("My" room at cousin Pat's house in Hay-on-Wye)

On Monday evening, Dad and I will be winging our way across the Atlantic for a two-week visit to the family in England. Mum had long wanted Dad to go home to see his family, and I'm tagging along for company, as she wanted me to.

We don't have much sightseeing or tourist-y things on the schedule - just lots of family, relaxing, strolling, my first Guy Fawkes Day in England and hopefully, a few trips to Sainsbury's. ;-)

While in England, I will have another challenge to take on, though.

The beginning of NaNoWriMo!

Oh yes, for the sixth time, I'm going to try and write a novel in a month, even though I'll be in a foreign country at the mercy of my father's laptop (and his willingness to part with it!) for the first nine days of this journey.

But hey, it's all good. What's a few days here and there when you're writing a 50,000 word novel? ;-)

In any case, I'm not sure if I'll be blogging from the motherland or if I'll just stack up my camera card until I return, but either way, I'll see y'all soon!

Labels: , ,

Man of the House by Ad Hudler

This novel is a sequel to Househusband (which I haven't read), but reads so that one doesn't feel they "missed out" by not having read the first novel. Linc Menner is the "househusband" to wife Jo and daughter Violet, who just turned 13. He cooks like a maniac, cleans like a banshee, and has a variety of hobbies - most of which are putting him in touch with his more feminine side.

This novel (told from four points of view) tracks Linc's escalated masculinity as he battles with contractors, Mother Nature (an impending hurricane), the gym, his family, and his entire sense of self. This novel shows great evolution of not only Linc, but the peripheral characters as well, and how they all bounce against one another.

There are definitely some funny moments in this book, but it's full of tender ones as well as Linc tries to find where he best straddles the line between househusband and "manly man".



The Messenger by Daniel Silva

Because I so enjoyed Silva's recent Moscow Rules when I saw this audiobook on the shelf, I thought I'd give it a try.

Though at first there are a lot of characters to keep track of, once this story gets going, it doesn't let up for a minute until the conclusion. In the wake of a suicide bombing in the heart of the Vatican, Gabriel Allon (Israeli spy and all-around badass) assembles a group to infiltrate the "money" behind the crime, and to do that, they need to recruit an American woman who can toe the line between crime and spy...but can she pull it off convincingly?

This is another action-packed, multi-continent, speedy tale of deception and life and death, complete with a great cast of characters, led by the always engaging Allon. I really enjoyed this novel, and found myself popping in disc after disc to see just what would happen next...

Highly recommended, particularly if you enjoyed other Gabriel Allon tales!

Note: I listened to the audio edited, well narrated by Christopher Lane, who had to flip between Israeli, American, Saudi, Italian accents, and a few more, and did a fine job at it!


The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris

This is the sequel to Chocolat, Harris' 1999 novel (and charming film with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp), which continues the story of Vianne and Anouk, and the newest addition to the family: 4-year old Rosette.

Vianne and her family have left the small village, and now are opening a chocolate shop in Montmarte (In Paris), though the sparkle seems to have gone out of Vianne, and there is no sign of Roux, and just when things seem a bit dim...the wind blows in Zozie, a new shop assistant.

But Zozie is not what she seems...

But are Vianne, Anouk, Rosette and their friends able to overcome that which holds them back, harness magic again, and right their lives? Only time will tell...

Harris' prose is truly lovely and transports the reader right into the streets of Paris, to the smells of chocolate, and to the feeling of magic being worked all around as the story unfolds and told from three voices: Vianne, Zozie and Anouk. Though there is a sense of foreboding pervading much of the novel, it's an engaging, beautifully written novel that will leave you cheering until the end - and perhaps believing in magic again. ;-)

Highly, highly recommended if you loved Chocolat...


I think this past weekend was what we all needed.

Dad, Michelle, Don and I, along with my godparents and their kids came down for a weekend of bonfires, food, tears, stories, hugs and laughs to celebrate my mum's amazing life and legacy.

An appropriate weekend, as today would have marked my parents 43rd wedding anniversary.

Though we cried and hugged, we also laughed and ate, stoked fires and teased each other, snorted inappropriately and roasted marshmallows, truly embracing our family - unconventional and geographically far at times, but able to get together for two days of shared smiles.

We miss you, Mum, so much it aches, but it was so good to remember you and your beautiful smile with all of us together.

Part of the "outdoor gallery" of favorite pictures of Mum...

Smiling Times

Hanging out by the fire...


Mesmerizing blaze...

October 18

Hugs and tears...

No Blacha!

Pink flowers for our pink lady...

Pretty in Pink...

Labels: , , ,

I admit, I'm a sucker for autumn.

The sights, the smells, the's my favorite time of year.

Dad and I had quite the "ring in the autumn" weekend recently...enjoy!

Off on a hike in the woods...

We're Off!

Audubon Craft Fair Snackettes (Ribbon Fries and a lemon shakeup!)


Apple-picking at a nearby orchard (and an apple crisp later in the day!)

October 5

Fall Feast! (Made by moi - ham, potatoes, roasted pumpkin...yum!)


Evansville Fall Festival (No, I'm NOT eating a brain sandwich!)


Okay, this is just funny. :-)

On Fire for Jesus!

Even a Ferris Wheel ride (what a view!)

The View

If this sight doesn't make you love autumn, what will?


Labels: , ,


Setting Sun


Setting Sun II


October 3

I do so love a spectacular autumn sunset. Sigh.

(Taken at Harmonie State Park on the banks of the Wabash River a couple of weekends ago...)

Labels: , , ,

Magic and the Modern Girl by Mindy Klasky

I just love this series of books by Klasky, featuring DC librarian Jane Madison who just happens to be a witch. ;-)

In this, the third novel, Jane finds her power diminishing from lack of use, and must summon her family, her warder (the hunky David) and her familiar (the always snarky, always opinionated Neko) to help her get her powers back. But when a spell goes awry, all of DC is turned upside down...

Not to mention, Jane has a new man vying for her affection, but how will David feel about that? ;-)

This is just a fun, fast to read, satisfying series about magic, libraries (woot!), the power of a good mojito and baked goods, and friends and family who stand by you, no matter what magical mischief arises. I can't wait for There's the Rub, the next book!


Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

This is the third book in the fantasy series featuring Yelena, who at the beginning of book one was given a choice between execution and become the Commander's food taster.

It's now a while later, and Yelena is coming to grips with her new family from a different land, her abilities as a magician, and the revelation that she is a Soulfinder.

It's been ages since I read Poison Study and Magic Study, so it took me a while to get back up to speed on all the politics and arguments going on in this novel. I still enjoyed the characters (Valek!) and the action, but it took me a while to get reacclimated.

I'm not sure if Yelena's story is done, though!


The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

I started this book mid-evening last night, then had to stay up past my bedtime to finish it!

What a great, great read!

Get this: a character named Marissa (hee!), who will be turning 25 in a few months, has written a list of 20 things to do before her birthday, everything from get a massage to go on a blind date to ride in a helicopter.

The problem is, Marissa is killed in a car wreck on page 6.

The driver of the car, June Parker, decides to take Marissa's list and finish it for her, out of guilt and depression, and the need to make it up to Marissa.

What follows is a book filled with funny moments, empowering moments, gut-wrenching moment, and truly satisfying moments. Filled with great characters, a hint of romance, some truly embarrassing situations and a lot of heart, this is such a lovely, readable novel about pushing yourself to step outside of "going through the motions".

Okay, sure, I read it because Marissa was a character, but I ended up loving it for June Parker.

And here is my favorite quote from the novel, which made me laugh out loud at the irony of it:

"That's the guy my sister had a crush on - in the pink polo shirt. She thought he looked like the lead singer from Nine Inch Nails."

It was hard to decide what seemed stranger: that the sweet girl I pictured Marissa Jones to be would have had a thing for Nine Inch Nails or that she thought anyone in a pink polo shirt could resemble Trent Reznor.

I swear, it's like this book was written for me. :-)

I loveloveloved it,and can't say enough about how much I enjoyed every page of it. Highly recommended!


Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

This sounded like a cute YA novel, and I remembered it being heavily promoted at ALA this summer, so I thought I'd give it a read.

Evangeline is looking for that perfect "crimson kiss" - the kind you read about in trashy romance novels. So, she goes on a quest to find that kiss, and ends up turning things upside down with the boys she kisses, her best friend, and her reluctance to forgive her father for some unauthorized kissing of his own...

This was a cute enough novel - the quest for the kiss was cute, but the rest of the tone was at times quite serious, as Evangeline struggles with her parent's impending divorce, her struggle to find herself, and risking the loss of her best friend.

It wasn't my favorite YA novel, but it was a satisfying read nonetheless...


Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

You may know this author better by her pen name: Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series, who this time is writing under her real name.

Chloe and Phillip and their two sons, and Hugh and Amanda and their two daughters, find they have been double-booked at a villa in Spain by their friend Gerard, who is doing a bit of scheming of his own to crash everyone together for one holiday week. What know one knows is that Chloe and Hugh have a past...a past that isn't entirely past for either of them...

This book just flowed so easily, and took no time to read, as I was eager to see "will they, won't they, who said, they what?!" throughout the reading. This had its funny bits, its tender bits, and its car crash bits, but all of it just WORKED. The ending is, and is not, what I expected, but I enjoyed every page.

This is just a nice, simple, easy, fast read - highly recommended!


Apart by R.P. MacIntyre and Wendy MacIntyre

This YA novel was co-written by the MacIntyres, who are not related, but both write YA novels separately. For this novel, they teamed up to write an epistolary novel, exchanging letters between Jessica of New Brunswick and Sween, who lives on the other side of Canada.

The letters are smart, insightful, at times biting, but always intelligent - a nice change from some novels geared towards younger readers. Though the ending was not at all what I expected, and I wasn't entirely happy with it, I think this was a read well worth it's time, and would be a great recommendation for reluctant readers - at only 175 pages, it's not intimidating in size or plot.

An interesting, thoughtful read!


Rumors by Anna Godbersen

This is the second novel in "The Luxe" series, a series of YA novels set in decadent 1899 New York City. After the untimely demise of debutante Elizabeth Holland, this novel follows the lives of her younger sister Diana and best friend Penelope - and the fiance Elizabeth never had a chance to marry.

This is another interesting historical novel written for young adults - something not readily found in most YA collections. The writing is dishy and fresh, and doesn't read at all like a stuffy historical romance.

This is a great series - I'm ready to read more of the upper crust in Envy, the next book due out!


Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri

I so enjoyed Barbieri's first murder mystery novel, Murder 101, that I was eager to ILL this follow-up title, and ended up reading it just as quickly!

Alison Bergeron, and English professor at a private college, is back, and this time caught up in a murder close to her life and former love: ex-husband Ray turns up dead in her kitchen.

This sets off a fast-paced read with a wedding, the Mob, a golden retriever, more murders, and the continued story of Alison's entanglement with NYPD detective Crawford. I think my favorite parts of these books is the pas de deux between Alison and Crawford, and Barbieri deftly weaves a romance novel into a mystery novel, keeping both aspects balanced and imminently readable.

I can't wait to read more about Alison and Crawford, so the next novel in the series is already on my "to be read" list! These are great titles for a lighter mystery read - highly recommended!


Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

I loved Letts' previous novels, Where the Heart Is and Shoot the Moon, so when I saw this audiobook had come in, I snapped it up, knowing I was going to be on the road a lot this week.

While 15-year-old Lutie and her 11-year-old brother, Fate, are shopping/shoplifting at the local Wal-Mart, their caretaker Floy (their father's ex-girlfriend) drops dead in the checkout line, setting up the rest of the story as Lutie and Fate flee from sleepy Spearfish, S.D. for parts unknown with no adults, little money, and a lot of obstacles.

This isn't a happy-happy book. Throughout most of the book, Lutie is tremendously unlikeable, and yet she is so vulnerable and having to make such hard choices, you can't help but root for her. Fate, though, was my favorite character - an 35-year-old trapped in an 11-year-old body, Fate is a genius, wise beyond his years, and fiercely loyal to his older sister.

This book relies on coincidences and eventually faith in other humans to pull it from the dark places Letts leads the readers to, but ultimately ends on an inspiring note. In some ways, this reminded me of Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt, where teens are forced to make their way in the world, scrapping for food, transportation and attention, though this book takes a much darker turn than those YA novels from my youth.

Though I missed the strong friendship and "sense of place" present in Where the Heart Is, I still thought this was a tremendous piece of storytelling. Recommended!

Note: I listened to the audio version, narrated by Cassandra Morris. I was BLOWN AWAY by the talent of Morris - she truly sounded like a 15-year-old and an 11-year-old, and her diction, pace and tone were spectacular. I think my enjoyment of the book was definitely enhanced by having it TOLD to me, rather than reading it myself. If you have the chance, listen to this title instead of reading!


Airhead by Meg Cabot

I finally managed to snag this copy when it was on our shelf (for probably no more than 12 minutes, as all Meg's books tend to be in our library), and whizzed through it in no time. Em Watts is a typical disinterested teen - good at school, not popular, in love with her best friend Christopher, has an annoying younger sister - but all that changes in one fateful day when a bizarre accident turns her into someone else entirely...

I don't want to give away the twist of the plot, but I really enjoyed this book - in typical Meg fashion, it has funny moments, sarcasm, namedropping and more, but has a more serious tone than her other books - mostly, are you still yourself inside if your outside changes radically? And how do you find the middle ground between the two?

I thought this was a most thought provoking read, while still being fresh and entertaining, with a few laugh out loud moments. I'm looking forward already to the planned sequel Being Nicki, which will continue Em's story...

Highly recommended YA novel!