Thursday, October 31, 2013

by Stephen King

After crashing his car in a blizzard the famous writer Paul Sheldon is found and rescued by his number one fan Annie Wilkes. Unfortunately Annie is flipping nuts and Paul becomes her captive in a tiny Colorado town. This book is every writer’s worst nightmare. As the days stretch into weeks the reader grows just as scared of Annie as Paul is. She’s terrifying because she’s so realistic. She’s obviously mentally ill and her instability leads to unpredictable mood swings and temper flares. Unlike some of King’s supernatural villains, Annie is a sociopath who could exist anywhere.

King’s use of suspense and his tightly stretched line of tension throughout the book so well done. He has only two main characters and a small house and yet it’s hard to look away as the scene unfolds. Annie is emotionally manipulative and manages to make Paul feel shame and guilt, even though he’s the victim.

My only problem with the book is that Annie is absolutely exhausting. That’s completely understandable and really that’s the way it should be, but it doesn’t make it fun. One of my favorite aspects of King’s novels is his huge casts of characters. Even when there are only half a dozen main characters we get to know them so well. With Misery we are trapped in Annie’s twisted world and through Paul’s eyes we watch her insanity slowly reveal itself. It’s fascinating, but also draining.

BOTTOM LINE: A horrifying book, but not my favorite King novel. Annie Wilkes is one of the most disturbing villains I’ve ever encountered because she’s someone you could actually meet in real life. This tightly-wound thriller is hard to put down and she will be hard to forget.

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

**I watched the 1990 movie version (starring Kathy Bates and James Caan) after reading the book. I couldn’t believe how perfectly Kathy Bates embodied Annie Wilkes. There are a few added scenes and characters in the movie and they changed a few plot points, but it’s really well done. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of the book.

Wordless Wednesday: Fargo

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A little blood and gore for Halloween week. 
The original woodchipper from the movie Fargo in Fargo, ND.

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for Ten of the Scariest Book Covers. I made my list and started finding images for the covers and I realized I apparently think little girls are super creepy. 

1) Dracula
2) The Picture of Dorian Gray

3) The Passage
4) We Have Always Lived in the Castle
5) The Bad Seed  

6) Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
7) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
8) Autumn People
9) H.P. Lovecraft books
10) Stephen King books

Mini Reviews: Whose Body and The Wisdom of the Desert and The Zoo Story

Monday, October 28, 2013

Whose Body?
by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Lord Peter Wimsey murder mystery series starts with this book. A body is found in a bathtub with nothing on but pince-nez glasses. Starting with very little information, Wimsey tackles the case from the sidelines.

If Bertie Wooster was a detective he would be Lord Peter Wimsey. His is a gentleman and is inspired by Sherlock Holmes. The case is mildly interesting, but not enough to be a page turner. I was surprisingly bored throughout the book. There were a few parts I really liked, including one section where Wimsey is questioning a witness. The witness scoffs at the amount of detail people seem to remember in detective novels. No one remembers so much, he says! Then Wimsey walks him through a line of questions that help him remember exactly what he was doing on the night in question.

BOTTOM LINE: I wasn’t too impressed, but I will continue to read the series because I’ve heard it gets really good once the character of Harriet Vane is introduced in Strong Poison.

“Well, it’s no good jumping at conclusions.”
“Jump? You don’t even crawl distantly within sight of a conclusion.”

**Anyone else read this series? Is it worth hanging in there?

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

The Wisdom of the Desert
by Thomas Merton

Merton translated and compiled the wisdom and advice of monks living a hermit-like life in the desert in the fourth century. It’s an interesting collection with some wonderful bits. I’ve listed some favorites below.

There’s one parable of a man who steals a book from one of the monks. He goes to sell it in the local town. The man he tries to sell it to asks the monk who originally owned it if it was a valuable book. Instead of turning the man in and explaining that it was stolen, the monk just told the buyer that it was valuable. His actions led the man to return the book and ask for forgiveness. Showing mercy was a much greater act of kindness and it reminded me so much of the powerful scene with the priest in Les Miserables.

BOTTOM LINE: Incredibly quick read with some great advice.

"Malice will never drive out malice. But if someone does evil to you, you should do good to him, so that by your good work you may destroy his malice."

"Never acquire for yourself anything that you might hesitate to give to your brother if he asks you for it, for thus you would be found as a transgressor of God's command. If anyone asks, give to him, and if anyone wants to borrow from you, do not turn away from him."

“We have thrown down a light burden, which is the reprehending of our own selves, and we have chosen instead to bear a heavy burden, by justifying our own selves and condemning others.”

The Zoo Story 
by Edward Albee 


This strange one-act play is the first from the playwright who went on to fame for his marital tornado “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” This is a very different beast, quiet and disturbing all at the same time.

Two men meet in Central Park in New York City. One, Peter, is reading quietly on a bench. The other, Jerry, is a volatile individual who strikes up a conversation. He begins simply enough, but soon Peter finds himself trapped in conversation with this bizarre man. As the situation escalates we find ourselves, like Peter, captivated by Jerry’s odd behavior and bizarre stories.

BOTTOM LINE: An extreme example of an individual becoming disillusioned with life and getting lost in the flow of normal society. Weird, but like a car crash it’s hard to look away.

“The high points of a person’s life can be appreciated so often only in retrospect.” – From the author’s introduction to the play

Pin It and Do It

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting another Pin It and Do It Challenge. I've got more pins on Pinterest than I can count, so I decided to dive in! Everything below is my own photos of pins I completed along with a link to the original posts I pinned to my account and brief description. 

Broccoli SoupThe trick to this recipe is getting good white 
sharp cheddar. It makes the soup delicious! 
Also, I'm in love with my new immersion blender. 

Apple Crisp - We had tons of apples and weren't sure 
what to do with all of them! The crisps froze well too. 
You definitely need ice cream to serve with it!

Lattice Crust - The Huz helped me weave it. It would
have been much harder to do alone. We did an egg wash on 
top to hold everything together. This You Tube video 
was really helpful. 

Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli - Recipe calls for rice, but we 
used Udon noodles so it was a bit more like Lo Mein. A great 
way to use chuck roast without having another pot roast. 

Tomato, Basil, and Cheddar Soup - Probably the best 
thing we made. Greek yogurt makes it healthy too! 
Seriously so good! 

Roasted Portobello Mushrooms - A perfect side with steak.

Mushroom Soup - Oh my gosh, we loved this one!
I would highly recommend doubling the recipe.

We made a huge batch of Potato Soup, which I've
made before, but I wanted to work on freezing
extra meals for winter. We also made 5 apple crisps to
take to other people and to freeze. 

Washing your hair with baking soda and vinegar -
This one is still in the experimental phase for me.
After reading way too much about Sodium Lauryl/Laureth
Sulfate I've been trying different shampoos without that
chemical, but none seem to work well. I've been trying this
for a couple weeks and so far so good. I made a white
vinegar rinse with lavender oil. 

That's it for me this month. Thanks to Trish for once again 
encouraging me to actually try the things I pin! 
Check out Trish's original post here.
All photos by moi

L is for Lawless and M is for Malice

Friday, October 25, 2013

L is for Lawless
by Sue Grafton

Kinsey is technically on vacation in this book, but of course she can’t help but get caught up in an investigation. Her landlord and friend Henry asks for a favor as his brother’s wedding to Rosie approaches. Kinsey helps him out by looking into the question of a friend’s military history. Instead of finding a simple answer Kinsey finds herself on a cross country trip to follow some missing money and uncover the answer to a 40-year-old bank robbery.

My favorite bits were meeting a few of Henry’s siblings, Kinsey’s turn as an undercover hotel maid and a sweet-as-pie Granny with a few hidden talents.  I also loved that the true focus of this one is family. Everyone from the criminals to Henry and Kinsey herself are dealing with the question of what makes you family. Is it blood or loyalty and do you get to choose your family?  

BOTTOM LINE: Like all the alphabet mysteries, this one was a quick read and an entertaining palette cleanser. I’ll keep working my way through the series whenever I need a break from my regular reading material.

M is for Malice
by Sue Grafton

Kinsey’s cousin Tasha hires her to find a missing person. Guy Malek ran away from home as a young man and has been missing for almost 20 years. He was always the black sheep of his wealthy family, but when his father passes away and names him in the will his brothers need to locate him. When Kinsey finds him she realizes that he has become a kind and sincere man, nothing like the teenage hellion she heard tales about.

For me, this was one of the best Kinsey Millhone books I’ve read. They tend to follow the same pattern, as most detective novels do, but some cases are stronger than others. After a few mediocre ones this book felt like it got back to the heart of who Kinsey is. She can’t help but look out for people, even if it isn’t to her benefit. She finds herself drawn to Guy and trying to look out for his interests.

This installment also includes the return of Robert, the fellow P.I. and romantic flame that we met in G is for Gumshoe. His presence has an interesting effect on Kinsey. She prides herself on being self-sufficient and never really needing anyone, but having him around makes her question that.  

BOTTOM LINE: One of the best in the series so far, this case hits a lot of emotional buttons for Kinsey. It becomes very personal for her and she finds herself thinking about the losses she’s faced in her own life.

Faithful Place

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faithful Place
by Tana French

Frank has worked in Undercover in the Dublin police department for years. It’s been more than 20 years since he left his suffocating home in Faithful Place and he’s never looked back. Now, decades after leaving in the middle of the night, he must return home to find out what happened to his childhood sweetheart, Rosie. She was supposed to leave with him that fateful night, but she never showed up.

Frank’s family is the definition of dysfunctional. His overbearing mother, alcoholic father and hostile older brother make for an uncomfortable family reunion. He’s a bit closer to his other siblings, but has only kept in touch with one of them. The story flashes back and forth between the current case and Frank’s life 20 years earlier. Those were my favorite parts of the book; you fall in love with Rosie through Frank’s memories. As he returns to his old neighborhood we can see how broken he truly is. He’s become a shell of a man, driven by his work and not much else.  

BOTTOM LINE: As I’ve found with French’s other books (In the Woods and The Likeness), her writing transcends the plot. This isn’t my favorite in the series but that still sets it far above most books. She paints such vivid pictures of troubled people that you can’t look away until the very last page.

"They might be a spectacularly messed-up bunch and what they felt about me was anyone's guess, but the four of them had dropped whatever they could be doing this evening, put down their lives at a moment's notice and coming here to walk me through this night. We fit together like pieces of a jigsaw, and that felt like a warm gold glow wrapped all around me; like I had stumbled, by some perfect accident, into the right place."

"He held us up to see the lightning flickering above the chimney pots and told us not to be scared of the thunder, because it was just the lightning heating up air as fast as an explosion, and not to be scared of Ma, he was leaning out the window getting shriller by the second. When a sheet of rain finally swept over us he threw his head back to the purple-gray sky and whirl that's round and round in the empty street, Shay and me screaming with laughter like wild things, huge warm drops of rain splattering our faces and electricity crackling in our hair, thunder shaking the ground and rumbling up through Da's bones into ours."

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Wordless Wednesday: Willis Tower

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Willis Tower (it will always be Sears Tower to me)

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Unusual Character Names

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for Unusual Character Names. 

1) Charles Dickens had some of the best character names in literature. A few of my favorites:Pumblechook, Chuzzlewit, Stiltstalking, Fezziwig, and Honeythunder
2) Kilgore Trout from Kurt Vonnegut’s novels
3) Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s dragon series.
4) Almost everyone in the Hunger Games series (Katniss, Peeta, etc.)
5) Briony from Atonement
6) Philleas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days
7) Major Major from Catch-22
8) Hepzibah from Harry Potter (there are lots in HP, but this is a weird one)
9) Humbert Humbert from Lolita
10) Starbuck from Moby Dick; the coffee chain is actually named after him.

Divergent and Insurgent

Monday, October 21, 2013

by Veronica Roth

Let me start with a disclaimer: In the past year I’ve gotten so sick of YA dystopian novels and so I’ve been avoiding this series like the plague. I loved the Hunger Game trilogy, but the nauseating parade that followed seemed to suggest that there were no more interesting dystopian stories being told. After the Delirium trilogies and then Uglies (I could only stomach one of those) I was so burnt out on stupid love triangles and whiny teens. But in the end I gave this one a chance and I’m so glad I did.

Tris Prior is part of a society that is split into five factions: Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. Each one values certain characteristic above all else and the balance of their society depends heavily on the services provided by each faction. When individuals reach a certain age they must choose their faction. Sometime they choose to remain within the faction they were raised in and other times they choose a new faction. Tris must make that decision at the beginning of the book and the consequences throw her headlong into a new world of challenges.

The book is fast-paced and full of action. The stakes seem higher than in some of the other dystopian novels and that makes for a more interesting story. There’s also a lot less teenage moping and the characters have depth. Roth creates a world full of potential conflict and she doesn’t reveal everything at once. Instead of explaining every deal of the new world, we are propelled forward in the plot and uncover aspects of how their society functions as we go along.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s fair to say this one restored my faith in dystopian novels. I’m sure others might disappoint me, but this one was great.

“I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” 
“Those who seek peace above all else, they say, will always deceive to keep the water calm.”

“Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it’s so important that we don’t rely on it.”


by Veronica Roth

The second book in the Divergent trilogy picks up right where the first one left off. Their faction is in chaos as half of its members have sided with the Erudite faction and the other half are seeking shelter with Amity. Tris is broken both physically, from a gunshot wound, and mentally, from the death of her parents and Will. She is struggling to come to terms with who she is and what she’s done.

The action never takes a break in this one, which makes it an incredibly quick read. There were a few unexplained plot points or points that didn’t quite make sense and that bothered me a bit. We get the chance to learn more about the factions and all the characters' histories and motivations, which I love.

BOTTOM LINE: A good addition to the series. It keeps the pace moving forward at full throttle and I only wish I didn’t have to wait to pick up the final book.

“I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.”

“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.”

**Allegiant, the third and final book in the series comes out tomorrow!

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler Readalong

Friday, October 18, 2013

Who is ready for a fall readalong? Care’s Online Book Club and I are co-hosting a laid back readalong of Italo Calvino’s masterpiece, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. I’ve been hearing about Calvino’s work for years and I can’t help but feel curious. I think this one will be great to read as a group because it will probably help us catch things we might otherwise miss.

A few other reasons you should join in the fun:

1) Entertainment Weekly named it one of their Top 100 All-Time Greatest Books, describing it as…
“A fleet-footed entertainment about the high-intensity sport that is reading. Calvino was a stellar stylist, and this astonishingly inventive novel proved there was no sentence he could not write.”

2) It’s only 260 pages!

3) This fantastic article with David Mitchell’s thoughts about the book. He starts with…
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveller. Relax. Let the world around you fade.”

4) It’s a book about someone trying to read a book.

5) It’s on the 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die List.

So if you’d like to join in, here are a few details. We’ll be tweeting about it with #ReadCalvino. We’re going to start reading on Nov. 1st and try to finish by the end of the month. We’ll post one mid-way post and another wrap up post. Feel free to post in the middle or at the end or just as you go along.

The All of It

Thursday, October 17, 2013

When Ann Patchett spoke in Indy a couple months ago she was asked to recommend a few books. The first one she suggested was The All of It. She said it was the book that made her want to become a bookseller. She found her copy in an old used bookstore and blew through it in one sitting. When she tried to get another copy to pass along to a friend she realized it was out of print. She felt so strongly about the book that she was able to get it reissued and back into print. That’s a pretty powerful recommendation! So when I visited her bookstore in Nashville in September I knew I had to pick up a copy.

The All of It
by Jeannette Haien

The slim novel doesn’t even clock in at 150 pages; it’s almost more of a novella. Set in Ireland, the book tells the story of a man confessing to his priest on his death bed. He tells the priest he has a secret but before he can unburden himself he passes and it’s left to his wife Edna to tell the “all of it” to the priest. What unfolds in the following pages tugs at the heart and mind in powerful ways. Through the priest we find ourselves in the role of both friend and confessor to the dying man and Edna.

The story is brief, but it packs a punch. It makes you think about your feelings on guilt and judgment and second guess your initial reaction. You question the role circumstances play in our lives. It’s an odd book, a whirlwind of information that leaves you processing it for days.

BOTTOM LINE: Short but powerful; this intimate story is one of survival. Find a copy if you get a chance!

"Dead faces," she said whitely, "they're all the same. They don't, I mean, tell of the person as they were alive."

"... in this life it's best to keep the then and now and the what's-to-be as close together in your thoughts as you can. It's when you let the gaps creep in, when you separate out the intervals and dwell on them, that you can't bear the sorrow."

*Photo of me getting my copy at Parnassus Books in Nashville. 

Wordless Wednesday: Bridges in Madison County

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bridges in Madison County

Celebrating 4 years of marriage tomorrow,
it's hard to believe this fun road trip stop
in Iowa was a few years before that.

You are my love, my partner in all of life's
adventures and my favorite person to road trip with!

Happy Anniversary Huz!

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, reviews). I’ve picked books that someone recommended; 5 that I read and ended up loving and 5 that I read against my better judgment and didn’t like at all.

1) Watchmen – Recommended by a friend, introduced me to the world of graphic novels.
2) The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Recommended by fellow bloggers, love Flavia!
3) The Golden Compass – Recommended by a friend with flawless taste in children’s lit, read it years ago and was so caught up in the story.
4) Ender’s Game – Recommended by my Dad, changed my opinion of science fiction.
5) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Read during a creative writing class in high school. First time I realized that plays could be hilarious!

6) Outlander – Recommend by and friend and the entire internet.
7) The God of Small Things – Recommended by Amy Sherman Palladino (a list the Gilmore Girls created with book recommendations). So slow and depressing, just couldn’t get into it.
8) One Day – Recommended by book bloggers, damn it Dexter, stop being such a jerk!
9) The Shack – Recommended by family, I’m not a fan of being smacked in the face with religious allegories.
10) The Celestine Prophecy – Recommended by a co-worker, one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Galbraith

Before word got out that this noir novel was written by the beloved author of the Harry Potter books it was almost unknown. The few people who had read it seemed to be giving it pretty good reviews. I can't help but feel a bit sad for Rowling because she obviously wanted to see how her book would do without her name behind it. Granted this just means more money and sales, but I understand the desire for anonymity when you're already successful.

The novel tells the story of Cormoran Strike, an Afghanistan vet who became a private investigator after getting injured in the war. His love life is in shambles, his personal history is a complicated mess and nothing seems to be going his way. A temp agency assigns him a new secretary and an unexpected case comes his way all in the same day. The case is an investigation of a supermodel’s suicide. The secretary is a clever girl named Robin. I love the relationship they develop. He quickly learns not to underestimate her intelligence and to rely on her intuition.

I tend to love a good mystery though this one didn't move as fast as I would've hoped. It's a great character study and I really loved Cormoran and Robin. I think the author does a really great job revealing bits and pieces of the main characters past instead of giving it to us all at once. The mystery itself is interesting and like any good detective novel it introduces us to a half dozen interesting characters, all potential villains, along the way.

BOTTOM LINE: A solid P.I. novel from an author who creates memorable characters no matter where the book is set. A bit slow in parts, but worth it in the end. Do NOT go into this expecting Harry Potter. Read it if you like old school detective novels and aren’t stressed out if it runs a bit long.

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Dewey 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Saturday, October 12, 2013

******UPDATED AT HOUR 18*******

We're still in Iowa, it's midnight and we're back at the hotel. We have a long day with family tomorrow so I can't stay up all night, but I'm planning to read for as long as I can!

I would love to be reading all day today for the Dewey 24 hr Read-a-Thon, but for the first time since I joined in the fun a few years ago, I won't be able to set aside the whole day. 

The Huz and I are visiting family in another state, so I'm getting creative with my reading. I will be sneaking it in whenever I can today, but I am also going to start my read-a-thon about 7 hours early so I can get the majority of my reading done on the drive out there. So I'm sure I'll have a decent number of pages read at the beginning of the read-a-thon and then add very few for the next 10 hours. I'll do the best I can.

I'm going to be updating this post when I can (from my phone) and so we'll see how that goes. Have a great read-a-thon everyone! 

Pages Read: 402 pgs 

Currently Reading: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, The Black Count, This is Where I Leave You

Books Finished: Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Breaks Taken: All day to spend time with family. 
Current Location: Iowa

Photo by moi.