Thursday, June 27, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

Title:  The Dinner

Author:  Herman Koch

Narrator:  Clive Mantle

Unabridged Length:  8hrs, 59 mn

Here is a summary of the book from the AudioGO website:

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse--the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

My Review:
This is my first experience with Herman Koch's work, and I can tell you it won't be my last.  Koch made me stop and think about the simple act of going out to dinner with your family.  To think when you are sitting in a restaurant with maybe 30 tables filled with guests, how many of those tables have serious discussions where life changing decisions are being made right there?  Although we are given a front row seat as events unfold for two couples dining together, the story is being told from the perspective of one diner.

Two couples meet at the high-end restaurant where the meal is served in several courses.  Paul and Serge are brothers and they both have their wives with them.  They both have teenage sons and it is revealed after the first couple of courses that their boys have gotten themselves into some pretty serious trouble.  They planned to discuss the problem at hand so they can plan their next step, hopefully not destroying their young sons' lives.

I loved how events unfolded through each course of their meal together.  Secrets are revealed and Paul comes to his own conclusions as old memories come to light.  Assumptions are made about other dinner guests surprising Paul when he learns the truth later.  But I enjoyed how over the course of this dinner, Paul went through his memory bank bringing to light all activities that could have led them to this moment, right now.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook that was narrated so well by Clive Mantle.  Mantle did a great job of bringing Paul's character to life for me and sharing his story.  This novel came down to a story of human instinct for me.  Just how far would one go to protect the one's he love?  With themes of family and secrets this was a beautifully written novel and I think many of you would enjoy it as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audio Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday-June 26

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

So here are a couple of words I learned while reading A Thousand Pardons by Jonathon Dee:

Acumen:  The ability to make good judgements and quick decisions.

Here is how acumen was used at Kindle location 1599 of 3878:
It was part of her lack of business acumen that she wouldn't have considered it worth a cent to anybody but her.

Dogmatist:  a person who asserts his or her opinions in an unduly positive or arrogant manner.

Here is how dogmatist was used at Kindle location 2029 of 3878:
Poor Ashok, on a cold streak as it was, had been battling all week with a roomful of unsmiling dogmatists who handled in-house PR for Pepsi.

Excoriate: to denounce or berate severely; flay verbally.

Here is how excoriate was used at Kindle locatio 2127 of 3878:
But Helen was the parent who stayed, the one who was always right there, so naturally she was the one who got excoriated.

***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

I have to tell you this is a great book so far!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mailbox Monday-June 24

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at Dolce Bellezza.

So here is what showed up at my door:
The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

Gone Missing by Linda Castillo (audiobook)

The Third Son by Julie Wu (audiobook)

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt (audiobook)

Well that was quite a haul for me this week!  I've already starting listening to Is This Tomorrow and so far, so good.  Life has been so busy for me as I try to fit all my projects in, but I keep plugging along.  

So did anything exciting show up in your mailbox?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Audiobook Review: Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson

Title:  Happy, Happy, Happy

Author:  Phil Robertson

Narrator:  Al Robertson:

Unabridged Length: 4 hrs, 57 mn

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

This no-holds-barred autobiography chronicles the remarkable life of Phil Robertson, the original Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty star, from early childhood through the founding of a family business.

Life was always getting in the way of Phil Robertson’s passion for duck hunting.

An NFL-bound quarterback, Phil made his mark on Louisiana Tech University in the 1960s by playing football and completing his college career with a master’s degree in English. But Phil’s eyes were not always on the books or the ball; they were usually looking to the sky.

Phil grew up with the dream of living the simple life off the land like his forebears, but he soon found himself on a path to self-destruction—leasing a bar, drinking too much, fighting, and wasting his talents. He almost lost it all until he gave his life to God. And then everything changed.

Phil’s incredible story tells how he followed a calling from God and soon after invented a duck call that would begin an incredible journey to the life he had always dreamed of for himself and his family. With great love for his country, his family, and his maker, Phil has finally found the ingredients to the “good life” he always wanted.

My Review:
I wasn't sure what to expect from this audiobook, but keeping the Duck Dynasty television show in mind, I figured it would be entertaining.  And that it was!  You never know what to expect on an episode of the reality show and the same goes for this autobiography.  We hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and let me tell you, there is plenty of all to keep you wanting to hear more.

Al Robertson is Phil's oldest son who does a wonderful job of narrating the book.  Since he lived through many of the events shared throughout the story, I'm sure that helped Al to emphasize certain parts.  You don't hear much about Al from the television show as he hasn't been active with the business until very recently.  We learn that this is probably the result of Al's strained relationship with his parents, which I found very refreshing when Phil shared so many personal details that isn't all sunshine and butterflies.

After watching a couple of episodes of Duck Dynasty, it is apparent that the Robertson's are a good, Christian family.  That doesn't mean that all has been easy for this family.  Phil traveled a road that he isn't proud of but has come to accept that his mistakes helped to shape him into the man he is today.

Phil starts the beginning of every chapter with a rule for being Happy, Happy, Happy.  These rules made me smile, but they are basic, common-sense standards.  Just a few of his rules are: wear shoes, don't let your grandkids grow up to be nerds, learn to cook, and don't try to understand women.  So of course each chapter relates to a piece of his life he shares with us.

A huge part of Phil's success and his family's happiness is his ministry and his personal relationship with God.  I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book and how he shared the changes in his demeanor and attitude.  He developed a faith, changing him into a God-fearing man that left their children striving to be just like their dad.

This was a wonderful story of one family's success with themes of faith, success, and family that many of you would also enjoy.  If you are a fan of Duck Dynasty you definitely need to read it.  I highly recommend this book for personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  5/5

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Teaser Tuesday-June 18

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.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee:
Ben smiled, and immediately wished he hadn't.  Something was broken in there, or if not broken, then way too loose.

Kindle location 297 of 3878

***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

Monday, June 17, 2013

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.

I finished listening to:
I wasn't sure what to expect from The Dinner by Herman Koch, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this one.  You will have to watch for my review in the near future.

What I'm listening to now:
I decided to listen to The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz and I'm about halfway through the book and enjoying it.  It has taken an interesting twist and I'm curious to see how this novel will end.

What's next:

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt just arrived on my doorstep, so I think this will be the next audio I listen to.

So what have you been up to lately?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Here is a summary of the novel from the Goodreads website:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

My Review: 
This was a wonderful novel and although it was written for a young adult audience, it can be enjoyed by all ages.  This book depicts another crime against humanity from our world history that was unknown to me before reading this book.  Young Lina is our narrator that we follow on her treacherous journey of survival.

We see events through Lina's eyes-one moment she is safe at home with her family, and the next she is rounded up with others and sent off on a journey that will change her life forever.  Not knowing where they are going, when or if they will ever return, and a suitcase filled with their meager belongings, they unwillingly follow their captors directions.  When they are first led to a train station I imagined they were definitely being sent to a concentration camp with death impending soon.  This wasn't the case as Stalin planned for the majority of his prisoners to serve work detail under inhumane conditions.

The train journey is only the beginning of their torture as they are given barely any food to eat and conditions are hardly liveable for livestock, let alone people.  As more people are crammed into the train cars along the way, they must learn to live together in the closed quarters, allowing them to create friendships and relationships that will help them in the months to come.

The first destination for Lina and her family is a work camp, where slave labor is put into full force.  Much of this novel reminds me of the Holocaust, and treatment of the prisoners falls into this category.  Everyone is worked until they have no strength left and daily food rations are minimal.  Everyone learns to do what they need to do in order to get by, and many use the relationships that were developed on the train to assist them in their daily living.

We learn throughout the novel from Lina's flashbacks that the reason for their imprisonment is political.  Anyone who had a different motive or ideal from Stalin was captured and either sent to a prison or a work camp.  It was interesting to see this revelation through Lina's young eyes since she did not truly understand the motives.

This was a wonderful story even though it was difficult to read at times.  It read very quickly and smoothly for me as it only took me a few days to complete it.  With themes of family, love, war, and morals, there is so much more to this story than I described above.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal library and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club discussion. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Are You Reading?

Sheila (who is also celebrating her blogoversary) 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.
I finished on my Kindle:
I finished reading The Sisters by Nancy Jensen, just in time for our book club meeting last Wednesday.  I'm still trying to put my review together, but I think I can tell you that most of my group enjoyed this book, with the main complaint being against tracking so many characters.

What I'm reading on my Kindle now:
I changed my mind and decided to start A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee.  I am enjoying this one so far but I can tell it's going to be sad.

What's next?

So I'm going to try this again!  Hopefully I will be reading The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. I don't have any steadfast obligations right now so maybe I will change my mind again!  Time will tell...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Title:  The Fever Tree

Author:  Jennifer McVeigh

Narrator:  Jayne Paterson

Unabridged Length:  12 hrs, 50 mn

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

In London she was caged by society.
In South Africa, she is dangerously free.

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness.
But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.
The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth.

My Review:
I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel as this is my first experience with McVeigh.  I can tell you that I think I enjoyed listening to it much more than if I would have actually read it.  This book kind of reminded me of the historical romances I read as a young mother, and since romances really are no longer one of my preferred reading genres, I wasn't sure how I would like it once completed.  Well Paterson did a wonderful job narrating, helping to enhance my listening pleasure.

Young Frances is our main character, who once lived a privileged life in England with her father.  When her father passes on he leaves behind a financial disaster that doesn't allow Frances the lifestyle she has been accustomed to.  In an effort to secure her future she accepts a wedding proposal from a doctor she has known for years.  So she is a young girl who has never experienced love, already engaged to a man she is to meet in South Africa.

Her journey is mapped out in front of her as she leaves the comforts of England for the savagery of South Africa.   The only mode of transportation to the country where she will be meeting her husband is by ship, and unfortunately she cannot afford a first-class ticket.  It becomes a long and arduous journey for young Frances, allowing her the opportunity to make many acquaintances.  When she captures the attention of the roguish William Wentworth, she feels a new awakening within herself making it difficult to control her actions.

Life in Africa is not what Frances expected by any means.  Her doctor husband makes a meager salary as he is still making a name for himself.  Food on the table is not bountiful, their clothing is ragged, and their belongings are dirty all the time. Hard times have her questioning her life with her husband, making the fantasy she created about William that much more enticing.

Everything really went full circle for Frances in this novel and I can tell you that I enjoyed it more than I expected.  With themes of love, choices, and forgiveness I think many of you would also enjoy this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection.  I don't hesitate in recommending this audiobook.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audio Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.