Monthly Wrap Up

June 2014 Wrap-Up

I had a pretty decent month of reading in June. I had some enjoyable reads this month, but I did slow down considerably after I got back from vacation to learn that my grandmother was very ill in the hospital. Then she got placed into a nursing home rehab facility. So to say the last half of June was pretty hectic and stressful is an understatement. But I was able to escape a little through my reading, which is always nice! Here’s what I read in June.

Books read: 5 (YTD: 30)

Eyes on YouIf I Can't Have YouKilling FloorDirtThe Qualities of Wood

Eyes on You by Kate White
If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children by Gregg Olsen & Rebecca Morris
Killing Floor by Lee Child
Dirt by Stuart Woods
The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White

Pages read: 1881 (YTD: 10,619)

Challenge Progress:

Eclectic Reader Challenge: 5/12
Official TBR Pile Challenge: 5/12
What’s in a Name Challenge: 2/5

Books received: 9 (see list here)

Hard copy Review books: 2
Purchased Used: 5
Purchased New: 1
Paperbackswap: 1

Memes posted: 4

Events Participated In: None

Recipes shared: None

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Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, June 30, 2014

Mailbox Monday has returned home to Mailbox Monday’s site this year.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks at my house. We went to the Dominican Republic for 4 days to see one of my very closest friends get married (she had a gorgeous ceremony!). When we got home we were immediately informed that my 77-year-old grandmother had been in the hospital with pneumonia since the day we left for the DR. So it’s been insane going back and forth between home and where she’s at (about an hour away). They cleared up the pneumonia but she’s too weak to take care of herself at home. So we had to put her in a nursing home rehab facility so she can get the help she needs in order to get her back to where she can live at home again. Needless to say, I’ve been slightly stressed out about everything going on. So my husband surprised me one day with a spontaneous trip to my absolute favorite used book store 2 hours away! And a little clothes shopping too 🙂 But here’s the five books I picked up (for $5.78 … see why it’s my favorite place!?!)

PhantomGhost CountryChild 44The Burden of ProofPleading Guilty

 


And then I got one book for review, from Blogging for Books:

The Execution of Noa P. SingletonNoa P. Singleton never spoke a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ended with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, she sits on death row in a maximum-security penitentiary, just six months away from her execution date.

Meanwhile, Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing, shows up for a visit. She claims to have changed her mind about the death penalty and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute Noa’s sentence in return for the one thing Noa can trade: her story. Marlene wants to understand the events that led to her daughter’s death – events that only Noa knows of and has never shared. Inextricably linked by murder but with very different goals, Noa and Marlene wrestle with the sentences life itself can impose while they confront the best and worst of what makes us human.

 

READING CHALLENGES 2014

#TBRChallengeRBR Checkpoint 6

2014tbrbutton

Well, here we are at the sixth TBR Challenge checkpoint.

In June I managed to read one book off my list. I’m still technically one book behind, but at least I didn’t get any further behind 🙂

This month I chose to read Killing Floor by Lee Child. I had actually tried to read this book last year and ended up putting it aside. I held onto my copy though, because I knew that I wanted to try again with this book. So I took it with me on vacation and gobbled it up! I read all 524 pages the first 3 days of my 4 day trip. I will admit I skipped out on some stuff with the group of people just to sneak in a few more pages. (Yes, I am anti-social like that).

Overall, I’m glad I finally read this first installment to the Jack Reacher series. However, I am so upset with myself that I watched the Jack Reacher movie before meeting Jack Reacher in the book. Boo. It kind of ruined it a little bit for me. Because having the description of Jack Reacher that Mr. Child gives in this book and yet constantly picturing Tom Cruise … well, it’s disappointing really. Couldn’t Hollywood do a little better casting?! After reading this book and really thinking on it … Jason Statham. That’s who I’d cast.

I’m not sure where I’ll head next with my list for this challenge. Here’s what I’ve still got left to choose from, which one would you choose next!??!:

  1. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
  2. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
  3. The Hunt for Atlantis by Andy McDermott
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  5. Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  7. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

Alternates:

  1. Mallory’s Oracle by Carol O’Connell
  2. McNally’s Secret by Lawrence Sanders
Life, Miscellaneous Ramblings

Life Lately…

It’s been insane in my world lately. And probably not in the best way possible, either.

We started the month of June by throwing Garrett his second birthday party (actual birthday is 5/30). Poor kid was sick at his own party. He went to the doctor the next day and was diagnosed with pink eye and allergies. He went back to the doctor three days later and was diagnosed with bronchitis. Kid can’t win. (He’s healthy now, though!)

Then it was hectic at my work because a co-worker was off for an unknown amount of time due to her husband having to have emergency heart surgery. Luckily I think she only missed 3 weeks … but it was the worst 3 weeks to miss at our work! So in addition to doing my work I had to pick up half of her work. And it was at the first of the month (billing) and the 10th of the month (payables). Ugh. But I made it through knowing that my mini-vacation was right around the corner.

And we had a blast on vacation. We left the kiddo at home and went to the Dominican Republic to see one of my very closest friends get married. She had a beautiful beach ceremony and a lovely reception at the Italian restaurant on the compound of our all-inclusive resort. It was a very nice time. And like I said very much needed after the previous weeks I had with all the work. But we did miss Garrett like crazy. We *could* have taken him with us, we were at a child-friendly all-inclusive resort. But we knew with the wedding/reception we would need help and he had to be 3 to be eligible for the children’s area. And since no one seemed interested in going to the DR with us for 4 nights, we left him home with the grandparents.

But it was what we were met with upon our return from vacation that has been the most difficult. My grandmother had been taken to the hospital the day we left for vacation. I knew she had been having some issues with a nagging cough. But she had seen her doctor and had medicine, and my mom said she seemed to be doing better. Maybe it was my mom not telling me the whole story, I don’t know. Either way, she was in the hospital with pneumonia. And her white blood cell count was through the roof. (Normal is under 10, she was at 24). So we got home late Monday night and Tuesday we were at the hospital visiting my grandmother. She looked horrible. The first time we saw her she wasn’t even aware of her surroundings. Never woke up the entire time we were there. The next time I went to see her she was at least opening her eyes and was aware of who I was, that was a wonderful thing for me to see after seeing her like she was before!

Now she’s got the pneumonia cleared up, but we’ve had to place her in a nursing home rehab facility to get her stronger. She’s on oxygen 24/7 now (and likely will be for the rest of her life) and she has therapy twice a day to get her strength back. Unfortunately, she was also diagnosed with dementia. We knew that her mind had been failing her for the last two years, but we were unaware of how badly she had deteriorated. My grandfather had really been covering for her so we wouldn’t know. It’s tough to know that it’s possible in a year or two she might not have any clue as to who I am. It just breaks my heart when I think about it really.

So that’s kind of where I am right now. I feel bad for my mom and aunt who are having to do so much when they can only do so little. My grandfather is in denial as to how badly my grandmother needs help. He doesn’t want her to remain in the nursing home indefinitely. They have the money for in-home care, but he doesn’t want anyone in his house. He wants to take her home with him and have it the way it was before she went to the hospital. Unfortunately that’s not going to be able to happen. He is so deaf that if she got up and fell in the middle of the night, he would never hear her yell for help. They will have to have care. But he’s fighting it tooth and nail. So of course my mother is incredibly stressed out and I hate seeing my family in this turmoil.

On the reading side, I’ve just started reading the book, Elizabeth is Missing for a TLC book tour. Unfortunately I’m having a very hard time getting through it. I’m only on about page 65 and have been “reading” it for three days now. The main character has dementia/Alzheimer’s. And I just can’t stand to read it knowing that that’s what my grandmother is going through. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on this review and it bums me out because when I was pitched this book it sounded so interesting. Now it’s just hitting too close to home. Part of me wants to read it just to have a better understanding of what she’s going through, the other part can’t bear to know what she’s going through. I don’t know what I’ll do with it yet.

Well that’s enough moping about my problems for now. I’m sorry to have unloaded it all on my readers, but I really needed to get it all out.

Hopefully things will start getting better in my world.

Until next time … have a great weekend!!

3/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2014, Review Book, U-V-W

2014.30 REVIEW – The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White

The Qualities of Wood
by Mary Vensel White

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 312
Rating: 3/5
Read: June 19-25, 2014
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 30
Format:  Print
Source: Publicist for Review
Series: N/A

The Qualities of WoodBlurb: When Betty Gardiner dies, leaving behind an unkempt country home, her grandson and his young wife take a break from city life to prepare the house for sale. Nowell Gardiner leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel. By the time his wife Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. Even after the death is ruled an accident, Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behavior of her neighbors, or her husband. As Vivian attempts to put the house in order, all around her things begin to fall apart.

The Qualities of Wood is a novel about secrets. Family secrets. Community secrets. And secrets between lovers, past and present. And all of these secrets have their price.


Review: I received a copy of this book for free for review purposes, all opinions expressed below are my own.

When I was first pitched this book, it sounded really great. I was definitely excited about getting the chance to read and review it.

However, I was ultimately let down by this book. Maybe I had too high of hopes for it, I don’t know. But it didn’t end up being the book that I had hoped for. To bill this book as a “mystery” is not entirely correct in my opinion. Because there wasn’t much mystery at all in it. And I think that’s what I was disappointed in. When the blurb talks about a dead girl and secrets, I automatically think: mystery. But this book does not fit that bill.

The ending was extremely rushed. You had 300 pages of build-up to finally figure out what was really going on. Three hundred pages. And twelve pages of Vivian, Lonnie, and Nowell running around in the woods behind the house. I just expected more. I wanted more answers. I wanted Vivian to step up her game and really question Nowell with the revelations he made. I wanted more than I got.

Now, I will say this about the book, the writing was impeccable. It flowed so beautifully in places. The characters were all interesting in their own way. I keep coming back to the idea that maybe things were left the way they were to open the door for another meeting of Vivian and Nowell. I could definitely see them still in Grandma Gardiner’s house raising a few children. There could be plenty of material still there to explore with some of the holes in this book.

So there is definitely good points to this book and I would ultimately recommend it to other readers. However, if mystery/thrillers are your main thing, I don’t think it will necessarily work for you. But if you like literary fiction, this one will probably be a home run for you.

Overall, a good book, but not what I was hoping for.

First chapter, Meme

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros #22

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Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts this meme.

The Qualities of Wood

Today I’m featuring a book that I am currently reading for review. 

In the small, congested airport, Vivian didn’t recognize her husband. Summertime. Outside, the sun beamed white on the runway and grassy fields. Inside, the terminal was stuffy and warm. Vivian passed a group of brightly-clothed summer slowly along an eye-level, smudged window and into the crowded inlet beside the gate, all the while hunting for Nowell. Somehow, she walked right by.

She imagined the terminal was normally empty, the surrounding community being rural and unworldly. But it was the season of vacations: eastern hometowns, tropical beaches, exotic cities. Not everyone was headed to an abandoned house in the country, she thought. The travelers dispersed purposefully, trailing loved ones or heading solo toward the cars parked in rows at the front of the building. Vivian was pulled along with the crowd. Nowell was late. At first she felt irritated but quickly dismissed the feeling. It was a reunion, after all.

A large hand gripped her shoulder and she spun around.

I accepted this one for review when I was contacted about it. It immediately caught my eye and so far I’m really enjoying it! I sure hope you stop back by in a little bit when I post my final thoughts!

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, June 23, 2014

Mailbox Monday has returned home to Mailbox Monday’s site this year.

Two books in my mailbox this past week. One for review, one a wishlist book from Paperbackswap.

For review:

Don't Try to Find MeThough the message on the kitchen whiteboard is in fourteen-year-old Marley’s handwriting, her mother, Rachel, knows there has to be some other explanation. Marley would never run away.

Marley’s quiet. Innocent. Sheltered. Growing up in Northern California with all the privilege Rachel never had, what does Marley know about taking care of herself? About being okay?

Rachel might not know her daughter at all. But she does know that she needs to find Marley before someone else does. Someone dangerous.

The police have limited resources devoted to runaways. If Rachel and her husband, Paul, want their daughter back, they’ll have to find her themselves. Paul turns to Facebook and Twitter and launches FindMarley.com.

But Marley isn’t the only one with something to hide. Paul’s social media campaign generates national attention, and the public scrutiny could expose Rachel’s darkest secrets. When she blows a television interview, the dirty speculation begins.

The blogosphere is convinced Rachel is hiding something. It’s not what they think; Rachel would never hurt Marley. Not intentionally, anyway. But when it’s discovered that Rachel lied to the police, the devoted mother becomes the prime suspect in Marley’s disappearance.

Is Marley out there, somewhere, watching it all happen … or is the truth something far worse?


And from Paperbackswap:

Five ChiefsWhen he resigned in June 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens was the third-longest-serving Supreme Court justice in American history. As a lawyer and on the Court, he worked with five chief justices – Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and John Roberts. Five Chiefs is his account of the workings of the Court from his personal experiences with these chief justices: as a law clerk during Vinson’s tenure, a practicing lawyer when Warren was chief, a circuit judge and junior justice during Burger’s term, a contemporary colleague of Rehnquist’s, and a colleague of the current chief justice, John Roberts.

The chief justice of the United States has often been described as the “first among equals.” Known and deeply respected for his candor, Stevens discusses his views of these men and his own career, from his law school days until the moment he left the bench. He includes fascinating information about the Court and about many of the most complex and controversial decisions he was involved with – including cases dealing with freedom of speech, affirmative action, capital punishment, and sovereign immunity. And he explores the human side of life at the Court, along the way revealing, among other things, why having a good backhand might get someone a clerkship and the legal impact of moving a conference room table.

Written with humility and grace, Five Chiefs is an unprecedented and historically significant look at the highest court in the United States.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2014, SERIES, Stone Barrington, U-V-W

2014.29 REVIEW – Dirt by Stuart Woods

Dirt
by Stuart Woods

Copyright: 1996
Pages: 417
Rating: 3/5
Read: June 16-18, 2014
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 29
Format:  Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: Stone Barrington #2

DirtBlurb: Feared and loathed for her poison pen and ice-queen persona, gossip columnist Amanda Dart has made her share of enemies. Then the tables are turned. An anonymous gossipmonger is faxing Amanda’s personal and private peccadilloes to anyone who can read. Desperate to save her reputation, she enlists the help of New York lawyer and private investigator Stone Barrington to learn the identity of the faxer. And everyone in the world of tabloid journalism becomes a suspect.

But the faxes don’t stop. In fact, they get worse. And Stone winds up with more leads than one man can handle, until Amanda takes matters dangerously into her own hands and turns the world of gossip on its head. As the circle of suspects shrinks, Stone discovers that even the most respected members of the social scene will stop at nothing – even homicide – to clear their sullied names, in this mesmerizing tale of betrayal, murder, and tabloid terror.


Review: This was the second book that I took with me on vacation. I didn’t know if I would get to it, but I was able to start it the morning we left and I read nearly all of it that day while on my flights home. 

As with the first book in this series, New York Dead, which I read just a little bit ago, this book was so readable. The pages just flew by.

However, it wasn’t perfect. I had a little bit of an issue with just how easily and quickly Stone jumped into bed with multiple women throughout the entire book. Most of it was completely unnecessary in my personal opinion.

I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series. So far I’m finding these books to be extremely easy reads and fun. I hope the series continues on this trend.

4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, C, Fiction, Jack Reacher, RATING, Read in 2014, READING CHALLENGES 2014, SERIES

2014.28 REVIEW – Killing Floor by Lee Child

Killing Floor
by Lee Child

Copyright: 1997
Pages: 524
Rating: 4/5
Read: June 12-15, 2014
Challenge: TBR Pile Challenge
Yearly count: 28
Format:  Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: Jack Reacher #1

Killing FloorBlurb: Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.


Review: Sometime last year I picked this book up and put it back down after about 50 pages. It just didn’t catch my attention at the time like I needed it to. But I held onto my copy because I really wanted to read this book, I just had to catch it at the right time. 

Apparently my beach vacation is exactly what I needed for this book to “work” for me. Because I absolutely devoured this book! I couldn’t get enough of it. I started it on the plane, and I read snippets of it here and there every chance I could get. Including some time by the ocean 🙂

There’s not much I can say about this book that probably hasn’t been said a million times. Although I have to say that I’m a little irritated that I saw the Jack Reacher movie before I read this book. Because all I could think of all throughout the book was how Tom Cruise is just wrong, wrong, wrong as Jack Reacher.

Regardless of that, though, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the plot line was interesting. The characters were all well-developed. Actually, I was surprised as to how developed they were seeing as how Reacher is a drifter. Will this cast of characters reappear in later installments?

Either way, I’m definitely interested in meet Mr. Reacher again in the near future!

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, M, Nonfiction, O, RATING, Read in 2014, READING CHALLENGES 2014

2014.27 REVIEW – If I Can’t Have You by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris

If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children
by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris

Copyright: 2014
Pages: 322
Rating: 5/5
Read: June 5-7, 2014
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge
Yearly count: 27
Format:  Print
Source: Library
Series: None

Blurb: New York Times bestselling authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris investigate one of the twenty-first century’s most puzzling disappearances and how it resulted in the murder of two children by their father.

Every once in a great while a genuine murder mystery unfolds before the eyes of the American public. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the JonBenet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. When the pretty Utah mother went missing in December of 2009, the media was swept up in the story – with lenses and microphones trained on Susan’s husband, Josh. He said he had no idea what happened to his young wife, and that he and the boys had been camping in the middle of a snowstorm.

Over the next three years, bombshell by bombshell, the story would reveal more shocking secrets. Josh’s father, Steve, who was sexually obsessed with Susan, would ultimately be convicted of unspeakable perversion. Josh’s brother, Michael, would commit suicide. And in the most stunning event of them all, Josh Powell would murder his two little boys and kill himself with a brutality beyond belief, leaving a family destroyed and a nation in shock.


Review: In my late teens and early twenties, I gobbled up true crime. In any way, shape, or form. I just devoured it. From books to documentaries, to CourtTV … I couldn’t get enough true crime! Then I kind of got away from it. I still occasionally catch a TV show here or there, but for the most part, I’ve really not devoted much time to my love of true crime. 

But then I had seen the pre-publication publicity for this book and I was immediately intrigued. So I put myself on my library’s wait list and was excited when it came in. But what I wasn’t expecting was to absolutely devour it. Like in 3 days.

I learned a lot of stuff by reading this book. I remember the Susan Powell disappearance. And I remember Josh’s weird behavior. And I remember the absolute heartbreaking news that Josh had killed his two precious little boys. But I didn’t know a lot of the fine details. Which, after reading the book, a lot of people didn’t because the police never released a whole lot of information until after the case was officially closed. And by then, I’m not sure how many people were still interested.

I was really surprised by how tight-lipped the police department really was. It was almost as if they didn’t want to pursue the case. Knowing what I know now, they were doing things that a lot of people didn’t know. However, I finished this book with the profound feeling that Charlie and Braden could be alive and well today had the police department done a little bit more. I know how difficult it is to progress with such circumstantial evidence. But at the same time, I think Susan’s father had it right all along … Josh would have broken down in jail. He wouldn’t have reacted to that well and I think he would have talked.

Now, do I have a strong feeling as to what really happened to Susan? No. I can’t say whether I think it was an accident, premeditated, or if Josh was just a participant, not the actual offender. I do think that there is only one person alive today that knows where Susan actually is … Steve. I think Charlie and Braden saw something that night “camping.” And they were desperately trying to process it, you could see that in their behavior after Susan was missing. I think Josh’s brother Michael knew something, why else would Josh make him beneficiary to his life insurance … and why would he commit suicide when the police focused on him?

This book left me with a lot of questions. But that’s the ultimate problem with this case. There are so many unanswered questions.

Regardless of what you know or think you know about Susan Powell’s disappearance, I can’t recommend this book enough. It reads so easily. It’s not dry or hard to read. It puts things in such a light that you heart will break over and over again before you reach the end.