Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Longings of Wayward Girls - 2013

The Longings of Wayward GirlsThe Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
My rating: 3/5

THE Low Down

Sadie is your typical New England stay-at-home mom – a nice house in her quiet hometown, successful and loving husband, young and adorable children. But when Ray moves back to town shortly after she suffers an emotionally crippling late-term miscarriage, “that summer” comes flooding back. From the childhood prank that may or may not have led to the unsolved disappearance of a neighborhood girl to her conflicting feelings for her mother, Ray and the relationship she suspected they once shared, the once long lost memories of her 12th summer reek havoc on her already weakened emotional state. As she struggles to deal with the reemergence of details in her past she may have rather left forgotten, she questions how those memories really have guided her present...and whether she likes where it is going.

“Morality and its victim, the mother - what a terrible picture! Is there indeed anything more terrible, more criminal, than our glorified sacred function of motherhood?”
Emma Goldman

MY Low Down

For some reason this particular review is drawing out a bit of writer's block in me – it's essentially a conundrum. On one hand, the knee jerk reaction to finishing this story was an easy 4 stars, but due to some life circumstances it has taken me over a week to get my review down. In that time, I was surprised by how quickly a seemingly 4 star read left my psyche – I honestly had to reference the book to remember a couple of characters names. Unfortunate.

Despite various story lines being driven in from many different directions, this story to me was essentially about motherhood – how our mothers affect who we are, and in turn how we mother our own children. As you move through the novel, the perspective alternates between 12 year old Sadie and 36 year old Sadie, highlighting the stark difference between the two but also the aspects of her young life that have followed her into her adult life.

At it's core, the insights did their job and drew you deep into many of the psychological aspects that even the smallest life events can have an impact on, but in many places they got mired down by the story line going in more directions that necessary. How did the disappearance of the first young girl factor into the lives of the girls several years later? Not really. Sure, the jacket tells you that it made the parents more diligent, but in reality the concept never came to fruitioon and the lack of resolution just made it frustrating and annoying. And why exactly was it necessary for Sadie to be suspicious of a past relationship between Ray and her mother? Not at all. He could have simply been girlhood crush of her past who returned to help turn things upside down and it would have had the same impact. None of the details such as Beth's strange behavior, Sadie's mother acting strangely (that seemed to be her norm, after all) ultimately seemed to me like they mattered to the overall theme of the story, but were basically just there to make everyone seem just one notch more screwed up.

Overall the writing was wonderful, particularly the alternation between the time periods that provided a great contrast to Sadie's life, but story itself just didn't do it for me quite as much as I'd originally felt like it would.

*NetGalley ARC*

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Me Before You (2012)

Me Before YouMe Before You by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 5/5

THE Low Down

Lou has lived her 26 years quietly within the borders of her small English town, holding the same job for nearly a decade, helping her family get by, keeping her resentments to herself as she puts her family before her. Will has spent his time traveling the world, amassing wealth and a life list that many modern day adventurers would envy until a motorcycle accident derails his high flying lifestyle, leaving him a quadriplegic. Lou's life is also turned upside down when the loss of her job also shakes the stability of her neatly ordered world.
Lou in need of a job and Will in need of a “companion”, their lives are thrown together in a way both despise. Lou does not want to be the companion to someone who hates her; Will doesn't want a companion of any kind, or to continue living a life where he requires one. But there is much more to the story than Lou first realizes, as Will already has plans to escape. But not if Lou has anything to do with.

MY Low Down

This has been touted as a modern day love story, but to say only that does a disservice to this incredibly deep, heart wrenching novel that can both lift you up and knock you down in a matter of seconds. It looks at some of life’s most difficult questions in a way that is so fluid and moving that you often don’t realize the importance of the subject at hand, just that it has been presented in a way that is both readable and thought provoking.

At its heart are the characters who are actually REAL. No, they didn’t hop out of the book and start having a conversation with me, but it felt like they could have. Louisa is the child who has always been second fiddle to the “better at everything” older sibling. She compensated by dressing in bright colors, bringing home money to contribute to the family kitty, remaining stable in the face of her sister’s “look at me! Love ME!” attitude. We’ve all known this person, been this person, and Lou embodies it in a way that is realistic, lovable, annoying and relatable all at once. While her stability has helped her family, it has hindered her personally. She’s never left the shadow of the castle, her town’s one claim to tourist fame, and she doesn’t really care if she ever does. Will on the other hand was happy to leave it in the dust to wander streets of Paris, surf on exotic beaches, leap tall buildings (or off tall mountains, or planes, or whatever else he could get his hands on) in a single bound. Now, Lou has the ablebodiedness to do the exploring but not the heart to do it. Will has the heart but not the physical ability. The combination of these personalities brought out one of the many deeper messages from within the pages: do YOU live your life to its fullest? And if you’re Lou, you also ask who has the right to judge whether you have or not? And if you act as your own judge and jury, from what are you basing your opinion? There are no actual answers to these questions, for anyone, anywhere, yet they are ones that many of us spend a great deal of time in life trying to answer. If we are lucky, we may someday know ourselves well enough to trust that our verdict is correct, or have enough faith in ourselves to follow through, but that is such a personal thing that I honestly don’t feel it can even be described.

The relationship the develops between Lou and Will is tenuous at first but develops into genuine love for one another, though the way they see their future and what that love means could not be farther apart from one another. Lou can’t see her life without Will, who has opened her heart, her mind, and the doors through which she has begun to broaden her horizons. Will can’t see his life at all, and even worse he can’t see himself burdening Lou’s newfound freedom and passion with his disability. To Lou, losing Will is unimaginable. To Will, losing Lou is the ONLY thing he can do. The manifestations of their love for one another are in such different realms of human thought that it is hard to believe that stem from a common bond, but JoJo Moyes takes you through their relationship in such a way that it ultimately more sense than you ever could have imagined. Don’t get me wrong – it sucks – I cried like a baby – but it made sense. And I loved it for it. There is not happy anything here, yet somehow it is all happy. It forces you to look at a perspective that is not often brought up.
Plus, the writing is just excellent!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday #3 - Blog Hopping Happiness!

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View and is a way for book bloggers to make new friends, gain new followers and find new folks to follow yourself!

So, what's new for this week....?

Q. What were some of your favorite picture books as a kid? If you have kids, what are your favorites to read to them? 

WARNING!! I read just as much as a kid as I do now, so I will make my best futile attempt to keep this from becoming it's own book. And, I may throw in a couple of non-picture books since I tended to like those better...I was a conundrum of a child at times :)

 One of my all-time favorites, both as a kid and to read to my nieces & nephews....

 I had honestly forgotten about both of these until I started thinking about this week's question, though I'm not sure how....Clifford and the Berenstein Bears ROCK! They always had a large selection of the BB books at the library & school book fairs and I would stockpile allowance money to buy them everytime, and then my mom would make me share them with my brothers.......

One of those non-picture books that will always be a childhood favorite, and one that I will even re-read now (honest...I just bought it on Kindle last week!). There was something so romantic about the kids living in the museum and solving the mysteries. This story definitely gets some credit for sparking my love of history!

 Sadly this one was not around when I was a kid, but EVERY baby that is born to a friend or family member of mine these days gets a copy of it. It may not be well known everywhere, but it is certainly a classic to anyone who has raised children around YNP!

 I received my first copy of this from my aunt for on my 6th birthday and we had a lover affair that ended only when the books spine could no longer keep up with me. My dad and I would read some every night, and it was always a negotiation on what we would read (Dad: You get one long one and 2 short ones...Me: Ok. Me after reading the long one: Dad! That was NOT long!). I used to be able to recite "Sick" and "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" made me laugh every time my dad read it, no matter how many times I heard it!

And how can you NOT love this one? Another that I buy several of a year because every child I know must have one!

So which ones will you never forget? Join the hop and let us know! Add yourself to the list below to join the fun, check here for the rules and to ask questions on the Feature & Follow, and follow me via GFC (preferred) or BlogLovin if you feel like coming back for another visit. Happy hopping!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Daily Delights - For the LOVE of Doggies!

NO. I. do. not. want. a. bath! Seriously though, don't we all wish that our fury friends could talk rather than just squeak, squeal, squawk, whine and yip? I can handle when my best friends' one-year olds do this because at least they will learn to talk eventually, but with critters I am perpetually stuck attempting ESP. But even worse than that? They can't talk to us, but they can still think! Sure, they don't understand human language the way we do so don't think in an internal monologue that we'd understand, but that doesn't mean they don't have their own internal monologue. Is there a doggy equivalent to "is she really wearing that?!", "did she really just say that?!" or worse, the "damn I hate that b*%#" as you're walking away?

My favorite insight into life with the four-legged kind is Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. Whether you're an animal lover or not, it is extremely difficult to not fall in love with Enzo. But reading this novel comes with a warning: don't start until you're ready to not stop! If you are like me and fall instantly in love, you will be laughing, crying, burning your dinner because you forgot it was even cooking and then looking over to see that it is now 3am and you have finished the book....and may even feel like re-reading in the very next day!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Looking for Alaska - John Green (2006)

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green
RATING: 3.5/5
THE Low Down

Miles "Pudge" Halter's only friends are the books that his father constantly reminds him to stop highlighting and the only guests at his going away party are a couple of kids he occasionally sits with at lunch who probably only came because their parents made them. But his books tell him that there is more than this, and he thinks his ticket to finding it is hiding in the woods outside Birmingham, Alabama at Culver Creek Preparatory School. He doubts his decision from the moment he arrives to find a lack of air conditioning, a room that looks nothing like what his JFK biography told him boarding school looked like, and once again being the outsider. Until he meets Alaska Young. Alaska is a whirlwind - holding guilt about her mother's death, bucking the system while still wanting to be a part of it. The whirlwind turns Pudge's life on end, launching him toward his "Great Perhaps", makes him question everything, answer what he can, and try to hold onto his heart. And then the storm is over. Torn between whether knowledge truly is the best thing or just a path towards more pain, Pudge and friends delve deeper into who, and what, Alaska really was and in turn are forced to face these very questions about themselves.

MY Low Down

I both loved and not-so-much loved Looking for Alaska, and for such a wide range of reasons. First off though, it is a well written and *mostly* creative novel. It draws you in the from the beginning and keeps a quick pace that holds onto you. I liked the characters. I liked the message. I liked the story. I didn't love any of it.

The premise of Miles and Alaska is great, but just a little too typical. I love Alaska's passion, maddening mood swings and inspiring energy, but I have also loved it in every other character like her in every other story I've read or watched that had such a character (my knee jerk comparison was Drew Barrymore in Mad Love). They are endearing and intriguing, but they need something to separate them from all the others before them.

The underlying themes Alaska pulls you into though are well constructed and presented, and in a way that many of all ages can relate to. We have all been the outsider, loved and lost, rebelled against the system. Green writes his way through the days of angst-ridden teenagers in a believable way that makes you think that YES, that could have been me, and what would I have done? How would I have reacted.

Unfortunately though, I also got hung up on the number of things that just struck me as so unrealistic. As I've said before, I'm completely ok with creative license where appropriate. This is not the kind of story where I want that exercised. This story is serious, down to earth in dealing with real issues and sky ward in energy. I did not need it go skyward in liberties though. For example...has anyone else ever heard of a school with only a few "expelable offenses" that are so black and white that the students can basically prank, riot and raise the most ridiculous kind of ruckus, but are safe because they didn't "officially" commit an expelable offense? And smoking in their dorm room? Really? These details may seem nit picky, but if you want me to buy into the serious themes of the story and that these could be real kids dealing with real life issues, their setting needs to be realistic.

Overall though this is an almost great book, one which I can certainly see a lot of value in. I can easily see it being a 4 or 5 star read for others who see things from a different angle than I do as it is well written, engaging and gutsy in taking on tough subjects.

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Daily Delights - Yellowstone Wildfires

Image from National Weather Service - August 2013
What a difference a day can make! Fire is a natural part of a forest ecosystem and something many people contend with year after year. When they happen in Yellowstone each year though, there is always the perpetual question of "what do we do?". To let it burn means to allow the forest to follow it's natural course, but also drastically alters the landscape and risks the safety of visitors and historic structures. To suppress it protects these things, but to the detriment of the forests natural life cycle. And weighing even heavier than these questions, is the question of who gets to decide?

Alston Chase's Playing God in Yellowstone goes into this and other controversial subjects, essentially telling the National Park Service that it is destroying the world's 1st National Park. Whether you agree with him or not, it is still a compelling read that will get you thinking about what should or should not be done with our land, as well as who you think should get to decide.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Daily Delights - Paradise Valley, MT

Photo by John Salvato - Emigrant forest fire August 2013
Comprised of the 50 mile stretch between Livingston and Gardiner en route to Yellowstone National Park, the Paradise Valley of Montana is exactly as it's name implies. In this beautiful place, you will find the meandering Yellowstone River, historic lodges, soaring peaks and working ranches, which all lend to the amazing combination of scenery and old west atmosphere. If you look hard enough, you will also find the quaint little "ghost" town of Old Chico, nestled into the hills behind the historic Chico Hot Springs Resort.

To get a little taste of the Paradise Valley of old, check out local author Edie Mellgren's new novel, The Vindication of Lucas Goddard. I just got it today and haven't had a chance to get into it yet, but I'm hearing good things. Look for my review sometime in the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday #2 - Blog Hopping Happiness!

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View and is a way for book bloggers to make new friends, gain new followers and find new followers of your own!

So, what's new for this week....?

Q: It is up to you to do a Kickstarter campaign for your favorite book!!! Who are you casting for the main characters? 

Given that I am TERRIBLE at envisioning who I would cast as my favorite main characters and admittedly don't always love the choices that are made (or go further and say do not love at all when it comes to Kristen Stewart and Twilight....I will NEVER like her!). But I digress.

Instead of trying to picture something I will do terribly, I'm going to think about a recent choice that has received A LOT of attention, and in a lot of cases angry fans Twitter screaming to the world - Charlie Hunnam as Christian Gray. Say what you will about whether you think he will make a good Christian, but I personally am completely OK with this choice for one essential reason......

...he sure is nice on the eyes. I mean, this is Yummy Reads, right?

And let's be honest folks, the books weren't good (don't take that as I didn't like them, because I was thoroughly entertained, as embarrassing as that can be to admit at times). Do you really think the movies are going to be actual GOOD movies? Doubtful. So if the movie itself isn't great, I'm thrilled that one of my all-time fave hunky actors is at least going to be walking around showing it off for a couple hours :)

So who would YOU cast in your favorite book's movie? Or who has been cast that you loved, or not-so-loved? Join the hop and let us know! Add yourself to the list below to join the fun, check here for the rules and to ask questions on the Feature & Follow, and follow me via GFC (preferred) or BlogLovin if you feel like coming back for another visit. Happy hopping!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend Wanderings - Playing on Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest alpine (7000+ feet above sea level) in North America, and one of my favorite places to escape from the world. With 110 miles of shoreline and a deepest point of over 400 feet, it is no small or calm space - it takes at least an hour to cross in a pretty quick boat, and it's not uncommon to see whitecaps and 3-4 foot swells (or larger!) when an afternoon storms rolls off the mountains. Many of those miles of shoreline abut some of the most remote wilderness in North America, rivaled only by Alaska in it's distance from the nearest road. So, can you think of a better place to take a really adorable little guy out for his 1st birthday? As his mom is a former guide on the Lake and mom and dad were married on an island in the middle of it, I certainly can't!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Life In Men - Globetrotting and conquest collecting can be a lot more meaningful than you might think....

A Life in MenA Life in Men by Gina Frangello
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE Low Down

Mary and Nix are the typical opposites-attract, childhood best friends - Mary is a sensible, sweet, loyal; Nix has a wandering spirit with a hunger for the unknown, may it be small town Ohio Friday night or a trek across the Atlantic, nothing is too small for her to make it an adventure. When Mary is diagnosed with an ultimately terminal illness at 17, neither of them can foresee the effect it will have the worldviews of them both, and how these changes will manifest themselves and shape each of their entire futures. When Nix convinces Mary to join her on a summer trip to the Greek Isles, meant to bring them closer together and show Mary a world that neither of them believes she will have much time to see, unthinkable events transpire that drive a wedge between them. They part at the end of their trip, Mary back to college and medical treatments in Ohio, Nix to her study abroad in London, not knowing it will be last time they ever see each other.
Flying on the tails of her lost friend, Mary embarks on her own journey to London, seeking things she does not yet know, and for a time even becoming her friend – assuming her name, and living vicariously through how she thinks Nix would have done. Mary’s journey beyond a boarding house in London takes her throughout the world and all walks of life, from rural New England to the wilds of Africa and beyond, and through the series of men who come in and out of her life and help shape not only her path but both who she is and who she thinks she is. Through the eyes of a young woman who knows her time on earth is shorter than many, she struggles with finding both her place in the world and the place that the people in her life have, and should or should not have, and in the end searching for what ultimate does, or does not matter.

MY Low Down

If you knew your time was more limited than most, how do you think you would live that time? Do you think the other people in your life would understand and support you, even if they didn’t agree with you? With unique and engrossing style, this thought provoking and stirring story makes you want to scream, cry, think and trek around the world in a bat of an eye.

A Life in Men not only forces thought about these questions, but does so from the intriguing perspective of breaking down a woman’s adult life by the men that helped shaped each part of it, and in turn the many different parts of her. Seemingly always torn between love and sex, now and then and what is to come, and whether she feels like being “herself” or her more adventurous best friend, Mary manages to pack more into her shortened life than many who will get two or three times the number of years to do so, and Gina Frangello helps you love her even when you want to hate her. When she disregards her health, you want to scream at her for a moment, but then you start to think about whether you would do the same thing – live life safe so that it lasts longer, or live life well and accept that it may make it a bit shorter? When she falls into bed with men she probably shouldn’t, you want to shake her and ask what the heck she’s doing – and then you think “but would I do that too if I could?” The men in her life are fathers, brothers, lovers and friends, all with distinct and interesting personalities and histories. Some provide love and companionship, others provide outlets for escape, but all have a place that add definition to Mary’s journey.

For a time, Mary also continues her communication with her lost friend, via her “Nix Notebook”. This one sided communication reveals more of the inner workings behind her actions and choices, giving a little hint of the first person POV that helps both understand her more personally and question her all the more. When Mary reaches a point where she feels she needs to break herself away from the Nix Notebook, she is symbolically shedding the skin she had been living in and accepting that she truly can LIVE on her own, without the psychological tie to “what would Nix do?” While she seems to succeed in leaving that part of her life behind, she ultimately realizes that she can’t let go of anything – she can choose what she dwells on and what she puts behind her, but at the end it will all be an element of the glue the holds her life together and makes her the person she becomes. The only true downfall of this story was that we weren’t given the opportunity to know Nix better – the small introduction and periodic appearances just don’t quite add up to enough of a connection to truly care about her or the place in the story. This disconnect made the bridge between Nix and Mary’s reliance on and influence from her seem shaky at times, as though she was entered as a bit of an afterthought that was never allowed to fully partake in the story. The connection and theme of her is there and makes sense, but could have definitely been stronger and had more of an impact had the chance been there to really feel something for her, and in turn her relationship with Mary. I also would have loved to see the two girls connected more fully when Mary spends her time in London, rather than the brief bits and pieces we are given.
NetGalley ARC

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Perfect People....You can't always get what you want

Perfect PeoplePerfect People by Peter James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perfect People…You can’t always get what you want


THE Low Down

If you could guarantee that your child would never have to suffer from incurable illness, or die at too young an age, would you do it? What if you could go ever further and guarantee them intelligence, ambition, athletic prowess and the looks of a supermodel? What about then? Those are the questions that face John and Naomi as they come to terms with the loss of their 4-year old son to a genetic disorder that they have a 1-in-4 chance of passing along to any future children. Unable to accept the possibility of losing another child, they reach out to Dr. Leo Dettore, a renowned and often ostracized former child prodigy, who is pushing the boundaries of human genetics and promises the possibility of a healthy child, completely free of the feared genetic ailments that cost them their firstborn. While John and Naomi go into the process simply wanting a healthy child, Dettore opens their eyes to genetic possibilities far beyond what they could have ever imagined, putting them at odds with their beliefs and questioning the very thing that brought them there. After making a few small “adjustments”, they go forward with the process. Unbeknownst to them though, there are other factors at play that go farther beyond what they thought they were getting themselves into.

MY Low Down

You CANNOT read this book without getting lost in thought, as well as questioning those thoughts and those of the characters. The concept of “designer” babies has, and likely always will be, a hot button and controversial subject, and Peter James excels at bringing up multiple viewpoints, along with the many positive and negative aspects of them all. You do not get a feeling of his opinion, which allows your imagination to run wild. What would I do if I were John and Naomi? Would I take the chance to give my child a life of guaranteed help? Some say it is playing God, but for those who believe in God, wasn’t it he/she who gave us the ability to do this in the first place? These are all thoughts either outright discussed or elicited from this story that keep your mind moving in every direction at every moment.

Told primarily from the perspective of John and Naomi, with a few others thrown in for good measure, the story flows and keeps your attention throughout. I was poised to LOVE this book until near the very end, when I watched the loose ends flap in the breeze without so much as a twist together, let alone a good tie. First, the thriller aspect was never present at all for me – sure there was some tension interspersed about, but quite frankly the lurking threats seemed as though they were thrown in with the thought of making it a thriller but never really materialized to feel as though they melded with the story. They were a side plot that just never lived up. Second, the culmination of the story was a seemingly random offshoot of the entire thriller aspect that had no foreshadowing and no tie to the thriller portion of the story up to that point. While I appreciate the route the story took, it was not tied well to the earlier storyline and felt disconnected and incomplete. Sadly, the last quarter took it from a LOVE to a LIKE. Still a strong LIKE, but a LIKE nonetheless…..

*NetGalley ebook edition*

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Pentrals - Look deeper than the smoke and mirrors.....

The Pentrals (The Pentrals, #1)The Pentrals by Crystal Mack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*NetGalley ARC*

THE Low Down...
Do you ever get that feeling that someone or something is watching you, even when you know you are completely alone? What if someone were to tell you that aren't actually alone? That someone really IS always watching you? Though most do not know it, that is the reality of life for the residents to Talline, a city built of glass and mirrors surrounded by towering red rock canyon walls, where every shadow and reflection is in fact it's own sentient being. These "Pentrals" are former People, who have sworn themselves to a "life" of observation without interaction in hopes of gaining redemption for past crimes and indiscretions. May it be as vibrant reflection or a gray scale shadow, they must focus their energy on remaining true to their person's essence. Antares is one such Shadow, having spent the past 17 years serving as Violet's shadow since the day she was born. Once a vibrant, loving and creative young girl, Violet's 17th birthday and a tragic life-changing event have sent her spiraling into herself, cutting herself off from those she loves and making drastic choices that leave Antares at a loss for what is to become of Violet's once seemingly bright future. In an act of fury Antares did not know she was even capable of, or does not understand how she even accomplished it, she turns both of their worlds upside down. Despite the heavy consequences that she thinks must be impending though, Antares' love for Violet and duty to serve her Person compel her to help Violet get back on track. Unbeknownst to both of them though, their separate paths to redemption to will uncover more layers of their world than either of them thought possible.

MY Low Down...

I will be the first to admit that anything in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy realm needs to grab me right away or I will probably never finish. This one toed the line, but caught me just in time and did not let go. Using the unique perspective of a person's shadow rather than that of the actual person, the perception of the world is thrown askew, essentially forcing one to paint their own picture of the story from a perspective they are not used to. From there, the city of mirrors creates a world where one cannot escape their own reflection, a constant reminder of their outward appearance. Through these mediums, Violet, Antares and others are forced to face the role that appearances play in one's feelings of self-worth, and how those feelings can be manipulated. How do you know that what you see in the mirror is what others see? Will you ever be able to know the difference? Who has the power to control such things? These are questions that can and should come up in the "real" world, and Crystal Mack uses a unique and very creative approach to bring them to light.

There were a few areas that were a bit lacking such as general character development and a bit of a cliche in the villain-figure department, but the overall story construction, writing and creativity were deserving of praise. While I certainly would have liked to feel at least a little more connected to the characters, I was connected to their story and as the first in a series, there is plenty of room for growth as the story progresses.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Poor Little Dead Girls - Poor little not-so-thriller

Poor Little Dead GirlsPoor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

NetGalley ARC.... Sadie Marlowe is an ace lacrosse player from "small town" Oregon who is thrown into the world of the American elite when she is recruited to play for Keating Hall, one of the most exclusive prep schools on the East coast. As Sadie's late mother also attended Keating, she innocently believes that her athletic skilled combined with her mother's alumni status paved the way to her scholarship, but throughout the course of being "kidnapped", drugged, waking with strange bruises and even stranger memories, she learns a whole different side of the story. Billed as both a thriller and YA, I unfortunately would say this novel does not meet either category.

Don't get me wrong, there were some positive aspects of this book: SOME of the characters had a reality to them that was refreshing, the overall plot was well thought out and interesting. Unfortunately for me though, the negatives clung on and I never could quite get over them.

First, foremost and utterly annoying was the "naive small town girl meets the new world of the rich and powerful east coast elite". This concept in itself makes perfect sense; my issue with this is that our supposed small town "hick" is from Portland, Oregon. I admit that I of course take the absurdity of how her hometown was portrayed more personally as a native Portlander myself, but that shouldn't decrease the clear lack of knowledge or research that went into the decision to frame this as her hometown. Throughout the book, references are constantly made to her small town upbringing, her lack of social knowledge through comments like "you really are small town, aren't you", Sadie's assertion that she wore jean shorts to her last school dance, and the reaction Sadie got from "people in Portland" regarding her mom's drug abuse. Sure, Portland is definitely a far cry from suburban Virginia and money means different things in different places, but if you want to portray someone as being "small town" and naive, you should probably pick someplace that is actually small and off the beaten path, rather than a relatively sized city that is by no stretch "cut off" from normal society. Sure, this may be somewhat trivial and your average reader may not know enough to see the incorrect representation, but inaccuracies that are not necessary or justified are a one way ticket to frustration in my reading world.

Aside from the Portland snaffu, there were also other weaknesses that brought this one a bit down for me. First of all, the storyline itself was interesting and well thought out, but the actual construction left much to be desired. Situations were not built enough to cause any suspense, clues were blatant and left nothing to the imagination, and characters were for the most part allowed to develop only to the minimum point needed to make them useful. When finished reading, I unfortunately did not really care much what became of them, as I was never allowed to truly care about them.

Lastly, this novel seriously toed the line on being the YA it claims to be. Sure, the characters were young adults, but the novel is definitely more appropriate for a slightly older audience. I read something previously from the author about this, and she stated she feels like the situations presented in the novel are what normal teens are dealing with and want to read about. While it may be true that it is what they "want" to read about, I don't know if it is necessarily what they "should" be reading about - I personally would not want any mid-teen of mine reading about rich prep school girls having their personal hairdressers sneak booze into their dorm rooms or the "cool" senior boys getting drunk at every dance, all with no consequences.

Overall, an OK read for a rainy weekend afternoon but nothing I would write home about.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling....Harry Potter it is NOT!

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first non-HP I have read, and I really didn't know what to expect after 10+ years of reading and loving them. Despite my initial questioning, I ended up loving it, and I now definitely believe the JK Rowling is diverse author capable of writing to any audience or genre.

The "just enough info" intro did it's job perfectly in hooking me in and it mostly got better the further I got. The 2 main characters, Strike and Robin, have a great chemistry that's not really a chemistry, if you follow my random drift there, that makes you love them more and more as things progress. I feel like I got to know both of them very well without feeling like it had required reading too many long-winded, not action monologues of personal details to get there. Don't get me wrong, the details were there but interspersed throughout at timely moments to both add to the current storyline and teach you more about the characters, Overall, the superb characters were the resounding highlights.

As an overall fan of mystery/crime, this already had a point it it's favor for the genre. Overall, I did enjoy this one, but the way the storyline progressed is the one negative point I really noticed. When reading a mystery novel, one of my favorite parts is that "Aha!" moment when the trail of clues start coming together (or so you think) and you know whodunit (or so you think again...), and the following build-up of excitement to when you find out that you had it all wrong after all :) Unfortunately though, I didn't get that feeling all with this one. With the number of characters involved and their varying stages of being suspected, I felt like a little too much was put into "trying" to point you in the wrong direction that it ended up being too many different directions. Once I learned whodunit and started hearing the backstory of how it happened, I was easily able to go "Oh yeah!! I do remember that!" or "Oh duh. How did I not get that?" but before that I never felt like I had any solid idea. While the story was still great overall, one of the best parts of a mystery is feeling like you figured it out - while all of the points were there to where I could technically have figured it out, there were just too many diversions in there without enough "outs" for the possible suspects to really do all that much actual figuring.

An excellent read that I would definitely recommend, and I would also love to see these characters continued!

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dead Ever After - I am going to forget this book ever existed *With Spoilers*

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I feel disrespected and appalled at this last installment that Charlaine Harris somehow thought would pass as an acceptable conclusion to the series. And to say nothing about the editors who wasted the money on printing this thing. Quite frankly, I don’t think any of them cared. They knew the number of people, such as me, who love this series and were excited for the grand finale (or in this case, grand failure). Despite the last 4 books being increasingly bad, we held onto hope that CH would pull it together and send everything out with a bang. Instead, they played on the love of Sookie’s fans, knowing that this hope would lead to the purchase my so many of this mediocre crud.

Why? Let me count the reasons…

#1 – Continuity: I have read each of the books only once, so I missed a few things others have pointed out, but there was still enough that I caught to irk me. Sookie can all of a sudden only read the emotions of wares? Since when? Sookie knows a swear word worse than damn, and uses it? Since when? Sookie is a hypocrite who can’t stand the fact that vampire blood might be affecting whether she really loves Eric, but she is A-Ok with the Sam situation even though it was affected by the cluvial dor? HELLO!!!

#2 – Eric: I’ll admit, I love Eric (and not only because I love watching Alexander Skarsgaard play him, I actually like the book character too ). CH spent EIGHT books building up that relationship, and then threw it away. And not only did she throw it away, she didn’t even do it with an ounce of drama or respect. Literally, there were probably a total of 3 pages devoted to ending Eric and Sookie’s relationship after, again, EIGHT books of building it up. Whether you are an Eric fan or not, this is just stupid.

#3 – The whole dang plot!: Really?! This passes as a plot line that will be published by a major publishing company? Apparently you don’t have to have any creativity, or skill, in crafting an enticing plotline to get a book published. So on that note, I’ll be right back – need to pop in and tell the boss I’m quitting since I can certainly make more money as a mediocre author. Seriously though, this plot was full of holes, pieced together segments that ultimately meant nothing to each other, and the pacing was awful! I was reading this on my Kindle and at one point I looked down and saw “91% complete”. I frantically started thinking my KF must be broken, because there was NO WAY that everything that started would come to a resolution with so little left. But it did. And it did POORLY. Literally, this book when from a meander through the woods to the Olympic 100 yard dash in about a page. The last 10% of the book was so fast, so shoddily pieced together and too outright disappointing to even think about.

#4 – Lack of respect for readers: Yes, CH created her characters and it is entirely up to her what happens to them. Despite my disappointment with the ending of the series, I can respect that (though I do question the reason, given that she went against just about every review I’ve ever read and every fellow fan I know….). What I can’t respect are the things listed above. It is a sad thing when your readers apparently know more about the stories created than you do to catch continuity issues you have missed. Oh, they were on purpose? You changed things to make your ending work better and thought we weren’t smart enough to notice?

Since CH did not have enough respect for her fans to write a final book of any quality, I am not going to give her the respect of caring about her ending – I will have my very own sitting happily in my mind, blocking out all memories of her completely, utterly, and absolutely disappointing finale.

And publishers, shame on you. You had better believe I will be putting more thought into what Penguin books I actually spend money on for a while – you have some redeeming to do.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Gone Girl - Don't even try to figure it out!

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'm glad I took a while to write my review of this one, because a little time and more thought earned it another 1/2* - I can't bring myself all the way to 5, but it's close!

THE Low Down...

Nick meets Amy. Nick and Amy get married. Happy couple moves to boring (her) and wonderful (him) small town mid-west. Amy disappears. Chaos ensues. End result - You will not believe it until you read it!

MY Low Down...

Yowza! Talk about twists and turns. Not only was I constantly guessing and questioning, but it evoked every emotion from giggly romantic to pure hatred. I managed to both love and hate both Nick and Amy at times, and the emotional jumps sometimes had just a page or less separating them as every curve ball imaginable was thrown into the mix. The writing was fluid and concise, with just the right amount of detail in just the right places. There was enough foreshadowing to have the "duh" moments pop up later, but not enough to spoil anything. Flynn clearly has an amazing imagination and knack for timing and details that just cannot be taught - I will definitely be looking into her other titles!

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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I should have read the book first!

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a rare moment of potential insanity, I am going to say it...I liked the movie better!

Please do not think that I did not enjoy the book, as I really did. Also, it should receive a good deal of credit for the very reason that I enjoyed the movie better - the book was a more realistic picture of both how the Marigold residents would come to be in India in the first place, and also of the country itself, whereas the movie definitely portrayed it in a more romanticized light. Both have their merits, and the book itself is actually well written and enjoyable. Quite frankly, I must admit that I may have given the novel a higher ranking had I never seen the movie. I know this is quite unfair to the author, but at the same time I can't help but think she had a role of some kind in the creation of the movie (please forgive me and accept my apologies if I am incorrect) so should have realized there would be such comparisons.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Fault In Our Stars - Sadness Alert!

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


THE low down...

Hazel is a teenager with terminal cancer who has been given the "gift" of an unknown amount of borrowed time by an experimental drug that she seems to be the only person having positive results from. Augustus is teenager with cancer that is in remission and a type that has something like an 85% survival rate. Hazel meets Augustus and he pulls her out of her life that has been defined by cancer in the 3 years since her diagnosis. You're on your own from here because the spoilers involved with saying any more would be a mine field!

MY low down...

This one was a roller coaster for me! The big uphill, I started to love it, as much as you can love a story that you know before you even start that it will break your heart. The scream inducing down hill, I wanted to punch Hazel and Augustus for seeming to be incapable of speaking like teenagers. So many times I felt like the only way these conversations could have ever happened was by scripting them out ahead of time, like they were in a play that was confused about the time period it was in. The nauseating loopity loop, I wanted to punch myself for wanting to punch kids with cancer.

The story was poignant, the characters likeable most of the time and a few twists and turns to keep you interested. The overall quality though still left a bit to be desired and was only 3* as I just couldn't fall in love with the writing. Overall it was a good book, but to bring up the often mentioned "cancer perks", I think the "kids with cancer" storyline was the only reason it was memorable since the characters weren't particularly exceptional other than the fact that they were cancer patients. Don't get me wrong, they are far more exceptional than me for what they've been through, I just didn't get a connection to them other than sadness for their struggle.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Silver Orphan - A social commentary on a heartbreaking fact of life that all to many choose to ignore

Silver OrphanSilver Orphan by Martine Lacombe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a galley copy of this novel for my review.

Simply put, this book packs a punch. Enough so that it is 1:00am on a weeknight and instead of sleeping as I should be, I am sitting in front of the computer because I'm pretty sure I will not be able to sleep until I write something down.

With each passing year, more Americans are reaching their golden years, and many of them without friends or family. Whether this is due to geographic separation, a lack of family members who care, or a lack of family members at all, the result is the same - these seniors who have often worked hard and cared even harder for their families throughout their lives are now alone. This is a heartbreaking subject, and one that Martine Lacombe tackles with grace.

Part story of unlikely friendship and changing self awareness, part history lesson and social commentary, this novel takes us rhythmically through 3 time periods - the younger life of first generation Italian-American Frank Moretti, the time of developing friendship between him and raging narcissist Brooke Blake, and the present day timeline of Brooke searching for the family of her lost friend following his death. The vastly different viewpoints and expectations of themselves, each other and the world were a central piece to this novel, and these 3 alternating time periods allowed the authors points to come through by comparison rather than coming across as preachy or overly analytical. This novel is well written, thoughtful and poignant.

There are only 2 pieces that held this novel back from 5* for me. (view spoiler)[ First, I can't bring myself to fully believe that Brooke truly changed. Yes, we see her reaching out and given up her precious time to others in the end, but that still does not cancel out the fact that she was utterly irritated at the thought of having to deal with Frank's remains rather than being saddened by his passing, despite showing him such love and care so soon before his death. Second, I am sad to not know more of Sofia's story, or that of Frank's son and granddaughter after Brooke discovers his family. While this piece of the puzzle does serve excellent commentary in terms of apathetic family members, I do so wish we had learned more of the story. (hide spoiler)]

Overall though, an excellent and worthy read, and I applaud Martine Lacombe for tackling this equally heartwarming and heartbreaking story!

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beautiful Creatures - Not quite a beautiful novel, but at least it's pretty

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Through the much less used perspective of a teenage boy, Beautiful Creatures takes you to a small South Carolina town with the usual mix of suspects - southern belles, holier than thous, intelligent and open minded academics, ecentrics - but also an "underworld" that most people will never know exists. When Ethan meets Lena, he only knows that he is drawn to her for some unknown reason, but has no idea that the new girl in town will not only show him this underworld, but also alter his future and view of his own world in one basic fell swoop.

While an overall engaging and easy read, there are definitely aspects that keep it from being great. First, it is a little slow in places - I found myself doing quite a bit more skimming than I probably should have (and hopefully didn't miss anything good), basically trying to get to said good stuff. Second, I'm not entirely sure I bought Ethan's perspective, as there were a few too many times that I found myself wondering if a 16 year old boy would actually do or say that. However, this one isn't overtly obnoxious because I can see how some of the situations might be influenced by the paranormal elements thus altering how he would have normally behaved.

Not quite a great book, but definitely good enough to catch my attention to continue the series at some point.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Between Shades of Gray - A gut wrenching piece of history that I'd bet most of you didn't even know about

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Put most simply, a wonderful and moving book!

This novel follows a Lithuanian family, through the eyes of 15 year old Lina, who were deported to Siberia during WWII. First, this is a part of WWII that I must honestly admit I knew nothing about. And I literally mean NOTHING. All of my education regarding the treatment of different groups has revolved around the Holocaust and the interment of Japanese-Americans, but I was completely in the dark regarding the injustices Stalin and the USSR inflicted upon so many from the Baltic states.

This novel is clearly well researched, and that research was well portrayed in a story that was heartwarming and engaging while still be honest about the horrible experience people like Lina's family would have endured. I was also very surprised to learn, after finishing it, that this was a YA novel - I honestly would not have guessed it, and was even more impressed after learning this. Despite many graphic and gruesome situations and mature writing, it was also written in such a way that I think it would definitely reach a younger audience, without making adult readers feel like they had to dumb down their thought processes to appreciate it. Truly reaching both audiences can be difficult, and it was done so well here.

A landmark of a great historical fiction novel for me is whether I want to learn more about the subject after reading it, and this one definitely made the grade there!

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Fifty Shades Darker - Mommy has grown up into an actual plot a bit this time

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2) Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2) by E.L. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Writing still mediocre, bordering on outright terrible? Definitely. However, this second installment was also definitely better than the first and I'm glad I kept going. In part #2, there is actually some semblance of the plot that I wanted more of in Fifty Shades of Grey, so much more so that I wish more of what we learned in the second book had been in the first book. But, fewer books in the series would have of course been fewer total books sold, so apparently dollar signs won out over logical separation of the books on this one.

On another note, the narrator seems to have gotten at least a tiny bit of a hint on how utterly obnoxious her rendition of the first book was, because Ana's voice was much better than the ditzy airhead tone that came across in the first book.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey - Mommy Porn has a ways to go if it wants to be good

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't even know where to begin with this one, other than to realize that I can probably skip the summary since I seem to be the last 30 something woman in the world to read this.

First, the writing is to the point of being obnoxious. Not annoying obnoxious, just outright bad obnoxious, which I guess does actually make it kind of annoying. This novel's beginnings as novice fan fiction is blatant to the point of hilarity at points, and I have to agree that a large part of it's popularity lies within the digital revolution that allows readers to indulge in erotic subject matter discreetly. I think the age of the characters and Christian's role as the uber-wealthy young CEO is another huge draw - right along with the picture of the story in my imagination, I couldn't help but picture your typical all-American middle aged woman getting lost in the daydream of being 22 again and finding her own Christian Grey, while also lost in the personal question of what she would do if he ever actually walked through her door.

Despite the overall bad writing though, I cannot lie that I still felt like there was a magnet pulling me back. Oddly, it was story that drew me in and not the illicit sex, even though the story itself was rather weak and the worst part of the bad writing. I do have to admit that it was definitely fun to picture what I would want my Christian to look like (and then picturing him in the gray flannel pants, yum) but I'm certain I am in the gross minority in that the sex got redundant. Not the scenarios themselves, they were creative and probably the best writing in the entire book, I just think I'm probably not the erotica type. About halfway through each of them, I just wanted to get back to the story, and then found myself wishing there was a more substantial story. A small conundrum that hopefully book 2 will help enlighten a bit.

Aside from the actual content itself, I listened to the audio version of this book and cannot refrain from comment on that - why does every person reading the character of a naive/innocent young woman feel the need to read her voice as though she is a dimwitted airhead? Every book I listen to that has late teens-early twenties female characters seems to be this way, and this one is made even worse by the pathetic attempt at reading her voice as "sultry" and "innocent" at the same time. Note to anyone reading books for audio....air headed "valley girl" is NOT sultry, NOT innocent, and NOT enjoyable! On a positive note, I started the audio of the second book this afternoon, and I'm pretty sure someone else told her this as well because I have noticed a marked improvement. Still not great, but definitely better.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sweethearts - Much deeper than the whimsical title

SweetheartsSweethearts by Sara Zarr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


"Because love, love is never finished. It circles and circles, the memories out of order and not always complete"

This one line basically sums up this book, the story about a teenage girl dealing with the loss in grade school and reemergence during her senior year of high school of her childhood best and onetime, only, friend. After his departure, she reinvented herself to avoid getting lost in herself, and when he returns she must come to terms with who she is, was, and will become while also trying to understand the abuse and hardship that led to his leaving in the first place. All at once, they are grappling with having grown apart, yet still in some ways being exactly where they left off, and also trying to discover what they mean to each and the roles they will or will not ultimately play in each others lives.

This touching story evokes memories of friends found, friends lost and friends rediscovered. It touches on a kind of love that many don't understand, or choose to acknowledge, as it is about as far from black/white as you can get. As much as many of us do not like to admit, some love is so firmly rooted in the gray areas that it will never be fully understood. This can be a torment, but can also be a blessing and a lesson, which is what this novel wants to say. And while teenagers of course do not know it all (as many of surely thought we did back then!) the world as seen through the naive eyes of young adults can sometimes be the most thought provoking, and Sara Zarr does a wonderful job of channeling this innocence.

This is a easy read without much challenge or overly exciting writing to it, but where it lacks in those areas it definitely makes up in substance and thought provoking ideas.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Wanderings - Dog Sledding!!

Any Friday where you get a hall pass from the office has the potential to be a wonderful day, but it may be a while before I top yesterday's "work" day!

On a beautiful and snowy February day, I traded the business casual attire, desk chair and nice warm office for wooly pants, mittens and and sleeping bag in the basket of a dog sled for an adventure into the hills of Tom Miner Basin with Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures. A worthy trade? Without a doubt.

Our day started with meeting our guide, Josiah, who drove us the rest of way up to our starting point. During the ride, he told us about the type of dogs we would be using (primarily Alaskan huskies) as well as some of the big differences between the common types of working dogs (Alaskan huskies can go 150 miles in a day, where Malamutes go, well, about 35....). We also learned a little bit about his company and their dogs - rather than breeding their own dogs, their owner prefers to get dogs from racing kennels in Alaska where they often end up with too many dogs and nothing to do with them. Not only does this practice prevent unnecessary breeding, but it also allows these "extra" dogs to keep doing what they love and not ending up in a shelter or with someone who does not understand them and their need to work. After a day with these dogs, I can't imagine one of these guys or gals being happy living in a place where going for a walk or throwing the ball around was their source of exercise!

When we reached the point where we would begin our trip, we were able to watch Josiah hitch up the sled teams while he gave us instructions on safety and how the drive the sleds, of which we had 2 different types. Tamarak and I had a traditional sled, with a large basket in front and the driver standing behind. The other was taking by Linda and our guide, and had a smaller basket in front and room for 2 drivers in the back. This unique sled type is much less common (in fact these guys are the only ones in the area to use them) but allows novice wimps like us the opportunity to drive the sled, but still having our guide there to help out...basically Driver's Ed for dog sledding! We voted that Tamarak would drive her own normal sled (she does drive for a living, right?! Sure, it's trucks and snowcoaches, but who's worrying about semantics here?) and Linda and I were perfectly content going along for the ride. While Josiah was getting them set, we got to meet all of our dogs and see a little bit of the personality in each of them. Tam and I had a team of blondies - our lead dogs Dogwood and Rodick, who were followed by Krypton and Brie, our red-headed stepchild Drago (aka, our only non-blondie, a recent transplant from Alaska) and Peanut and Argon brought up the rear.

Once the dogs were ready to go (and they very vocally told you that they were ready!) we were off into the hills of Tom Miner Basin. The trip is about 8 miles round trip and follows the road up past the Tom Miner Campground on the Sunlight Road. The trip in starts out fairly flat and then begins climbing. When they are climbing, the dogs seem to be getting too tired and stopping, but in fact many times it is just that they can't tell whether the pulling got harder because of the uphill or because their driver has the brake on telling them to stop. You give them a little pip of encouragement to let them know they can keep going, and the energy jolt comes one to where Tam thought they were going to leave her behind a few times! There are of course regular rest breaks for them throughout the trip, but after they have eaten some snow and rolled in it for about 3 seconds, they seem raring to go already. Our comic relief on these stops was Argon, aka the Alaskan Jumping Bean....

Once we reached the top of Sunlight Road and it was time to head back down, Josiah's words of wisdom were simple - take it slow! After such a long rest (in their eyes, at least!) the dogs were ready to hit the road and the downhill would just spur them on even fast. Even with a foot firmly on the brake, the first stretch of downhill was like a wild natural roller coaster and the dogs seemed to be having the times of their lives. I, on the other hand, would have a prime candidate for the amusement park cameras that catch you mid-scream on the roller coaster free fall. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome and exhilerating, but I can become somewhat of a chicken when I feel like I'm flying through a tree tunnel. Tam did not seem quite as afraid as I was, because she was pretty liberal with leaving the brake along...which became a bit more evident when she dumped me in the snow. Near the bottom of the biggest downhill, there is a sharpish turn to cut across to another trail - we had a bit too much speed when we hit it and into the soft fluffy snow I went. Our safety instructions had been that, in the event of tipping over, to NOT reach out of the sled but just let yourself fall. Once you fall, get out of the basket and grab the sled so the dogs don't try to run off (fortunately, the tipped over sled creates enough resistance to keep them at least momentarily in place). So, I sat in the sled and felt like a slow motion movie camera as I gently tipped over into the snow. Later on, Tam told me that I had looked quite funny, sitting serenely as me and my pink poof ball hatted head tipped over as it was the most natural thing in the world. And then I was stuck, since she picked a pretty deep patch to throw me into.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, other than of course the awesome dogs, company and surroundings. When we returned our starting point, we were able to play around and pet all of the dogs while they each waited their turn to be unharnessed. They truly were such a loveable bunch, and few of them certainly had that puppy dog "pet me, pet me!" face perfected.

All told, our trip was about 3.5 hours and what an amazing way time it was. Definitely something I would do again :)

Sleeping in Eden - Be Careful What You Plan For.....

Sleeping in Eden: A NovelSleeping in Eden: A Novel by Nicole Baart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*NetGalley ARC*

The premise of this novel seems at first be a mystery with a few emotional entanglements thrown in for good measure, but it really is so much more than that. It explores young love and survival of marriage, the truth and consequences inherent in the expectations that we set for ourselves and others, and how the choices we make can connect us to others both near and far.

Lucas Hudson is a small town Iowa doctor with a struggling marriage; Meg Painter is a small town teenager struggling with being a teenager. Through parallel story lines, we get to know these two characters with seemingly nothing in common.

Many of the emotions and lost connections that have led the current state of Lucas' marriage can be drawn back to the disappearance of Angela Sparks. As a social worker, Angela was the first case that Jenna Hudson took on when moving to the small town of Blackhawk, IA - she grabbed Jenna's heart, and took a piece of it with her when she disappeared. Eight years after her disappearance, Lucas is drawn into a mystery that he feels can change his world when Angela's father commits suicide and the remains of a young woman are found buried in the clay floor of his barn right beneath his hanging, lifeless body. Absolute in his mind that he has found Angela, and that this discovery can alter the course of his wife's grief, and in turn his marriage, Lucas consumes himself with putting a name to the bones.

In a different world, Meg Painter is going through the growing pains of being a teenage girl. She falls in love with her best friend, Dylan. Her neighbor, Jess, falls in love with her. Lies, jealousy and missed opportunities cobble together the path that each of their lives take, shaping the adults that they will become, and sending Meg directly into the path of Lucas' investigation.

These characters are well written and developed with surprising detail in such a short period of time, and the situations are raw and believable. Unfortunately though, I felt like the amount of time devoted to character development pulled away from the story in some cases. Several areas felt as though the actual situation was rushed through in order to get back to the emotional details, and the culmination of the story a bit anti-climatic after such a beautifully written and intriguing build up.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013 Reading Challenge!

I'm only a month behind on starting this, but who's counting, right? Well, me, but counting books since that's all that matters! 

The Challenge, what I have read to date, and ideas I have TBR:

Century: One book from 1913/one book from 2013
  1.     The Aviator’s Wife - 2013
  2.     The Sinner’s and the Sea - 2013
  3.     Sons and Lovers - 1913
Genre: Read 13 Books from favorite genre (in my case, historical fiction)
  1.     The Aviator’s Wife
  2.     The Sinners and the Sea
  3.     Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
  4.     The Sinner’s and the Sea
  5.     Wolf Hall
  6.     City of Women
  7.     The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
  8.     .
  9.     .
  10.     .
  11.     .
  12.     .
  13.     .
Author: Read an author who has written at least 13 books   
  1. Charlaine Harris - 13th Sookie book in May!
Novel Ideas: Read 13 books recommended by The Novel Ideas
  1.     Slammed
  2.     Tell The Wolves I’m Home
  3.     Unbroken
  4.     City of Women
  5.     .
  6.     .
  7.     .
  8.     .
  9.     .
  10.     .
  11.     .
  12.     .
  13.     .

Bookshelf/TBR: Read the 13th book on the bookshelf and the 13th book on the TBR list - My        bookshelf  isn’t quite organized enough to count, so for this one I’m going to do the 13th book from both the top and bottom of my TBR list....
  1.     Bottom (oldest) - Crime and Punishment (ouch!!)
  2.     Top - The Distance Between Us
Series/Title: Read a book with 13 in the title or the 13th book in a series
  1.     Dead Ever After - Sookie #13
GROWING DUST!!: Read 13 books owned for 1+ years
  1.     .
  2.     .
  3.     .
  4.     .
  5.     .
  6.     .
  7.     .
  8.     .
  9.     .
  10.     .
  11.     .
  12.     .
  13.     .

    Grand Total: 65 books - 9/65....56 to go!

Of course I could never find the time to read a different book for each one (unless of course I gave up working, bathing, eating and doing housework...I would love the benefits of not eating, but I'm pretty sure the other three would not fly with those around me) so there will definitely be some crossover between the categories. Let the reading begin!