Masthead header
Under A Gray Sky bio picture
  • WELCOME!

    This is my little corner of the world where I can do whatever I want...review 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 Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Title:   The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium Trilogy)
Author:   Stieg Larsson
Genre:   Suspense/Thriller/Contemporary
Source:   Purchase
Rating:  4.5
Locate It:   Powell’s or Amazon

 Synopsis:  

 The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy

Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge—against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

My Thoughts:

I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2010 and The Girl Who Played with Fire in 2011.  I enjoyed them both but they are pretty intense books.  I always meant to read the final installment but didn’t get around to until last month (the very end of 2014).  Even then, I only picked it up because the title was chosen for me through a book challenge.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was AMAZING!  Well, except for the end, I really didn’t like a particular scene near the end (it just seemed a little to super-hero-ish).  But seriously, the rest of the book was so good!  I love the way Stieg Larsson writes and am so sad that there won’t be any books from him.

Have you read The Millennium Series yet?  It seems like for awhile everyone was reading these books.  I highly recommend these books but do have to warn about some very violent scenes (especially in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

January 29, 2015 - 8:10 pm

Beth Vollbach - THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST does not have a boring first half, as do the other books in this series, and it is, indeed, better than the other two. But, like the others, this book is full of ridiculousness.

In this book, Blomkvist is a tramp, taken to bed by, seemingly, every attractive female who comes along. This even as he organizes “The Knights of the Idiotic Table.”

Salander’s in the hospital, miraculously still alive after being shot in the head. Of course, Salander helps “the Knights” by illegally hacking into the computers of any high-level official. And she does so from her guarded hospital room.

In the meantime one of Bloomkvist’s love (read “sex”) interests, Erica, has an ordeal of her own going on. Not surprisingly, Salander helps her, too, as she illegally hacks into the computers of newspaper reporters and managers, again, from her guarded hospital room.

Of the three books in the series, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST is the best. But the series as a whole does not deserve all the attention it got. Classics, the kind of books everyone remembers years later, the books I’m proud to have in my bookcase, deserve this, not this series.

The Millennium Series is up there with former bestsellers like PEYTON PLACE and THE STEPFORD WIVES, the kind of books that get attention for a while. But the Millennium Series is not classic.

Book Review: The Expats

Title:   The Expats
Author:   Chris Pavone
Publisher:   Crown
Genre:   Spy Thriller/Suspense
Source:   publisher
Rating:  3.5
Locate It:  Powells or Amazon

 Synopsis:  
Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—play-dates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and unending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, doing a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they claim to be, and terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun; a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money; a complex web of intrigue where no one is who they claim to be, and the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships; and a mind-boggling long-play con threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

My Thoughts:

Who doesn’t love a bit of international intrigue?   The Expats is a book full of just that…international intrigue.  There are secret histories, secret apartments, secret bank accounts, and secret lives.  The main characters cross borders like they are crossing the street (and all while having young children in tow).

I enjoyed The Expats.  It was quite unbelievable at times but that just made it all the more fun as an espionage fantasy.  (And by fantasy, I just mean fantasizing that I am the one crossing all those international borders…not the the fantasy with dragons and wizards).

The Expats would be an excellent read during a long flight or while sitting beachside on a vacation.

**I did receive a copy of this book from the publishers (and also purchased the kindle version) and this in no way interfered with my honest review.

Book Review: When

Title:   When
Author:   Victoria Laurie
Publisher:   Disney-Hyperion
Genre:   YA/Middle Grade/Thriller
Source:   Publisher & Netgalley
Rating:  4.5
Locate It: Powell’s or Amazon

 Synopsis:  

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

My Thoughts:

I loved this book!  I’m not a fast reader as I usually have so many other distractions to get in my way but I had a hard time putting this teen thriller down.  Maddie is a very likable protagonist.  Life isn’t all that easier for her, though.  She has a dead father, an alcoholic mother, and the unnatural ability to see when a person will die.

While we never quite get an explanation for why she has this ability, other than “she was born with it”,  the story is so well written (as a middle grade/YA novel) that you are able to accept the idea that Maddie has this ability and may be the only person in the world with it.

I haven’t read very many YA thrillers, let alone thrillers with a paranormal twist, but I loved this one.  The story pulled me along as each victim was discovered and as Maddie faced some very difficult choices in her own life.

I highly recommend, When, for adults and children (12 and up).  And while the storyline  may not be right for more sensitive tweens/teens, the lack (wonderfully so) of any sexual situations make it a great choice for even the youngest tween.

*I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  (And I’m glad I did because otherwise I might not have picked this book up and I loved it.)

January 13, 2015 - 7:03 pm

Linda Meziere - Glad to hear it. I’ve been wanting to read this since I heard about it. I hope Overdrive gets it SOON!

Book Review: Wolf Hall

Title:   Wolf Hall
Author:   Hilary Mantel
Publisher:   Harper Collins
Genre:   Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction
Source:   Kindle & Audible Purchases
Rating:  5
Locate It: Powell’s or Amazon

 Synopsis:  
Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

My Thoughts:

Why, oh, why did I wait so long to read this book?  I added it to my Goodreads TBR page back in May 2012 but did not actually start reading it until December 2014.  I think it was probably because although this is one of my favorite periods of history, I thought a book about Thomas Cromwell, especially a 600+ page book, just had to be boring.  Well, guess what…it’s not!

I loved this book…I loved the pace of it…I loved Mantel’s choice of words…I loved the depictions of lesser known historical figures…I also loved Simon Slater’s narration (he read to me via Audible when I wasn’t able to sit down and read myself).  It’s just a really good book.  I’ve looked at the impressive list of awards Ms. Mantel has won (Man Booker Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, Orange Prize nominee, etc.) and now understand why she won (or was nominated) them.

Wolf Hall is a thought provoking piece of historical fiction that shows the years surrounding Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and his separation from the Catholic Church from a different perspective that I’ve seen before.  I highly recommend Wolf Hall to all readers of historical and literary fiction.

 

January 7, 2015 - 11:24 pm

Regina - I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog and your review of Wolf Hall! I had been eyeing this book since I started following the production of the show based on it due to start on January 21st. Now I want to run and by it to to my ever growing list of Tudor era books- half of which are still in TBR status. 🙂

The Classics Club Update

I joined The Classics Club back in early 2013.  The goal was to read 50 classics in 5 years.  I’m a bit behind schedule (although most of the classics that I did read were quite hefty) which means I need to pick up a few more classics this year.

My Goal:  50 Classics
Books Read:

The Book List
currently in no particular order

  1. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George RR Martin
  2. A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)  by George RR Martin
  3. A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)  by George RR Martin
  4. A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George RR Martin
  5.   Candide by Voltaire  
  6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein 
  7.   Hunger by Knut Hamsun
  8.  The Count of Monte Cristo  by Alexander Dumas 1844 
  9. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas  1844 
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  11. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  12. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  13. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  14. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre
  15. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  16. A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George RR Martin
  17. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell  1855
  18. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  19. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 1854
  20. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett (rr) 1911
  21. Dubliners by James Joyce
  22. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  23. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  24.  Fellowship of the Ring
  25.  The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  26.   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (rr) 1932
  27.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (rr)
  28.   Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  29.   A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  30.   Howards End by EM Forster
  31.   The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  32.   And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  33.   The Time Machine by HG Wells  1894
  34. Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy 1891
  35. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 1890
  36.   The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  37.   Middlemarch b y George Eliot
  38.   The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins 1868
  39.   The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (rr)
  40.   Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (rr) 1862
  41. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo 1831
  42.   Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  43. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  44.   Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  45.   The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  46.   Persuasion by Jane Austen(rr) 1817
  47.   Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  48.   The Iliad by Homer
  49.   The Odyssey by Homer
  50. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer  1372
  51.   The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy 1905
  52.   Les Liaisons Dengereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  53. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  54.   Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  55.   Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
  56.   Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  57.   Dracula by Bram Stoker 1897
  58.   The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger 1951
  59.   Franny & Zooey by JD Salinger (rr)
  60.   Lord of the Flies by William Golding 1954
  61.   Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  62.   Don Quixote by Cervantes 1605
  63. 1984 by George Orwell (rr) 1949
  64.   Animal Farm by George Orwell (rr) 1945
  65.   One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  66.   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  67.   Poetry by John Keats
  68.   The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

I’ve selected a few more than fifty so that I have some wiggle room when selecting what I will read next…I like to leave my options open.

T w i t t e r
G o o d r e a d s
R a t i n g   S c a l e