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I’m still reading

I may not still be writing, but I’m still reading.

I’ll post a few 2016 wrap-up posts as updates.

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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Review: Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas

Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComasMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Mystery meets chick lit?

Summary via Goodreads:

Clearfield, Virginia, is a sleepy, idyllic hamlet where residents welcome its comfortable, familiar routines. But when a newcomer arrives in town, long-buried secrets threaten to surface and destroy their haven . . .

Answering a call that summons her to a stranger’s deathbed, a reluctant Sophie Shepard is too late to hear what he was so anxious to tell her. What was so important that a dying man would think of her in his final moments? With the help of Dr. Drew McCarren, Sophie begins to dig into her past, setting off a chain of events that chills the quiet town of Clearfield, Virginia, to its roots.

With part of her wanting nothing more than to put Clearfield behind her and run back home, Sophie knows she won’t rest until she discovers the truth. But growing closer to the residents also means uncovering their dark secrets–secrets about the woman who gave Sophie up for adoption, the mysterious part these strangers played, and the life she never knew she nearly had.

There’s something odd about this book, that gets a little odder the more I think about it.  It’s a mismatch between the tone and the events in the book.

The thing is, I like sweet, good-natured women’s fiction. I mentioned this in my recent review of Robyn Carr’s The Wanderer. This book out-nices Carr in many ways, particularly the sweet Kindergarten teacher of a main character. She’s never been curious about her birth parents, because she loves her adoptive parents so much. And now she’s in a small town where everyone knows one another, and she’s making friends fast.

Then there’s the mystery, which starts out much like a cozy mystery– the bad stuff, including a murder, happens off-screen, with vague threats impinging on our heroine’s activities. I like cozy mysteries, so this is good as well. The book is a little more about the character and less about the who-dunnit, and Sophie isn’t all that involved in trying to find the bad guy or guys.

But then the last section of the book happens, and it gets grittier, with more details on much more unpleasant occurrences (yes, even more unpleasant than murder). And that’s fine with me as well, but it seems out of place compared to the rest of the book.

Overall, I liked the characters, even if they all seemed a little cartoonish. I thought the plot was well constructed.  The romance was cute, even if I didn’t really see the steam. Overall, I enjoyed reading Something About Sophie.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC for providing me with a copy of this book for review.  If you’d like other opinions on Something About Sophie, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in books, reviews, tour, Uncategorized

 

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My 2012 Oscar thoughts

moviesOnce again, I’ve made the effort to see all 9 Best Picture nominees!  I’m a little late writing this up, with the Oscars being on in a few hours…

Here are my thoughts on what I liked and/or thought should win.  Starting at the end of the list:

9. Django Unchained is clearly my least favorite of the group, and although I can somewhat see what the appeal could be for someone else, I really don’t have any idea why it would be Best Picture material.

I actually wouldn’t be terribly unhappy if any of the rest of the nominees won.  I can understand why each and every one was nominated.  This is a strong field.

8. Life of Pi was visually stunning, and was interesting to think about.  I actually felt the movie worked better than the book, which I was more mixed in my opinion about  But I think the other candidates were stronger.

7. Les Misérables ranks higher on my favorites of the year, and I really do think this production was excellent.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fascinating look at a life very different from what I (or most viewers) know.  I wouldn’t have seen it if it wasn’t for the Oscar nomination, since it really wouldn’t have crossed my radar, and I’m glad I did.

From here on, I have a difficult time ranking which I think should get the Oscar, so I’m going in the order of how much I liked them.

5. Zero Dark Thirty is a movie I expected to rank back with Django Unchained.  I would not have seen this movie if it wasn’t for the Oscar Nomination, and I expected to dislike it.  I didn’t.  I can’t say I enjoyed it, exactly, but I thought it was extremely well crafted.  I thought it took an interesting and somewhat balanced look at a specific set of issues involved in modern warfare.  I don’t care if it reflects actual events correctly, detail by detail, not for this movie or the other two nominees based in actual events.

4. Lincoln was everything is was reported to be, but somehow I didn’t love it anyway.  Still, I came out of it expecting it to be a leading Oscar contender, and it certainly has the nomination count for that, but it doesn’t have the buzz that leads me to think it is likely to win, and that surprises me a little.  I’m not complaining, though!

3. Amour is another movie that wouldn’t have crossed my radar if it wasn’t for the Best Picture nod.  It’s also another one where I really appreciated it, although I can’t say I enjoyed it.  I found it a deeply disturbing look at the aging process, and I think it hit exactly the notes it meant to.  I absolutely recommend seeing it, but be prepared!

2. Argo is the movie I’m expecting to win, and I’m fine with that.  I think it was very well made, and provides a look into an episode in our past, while telling a quirky story, and showing how thinking outside the box can be very good problem solving.

1. Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite from this list.  I think that providing this insight into the world of mental illness is valuable, and it also was an entertaining movie.  It was able to balance the line between making fun of the mentally ill and pitying them.  The performances were all top notch.  I’ll hope for some awards for it tonight!

My two favorite movies of the year are not on this list.  I was hoping my top pick would make it, but Moonrise Kingdom was only nominated under Best Original Screenplay. I never thought my second favorite movie would make the list, The Hunger Games just wasn’t that sort of movie, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Which movies did you see?  Which did you like best?

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in movie, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Something Missing by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun read about one of the quirkiest characters I’ve come across in quite a while!

Summary via Goodreads:

A career criminal with OCD tendencies and a savant-like genius for bringing order to his crime scenes, Martin considers himself one of the best in the biz. After all, he’s been able to steal from the same people for years on end—virtually undetected. Of course, this could also be attributed to his unique business model—he takes only items that will go unnoticed by the homeowner. After all, who in their right mind would miss a roll of toilet paper here, a half-used bottle of maple syrup there, or even a rarely used piece of china buried deep within a dusty cabinet?

Even though he’s never met these homeowners, he’s spent hours in their houses, looking through their photo albums and reading their journals. In essence, Martin has developed a friendship of sorts with them and as such, he decides to interfere more in their lives—playing the part of a rather odd guardian angel—even though it means breaking many of his twitchy neurotic rules.

Along the way Martin not only improves the lives of others, but he also discovers love and finds that his own life is much better lived on the edge (at least some of the time) in this hilarious, suspenseful and often profound novel about a man used to planning every second of his life, suddenly forced to confront chaos and spontaneity.

Martin lives his life at a bit of a distance from everyone around him. Sure, this is necessary due to his unusual choice of profession. Then again, this choice was made possible by that distance. Chicken, egg…

He’s someone I was thinking about even when I wasn’t reading. There’s something sweet about him, even with everything he has going on. I cheered when he finally started reaching out.

I enjoyed the details of his tasks, but this is completely a book about a character. Every plot point, every interaction with setting and other characters just provided a way for me to learn more about Martin, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I met Matthew Dicks at the Books on the Nightstand Booktopia Santa Cruz retreat.  Even before meeting him, I’d wanted to suggest his most recent book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, for book club, so I didn’t want to read it yet, but considering how fun Matthew was in person, I really wanted to read one of his books sooner rather than later.  I’m glad I did!  I’ll also give my thumbs up to Booktopia for any book lovers wanting to meet other book lovers and be introduced to new authors.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Review: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James (audiobook)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’m really enjoying this series of fairy tale romances with historical clothing on.

What I liked best was the playful tone of When Beauty Tamed the Beast, never entirely taking itself seriously. There were nods to the fairy tale, there were nods to the norms of historical fiction. None of these nods got in the way of the story or (more important in a romance) the characters.

The characters were entertaining, and both had more to them than a quick glance would see.

In this volume, the “Beast” is an extremely talented young doctor with a damaged (and painful) leg, a terrible temper and no desire to obey the usual rules of society (a character that will feel familiar to many TV viewers).

“Beauty”, on the other hand, reminds me more of Fiona in Shrek– certainly, her outside has everything that society deems desirable. That is, right up until the moment a small lapse in judgement leaves society believing she is pregnant. Luckily, she isn’t merely a beautiful face (and body). She’s got a sharp mind and, when pushed, a tongue to match.

A marriage between them seems to be the answer to both of their parents’ concerns, and so Linnet is off to meet Piers in his remote home…

There is one steamy scene, and other references to such activities without the same level of detail.

I hope there are more of these on the way!

Audio Notes

Sound Bytes @ Devourer of Books

For more audiobook reviews, check out Sound Bytes

Narrator: Susan Duerden gave a wonderful performance, giving a touch of magic to the proceedings.  Some of the secondary character voices worked better than others, but the primary characters and (particularly) the general narration were very good.

Production: No issues, no extras.  Well, I did have one minor issue, but I’m fairly certain that his was particular to the review download, and won’t be an issue in the final version!

Print vs. Audio?  Although I was charmed by the audio productions, I suspect I would equally have enjoyed this book in print.  When listening to audio, I do appreciate some restraint as to the quantity of really steamy scenes, as they generally seem to arise at highly disconcerting times, and can be difficult to skim through in audio.  That was a plus for this book over other romances, but I think this one would be good in whatever format is more convenient.

Thank you to Harper Audio for providing me this audiobook to listen to and review!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in books, reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Wrecker by Summer Wood

Wrecker: A NovelMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Wrecker was a wonderful story about what it means to be a family.

Summary via the author’s website:

It’s June of 1965 when Wrecker enters the world. The war is raging in Vietnam, San Francisco is tripping toward flower power, and Lisa Fay – a young innocent from a family farm down south – is knocked nearly sideways by life as a single mother in a city she could barely manage to navigate as just one.

Three years later, she’s alone again. Kids aren’t allowed in prison. And Wrecker, scared silent, furious, and hell-bent on breaking every last thing that crosses his path, is shipped off to live with distant relatives in the wilds of Humboldt County.

There’s no guidebook to mothering for Melody, who thought the best thing in life was eighty acres of old growth along the Mattole River and nobody telling her what to do – until this boy came along. For Melody, for Len, for Willow and Ruth, for Meg and Johnnie Appleseed, life will never again be the same once Wrecker signs on.

And for Lisa Fay, there’s one thought keeping her alive through fifteen years of hard time. One day? She’ll find her son and bring him home.

None of the characters in Wrecker had lives that had gone as expected, and I really enjoyed seeing each of the stories unfold as I read through the book.

Wrecker can’t live with his mother– she’s in jail, and will be for a long time. His uncle agrees to take him in, only to realize that he can’t care for his wife, suffering from some form of dementia, and this extremely active 3 year old boy, determined to live up to his name.

The neighbors step in to help out– first overnight, then for a few weeks, and so on. These aren’t just any neighbors, but a group of four dropouts from society living on a small farm in the Redwood forests of far Northern CA. Each has their own reason for living there, each has a reason for being drawn to Wrecker–and in some cases, for keeping a distance from him as well.

Wrecker explores the stories of many of these characters as forming a new family forces them to face who they have been and who they want to become. It also tells the story of Wrecker’s mother, and particularly her relationship with Wrecker– from his birth, the decisions that landed her in jail, and the effects of realizing he was growing up with no contact with her.

Although the strength of the book was this range of characters and their interrelated stories, there were moments when this was the weakness as well– I wanted to spend more time on one story rather than moving on to another. In general, the approach worked well.

In particular, the interweaving of stories was amazing– the mixing of past and present, of the stories of individuals and of the interactions between them, and most of all, how these interactions changed each individual and influenced how their story proceeded.

Much of the flavor of the book came from the setting– I grew up at roughly the same time but in very different places. I had to keep reminding myself that it is part of the same world I lived in. This very small community near a tiny town seemed completely different from anything I’ve known, but still was very real and vibrant.

All in all, a touching story, well told.

TLC Book ToursI read Wrecker for a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC and Bloomsbury USA for providing me with a copy of this book for review.  For other opinions on Wrecker, check out the other tour stops:

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in books, reviews, tour, Uncategorized

 

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Review: The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

This book isn’t for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, which this book certainly reminded me of.  Except it featured Pythagoras rather than Da Vinci, and a secret society of mathematicians rather than Catholic priests. And the writing was better.

Summary via Goodreads.com:

In 530 B.C., a mysterious ship appeared off the rainy shores of Croton, in what is now Italy. After three days the skies finally cleared and a man disembarked to address the curious and frightened crowd that had gathered along the wet sands. He called himself Pythagoras. Exactly what he said that day is unknown, but a thousand men and women abandoned their lives and families to follow him. They became a community. A school. A cult dedicated to the search for a mathematical theory of everything. Although Pythagoras would die years later, following a bloody purge, his disciples would influence Western philosophy, science, and mathematics for all time.

Chicago, the present day. Canada Gold, a girl both gifted and burdened by uncanny mental abilities, is putting her skills to questionable use in the casinos and courthouses of Las Vegas when she finds herself drawn back to the city in which her father, the renowned composer Solomon Gold, was killed while composing his magnum opus. Beautiful, brilliant, troubled, Canada has never heard of the Thousand, a clandestine group of powerful individuals safeguarding and exploiting the secret teachings of Pythagoras. But as she struggles to understand her father’s unsolved murder, she finds herself caught in the violence erupting between members of the fractured ancient cult while she is relentlessly pursued by those who want to use her, those who want to kill her, and the one person who wants to save her.

I wish that The Thousand had concentrated more on Canada and Wayne, since I didn’t feel I got to know them as well as their key roles in the book would justify. It simply wasn’t a character oriented book, although what is there is well executed. I really liked Canada as the smart misfit card shark with some very specialized skills and really serious family issues. As much as she accomplished in the book, I still felt there was more to her.

The conspiracy and convoluted schemes were simply crazy. That’s the fun of the book, but if you don’t have patience for bizarre twists and unlikely turns, this isn’t for you.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say, but really, I think this review covers it. If you like this kind of book, give it a try. If it sounds a little too convoluted or esoteric, you’re probably right about that as well.

I received this book for review via Kaye Publicity. Thank you for this opportunity!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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