Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Salon: Here I Go Again

 Good morning and Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  Aren't long weekends awesome?  Except that this holiday marks the onset of summer, and every school day after this point is positively grueling for everyone involved.  My daughter has finals next week but my son goes for a week past that, so I'm preparing for bad moods and drama all around.  Me included.  I'm just sending out the warning.

Not much I'm going to say about this past week except good riddance.  It sucked pretty much from beginning to end, and it caused heart palpitations and eye twitches.  It picked up a bit towards the weekend with some dinners and get-togethers with friends, which is always a balm to smooth over the rough edges.

Because of the general suckiness of the week, I wasn't hugely productive with the reading.  I did finish "The Hypnotist's Love Story" and while it had all of Liane Moriarty's easy prose and insight into a woman's heart, it didn't blow me away like "What Alice Forgot" did.  It didn't seem to have much direction.  I have just started a book called "Metro 2033", a post-apocalyptic novel that was made into a video game, and something my son REALLY wants me to read.

I also finished Jen Lancaster's "Here I Go Again" on audio.  It was completely ludicrous and predictable, but I honestly had a ball with it.  If you love the movie Groundhog Day, or the book "Before I Fall", and you spent your formative years in the '80's, you really have to give this one a shot.  Funny as HELL!  I'm now maybe a third of the way through "The Fifth Wave" and am intrigued.  Them's some nasty aliens.

I know many of you are headed out to BEA in New York soon, so I want to wish you safe travels, a good time and good books.  I'm thinking it is probably going to be pretty slow around here next week.  Maybe I should just shut down the blog?  Not a bad idea.  I just might.  Hmmm...

So what plans do you all have for the rest of the weekend?  A short trip?  A barbecue?  Sleeping in and reading?  Whatever is on your agenda for the next couple of days, hope you have a great time!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Grilled Fish Tacos with Chipotle-Lime Dressing

We love fish in our household, and have access to some amazingly fresh stuff living in Florida.  Awhile back, my husband went on a corporate fishing trip and came back with...I don't know...a whole shelf in my freezer full of mahi mahi.  Bags and bags of it.  I was thrilled!   I scoured the Internet for all the different ways I could make it, and I found the perfect recipe...grilled fish tacos!  I got this recipe from and it was such a hit that I made it over and over until the mahi was all gone.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbl distilled white vinegar
2 tbl fresh lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 pound tilapia (or mahi) fillets, cut into chunks


1 8 oz. container of light sour cream
1/2 cup adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
2 TBL fresh lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
salt and pepper to taste

1 (10 ounce) package tortillas
3 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small head cabbage, cored and shredded
2 limes, cut in wedges
1.  To make the marinade, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, lime zest, honey, garlic, cumin, chili powder, seafood seasoning, black pepper, and hot sauce in a bowl until blended. Place the fish in a shallow dish, and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover, and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours.

To make the dressing, combine the sour cream and adobo sauce in a bowl. Stir in the lime juice, lime zest, cumin, chili powder, seafood seasoning. Add salt, and pepper in desired amounts. Cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate. Set grate 4 inches from the heat.

Picture courtesy of Allrecipes

I would like to add that I'm not a fan of grilling (grills scare me).  So if my husband wasn't home, or if it was raining, I would pan sear the fish instead, or throw the fish on my indoor counter grill, and both ways tasted great.


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post at Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (Audio)

Most of the time, I am the last person to read the latest, hottest book.  But I've experienced a kind of miracle here lately...DIGITAL DOWNLOADS!!!  Penguin Audio e-mails their digital offerings every month, but I've never been able to figure out how to get them to my iPod.  I just made up my mind to figure it out, sanity and time be damned, and lo and behold!  The Interestings!  In my ears right when it was released!  

Synopsis:  It was the summer of 1974 when Jules Jacobson met the others (self-dubbed "The Interestings") at art camp.  A gawky, awkward comedic actress wannabe, Jules is welcomed and embraced by this hip group of kids...Ethan Figman, the creative cartoonist who wants to be her boyfriend, the Wolf siblings Ash (beautiful and ethereal) and Goodman (handsome and dangerous), musician Jonah Bay, and the amazonian dancer Kathy.  This feeling of belonging was a new experience and a much-needed one since Jules had just lost her father to cancer.  The bonds that formed during this magical summer continue throughout their lives, through college, careers, marriages, divorces and death. 

Primarily through the narration of Jules, we watch the progression of the lives of her and her friends.  A careless act threatens the strength and health of their friendships, and reverberates throughout all of their lives with long-range consequences.  While some of the group go on to become wildly successful, others struggle to make ends meet, creating a subtle divide and ultimately a deep-seeded envy, and is a theme throughout.  Poster children for the 1980's, the group encounters AIDS, feminism, child labor, depression, rape, the Moonies, and autism.

Perhaps this truly is the next Great American Novel.

My thoughts:  I've taken my time in writing this review because I can't quite figure out how I feel about it.  Over the last couple of weeks since I finished it, my mind has kept wandering back to it, musing.  About how I loved my summer camps.  About how, with the right skills (Wolitzer skills!), each and every one of us could probably write a similar story based on our own lives, with a little embellishment.  About how it is so easy to both love and envy our friends.  About how the decades of our formative years and that culture made us who we are.  

So I guess that means I loved the book.

The biggest thing that bothered me was that at times it did seem to wander.  But if I were to tell MY story, it would wander too.  This was a story of some people's lives over 40 plus years, and we are just along for the ride, being entertained by their ups and downs, personalities, quirks, the detours, successes, disenchantments and heartbreaks.

I've seen this book compared to Jonathan Franzen, and that certainly knocked me sideways because I am not a fan of the Fran.  His work feels slimy and miserable (although well-written).  But Wolitzer certainly IS an astute observer of relationships and dialogue in that way.  I think the difference is that while, like life, this story can get weighed down by day-to-day challenges, the author handles it with a quippy, clever, breezy way that made it extremely palatable.

I expect to see this one on some favorites lists come year end.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator was Jen Tullock, who appears to only have narrated this one audiobook.  She is apparently a comedian that performs on stage, and this experience serves her well in this production.  She speaks easily and delivers the author's quippy, breezy prose with perfect timing, making this a truly enjoyable audio.  I hope she decides to pursue this career path, because I'd love to hear her again.

Audiobook length:  15 hours and 41 minutes (480 pages)

4.5 out of 5 stars     


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New on the iPod

 Here are three more titles that I recently added to my ever-expanding collection of audios that may take years to consume.  Hey at least I won't ever have an audio emergency!

 The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin (borrowed from the Orange County Library and recommended to me by Kathy at Bermudaonion)

Narrated by: Lorna Raver

Listening length: 16 hours, 24 minutes

Shy daughter of US Ambassador to Mexico meets and falls in love with Col. Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic.  While ultimately accomplished in her own right, she will always be considered the aviator's wife.  This vividly-imagined novel of a complicated marriage covers the rich history of the late-1920's to the mid-1960's.
Panorama City by Antoine Wilson (borrowed from the Orange County Library and recommended to me by Ti at Book Chatter)

Narrated by:  Paul Michael Garcia
Listening length:  8 hours, 6 minutes

28-year-old Oppen Porter, an open-hearted, bicycle-riding, binocular-toting, self described "slow absorber", unspools into a cassette recorder his tale of self-determination, from "village idiot" to "man of the world", for the benefit of his unborn son.

Bunker Hill by Nathanial Philbrick (received from Penguin Audio and recently reviewed by Jill at Rhapsody in Books)
Narrated by:  Chris Sorensen
Listening length:  12 hours, 58 minutes

A fresh perspective on every aspect of the story of the Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution.  Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscape with passion and insight in this mesmerizing narrative.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe (Audio)

I've been on a real memoir bender lately haven't I?  Sometimes I just need that fix that is like gossip, only from the horse's mouth.  

I find it fascinating to explore my perceptions of a person BEFORE I read their book, and then after.  (Like with Rod Stewart, I originally thought him annoying and a cad, and ended up with a semi-crush on the man.  Or maybe that was just the influence of narrator Simon Vance, I don't know.)  

Rob Lowe was in all the movies of my youth.  The Outsiders, Class, St. Elmo's Fire, About Last Night, Wayne's World.  I always thought he was a decent actor but never had a fixation on him.  He was almost too cute.  And I thought him an actor who crashed and burned and had to resurrect his career, like Robert Downey Jr., which gained a bit of my respect.  I was curious to know what else he had to say.  

Synopsis:  In "Stories I Only Tell My Friends", Rob Lowe humorously and candidly tells us his life story.  And what a story that is.  Raised in a broken home by a scattered mother who remarried multiple times, Rob was left to his own devices.  He'd always been drawn to acting (which at the time was considered freakish) but never received professional training or coaching, nor encouragement.  But through sheer determination and frequently being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people, he became a child star at 15 and went on to become an iconic face in the movie business.  

As a pre-adolescent, he knocked on the hotel room door of Liza Manelli.  He was neighbors with the Sheens (who often hosted Tom Cruise for couch-crashing) and the Penns.  His aunt and uncle worked on the set of Star Wars.  He dated Carey Grant's daughter (and ultimately bedded a long list of celebrities like Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco).  Was this a long string of good fortune?  Perhaps, but Lowe used every advantage thrown at him.

His big break was when Frances Ford Coppola awarded him the coveted role of Sodapop in "The Outsiders", along with a huge cast of future stars like Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise.  He rode that wave but ultimately hit a dry spell and turned to excessive drinking, which landed him in rehab.  As he meets and marries the love of his life and starts a family, he regains his momentum with a string of successful TV shows, particularly The West Wing.  

In the retelling of his life, Lowe is refreshingly honest about his looks, his luck, his passions, his successes and failings.  While he was once an ambitious and superficial party-animal, bound to die alone, he now looks back on his life with wisdom and gratitude for his blessings.  And full of stories worth sharing.

My thoughts:  I guess I thought I might get pompousness, or a little bitterness, from someone who might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer.  A pretty face and all that right?  But instead, I got a breath of fresh air, and a sharp cookie who understands the business and understands people.  Lowe is incredibly engaging and a hell of a storyteller.  Obviously an astute observer of others, his stories are that much more entertaining because he throws it all at us...the mannerisms, the conversations, the attitudes...of everyone he has ever known.  Like, I totally got it when he described the young, pre-Risky Business Tom Cruise as intense, but that Patrick Swayze made Cruise look lobotomized.  

And he has HUNDREDS of these stories.  He chucks them at you so fast, you can't even remember them all, let alone write them down, but it is fun and you laugh the whole way, amused, fascinated, horrified.  

I will say that he is a bit of a name-dropper, and had a tendency to build up to some of the bigger names.  He hints at who he runs into when we was 19 at a casting call, but strings you a long a little before he gives you the big reveal.  I didn't need all that drama really.  The stories stand on their own.  

A word about the audio production:  The gift of this book was that Lowe narrates it himself.  He is an amazing narrator...relaxed, conversational, with a hint of mischief or regret or glee in his voice.  His imitation of some of the people in his life are uncanny.  Not every author can pull this off, but he proves his acting mettle in spectacular fashion here.

Audiobook length:  9 hours and 11 minutes (320 pages)

4 out of 5 stars  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday Matinee: An Ode to David Fincher - Part I

I've been planning this post for quite a long time.  Because you see, I have a bit of a thing for David Fincher.

My son and I adore his movies.  Over meals we have intense discussions about his themes, style and casting.  We both have admitted that if we were to see this man in public, we might not have full composure.  We might squeal or giggle and act a fool.  

Before I wrote us this ode, though, I had to watch a couple of movies I hadn't seen, and re-watch some that I hadn't seen in awhile.  I had to do some homework.  

My goal was twofold.  First I just wanted to gush in a very unprofessional, fangirl kind of way.  Hey, I've made it clear I'm not a movie critic.  But I know what I like.  And I like him, unequivocally.  My second goal was to make you aware of him.  I'm sure you know his movies (he has made 9 in all) but he has a pattern of excellence, at least with my taste of movies, in all of them.  I wanted to connect the dots for you, if you hadn't already.

David Fincher was born on August 28, 1962 in Denver Colorado, but was primarily raised in Marin County California.  He got a Super 8 camera for his 8th birthday (I see his parents had a sense of humor) and never looked back.  Right out of high school, he worked for John Korty (a filmmaker primarily known for his documentaries) as a cameraman.  He then went to work for George Lucas (who was a neighbor) in special effects, then got into the business of making commercials and music videos for some of the greatest performers in the industry, like Madonna, Sting, Aerosmith, George Michael and Michael Jackson.

If I had to throw out some themes and labels for his work, it would be...noir, original, edgy, dark, grunge, and visual.  You can certainly see his music video influence in some of his opening sequences for sure (the opening sequence for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo BLEW MY MIND, but all of his movies have a stylized musical element).  He tends to make films about alienation and obsession.  He doesn't always go for the blockbuster, crowd-pleasing ending.  In fact, he is known for locking horns with the studio execs in such matters, earning him a reputation for being stubborn.  He has been known to dismiss an actor for being annoying.  He has been known to shoot a scene 90 times.  In an interview, he was quoted as "wanting his audience to feel uncomfortable".  Oh yeah, and his movies tend to be long.  He has a lot to say.

So what I am going to do is this.  Fincher has made 9 movies, and I'm going to rank them from #9 to #1 over the next few weeks.  I know this ranking wasn't really necessary, but there is sport in it.  But with the exception of maybe the first two movies on my list, it pains me to minimize any of them.  To put "Zodiac" as #7, for example, makes me sick because it is a phenomenal movie.  Suffice it to say, you won't go wrong with any of these.


#9.  Alien 3 (1992)

Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance

Alien 3 was Fincher's directorial debut, and pretty much a dismal box office failure.  But to Fincher's defense, he inherited a bad script that was in a constant state of revision, had a rushed production schedule, and Fox edited the soul out of the original cut.  It isn't a horrible movie, and has shades of what would be Fincher's subtle stamp of style, and far from the worst in the series (Alien: Resurrection for example).  

#8:  Panic Room (2002)

Starring:  Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto

This is a decent thriller about a divorced mother and her diabetic child held captive in their NYC home by three burglars.  Mother and daughter take refuge inside a high-tech safe room within the house, but what the burglars want is in that room.  Thus ensues a battle of the wills and the mind to survive.  The camerawork is particular effective in navigating throughout this huge home, it is fast-paced with a team of great acting (this was Stewart before her head swelled and her mouth was perpetually open).  There was a memorable scene near the end with Whitaker that was very poetic...I would have been happy had the movie ended there, and would have been Fincher-esque.  Instead an added segment made it all a little too crowd-pleasing.  I have a feeling this was part of a compromise that ultimately adding nothing for me.

#7:  Zodiac (2007)

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr.

This movie is based on the non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith of the same name, and explores the infamous unsolved investigation of the Zodiac serial killer in San Francisco in the 1960's and 1970's, and the toll it took on those involved.  The primary focus is on a political cartoonist working at The Chronicle who becomes obsessed with the case when police and the newspaper receive mysterious encrypted letters and phone calls from the killer.  The acting in this movie is superb, and there is also a great use of music to pull you back into the time period.  It felt like I was investigating the case along with the reporters and police on-screen, and when we come face-to-face...more than once...with parties most likely involved with these grisly killings (once in a basement!!!), it is HEART STOPPING.  Fincher, his screenwriter, and the producer all spent 18 months conducting their own investigation and research before filming, and it shows.  This is not a slasher movie, like Saw, it is a smart movie that makes your brain buzz.

Next week, I'll progress up my list of favorites, #6 through #4.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Salon: Pass me the wine

 So yes, it is Sunday morning and I'm already wanting wine.  It's been that kind of week!  When is it ever NOT that kind of week?  Ha!  I always worry that I sound whiny (wine-y), so I'll just quickly run down this week's highlights.

*  One kid home with a stomach bug for most of the week.  With only three weeks of school left, I have anxiety attacks on accumulation of homework and tests.

*  The other kid in the throes of her first AP exam, and looming finals.  Misery thy name is she.  I just stayed out of her way basically, and fetched ice cream and M&M's when she made the request, like the maid servant that I am.

*  Realize the Nawrot compound is soon going to be overgrown with vines and weeds.  Spend a solid three days in the yard.  Thank God for audios.

*  The neighbor's cat (who we feed and entertain) decided to DIE in our bushes.  After investigating awful smell, husband must don HAZMAT suit and dispose of the poor creature.  Worry about why a healthy cat decided to die (poisoning? rogue coyote?) and worry about the fate of my six furry babies whom I love so much.

*  The eldest furry baby, who was quite fond of neighbor cat, is faced with his own mortality, and decides to assert his dominance by suddenly resurrecting his hunting skills after years of being old and tired.  Didn't witness the carnage of the bird (first picture below) but got the full show of his wrath on the squirrel (second picture).  Isn't that nice!  

My golf league had their end-of-the-year bash on Thursday night and it was so GOOD to see some of my dear friends.  I have not been a frequent golfer this year, which makes me sad.  Hopefully when the season starts back up again in September I will be in a better position to participate.

My husband and son took off on Saturday morning, finalized registration for football in August, my son played in an All-Star volleyball game to end the season, then took off for the panhandle to do some deep sea fishing with a work colleague.  So my daughter, slightly happier after finishing the AP exam, and I spent the day shopping (included underwear, Brighton, clothes, Vera Bradley and books), dining at a new sushi restaurant, and seeing Iron Man 3.  All really good therapy for what ails you.

Besides animal shelter duty this morning, I'm not sure what we will do.  I'm thinking maybe hanging by the pool and catching up on reading.  Seems like a fine idea.  Speaking of reading, I did finally finish Michael Morris's "A Place Called Wiregrass" and loved it so darned much.  Oh my goodness.  Love him and all his Southern awesomeness.  I just picked up Liane Moriarty's "The Hypnotist's Love Story" (she wrote "What Alice Forgot").  I just love that woman.  She get's it.

On audio, I finished "The Dinner" by Herman Koch (all I have to say is WOW) as well as "The Other Typist" by Suzanne Rindell (another brain-twister).  For shits and giggles I have just started Jen Lancaster's "Here I Go Again" and I already almost ran off the road twice, she gave me belly laughs.  Her sense of humor is exactly what I needed!

So let me know how you are all doing.  Do you have a good Sunday planned?  Are you reading anything that I MUST put on my list?      

Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Shrimp Cakes with Chili-Lime Cream Sauce

 Staying with the theme I started last week...favorites in my house...I knew the next post would have to be Shrimp Cakes with Chili-Lime Cream Sauce.  My husband will frequently come home with a look on his face and tell me it is a good day for shrimp cakes.  I guess it is his comfort food.  

The recipe originally came out of the September 2005 edition of Bon Appetit, but I found it on Epicurious.  I'm not sure how I stumbled upon it, but I first made it as an appetizer for a dinner party about six years ago.  The result?  I think we all LICKED our plates.  It is that good.  Since then, it has been promoted from an appetizer to an entree at least once a month.  The recipe below will render 6 first-course servings.  At this point, I just double the ingredients.

Shrimp Cakes

16 uncooked large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined
1 large egg
1 green onion, sliced
2 TBL fresh lemon juice
1 TBL Dijon mustard
1 TBL minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Coursely chop shrimp in processor.  Add egg, green onion, lemon juice, mustard, cilantro, hot pepper sauce, salt, and pepper.  Blend in using on/off turns.  Add 1 cup panko and blend using on/off turns.  Form mixture into twelve 3-inch-diameter cakes.  Roll cakes in remaining 1 cup panko; transfer to waxed paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate 10 minutes.  (Can be made up to 4 hours ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, fry cakes until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, adding more oil as needed, about 6 minutes.

Spoon 3 tablespoons Chili-Lime Cream Sauce onto each of 6 plates.  Place 2 shrimp cakes on each and serve immediately.

Chili-Lime Cream Sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 TBL chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 TBL minced shallot
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 TBL chili-garlic sauce (found in Asian food section of most groceries)
6 TBL unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy small saucepan.  Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add cream and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.  Mix in chili-garlic sauce.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking just until melted before adding the next piece.

Photo from Petit Chef


My kids can be pretty picky, and even they love this dish.  I make a few small changes when I am making this.  I do not use peanut oil, I use canola.  It is healthier.  I also add garlic to the mixture that you boil down for the sauce, and I strain the chunks before I add the cream (I don't like chunks).  I make my cakes bigger than 3 inches in diameter, and I always make way more sauce than the recipe calls for.  You could almost drink the sauce.  Yum.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes (Audio)

It has been at least a month since I finished this book, and I continue to sit staring at my screen with my bottom lip sticking out (the one my mom said that a birdie was going to poop on when I was little).  I've moved the date of the review back three times.  I'm half tempted to just tell you to read it and spare you my histrionics but that just wouldn't be right.  This book needs love.  Lots of it.  And tissues and a few low doses of Prozac.

Synopsis:  Louisa Clark would probably classify herself as a normal (if not a bit dull) 26 year old...lives at home with her mother, father and unmarried sister and kid.  Steady, long-term boyfriend.  No specific career aspirations.  If she were honest, she couldn't say she was all that happy.  She has never had the courage to live large, or even leave her small village.  She does tend to always be the one to give in, and to let others take advantage of her docile nature, and they all do, even the ones that claim to love her.  

Until she loses her job at a cafe, and in financial desperation, takes a position as an assistant to a quadriplegic.  Then her life is turned upside-down.  Her new employer, Will Traynor, was once a handsome, virile athlete, a successful businessman, destined to marry a beautiful society girl.  Now he is wheelchair-bound after a terrible accident, and is struggling mentally and physically with this drastic change at the young age of 35.  He is surly and sarcastic, but over time, Louisa's quirky innocence and earnestness draws Will out and they develop a close friendship.  It suddenly becomes more important than ever that Louisa make it her primary mission to give Will a reason to live and to love his life with her.

Deemed "A Love Story" for this generation, prepare yourself for more than just an unlikely and endearing romance, but also an unflinching look at what it is like to live disabled, and how to find the courage to pursue happiness when one's life has been derailed.

My thoughts:  In a word, this book is perfect.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It was a blend of everything you want in a novel.  Love, self-discovery, humor, friendship, family, heartbreak.  Tears (like...ruination of makeup, so just take heed).  Flipping the bird to the gossipers and naysayers.  That kind of thing.  

I instantly felt for Louisa.  She was a typical underachiever that let everyone push her around, but behind her complacency, she had heart and talent.  Will brings that out in her and he nurtures it, while the rest of Louisa's world worries about themselves.  I really warmed up to Will too.  In some ways his was a stereotypical character...the angry, difficult shut-in, trying to drive everyone away but with a soft side that will be exposed by the right person.  It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what is going to happen here right?  But it is so fun to watch.  

There were moments of humor throughout the book, because Louisa is a little bit of a bumbler.  But a sweet one.  

There were life lessons here too, and on occasion I wondered if they were going to grow into something overbearing and lecture-ish but they never did.  There are messages in the story, but ones that should be heeded.  I'm not going to tell you what they are, because I've said enough.  At this point, just put it on your list and read it.  That is all.

A few words about the audio production:  Our primary narrator was Susan Lyons, who was the voice of Louisa.  There were several other voices as well, who occasionally popped in to give a point of view from Will's mother, Will's nurse, Louisa's sister, etc.  I can't say that the random points of view and their separate narrators did anything to enhance the story (it actually had me scratching my head), but Susan, a new voice for me, did a wonderful job.

Audiobook length:  14 hours and 40 minutes (384 pages)

5 out of 5 stars  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New on the iPod

 For the longest time, if I really wanted to read something new, and get through it quickly, my answer was "Audio".  I can really plow through the audios, since I am always on-the-go.  If I were to read something in print, I might get to it in two years.

Now?  I'm not sure audios are a sure thing any more because I have SO MANY LOADED.  Between the library, the Penguin shipments and the Penguin downloads, I was buried this past week.  It really isn't a horrible iPod has 180 gig...but it may be years before I get to them all.  Anyway, here are a few of the many I added last week:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (received from Penguin Audio digital download)

Synopsis:  The first of a trilogy, and on EW's Must List.  After the 1st wave, only darkness remains.  After the 2nd only the lucky escape.  And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive.  After the 4th wave only one rule applies:  trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.

Narrators:  Brandon Espinoza, Phoebe Strole
Listening length:  12 hours and 41 minutes

 Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg (received from Orange County Library)

Synopsis:  Four women venture into their pasts in order to shape their futures, fates and fortunes.

Narrator:  Barbara Caruso
Listening length:  7 hours and 5 minutes

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman (received from Penguin Audio)

Synopsis:  A Southern novel of family and antiques.  Brilliantly melds together themes of family, hope, loss, and a mature once-in-a-lifetime kind of love.  

I also must say that Beth is one of the nicest women EVER and I would read this without even knowing what it is about.  So flipping excited.

Narrator:  Jenna Lamia
Listening length:  12 hours