is the first woman to offer her true friendship in years.

Hannah is a single, independent woman whose daughter, Emily, was killed a year earlier.  Emily was the light of Hannah's world and when Emily was taken from her, that light was extinguished, and she has been floundering day to day trying to live a normal life.  When Maddie and Olivia walk into her life, she feels a closeness with Maddie she can't explain.  She develops a bond with both the mother and daughter and can't stop the friendship from developing.  Suspicions of who these people really are creep into her mind and she knows she will have to reveal her true identity eventually.

I truly enjoyed this story that takes the lives of these three wounded individuals and forces them into a hurtful situation that allows them to heal.  And let me tell you, the tension mounted towards the end of the book taking my breath away.  Since I had technical difficulties with my iPod, I was only able to listen to about two-thirds of the book, then had to request the physical book from my library.  I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed both versions.  With themes of family, friendship, secrets,  and organ donation, you would probably enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate to recommend this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

A masterful narrative shaped by nuanced characters whose delicate bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a riveting triumph. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Safe-with-Me/Amy-Hatvany/9781476704418#sthash.pfcU8VZu.dpuf

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blog Tour and Review: The Bully of Order by Brian Hart

Thanks once again to Trish from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour. I'm sure I would not have picked this book up on my own otherwise.

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
Set in a logging town on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of violent social and historical forces that tear them apart.

Keen to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge towards alcoholism. Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.

Years later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.

And across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps, and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will shake the town to its core.

My Review:
Let me start by saying this was a very interesting novel giving you an honest look at life in a logging town at the height of the industry.  Hart shared with us the raw and primal lives of the people of this community as they lived day to day.  With that being said, I need to warn you that this book is definitely not for the faint-hearted.  But if you are looking for an honest glimpse into this piece of history, then this novel is for you.

There are a lot of characters in the book and different chapters offer narrations for several characters.  I was impressed with Hart's ability to introduce new characters to us, because even though they have similar needs within the community, they all come from different walks of life.  We learn about Jacob, who works hard his whole life but makes bad decision after bad decision.  Then there is his son Duncan, who is an unfortunate victim of circumstance.  Jacob's wife, Nell, who blindly followed him to this wild country in search of a better life, only to be cast aside by the community because of her husbands actions.  These are just a few of the characters in the novel with just a fraction of their personal predicaments.

Besides Jacob's lies about who he really is, his brother Matius has a downright evil streak.  When Jacob seems to be getting things back on track with his family, Matius does something that will shatter Jacob's family as he knows it.  The Ellstrom family will never be the same and young Duncan can't help but be drawn down a dark path of his life.  Violence becomes a normal part of Duncan's life, and he can't help but embrace his violent tendencies when things do not work out as planned.

This book was kind of a slow read for me as it was packed with vivid details and information.  One of the most difficult chapters for me to read was about Jacob when he was in a very dark time of his life, probably drunk most of the time.   That chapter was so scattered that I couldn't help but compliment the author, because I imagine these thoughts could be pretty accurate for a man in his circumstances.

For those that are history buffs and interested in the early logging industry, this book would be right up your alley.  With themes of family, secrets, lies, and survival you may enjoy this book too.  I recommend this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher to participate in this blog tour and provide an honest review.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Audiobook Review: Breathless by Dean Koontz




Title:  Breathless

Author:  Dean Koontz

Narrator:  Jeffrey Cummings

Unabridged Length:  8 hrs, 12 mn.






Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:
In the stillness of a golden September afternoon, deep in the wilderness of the Rockies, a solitary craftsman, Grady Adams, and his magnificent Irish wolfhound Merlin step from shadow into light…and into an encounter with enchantment. That night, through the trees, under the moon, a pair of singular animals will watch Grady's isolated home, waiting to make their approach.

A few miles away, Camillia Rivers, a local veterinarian, begins to unravel the threads of a puzzle that will bring all the forces of a government in peril to her door.

At a nearby farm, long-estranged identical twins come together to begin a descent into darkness…In Las Vegas, a specialist in chaos theory probes the boundaries of the unknowable…On a Seattle golf course, two men make matter-of-fact arrangements for murder…Along a highway by the sea, a vagrant scarred by the past begins a trek toward his destiny…

In a novel that is at once wholly of our time and timeless, fearless and funny, Dean Koontz takes readers into the moment between one turn of the world and the next, across the border between knowing and mystery. It is a journey that will leave all who take it Breathless


My Review:
Back in my mid-twenties I devoured Koontz novels like they were going out of style.  I do still enjoy them once and awhile, but I found more enjoyment lately from the audio versions.  Although this novel had a creepy murderer, as most of his books do, it did not seem to reach the level of intensity I expect from Koontz.  Usually this intensity stems from the actions of a psychopath, so this novel offered a more relaxed tone.

The book follows the narratives of several different characters.  The various characters come from different parts of the country and various walks of life.  Grady could not have imagined that his stumbling upon two magnificent creatures frolicking on his land would bring them all together.  The appearance of the creatures creates a sea of change, but unfortunately, not everyone involved has good intentions.

When Grady discovers the creatures he contacts his friend Camilla, who is also a veterinarian, to see if she knows anything about them.  She is amazed by Grady's discovery, and after referring to a colleague, the government swoops in, trying to take control of the situation.  Grady and Camilla fine themselves doing whatever is necessary to protect these two magnificent creatures.

Cummings did a good job narrating, considering there were many characters he needed to bring to life for us.  My biggest complaint with this novel was that there were too many characters to learn as new ones were even introduced within the last couple of discs.  With themes of unexplained beings, conspiracy, and evil, you may enjoy this book as much or even more than I did.  I recommend this book for personal leisure or for book clubs that enjoy reading books with an extra-terrestrial content.

My Rating: 3/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this audiobook from the local library for my own entertainment.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Title:  The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Author:  Alice Hoffman

Narrators:  Judith Light, Grace Gummer

Unabridged Length:  12 hrs, 20 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Museum-of-Extraordinary-Things/Alice-Hoffman/9781451693560#sthash.0q9nkrox.dpuf
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's "museum" alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.


My Review:
Let me start by saying that Hoffman has seemed to be hit or miss for me.  Here on Earth was the first book I read by Hoffman and I absolutely loved it.  Her books I have read since then, not so much.  This audiobook kept me engaged, without including any mystical elements contained in some of her past books, allowing me to enjoy the story at hand.

Coralie is a young girl who possesses some odd, physical differences from the general population.  She longs to be a normal young girl, but can only seem to attain that feeling when she dons her white gloves before heading to the city.  While Coralie strives for normalcy, her father embraces her differences, using her appearance to create a new curiosity in his museum.  This sets Coralie on a new path, questioning her existence.

I think my favorite part of the book was the description and investigation of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  When a piece of history that is new to me is included in a novel, I am not only finding personal enjoyment, but increasing my knowledge of historical events.  The fire was a horrendous event in our country's history and the events behind it incredibly corrupt.  As horrid as the fire was, this was the reason for Eddie and Coralie's meeting.

After meeting Eddie, Coralie finally believes she can lead a normal life.  The odds are not in their favor, especially when Coralie's father realizes Eddie's intentions.  This romance could cause him to lose one of his best performers from the museum so he does all he can to keep them apart.  In Coralie's fight to have a relationship with Eddie, secrets about Coralie's life are uncovered setting her on a new path once again.

Judith Light and Grace Gummer both did a wonderful job of narrating this fascinating novel.  I started listening with pretty low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by the storyline.  With themes of secrets, love, corruption, and history, you may enjoy this novel as much as I did.  I highly recommend this novel for personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Museum-of-Extraordinary-Things/Alice-Hoffman/9781451693560#sthash.0q9nkrox.dpuf