Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Highlights: July 2012

I knew July would fly by, but it's still amazing to me that it's over!

This month I read the following:
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 313           Page Goal: 12,956/15,000
Blaze by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 340           Page Goal: 13,296/15,000
A Girl Named Summer by Julie Garwood
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 176           Page Goal: 13,472/15,000
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 288           Page Goal: 13,760/15,000
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 382           Page Goal: 14,142/15,000

These books total 1,186 pages for the month; not so bad, considering I was traveling so much!

As you can see, I didn't rate any of these books 5/5; however, of this selection, my favorite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Stay tuned for my review!

I finished my summer classes! Yay! I don't start classes again until August 20th, so I do have a few weeks off. The problem? Working in higher ed, the weeks before classes start are the busiest weeks of the year! Hopefully it won't be too bad--this will be my first fall semester juggling my job (usually 60+ hours per week in the fall) and my classes. Wish me luck!

Would you believe that I haven't touched my crafts this month? Best of intentions, I brought a crocheting project with me on the Wisconsin trip...but I left my pattern at home, so I had no idea what to do with the project. Good job, smarty...

July was a super super busy month for travel! I went to B-town (hometown), the first weekend. The second weekend, Matt and I drove to Wisconsin to see his family. The 3rd weekend I flew to Cleveland for a conference. I returned on a Sunday, and on Monday flew out for Chicago. I returned from Chicago on Thursday and am glad to be home.

August brings some travels, too. I'll be working at a local county fair, so I'll be commuting one hour each way every day Wednesday--Saturday. This will make for 13 hour days. Then, the following week, I've got a conference in Sioux Falls, SD. After that, I have to stay put for inservice, orientation, and classes to begin. Will I ever get a break?!?!? :)

Save the Dates for our wedding arrived and went out in the mail! Next task? Find a catering service...

I usually don't even have time to breathe in August. This year will be no different, as I take on more as I continue in my professional career. So my goal is just to make it out of August alive and with minimal dark circles under my eyes.

Lighthouse where we stayed in Wisconsin...

So, readers, what were your July 2012 highlights?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sunday Post #4

Hello, readers!

It doesn't seem like a month has passed since my last Sunday Post, but it has!

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and is an opportunity for bloggers to share the books they've received. I participate in The Sunday Post once a month as a vlog.

Here are the books I received, in case you missed it in the vlog and would like to add them to your own TBR shelves:
  • The Blue Bottle Club by Penelope J. Stokes
  • A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
  • London Bridges by James Patterson
  • Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  • Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
  • Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris
  • A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter
  • Broken by Karin Slaughter
  • Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
  • The Murderers' Club by P.D. Martin
  • Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
  • Flirting with Disaster by Sherryl Woods
  • Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I should also disclose that I accidentally left one out of the video! I also purchased Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven. I've already read it, so expect a review soon! :)

Happy Sunday, Readers! :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Audiobook Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

It's getting to be that time of year for me again: audiobook time! Prepare yourselves, as I've built up my collection!

One of the novels I was eager to get from Audible was Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. Seriously, read this description, courtesy of Goodreads:

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.
Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.
Still Missing is that rare debut find--a shocking, visceral, brutal and beautifully crafted debut novel.

From the very beginning, this book hooks you. Normally, when I listen to audiobooks, I need a music break every 2-3 hours. Not with this book: I couldn't even gas up without twitching at the realization I wasn't listening to it. The book was that addicting. This story is mostly a reflection. Annie O'Sullivan is recalling to her psychiatrist what happened to her in her year of abduction by a stranger. The storyline is fast-paced and intense; it easily hooks readers. As the novel progresses, the timing no longer becomes a reflection, but how Annie is coping after the fact and what she comes to find.

The closest relationship I can make to this book is Emma Donahue's Room (I'm not sure if I reviewed this on my blog, but I also listened to Room as an audiobook). It has some similar qualities and storyline, but is still unique in its storyline. But, before you run to the bookstore, Audible, or whatever, I do have to warn you that I hated the ending. In a sense, it ruined the book for me. I wasn't sure if Chevy Stevens created this ending to make it seem surprising, or if she was just getting lazy, or couldn't come up with a better idea. Either way, the ending was not my fav. Looking back, I would still read this book, even knowing the ending, but my rating likely would have been 5/5 with any other ending.

Bottom line? I recommend if you liked Room. Also, as an audiobook, the reader did a fabulous job.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Hi, readers!

I feel like it's been ages since I've posted. I've been super busy traveling, so I've been going in spurts: I'll write up 2-4 posts and schedule them to post, then disappear for a couple of weeks, and do it all over again. I've become an insomniac for the night, so I thought I might as well make myself useful and entertain all of you! :)

Earlier in July, I read the fourth Janet Evanovich book in the Stephanie Plum series: Four to Score. Here's the description, courtesy of Goodreads:

Janet Evanovich, bestselling author of One for the Money, Two for the Dough, and Three to Get Deadly, scores big with Four to Score, her most thrilling Stephanie Plum adventure yet. Working for her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, Stephanie is hot on the trail of revenge-seeking waitress Maxine Nowicki, whose crimes include bail jumping, theft, and extortion. Someone is terrifying Maxine's friends, and those who have seen her are turning up dead. Also on the hunt for Maxine is Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie's archenemy and rival bounty hunter. Stephanie's attitude never wavers - even when aided by Grandma Mazur, ex-hooker and wannabe bounty hunter Lula, and transvestite rock musician Sally Sweet - and even when Stephanie makes an enemy whose deadly tactics escalate from threatening messages to firebombs. All of this pales in comparison, though, with an even greater danger Stephanie faces, when, homeless and broke, she and her hamster Rex move in with vice cop Joe Morelli.

As you all know, I've been working my way through the Stephanie Plum series. The first three were pretty good; they all received ratings of 4/5. But Four to Score just fell short for me. The plot seemed long and drawn out, and I felt as though there wasn't enough character development. Also, a lot happens with Stephanie's love life, but it isn't really gone into depth and seems to have been the only rushed portion of the novel. What I did like was seeing more of Grandma Mazur--she cracks me up! But the plot itself was extremely predictable in regards to the threats Stephanie received. *yawn* Overall, it was nothing too exciting. I hope Evanovich redeems herself on the fifth book in the series.

Did anyone else find this particular book in the series to be rather blah? Am I reading them too close together?

Here's where this book puts me for the year:
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 3/5         
Pages: 313          
Page Goal: 12,956/15,000

Have a nice night (er, morning, depending on your time zone), readers! :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

You guys knew this was coming, I’m sure. I ranted and raved about Heather Gudenkauf’s other two novels, The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. After completing These Things Hidden, I discovered that Heather Gudenkauf’s third novel was to come out on Tuesday, June 26th. I patiently waited pre-ordered the novel immediately for under $10. It was cheapest to get the Kindle version, so I did. It was then that I discovered the beauty of pre-ordering books on the Kindle: they’re automatically downloaded to your Kindle at midnight. I may have waited up until midnight, just to check…

I’m sure you understand. Here’s the Goodreads summary, for those of you who think I’m nuts:

One Breath AwayIn her most emotionally charged novel to date, "New York Times" bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores the unspoken events that shape a community, the ties between parents and their children and how the fragile normalcy of our everyday life is so easily shattered. In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.

Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town's children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother.

As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.

Now you understand, right?!? I had to have it! So, I picked up my Kindle around 7 that night and prayed the battery wouldn’t die (which, BTW, kudos to Amazon for producing good quality Kindle battery life). I finished the novel around 2 or 3 AM.

As with her other novels, Heather Gudenkauf tells the story from multiple perspectives. Readers get an inside peek at the school, both in and outside the classroom where the shooter is. We also get a closely related outside perspective from a police officer whose daughter is in the class where the shooter is—but happens to be absent that day. Additionally, Gudenkauf exposes us to a family where the mother tries to do all in her power to keep her children from growing up like she did, but fails to do so due to a freak accident. We meet her father and hear his perspective, in addition to the perspective of the children’s mother. The end had a semi-predictable twist, but the motive was certainly unexpected. Bottom line? Pick this book up ASAP. Not only was it a quick, fascinating read, but the character development is captivating.

Here’s where I’m at with my page goals after this book:

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 400
2012 Reading Goal: 12,643/15,000

Has anyone else read a small series of INCREDIBLE books this summer that rocked your world? Do tell in the comments below! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: Body Count by P.D. Martin

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well! I’m still playing catch-up on my reviews and homework, so please excuse the sporadic posts.

A few weeks ago, I read Body Count by P.D. Martin. You may remember me having read her 4th Sophie Anderson book last year, The Killing Hands? Body Count is the first one of her Sophie Anderson series. Here’s the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

Body Count (Sophie Anderson,  #1)
FBI agent Sophie Anderson has been trained to uncover the minds of serial killers, to understand their vile impulses and cravings--to catch them before they kill again. Newly relocated from Australia, Sophie is settling in to her job at Quantico with the help of her new friend, Agent Samantha Wright, and a potential new boyfriend, Agent Josh Marco, and is quickly becoming the FBI's star profiler.
The only problem is the nightmares.
These intense images are more than dreams. They are psychic visions, like those she experienced during childhood when her brother was abducted.
When grisly details match recent crime scene photos, she confides in Sam, and her visions lead to several breakthroughs in the case. But when Sam is abducted, Sophie must finally trust her visions and use them. She may not have been able to save her brother, but perhaps she can save Sam--and herself.

I was definitely entranced by this novel. The main victim is Sophie Anderson’s best friend, so Sophie has an extreme personal involvement in the case, as well as in her relationship with a coworker. As the action picks up and the serial killer attacks closer and closer to home, Sophie begins to question the relationship she has with those around her. This was an addicting thriller, and took me practically no time to get through. The characters swept me away; I will definitely continue this series. I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a quick, fun thriller, including you James Patterson fans.

Here’s where this book has gotten me for the year:
Body Count by P.D. Martin
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 393
2012 Reading Goal: 11,707/15,000

Have a great day, readers! :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Audiobook Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Here I am, playing catch-up again. How does this happen? Unfortunately, I never seem to be far enough ahead... *sigh*

A few months ago, I listened to the audiobook of Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home. Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

Every life has a soundtrack. All you have to do is listen. Sing You HomeMusic has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. There’s the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub. A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant.
For better or for worse, music is the language of memory. It is also the language of love.
In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen.
Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood. It’s about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it’s about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family.

I'm going to give a bit of a spoiler here, so please be aware.

*spoiler alert*spoiler alert*spoiler alert*
Zoe gets divorced relatively early on in the novel. This isn't even the largest portion of the storyline--when Zoe falls in love again, it's with a woman. Her ex-husband, after the divorce, becomes deeply religious. When he finds out his former lover, Zoe, falls in love with a woman, he faces a significant amount of confusion between the Lord's word and his own beliefs. When Zoe and her new wife approach Max, the ex-husband, about using the eggs produced from Max and Zoe's invitro to create a child for Zoe and her wife to raise, Max becomes even more confused and goes to the Church--and the court-- for answers.
This novel is very well-told and engaging. Even my fiance, who hates audiobooks, couldn't help but get wrapped up in the story. Bottom line? I loved it. One more score for Jodi Picoult. 
I purchased this as an audiobook, and I'm so thankful I did. I'm not sure how the text version of the book is formatted, but in the audiobook, you hear Zoe singing during her music therapy sessions. It's extremely well-done, and I would recommend others purchase this as an audiobook as well.
Rating: 5/5
Also, I would like to do a quick shout-out to my American readers and wish them all a happy Independence Day! :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Sunday Post #3

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the one-day delay in posting this! Saturday was an 18 hour day of manual labor for work, so I barely left the couch on Sunday (yesterday).

It's time, though, for another Sunday Post, as hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Review. My video is below:

Have a great week, everyone! :)