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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ten Underrated/Hidden Gems I've Read In The Past Year Or So #TopTenTuesday

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers will answer. Everyone is welcome to join!

Today's list is:

Top Ten Underrated/Hidden Gems I've Read In The Past Year Or So

Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden
(Dead Wrong, Book #1)
This is the best Romantic Suspense book that I read last year! Smoking hot!! Until this book, I hadn't heard of this author but I already bought the next two books in the series.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
(The Exorcist, Book #1)
The movie doesn't hold a candle to the book! This 40th Anniversary Edition of the audiobook is narrated by the author, and it's absolutely chilling.

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
(Across the Universe, Book #3
This was the best Dystopian book that I read last year. The whole series was phenomenal.

A Magical Christmas by Heather Graham
I don't generally read Contemporary Romances, so I have always steered clear of this author but I absolutely loved it and intend to read more from her!

The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson
This is another new-to-me author that blew me away, and it was such a touching and heartwarming story. A perfect holiday read!

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
(Gone With the Respiration, Book #1)
I've had a hard time with steampunk. This genre has been hit or miss with me. I either really like the book or really dislike it. This one was really good!

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
This was tough to read but, oh, so good! It deals with sexual abuse and cutting.

Little Black Dress by James Patterson with Emily Raymond
Don't knock the BookShots series! Going into these short reads, you have to realize that you aren't going to get a ton of character development. If you can accept that going in, then I recommend that you try one of these books. This was a very hot quick little read, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

Death of a Cupcake Queen by Lee Hollis
(Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery, Book #6)
I need a book title with a "Q" in it for one of my reading challenges, and I saw this at the library and grabbed it not realizing it was #6 in a series! It didn't matter that I jumped so late into the series, but now I want to read the earlier books because I enjoyed it so much!

The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
This was a really life-changing book for me, and it is a great motivator in examining your life to see where you can do better or be better or where the next steps are. It really resonated with me.

So, what hidden gems have you read in the past year or so? Please let me know in the comments, or leave me a link to your blog post if you are also participating in the meme!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon: Starting Line #WintersRespite

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon has begun!

I'm Reading:

Something from my TBR mountain. This is a dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Letter.

by Hillary Jordan

I'm Listening To:

Something from my TBR mountain, and this is January's Read-a-Long for the Classic Horror Reading Challenge.

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley
[on my iPod]

Other Books on my TBR:

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
[on my iPod]

by L. Frank Baum
(Katie Maguire, Book #1)
by Graham Masterton

I will post my updates on Twitter using the #WintersRespite hashtag, and then do a wrap-up post at the end of the read-a-thon on my blog.

Thanks again to Michelle at Seasons of Reading for hosting!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I'm still reading: 

Something from my TBR mountain.

TITLE: When She Woke
AUTHOR: Hillary Jordan 
PUBLISHER: Algonquin Books
PUBLICATION DATE: October 4, 2011
FORMAT: Hardcover
LENGTH: 344 pages
GENRE: Science Fiction/Dystopia
ISBN: 9781565126299
I am red now. It was her first thought of the day, every day, surfacing after a few seconds of fogged, blessed ignorance and sweeping through her like a wave, breaking in her breast with a soundless roar. Hard on its heels came the second wave, crashing into the wreckage left by the first: he is gone.

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.

A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

I'm listening to:

Something from my TBR mountain, and this is January's Read-a-Long for the Classic Horror Reading Challenge.

PUBLISHER: Blackstone Audio
PUBLICATION DATE: March 12, 2008 (first published 1818)
FORMAT: Unabridged audiobook
LENGTH: 8 hrs and 42 mins 
GENRE: Classics, Horror
Dr. Victor Frankenstein, an ambitious young scientist, is consumed by a fanatic desire to create a living being. He fashions an eight-foot-tall creature and succeeds in animating him, but, horrified by his visage, perceives his creation to be a monster and frightens him away. The monster, wandering in search of human companionship, is spurned and repulsed by all he approaches and learns to hate and to kill. He confronts his maker with a terrible choice: unless Frankenstein creates for him a mate, he will go on a rampage of destruction.

Frankenstein, a masterpiece of 19th-century Gothic horror and considered to be the first science-fiction novel, is a subversive tale about the corrupt tendencies in humanity's most "civilized" ambitions.

I just finished:

AUTHOR: Laura Hillenbrand
NARRATOR: Edward Herrmann
PUBLISHER: Listening Library
PUBLICATION DATE: November 11, 2014
FORMAT: Unabridged audiobook
LENGTH: 11 hrs and 8 mins 
GENRE: Biography, Nonfiction
The number one New York Times best-seller, which is also a major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie, has now been adapted by the author for young adults. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this riveting biography includes more than 100 black-and-white photos, as well as exclusive content, "In Conversation", with Laura Hillenbrand and Louie Zamperini.

On a May afternoon in 1943, an American military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary sagas of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. As a boy, he had been a clever delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and stealing. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a supreme talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war came, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a sinking raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would respond to desperation with ingenuity, suffering with hope and humor, brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would hang on the fraying wire of his will.

In this captivating young adult edition of her award-winning number one New York Times best-seller, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of a man’s breathtaking odyssey and the courage, cunning, and fortitude he found to endure and overcome.

PUBLISHER: HarperAudio
PUBLICATION DATE: February 2, 2016
FORMAT: Unabridged audiobook
LENGTH: 5 hrs and 35 mins 
GENRE: Childrens/Middle Grade Fiction
Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day the unimaginable happens: Peter's dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather's house 300 miles away from home, Peter knows he isn't where he should be - with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own....

From best-selling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker comes a beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the essential truths that define us and the devastating costs of war. Pax is destined to become a beloved classic.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these books and, if so, what did you think? Please let me know in the comments and, if you are also participating in this meme, leave me a link to your blog post so that I can stop by!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stacking The Shelves and Sunday Post

This meme is hosted by Tynga over at Team Tynga's Reviews, which she describes as follows:
"Stacking The Shelves is all about the books we are adding to our shelves each week, sharing with you our excitement for our newest titles and maybe have you discover a new book in the process!"

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

We got another dump of snow on Monday night, and it was light and fluffy but deep. It's easy to shovel, but it won't stay put. Our winds gusted to 90 km/hr, and then our temps dropped to -45 degrees Celsius (that's -49 degrees Fahrenheit) with the windchill and there was ZERO visibility on Thursday. Here's what it looked like on Tuesday morning with the fresh fluffy snow:

 That's my picnic table buried under there. You can't even see the bench anymore!

Now we are in a warm-up! It's currently -15 degrees Celsius (that's 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and we are supposed to reach +1 degree Celsius by Thursday. Isn't that crazy?! But you realize what that means? Yes, more snow! Another 20 cm is expected next weekend.

I have added a TON of audiobooks to my TBR pile, and most of them were free!

"Shane" gifted me with more audiobooks through Audible:

The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin by Charles Darwin

Thanks, Shane!

This was one of Audible's Daily Deals this week, and it's been on my Wishlist and I couldn't pass it up for only $2.95:

Into the Light by Aleatha Romig
(The Light, Book #1)

These were FREEBIES that I found on Audible:

(Simon Serrailler, Book #8.5)

Lock and Key: The Gadwall Incident by Ridley Pearson
(Lock and Key, Book #2)

(The Chronicles of St. Mary's, Book #6.5)

Did you know that you can get FREE audiobooks on Penguin Random House's website when you sign up for their newsletter? Click HERE, and then click on each of the links at the top (Fitness, Crafter, Family Travel, Business Traveler, Tech & Sci-fi, and Gardener & Cook). Scroll down to the bottom of each page and sign up for the newsletter, and then you will receive a download link for a free audiobook! The only link that didn't have an audiobook was Business Traveler, but the offerings change periodically and I've gotten audiobooks here more than once. Here are the ones that I picked up:

(Stone Barrington, Book #6)

(Dash & Lily, Book #1)

(The Original Shannara Trilogy, Book #1)

(The School of Essential Ingredients, Book #2)

I received this lovely surprise in my mailbox:

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Thanks again, Blackstone Audio! I can't wait to listen to it!!

Recap: Last Week On The Blog

Friday, January 13, 2017

#Audiobook #Review: 5 out of 5 stars for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot @RebeccaSkloot @PRHAudio #HENRIETTALACKS #HeLa

TITLE: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
AUTHOR: Rebecca Skloot
NARRATORS: Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin
PUBLISHER: Random House Audio
PUBLICATION DATE: February 2, 2010
FORMAT: Unabridged audiobook
LENGTH: 12 hrs and 30 mins 
GENRE: Biography, Memoir, Nonfiction
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first immortal human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than 60 years.

If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bombs effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now, Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the colored ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henriettas small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta's family did not learn of her immortality until more than 20 years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family, past and present, is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

This is non-fiction that is so unbelievable that it reads like fiction!

Henrietta Lacks' name has been on my radar for many years. I already knew that her cells were used to develop the polio vaccine, but I had no idea about all the other stuff that this book contained. Rebecca Skloot is one heck of an investigative journalist! She conducted more than 1,000 hours of interviews with members of Henrietta’s family and friends, as well as poring over legal documents, medical records, and diary entries.

In the late 1940s, a tumor started growing inside of Henrietta Lacks. She could feel that it was there and knew exactly where it was located. She attended at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, but not until a couple years later when she had pain and bleeding. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent radiation treatment, but it was not effective. She died later that same year, in 1951. Most astounding is that the physician that was treating her routinely took cell and tissue samples from patients without their knowledge. There was no such thing as informed consent back then! The cells were named HeLa after the first two letters of Henrietta’s first and last names. What makes HeLa cells so unusual is their ability to continue to replicate. They can divide and grow with no limitation, providing an endless supply to researchers who want to study them and experiment with them. So, while the medical industry was selling her cells to anyone who asked for them, the Lacks family didn’t even realize that this was going on! They had no knowledge that her cells existed or that a sample had been taken.

Rebecca first became interested in HeLa cells when she heard a professor talk about them in a lecture that she attended when she was only 16 years old. She peppered her professor with questions about Henrietta, but he couldn’t answer them. He said that all anyone knew was that she was black. He suggested that she could do her own research and tell him about it for some extra credit. And so it began! She eventually made contact with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, and told her that she wanted to tell Henrietta’s story which is what led to this book.

I loved how Rebecca humanized the HeLa cells and educated us about the woman that they came from. Henrietta’s background is a tough one, having lost her mother at an early age and being sent to live with her grandfather where she shared a room with her first cousin, David. They eventually had children together and married. One child, daughter Elsie, was mentally challenged and was sent to an institution. Sadly, Rebecca also uncovers the experimentation that was conducted on Elsie.

This era was before my time, so I didn’t realize the extent to which racial segregation existed in those days. I didn’t know that “colored” folks had their own ward in the hospital, how even blood was labelled “colored” or not, and that African-Americans were subjected to medical experimentation (such as, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment). This was a real eye-opener for me!

I love Rebecca’s passion, enthusiasm, and determination to bring this story to fruition. She did a commendable job, and I am not surprised that Oprah is producing and starring in this movie which will be aired on HBO later this year. I look forward to seeing it!

This is the official book trailer:

Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin are both new-to-me narrators, and they were both top-notch! I thought the pair of them were both very well suited to the story. Here is a sample of their narration:


5 stars!! It was superb, and I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE!

This book qualifies as:
Task #4 for my Goodreads Winter Seasonal Scavenger Challenge - Skiing
#24 for my A Non-Fiction Adventure

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#Book #Review: 3 out of 5 stars for Cut by Patricia McCormick @McCormickWrites @Scholastic

AUTHOR: Patricia McCormick 
PUBLICATION DATE: February 1, 2002 (first published 2000)
FORMAT: Paperback
LENGTH: 151 pages
GENRE: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
ISBN: 9780439324595
Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside.

Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak.

But Callie can only stay silent for so long...


This book will make your heart ache! I wanted to just reach out and give all those girls a big hug.

Callie is at Sea Pines, or Sick Minds as the patients refer to it, which is a treatment facility for teenage girls in Sayville, New York. At the outset, Callie doesn’t speak aloud to anyone. She was brought to the facility because the school nurse examined her when she wasn’t feeling well, and she noticed the scars on Callie’s arms. Callie is not opening up in her one-on-one sessions with the therapists or in group therapy, where there are also girls with drug addictions and eating disorders. The girls call her “S.T.” for Silent Treatment. It isn’t until the therapist tells her mother that she is exhibiting oppositional behavior and resisting treatment and that they are planning to discharge her that Callie reaches her final plea for help. She manages to steal an aluminum pie plate from the cafeteria and bends it in half to tear it and uses the sharp jagged edge to cut herself, and it ends up being a real bleeder and she goes to the attendant for help. Ruby, the attendant, fixes her up and tucks her back into bed and, the following day, Callie is ready to open up.

My heart just ached for Callie and those other girls, especially how they grew to care about one another! I thought the author did a good job giving a glimpse into a teenage girl’s mind and how she thinks and why someone would harm themselves, but I do wish she had gone into a little more depth. This was a very fast read for me albeit a tough topic, and I definitely had tears.

Patricia McCormick is a new-to-me author, and this is her debut novel. I am interested in reading more from her.

This book is on the American Library Association's Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books for 2000-2009.

Memorable quote:

“Sometimes when we’re in situations where we feel we’re not in control, we do things, especially things that take a lot of energy, as a way of making ourselves feel we have some power.” 


3 stars!! It was good, and I liked it.

This book qualifies as:
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