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Review: This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cover of This I Believe
4 Stars

In a collection of short essays, men and women from all walks of life share their defining beliefs.

I listen to NPR in between audiobook downloads but I seem to only be in the car for the news and Marketplace, so I've never heard any of these essays. I enjoyed them immensely.

Ranging from funny to serious, from heartfelt to tongue-in-cheek, there's a wide range of personal voices and creeds to be found in this collection. I particularly liked that essays from the first run of the series, hosted by Edward R. Murrow in the '50s, were included. They were concerned about the end of the free world due to the Cold War. Now we're concerned about the end of the free world due to terrorism of all kinds. Some things never seem to change. That said, people don't change all that much either, and I mean that in the best possible way. We still have faith in our own humanity. Many of us have religious or spiritual faith. Those who don't have faith in order and reason. Kindness, compassion, humility, personal growth, empathy--all our best traits are on display here, both in the older essays and the more recent ones.

On a side note, I enjoyed hearing the way voices and accents have changed in only about 60 years. The accents in the '50s seemed to be more pronounced. My guess is that we're losing some regional accents due to media influences. That makes me a bit sad since I enjoy hearing them and definitely speak with my own Appalachian twang! I was interested to hear women speak back then too. I find it hard to explain, but their voices sounded more breathy and feminine to me. Was that something girls were subconsciously taught? I've noticed it in old movies but assumed it was just the actress in her role. Now I'm left wondering if it was a cultural thing.

By the end of the collection, I had started tuning out a bit. They were all unique in approach but some of the fundamentals did start to feel a bit repetitive.

I understand this was issued in print and as an audio book. I would definitely recommend listening to it. The pieces were originally written for radio so it makes sense to approach them in the intended medium. However you read them, I do recommend this collection. You'll be left wondering, as I do, "What do I believe?"

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Visit the This I Believe website.

Buy This I Believe at

Nonfiction Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cover of Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
3 Stars

Kate has been living the past year of her life in a daze. Her husband died and she's retreated into herself, letting her mother-in-law make all the decisions for Kate and Kate's whimsical daughter, Devin. But Kate wakes up one morning to find that she's somehow agreed to sell her house and move in with her mother-in-law, who does mean well but who invariably crushes Devin's unique charm. So Kate and Devin hit the road, only to find themselves at Lost Lake, an old summer camp/resort owned by Kate's aunt Eby.

Eby has been mourning her husband for years now and she's tired of putting on a brave face. She's just agreed to sell her property to a land developer. But there's something magical and healing about this lake that can't be lost in a land grab. Lost souls tend to gather here to look for hope and redemption. Now they must come together to save the place that's saved so many of them.

When I first read this, I thought it was another solid four-star book from Sarah Addison Allen. But now that months have passed, it's faded away and I'm only left feeling that it was a decent entry in her body of work. I'm bumping it back to three stars.

Devin may have been my favorite character. She's a bright child but she definitely marches to her own drummer. She loves to play dress-up and can frequently be found in outlandish combinations such as fairy wings and cowboy boots. What's not to love? She responds to the lake's magic almost instantly and fights hard to save it and solve old mysteries.

The resident chef, Lisette, broke my heart. Her first romance was troubled to say the least, leaving her mute and solitary. It's obvious that she has a lot to offer the people around her but she chooses to remain isolated, only offering peeks of her soul through her cooking.

The other characters were solid enough. I wanted to shake both Kate and Eby at times. The faithful flock of summer residents were a hoot. All ancient in years, they have young, irrepressible spirits and they aren't losing their refuge without a fight.

So why only three stars? The plot just felt a bit too familiar. There's nothing wrong with familiar; familiar is comfortable. But familiar doesn't really stand out either. And I can't say it any better than that.

I think Sarah Addison Allen fans will definitely enjoy this one, I just don't think it will be a favorite. Readers new to Ms. Allen's work will probably be enchanted. I do enjoy her books and hope she continues sharing them with us for years to come.

Side note: Isn't that a gorgeous cover? The first time I saw it, I had recently returned from vacation in Las Vegas and the national parks near there. It reminds me of the lobby of the Wynn hotel (we just wandered through--it was definitely out of our price range!). What do you think?


Read an excerpt.

Find author Sarah Addison Allen on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Lost Lake at Malaprop’s.

Southern Literature Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Posted:
Review: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest, read by Kate Reading--4 Stars

Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbø, read by John Lee--1 Star

2014 One Book, One South hosted by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance--I won't have time to join in but maybe you will!

Read:

Cover of Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Currently Reading:
Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau--I'm shifting all my actual reading time to this book. I've been dithering around with it for months now and I'm tired of looking at it!

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen, read by Susan Denaker

Up Next:
Nothing until I finish that dang Walden. Thoreau will not defeat me!

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

2014 One Book, One South

One Book, One South
I read about this new event maybe a week ago in an email from Fiction Addiction, an independent bookstore located in Greenville, SC (The email was probably languishing in my inbox for weeks). The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) just launched a new campaign entitled One Book, One South, in which readers are encouraged to read a new book written by a Southern author. I love this idea! Unfortunately, I'm too late to participate but some of you who are faster readers than I am may have time to take part. This could be a lot of fun for those of you who signed up for my Southern Literature Reading Challenge.

The book chosen as the first group read is Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy. The big discussion is taking place on the Reader Meet Writer Facebook page this Thursday, November 20 at 8:00 EST. Just a few days away!

Cover of Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy
The New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club Pick Cane River brings us the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.

Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money--but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?

Cow Tom's legacy lives on--especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather's indelible mark of courage inspires her--in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.

Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family--and above all, the power of an individual's will to make a difference.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbø

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cover of The Bat by Jo Nesbø

Norwegian Inspector Harry Hole is sent to Australia as something of a consultant/observer in the investigation of the murder of a Norwegian woman.

Based on this, the first book in the series and my first Harry Hole book, I'm not clear why these are so popular. I can only assume they get better. Maybe it was the translation or maybe it was that I was distracted but nothing seemed to flow together at all. Hole and his Australian partner, Andrew Kensington, seem to jet about the country with impunity. I haven't been there but Australia sure seems like a big place and I'm sure they face the same budget problems that all police forces do. And these two guys are roaming where they please?

All of Hole's relationships get crazy-intense, crazy-fast. He and Kensington are immediately best friends forever. He meets the love interest the first day, I believe, and they almost immediately pledge lifelong and devotion. I really started to wonder if I had just missed the amount of time that Harry had been in Australia and then he would say something like, "I've already been here a week; I'm not sure how much longer my superiors will let me stay." Really?

I had a terrible time keeping the names straight. Granted, some of them were aboriginal (Is that politically correct?) and therefore very unfamiliar to me.

And what was up with everyone, absolutely everyone, knowing "whodunnit" except Harry and trying to give him subtle clues? Why not just come right out and say it? I get that you're trying to protect yourself, but if you're going to go so far as to try to clue him in, why not just go all the way? And is there really no one in Australia who is capable of investigating a murder?

John Lee did do a pretty good job of narrating. He had quite a mixed bags of accents to tackle and he did better than most people would, I believe.

The series must be popular for a reason but this one has left a bad taste in my mouth. I'll give the rest of the series a pass.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Jo Nesbø on his website and Facebook.

Buy The Bat at

Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image attribution: Sara Aydin Matos










I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cover of Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
4 Stars

Mercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the Confederacy but her husband is a soldier in the Union. Shortly after she receives word that he died in a POW camp, she receives a telegram notifying her that her long-estranged father is very sick and asking for her to come see him in Tacoma, Washington. That's quite a trek away from Richmond, Virginia, especially given the state of the country. Duty and curiosity win out and she sets out via dirigible and then train to hopscotch her way across the country.

I really enjoyed Boneshaker so I had high hopes for this book. I downloaded it on audio but read the first in print. When I realized that Kate Reading was the narrator, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Don't get me wrong--I've enjoyed Ms. Reading's narration but I've only listened to her reading fiction that is more directly targeted to women. I wasn't sure how she'd handle the steampunk action that I expected. I needn't have worried. The performance was so pitch perfect that I'll continue with the series on audio.

It's been a while since I read Boneshaker but I do think Dreadnought may actually be a little better. It's not a direct sequel but it does take place in the same book world and at the very end a few characters overlap.

I was a little disappointed that the rotters (read: zombies) aren't around very much. But when they are--holy cow!

I didn't like Mercy quite as much as I liked Briar from the first book but she was still a strong character. She's just trying to get across the country as fast as she can and she finds herself caught up in some wartime intrigue/action. She and the other civilian passengers try to stay out of it but they keep getting dragged into things whether they like it or not. Mercy just handles everything that comes along and does what needs to be done, whether that's patching up a soldier who's been shot or breaking into a private car to find out exactly what the train is carrying.

The book is so tightly focused on Mercy that I was left wanting to know more about a few other characters. Of course I don't remember their names now and I don't have a print copy to refer back to. The Texas Ranger, the Mexican inspectors, the awfully warlike young lady sharing Mercy's compartment--I'm curious about them all. I hope they show up in later books.

This was a great audio book and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series!

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Cherie Priest on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Dreadnought at


I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I start to think that I'm getting caught back up after returning from vacation and then I remember that we still haven't sorted through our pictures and I need to start thinking about Christmas soon. Bear with me.

Posted:
Nothing.

Read:

Cover of Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer


Cover of The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter



Cover of This I Believe



Cover of To Kill a Warlock by H. P. Mallory

To Kill a Warlock by H. P. Mallory

Currently Reading:

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

Up Next:
As usual, I'll be looking for a new audiobook to download as soon as I post this. If I finish Etiquette and Espionage, I plan to focus all my attention on Walden for a while. Reading a page or two at bedtime is just taking too long.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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