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Under A Gray Sky bio picture

    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.

Audiobook Review: Frankenstein

Title:   Frankenstein
Author:   Mary Shelley
Narrator:   Dan Stevens
Genre:   Classic/Fantasy/Horror
Source:   Audible & Kindle downloads
Rating:  5 
Locate It:  Audible or Amazon

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes you read a classic and think “What’s the big deal?”. Other times you read a classic and immediately feel a connection and an understanding to the timeless quality that makes a classic. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of the latter books for me.

I’ve tried to read it a number of times but never got past the first few pages. This time, I chose to alternately read and “listen” to the book via the Kindle’s whispersync capabilities. The narration was lovely (read by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame) but even better was the story. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a story of such deep insight into the human psyche that I am utterly amazed that it was written in the very early 19th century. The wants and desires that she gave the creature were the same wants and desires that every human being has. Shelley used the creature to look at what the result is when the basic human need for love and acceptance are withdrawn. As someone who had only had experience with Hollywood’s version of Frankenstein, I loved being able to read the creature’s viewpoint. It was painful at times, as he had his hopes continually dashed by the so-called civilized society.
It was scary at times, as well. The creatures determination to ruin Frankenstein was scary as well as Dr. Frankenstein’s own willingness to destroy his creation without even trying to understand his (it’s?) needs.

Now, I understand why this book is on every book list. It is not on enough lists! Everyone should read Frankenstein. I am so glad that I finally gave the time to read it. Now to find the time to give it a second reading.

And if you’ve already read Frankenstein, then I recommend listening to the audio version narrated by Dan Stevens.  Absolutely amazing.

November 23, 2014 - 10:08 pm

Vonnie - Frankenstein is one of my favorite classics. I’ve read many years ago and was hoping to re-read it again. I might have to try the audio version. Thanks for sharing!

Book Review: The Secret Place

Title:   The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5)
Author:   Tana French
Genre:   Thriller/Mystery
Source:   Audible Purchase
Rating:  4
Locate It:   Powells  or  Amazon


The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.

My Thoughts:

I love Tana French. I’ve devoured every one of her novels and could not wait for #5 to come out. I quite literally counted the days until The Secret Place was available for purchase. I did the “whispersync” thing and alternated between reading on my kindle and listening via the audible app. So, I read and listened to The Secret Place and I have to say that I was not as completely impressed with it as I have been with her past novels. I think my main disappointment was French’s attempt at alternating viewpoints. I didn’t love that. I generally love French’s characters so much that I enjoy getting immersed with their thoughts and perspectives. I wasn’t able to do that with this book since the chapters were constantly switching between teenage Holly and Detective Moran.

That being said, the story was great. Wickedly good as only a Tana French novel can be. There were so many twists and reveals that I felt like I was going to have whiplash at times. With some authors, this many reveals could feel forced but with French’s writing and with the setting being an all girls school, the secrets and the reveals were seamless. I loved French’s ability to really get into the mind of a 21st century teenage girl and show us all the intricacies of not only friendships but also the father-daughter relationship of Holly and her father, Frank (one of my favorites of Tana French’s past protagonists).

The story had some great bones and still had all the strength of Tana French’s storytelling. I think I just didn’t like the change of perspectives since it isn’t something that I usually expect from this author. I will probably give The Secret Place a re-read at some point in the near future.

*Although I purchased the audiobook version of The Secret Place, I also received a free netgalley version for my kindle.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

November 22, 2014 - 12:31 am

Beth Vollbach - I read this, too, and, like you, was a little disappointed.

No one writes dialog like Tana French. For that reason, combined with her unpredictable twists and turns, all her books are difficult to put down, the kind you keep reading long past bedtime. This book was also good, but . . . .

Sometimes the flashbacks seem silly and implausible. This is especially true when the girls claim to see the murder victim’s ghost. The ghost is even used by the detectives to deal with one of the girls. Come on, these are teenagers, not 6-year-olds!

But if you just go with it and accept the girls’ immaturity and dirty mouths, this book is another winner for Tana French and her Dublin murder squad series. She’s one author who is so predictably good that it’s always safe to preorder her books.

I won an ARC of THE SECRET PLACE through

The Men at Ten…

One of my new favorite shows is Forever.  Have you seen it?  If not, you really should.

One of my old favorites is Castle.  You do watch Castle, right?   I may have mentioned my obsession love all things Nathan Fillion.  (It was after all an announcement of  standing room tickets for Nathan at Nerd HQ that had me running across SDCC with my swollen painful legs/feet (thanks to a mystery allergic reaction…but that is more than you need to know here).

So, when I saw this clip of the “Men at Ten Support Group”,  I knew that I had to share it with all of you.


November 20, 2014 - 2:22 am

Doodle Bug - I am a huge fan of Forever. Unfortuantely I am a couple episodes behind *slaps hands*. I have only seen a few episodes of Castle but it looks pretty good too.

Book Review & Giveaway: The Red Book of Primrose House

**Giveaway Below**Giveaway Below**Giveaway Below**

Title:   The Red Book of Primrose House (A Potting Shed Mystery)
Author:   Marty Wingate
Publisher:   Random House
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Source:   TLC Book Tours/Publisher
Rating:  4
Locate It:  Amazon  (Only $2.99 for the Kindle version!)


In Marty Wingate’s charming new Potting Shed Mystery, Texas transplant Pru Parke’s restoration of a historic landscape in England is uprooted by an ax murderer.


Pru Parke has her dream job: head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.


But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.

My Thoughts:

When I reviewed Marty Wingate’s first novel, The Garden Plot, for TLC Book Tours earlier in the year, I immediately asked the tour coordinator if Marty was already working on her second mystery.  That’s how much I had enjoyed, The Garden Plot.  So….when The Red Book of Primrose House was preparing to release, Lisa at TLC asked if I was interested.  Of course I was interested!

I am happy to say that Marty’s second novel is just as delightful as her first.  Pru Parke is back to gardening and once again stumbles into a mystery that needs solving.  Many familiar characters from The Garden Plot are back in The Red Book (although some just make cameo appearances) and we meet some new characters to either love or hate.  I’m hoping that some of you will go back and pick up The Garden Plot so I’m trying to be a bit vague in this review as much of the setting  of the new book is a huge spoiler.

Anyways, spoilers or not, this is a great series for any fans of cozy mysteries…especially those who also happen to have a love of gardening as well.   I see this has becoming a favorite series of mine (and one of the few cozy mysteries that I read).
a Rafflecopter giveaway


**I received a free digital copy of this book in return for my honest review**

November 14, 2014 - 8:52 pm
November 14, 2014 - 9:18 pm

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours - I’m glad you’re continuing to enjoy this series! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Cookbook Review: Tacolicious

Title:   Tacolicious
Author:  Sara Deseran
Genre:  Cookbook
Source:  Publisher/Blogging  For Books
Rating:  2.5


A collection of recipes for fun, accessible taqueria fare–including colorful salsas, tasty snacks, irresistible cocktails, and of course tacos galore–from the wildly popular San Francisco restaurants and acclaimed Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market food stand, Tacolicious.

Tacos may be the most universally loved, happy-making food on earth. After all, who can say no to a juicy, spicy Chile verde taco; a decadently deep-fried Baja-style fish taco; or a gloriously porky Carnitas taco? At Tacolicious, the San Francisco Bay Area’s most popular Mexican restaurant, tacos are a way of life. And now, in this hotly anticipated cookbook, co-owner Sara Deseran shares all of the restaurant’s tortilla-wrapped secrets. Whether you’re seeking quick and easy weeknight meals or inspiration for a fabulous fiesta, Tacolicious has you covered. With recipes for showstopping salsas, crave-worthy snacks, cocktails and mocktails, and, of course, tacos galore, this festive collection is chock-full of real Mexican flavor—with a delicious California twist.


My Thoughts:

I love tacos, really love tacos.  The kind of love where I could eat tacos every day.  I was really looking forward to this cookbook.  The tacos on the cover make my stomach grumble and my mouth water so when the book arrived, I immediately sat down and glanced through it.  What I saw on a whole disappointed me.  There are a few recipes that call out to me, like the salsas, but in general the recipes in Tacolicious just didn’t appeal to me.  The taco section was much smaller than I”d expected and contained many unique tacos like “butternut squash, kale, and crunchy pepitas tacos” or “taco de lengua”.

One aspect that I really did like about Tacolicious is the abundance of photos throughout the book.  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than a cookbook without photos.

*I received a copy of Extra Virgin from the publisher. This review is my honest opinion.*

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