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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


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Today is Thanksgiving here in the US, a day that is supposed to be dedicated to reflecting on our many blessings and feeling grateful for them. That's sadly starting to get a bit lost in the rush of the huge Thanksgiving meal and the ever-earlier kickoff to the Christmas shopping season though.

In the spirit of the season, what books are you thankful for? And/or what other blessings do you want to share here?

I'm first of all thankful for my kind, patient, and loving husband, Luis. And my kind, patient and loving family and extended family. Do you get the feeling that I require a lot of patient, loving kindness? :-) I'm also thankful for a decent job that pays the bills, a beautiful house I love in a gorgeous part of the world, the ability to travel and see new places, and my faithful blog readers who stick with me even when I neglect posting for enormous amounts of time.

Now, a few books I'm thankful for.

Cover of Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery--This is the first book I really remember falling in love with. I've always been a reader, and I definitely remember making my way through Beverly Cleary's books, Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series, and Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik books as fast as I could, but Anne is the first book that I remember falling head-over-heels, re-read-it-'til-the-cover-is-about-to-fall-off in love with.


Cover of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak--I read this about six years ago and it immediately became my absolute favorite book. I tend to love stories of WWII and the Holocaust anyway, but these characters gripped me by the heartstrings and haven't ever let go. There are many themes and ideas in it that resonated deeply with me as well. I'm afraid to re-read this one, though, for fear that it's not as good as I remember it! How crazy is that?


Cover of Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith--This book feels like home. Ivy Rowe is an Appalachian mountain girl like me and she immediately became one of my people.

Share your thoughts in the comments! Have a Happy Thanksgiving/happy Thursday!

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cover of Walden by Henry David Thoreau
2 Stars

Soooooo........yeah. I just rated Walden, one of the great American classics, two stars. That probably says more about me than it does about the book, doesn't it? Don't answer that.

But here's the thing--well, a few things.

1. I'm not generally an abstract ideas kind of person. I like narrative and stories and characters that come to life for me. Walden has none of these. Obviously. The section that I liked best? Thoreau described a pretty epic battle between some tiny red ants and some big bullying black ants. There were sides and protagonists and bravery and heroism, the agony of defeat, and the high cost of victory. I flew through those few pages. And then I got back to ideas and it was like I'd stepped in quicksand again.

2. I found Thoreau to be great in small, quotable chunks. Page after page? He wore on me. I don't care how much he spent on potatoes, I don't care about his theories about measuring bodies of water, I don't care exactly what day the pond thawed each year. And yet this book has produced quotes that most people will recognize.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away."

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

All great stuff, right? I just had a hard time with the in-between parts.

3. I found the Thoreau writing this book to be a bit of an insufferable prick. He had a huge case of the holier-than-thous! His way of living was the only way of living. Everyone else was just a slave to society. He was the only one smart enough to escape the trap. It took me months to read this slim volume, but I do believe at the beginning, he gets the wood for his house by buying a house from a poor Irish family who had nothing else to sell, and then commenting on the dirty state of their children and the house as they drift off through the woods with all their worldly goods on their backs! Say what? And in another incident, he told a poor Irish working man who was working hard to feed his growing family that he needed to stop working for other people and start living off the land. That's all well and good for a single man with no family to feed and a support system to fall back on, but most families can't be fed by just foraging. Hopefully Thoreau in real life was less grating, but I most definitely didn't like the voice this book was written in.

4. I did enjoy studying the Transcendentalists in college. I loved what they had to say. A lot of the specifics have faded with time, but all their ideas about nature and solitude do actually speak to me. I wish more people felt this way in the noisy world we live in. Now Thoreau and Emerson would probably be on medication for some sort of social anxiety disorder. But we all do need time alone to just be, and the best place to do that is outside. I never had to read this entire book for school though. Now I'm disappointed that I feel this way about it.

I am obviously in the minority, but that's my two cents. This is a classic that most people should at least take a crack at. I knew early on that I was going to struggle but I kept pushing through. I should have given up earlier. Some things just aren't meant to be.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Walden; or, Life in the Woods at

Off the Shelf 2014
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.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, November 23, 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.

My five-year blogiversary was last Sunday and I completely forgot! I can't believe it's been so long already!

Posted:

Review: This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman--4 Stars

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau--Finally finished! Woohoo!


Cover of The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen, read by Susan Denaker

Currently Reading:
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

Up Next:
As usual, I'll be choosing another audiobook as soon as I get this posted. I need to read a cozy mystery and a medical thriller to complete the Eclectic Reader Challenge. Do you have any recommendations for an audiobook in either category?

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.

Five-Year Blogiversary Giveaway! (International)




Holy smokes! Where does the time go? I knew my five-year blogiversary was sometime this month but I actually let it slip by unnoticed. I put up my first post on November 16, 2009. It was a bit of a, "Here I am. What do I do now?" kind of thing.

I'm not quite nowhere near as dedicated to regular posting as I was the first couple of years, but if I had kept up that pace, I would probably have stopped blogging completely long ago. I've learned that if I make posting, reviewing, or reading a chore, I stop enjoying it so I've mostly stopped accepting review books and I post as I have time. It works for me. I don't have as many followers as I probably could if I dedicated more time to it, but I've (mostly) found my balance. So that's the big piece of advice from this five-year-old senior citizen of the blogging world: Real life comes first. Find a blogging routine that works around your real life priorities.

Some of my stats: I've shared 1149 posts and I've read roughly 475 books or 133117 pages (calculated by my GoodReads stats). My most common tags are "Review" (521 posts), "4 Stars" (250 posts), and my favorite genres are apparently fantasy (97 posts) and historical fiction (88 posts). I host the Books in Translation, Nonfiction, and Southern Literature Reading Challenges and I nominally host the Character Connection meme, although I've mostly let that fall by the wayside the past year or so.

Now that the reflection and words of wisdom are out of the way, it's time to celebrate! I'll order $25 worth of books from Book Depository for one lucky winner! That can be one book or five, as long as the total is $25. Make your choice(s) and I'll have them shipped directly to you. I wish I could just give a gift certificate but it appears that Book Depository doesn't offer those. The giveaway is open to anyone living in a country where Book Depository offers free shipping.

To enter, fill out the form below before midnight EST on Saturday, December 6, 2014. The winner will be chosen using random.org and announced the evening of December 7. The winner will have 72 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please review my Privacy Policy.


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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: 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.

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