Monday, December 31, 2012

BEST OF 2012

Well, it's that time of the year when you reflect on the books you've read and pick out the 'best of" the bunch. Here is a list of books that I read this year that really stand out:

The Cove by Ron Rash

The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war

Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.

Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.

But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.

This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.

Read my review here

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Mark Twain meets classic Stephen King--a bold new direction for widely acclaimed Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale.

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she's dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.

Sue Ellen, May Lynn's strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn's body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can't become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.

Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn's remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.

Read my review here

The Passage by Justin Cronin

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Read my review here

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A riveting, powerful debut novel from an award-winning adventure writer: the story of a pilot surviving in a world filled with loss—and of what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.
Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

Read my review here

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

1625. In the remote village of Buckland, a mob chants of witchcraft and John Sandall and his mother are running for their lives. Taking refuge among the trees of Buccla's Wood, John's mother opens her book and begins to tell her son of an ancient Feast kept in secret down the generations. But as the rich dishes rise from the pages, the ground beneath them freezes. That winter John's mother dies.

The Feast is John's legacy. Taken as an orphan to Buckland Manor, the ancestral seat of Sir William Fremantle, John is put to work in its vast subterranean kitchens, the domain of Richard Scovell. Under the Master Cook's guidance, John climbs from the squalor of the Scullery to the great house above. There Sir William's headstrong daughter Lucretia defies her father by refusing to eat.

John's task is to tempt the girl from her fast. But as a bond forms between them, greater conflicts loom. The Civil War will throw John and Lucretia together in a passionate struggle for survival against the New Order's fanatical soldiers. Ancient legacies will pull them apart. To keep all he holds most dear, John must realise his mother's vision. He must serve the Feast.

An astounding work of historical fiction, John Saturnall's Feast charts the course of one man's life from steaming kitchens to illicit bedchambers, through battlefields and ancient magical woods. Expertly weaving fact with myth, Lawrence Norfolk creates a rich, complex and mesmerising story of seventeenth-century life, love and war.

Read my review here

Wilderness by Lance Weller

Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain meets David Guterson’s East of the Mountains in this sweeping historical novel of a Civil War veteran’s last journey on the Pacific Coast.
Thirty years after the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It’s a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.

As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life—from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.

In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness tells not only the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller’s immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.

Read my review here 

Loved, loved, loved Wilderness! I think it has to have been my favorite of the year. What were your favorites of 2012?

I'm not sure what all I will be reading in 2013, but I know it will include The Twelve (the sequel to The Passage), The Bottoms (another book by my newly discovered author Joe Lansdale), and I think this will the year that I finally get around to reading Delirium and A Discovery of Witches.

Good reading everyone, and Happy 2013!

REVIEW: Dry Camp by Alfred Cool


The year is 1977. Over 7 days in October, this true-story, first person narrative takes place on the central coast of BC. During a record month of storms, the action picks up when the 2 spirited BC boys blitz across hundreds of kms of dangerous back roads to get to the closest cold beer store.

Cool withdraws from SFU, broke and cynical, to replenish his funds by returning to logging, finding work on Northern Vancouver Island. After travelling all day Cool arrives at Beaver Cove, a ‘No Booze Allowed’ camp, as gales begin howling during torrential rainfall. Within hours, the rain and the melt-off of higher-elevation snowfall combine to cause floods and slides. Within 2 days they are isolated. Roads close, ferries over-book, planes are grounded and Health Department regulations close all bars, stores and restaurants. Cool has no money for travel or food anyway. Work stops and management leave the camp with little food and no heat, lights or clean drinking water.

Cool devises a plan which involves Drake, the other guy left in camp, and his car. Drake has his girlfriends’ broken-down 1964 Vauxhall Viva. That’s enough to get Cool scheming and them moving, giving them an outside chance for self-rescue if they put it all on the line. With only the vague notion of a ‘4x4 back road’ to Campbell River as their map they quit the camp, ‘heading for the barn’. For hours, they negotiate deserted mountain roads and near-deadly detours across raging creeks, down mud-slides and through bogs, running on only fumes and luck. Arriving, finally, at a town amazed at their survival, they discover they’ve popped up at a totally wrong destination. Most of their money goes to gas, oil and beer leaving them no choice but to continue into the night, nursing the car through a further four hours and 250 kms of storming weather. Eventually they arrive, exhausted, back in Vancouver where Drake is turned out by his girlfriend and Cool has to confront unpaid bills and night shift taxi driving. Inspired again, he makes plans to keep the adventure alive and go to the ‘Charlottes. 

Through the eyes of some of the characters who lived and worked here - before the province we live in today evolved - this fast-paced comedy-quest champions the lure of adventure and the devil-may-care attitude it takes, sometimes, to win against the odds.

About the Author
from Amazon

Alfred Cool was born and raised in BC. He attended Simon Fraser University where he took English and Computer courses. He is a member of the Canadian Authors Association. He worked and travelled extensively on the Coast of BC for most of his life. For 26 years, as an accomplished computer professional, he lived in various northern BC communities where he harbored the simple truth that writing would eventually take over his life.

Now that persistent dream, to his great satisfaction and pleasure, has become reality.

This novel is the third of 5 to be produced by the author and his travels around the coast of BC. 'The Five-Cent Murder' is expected to be published fall of 2012.

My Thoughts

The author recounts a period of a few days in the '70s when he escaped a logging camp during a fierce flooding rain.

I requested this book through Netgalley, since I lived a time in the logging country of the Northwest and loved the area. I believe that this story actually takes place in Ontario, rather than the northwest, but it reminded me of my time around the Olympic mountains of Washington.

Generally speaking I don't think that the author is a great writer, but that he is simply a good storyteller. He's the guy you want there when you're sitting around the fire pit on a cold winter's night, regaling one another with tales of your youth and foolishness. But at times, particularly early on, there were bits of strange descriptive text:
When we pulled up to the ferry dock, I saw the regal lady's snout was opened wide, lifted up like she was going through some kind of extreme dental procedure. A stream of cars, trucks and foot-passengers gorged themselves into her unnatural and gaping maw. (page 13)
The story follows the author to a "dry" logging camp (meaning it doesn't permit alcohol) during a record-setting rainstorm that goes on for days. The author and a fellow logger decide to sneak off and return later when the logging resumes. So over half of the story follows the author's travel to the camp and his short time at the camp, and the rest is the adventure of driving down off the mountain and returning to civilization in the downpour.

It was apparent that the author was Canadian, and at times I felt a little like an "outsider". Things like the use of the term "crow-hopped" in reference to how the car drove, which is a term with which I am totally unfamiliar. Since it was a clutch, I have to think maybe he's referring to the herky-jerky way a manual transmission car can drive when the clutch is let out too fast? Just one of those things you sometimes encounter with geographically-oriented stories that use regional terms and vocabulary.

My final word: This was a quick story that wound up being different than what I had expected. I thought it would be about a couple of guys surviving harrowing flooding conditions for days in the wilds, rather than a few hours in a car (even if there were a couple of harrowing moments in the car). So again I come back to my analogy of sitting around the burn barrel on a cold night. This is a good story to entertain family and friends, but it's a little light to fulfill the demands of a full-fledged book. Perhaps it would make one of those good little brief books you buy at the local tourist center in the area?

Buy Now:


My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Friday, December 21, 2012

REVIEW: Dog by Matt Hlinak


Culann Riordan was a high school English teacher with poor impulse control and a taste for liquor. He fled to Alaska before the state could yank his teaching certificate and possibly toss him in jail. He hires on as a commercial fisherman aboard the Orthrus, a dingy vessel crewed by a colorful assortment of outcasts seeking their fortune beyond the reaches of civilization. As he struggles to learn how to survive the rigors of life at sea and the abuses of the crew, he fishes a mysterious orbout of the depths of the ocean and comes into conflict with the diabolical captain of the Orthrus.

If he is to live long enough to see the sunset, Culann must escape from the Captain, survive on an island in the Bering Sea populated only by a pack of feral dogs, find out how to control the orb’s destructive power, and come to grips with his sizable character flaws.

Paperback, 200 pages
Published October 2012 by Bizarro Press
ISBN 0615700217 (ISBN13: 9780615700212)

About the Author

Matt Hlinak is an administrator at Dominican University, just outside of Chicago. He teaches courses in English and legal studies. 'DoG' (Bizarro Press 2012) is his debut novel. His short stories have appeared in 'Sudden Flash Youth' (Persea Books 2011) and several literary magazines. He holds an MFA from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Illinois. He lives with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Madeleine, in River Forest, Illinois.

My Thoughts
I don't know what day it is or how long I've been out here or how long it's been since I found it, so I'm just going to have to call this Day 1. 
Culann has gotten himself into a little bit of trouble, and as many have done before him, he absconds to the rugged life found in Alaska to avoid prosecution. His cousin Frank has fixed him up with a job on a fishing trawler, and a couch to sleep on. On his first trip out, he learns the captain has a habit of fishing the same area year after year, never branching out to seek out larger yields of fish. Then the crew hauls in a strange object, and everything just gets weirder from there.

Having spent his last few years as a school teacher, Culann is worked harder than ever before as a deckhand, and takes some abuse as a greenhorn who needs to prove himself.
The work was exotic, grueling and fraught with peril. It was like he was being punished and rewarded at the same time. If he could hack it, he would emerge stronger, wiser and cleansed of his sins.
I really enjoyed the first half of this relatively short story (I think the e-book that I received was only about 118 pages). However once Culann came back to port and everything started getting really weird, I started to find it less enjoyable. I mean, fantastical plotline aside, I found the way that people responded to be too unrealistic. People were too quick to just accept what Culann said at face value and resign themselves to their doom. ("Oh well. I'm going to mysteriously drop dead in the upcoming hours, because this criminal on the run says so. Guess I'll just resign myself to it and get drunk.")

And then in the end Culann begins to reflect on his crime and almost seems to justify his actions. In the beginning I liked him, but by the end I was pretty much over him and finding him a little repulsive.

One thing of note is that the font in my ARC made reading very difficult. I hope that this may be improved in the printed copy, or even the purchased e-book/Kindle edition, but the font was erratic, varying from small to large to bold. It was supposed to have been done to indicate the state the writer was in, as it is a diary of what's happened to him in the previous days and weeks.

Also, sometimes the "i" looked like an "l" (causing "Alistair" to look like "Allstar"), and "f" looked like "r". Very confusing.

My final word: While I wound up not being enamored by Culann or the story in general in the end (as I was in the beginning), it was still a "good" story, and exhibited some solid writing. I would recommend it if you are looking for a fast escape.

Buy Now:

Amazon (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition!)

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ in the actual published version.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

REVIEW: Sleep Talkin' Man by Karen Slavick-Lennard


Karen Slavick met Adam Lennard in 1991 on a kibbutz in Israel, where he declared his love for her by passing out in her bed while he waited for her to return from a midnight swim. Understandably, she never forgot him. Over a decade later, they rekindled their romance and married— but then he fell asleep again, and all hell broke loose. Though he’ s a romantic and mild-mannered Englishman by day, Adam quickly morphs into the uproariously foul-mouthed, vegetarian-hating, wildlife-obsessed character beloved by millions as Sleep Talkin’ Man, and Karen has the audio tapes to prove it. 

These gems and more are interspersed with the fantastic conversations Karen and Adam have when he wakes, in which he attempts to interpret for Sleep Talkin’ Man, and stories that recount how love can bloom— even when your beloved is a nocturnal maniac. By turns crude and charming, Don’ t Let the Midget Out of the Wardrobe is a hilariously candid journey into one man’s dreamland.

(Note: I think this synopsis from Goodreads needs to be corrected, as it seems to mixup Sleep Talkin' Man with Don't Let the Midget Out of the Wardrobe, which was published June 5th 2012, but seems very similar to Sleep Talkin' Man.) 

ebook, 192 pages
Expected publication: January 8th 2013 by Collins (first published November 6th 2012)
ISBN 1443412163 (ISBN13: 9781443412162) 

About the Author
from Facebook (since I can't find a bio for her, I took this from her Facebook profile)

As a child, my favorite pastime was dissecting fresh fish and labeling their fishy little parts on paper towels. I spent my teenagehood making an art of late-night public fountain splashing, one of the few diversions available to minors in Jersey. Somehow, paradox seems to define me: I'm wildly silly and intensely serious, unabashedly impulsive and overly analytical. I've lived on four continents, although I often play the homebody. Despite my well-earned cynicism, I'm far more naive and idealistic than I have any right to be. 

I own my own power tools, and I wield them with panache. I am a firm believer in mutual worship. Dancing is one of my greatest passions. I read voraciously and the right music slays me. Ripe avocado rocks my world, as does This American Life. 

I feel on track when I manage to back up my convictions with actions: I have volunteered for the last three elections and I’m lucky to work for a company that’s trying to do good in the world. My obsession with all creatures furry or feathered dictates that my holidays every year are spent volunteering at animal sanctuaries around the world. I have spent days snuggling elephants, nursing monkeys, nuzzling sloths, bottle-feeding otters, and massaging lions. 

My desires are too numerous for this silly little square: I want to study elephants in Africa, and sing in a smoky blues bar, and live on a houseboat, and operate on human brains, and rhumba in the rain. 

 My Thoughts
"Hold me. I want you to feel greatness." 

"Oompa loompas don't sing in heaven. They tidy up the clouds."

"Scientists in the future will completely struggle to work out how you were ever classified as an intelligent life form."
By day Adam Lennard is a kind, compassionate, and mild-mannered Englishman. By night he is crude, brash, insulting and threatening-- but very funny and very, very clever!

Soon after moving in together, Adam's girlfriend Karen (who herself is an insomniac) was startled to find Adam blurting outrageous remarks during his sleep. She began documenting his nocturnal expressions, and sharing them with family and friends. Eventually she invested in recording equipment to catch his regular utterings, and created a blog through which to share.

Now she is sharing it all through her new book simply titled Sleep Talkin' Man.

I became a fan of Sleep Talkin' Man (STM) through their blog, and have followed off and on for over a year. So I was happy to jump at the chance to read and review this book!

First let me say that visually I didn't find the layout very appealing, but I'm afraid that I'm not sure what to suggest to improve it. I kept finding all of the different fonts and sizes annoying. However I understand that they were attempting to make it interesting, rather than just have a bunch of quotes running down in a list with nothing of interest to catch the eye. Again...I'm afraid that I don't know how to resolve the issue with the layout, nor know how to clarify just what about it annoyed me so much!

And I'm not sure whether it's because it's an ARC, or if it will be the same in the finished copy, but the fact that there are no chapter numbers or names is a little disorienting.

Portions of the book are about their lives and a sort of memoir, and not about his sleep talking. I guess they needed more to write about, or it would just be 20 pages of sleep talkin' quotes! Some of the background was enjoyable to read, but by the time I got near the end of the book and reached a story about Adam getting a kitten from the SPCA at the age of nine, I was feeling as if they (the author? the editor?) were just stretching things out to give the book more mass and depth, and I found it getting a little tiresome.

But the meat of the book are the quotes, and they are everything fans of STM have come to love and expect. Some mutterings are sweet and innocent, some are devious and evil, and yet others are crude and offensive. But nearly all are just plain funny!

My final word: If you enjoy humor (especially crass and even cruel humor) and want to experience the mystery that is nocturnal speech and the unconscious mind, grab this one. You'll laugh yourself to sleep at night!

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The ebook that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes mentioned here could differ in the finished copy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara


During the 1930s, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her heart's ambitions with binding promises she has made

1935: Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez's discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set within the context of the Depression, NYC during Roosevelt's New Deal era, and the approaching World War.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Viking Adult
ISBN 0670026026 (ISBN13: 9780670026029)

About the Author
from Goodreads

I was the longtime associate fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston’s award-winning literary journal. My short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Five Points, Redbook, The Crescent Review, and these anthologies: MicroFiction, Brevity and Echo, The Art of Friction, Sudden Flash Youth, and Fictionality/Reality/ Possibility. I am grateful for grants I received from the St. Botolph Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and to the editors who nominated my stories for Pushcart Prizes. My story collection was a finalist for 2010’s Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. 

Check out the author's website (it's really cool!)
Check out the author's blog

Follow the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter
Download the author's book club reading list 
Watch the video trailer for Cascade

My Thoughts
During his final days, William Hart was haunted by drowning dreams. Every night at the sound of his shouts, Dez came awake herself, always briefly startled to find a husband-- Asa-- sleeping beside her. She would dash across the hall, fearing another heart attack, but by then her father would be lying quietly, gazing at the plaster ceiling.
Dez grew up with something of a charmed life before the Depression. Her father was important in the community, the owner of the playhouse where the likes of Lionel Barrymore performed. They had a housekeeper to take care of the home, and enough money for Dez to travel and attend school in Boston. She never wanted for anything. She could spend her time indulging her whims and feeding her creative nature. Then the Depression struck, her father lost everything but the playhouse, and suddenly she is forced to make choices she fears she cannot live with. Now stuck in a lifeless marriage to a good man for whom she feels no passion, trying to find time for her art in between keeping the house and performing “wifely duties”, forever trying to stave off pregnancy, she feels doomed. Add to this the drama of the constant threat that hangs over the town that it could be chosen to be sacrificed to create a water reservoir for nearby Boston and surrounding areas (although Dez secretly hopes this may actually come to fruition, as she longs to move to New York and get away from this stagnating town that is suffocating her).Then traveling salesman and artist Jacob shows up on her doorstep, and Dez finds in him the soul mate of an artist's heart.

I loved seeing things through an artist’s eye. When Dez would get an idea for a piece, her description became a painting that I wanted hanging on my wall:

And as he studied the new painting, she, with the fresh perspective that even a few minutes could give, saw how the light would need to fall much more significantly on that foremost blade of grass. The viewer’s eye needed to be drawn to that blade, forced to reflect on how alike it was to all the others, while still uniquely itself. She needed to add something, a drop of dew perhaps, glistening and fat...

...and the look of the blade changed-- it became more dimensional, more emphatic, more what she was after. "That’s it! I want the viewer to first look and see ‘grass’, and then look closer and mull on the fact that this blade-- here-- is different. And to wonder why." (page 37)
And when wanting to do a piece about the drowning of a city:
Can I make that view up through water convey, to the viewer, how frantic the gasping-for-life instinct must be, how precious the air on the other side? (page 84)
I found this story to be mostly sad and morose. There were only a few bright moments of passion or love or humanity. Throughout much of it, I was left thinking of everything being drab and gray and damp. Probably because of all of the talk of water, the river, the dam, of drowning. It felt “wet” and humid and cloying and suffocating. There were brief moments of color and beauty and lightness when Jacob was around, but most of the time life was gray and miserable for Dez. In this respect, the author was very good at relaying what Dez was feeling. The town of Cascade and her loveless marriage were suffocating and cloying, while her stolen moments with Jacob were bright and light.

Dez spent most of the book discontent. She didn't appreciate how lucky she was to have the security her husband offered during the Depression. Asa was a good man- ethical and hardworking. But he was not a passionate man, he did not have an artist's eye or heart, and he left Dez feeling alone in life. Then she meets Jacob, who is of the same heart as her, and they become star-crossed lovers, trapped by convention and propriety and with a passion fueled by an appreciation for the beauty in life.

I was left feeling that Dez’s friend Abby was the catalyst for everything bad in the book. In the beginning I sort of liked Dez. She seemed honorable and conscientious. Then Abby showed up, and in a few short hours with her it was as if her self-centered and arrogant aura covered Dez’s life, her thoughtless poking and prodding at the structure and mediocrity of Dez’s life began to whittle down Dez’s resolve, and a pall fell over Dez’s world. Suddenly nothing was good enough, and she turned into this self-absorbed woman who only cared about her own needs and desires, at the risk of hurting everyone around her.

Dez, like many artists, actually had some great insights into the human condition...

Sometimes you needed to look up from your work, from yourself, blink your eyes-- there was sky up there, a vast expanse of air to breathe. (page 132)
...but mostly she seemed too lost in her own misery to care about anything else. Eventually she makes it to New York, where she believes happiness resides, but even there things are not perfect...
Cascade is too provincial, New York too raw and lascivious. Are you ever going to be happy? (page 284) 
I felt the same way-- that this woman would never be happy. She would always want what she didn’t have. The grass was always greener on the other side. And always pulling her forward is the future of the Playhouse and the secret held within Portia's casket, a miniature casket that Dez's father gave her before he died, telling her that it holds a treasure. Making Dez promise to not open the casket until the Playhouse reopened, Dez keeps the casket close by, a promise of the future. 

My final word: I enjoyed this story, for the most part. It was a little heavy and at times depressing. In the beginning, I loved the relationship between star-crossed lovers Dez and Jacob, always attempting to keep their passion at arms length. Later it becomes evident that Dez is consumed with herself and what she wants, and that everyone around her will suffer for it. But it was well-written, and it kept me guessing with little twists and turns, and stories within stories.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of this tour.

Check out the master schedule for the tour:

Monday, December 3rd: Booktalk & More
Tuesday, December 4th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, December 5th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, December 7th: JulzReads
Monday, December 10th: …the bookworm…
Tuesday, December 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, December 12th: Shall Write
Thursday, December 13th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Friday, December 14th: A Reader of Fictions
Monday, December 17th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 18th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 19th: I’m Booking It
Thursday, December 20th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, December 26th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, December 27th: Books and Movies
Wednesday, January 2nd: Lisa’s Yarns 
Thursday, January 3rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, January 4th: A Bookish Way of Life
TBD: Book Journey

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Introducing... Dog by Matt Hlinak

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Diary of Culann Riordan, Day 1

I don't know what day it is or how long I've been out here or how long it's been since I found it, so I'm just going to have to call this Day 1. I'm not sure who I'm writing to, since I don't think I've got very long to live, nor do I expect anyone who finds this diary to have long to live either. Maybe it will be found by people from a future society whose science (magic?) is sufficiently advanced to allow them to survive on this island. Maybe I'll be able to teach the dogs to read...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

REVIEW: Viewer Discretion Advised by Cindy Roesel



Viewer Discretion Advised features Charlene "Charley" Thomas - a smart, sassy, highly competitive thirtysomething television news executive producer. Charley's got maxed out credit cards and an office fridge stocked with vodka. Her boss, Jonathan Lefton, a.k.a "The Velvet Ax" is all about ratings, slash-and-burn newscasts - no matter who who gets hurt in the process. Charley is hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to impress Lefton. But will pleasing Lefton mean losing the man she loves? Filled with suspense, romance, and newsroom backbiting, Viewer Discretion Advised features a cast of ambitious adrenaline junkies.

Viewer Discretion Advised is "Sex and the City" meets "Broadcast News." It's this summer's hot new beach read!

About the Author
from her website
I was an intern at CNN in NYC when they first started in 1985 before I landed my first job in Tyler, Texas as a reporter. After Texas, I went to KLAS, Las Vegas where I was a news producer. I moved on to WGGB Springfield MA and then to WTNH New Haven, CT where I won my first Emmy. I joined WSVN, Miami in 1991 as a senior producer.  I reformatted the local evening news/entertainment show,”7:30” which consistently beat “ET” in the ratings. I returned to the front of the camera in 1995 at WPLG as their Style Reporter. In addition, I have worked for Fox News Channel as a Features Reporter and the All News Channel as Weekend Anchor.
Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter

My Thoughts
"What the hell is going on?" Charley yelled as she walked into the newsroom. A crowd of people gathered around her main anchor.
Charley Thomas finds herself the news director of a competitive Miami news station. She has her hands full, what with her back-stabbing and narcissistic new anchors, and with a no-holds-barred station manager calling the shots. Add to that a long-term casual relationship that is growing into something more, and an over-zealous suitor, and you begin to wonder whether she can handle it all.

Sex in the City meets WKRP in Cincinatti, I wasn't sure what to expect of this book. What I found was a fun story. Outrageous moments mixed with drama and mystery, we get to follow along as Charley navigates that crazy world of local news, as well as her own personal love life (which can get rather heated at times). I was left wondering whether this is what it is really like in the news industry, so full of narcissism and insanity, but dotted with some very hard-working and conscientious people. Even station manager Jonathan Lefton becomes quite likable by the end of the story.

My final word: Looking for a fun read? Looking for something to give you a glimpse into the news industry? Pick up Viewer Discretion Advised. You'll find all you were looking for.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are based on my own observations while reading this novel.