27 October 2014

Time and Again, by Jack Finney


This will easily land on my list of Best Books I've Read in 2014. Throughout the craziest and scariest time in my life this summer, it was this book I could turn to in order to be completely distracted. It certainly helped that this was filled with authentic photos from the 1800s and illustrations.

Known as one of "the" time travel books, with even Stephen King proclaiming its greatness, Jack Finney happens to also be the author of The Body Snatchers (which was retitled Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the film was made), but you never would have guessed it with this beautiful and iconic tale of time travel between the 1970s and 1880s New York City. No zombies in this one, I can assure you. (Not that I would have minded.) Time and Again is a whirlwind of visual delights as Simon Morley accepts an opportunity to work with the government to travel back in time to January 1882 in order to track down the source of a mysterious letter his girlfriend's family has always had, but never understood. To follow the trail, Simon must completely immerse himself in a time that not only is different in culture and dress, but also in the very land that New York sits on. To see a farm in the heart of Manhattan doesn't seem like that ever could have been possible, but it was, and it is this essence of combination and simplicity that lures Si in. To fall in love with a woman who would already be dead by his own time in the 1970s was unexpected and Simon is faced with a multitude of concerns, most especially ethically. Can he change the future? Should he?

If you're like me, you love a good time travel story, and this one ranks right up there. I loved everything about this book. Descriptions of the "Ladies' Mile," a section of New York regularly walked by the ladies to window shop was fantastic, and every description of clothing, mode of transportation, and food resonated with my inner desire to time travel. I wouldn't mind partnering up with Simon Morley, a comprehensive and thoughtful character, to revisit these long-forgotten times and enjoy comparing the differences. And while successful at purely time travel, the vivid imagery of a time past both beautiful and romantic, Time and Again also brings up several political questions Finney, and many others, contemplated at that time: Have we hurt the earth too much with our pollution, have we lost the authentic taste of food because of too many hormones and chemicals we inject into the animals or put onto the plants? Not withstanding these implications, Finney's Time and Again is not a political novel, but it certainly asks these questions in certain scenes, and is timely enough for today. If they asked these questions forty-plus years ago, how much further have we advanced, or how poorly do we match up with it today?

Highly recommended. I'd actually recommend you run out now and grab a copy.

Publisher: Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster
Release Date: Originally published in 1970, reprinted by Touchstone April 2014
Pages: 477

Passages of Note:
...I'd usually sit down with one of the stereoscopes - the viewers - she had, and one of several big boxes loaded with old stereoscopic views, mostly of New York City. Because I've always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain. Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building, and seen what now you never can - what was just inside the door. (p.16)
We sat in absolute silence then. I was stunned. I was, and I knew it, an ordinary person who long after he was grown retained the childhood assumption that the people who largely control our lives are somehow better informed than, and have judgment superior to, the rest of us; that they are more intelligent. Not until Vietnam did I finally realize that some of the most important decisions of all time can be made by men knowing really no more than, and who are not more intelligent than, most of the rest of us. That it was even possible that my own opinions and judgments could be as good as and maybe better than a politician’s who made a decision of profound consequence. Some of that childhood awe and acceptance of authority remained, and while I was sitting before Esterhazy’s desk - the room silent, everyone watching me, waiting - it seems presumptuous that ordinary Simon Morley should question the judgment of this board. And of the men in Washington who agreed with it. But I knew I had to. And was going to. (p.464)
About the Author (from the book)
Jack Finney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911 and lived in California. He wrote stories for magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and McCall's, and is the author of several novels, including the science fiction thriller The Body Snatchers, later published as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which served as the basis for multiple film adaptations.  He passed away in 1995 in Greenbrae, California. 

08 October 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes - A Readalong


Carl's RIP Challenges are always so fun and gets me right in the spirit for the fall season and spooky Halloween tales, and this year is no different. While I'm not strongly participating in it this year as much as I'd like to, I'm definitely joining this readalong.

I've joined Ti and Sandy for their readalong of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I'ts a story I've always wanted to read, but pushed off one for one reason or another. And as the weather gets cooler here in North Florida (it's been 55 degrees in the morning this week!), this story is settling in just right.

First impressions?
I'm pretty sure Ray Bradbury was high when he wrote this. It was a bumpy road getting used to the rhythm, but I'm into it now. Here's a sampling:
There's nothing in the living world like books on water, cures, deaths-of-a-thousand-slices, or pouring white-hot lava off castle walls on drolls and mountebanks. (Chapter 2)
Out in the world, not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did. Listen! and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their ears. A million folk ran toting cannons, sharpening guillotines; Chinese, four abreast, marched on forever. Invisible, silent, yes, but Jim and Will had the gift of ears and noses as well as the gift of tongues. This was a factory of spices from far countries. Here alien deserts slumbered. Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo. There went Miss Wills, the other librarian, through Outer Magnolia, calmly toting fragments of Peiping and Yokohama and the Celebes. Way down the third book corridor, an oldish man whispered his broom along in the drak, mounding the fallen spices... (Chapter 2 - this passage is describing the many books and adventures available in a library.)
Trippy.

Readalong Details
  • The read along begins on October 1, 2014 and ends on October 31, 2014.
  • This read along will take place mostly on Twitter using the hashtag #EnterTheRingmaster. Use the hashtag to share your thoughts while reading. You can click the link here or search that hashtag on Twitter to see what readers are saying.
The book is short and broken down into three sections. Here is the schedule:
  • Finish Section 1 (Chapters 1-24) by Friday, October 10th
  • Finish Section 2 (Chapters 25-44) by Friday, October 24th
  • Finish Section 3 (Chapters 45-54) by Friday, October 31st
On the dates above, Ti will post a quick update. Join in!


20 September 2014

I was a huge fan of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and apparently, this is the sort of premise I like in my freaky, horror dystopian novels. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman is one heck of a story, told from the perspectives of three runaways who are to be "unwound" and will be "donating" their body parts in one fell swoop because their parents or guardians don't want them anymore. It's not just about organs in this future society, though, not heart or kidney transplants from accident victims. Now, no longer do you have to deal with that pesky and boring eye color, you can now purchase a new set of eyes from an "unwind" and have the color you want. It is freaky and it is disturbing, particularly in one scene at Happy Jack, a place where all the "unwinds" go to before they undergo the "chopping block." This story is of Connor, Risa, and Lev, as they come of age and run from the law, fugitives from a world that somehow turned into a society that doesn't considered being "unwound" as dying.

Connor is the troublemaker and his parents are done with him; Risa is an orphan and the orphanage is looking to cut costs, and Lev is the religious offering from his family, who has been preparing for this "special" moment his whole life. When Connor, Risa, and Lev cross paths as they run from their fates, with Lev as their hostage, they know they just have to make it until they reach their eighteenth birthday and then they are free.

This is a wild and unforgettable journey, one I won't soon forget. While at first, I wasn't sure about the narrator's intonation, at some point about an hour in, it seemed to *click" and either I got more into the story, or the narrator really got into the groove of it, relaxing the initial monotone, and really digging deeper into each characters' individual personalities, truly giving this story its deserved frightening tension and action-packed ride. By the end of this audiobook, I couldn't go anywhere without listening to it, and made up excuses to go on errands so I could listen to it in the car. I can't tell you anything about what happens at Happy Jack, an absolutely insane camp where the "unwinds" go before their operation is performed, but there is one scene... one scene that really is sticking with me and still freaks me out. And the fact that in this society, people truly believe that these kids aren't dead, but instead are in a "divided state," is just fantastically horror-filled and completely disturbing. And don't worry, the only political agenda is the extreme of a side, whichever side that may be, and it is always scary.

Don't give up on this audiobook because of the first hour or so; stick with it. The story is SO worth it, and I plan to download the rest of the trilogy. Even if there's that one scene at Happy Jack... I can't get that one out of my head at all.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 11/1/09
Audio Time: 10 hours, 10 minutes
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Click here for an audio sample of Unwind by Neal Shusterman, narrated by Luke Daniels.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book from Audible.com

I read this for Stainless Steel Droppings' RIP IX Challenge.
About the Author
Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He is an author, director, and screenwriter, for such projects as "Goosebumps," and is in constant demand to speak at schools and conferences. The Unwind is a trilogy and I've heard is going to be made into a movie.

Visit the author:





About the Narrator (from Goodreads)
Luke Daniels has performed at various repertory theatres around the country, with an emphasis on Shakespeare. His many audiobook credits range from action and suspense to young adult and adult fiction,including works by Philip Roth and John Updike. He currently resides in the Midwest.

Visit the narrator:

12 September 2014


"Which is harder: devising an unsolvable problem, or solving that problem?"

This is the question at the core of Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X. Japan's most popular best-selling writer develops such a uniquely skilled and suspenseful story of accidental murder, cover-ups, and corrupted, heart-breaking friendships that I haven't read in a long while. It is, in one simple (and just not good enough) word, fantastic.

Yasuko has finally escaped her abusive husband, and she and her teenaged daughter have settled into a new life. When he shows up and demands more money, Yasuko and her daughter have an altercation in their apartment that results in his death. Unbeknownst to them, their next-door neighbor, Ishigami, has heard the entire incident and has offered his "services." Although a brilliant mathematician, Ishigami has devoted his life as a high school math teacher instead of taking the glory road to college research. With available time and a curious mind for always solving problems (and the more intricate, the better), Ishigami offers his help to Yasuko to cover up the death of her former husband. Feeling unable to say no for fear of the police, Yasuko accepts, unaware that Ishigami also has feelings for her.

When top detective Kusanagi arrives to investigate the case, he brings in consultant Yukawa, a fellow classmate from their college days, and now physicist, to help sort out specific details. Yukawa, commonly known as Detective Galileo, has frequently helped the police on other cases, but when he learns that Ishigami was also a fellow classmate and former "competitor" in the world of math and science, Yukawa can't help but get more involved.

This is a brilliant piece of detective-work and suspenseful writing, and I loved every moment of the story and especially the audio narration, performed by Davi Pittu. Suffice it to say that more than likely, you will not be disappointed. With every tangled strand Kusanagi unravels, Ishigami's air-tight explanations that he's provided to Yasuko are insurmountable. As "Detective Galileo," or Yukawa the physicist, dives deeper into the case, he realizes that while he might be coming closer to solving the murder, he might also be very close to losing a close friend. This is a book that you likely will have a difficult time putting down. I loved it, LOVED it. And the end? Aagh. My heart broke on so many different levels for ALL of the characters. LOVED this book.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 02/1/11
Audio Time: 9 hours, 2 minutes
Narrator: David Pittu
Click here for an audio sample from The Devotion of Suspect X.



Now, on the other hand, Salvation of a Saint was not as engaging. While all the characters remained, and even a new introduction with Utsumi, who I really liked, a tough and quickly rational assistant to Kusanagi, the tale just didn't have the same brilliant and gasping storyline. I was, while thoroughly involved because of David Pittu's narration, a little bored by the overall case and found some of the methods used by the killer to be a little preposterous, so I pushed through to quickly get through it. A lot of that simply has to do with the fact that The Devotion of Suspect X was so good, to follow it up with the next installment immediately after probably set it up for failure immediately.

I highly recommend The Devotion of Suspect X, and I look forward to the third in the series. I will be enjoying this via the audiobook as well, and am looking forward to more of David Pittu's work.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased both books from Audible.com

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 10/2/12
Audio Time: 9 hours, 13 minutes
Narrator: David Pittu
Click here for an audio sample from Salvation of a Saint.

About the Author
Born in Osaka and currently living in Tokyo, Keigo Higashino is one of the most widely known and bestselling novelists in Japan. He is the winner of the Edogawa Rampo Prize (for best mystery), the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. Prize (for best mystery) among others. His novels are translated widely throughout Asia.

Visit the Author:
About the Narrator
David Pittu is awesome. He is an American actor and versatile narrator for everything from The Marriage Plot to The Goldfinch to The 39 Clues children series. He is the 2009 Best Voice in CHILDREN & FAMILY LISTENING: The Maze of Bones, One False Note.

Visit the Narrator:

03 September 2014

Need Some Stephen King for the R.I.P IX Challenge?


According to StephenKing.com, the Encore channel is hosting a month of Stephen King shows and movies, and then will do an all-day marathon in honor of Stephen King's birthday. If you have Encore, here's what can help you for Stainless Steel Droppings' R.I.P. IX Challenge:

Stephen King Month on Encore

Encore will present “The Stephen King Collection” featuring 19 different movies, beginning on Labor Day, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). On the 21st, they're showing an all-day marathon in honor of Stephen's birthday.

Every night in September at 8:00pm ET/PT

9/1 The Shining, Part One (1997)
9/2 The Shining, Part Two (1997)
9/3 The Shining, Part Three (1997)
9/4 Stand By Me
9/5 Sometimes They Come Back (Begins at 9:00pm)
9/6 Salem’s Lot, Part One (1979), 9:35 pm Salem’s Lot Part Two (1979)
9/7 Dreamcatcher
9/8 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part One (1999)
9/9 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part Two (1999)
9/10 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part Three (1999)
9/11 Carrie (2002)
9/12 Dreamcatcher
9/13 Maximum Overdrive
9/14 Hearts in Atlantis
9/15 Sometimes They Comeback
9/16 Desperation (Pending)
9/17 Dolores Clairborne
9/18 Needful Things
9/19 Secret Window
9/20 The Dead Zone
9/21 Cujo (Part of the all-day Birthday Marathon)
9/22 Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet
9/23 Hearts in Atlantis
9/24 Return to Salem’s Lot
9/25 Maximum Overdrive
9/26 Cujo
9/27 Christine
9/28 The Running Man
9/29 Salem’s Lot, Part One (1979)
9/30 Salem’s Lot, Part Two (1979)

Stephen King’s Birthday Marathon – Sunday, September 21st

7:50am Sometimes They Come Back
9:30am Secret Window
11:10am Hearts in Atlantis
12:55pm Salem’s Lot, Part One
2:35pm Salem’s Lot, Part Two
4:15pm Stand By Me
5:45pm Dreamcatcher
8:00pm Cujo
9:35pm Christine
11:30pm Maximum Overdrive

02 September 2014

R.I.P. Challenge IX


This is my favorite time of the year. Even though North Florida does get a little cooler in the fall, it's just not the same as everywhere up North where I'm from. This is the only time of the year I really, really, miss Baltimore and Boston. I love the cool, crisp weather and bright blue skies and the taste of coffee in the morning when there's just a little bit of a chill all around you.

There's also one other thing I love about the fall, and it comes with ghouls and goblins and all kinds of scary stuff. Halloween is one of my favorite "holidays" and I always choose to read books and watch movies that are just a little bit scarier right about now, much more than usual.

And every year, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings hosts the R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Challenge. It's going onto its ninth year in a row, and it's always fun when August rolls around and you know, YOU KNOW that Carl is going to post on September 1st with all of the details and reveal the artwork. And this year is no different. (The artist, Abigail Larson, is amazing, by the way.)

So here's how it works:
  • Click here for Carl's overview that discusses the different levels.
  • Post your reviews on the RIP Challenge link site here.
  • Read other reviews and comment on them if you like.
  • But the most important thing is to HAVE FUN.
I'm opting (as I always do and never achieve, but I'm HAVING FUN, and I need some fun this year) for Peril the First and Peril on the Screen.

And why not do the Peril of the Group Read, hosted by The Estella Society for The Haunting of Hill House, the classic by Shirley Jackson. I might have to do this one...

So, bottom line? Read and watch scary stuff, post about it, and HAVE FUN.





27 August 2014

"It's the 'Real Deal' Breast Cancer."



Well, it's been quite the summer.

If you follow my Instagram account, you know what's going on. I haven't felt inclined to post here until recently, and I'm only doing so now because I feel it is important. Not just for me to vent, but for me to hopefully help one chick out there take every single lump seriously. As a matter of fact, it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman. The most important things to remember are to take lumps seriously and if you're more lethargic than usual than PLEASE go see a doctor. Who cares if people think you're a hypochondriac? Or overreacting? Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? Yes. Yes, you would.

So, here's my summer journey so far:
  1. November 2013
    • I felt a lump. I was in my final month of pregnancy, and I had an ultrasound scheduled on my due date. I was told that while the lump was large, it didn't look suspicious, and that I shouldn't worry. "Breasts do crazy things during pregnancy. Come back six months after you're done breastfeeding," the doctor in Virginia said.
  2. November 22, 2013
    • My absolutely beautiful son was born, and I tried to breastfeed. I stressed myself out, and I tried and he tried, but he just didn't want to. I felt like a failure.
  3. December 2013 through May 2014
    • I felt the lump grow, and I felt some minor shooting pains, but I didn't think anything more of it, other than that it was those "crazy" things breasts do during pregnancy. The doctor said to come back six months after I was done breastfeeding, so I planned to go back in June since breastfeeding didn't work out for me.
  4. June 2014
    • My husband's company gave us an opportunity to move back to Jacksonville, Florida from Virginia. The only catch was that we had to move back immediately. I work from home for my company, so it was a cinch to say "yes" and jump on the opportunity. My husband moved down right away and I stayed in Virginia with our beautiful son until my husband found us a house and we could move.
  5. June 2014
    • I knew I needed to get my annual exam out of the way before I moved. If I waited, I knew I would take forever to find another doctor in Florida. I might as well get it done now, I thought. I scheduled my appointment and my doctor immediately scheduled a mammogram after she felt the lump.
    • The mammogram resulted in identifying something "suspicious." They scheduled a biopsy.
    • The biopsy showed a result that STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS.
    • My doctor told me I had "the real deal" breast cancer. 
    • I kept thinking, "How can this happen? My son is only seven-months-old. I don't want him to never know me. I don't want him to call someone else 'Mommy.' That's me. I'm Mommy." I immediately had jumped to the worst-case scenario. I was a wreck. I cried constantly. I WAS TERRIFIED.
    • I packed up the house.
    • I moved with my son down to Florida. My husband had come back to do the move and drive with us.
  6. July 1, 2014
    • Two days after I moved to Florida, with boxes littered everywhere in our new house, I had my first appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. They confirmed it was breast cancer, but couldn't yet tell me what stage it was at, or if it had spread. They just needed to get it out. NOW.
    • I had a complete breakdown in my surgeon's office. What if it's really bad? What if it has spread? What will I do? I can't handle this. My son is only seven-months-old. I want to be with my husband. When will I get the test results? I can't leave my son and my husband. I still have work to do in my life.
  7. July 15, 2014
    • I had a double mastectomy performed. Even though the right breast was the problem, I opted to remove the left as well, in order to be aggressive. The doctor also found that 29 out of 53 lymph nodes had cancer in it. She removed all of my lymph nodes in my right armpit during the surgery.
    • I didn't look at myself for five days after the surgery.
    • I cried. I waited for test results. I grew paranoid about what those results were. I was terrified.
    • Finally. Some GOOD NEWS.
      • A PET scan resulted in the good news that the cancer, while it was categorized as Stage 3, had NOT SPREAD to any other part of my body other than my lymph nodes. I cried. I cried because of a combination of lingering fear, fear of my upcoming chemo treatments, and complete hysterical glee that I was going to see my son grow and that I could be with my husband for our next adventures, our next good and FUN adventures, in life.
      • But, then I realized I still have to get chemo out of the way. While one extremely terrifying part might be done, I still have more left on this ride to get done before I can breathe easy.
    • My oncologist set me up to still receive chemo treatments and radiation even though the cancer was completely removed when they performed the surgeries for both the double mastectomy and the lymph node removal. The chemo and radiation are strictly to act as an extra layer of insurance to make sure that if there are any random cancer cells floating in my body, this treatment will zap it.
  8. August 8, 2014
    • I have a procedure to put a "Power Port" into my chest, that has a tube which feeds directly into my jugular. This is how I will be "fed" the chemo, and also acts as an easy access point to take my blood work, instead of always having to find a vein in my arm. It sticks out of my chest pretty dramatically. It's not pretty, and I felt claustrophobic the first day after I got it because I could feel the tube going across my throat, but I'm used to it now.
  9. August 12, 2014
    • My first chemo treatment. They gave me a big dosage of Benadryl to relax me, and then for four hours, I laid in a bed while I got my chemo. I watched two episodes of "Lost" on Netflix, even though I struggled to keep my eyes open. (By the way, thank you to Netflix and the TV shows "Lost" and "Pretty Little Liars." You've done an excellent job distracting me from all of the crap that I've been going through.)
  10. August 13, 2014
    • I got the Neulasta shot. When you get chemo, your white blood cells drop dramatically down, and you are more open to infection. The Neulasta shot is a major jump start to grow your white blood cells, and I have to get this the day after every single time I get chemo. The only problem is that no one told me how much pain I would feel in my bones afterwards. White blood cells grow in your bone marrow, and the Neulasta shot really kicks the growth into overdrive so that you can regrow the cells to fight infection. But, man. I had the most excruciating pain for three days. It felt like I had been dragged outside into an alley and a horse dutifully obliged by kicking me in my teeth, and then kicked me everywhere else while I was down. I could feel every tooth shifting, almost like they were playing musical chairs and finding a new spot to sit in. PAINFUL.
    • The nurses recommended I take a Claritin (yes, the over-the-counter allergy pills) the two days before, the day of, and the day after I get the Neulasta shot, and it should help to minimize the bone pain. I definitely will try that for my next treatment.
My next round of chemo is next week. I'm scheduled to receive six treatments, one every three weeks, for eighteen weeks. I hear that the side effects will increase each week, because chemo builds up in your body cumulatively. I've also heard that it takes a full year for the chemo drugs to wash completely out of your body.

Phrases That I Will Never Forget
  • "It's the 'real deal' breast cancer." Spoken by my Virginia doctor who first diagnosed me. I felt like it was a nickname, like in boxing, and I had just stepped into the boxing ring for a fight I NEVER wanted to be in.
  • "You're young and you're healthy." I didn't realize being 40 and having breast cancer meant being "young and healthy." But, okay.
  • "You should prepare for a very tough year. Because of the fact that you are young and healthy, the Mayo Clinic is going to throw everything at you to get rid of the cancer."
  • "You're going to be okay." Although this was questionable as I waited for test results, I would still repeat this over and over to myself.
Quick Reflections
  • What has been the worst part to deal with?
    • WAITING. Waiting for test results, waiting to go in for the biggest surgery of my life, waiting to get chemo, waiting for the side effects to kick in. WAITING. I'll bring up the test results again. Waiting for those brought up the most intense fear and paranoia I've ever experienced in my life.
  • What stage was the cancer in?
    • Stage 3. Stage 4 would have meant it spread to other organs. In my case, it only spread to my lymph nodes, but it DID NOT SPREAD to any major organs.
  • Is my hair starting to fall out?
    • Yep. I cut my hair short so that I wouldn't have to deal with the emotions of my super-long hair falling out. It's expected that all of my hair will fall out by next week.
  • Can I taste my food?
    • Right now, it comes and goes.
  • Did I have any nausea after my first chemo treatment?
    • No, but I took them seriously when they said to take the anti-nausea pill at the first questionable feeling.
  • Do you still feel like a "breastfeeding failure?"
    • HELL, NO. If breastfeeding had been successful, I still would not have gone to the doctor yet. Remember, I was supposed to go back six months after I was done breastfeeding. What if I had been breastfeeding for six to eight months? I wouldn't have seen any doctor until next year. And that might have been just too late.
  • Did you get the genetic testing done?
    • Yes. I want to see if I have any mutations in my genes which would show I was predisposed to get breast cancer. I opted to have the most extensive genetic testing done so that I can find anything I could potentially develop (of course, the testing can only show so much), now that I've had breast cancer. Why? Simply because once I know what I might get, I can now MONITOR myself with regular testing and screenings so I can always try to catch things EARLY.
  • Did I go to a support group?
    • I thought about it, but I chose not to at this time. My family and friends have been INCREDIBLE. My husband is the most AMAZING man on the planet. I love him so much and he's working double overtime in this house to take care of the house, me, our son, our dog and cat, and everything else. He is a HERO.
    • My sister came down with her husband, sixteen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter twice to help around the new house, take care of my son, and just make noise. (I learned I hate hearing people whisper around me. It makes me feel like they think I'm going to die. When my friends and family are in the house, there's regular happy noise and it makes me feel so much better.)
    • Everyone's journey is different. I would highly recommend looking at taking advantage of support group resources and making whatever decision feels right for you. The bottom line is: You cannot do this fight alone.
  • Am I religious?
    • I am Catholic, but have never been a practicing one. Coincidentally, I was already curious about faith and religion BEFORE all of this started, and when I was diagnosed, I easily grew much closer to my faith, and I'm happier for it.
  • Am I reading?
    • I am still voraciously reading and listening to audiobooks, but my urge to craft a review is fairly minimal right now. I'd rather spend my time with my son and husband when I'm feeling well.
  • What's next?
    • 2015. I can't wait for you. I am going to be cancer-free, no more chemo treatments, have breast reconstruction (should I throw in a tummy tuck? Heck, yeah!), and plan an extra-long vacation for just my sweet little family to enjoy. An island paradise at an exclusive resort? Sounds good. A retreat to Paris, followed up by a bar crawl in Ireland? Oh, yeah. Something like that.
  • What do I need from you?
    • KICK ASS vibes, prayers, and thoughts. No sympathy, no pink, none of that. I just want WARRIOR thoughts sent my way. I'm not quite finished with this chapter of my life.
The two reasons that make my life worth living, and loving.

My husband's friend sent me this shirt after my surgery. This rocks.



11 July 2014

Alternating viewpoints between a young man saved from a village massacre and a young woman held captive within the land of her family's enemy, Across the Nightingale Floor is an epic and absorbing novel set in Japan. Combining mystery, politics, and love, this is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to, and easily makes my own "best of" list. Both narrators are intense and representative of the culture and time, and easily swept me up into this fictional fantasy world.

Takeo has only known the life of the Hidden, a cloistered community who follow a spiritual and peaceful path. When a warlord decides to brutally massacre this community, Takeo's narrow escape directs him into the path of Lord Otori, who chooses to save and adopt him. Takeo soon learns that his own mystical talents evolve as he grows up as Lord Otori's son, and finds that he has more to offer his adoptive land than simple dedication and loyalty.

I loved everything about this story, and both narrators excellently grasped the beautiful lilt and pacing I would anticipate for a story set in feudal Japan, for both Takeo and Kaede, the prisoner in the evil warlord's land. Since it's a trilogy, I already have the next installments in my Audible wishlist, and I'm ready to dive in.

Click here to listen to a sample. This story or narration may not be for everyone, but I would argue that if you're looking for something different and want to listen to a beautifully told tale of adventure, love, politics, and mystery, this might be just the story for you.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book on the audiobook website, Audible.com

Publisher: HighBridge Company
Release Date: 9/12/03
Audio Time: 8 hours, 25 minutes
Narrators: Kevin Gray, Aiko Nakasone

About the Author (from Bookbrowse.com)
Writing under the pseudonym of Lian Hearn, Gillian Rubenstein is a well-known Australian writer of children's stories. Born in England, Hearn grew up in both Nigeria and an English village and boarding school. She studied languages at Oxford University, travelled in Europe and worked in London, as editor, freelance journalist, script assessor and film critic. She emigrated to Australia in 1973, and came to live in South Australia in 1981.Rubinstein has had a long-standing interest in Asia and returned to Japan in 1999 on a residency to work on what would become The Otori Trilogy.

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About the Narrators
Kevin Gray skillfully voiced Takeo, and in my attempts to research more about him, learned that he unexpectedly passed at the age of 55 just last year. Also starring in the title role on Broadway for The Phantom of the Opera, his untimely death was felt throughout the artistic community. 




Aiko Nakasone is an accomplished stage actress. She was also part of the original cast of RENT, and even had a small part in Meet the Parents, which was sadly edited from the final film. Her audio credits most notably are represented through The Tales of the Otori Trilogy.

24 June 2014

14, by Peter Clines (Audio Review)


When Nate has to find a new apartment, he never thought one with such cheap rent in a great location with a view would fall into his lap. It's not a big deal that his apartment isn't perfect, but when he realizes that everyone else's also has an odd difference here and there, with quirks that just don't add up, Nate and his fellow building-mates decide to figure it all out. And what really is behind the door of apartment # 14? 

I loved this story. With recent selections for both audio and print missing the entertainment mark for me, 14 by Peter Clines was an absolute welcome relief. It completely knocked it out of the park. A combination of mystery, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and a whole heck of a lot of humor, I was completely whisked away into this sometimes creepy, but always interesting, fun ride into the mystery of why an entire apartment building has such cheap rent. With a thoroughly unique cast of characters who regularly referenced the Scooby gang, I adored them all, as they just wanted to figure out the mystery of their  building. Clines' story is a hit for any long road trip, and the narrator is INCREDIBLE. That's right, Internet. He's an ALL CAPS kind of awesome, and I seriously need to find everything Ray Porter has narrated and buy them all now. (He also narrated Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and I loved that one as well.)

I could probably share more, but I'm worried I'd spill the beans inadvertently. Suffice it to say that this is the most fun I've had with a story in a long time and I loved it. With pop culture references including everything from the TV show "Lost" to which recent Hulk movie was better (duh, the Ed Norton one), there's a little bit for everyone who enjoys getting thrown into a mystery that has a slight edge of creepiness to it. I've heard Peter Clines is a horror writer, and although there were moments that were a little freaky, I don't know if I'd tag this as horror. Mostly, it's a suspenseful thriller as a vibrant cast of characters decides to spend their free time trying to figure out their building's odd layout, quirks, and vibe. It's well worth it. Click here for the audio sample.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book on the audiobook website, Audible.com

Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: 6/9/12
Audio Time: 12 hours, 38 minutes
Narrator: Ray Porter

About the Author
Peter Clines is the author of numerous short stories, Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, –14–, The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. For a more perfect bio to read, click here.

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About the Narrator
Ray Porter is an actor and casting director, known for Almost Famous (2000), Argo (2012) and The Runaways (2010).

18 June 2014

Catching Air, by Sarah Pekkanen


When two brothers and their wives get a chance to leave everything behind and run a bed and breakfast in Vermont, they leap at the chance, not knowing that what they once knew would forever change. With family relationships damaged by past pains, and a woman with a secret who helps them in exchange for a safe place to stay, their first major booking is a wedding with a spoiled bride-to-be. Sorting out the business end with personal issues can be a challenge, and for this family, it's no different.

A lot of characters fill the pages, and each one has their own backstory and talent to offer the bed and breakfast. The scenery and inn are ideal and the charm of each character blends well with their own desires to artfully run their new business together as a family. Their new employee with a secret brings a quiet mystery to it and even though there's a lot going on, the author deftly combines each story.

Many of you may know I was a big fan of Skipping a Beat so I admit I was hoping for the same emotional intensity and spark, and although there were several moments that tugged at my heartstrings, it did tie up a bit too nicely in the end for my taste. Portions of Dawn's story, a woman with a secret, and the brothers' relationship with each other, didn't feel as authentic as did Alyssa's and Kira's. Alyssa, with her once globetrotting spirit now finds stability as her comfort, and Kira's previously organized and ordered life is thrown upside-down by the business, felt more tangible and heartfelt than the other players to the story. It may not have captured the magic Skipping a Beat held for me, but I do believe Sarah Pekkanen's new novel has a little something for every reader, and is a sure choice for a beach read this upcoming hot summer. Check out other readers' reviews at Goodreads.com.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 352

Sarah's other books are:
New York Times' bestselling Author Lisa Scottoline says, "Sarah Pekkanen is one of my favorite authors of women's fiction."
About the Author
Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally bestselling author of The Opposite of MeSkipping a Beat, TheseGirls, and The Best of Us as well as a series of linked short stories for ereaders. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. She lives with her family, including a rescue dog and cat, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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03 June 2014

I really wanted to like this. Turns out, I am extremely upset by the fact that I just did not. I'm harsh, but I can't sugarcoat. Usually, if I don't like something, I'll keep my comments honest but brief. In this case, I'm more comfortable bluntly expressing my dissatisfaction. 

Lately, I have been drawn to more diverse authors and story lines, and that's probably as a result of recent BEA sloppiness in selections for author panels. Forgotten Country, for all its promise in synopsis, just didn't meet the mark for me, and for several reasons. I tried to isolate if it was the story itself, the narrator, or both, and I'm confident it came down to both, but primarily the narrator. Reader be warned: Keep in mind that this is MY opinion only. Another listener/reader may connect with this much better than I did. I encourage you to Google the book and you'll find that most reviews are highly flattering, but I would cautiously recommend that it's likely a book better read than listened to. Always do your research to get a more well-rounded overview. For me, I just feel let down.

The promise in the story lies in the description which immediately pulled me in. "On the night Janie waits for her sister Hannah to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe." Curiously intriguing, especially when you know that Hannah does eventually disappear from the family.

There are two levels to this story. At its surface, two first generation Korean-American sisters come to America at a young age and later on, the older sister must find the younger sister who has disappeared. Both are now in college, but the younger sister's disappearance occurs at the most crucial time for the family, as the father has developed cancer and the prognosis is devastating. Traveling back to Korea to get treatment that isn't being done in the States is the only solution, so Janie and her parents leave without Hannah. It becomes Janie's responsibility to find Hannah and bring her to her father.

At the core of it is a complex and rather naive battle of ignorance, nonchalance, mostly laziness, particularly on the main character, Janie's, part. I must admit I was the most frustrated with her complete lack of common sense, not to mention her inability to just do what was right, instead of always layering ridiculous rationalizations, one after another. If I had to create a metaphor for this: Was she in a car, strapped in and always idling in neutral? When she would make a decision, it was always in the wrong direction, but again and again, she piled on excuses that even she knew were false, but it didn't matter. She still did it. Or didn't do it. In fact, the story felt like it came down to a series of moments in which Janie questions herself: Should I, shouldn't I; would I, could I; the end. That's the crux of it and I can't be plainer about it. There was so much more that I wanted. And for those who have read it, what was that random thing with her adviser? Huh?

But I wonder if the story itself, which most reviewers enjoyed, was lost in the audio experience. Would I have read it differently, applying a voice that didn't always sound so jumbled and confused? The narrator just didn't live up to initial expectations. The biggest annoyance was that she chose a voice for the father, a man with a courageous backstory, at a pitch so much higher than even his own daughters had when they were younger. He sounded perplexed, confused, pathetically hopeful, and ultimately weak. Honestly, with what he had to deal with throughout life, I expected a much stronger and thoughtful voice, who only becomes weakened by cancer, but still maintains his fortitude. I don't know why he was voiced in such a high, feminine tone. Come to think of it, I would have been annoyed even if a woman was voiced in this same pitch.

All in all, it could have been an interesting tale. Reflecting back on it now, I think I would have been much more interested in the story told from the perspective of the parents, instead of the annoying older daughter. I was fascinated with the history in Korea when her parents were younger and found them to be the most important characters. However, the father's voice would chime in and it was so high-pitched, I had to steel myself to continue to listen.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased and downloaded this from Audible.com

Publisher: AudioGO
Release Date: 3/1/12
Audio Time: 9 hours
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

About the Author (from her website)
Catherine Chung is the recipient of a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing, a Granta New Voice, and a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Adelphi University, and currently lives in New York City.

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About the Narrator (from her website)
Emily Woo Zeller is an award-winning audiobook narrator, voiceover artist, actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer. Audiofile Magazine named Emily as one of the “Best Voices of 2013″ for her work Nonfiction and Culture. Awards include Audiofile’s August 2013 Earphones Award for narration of TIES THAT BIND, TIES THAT BREAK by Leslie Namioka, April 2013 Earphones Award for narration of GULP by Mary Roach, the 2009 Tristen Award for Best Actress as Sally Bowles in CABARET, and the 2006 Roselyn E. Schneider Prize for Creative Achievement.

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02 June 2014

What's going on?
I must admit that I've only read two of Jennifer Weiner's novels, and they were so long ago that I'm wondering what my problem is and why I haven't made the time to read more. Lately, I've become reminded of her Twitter presence, and I just need to get myself in gear. My schedule this summer is a bit crazy, but I just might have to make time for this one. There's something about this one that just seems like it will be one heck of a book to get the conversation flowing at a book club, right?

Where can you get it?
Pre-order the book here.

Is there a book tour?
Uh-huh - here ya go!

Which of her books have you read? What am I missing out on??
Tell me!

What's it about?
Allison Weiss got her happy ending—a handsome husband, an adorable little girl, a job she loves, and a big house in the suburbs. But when she’s in the pediatrician’s office with her daughter and a magazine flips open to a quiz about addiction, she starts to wonder whether her use of prescription pills is becoming a problem. On the one hand, it’s just prescription medication, the stuff her doctors give her. Is a Percocet at the end of a hard day really different than a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class…or after your husband ignores you?

Back in the car, with her daughter safely buckled behind her, Allison opens the Altoid tin in her purse and slips a chalky white oval underneath her tongue. The pill unties her knotted muscles, erases the grime and ugliness of the city, soothes her as she frets about the truth of her looking-good life: that her husband’s becoming distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father’s early Alzheimer’s is worsening and her mother’s barely managing to cope. She tells herself that the pills let her make it through her days…but what if her ever-increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all? 

All Fall Down is the story of a woman’s slide into addiction and struggle to find her way back up again. With a sparkling comedic touch and tender, true-to-life characterizations, this tale of empowerment and redemption is Jennifer Weiner’s most poignant, timely, and triumphant story yet.

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About the Author

Jennifer Weiner grew up in Connecticut and graduated with a degree in English literature from Princeton University. This #1 New York Times bestselling author is one of the most celebrated writers today. Over 1.6 million copies of her iconic debut Good in Bed have sold to date, and it’s now in its astounding 57th printing. Her books have spent nearly five years on the New York Times bestseller list with over 11 million copies in print in 36 countries.

She is the author of the novels Good in Bed (2001); In Her Shoes (2002), which was turned into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine; Little Earthquakes (2004); Goodnight Nobody (2005); the short story collection The Guy Not Taken (2006); Certain Girls (2008); Best Friends Forever (2009); Fly Away Home (2010); Then Came You (2011); and most recently, The Next Best Thing (2012). Her Halloween eShort story, Disconnected, was published on October 28, 2013 and her newest novel, All Fall Down, will be published on June 17, 2014. 

Jennifer has appeared on numerous national television programs, including The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, and The Rachael Ray Show, and has been published in dozens of newspapers and magazines, including Seventeen, Redbook, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping. Many of her essays will be featured on her newly designed website launching in mid-May, at www.jenniferweiner.com, where she started her blog in 2002.

With 87,000 followers on Twitter, Weiner appeared on Time magazine's list of "140 Best Twitter Feeds.” The magazine hailed her "must-read" live Bachelor tweets, noting that "rarely has there been such an ideal pairing of material and writer." Forbes magazine ranked her second on their list of “25 Working Moms to Follow on Twitter”: “Bestselling novelist Weiner writes guilty pleasure beach reads, fights for her fellow female authors and still makes time for reality TV commentary. Tune in for hilarious shards of brilliance.” Jennifer can also be found on Facebook, and, in real life, Philadelphia, where she lives with her family.

31 May 2014

Sometime last year, Audible.com had a sale and The Blood of Flowers was included. I nonchalantly read through the synopsis, and was pulled in by the story of a young girl in seventeenth century Persia, but I was immediately hooked once I listened to the audio sample. Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo is one of those actresses I've always liked but never knew her name, yet it's her voice that is so memorable. I didn't even need to search online to know that the narrator was the actress in House of Sand and Fog, Fox's series 24, and most recently on the NBC series, Grimm. Click here to listen; isn't her voice beautiful and captivating?

Combined with Aghdashloo's voice, Amirrezvani's mesmerizing tale of seventeenth century Persia comes to life even more. Although it was a time that wasn't easy for anyone, much less for women, our fourteen-year-old protagonist is certain her world will be full and happy, consisting of marriage and many children. But when her father unexpectedly dies, life forces a different turn. Soon, she is traveling with her mother to Isfahan to work with her uncle, a rug maker. Her own artistic talents as a designer help her to excel in a world in which men lead the way, but it's when a secret marriage secures her current financial situation that she and her mother finally feel safe. The crumbling turn it takes is unexpected and derails her from the comfortable life she had created, but it might just be the choice that sets her completely free.

I loved this story. Rather, I'll call it an experience, particularly as it was the audiobook. The richness of the characters and the details alone make it worthy of a recommendation but with Aghdashloo beautifully relaying the intricacies of the story, from the artistry of rug-making, the secret marriage, intense love scenes, and staggering betrayals of friends and family, made it even more at the top of the list of best audiobooks to listen to. Rounding out the tale itself are seven fables embedded into the story, told by the protagonist's mother. Each of them come from traditional sources, particularly thirteenth-century poets and adds another layer of cultural fullness to the story.

Keeping the protagonist  unnamed may be unsettling for some, but in this case, it makes perfect sense. The author points out at the end that when you admire the artwork on a carpet, the designer is anonymous. Never do you see a signature and so the artist is never named, their legacy somewhat lost. Allowing the main character to remain unnamed keeps with the spirit of anonymity. And although some may not like a more mature voice speaking the words of a young girl, I did not find it disconcerting in the least. Again, Aghdashloo's voice is magical enough, lending even more authenticity to the story.

I loved everything about the story of a young girl in her early life of unexpected friendships, marriage, love, loss, and betrayal. Amirrezvani is a new-to-me author and I'll eagerly add her work to my bookshelves.

Passages of Note:
Of all the tales she had ever created, I was the one written in the ink of her soul.
FTC Disclosure: I purchased and downloaded this from Audible.com.

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Release Date: 05/24/07
Audio Time: 13 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Shohreh Aghdashloo

About the Author
Anita Amirrezvani was born in Tehran, Iran and spent time in San Francisco and Iran as she grew up. She is the author  of The Blood of Flowers and Equal of the Sun.

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About the Narrator
Shohreh Aghdashloo is a seasoned actor and an Iranian-American with an extensive background in film and theater. Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Aghdashloo gained fame in Iran for films including The Report, which won several critics' awards from the Moscow Film Festival in 1977. After the Iranian Revolution, Aghdashloo moved to England and obtained a B.A. in International Relations. She then became an American citizen and continued to pursue her acting career, earning an Academy Award nomination for her scene-stealing performance in House of Sand and Fog, also starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.

28 May 2014

Sad news today of Dr. Maya Angelou's passing. I shared the below on my Coffee and a Book Chick Facebook page, but thought it more appropriate to dedicate a post to her here as she made such an impression on me when I met her twenty-some years ago. I wish I had a picture to commemorate it, but I was so nervous, so the above is a picture I found at the University of Delaware site. So my quick story here is more from my memory, my own personal moment I will keep for the rest of my life.

Back in my college days at the University of Maryland, I had the lucky chance to introduce Dr. Maya Angelou to over 1000 attendees who came to hear her speak. This was shortly after the President selected her as the Poet Laureate. I was told she wanted to meet the person introducing her before the event was to begin, and I remember so many things. First, that when she opened the door after I timidly knocked, how unbelievably tall she was. Second, to notice how her clipped and eloquent voice was so smooth as she politely asked how long my introduction was. (Apparently, at a prior event, the person introducing her had several pages to read and she was not happy). I, with shaking hands, showed her my short paragraph and I was so relieved when she nodded her approval as she placed her hand on my arm. She thanked me, I thanked her, I shook her hand, and then I walked down the hall to an immense event room filled with people and press. Somehow I was able to get on the stage and welcome her to the University of Maryland and I kid you not, it was one of the most amazing moments of my life that I'll never forget. Rest easy, Dr. Angelou. You have left a resounding legacy. I was lucky to have just a few moments of your time.

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