Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September in Review - Monthly Reading Highlights

September was a very good reading month for me having read (14) books (5) of which were audio

My favorite book was Sarah Water's new one The Paying Guests

  1.  Dear Daughter; Elizabeth Little - 4/5 (HC) (Sept)
  2. The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters - 5/5 (arc) (Sept) 
  3. Road Ends; Mary Lawson - 4.5/5 (arc) (Sept)
  4. Landline; Rainbow Rowell - 4/5 (audio) (Sept)
  5. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress; Ariele Lawhon - 4/5 (audio) Sept
  6. The Virtues of Oxygen; Susan Schoenberger - 4/5 (arc) Sept
  7. We Are Called To Rise; Laura McBride- 4.5/5 (arc) Sept
  8. The Way Inn; Will Wiles - 2.5/5 (arc) Sept
  9. One Kick; Chelsea Cain - 3/5 (audio) Sept
  10. The Removers: A Memoir; Andrew Meredith - 4/5 (library) Sept
  11. 2 a.m at the Cat's Pajamas; 4/5 (audio) Sept
  12. A Good Marriage; Stephen King - 4/5 (audio) Sept
  13. The Make-Ahead Cook; America's Test Kitchens - 5/5 (Sept) 
  14. And Then There Were None; Agatha Christie - 3.5/5 (pb) Sept 
Readers who like memoirs, especially one that is a bit different, I highly recommend The Removers, by Andrew Meredith.

 I completed my 4/4 books for the RIP IX Challenge but still plan to read a couple more books in that category during October.

October Reading Plans anyone?  I haven't given it much thought, but do want to read a few mysteries, a Christmas book, and another memoir.

Happy Reading

And Then There Were None; Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None; Agatha Christie
Harper Collins

And Then There Were None is an Agatha Christie mystery about ten people, all strangers to one another, who have received an invitation to spend time on a remote island (Indian Island).  The details are vague, but each of them is lured to the island with promises of just the vacation they needed or an employment opportunity. All of those invited are anxious to escape their past and decide to accept the invitation. The invitees do not even know who will be hosting them once they arrive. 

Each of the ten guests has somewhat of a dark past and the crime they committed has gone unpunished. At dinner shortly after their arrival, a mysterious recording plays announcing the dark deeds each guest has supposedly committed. Soon, one by one they begin to die off. It appears that they have been invited to the Island to pay for their crimes.

I had mixed feelings about this story. I really disliked the beginning when all of the guests were being introduced. The writing seemed very choppy and I felt like I needed a flow chart to track the guests and what was being said about them if I was ever going to be able to put the pieces together.  It’s obvious from the beginning that all of the guests are going to end up dead, but how they would die and who would be next, was what made me want to hang in there instead of jump ship after my rocky start.

I did like the way AC  made each of the guests look like they could have been the murderer at one point or another. The remote island setting, the grand old house, all added to the build of tension as the mystery progressed. The ending was not what I was expecting either, but I did like the manner in which details of the murders were revealed.

A quick and pretty clever mystery, I thought this was a decent read, but I think overall I was still a bit disappointed.

3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. I started this one yesterday and I must say,  this might be Jodi's best book yet.

Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books - October 2014



"Some people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard---a place that sick and old elephants would travel to die.  They'd slip away from their herds and would lumber across the dusty landscape, like the titans we read about in seventh grade in Greek Mythology.  Legend said the spot was in Saudi Arabia; that it was the source of a supernatural force; that it contained a book of spells to bring about world peace."

What do you think?

Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking below.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Blatherings and Books

I'm sick of feeling sick. Almost 3 weeks ago I got an earache, sore throat and cough that kept me home from work for a few days. 10 days of antibiotics done and still feeling crappy, I went back to the doctor and there was very little improvement except for the cough.  New antibiotic for 10 more days now and I can't hear out of one ear........ugh....It's rare that I am sick so when I am sick I'm quite whiny. I blame it on all the sick students that work in our office.

Speaking of work, the work week went quickly. Every year we do something that benefits the community in some ways. Everyone gets to choose from a list which includes manual labor, gardening work, reading to little children at schools, animal shelter work, and much much more.  This year I went to Ronald McDonald House, and assembled gift bags for children staying there while there were going through medical treatments. We also read to children and organized their library. The place is beautiful and the day was very rewarding.


I have been listening to lot's of audio books (volume turned high to compensate for blocked ear LOL) and reviewed several recently.  My current audiobooks are The Farm, Tom Smith (strange but interesting) and That Night; Chevy Stevens. I still need to review Landline; R. Rowell and The Arsonist; Sue Miller from earlier this month.

New Books (arrived by mail this past week)

Have a good week everyone!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Make - Ahead Cook ~ America's Test Kitchen

Cook's Illustrated - 2014

America's Test Kitchen has long been one of my favorite cookbooks (I own several). The set up of the book itself -- description - detailed about how many people the recipe will serve, safe storing, prep work, cook and serve instructions are all well organized and crystal clear. Most of the recipes do involve some prep time, but the recipes (there are 150) and all are recipes that will appeal to most people -- even choices for vegetarians.

There are tips to cut down on prep time, recommended cooking and storage containers. The sections are divided into -- "8 Smart Strategies" :
1. Prep Ahead
2. Reheat and Eat
3. Bake and Serve
4. From Fridge to Table
5. Shop Smart
6. The Sunday Cook
7. Come Home to Dinner
8. Stock the Freezer

Some of the recipes that I plan to try are: All American Meatloaf (brown sugar glaze), Miso Salmon, Salmon Burgers, One Pan Roast Chicken with Root Veggies, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Chicken Pot Pie with Crumble Topping, Chicken Enchiladas, 24-Hour Chopped Salad, Skillet Pizza with Broccoli an Red Onion, Chicken Pot Pie, Spinach Manicotti and several excellent looking slow cooker recipes as well.

Not all of the recipes in this book are new as I'm pretty sure I've seen a few in other ATK cookbooks, but that didn't bother me a bit. The illustrations that accompany the recipes are great and honestly, each recipe is all encompassing from prep to cooking, to storage and photo all on 2 pages per recipe. I love this book and think it would be especially helpful to anyone with a family to plan and cook for.

5/5 stars
(personal copy)

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas; Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M at the Cat's Pajamas; Marie-Helene Bertino
Random House Audio - Crown - 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas tells the story of three lost souls who search for love and meaning over the course of a 24-hour period on a snowy Philadelphia night.

Nine year-old Madeleine Altimai is mourning the loss of her mother. Her father is emotionally absent while he deals with his own grief. School is no solace or safe and happy place thanks to the meanness of some of her classmates, but Madeleine is resilient. She has a wise mouth so she can give what she gets, even though she finds herself expelled from school after an incident. This Christmas Madeleine's luck is about to change.

Madeleine is by far my favorite character in this story. Clinging to the few things left for her by her mother - a love of singing and jazz music and,  a recipe box full of practical things Madeleine needs to know in life. In the box her mother left she tells her daughter how to write a thank you card for a gift you hate, how to fix a flat tire, and gives her the encouragement to do the things you are afraid to do. This spunky girl with a terrific voice is determined to find the Cat's Pajamas and to sing onstage.

Another character in this story is Madeleine's teacher Sarina Greene. Sarina is newly divorced and is invited to a dinner party she has no interest in attending. She forces herself to go in the hopes of seeing an old high school crush named Ben.

As for The Cat's Pajamas, in its prime it was the place everyone wanted to go, but now it may be forced to shut down notice unless Lorca, the club owner comes up with $30,000 to pay off a fine.

I had a little trouble with this novel, although I loved the whole Madeleine storyline, and thought that the author did a good job weaving three story lines together with the jazz club center stage, there was a surreal element which put me off a bit. The author's writing was good and the theme, second chances, appealed to me. Although I enjoyed most about this book, I'm not sure it will appeal to everyone, but it certainly was still a pretty solid read. The audio book was read by Angela Goethals who did a very good job.

4/5 stars
(audio book sent by publisher)

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress; Ariel Lawhon

Doubleday - 2014

I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but in this case I'm glad I did.  The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress offers a fictional twist on the unsolved disappearance of NY Supreme Court Judge, Joseph Crater. The judge disappeared in 1930, and was legally declared dead in 1939 even though his body was never found.

Every year for nearly 40 years following Crater's disappearance, his wife Stella made annual visits to the mob owned, Abbey Club in NY's Greenwich Village to toast her husband. For Joe Crater, the Abbey Club was like a second home. Now dying of cancer Stella decides on a tell all she knows in meeting with detective Jude Simon who had been assigned to her husband's case.

The mistress, Sally Lou Ritz "Ritzi", a show girl, claims to have been out to dinner and more with Joe the night two men entered their hotel room, beat him up and dragged him off while she hid fearing discovery. Maria, the maid , also happens to be the wife of Jude the detective. She tells of having witnessed Ritzi in Joe and Stella's bed naked, and Stella herself doesn't exactly seem to have clean hands either.

The story was a fun romp into the world of 1930's New York. Showgirls, men with women on the side, the mob, prohibition, politics and more, all to the realistic happenings. The three woman in Judge Crater's life are all women who drive this story. Each woman is interesting and adds pieces to the puzzle with entertaining dialogue, and even though the real mystery remains unsolved, exploring the possibilities of what might have happened through the eyes of debut author, Ariel Lawhon was very enjoyable. A minor quibble with the book was the shifting time periods, which at times required close attention be paid. For me sometimes that is a little more difficult when listening to an audiobook while driving as was the case with this one.  The audio book reader Ann Marie Lee was fantastic though. Try this one, it is quite good.
4/5 stars
(library audio book)

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Good Marriage; Stephen King

 A Good Marriage; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster 

Scheduled to hit the big screen on October 3rd in the US, A Good Marriage is the 46th story written by Stephen King to be made into a movie. This story was originally published in 2010 as a short story in the Full Dark, No Stars collection. As I listened to the short audiobook (just 3 cds), I thought it sounded somewhat familiar, but it was still very enjoyable a second time (4) years later.

In this story Darcy and Bob Anderson are empty-nesters, a couple who have enjoyed a reasonably happy marriage for almost 30 years. Bob is an accountant and coin collector and is away from home from time time.

One day while Bob's away on business, Darcy is searching for batteries and stumbles upon something in their garage, neatly tucked away, that shake her to her core.  She suspects that her husband has been hiding some dark secrets.  First she tries to brush it off, but later she does her homework and is pretty positive that her worst fears are reality.  She isn’t sure what she will do and she certainly doesn’t want to act like anything is amiss when Bob returns. Bob is a pretty smart guy and can read his wife pretty well and he knows immediately that she has uncovered his secret. Honestly, how could Darcy possibly keep a straight face after just learning that her husband is a monster and has led a double life?

This is a King story that starts out strong and the tension continues to builds. Darcy's a great character and her voice and reactions fit the story well. A Good Marriage is about the dark side of humans and explores the capacity of one to do evil things.  The audio book narrator, Jessica Hecht, did a great job with this story, and even though the ending fizzled a bit for me, I still recommend this one to readers who enjoy a good nail-biter without the blood and lots of gore.

4/5 stars (audio sent by publisher)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Kick; Chelsea Cain

One Kick; Chelsea Cain
Simon & Schuster - 2014

First in a new series by Chelsea Cain, One Kick, gets off to a decent start, but then loses steam. The story opens with a young girl named Beth who is playing scrabble one evening, with a man who acted like her father.  The curtains are closed tight, there's a knock at the door, the man hesitant to answer, and in a flash the truth about the young girl is revealed.

Beth is really Kit Lannigan who was abducted when she was just six years old and held captive for over five years. She has been through a lot as one can imagine.  The author is sensitive to not shock the reader’s although it is pretty clear that Kit was exposed to it all -- abuse, child porn etc, the details are left out. Through occasional flashback you sense the bad stuff she was exposed to.

Now at twenty-one, Kit (Kick  she prefers to be called) Lannigan is one tough cookie. She’s a trained marksman, knows how to make bombs, is a martial arts master, a Houdini of escape and can kill. She tries to be tough, but the wounded child is still there and surfaces from time to time.
Now, at twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly sought after to help find a missing child. John Bishop is the unsavory, yet persistent character who draws Kick in while trying to track down a missing child  (Bishop has his own agenda). Kick’s brother James is a computer genius who is helping her narrow the clues to aid in the search for missing kids.

The flow of the story seemed off at times, and I think that it might have felt that way because Kick was still an emotional mess.  I don't think the Bishop character helped to heal her wounded self either.  Although I liked parts of this story, and had high hopes for this new series, as I've been a Chelsea Cain fan for a while, the ending of this story just seemed too unrealistic to me and I was left unsatisfied. At this point, I'm not sure whether I'll follow this new series, but was glad I tried One Kick at least. The audio book was read by Heather Lind who did a decent job.

3/5 stars (audio book sent by publisher)

Christmas Themed Books - 2014 ~ Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You

Do you plan to read some Christmas fiction this year?
I always like to read a few Christmas books to get me in the holiday spirit. I hesitated to do this post so early, but since all of the stores already have some holiday displays up, I figured -- hey, why not. All bold are some of the ones I am considering.  All of these release between Sept and November.  The ones in bold are the ones I'm considering right now.