Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: The Elemental Mysteries by Elizabeth Hunter

The series' official description: 
Welcome to the Elemental Mysteries, where history and the paranormal collide, and where no secret stays hidden forever. Join five hundred year old rare book dealer, Giovanni Vecchio, and librarian, Beatrice De Novo, as they travel the world in search of the mystery that brought them together, the same mystery that could tear everything they love apart.


Title: A Hidden Fire
Series: Elemental Mysteries #1
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 10/13/2011
Genre(s): Science Fiction & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

DESCRIPTION

"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

A Hidden Fire is a paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers. It is the first book in the Elemental Mysteries Series."


Title: This Same Earth
Series: Elemental Mysteries #2
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 12/02/2011
Genre(s): Science Fiction & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

DESCRIPTION


"Beatrice De Novo thought she had left the supernatural world behind…for the most part. But when the past becomes the present, will she leave her quiet life in Los Angeles to follow a mystery she thought had abandoned her? Where has Giovanni Vecchio been, and why has he returned? Giovanni has his own questions, and he’s looking to her for answers.

The sequel to A Hidden Fire will reunite Beatrice and Giovanni to continue their search through the past while both wrestle with the future. When the world as you knew it has changed forever, is there any way you can turn back?

This Same Earth is the second book in the Elemental Mysteries series. It is a paranormal romance/mystery for adult readers."



Title: The Force of Wind
Series: Elemental Mysteries #3
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 03/02/2012
Genre(s): Science Fiction & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

DESCRIPTION

"How far would you go to protect the ones you love? 

What would you sacrifice to kill the one you hate? 

Join Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo as they travel to a hidden island on the far edge of China and seek the help of an ancient immortal court. Can they weave their way through the tangled web of centuries-old alliances and ruthless feuds to find what they’ve been looking for? Friends will be revealed, enemies will find them, and a dangerous secret will come to light.

The Force of Wind is the third book in the four-part Elemental Mysteries series. It is a paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers."



Title: A Fall of Water
Series: Elemental Mysteries #4
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 06/01/2012
Genre(s): Science Fiction & Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

DESCRIPTION

"Still grieving from their loss in the far East, Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo discover that for them, all roads really do lead to Rome. But nothing is quite as it seems in the Eternal City. Joined by Carwyn and Tenzin, unexpected clashes greet them almost immediately, and rivalries churn beneath the glittering facade of the old Roman court. They quickly realize that allies might be enemies, and ancient rivals could hold the key to a deadly secret.

Giovanni and Beatrice will be forced to call on old alliances, ancient power, and fierce cunning to survive for the eternity they both desire. Sometimes, finding the end means going back to the beginning. Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water finally meet with devastating results in the conclusion of the Elemental Mysteries."


MY THOUGHTS

2012 has been a stupendous year in books for me. As the end of the year approached I wondered what book would be the year's last. I was not only thinking of how I far I had exceeded my original Reading Challenge quota of 40 books but how I wanted to read the year out with a BANG...or at least a WOW! Well, when I finished the fourth book in the Elemental Mysteries Series this morning I felt I could not have closed my reading year out any better. 

In the three days I was reading A Hidden Fire, This Same Earth, The Force of Wind, and A Fall of Water I felt completely engrossed (geographically, culturally, imaginatively, humorously, and romantically) by the characters and story. 

I don't consider myself a true fan of fantasy, but I have read a number of "vampire" books. I will say that the Elemental Mysteries Series is like no others I have read. The intelligence, wit, civility, and the devotion to friends and "family" that the preternatural beings exhibit in the series did not leave me wholly focused on their being vampires. It was not their elemental powers or mystique that drew me to them, but their collective remaining humanity. 

In reading these rich, colorful books I experienced many emotions. Elizabeth Hunter wove an epic tale filled with the wonder of daily life, eternal friendships, a centuries old mystery, and everlasting love.  Definitely a narrative to be wowed by! 



HIGHLIGHTS

Giovanni Vecchio to Beatrice De Novo in A Hidden Fire -
“Far be it from me to keep a woman from her book. That could become dangerous.”  
~*~
 
An exchange between Beatrice and Giovanni in A Hidden Fire - 
“So, the wooden stake through the heart thing is apparently a myth, but you can be killed by fire. Anything else?"
"Should I be concerned that one of your first questions is how to kill me?"
Her jaw dropped. "What? No! I didn't mean... I was just curious."
He snorted. "Well you can remain so."
"What about the sun?" she asked. "Extra toasty?"
"I'm not going to burst into flames, but I avoid tanning beds."
"Silver?"
"Some of my favorite cufflinks."
"Garlic?"
"Please," he sneered. "I'm Italian.” 
~*~

Beatrice De Novo to Giovanni Vecchio in A Hidden Fire -
“Tell the truth, Giovanni Vecchio." A mischievous look came to her eye. "You have a butler, a cool car, and I've only ever seen you at night..."
He froze, tension suddenly evident in the set of his shoulders. Beatrice leaned closer and whispered, "You're Batman, aren't you?” 
~*~

An exchange between Giovanni and Beatrice in A Fall in Water -
"I have a large house in Rome, an estate outside Florence, and a smaller flat in Milan. Didn't I tell you that?" 
"Anything else?"
"That's all I have in Italy. I have a few other places scattered around Europe." 
Beatrice paused. "Was that on your husband profile right under your ability to burn pasta? Because, I'll be honest, anything after the description of your sexual skills I just skipped over." 









Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski

Title: The Edge of Never
Series: The Edge Duology #1
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Self-Published: 11/15/2012
Republished: 03/12/2013 by Hachette
Genre(s): Contemporary New Adult

DESCRIPTION

"Sometimes life takes you off course . . .

Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett thought she knew exactly where her life was going. But after a wild night at the hottest club in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, she shocks everyone-including herself-when she decides to leave the only life she's ever known and set out on her own. Grabbing her purse and her cell phone, Camryn boards a Greyhound bus ready to find herself. Instead, she finds Andrew Parrish.

Sexy and exciting, Andrew lives life like there is no tomorrow. He persuades Camryn to do things she never thought she would and shows her how to give in to her deepest, most forbidden desires. Soon he becomes the center of her daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imagined possible. But there is more to Andrew than Camryn realizes. Will his secret push them inseparably together-or destroy them forever?"

MY THOUGHTS
 
I finished The Edge of Never minutes ago and while my mind is racing with thoughts about this phenomenal story; physically I'm feeling somewhat oxygen deprived and tingly. I want to say to everyone(?) you should read this novel!!! Experience it, more like. I pretty much avoid spoilers and adding detailed story lines so I'll simply attempt to explain how this book has effected me.

There are so many novels vying for our time. I don't dwell on what I might miss though, and fortunately, The Edge of Never appeared on the 'to-read' shelves of two people I follow on Goodreads. After reading the description and seeing the very favorable ratings and reviews I downloaded the Kindle edition.

This has been my year to discover new authors, particularly self-published authors. There have been no real disappointments; many I am quite glad to have read, and a few, like The Edge of Never, that have left me astonished and silently thanking the authors for sharing their gifts with me. So, thank you Jessica Redmerski!!!

I didn't feel like I was reading about Camryn and Andrew. It felt more like I was along for their journey of discovery—as they searched for their individual and collective destiny. And all those things that could have kept them apart...well, they didn't. They had conversations, asked questions, teased and flirted, and they decided what to do and where to go without making any real plans. On top of all that there were muscle cars and music. Andrew's '69 Camaro, which was MY dream car, and his father's '69 Chevelle. Music played a big part in Andrew and Camryn's lives, as it does mine. I share both Andrew's love of Classic Rock and Camryn's fondness for more contemporary artists. Her feelings about The Civil Wars, especially their song Barton Hollow, very much mirror my own. That song ended up meaning a great deal to Andrew, as well. Commonalities like these made me feel even more connected to the story and to the characters. Camryn and Andrew were so young; many of the things they did weren't responsible, and even dangerous to a degree. However, they won my devotion for their overall decency and commitment to each other.

There were numerous passages that effected me intensely—in varying ways. Laughing so hard I hurt, anticipating, and then perceiving the deep attraction and chemistry between Camryn and Andrew. Having my next breath and all conscious thought taken away when something too horrible to imagine is revealed. Lastly, an erroneous assumption on my part was corrected, so I could finally draw a deep breath of appreciation and adoration for a story well told.

HIGHLIGHTS

 “What compels any of us to do the thing we do when deep down a part of us just wants to break free from it all?”
~ Camryn Bennett
 
~*~

“Just because one person's problem is less traumatic than another's doesn't mean they're required to hurt less.”
~ Andrew Parrish
 
~*~

“Coincidence is just the conformist term for fate.”
~ Camryn Bennett
 
~*~

[Andrew] “Are you in love with me, Camryn Bennett?”
[Camryn] “Not yet,” I say with a smile in my voice, “but I’m getting there.”
 
~*~

“You two were meant to be together. It's like some wicked fucking fairytale love story that you just can't make up, y'know?” ~ Natalie to Camryn


My Very First Authorgraph!

My Autographed Copy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Fatal Deception by Marie Force

Title: Fatal Deception
Series: Fatal #5
Author: Marie Force
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 11/12/2012
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre(s): Romantic Suspense

DESCRIPTION

"The wife of the White House deputy chief of staff has been beaten to death, and their one-year-old daughter is missing. D.C. Police Lieutenant Sam Holland is in charge of the murder investigation, but she's forced to collaborate with Special Victims Unit detectives as well as thorn-in-her-side FBI Special Agent Avery Hill. Then, a cold case of her father's resurrects old hurts—a distraction Sam cannot afford.

As Sam's investigation heats up, so does Nick's political career—and the heat carries over to their bedroom. Will Sam put the pieces together in time to catch a killer and find the baby, or will ambition, greed and lies prove fatal?"


MY THOUGHTS

In preparation for the release of this fifth novel in The Fatal Series I re-read the other four (plus the novella) last week. The two books I had previously rated four stars were upped to five, and if it were possible I would rate Fatal Deception even higher! While reading it I chuckled, laughed, and even snorted a few times. The banter between Sam and her detectives was beyond clever. And then there was the chemistry between Sam and Nick. I would go so far as to say they are one of my absolute favorite literary couples. I felt a sense of awe from first page to last for the story as a whole, and for the details. They all added up to one remarkable read! My admiration for the characters certainly doesn't end with Sam and Nick. The supporting characters are all so incredibly vivid to me, as well. I was captivated by every aspect of the investigation, and especially by the taking down of the powerful family who considered themselves above the law. The epilogue was not of the happily ever after variety, as this is a continuing series, but it sure was extremely gratifying!

HIGHLIGHTS

"How was she supposed to ponder a potential pregnancy when she couldn't even talk about it without bawling her head off? 'But I think about our baby every day. I think about them all, but that one...' 'I know.' He tightened his hold on her, with one hand on the back of her head to keep her snuggled into his chest. 'You don't have to decide anything until you're ready.'
'Well, we have to decide something or practice abstinence until we do.'
'I do not know this word of which you speak.'"
~ An exchange between Sam and Nick

~*~

"Happy to oblige, even if the cross-pollination of my world and Nick's world continues to give me hives."

~ Sam Holland to Lindsey McNamara

~*~

(Note: Truthfully, I didn't highlight anything and only made two notes in my Kindle copy. Believe me it's not because nothing deserved to be highlighted, it's because too much did. I'm serious. The entire series is first class writing all the way.)


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Review: The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

Title: The Perfect Hope
Series: Inn Boonsboro Trilogy #3
Author: Nora Roberts
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 11/06/2012
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Fantasy, Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out—with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn Boonsboro…

As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the joys of small-town living. She’s where she wants to be—except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year’s Eve kiss.

While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome—and embarrassing—appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him."

MY THOUGHTS (Short and Sweet)

Oh my goodness! What a way to finish out the trilogy. I had a feeling that Ryder and Hope's story would be my favorite and I was right. Laughed often. Loved everyone. Want to visit Boonsboro again. Nobody does dialogue, amazing friendships, and sibling silliness like Nora. The Perfect Hope was...PERFECT!

HIGHLIGHTS

"You know, sometimes what goes around comes around; sometimes it doesn't, and a good kick in the balls has to be enough."
~ Ryder Montgomery

~*~

"If Ryder doesn't make you laugh, you toss him back. Sex isn't worth it if he doesn't make you laugh."
~Justine Montgomery

~*~

"I'm so happy to love you. So happy to have you, just exactly the way you are."
~ Hope Beaumont 



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Music to My Ears

Courtesy of Cool Wallpapers

 I am beyond thrilled with the music I've gotten (176 songs and 6 videos) since my last update. Although there are times when I desire nothing but quiet there are certainly those times when I feel the need for the mood enhancement I receive from listening to music. Whether I want to check out, close my eyes, and pay particular attention to the subtleties and lyrics of a meaningful tune or be motivated by the beat and bass of a song with oomph, music is much more than what I listen to.


My days of listening to the radio have been over for many years, and, as a listener, I much prefer the choices of today - being able to sample every song before I buy it, buying only the ones I choose, using Genius recommendations to be introduced to similar music, benefitting from the expertise of the talented music supervisors from the television and motion picture industries, not having to worry about music CDs becoming damaged or where to keep them, and having a basically unlimited amount of songs available to me to listen to wherever I want - computer, iPod, BlackBerry, home entertainment system, and vehicle. The times are changing, and when it comes to my listening pleasure, I am stoked about them!

"Mostly it [music] amazes me. Music helps you shift perspective. To see things differently if you need to." ~ Walter Bishop (Fringe S5E1) Well said, Walter. I agree wholeheartedly!

Thanks to my husband for the iTunes Gift Cards for Mother's Day, our anniversary, and my birthday. He knows what I want: music and books!!!

(Note: The artist names are linked to their Wikipedia pages and song links are to YouTube videos. The singles featured are (mostly) those who have corresponding videos on the artists' official channels.)

Albums

Various Artists

Catch and Release Soundtrack (from a movie I've watched & enjoyed numerous times)

Alex Clare [alternative/pop]
The Lateness of the Hour (<---- album preview video. Purchased Too Close in early April. Alex Clare is SO much more than the IE9 song guy. This is an amazing album!)

The Black Keys [alternative/rock] (With the addition of these three albums my TBK playlist is 85 songs strong! Probably my default favorite band based on how much I seek their music out!)
The Big Come Up
Magic Potion
Thickfreakness

Ed Sheeran [singer/songwriter]
+ (including Give Me Love which was featured on the Dangerous Liaisons episode of Vampire Diaries, Drunk, Small Bump, and The A Team. Ed has some kind of wonderful voice. Lovely and lyrical!)

Gavin DeGraw [pop]
Sweeter (Due to some seriously flawed reasoning this album slumbered in my wish list since it was released last year. I've since made up for lost time by listening to it a lot, particularly its self-titled single, Sweeter, which I am crazy about!)




Gotye [alternative]  (Introduced to me by my daughter, whom we gifted with the album for her excellent grades!)
Making Mirrors (including the singles Somebody That I Used to Know, State of the Art, Eyes Wide Open, Easy Way Out, and Bronte.

Jack White [alternative]
Blunderbuss (including Freedom At 21, Sixteen Saltines, and my favorites, Hypocritical Kiss, and Love Interruption)

John Mayer [rock]
Born and Raised (including Shadow Days, Queen of California, Something Like Olivia, and Speak for Me)

The Lumineers [alternative/folk rock]
The Lumineers (featuring the single, Ho Hey, I first heard on the season 8 premiere episode of Bones. They are currently one of my favorite "listens"!)




Maroon 5 [pop]
Overexposed (including the singles Payphone and One More Night)

P!nk [pop] (P!nk is probably my main girl crush and is the coolest woman I can think of. There isn't a single song on this album that doesn't grab me. She is an amazing woman - talent, looks, outspokenness, and smarts!)

The Truth About Love {including the singles All We All We Are, How Come You're Not Here, Try, Slut Like You, and Blow Me (One Last Kiss)}

Train [pop]
California 37 (including Drive By, Bruises, and 50 Ways To Say Goodbye)

Singles

Caught a Ghost [alternative]
Time Go (Vimeo video)

The Chevin  [alternative]
Champion

Dobie Gray [R & B/soul]
Drift Away (one of those songs I can't believe I didn't already have! Thankfully I've heard it plenty via my husband's extensive classic/fossil/oldies playlists!)

Ima Robot [alternative]
Greenback Boogie (the theme song for the ultra-hip USA Network show, Suits. The song and show are perfectly "suited" to each other. Boogie is what you'll do when you hear it in its entirety!)

Lifehouse featuring Natasha Bedingfield [pop]
Between the Raindrops

Neon Trees [alternative]
Everybody Talks

Radiohead [alternative]
Pyramid Song

The Script featuring Will.i.am [pop]
Hall of Fame

What say you? Who are you listening to these days?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Light of a Misty Morning

"Light can be gentle, dangerous, dreamlike, bare, living, dead, misty, clear, hot, dark, violet, springlike, falling, straight, sensual, limited, poisonous, calm and soft."  ~Sven Nykvist

Digital photograph by Virginia Hill taken with a BlackBerry 9670 on 05 Oct 2012. Some Rights Reserved (please see Creative Commons License in the sidebar.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Series: Standalone
Author: M.L. Stedman
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Scribner
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery

DESCRIPTION

"After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel."

MY THOUGHTS (Short and Sweet)

The Light Between Oceans is a gripping story filled with fallible yet decent characters. Even though I felt driven to continue reading I was filled with a sense of dread—knowing there were going to be repercussions for the decisions that were made. Not knowing how high a price Tom, especially, was going to pay for wanting happiness for his grieving wife, Isabel. Ultimately, I am pleased I was able to finish (within one day) and quite relieved by the post script style ending. I'm quite impressed by this debut novel and look forward to reading more of M.L. Stedman's work.

HIGHLIGHTS

"Like the wheat fields where more grain is sown than can ripen. God seemed to sprinkle extra children about, and harvest them according to some indecipherable, divine calendar." ~ author's voice

~*~

"The wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island, to make a point which is lost on Tom. Existence here is on a scale of giants. Time is in the millions of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia, tumbled onto their sides so that layers become vertical stripes." 
~ author's voice

~*~

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering the bad things.” ~ Tom Sherbourne

~*~

“There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. Scars are just another kind of memory....Soon enough the days will close over their lives, the grass will grow over their graves, until their story is just an unvisited headstone.”  ~ author's voice


Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Series: Standalone
Author: John Green
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 01/10/2012
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION


"Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind."

MY THOUGHTS

More. The Fault in Our Stars is so much more than can be properly described. More than can accurately be reviewed. It touches so many emotions so beautifully that I found myself laughing uncontrollably while Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac discussed (jestingly) Having Cancer. Only to sob uncontrollably when the loss was unmeasurable. The intelligence,  strength, humor, empathy, and love that was demonstrated by Hazel, Augustus, and their families took my breath away. This is a superb work of fiction that deserves admiration, awards, and to be read again and again.

HIGHLIGHTS

“Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy . . . well.” ~ Hazel Grace Lancaster

~*~

“And I wondered if hurdlers ever thought, you know, 'This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.” ~ Augustus Waters

~*~

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ~ Hazel Grace Lancaster

~*~

“You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you. All efforts to save me from you will fail.”  ~ Augustus Waters

~*~

“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”  ~ Augustus Waters



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Series: Standalone
Author: Gillian Flynn
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 06/05/2012
Publisher: Crown
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery, Suspense

DESCRIPTION

"Marriage can be a real killer.

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around."

MY THOUGHTS
 
I cannot deny my appreciation for this brilliantly crafted tale. The alternating perspectives—Nick's in the present and Amy's ascending chronological diary entries—kept me fully engrossed. I can't recall being this equally discomposed by the main characters in any previously read novel. Amy and Nick may have outwardly appeared to be fairly regular people, but reading their respective psychotic and narcissistic thoughts was very discomforting! I thought the author's use of parenthetically descriptive phrases and insertion of quizzes into Amy's diary entries was ingenious. I'm a reader who seeks out books with promising endings. Even though I felt hopelessness and bitterness were the prevailing emotions in Gone Girl, and the ending was quite unsettling, I shall not regret my discovery of this very gifted author.

HIGHLIGHTS

"I often don't say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you'd never guess from looking at me." ~ Nick Dunne
 
~*~

"There's someething disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold." ~ Nick Dunne
 
~*~

“Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you? So that's how the hating first began. I've thought about this a lot, and that's where it started, I think.”  ~ Amy Elliott Dunne
 
~*~

“Because you can't be as in love as we were and not have it invade your bone marrow. Our kind of love can go into remission, but it's always waiting to return. Like the world's sweetest cancer.”  ~ Amy Elliott Dunne

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Spider Web by Earlene Fowler

Title: Spider Web
Series: Benni Harper Mystery #15
Author: Earlene Fowler
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/03/2011
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery

DESCRIPTION

"Folk art museum curator, rancher and sometime sleuth Benni Harper is back in an unforgettable new mystery, organizing a Memory Festival. But a sniper threatens to make it a day to remember in the worst way… Benni and the ladies of her Coffin Star Quilt Guild are excited to display their Graveyard Quilt at the first ever San Celina, California, Memory Festival. The fair promises to be a moving event celebrating memories through quilts, crafts, scrapbooks, photographs, written word, oral histories, and tributes to loved ones.

But when a local cop is wounded by a mysterious sharp shooter with a vendetta against the police, Benni fears for her loved ones—especially her police chief husband, Gabe. Soon Benni is drawn into the search for the sniper, determined to make her hometown safe again…before their peaceful street fair becomes a shooter’s deadly target range."

MY THOUGHTS
 
I'm having mixed emotions regarding this fifteenth Benni Harper Mystery. I very much enjoyed it and feel it may be tied with Mariner's Compass as my favorite of the series. So, that explains my delight. Now, here is the reason for my angst. I fear this may be the final book in the series. Earlene Fowler did a Facebook Status update on August 4, where she stated she might not be publishing for awhile (after The Road to Cardinal Valley is released in December). That along with Spider Web's comprehensive epilogue leads me to believe I've just closed the book on a seventeen year long friendship. If this is indeed the end I must say it was beautifully finished.

There are two distinct mysteries—one to do with a sniper and the other to do with a new woman in town. Benni is in the thick of things and curious, as usual. I particularly enjoyed the preparations and interviews for a book that Benni is helping Isaac with, and for the theme of the Memory Festival. Benni is all about history: recording and preserving it and respecting traditions. As usual, she is busy with her job, friends, family, and involved in a mystery. Gabe is having violent stress induced nightmares (triggered by the sniper attacks) that leads him to protect Benni by sleeping apart from her. They deal with it the best they can, and ultimately Gabe seeks the help of a psychiatrist Benni had recently met. Although that female stranger has a connection to someone important to Benni it is not in the way she imagines. There is significant changes ahead for Benni and her family at the close of this story, but nothing will ever change the true nature of these colorful and respectable characters. How I've enjoyed my time with them!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber


Title: Easy
Series: Contours of the Heart #1
Author: Tammara Webber
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-Published: 05/25/2012
Republished: 10/09/2012 by Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary New Adult

DESCRIPTION

"Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy."


MY THOUGHTS (Short and Sweet)

Easy by Tammara Webber is a perfect example of a recommendation gone...right. Several recommendations, actually. This novel far exceeded any expectations I had when I began reading. After just a few pages the writing and story grabbed me, and I was captivated. There were incidental things (names, mostly) that offered me some feelings of connection on a personal level. There was so much to appreciate about Easy—as a whole and in the details. The characters all felt "reasonable" in that they weren't fictionally exaggerated. Their dialogue and interaction with each other seemed plausible. Their emotions felt in sync with their experiences. Jacqueline's condition over the break-up with Kennedy, and her friends' "assistance" in trying to help her get over him were quite believable. The introduction, subsequent appearances, and finally, our becoming acquainted with Lucas in the book was done so seamlessly. Lucas, whose tattooed and lip-ringed looks may have appeared to be at odds with his innate goodness, was a remarkable character! I could attribute to him many complimentary labels, but essentially it's all there in him—in the book.

There are several themes dealt with in Easy, which I felt were handled very well. They had a real world quality about them. Some of it was raw and frightening. Some of it was subtle and thought provoking. The characters of Jacqueline and Lucas are exceptionally intuitive, empathetic, and intelligent. He notices much more about her than her looks and she discovers much more lies beneath his. Most excellently done!

HIGHLIGHTS

“Love is not the absence of logic
but logic examined and recalculated
heated and curved to fit
inside the contours of the heart”

~*~

“Choosing to be with you, isn't a difficult decision, Jacqueline...It's easy. Incredibly easy.”
~ Lucas Maxfield

~*~

"So I don't want you to feel pressured. Or overpowered. But I do, absolutely, want to kiss you right now. Badly."
~Lucas Maxfield

~*~

“The way he kissed me felt like a brand. Like he was tattooing himself under my skin.”
~ Jacqueline Wallace


09/09/2013 - Very thankful to Tammara Webber for my autographed copy of Easy and this lovely "swag!"

TWEETS
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard

Title: Gabriel's Inferno
Series: Gabriel's Inferno #1
Author: Sylvain Reynard
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 04/18/2011
Publisher: Omnific
Republished: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Berkley 
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"From national bestselling author Sylvain Reynard comes the haunting, unforgettable tale of one man’s salvation and one woman’s sensual awakening . . .

Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well-respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption.

When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide.

An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love, and redemption, Gabriel’s Inferno is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible—forgiveness and love. "


Title: Gabriel's Rapture
Series: Gabriel's Inferno #2
Author: Sylvain Reynard
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/22/2012
Publisher: Omnific
Republished: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"National bestselling author Sylvain Reynard continues the story of Gabriel and Julia, two lovers bound together by their darkest desires.

But those very desires may destroy them . . .

Professor Gabriel Emerson has embarked on a passionate, yet clandestine affair with his former student Julia Mitchell. Sequestered on a romantic holiday in Italy, he tutors her in the sensual delights of the body and the raptures of sex.

But when they return, their happiness is threatened by conspiring students, academic politics, and a jealous ex-lover. When Gabriel is confronted by the university administration, will he succumb to Dante’s fate? Or will he fight to keep Julia, his Beatrice, forever?

In Gabriel’s Rapture, the brilliant sequel to the wildly successful debut novel, Gabriel’s Inferno, Sylvain Reynard weaves an exquisite love story that will touch the reader’s mind, body, and soul, forever."


MY THOUGHTS

Poetic, lush, grand, passionate, heartrending, touching...

I don't believe I've ever used the words, "I couldn't put it down" in a review.  I didn't want this all-encompassing feeling to go away. I didn't want the stirring of my emotions to settle. I had to continue reading until I'd finished. (I read both of the books in two days!)  I'm so tired and drained, but, oh, the existing conclusion of this beautiful, beautiful story was worth my current state of tiredness. For now I feel I can sleep—dream of Gabriel and Julianne—yearn for the continuation of their indescribable romance in the third book, which is due in 2013! [Update: Gabriel's Redemption will be published on December 3, 2013.]


Highlights
 
Julia was a good person. And sometimes goodness doesn’t tell everything it knows. Sometimes goodness waits for the appropriate time and does the best it can with what it has. 
~ author's voice (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

"Why not think that sometimes—just sometimes—you can overcome evil with silence? And let people hear their hatefulness in their own ears, without distraction. Maybe goodness is enough to expose evil for what it really is, sometimes. Rather than trying to stop evil with more evil." 
~ Julia (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

“When I am an old man and I can remember nothing else, I will remember this moment. The first time my eyes beheld an angel in the flesh. “I will remember your body and your eyes, your beautiful face and breasts, your curves and this.” He traced his hand around her navel before dragging it lightly to the top of her lower curls. “I will remember your scent and your touch and how it felt to love you. But most of all, I will remember how it felt to gaze at true beauty, both inside and out. For you are fair, my beloved, in soul and in body, generous of spirit and generous of heart. And I will never see anything this side of heaven more beautiful than you.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~

“Look at me. Look into my eyes.” His eyes fixed on hers as they fluttered open. “I’ll give you anything. My body, my soul, take them. Take everything.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Inferno)
 
~*~
 
“Many people fail to see how modesty and sweetness of temper compound erotic appeal.” 
~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture)

~*~

Truth sets one free, but love casts out fear. In her twenty-three years, Julia hadn’t realized how pervasive grace was and how Gabriel, who considered himself to be a very great sinner, could be a conduit of that grace. This was part of the divine comedy—God’s sense of humor undergirding the inner workings of the universe. 
~ author's voice (Gabriel's Rapture)
 
~*~

“You are my sticky little leaf. My beautiful, sad, sticky little leaf, and I want to see you happy and whole. I’m sorry for every tear I’ve made you shed. I hope that someday you’ll be able to forgive me.” ~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture)
 
~*~

"If they love one another to the exclusion of everything and everyone else, then their love is pagan. They’ve made idols of one another and their love. And they’re also very foolish, because no human being can ever make another human being completely happy. Human beings are far too imperfect for that.”
 ~ Gabriel (Gabriel's Rapture) 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Love Unscripted by Tina Reber

Title: Love Unscripted
Series: Love #1
Author: Tina Reber
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Self-published: 05/25/2011
Republished: 09/08/2012 by Atria
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION

"An A-List Movie Star. . .
Ryan Christensen just wanted to be an actor. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine a life where fans would chase him, paparazzi would stalk him, and Hollywood studios would want to own him. While filming in Seaport, Rhode Island, Ryan ducks into a neighborhood bar for a quick escape from legions of screaming fans . . . and finds much more than he expected.

A Small-Town Girl. . .
Nursing a recent heartbreak, Taryn Mitchell believes men are best kept at a safe distance. But when Ryan Christensen unexpectedly bursts through the front door of her pub, she can’t help but be drawn in by his humor, charm, and undeniable good looks. At six foot two, with dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and an incredible body, Ryan has every girl in Seaport swooning. But Taryn isn’t every other girl.

A Relationship That Doesn’t Follow the Script. . .
Despite her better judgment, Taryn soon finds herself falling hard for Ryan. But is their bond strong enough to survive the tabloid headlines, the relentless paparazzi, and the jealous fans who seem determined to tear them apart?"

MY THOUGHTS
 
Love Unscripted was such an unexpected delight! How fortuitous it was that I chose to find out about it from amongst the slew of recommendations on Goodreads and Amazon. Also, that I did not discount it based on the "Hollywood" connection. (For some reason I usually disregard novels having to do with the movie industry.) Although the character of Ryan Christensen is an actor it's the portrayal of his honest human emotions that was the draw for me and not his celebrity. I quite enjoyed how the story began and how the introduction to the characters was written, especially how Ryan and Taryn met. Certainly, their individual and remarkable physical appearances account for the first hint of mutual attraction, but it is soon apparent that this is but a starting point to so much more between them. Ryan is absolutely terrorized by rabid fans and hassled by paparazzi. Taryn offers him sanctuary and soon becomes his home. His peace. His comfort. Her normalcy and empathy are the calm from the storm of his tempestuous life. I really enjoyed the way their relationship developed: their conversations, the gentle elbow bumps, finger pokes, and foot nudges. Their playing poker and pool together, quoting movie lines, spending time at the lake, and sharing meals made the beginning of their sexual relationship an understandable and honest next phase. Both Ryan and Taryn's considerate behavior is indicative of their respective upbringings. I thought Tina Reber did a remarkable job conveying the characters' emotions, how they dealt with the difficulties of their opposing lifestyles; how they strove for honesty and openness with each other, and how they fought through opposition and heartbreak for a shared future.

The combination of the engaging story and characters with whom I could empathize made this a dream read! I read the entire 670 pages within one day and would have been pleased to continue.  Fortunately, those of us eagerly awaiting the next installment in Ryan and Taryn's story have only to wait until August 31 (updated release date of September 14), when Love Unrehearsed is released.

Highlights
 
"The biggest question in my mind was whether peace and insanity could survive together in harmony." ~ Taryn Mitchell

~*~

"I didn't need anyone to take care of me, but I did want someone to love me enough to try." ~ Taryn Mitchell

~*~

"It is here that I fell in love with you. And as fate would have it, it is here that I humbly kneel before you and ask you to be my wife.” ~ Ryan Christensen


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vegan Dessert: Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


First time with this recipe from have your cake and vegan too by Kris Holechek. For convenience I baked it in a 9 x 13" glass baking dish that has a cover. I ended up letting it remain in the dish to cool which probably contributed to the bottom and sides becoming a tiny bit overdone. The cake had a lovely substantial texture rather than being fluffy. I made note that the frosting recipe needs to be doubled. A single batch was insufficient to cover just the top. It was still moist and flavorful several days later. Yum!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe: Vegan Banana Bread

Vegan Banana Bread
Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 6" very ripe bananas)
1/3 cup vanilla soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions

1.) Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 9 x 5" loaf pan.

2.) In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium mixing bowl combine the oil and brown sugar. Stir in the mashed bananas, soy milk, vanilla and walnuts; stir only until thoroughly mixed.

3.) Spread batter evenly in the pan and bake for about 45 minutes (test at about 43) until the bread is a light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

4.) Let the bread cool in the pan for about a half-hour. Loosen the edges with a butter knife before gently turning the bread out to finish cooling on a rack.

5.) Store bread at room temperature in a covered container.

Servings: about 10 slices
Source: adapted (made vegan) from my junior high school Home Economics recipe

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recipes: Italian Lentil Soup and Oatmeal, Ginger, and Molasses Bread

Vegan Italian Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 (or more) large cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tbs. olive oil
1-1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and culled
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. (or more) dried herb blend featuring rosemary
1 large bay leaf
1-15 oz. can diced Italian style tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. In a large soup pot sauté onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper). Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low; cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

3. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Preparation Time: about 60 minutes

Servings: 6 - 8


Oatmeal, Ginger, and Molasses Bread

This recipe is for a 2 pound loaf made in a bread machine. It is a dense, hearty tasting, low rising bread and was excellent with the soup!

Add to machine in the following order using the white bread and light crust settings.

1-1/3 cups water
2 tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups quick oats
2 cups bread flour
2 tsp. yeast


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beauty is All Around

"If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere."  ~ Vincent Van Gogh
My soul thrives on the lushness surrounding my home. This is my neighborhood and I am blissfully thankful for its encompassing beauty.

Digital photograph by Virginia Hill taken with a BlackBerry 9670 on 06/07/2012. Some Rights Reserved (please see Creative Commons License in the sidebar.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Review: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Title: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Series: Standalone
Author: Thomas Hardy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/17/2012 (first published in 1891)
Publisher: Duke Classics
Genre(s): British Literature, Historical Fiction

DESCRIPTION

"Highly controversial because of its frank look at the sexual hypocrisy of Victorian society, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles was nonetheless a great commercial success when it appeared in 1891. It is now considered one of the finest novels in English.

Using richly poetic language to frame a shattering narrative of love, seduction, betrayal, and murder, Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d'Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d'Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her—on their wedding night—after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act.

With its compassionate portrait of a young rural woman, powerful criticism of social convention, and disarming consideration of the role of destiny in human life."

 MY THOUGHTS

My reading of English literature until this work has almost exclusively been limited to those books by Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Brontë. All of which were not designated "tragedies" and whose heroines' lives, at the conclusion of each novel, alluded to a promising future. Such was not the case with Tess Durbeyfield. Personally, I am partial to happy endings. Knowing the tragic nature of this story is likely why I had not read it before now. I avoided all detailed descriptions, which certainly encouraged my compulsive desire to finish it quickly. I had watched the motion picture, Tess, but that was so long ago (decades) and I recalled nothing of the story based on that one viewing.

I saw Tess as, on one hand, naive, and, on the other, very wise. She was aware of her beauty, but she did not use it to make an easier life for herself. She trudged relentlessly through her brief existence. She was a diligent and capable laborer, a tolerant daughter, a thoughtful friend, and devoted her heart completely to Angel Clare. Her nature was to be honest—to share her "secret" with him before they married, but he would not listen. She was so confident in his love for her (especially after his own post-wedding confession) and even when he essentially turned away from her, she blamed only herself. In nearly every action she was thinking of others above herself. The one act she impulsively carried out solely to benefit herself—to bring about her happiness, resulted in her demise.

The 19th century prose, word usage (British, old, literary), and poor rural dialect certainly hindered my understanding of all that transpired. I used my reading app's dictionary a great deal and re-read many passages. Symbolism and themes abounded throughout the book. Thomas Hardy obviously had strong feelings for the character he created and after reading this treasured classic, so do I.