Thursday, October 30, 2014

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying

by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying is Faulkner's harrowing account of the Bundren family's odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members—including Addie herself—the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.
I've read a lot of reviews where people said this book is confusing and not readable.  It didn't really seem all that confusing to me.  If you try to understand every sentence you're not going to get anywhere and it will be difficult to understand.  Just go along with it and everything will be fine.  I think that's true of most stream of consciousness type books.
Faulkner has a way with words and it's a beautiful thing.  There isn't a strong, overreaching plot to this one.  It's more about family, human nature, and selfishness.  You won't find many likeable characters but you will get a glimpse into the lives of people who are so delightfully messed-up.

That ending, though?

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Hour in the Darkness by Michael Bailey

An Hour in the Darkness

by Michael Bailey

Michael’s novel begins when his narrator, Franklin, suffers a bang on his head that jars his grasp on reality. Franklin begins his desperate journey through his home town in his search of love, forgiveness and understanding. He finds comfort in conversations with his young sister Jenny – but as he reveals himself to be a highly unreliable narrator, we must ask if Jenny exists or is merely a figment of his troubled mind?
Franklin is increasingly losing touch with reality when, against the backdrop of a local landmark he meets a man he believes to be God. This stranger tells of his own son who had similar problems and in his increasing confusion Franklin believes the man is likening him to Jesus. As Franklin’s life spirals further out of control his behaviour becomes ever more erratic, culminating in his touching, frightening attempts to win the affections of market-girl Ronnie, who is fascinated and frightened in turn by this strange, funny, ill young man.

Dealing with such universal themes as loss, love, guilt, forgiveness, relationships and mental health, this is an unsettling, but powerful, novel which will appeal to readers of books such as The Shock of the Fall.
*I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley*
The author has said that he was hugely inspired by J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and even though I am only a few pages into Salinger's book, I can definitely see it.  There is a tough-guy stream of consciousness feel to this book that I really like.  Franklin is a confusing character even before the bang on the head, and afterward his narration is a dark walk through madness. 
I really liked this one.  It kept me interested in the character because I was seeing the world through the eyes of someone who was insane.  It was refreshing, in a vaguely creepy way.  He's not a good person but I still felt a lot of empathy toward him.
I would recommend it to Salinger fans and people who love stories about madness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shroom by Becky Selengut

Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms



Chef and cooking teacher Becky Selengut's Shroom feeds our enduring passion for foraged and wild foods by exploring 15 types of mushrooms, including detailed how-to's on everything home cooks need to know to create 75 inventive, internationally-flavored mushroom dishes.

 The button mushroom better make room on the shelf. We're seeing a growing number of supermarkets displaying types of mushrooms that are leaving shoppers scratching their heads. Home cooks are buying previously obscure species from growers and gatherers at local farmers markets and adventurous cooks are collecting all manners of edible mushrooms in the woods. People are asking the question, "Now that I have it, what do I do with it?" Home cooks and chefs alike will need a book and an educated guide to walk them through the basics of cooking everything from portobellos and morels to chanterelles and the increasingly available, maitake, oyster, and beech mushrooms.

Shroom is that book and Chef Becky Selengut is that tour guide. In a voice that's informed, but friendly and down-to-earth, Selengut's Shroom is a book for anyone looking to add mushrooms to their diet, find new ways to use mushrooms as part of a diet trending towards less meat, or diversify their repertoire with mushroom-accented recipes inspired from Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines, among others. Recipes include maitake tikka masala, caramel-braised king trumpet mushrooms with bao buns and cabbage slaw, and simpler fare such as mushrooms and grits with fried egg. Written in a humorous voice, Becky Selengut guides the home cook through 15 species-specific chapters on mushroom cookery with the same levity and expertise she brought to the topic of sustainable seafood in her IACP-nominated 2011 book Good Fish. Selengut's wife and sommelier April Pogue once again teams up to provide wine pairings for each of the 75 recipes.
*I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley*
 My husband and I love mushrooms.  He wants to find mushrooms in the wild and I would really prefer to buy them from a store or the farmer's market so I know we won't die from mushroom poisoning.  It's an ongoing debate. 
This is a beautiful book.  The photographs are amazing and I like the layout a lot.  I haven't tried any of the recipes yet because I know that will start the "we should go mushroom hunting" conversation again.  But I really, really want to make some of these recipes. 
This is a great book for mushroom-lovers and home cooks alike.


The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe

The Knowledgeable Knitter

by Margaret Radcliffe

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley*

I didn't realize that this book was for the advanced knitter- of which I am not!  I love to knit even though I still make a lot of mistakes.  I am slowly learning more techniques and trying to make mistakes less frequently.  I'm not comfortable enough to draft my own patterns or even to modify an existing pattern. 
Someday in the future when I am advanced enough I can see myself finding a copy of this book to learn new techniques, or to help me understand the math behind my knitting.  Everything is clearly explained and there are a lot of diagrams and photographs.  At the moment it's just a little too much for my brain to handle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

At the Mountains of Madness




This Lovecraft classic is a must-have for every fan of classic terror. When a geologist leads an expedition to the Antarctic plateau, his aim is to find rock and plant specimens from deep within the continent. The barren landscape offers no evidence of any life form - until they stumble upon the ruins of a lost civilization. Strange fossils of creatures unknown to man lead the team deeper, where they find carved stones dating back millions of years. But it is their discovery of the terrifying city of the Old Ones that leads them to an encounter with an untold menace.

I really liked this one. H.P. Lovecraft takes his time to set the scene and he does it with such detail that it becomes very real to the reader. It's not a good book if you're in a hurry or looking for a lot of action. You have to take your time with it.

His writing reminds me a lot of classic movies, which rely on shadows and increasing the tension slowly...until you just want to pull your hair out because you know that this discovery is going to be very bad and maybe you don't really want to talk to that old lady in the swivel chair.

Awakening Foster Kelly by Cara Rosalie Olsen

Awakening Foster Kelly

by Cara Rosalie Olsen

If only a pile of wayward curls and the inability to stay on her feet were seventeen year-old Foster Kelly’s most pressing concerns. Unfortunately, stubborn hair and clumsiness is just the tip of it. It was only a mistake, but when at the age of five Foster is told “You don’t belong here” the result is one broken heart. These four carelessly spoken words have shaped and shadowed Foster, and now—a senior at Shorecliffs High School—she seeks the wallflower’s existence, denying herself the most casual of friendships, much too afraid that someone will see what Foster believes is certain: she does not belong anywhere – or with anyone. This reality would continue to suit her just fine, however . . .

Love has a long-standing history of undoing broken hearts.

Like a comet, an unexpected arrival knocks Foster out of the crowded, starry sky, sending her directly into the limelight. Exposed and afraid, she will attempt to regain anonymity; but it isn’t so easy now that someone is watching. He pursues this shy enigma, confronting Foster’s deepest fears head-on, and in the process falls wholly and completely in love with her. But there is something he is not saying; a secret capable of certain ruin. There are two probable outcomes: either he will break her heart once and for all, or he will heal it.

In the end, though, it is Foster who must decide if she is worth mending.

What to say about this book?
I read this one because the author reached out to me through GR and asked if I would review her book. It sounded pretty good so I went for it.

This book was way too long for the type of story it is. Everything was described in detail. And I mean everything.

Almost every time a new character was introduced there was a flashback to show how the MC had first met them. There were dream sequences that lasted for pages and pages and added nothing to the story or character development. I kept waiting for something to happen. Was there a reason for this book to be so long? I understand that it was supposed to be character-driven, but even character-driven novels have to have a basic plot. There was no rising action, no payoff, nothing to keep my attention. This book wandered a lot, got lost a few times, and then rushed to the finish.

Did we really need 679 pages about a shy girl who does nothing but go to school, talk to her friends, and fantasize about the cute boy who's been giving her some attention? That's it. That's the entire story in a nutshell. I didn't stop reading, though, because I had heard about a surprise twist that had people shocked and awed and they said things like "OMG that was so good!"

Really? Really?? The twist didn't add anything to the story, it only undermined everything we've read so far!

I also had a big problem with the writing style. It was too contrived and it didn't feel natural at all.

“The moral debate was suddenly not so much a debate, but a reproving outcry, derived from a very distant part of my mind I currently paid very little attention to. As I crept closer to the ajar door, an instinct like nothing I had ever felt took over. Tiptoeing softly, I took care not to drag the soles of my feet. I nearly ruined everything when I lost my balance, and was forced to clench my teeth to avoid making any noise. Despite my best efforts to quiet my landing, my hands slapped noisily against the wall as I steadied myself. Cringing and palpitating, I waited to see if someone would emerge from the room. When that didn’t happen, I permitted myself a rewarding gasp of oxygen and bent at the waist to catch my breath. With a moue, I stared at the objects responsible for my trouble- my two hapless feet.”

This is one paragraph from a scene where she is sneaking down the school hallway to eavesdrop on a conversation. The entire sneaking scene takes up several pages. Several. Pages. O.o

*beyond irritated*

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beloved Healer by Bonnie Dee

Beloved Healer

by Bonnie Dee

The healing power of love.

His special ability to heal at a touch seems to be slowly draining the life out of Mason Reed. It might be a blessing for the people he heals, but feels like a curse to him. Hiding out in a small town, he just wants to work his menial job while he gets his strength back—no helping and no entanglements. But when he meets waitress Ava Wheaton, avoiding involvement becomes impossible.

Ava has her plate full working to support herself, her disabled younger brother and her alcoholic mother. She doesn’t need the distraction of falling for a stranger who’s just passing through, yet can’t deny the magnetic attraction between her and Mason. They begin a tentative romance, each finding something they seek in the other.

When Mason’s power eventually comes to light, the locals learn his secret and people begin asking for help. He must decide whether to move on to avoid the pressure of their needs. Will he continue to drift through life, not truly committing to anything, or is his relationship with Ava worth fighting for? And when Ava’s brother needs his help, will Mason make the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loves?
I liked this one.  It's the first M/F book I've read by Bonnie Dee.  I loved the other books I've read by her so I thought I'd give this one a shot. 
I was intrigued by Mason and I tolerated Ava.  This is not unusual for me.  I have a difficult time relating to heroines, anyway.  I liked that both characters were a little messed-up but their personalities complimented each other nicely. 
There were a few things that I wish Ms. Dee had explained more.  Some details were just glossed over and even the main characters didn't seem to be trying to understand it.  I think in reality they would be trying to figure out why that happened and if it can be done again.  Most people don't just let things like that go. 
All in all, Beloved Healer was pretty entertaining.  It was light, fluffy, and a little sexy.  Definitely a fun read.  I just might not be in a rush to buy it.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moonlight Raider by Amanda Scott

Moonlight Raider

by Amanda Scott

In a flawless blend of history and romance, 'USA Today' bestselling author Amanda Scott transports readers again to the Scottish borders in her brand new 'Border Nights' series.

A man of his word...

Border Lord Walter Scott of Rankilburn, grief-stricken after burying his father, goes to the forest seeking solace. Instead he finds a half-naked young lady fleeing pursuit. Wat offers his protection, but honor demands that he return the golden-eyed beauty to her rightful husband - even though the last thing he wants is to see her in another man's arms.

A runaway bride...

Molly Cockburn has fled her home, family, and the brutal scoundrel she was forced to wed. Her pursuers are closing in when the powerful new Lord of Rankilburn bravely intervenes, then promises to help prove her marriage unlawful. Though fiercely loyal to her family, Molly fears they might harm the man she is coming to love, and now she must decide whether to remain faithful to her blood... or to her heart.
*I received a free copy of Moonight Raider in exchange for an honest review*
This one just wasn't for me.  I maintain that I was seduced by the cover.  I requested this one just because of the cover...with all that color, the period clothing, and the Scottish landscape.  
Unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me.  I made three aborted attempts to finish it before finally giving up.  The characters were flat and boring and I couldn't care less what happened to them.  I didn't get a good sense of their personalities, which is a big deal for me.
The plot is one I've read several times in historical romance except that maybe the setting is a little different.  Otherwise...been there, read that.
What irritated me was the writing style.  It felt forced and after a while I wished that the author had not tried to inject every sentence with historically accurate terms and expressions. I love historical fiction (it's one of my favorite genres) but I wasn't expecting to be bogged down with terminology in what is, essentially, a romance.  I felt like I was reading something that was only written half in English and I just wanted to focus on the blossoming romance.