Monday, September 28, 2015

Mailbox Monday (9/28/15 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Received from TLC Book Tours

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.



Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam
Received from TLC Book Tours

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.
 



Brother by Ania Ahlborn
Received through Netgalley 

From the bestselling horror author of Within These Walls and The Bird Eater comes a brand-new novel of terror that follows a teenager determined to break from his family’s unconventional—and deeply disturbing—traditions.

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place…
 

Friday, September 25, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Microshelters by Derek Deidricksen

Synopsis

If you dream of living in a tiny house, or creating a getaway in the backwoods or your backyard, you’ll love this gorgeous collection of creative and inspiring ideas for tiny houses, cabins, forts, studios, and other microshelters. Created by a wide array of builders and designers around the United States and beyond, these 59 unique and innovative structures show you the limits of what is possible. Each is displayed in full-color photographs accompanied by commentary by the author. In addition, Diedricksen includes six sets of building plans by leading designers to help you get started on a microshelter of your own. You’ll also find guidelines on building with recycled and salvaged materials, plus techniques for making your small space comfortable and easy to inhabit.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Storey Publishing, LLC
ISBN 1612123538 (ISBN13: 9781612123530)



My Thoughts

They say good things come in small packages, and that's definitely true here! Being a fan of cabins and rustic homesteads, and drawn to small homes with little room for clutter (because my life is so cluttered!), I was looking forward to getting a look at this book, and it didn't disappoint.

Written with humor and passion, the book includes "Tiny Houses", "Backyard Cabins, Camps, and Hideaways", "Tree Houses and Stilted Shelters" and homes "On Wheels". This is then followed by a list of tools and materials, outlines where to salvage supplies and how to decorate on a budget, and an offering of six plans for backyard microshelters that you can build.

I enjoyed the author's writing and creativity (many of the structures were designed and built by the author), and the photography did a great job of showcasing the designs. I only wish that there were more homes ("Tiny Houses") and fewer of the other designs which mostly amount to shacks and clubhouses. While clever and well thought out, shacks and backyard clubhouses were not quite what I was looking for.

But overall this is a great effort, and perfect for people looking for a "tiny" bit of inspiration.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating: A-



The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  
 

SHARING: The Book Nerd's Guide to Canine Reading Habits

Nicole Hill of B&N Reads (of Barnes and Noble) shares her theory that her dog reads while waiting at home alone.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

REVIEW: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Synopsis

Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy.

Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.


Hardcover, 388 pages
Published June 16th 2015 by Crown
ISBN 0553418602 (ISBN13: 9780553418606)



About the Author
from Goodreads

"I'm forty-five and I live in the Atlanta suburbs with my wife and a whole bunch of dogs."

Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Goodreads
Follow the author on Twitter


My Thoughts
Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans call Highway 78.
I'm not sure how to summarize this book. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'm not a big Fantasy/Sci-Fi reader, so this one was a bit of a stretch for me, but it sounded interesting.

The first chapter started out great. Vague and alluding, creepy and disturbing, it left me wanting more. Then Chapter 2 started, and I didn’t know what the heck was going on for the next 80 pages. Like disjointed images from a dream, it just didn’t make sense to me. Are they kids? Are they animals? Is Father supposed to be “God”? Is this hell? Is Father the devil, and the kids are demons? What is going on here?

One minute they are having a conversation, and then they just throw in a jaguar growling, or deer that seem human (or are the humans deer?), and a disgusting guy covered in blood wearing a tutu, digging up graves to raise the dead. What the heck is going here???

There is no disputing that the author is a gifted wordsmith. It isn’t his writing style that I had a problem with, but the storyline and content.

I almost gave up on this book by about 50 pages in. I was frustrated, because the author was quite obviously a masterful writer. However it was like being inside of someone’s LSD trip. Just flashes of disjointed scenes that made little sense to me. Maybe this is typical fantasy, and fantasy just isn’t my cup of tea? But I had seen a review that said the first 100 pages didn’t make any sense, but then it turned around. So I hung in there.

Sure enough, the first three chapters had me tripping. Then the fourth chapter began, and FINALLY some sanity! I could follow along at last!

The pieces began to fall together, the picture began to clear. Carolyn was a tricky character. There wasn't a clear liking or not liking of her. She was a very complex character, very well written. Glimmers of compassion and gentleness amid brilliant detachment and cruelty.

The characters of the other children are less well-developed. Carolyn is closest to Michael, who seems gentle and sweet and brave. David is sheer chaos and brutality. Jennifer is like a hippie shaman. Margaret is simply out of her mind.

Carolyn seeks out Steve for a job. Steve has made some bad choices in life, but he's been staying clean. He's a bit of a Taoist...
“Are you a Buddhist?”

“No. I’m an asshole. But I keep trying.”

Carolyn brings him nothing but trouble, and tests his innate goodness.

There is a lot of religious symbolism in the book. Some of it may not be obvious to all, but would be to those more familiar with scripture.

Even when things were chaotic, confusing and insane, it was still a little genius. At one moment, there is a conversation about the ancient language of the Atul and a concept that essentially means “the moment when an innocent heart first contemplated the act of murder”. It said to the Atul “the crime itself was secondary to this initial corruption.” And another phrase which is “the moment when the last hope dies”. These concepts alone were brilliant!

My final word: I was initially nervous about my choice to read this book, but by chapter four it started to get under my skin. Little by little things came together, and I began to see the big picture. It became more engrossing as time went on, and I was really impressed with the writer's ability to captivate and draw me in. I'll still be hesitant to read fantasy and sci-fi, as I still think it is a shaky genre for me, but this author has definitely won me over!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating: A


The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through Blogging for Books, 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, September 17, 2015

Introducing... The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans call Highway 78. Most of the librarians, Carolyn included, had come to think of this road as the Path of Tacos, so-called in honor of a Mexican joint they snuck out to sometimes. The guacamole, she remembered, is really good. Her stomach rumbled. Oak leaves, reddish-orange and delightfully crunchy, crackled underfoot as she walked. Her breath puffed white in the predawn air. The obsidian knife she had used to murder Detective Miner lay nestled in the small of her back, sharp and secret.

She was smiling.

-- The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Crossroads by Tal Ronnen

Synopsis

Reinventing plant-based eating is what Tal Ronnen is all about. At his Los Angeles restaurant, Crossroads, the menu is vegan, but there are no soybeans or bland seitan to be found. He and his executive chef, Scot Jones, turn seasonal vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains into sophisticated Mediterranean fare—think warm bowls of tomato-sauced pappardelle, plates of spicy carrot salad, and crunchy flatbreads piled high with roasted vegetables. In Crossroads, Ronnen teaches readers to make his recipes and proves that the flavors we crave are easily replicated in dishes made without animal products. With accessible, unfussy recipes, Crossroads takes plant-based eating firmly out of the realm of hippie health food and into a cuisine that fits perfectly with today’s modern palate. The recipes are photographed in sumptuous detail, and with more than 100 of them for weeknight dinners, snacks and appetizers, special occasion meals, desserts, and more, this book is an indispensable resource for healthy, mindful eaters everywhere.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: October 6th 2015 by Artisan
ISBN 1579656366 (ISBN13: 9781579656362)



About the Author

Tal Ronnen, founder and chef of Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles and author of the New York Times bestseller The Conscious Cook, became known nationwide as the chef who prepared the meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse. He has made his culinary mark at a number of high-profile events, having catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding, Arianna Huffington’s party at the Democratic National Convention, and U.S. Senate dinners. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, Ronnen is the co-creator of Kite Hill Cheese, the first nondairy cheese sold at the high-end cheese counter at Whole Foods, and is a collaborating chef at the Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas.


My Thoughts

I wanted to loooove this cookbook! It sounded so good. I loved the concept. The photography was beautiful! The recipes look like what I'd love to eat in a restaurant. The trouble is I don't want to cook them at home. There are too many ingredients, too many tools, too many steps. I just don't have the patience for this kind of cooking. That's why I eat out!  I would recommend this to people who don't mind putting some real effort into dinner!

My Rating:





 

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.
 
I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  


 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mailbox Monday (9/14/15 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Five Thousand Years of Slavery by Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen
Won through LibraryThing 

When they were too impoverished to raise their families, ancient Sumerians sold their children into bondage. Slave women in Rome faced never-ending household drudgery. The ninth-century Zanj were transported from East Africa to work the salt marshes of Iraq. Cotton pickers worked under terrible duress in the American South.

Ancient history? Tragically, no. In our time, slavery wears many faces. James Kofi Annan's parents in Ghana sold him because they could not feed him. Beatrice Fernando had to work almost around the clock in Lebanon. Julia Gabriel was trafficked from Arizona to the cucumber fields of South Carolina.

Five Thousand Years of Slavery provides the suspense and emotional engagement of a great novel. It is an excellent resource with its comprehensive historical narrative, firsthand accounts, maps, archival photos, paintings and posters, an index, and suggestions for further reading. Much more than a reference work, it is a brilliant exploration of the worst - and the best - in human society.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

REVIEW: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Synopsis

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.


Hardcover, 295 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 1476729085 (ISBN13: 9781476729084)


About the Author

Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn his hand to fiction. His first novel, The Rosie Project, was published in 2013 and translation rights have been sold in over thirty-five languages. Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne, and their two children. 


My Thoughts
I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.
Don works in Genetics, and he has some form of Asperger's.
"Fault! Asperger's isn't a fault. It's a variant. It's potentially a major advantage. Asperger's syndrome is associated with organization, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment."
Being someone who is adept at organizing data and making logical decisions, he has begun what he calls the Wife Project. He has made the determination that he needs a wife, but is having difficulty finding one suitable. In his case, "suitable" means finding a woman that can score high on Don's questionnaire, which is designed to help him filter out women who are unsuitable wife material, such as women concerned with their appearance, those who are late for appointments, who smoke, or who like the wrong flavor of ice cream.

Don's best friend is Gene, a psychology professor who spends his time trying to sleep with exotic women from around the world, supposedly with the consent of his wife Claudia. Then one day Don meets Rosie, who is on a mission of her own. She is trying to find her father, but she has very little to go on. She and Don team up for the Father Project, as he assists her in her endeavors.

This book was a book club selection, and one of the women in my book club has an adult son with Asperger's. So she could really identify with this book, and said that the depiction of Don was done very well.

I really liked Don. He knew he was different, he knew his condition makes him a little "weird" to others, and that his behavior is sometimes considered rude or inappropriate. He tries to conform when necessary, but sometimes falls short. He tries-- he really does! And Rosie is her own woman. She's offbeat, marches to the beat of her own drum, and she takes no guff from anyone!

My final word: I enjoyed this story, which I believe has been optioned for a movie. It's quirky, and at times is even slapstick humor. I liked the characters. The story could be a little preposterous at times, but that lent well to the "slapstick" feel of the story. Overall this was a fun and fast read.

My Rating: 
 

SHARING: Tsundoku


Friday, September 11, 2015

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo

Synopsis

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.


Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Harper Paperbacks
ISBN 0062390546 (ISBN13: 9780062390547) 



About the Author

Melissa DeCarlo was born and raised in Oklahoma City, and has worked as an artist, graphic designer, grant writer, and even (back when computers were the size of refrigerators) a computer programmer. The Art of Crash Landing is her first novel. Melissa now lives in East Texas with her husband and a motley crew of rescue animals. 

Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter



My Thoughts
Twenty-seven minutes is, if anyone ever asks, exactly how long it takes to cram everything I own into six giant trash bags. 
Mattie is a bit of a mess. She just left her abusive musician boyfriend Nick and really has no backup plan. Her alcoholic mother Genie has been dead for years, and she eventually finds herself at her ex-stepfather Queeg's place (the only father she's ever known). While there she learns that her maternal grandmother Tilda (whom she never met) has died, and Tilda's estate attorneys have been attempting to contact Mattie (who has been reliably unavailable). With nothing else going for her and no goals in sight, Mattie hits the road and heads to Oklahoma with visions of inheritance in her eyes.

Mattie's mother was always elusive and mysterious, but while in her mother's childhood hometown, Mattie begins to uncover her mother's past. Old high school classmates of her mother, distant relatives and old beaus all seem reluctant to share information about Genie. Luckily Mattie is able to unearth some clues on her own.
“I don’t know what that means, Matt, but I do know that your mother did her best.”

I consider that for a few seconds. “No. She left her best here,” I say. “We just got what was left.”

He sighs, and then he says, “It was enough.”

“No it wasn’t.”

I really liked Mattie. She's funny, she's smart (although she uses her intelligence to manipulate people), sarcastic and tough. She might be a little much to deal with in real life, but as a character in a book, I really like her! And I liked Queeg (a nickname Mattie gave him, after the character in The Caine Mutiny). He is really understanding and patient, although perhaps a bit of an enabler, but he is good for Mattie (although Mattie refers to him as being the most "uncool" person she knows). He has been the only stable thing in Mattie's life since she was thirteen.
Queeg always said that normal people are just people you don’t know very well…

I also liked a lot of the other characters, but I don't want to get into detail about them and ruin the story for someone else (i.e. old classmate Karleen, paralegal Luke, angst-ridden Tawny. And the Winstons!)

Mattie is fighting the ultimate battle against her self. She is becoming her mother. Will learning about her mother's childhood and what made her the way she was help Mattie to stave off the self-destruction that has always held her back in life?

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, September 8th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 10th: The Book Bag
Friday, September 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, September 15th: Literary Lindsey
Wednesday, September 16th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, September 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, September 18th: bookchickdi
Friday, September 18th: Fuelled by Fiction
Wednesday, September 23rd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, September 24th: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, September 25: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, September 28th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, September 30th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, October 1st: A Bookish Affair
Monday, October 5th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, October 6th: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, October 7th: Novel Escapes
Thursday, October 8th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, October 9th: My Book Retreat
Monday, October 12th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, October 13th: Imaginary Reads
Tuesday, October 13th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 14th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, October 14th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 15th: Joyfully Retired

My final word: I enjoyed the writing. It was a playful and fast read with colorful characters. The author does a good job of building the story and providing well-developed characters. It is told first-person, with flashbacks providing insight into Mattie's past. The author succeeds in creating a severely flawed and screwed up character in Mattie, while she is able to keep her likable and sympathetic. The banter is fun, and counter-balanced with some deeply emotional and revealing moments. I really liked this story, and the author's writing style!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating:







The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.