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    This is my little corner of the world where I can do whatever I some of my favorite (and not so favorite) books, whine about yet another gray sky, or just share a little of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime of living in the sun.

    Reading As you spend time on my blog, you may notice that my reading tastes are a bit eclectic. I used to be what I call a "book snob". That was before I began work on my master's degree and needed light recreational reading and discovered that while some books might not be "critically acclaimed", they could still be some great fun to read! Now I read a little bit of everything.

    Writing One of my lifelong dreams (besides meeting John Taylor from 80's Duran Duran fame) has been write the next great American novel . I'm sure many of you share this dream (you might even share my dream of meeting John Taylor, who knows). I've always been afraid to start writing. I put "writing" in the sub-title of the blog hoping that it will force me to begin writing something or else I will have to crawl away in shame...

    Living I'll also be sharing stories about my experiences living and parenting in the PNW. If you're expecting great tips on how to organize your schedule or how to prepare gourmet meals on a shoestring budget...sorry, you won't find that here. I am chronically messy, chronically disorganized, and chronically planning gourmet meals that never get prepared. It's just going to be me...sharing my trials and tribulations of not only leaving 365 days of sunshine for 350 days of gray skies but also the oh so fun adventure of parenting two "tweens" who think they know more than me.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Title:   The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author:   Neil Gaiman
Genre:   Fantasy/Mystery
Source:   Kindle Purchase
Rating:  3
Locate It:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Laneis told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My Thoughts:

This was my first Neil Gaiman novel. Friends of mine that like him, REALLY like him, so I wanted to give him a try. I chose to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane as my first Gaiman novel because the cover is so darkly beautiful.

The story is pieced together with decades old memories of the main character about a time in his life when some pretty amazing things happened to him. It is a strange story and I found myself spending much of time my time with this book wondering how on earth Gaiman comes up with his ideas. What goes through his mind to decide “Oh, I’m going to write about a giant stick figure (?) made out of fabric”? I didn’t love this book but I also didn’t hate it. Probably the main problem for me is that I went into not knowing what to expect. From the synopsis, I thought it was going to be a slightly dark mystery. I guess in some ways it was that, but it was also so fantastical that I often didn’t know which end was up while reading. The strong element of fantasy definitely surprised me (remember this is my first foray into Gaiman).

While I was left feeling a little unsettled by the story, I will say that I believe Gaiman is a master of storytelling. When he described the main character being in the bucket of water, and his feeling of knowing yet not knowing, of all knowledge being just within his grasp, it was amazing. He (Gaiman) was able to put the feeling of dreams into words. Because of his control of words, I am planning on reading more work by Neil Gaiman, and this time I will be a little more prepared.

March 31, 2014 - 1:05 am

Sandra @ Sandra's World of Books - I have been wanting to read this book for some time now. It has a beautiful cover and the blurb sounds pretty interesting. I have never read a Neil Gaiman novel before. I’m glad you enjoyed it enough to read another of his novels.

March 31, 2014 - 12:33 pm

Linda Meziere - I thought it was pretty good, not great, and weird like most of his other work.

April 12, 2014 - 5:49 pm

Christy - I haven’t read this book, but I know Gaiman’s stories can get a little … weird. :D Hope you try another book by him and like it even more.

Book Review: A Wicked Pursuit

Title:   A Wicked Pursuit (Brecondridge Brothers #1)
Author:   Isabella Bradford
Publisher:   Ballantine Books
Genre:   Historical Romance/18+
Source:   Publisher/Netgalley
Rating:  3.5
Locate It: Amazon


As the eldest son of the Duke of Breconridge, Harry Fitzroy is duty-bound to marry—and marry well. Giving up his rakish ways for the pleasures of a bride’s bed becomes a delightful prospect when Harry chooses beautiful Lady Julia Barclay, the catch of the season. But a fall from his horse puts a serious crimp in his plans. Abandoned by Julia before he can propose, the unlucky bachelor finds himself trapped in the country in the care of Julia’s younger sister.

Harry has never met a woman like Lady Augusta. Utterly without artifice, Gus is clever and capable, and seems to care not a fig for society. After a taboo kiss awakens passion that takes them both by surprise, Harry realizes he’d almost given his heart to the wrong sister. While London tongues wag, he’ll use his most seductive powers of persuasion to convince the reluctant Gus that she belongs with him—as his equal, his love, his wife.

My Thoughts:

I do not read many romances (in fact, most of the romances that I do read tend to be advanced reader copies).  For me to enjoy it, a romance novel needs to have an interesting plot, strong characters, and be well written. By “well written”.  I don’t necessarily mean Pulitzer Prize or Man Booker well written, but just well enough written that I don’t want to poke my eyes out or hit someone with my copy of the book.  I’ve found that Isabella Bradford’s romances consistently meet each of these qualities.   Her plots pull me in and keep me reading, her characters tend to be strong (and sometimes funny), and her writing could be held up as an example to other romance authors.

Isabella Bradford is a pseudonym for Susan Holloway Scott, an historical fiction writer.   Her first series as Bradford was The Wylder Sisters (I’ve books 1 and 3 in that series…still need to get around to #2).  This new series, The Brecondridge Brothers, is a sort of followup with cameos from the Wylder Sisters (always fun to see a character that you recognize).  In A Wicked Pursuit, we meet the first of the three Brecondridge brothers, Harry Fitzroy, a dashingly handsome future duke and his female counterpart, the humble Augusta.  Augusta is the younger, less attractive sister of Harry’s initial love interest, the beautiful Julia.

I found August to be a lovely character.  She is plain looking but caring and intelligent.  I liked that while Augusta became more beautiful in Harry’s eyes, she continued to be viewed as plain by many members of the London ton.  I’ve gotten so tired of the plain-jane-doesn’t-know-she’s-actually-supermodel-gorgeous characters found in many romance or YA novels.  Augusta is not stunningly beautiful but she doesn’t need to be in A Wicked Pursuit.  Isabella Bradford shows that Augusta’s beauty comes from her personality and her actions, which is probably a good lesson for each of us to remember.

As I’ve said, I have found that I consistently enjoy Isabella Bradford’s historical romances and A Wicked Pursuit continues that trend.  I think my only pet peeve from this book was the extensive use of the word “wicked”.  I know they were supposed to be clever tie-ins to the title and the first couple of times, I thought it was cute but when “wicked” continued to show up more and more, it got a bit tiresome.  I probably would have rated this as a 4 rather than a 3.5 if it hadn’t been for all of those darn “wickeds”.  ;)

I highly recommend this series (and the Wylder Sisters) to any and all fans of historical romance.

*I did receive a free digital advanced readers copy (complete with pre-editing typos) in exchange for an honest review.

March 30, 2014 - 5:13 pm

Leona Olson - I will have to add this to my TBR list. Thanks for the review. i will also check on the word “wicked”

Blog Tour: Ripper by Isabelle Allende per by Isabelle Allende

Title:   Ripper
Author:   Isabelle Allende
Genre:  Suspense/Thriller
Source:  TLC Book Tours
Rating:  3.5
Locate It:  Amazon


 Isabel Allende-the New York Times bestselling author whose books, including Maya’s Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, and Zorro, have sold more than 57 million copies around the world-demonstrates her remarkable literary versatility with this atmospheric, fast-paced mystery involving a brilliant teenage sleuth who must unmask a serial killer in San Francisco

The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her-Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.

While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD’s Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.

When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, discovering, before the police do, that the deaths may be connected. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance be linked to the serial killer? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, the young detective must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

I love Isabelle Allende.  I mean, I really LOVE Allende.  She is always near the top of my list of favorite authors.  It’s been years since I’ve read any of her books (I binge read them in college).  Her writing is beautiful, it’s magical.  Two of my all-time favorite novels are by Allende, Of Love and Shadows
and The House of the Spirits.  Allende’s writing is so poetic and so magical that her works are often used as examples of magical realism in literature classes around the world.  That is the Allende that I was expecting in Ripper.

The writing in Ripper is quite different from the Allende that I remember.  I suppose that was to be expected with Ripper being a completely different genre then Allende’s previous novels.  Because of this, it took me awhile to get into the story.  I had to completely forget that Isabel Allende was the author in order to enjoy it.

I liked the character, Amanda, and would like to see more of her but I really disliked Indiana, Amanda’s mother.  Indiana was just such a  stereotype of the San Francisco artsy-alternative type that it became boring each time she had a scene in the book.  The mystery itself was interesting.

I think between the mystery itself and the character, Amanda, the book was worth the read.  Although, I would caution fans of Allende to begin Ripper with an open  mind.

**As a member of this blog tour, I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.  My review is an honest reaction to the book.

February 28, 2014 - 11:26 am

Isabel Allende, author of Ripper, on tour January/February 2014 | TLC Book Tours - [...] Wednesday, February 26th: Under a Gray Sky [...]

February 28, 2014 - 11:29 am

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours - Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour!

The Prodigal Kitty Has Returned

After almost a full four days out in a snowstorm, J.J. just walked in the door last night with a loud meow to get my attention.  We have no idea where he was.  I had gone a little further in our neighborhood to knock on more doors and hang up more signs so I don’t know if that encouraged someone to let him out of their house if they had him (but why wouldn’t they have called us to get the reward?) or if the snow had stopped falling enough for him to leave his hidey-hole.  We probably will never know how he spent his time during Snowmageddon 2014 but at least he is home safe.

February 11, 2014 - 10:07 pm

Beth W - Cats are resourceful like that. Yay! I’m glad he came home to his hero’s welcome. :)

Snowlandia! It’s snowing in Portland!

Portland, OR is known for its rain.  We get lots and lots of rain (and lots).  Snow?  Not so much.  We might get a dusting or two each winter.  This weekend we have been hit with Snowmageddon 2014!  It’s been snowing almost non-stop since Thursday around noon.   We got almost 4 inches of snow on the Thursday and then a few more inches on Friday and Saturday.  The city of Portland has essentially shut down.  Restaurants are closed, shops are closed, schools were closed.  People have been skiing down my street!

Aside from a harrowing drive in the all-wheel-drive car to the sporting goods store to pick up snow boots for the kids, we have been stuck at home since Thursday.  I’ve been tucked  inside reading Relic by Lincoln & Child.   The snow has slowed down but we now have freezing rain which will make the roads every more treacherous driving and possibly cause some power outages.  I for one am hoping we keep power.

Our kitty, J.J., got out of the house on Thursday and we haven’t seen him since.  We’ve walked the neighborhood, put up signs,  and claustrophobic me has even gone under the house into the crawl space.  We are very worried and I’m really hoping that someone has taken him during the storm.  I’ve been trying to keep the kids busy to keep their minds off of J.J.

February 9, 2014 - 8:49 pm

Beth W - I’m sure your kitty is just hunkered down in a hollow somewhere, or maybe even in someone’s house (seeing a cat in the snow, they may have “rescued” it) and will venture out once the world is back to normal-smelling/looking. In the meantime…..enjoy the snow! We got 2″ last night, and it made my 2014. I’m kinda jealous of your total several-day-snowday. :)

February 10, 2014 - 9:44 am

Jen @ Under a Gray Sky - Thanks, Beth! He finally came home last night. We are so happy!

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