Friday, October 24, 2014

This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash
Published: reprint edition September 2014 by William Morrow Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
After their mother unexpectedly dies, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, aren’t expecting to see their errant father, Wade, ever again. But the ex–minor league baseball player who’s been gone for years has suddenly appeared at their foster home to steal them away in the middle of the night.

Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for them, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking their father to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn’t the only hunter on the trail. Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated in alternating voices that are at once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a soulful story about the emotional pull of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

My Thoughts:
Not gonna lie - didn't even read the summary for this one until just now. Didn't read it when it was pitched to me because it, frankly, didn't matter what is was about. I was so impressed with Wiley Cash's debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, that it was a given I would read this one. My mom is of the same opinion - she texted me and asked to borrow it as soon as she read on this blog that I was reading it.

As he did in A Land More Kind Than Home, Cash delivers a mystery told from multiple points of view, including that of a child, filled with tension and characters that gradually reveal themselves.

Easter's and Ruby's lives have been filled with pain and difficulty. Their mother's choices have forced Easter to grow up quickly and take Ruby under her wing. After their mother's death, the girls are living in a foster home but Easter has plans to get them away before they are shipped off to live with grandparents they have never met in Alaska. Wade was definitely never a part of her plan and she is none too happy to have him back in her life, especially because he's brought serious trouble into their lives. Easter, like most kids, desperately wants a parent to love, though, and Wade just might not be as bad as she's thought.

The changing narratives made this one a bit of a slow start for me but I was soon caught up in the story. The tension Cash created made it a book I couldn't put down. I had to make sure the girls would be okay, I needed to know that the bad guys would get theirs and I wanted to figure out if Brady and Wade would do the right thing. Wiley Cash has quickly become one of my favorite authors and I'm glad to read he's currently at work on a third novel.

Baseball plays a big part in this book; Wade and Pruitt have both played minor-league ball and they are a sad note on what can become of a person when their dreams aren't reached. But it's the 1998 home run record chase between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that it the running background of this story. We watched went to a game at Busch Stadium between these teams and followed the battle between the two men closely so this piece of the book pulled me even more deeply into the book.

There is a clear sense of the south throughout this novel, although there is also the feeling that it could have been set in any part of the country giving it a broad appeal. The writing is sharp and there is plenty here that book clubs would find discussion worthy. I highly recommend This Dark Road To Mercy, a terrific sophomore effort.

Thanks for the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, check out the full tour !

Wiley Cash is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home. A native of North Carolina, he has held residency positions at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica
Published January 2013 by Penguin Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.

My Thoughts:
I've read and enjoyed Bauermeister's previous books, The School of Essential Ingredients and Joy for Beginners so I didn't hesitate when I was offered this book for review - almost two years ago. I have no idea why I didn't pick it up sooner...just look at that cover, it calls to you to pick it up and read it.

In The Lost Art of Mixing, Bauermeister returns to Lillian's restaurant, the stories of some of the characters we met in The School of Essential Ingredients, and the food that brought them all together. Here Lillian plays something of a background role, allowing the other characters to step forward. Like her other book, The Lost Art of Mixing is less a novel and more a chronological series of short stories exploring the lives of people with a tie to Lillian and their ties to each other.

One knock on Bauermeister is that everything ties together in the end just a little too neatly but I didn't feel that way; there is more a sense that chapters in these characters lives have ended. There are open ends, relationships that end, and the looming specter of Isabelle's Alzheimer's.

It's a book about relationships, communication, and our stories - how they are written and how they can be revised. It stands to reason that, as in any book, I cared more about the stories of some characters than I did about others. While Isabelle's story was touching and often difficult to read, it was Al and Louise's story that I found most compelling. Bauermeister explores how our lives can carry on even as what we say, what we don't say and our assumptions gradually build on a foundation of anger and resentment until things finally have to change.

Nothing really awful will happen in Bauermeister's books. Some will say that's a flaw. But her readers take comfort in knowing that, even as her characters face adversity, the worst life has to offer will only happen off screen.

Monday, October 20, 2014

By A Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman

By A Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman
Published June 2004 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: I bought my audiobook copy at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Private investigator Tess Monaghan doesn't know quite what to make of her new client, Mark Rubin—a wealthy Orthodox Jew who refuses to shake her hand and doles out vitally important information in grudging dribs and drabs. The successful Baltimore furrier claims he and his beautiful wife had a flawless, happy marriage. Yet one day, without warning, Natalie gathered up their children and vanished—and the police can't do anything because all the evidence indicates she left willingly.

But the deeper Tess digs, the more she suspects that the motive behind Natalie's reckless flight lies somewhere in the gap between what Rubin will not say and what he refuses to believe. An intricate web of betrayal and vengeance is already beginning to unravel, as memory begets rage, and rage begets desperation . . . and murder. And suddenly the lives of three innocent children are dangling by the slenderest of threads.

My Thoughts:
My third Lippman book, my second Tess Monaghan. As much as I enjoyed Lippman's What The Dead Know, I was more than half tempted to give up on the Tess Monaghan series after the disappointing No Good Deeds which I thought was overly complicated.

In By A Spider's Thread, Tess's personal life plays a much smaller part in the story but there is still plenty to learn about Tess here. This one really made me want to go back and pick up the series from the beginning and find out what makes Tess Tess.

The twists and turns of By A Spider's Thread were more than enough to keep the story interesting and the reader guessing. Lippman gives enough clues to allow readers to start to figure out things on their own - and if you're really paying close attention, you might even figure it out before all is revealed. Even so, it was interesting to watch it all play out. Perhaps the best part for me was that once the big finish played out, Lippman didn't spend a ton of time closing things down, something writers all too often get bogged down with. All in all, a very satisfying listen!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life: It Goes On - October 19

A huge thanks to Andi of Estella's Revenge and Heather of Capricious Reader for all their work pulling together another edition of Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon (and all of those people who organized cheerleaders, hosted hours, and donated prizes!). There were nearly 1000 readers, from all corners of the world who participated this fall - I know I commented on blogs in France, Norway, Denmark and Russia. So great that this largely solitary activity has brought so many people together!

As usual, I didn't make it the full 24 hours and was distracted a good chunk of the rest of the time. Once Miss H is all moved, I'm hoping to set up an office/reading room in her room (sshhh - don't tell her!) and I'm hoping to get much more reading done for the spring 2015 edition!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll finish up Josh Bazell's Beat The Reaper. I am really enjoying this one; really original and, boy, has it got me thinking. Film rights have been acquired with an eye toward Leonardo diCaprio as lead actor which would just be wrong. Peter Brown is a very large, Jewish man. Anyone buy Leo as that?

Watching: We have not added one new-this-season show to our rotation., baseball, Person of Interest, The Voice. You know, the usual.

Reading: According to Goodreads, I've now read 65 books this year. Barring a massive reading slump, my goal of 75 books this year should be met by the end of November. I moved Still Alice off my nightstand and The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler onto it.

Making: Egg casserole inspired by my garden harvest on Thursday, baked potato soup, homemade pizza, and fried apples today after a trip to the apple orchard.

Planning: On spending this week getting Miss H ready to move into her new digs next weekend. Happy for her. Not so much for me - this mama does not like her chicks to leave the nest even though I know that's what they're meant to do. On the plus side...reading room!

Grateful for: My kids who can be wonderfully thoughtful. Mini-him walked in this morning with Dunkin' Donuts for us and Mini-me went to spend the afternoon helping his grandparents. No matter what else my kids do with their lives, I wanted them to grow up to be good people who are happy in their lives. So far, so good!

Enjoying: The wonderful fall weather we've been having. The Big Guy and I took off for Nebraska City today (home of many apple orchards and the birthplace of Arbor Day). We picked up some of our favorite apples (which you can't get any where else), hit up a couple of wine tastings, enjoyed a picnic lunch, collected fall leaves, and checked out the Living History exhibits at Arbor Lodge (home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day). We had so much fun!

Feeling: See "Planning."

Looking forward to: Book club this week! I missed last month with a nasty cold and I can't tell you how much I miss these ladies!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's On Like Donkey Kong!

I must be excited for Dewey's this year - I actually woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. If you know me, you'll know how weird that is - I am so not a morning person. Although I am a middle-aged person and I find myself awake in bed earlier and earlier on the weekends. Must find a way to stop doing that - Z-Quil at night, maybe? But I digress. On with the reading!

Up and ready!
Today's opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I'm in the heartland of the United States, almost the true center of the country.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? This Dark Road To Mercy - I loved Wiley Cash's previous book, A Land More Kind Than Home so hopes are high for this one.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I didn't, gasp, actually pick up any snacks this time.  Although The Big Guy did pick up some Halloween candy yesterday. What were the chances that was going to last until Halloween anyway? So I guess I'm most looking forward to a couple mini Kit Kats in the late hours as a reward for staying up late.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Oh, what do you not already know between my About Me page, all the memes I've done over the years, and the fact that I spill my guts to you every Sunday? Have I ever told you how much I like my collections? Frogs, a napkin collection handed down from my mom, old books, sugar and creamer sets, witches, boxes, a bottle collection that belonged to my grandma, and lots and lots of sets of dishes. That's secretly why I have to keep decluttering my house - to make room for my collections!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I'm going to give myself permission to take at least one nap and make sure I participate more in the activities. After all, what's the point of participating in a world-wide event if you never interact with the other participants? I was, by the way, the 725th person to sign up this year!


Pages Read: 46
Books Read:
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 30 mins
1. Voted for coffee (#TeamTrollope) at Fig and Thistle's picture challenge
2. Posted a picture on Twitter of one of my bookshelves for The Book Monster's "Shelfie" challenge


Pages Read: 106
Books Read: 0
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 20 mins
No New Mini-Challenges
Haircuts: 1 (not even mine - had to cut Mini-him's hair for a wedding)


Pages Read: 179
Books Read: Finished Ann Leary's The Good House
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins
No New Mini-Challenges
Meals Eaten: 2
Needy, Distracting People In The House: 2


Pages Read: 240
Books Read: 1
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins
Mini Challenge: Show It Off!, hosted by Dead Book Darling, a photo of a prized signed book
Character Cheering, hosted by Love, Laughter, And A Touch of Insanity

My Late Night Buddy

Pages Read: 440
Books Read: 2 - just finished This Dark Road To Mercy
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins - a cheerleading failure!
Mini-Challenge: The Pet Parade, hosted by Estella's Revenge
Meals Eaten: 3
Football Games Watched: all of one plus several others out of the corner of my eye - very distracting
Unexpected Guests: 1

That's it folks. I'm calling it a day. Oh so much less reading than I was hoping to get done...once again. I really did think I'd have two books finished before the Husker game came on but no such luck. After that, it was tough to get back in the groove. I've gotten a bit of a second wind but I have a feeling I'd walk up in a few hours asleep on the couch with a book at my feet and a major back ache. I never did find time for those naps I had planned! What fun to spend so much time talking to people on Twitter, checking out mini-challenges, and giving myself permission to read as much as I could for the past 20 hours!

End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 19 - it was all I could do not to just take a "little" nap, i.e. fall asleep for the night on the couch

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Every year I think I need to add mysteries. Literary fiction is fine early on but later on, you need short books, graphic novels or mystery/thrillers to keep going.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No - it was great! So many people do such great work to make this event something that pulls readers together worldwide.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? As a cheerleader, I really liked the spreadsheets as a means to make sure everyone got contacted and to provide each other updates on the blogs on our list.

How many books did you read? 2

What were the names of the books you read? Which book did you enjoy most? The Good House, This Dark Road To Mercy - I really liked them both a lot.

Which did you enjoy least? n/a

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? You have to make a choice - more comments (i.e. shorter, more generic) or more personal comments directly relating to the post you are commenting on. To do the latter, you've gotta know going in, cheerleading will take a chunk of time.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll definitely participate again and absolutely cheer. I'd like to say I'll be able to do more, but we'll have to see what life is like by then.