Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Published July 2007 by Crown Publishing Group
Source: I bought this one years ago after reading rave reviews from other bloggers

Publisher's Summary:
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Thoughts:
I don't know what horrible thing happened to Gillian Flynn in her lifetime but it must have been some really bad sh*(. She has one dark and twisted mind. Also, I'm left to wonder, after reading two of Flynn's books, what kind of people she has spent her life around. As in Gone Girl, Sharp Objects is filled with very, very unlikeable characters and people who have had very, very terrible lives.

To say that Camille is dogged by her own demons is a major understatement. She wears her demons over her entire body - as you might have wised up to by the cover art (although I, for some reason did not), Camille is a cutter. Raised by a mother who never loved her, a step-father who had little to do with her, and living in the very large shadow of the ghost of her dead sister, Camille has done some things in her life that make this a book not for the prudish or faint of heart.

Returning home to cover the story of a second dead girl in her home town, Camille unleashes not only her demons but her deepest insecurities and need for love and acceptance. When you know what's happened to to Camille, you be tempted to feel sorry for her. And you should; her mother is a horrible person and her sister is one nasty piece of work. But people make choices in the way they deal with the hand they are dealt and Camille has made some choices that are hard to get past. There is not, in fact, one person in Sharp Objects readers can thoroughly embrace. It's what makes Flynn Flynn. It's what makes her books hard to read and hard to put down.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Published July 2014
Source: Netgalley courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.

My Thoughts:
Before blogging, I read Amy Bloom's Away and really, really did not like it (my Goodreads review). So why did I request a galley of Bloom's latest, Lucky Us? I'm not sure. What I am sure about it how much I enjoyed it. From the opening line, "My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us" to the end I was pulled in to Eva and Iris's stories, particularly Eva's. Because it didn't just end with the fact that her father was married to another woman, it got much worse when Eva's mother walked away from her, leaving her with a man who wouldn't acknowledge her to the world and a sister who didn't know she existed.

From that point, Bloom sets her characters off on a journey from Hollywood, to Brooklyn and Long Island, to London and Germany pulling together a thoroughly modern family (gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor) in a time before such things were acceptable. Readers will have no idea where Bloom is headed with her cast until the end of the novel when it all comes together perfectly. The writing is beautiful without being flowery and Bloom plays with readers' emotions without being manipulative. I was enchanted.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Life: It Goes On - July 27

Goodness, remember the other day when I posted about how I had a lot of time to read during the High Summer Readathon? I was afraid you would. Have you ever had one of those weeks where things just keep coming up that change your plans?

We had a friend in need this week so hospital visits and dinner for the family were on the agenda. She is doing much better but this mama might just feel the need to take care of that mama a little more before this week is out. My kids may be gone but my need to mother people isn't!

We got to have dinner Saturday night with two of The Big Guy's siblings and their spouses and today celebrated Mini-him's birthday with family and friends. Twenty-six years! Sometimes it seems like those years have just flown by but I can hardly remember a time any more when I wasn't a mom.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll be listening to The Swan Thieves for a couple more weeks yet. I'm hoping something is going to happen in it soon - I'm over half way through it and nothing is happening. Maybe because I've long ago figured out the big twist and it's just a matter of getting to it.

Watching: The Orange Is The New Black marathon continued into Monday for Miss H and I. Otherwise, we haven't watched much of anything except Longmire. Do you watch that one?

Reading: This is how little reading I got done during the readathon - I'm still reading Lucky Us. I'll finish it tonight, finally. I'm abandoning the plan to finish A Moveable Feast next, though. Four books came in the mail Friday and I've been lured away by shiny new toys. Although which of them will call to me next is still unknown.

Making: Asian chicken salad, Scotcheroo Rice Krispie treats, chocolate cupcakes, smashed potatoes, cinnamon toast pancakes, flatbread pizzas. Yum - we've had a good week in the kitchen.

Planning: Vacation, vacation, vacation - can you tell I'm excited? We haven't had a family vacation in a couple of years and this may be the last one we ever get just the five of us.

Grateful for: I feel that I say this almost every other week but, serious, we are so blessed to have such wonderful families.

Enjoying: The wonderful weather we've been having - we've gotten to spend a lot of dinners on the patio. Sometimes it's been all we could do to come back in the house.

Feeling: Silly. Those Rice Krispie treats? So busy talking and thinking about all of the other things to be done and I accidentally doubled the cereal in the recipe. Didn't realize I'd done it until hours after we ate them and all wondered why they were so dry and crumbly. I hate failures in the kitchen; I know I'll be making another batch this week just to assure myself I can do it!

Looking forward to: Seeing my brother and his family this week! Did I mention how much I love my family?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Published July 2014 by Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

My Thoughts:
"Good things happen to good people" - it's Jess' mantra, although it's difficult to know why. Other than her children, it seems as if almost nothing good as every happened to Jess. Pregnant at seventeen, married to a man who not only didn't support his family but sunk all of their money into pie-in-the-sky schemes and then who had a breakdown and left home, saddled with raising a boy who is not her own and who is profoundly unhappy, and forced to work two jobs and still barely able to make ends meet. It seems that positive attitude is the only way that Jess can keep going, trying to make a life for her family. When her first attempt to get her family to Scotland for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity fails, Jess' positive attitude takes a big hit, a hit that forces her to accept an offer of help from Ed. A man she really, really doesn't like. Also a man she has just "borrowed" some money from, unbeknownst to him. This sets up a story line that could be nothing more than your standard rom-com - the battling couple you just know will end up falling in love. But for Jess "there's no room in my life for the whole one-plus-one thing."

"The only things Jess really cared about were those two children and letting them know they were okay. Because even if the whole world was throwing rocks at you, if you had your mother at your back, you'd be okay. Some deep-rooted part of you would know you were loved. That you deserved to be loved."

Moyes' is much too talented a writer to let things become mired in predictability. Moyes' characters are quirky, nuanced, and real. Her story lines balance cold hard slaps of reality with light-hearted moments. In One Plus One, Moyes takes aim at the widening gap between the rich and the poor, never stooping to making all wealthy people appear elitist and snooty nor the poor sad and pathetic.

Fans of Moyes will be happy to recognize the things they love about her writing but Moyes' books never follow a predictable pattern so readers will always find something new to love. While this one will not replace the special place in my heart that Me Before You holds, I loved this book.
"I might not fit in the way that you first with your family, neatly, a little row of round pegs in perfectly round holes. In our family all our pegs and holes belonged somewhere else first, and they're all sort of jammed in and a bit lopsided."
Moyes' books are not round pegs that fit into round holes - it's what makes them so special.

High Summer Readathon

Michelle (The True Book Addict) is once again hosting the High Summer Read-a-Thon which runs this summer from July 21 through July 27. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm late but it's already been that kind of week. Although, in my defense, I've been occupied by things that are book related. Monday evening Miss H and I spent the evening watching "Orange Is The New Black" on Netflix. I even finally broke down and ordered the book (and, hey, Barnes & Noble, why has my order STILL not shipped?). Then last night I had book club. So...

Monday I started Amy Bloom's Lucky Us, which, 50 pages in, I'm really enjoying. The plan is to finish that by tomorrow. Friday I'll get back to Elin Hildenbrand's The Castaways which I started a while back but had to put down. I had too many books going on at that time with big casts to add another one. I'm hoping to have time to finish that one, too. Although I might be distracted by Hemingway's A Moveable Feast which I'm, frankly, surprised to find myself really enjoying. Hemingway and I have had something of a love-hate relationship, light on the love.

What are you reading this week?

Life: It Goes On - July 20 - Hmmm...why didn't this post?

It's been a good week here - work has been less hectic, I've been productive at home, we celebrated my mom's cousin's 95th birthday and I got to meet two second cousins for the first time. I have mixed feelings about Facebook but it has allowed us to get to know each other a bit in the past couple of years and it was more like getting together with an old friend than meeting someone for the first time.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Oh so many things! The Swan Thieves for my book (a fourth of the way through this one and I have no idea where Kostova is going with her a good way), "Freakonomics" and "NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcasts, and the soundtrack of "Into The Woods." Trish of Love, Laughter, and A Touch of Insanity has a post the other day about her favorite musicals and I realized that there are so many musicals I've never listened to so I'm going to start rectifying that. And what better place to start than the Stephen Sondheim's musical about fairy tales?!

Me, my sister, and my South Carolina cousins

Watching: Finally finished season one of Orange Is The New Black today. Miss H and I are both watching it but not always together so we try not to watch ahead. Most of our free evenings, though, have been spent on the patio so not much television watching otherwise.

Reading: I finished Jojo Moyes' One Plus One this week (loved it!) and will finish Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects tomorrow. Next up is Amy Bloom's Lucky Us.

Making: Use of in-season produce - watermelon, corn on the cob, peaches, zucchini and tomatoes. Lots of salads and grilling at our house!

Planning: A bridal shower with my sister for our nephew's fiancee. She is such a sweetie and we are so excited to welcome her into our family. We're making good use of Pinterest to come up with some new recipes for the lunch - would you believe salad on a skewer?

Grateful for: The great weather we've had this past week. We've had a lot of dinners on the patio and been able to have windows open.

Enjoying: Tomatoes straight off the vine; I spend nine months of the year waiting for them!

Feeling: Blessed.

Looking forward to: Book club this week, although it will be bittersweet. It will be the last meeting for another of the ladies that's been with the group longer than I have who has become a dear friend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Time To Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard

No Time To Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Published September 2009 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: I purchased my audiobook copy at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Twenty-two years have passed since Beth Cappadora’s three-year-old son, Ben, was abducted. By some miracle he returned nine years later, and the family began to pick up the pieces of their lives. Now, in this sequel to Mitchard’s beloved bestseller The Deep End of the Ocean, the Cappadora children are grown: Ben is married and has a baby girl, Kerry is studying to be an opera singer, and ne’er-do-well older son Vincent is a fledgling filmmaker. His new documentary—focusing on five families caught in the torturous web of never knowing the fate of their abducted children—shakes his parents to the core. As Vincent’s film earns greater and greater acclaim and Beth tries to stave off a torrent of long-submerged emotions, the Cappadoras’ world is rocked as Beth’s greatest fear becomes reality. The family is soon drawn precipitously into the past, revisiting the worst moment of their lives—this time with only hours to find the truth that can save a life.

My Thoughts:
In 1996, Jacquelyn Mitchard wrote the bestselling The Deep End of the Ocean, her debut novel. It was the first book Oprah Winfrey ever picked for her book club and was adapted into the 1999 movie starring Treat Williams and Michelle Pfeiffer which is how I was introduced to the Cappadoras. The movie broke my heart; I had to read the book. It was one of the few books that has ever made me cry.

It's not surprising that Mitchard decided to revisit the Cappadora family. I'm sure readers were clamoring to know how the Cappadora's dealt with Ben's return over the years and I imagine that Mitchard found it hard to walk away from them. Ever since No Time To Wave Goodbye was released, I've been wanting to find out, myself, what it was like for Ben to adjust to living with a family that was, essentially strangers.

I'm not sure what I expected from Mitchard, where I expected her to pick the story back up at. What I did not expect was for her to revisit the same plot. I would have thought there would have been another way to explore the family dynamics, those "long-submerged emotions" by some other means than another kidnapping. Frankly, nothing in this book worked for me: the kidnapping stories in Vincent's movie didn't pack the emotional punch they should have, the story got mired down in too many characters and too much detail when the entire family went to the Academy Award ceremony, and, in the end, the book becomes an adventure story with a predictable ending.

I loved Mitchard's columns when she had a syndicated column, I loved The Deep End of the Ocean. But after being disappointed by her Cage of Stars and now this, I'm not sure I'll be picking up another of her books.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

P. S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
Published: February 2004 by Hyperion
Source: bought this one at Half-Price Books

Publisher's Summary:
Everyone needs a guardian angel! Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry. Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other's sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry's death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He's left her a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed 'PS, I Love You'. As the notes are gradually opened, and as the year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on.

With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing--and being braver than ever before. Life is for living, she realises--but it always helps if there's an angel watching over you.

My Thoughts:
This one is so not in my wheelhouse but I liked the movie so I figured I'd give it a chance. Turns out the movie takes all that is best in the book then filled it out to make a better emotional connection. The book spends a lot of time introducing readers to Holly's family and friends and all of their baggage, pulling the focus away from Holly and how she deals with the grief of losing Gerry.

After I was well into the book, I realized that Ahern was only twenty-one when she wrote P. S. I Love You, far too young to truly understand what it might feel like to lose the love of your life and it showed. She was much more in her element when she wrote about Holly and her friends' partying. So let's just say I raced through this one, not because I couldn't put it down but because I wanted to finish it as quickly as I could. I had to finish it - it's one of the books on my TBR Pile Challenge list. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I never would have. Sometimes reading out of your wheelhouse is a good thing..sometimes it's not.

Life: It Goes On - July 13

Hello, summer! It is well and truly July now - hot, humid, and starting to dry out. The Big Guy is out puttering around doing yard chores but the cats and I are hiding inside, watching the World Cup final. I'm not a big fan of soccer but it's growing on me as a background to other things I'm doing. I'm much more excited to be on the countdown for college football (as opposed to futbol!) - just 49 more days until players actually have to be hit to fall down and writhe in pain. These soccer players are such floppers and whiners!

We've been doing some entertaining this week, first BG's brother and his wife Thursday night and last night Mini-me and his girlfriend. It's our first time meeting her and you've got to like a girl who comes to dinner with a bottle of wine under one arm and a homemade cheesecake in her other hand.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: For music, I spent yesterday's work hours cranking up the Foo Fighter's channel on Pandora - lots of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Incubus and Weezer. Very energizing. Yesterday I started Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves on audio. It's a long one - I think I'm going to be very happy that there are five different narrators so I can keep things straight.

Watching: I'm back to Orange Is The New Black on Netflix. Miss H has also been watching it and we are finally at the same place so we can watch together. Although, some of it is a bit awkward to be watching with your nineteen-year-old daughter!

Reading: I finished P. S. I Love You this week. Definitely not my usual read and I can't say I was surprised to see that Cecelia Ahern was only twenty-one when she wrote it. I liked the movie much better. Now I've got Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast on the nightstand. I've only just stared but am a little surprised by how much I'm enjoying it. Hemingway and I have not been on great terms in the past.

Making: Grilled vegetables, caprese salad, homemade ice cream, enchiladas, and guacamole. Yep, definitely been entertaining.

Planning:  Vacation in a couple of weeks with the whole family. Can. Not. Wait.

We talked until midnight!
Grateful: To have kids who think it's important for BG and I to meet the new people they bring into their lives.

Enjoying: Farm fresh produce. We've been to our favorite stand twice this week for zucchini, onions, peaches, watermelon, corn and tomatoes. It all just tastes so much better fresh picked.

Feeling: Lazy. There is so much I should be doing around here but, instead, I'm playing on the computer and reading.

Looking forward to: Meeting my second cousin for the first time! She lives in South Carolina but has never been to Nebraska when her parents came for visits.

What are you looking forward to this week?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today's Post Is Brought To You By The Letter "P"

Simon, of Stuck In A Book, started a great meme that's been making the rounds. He assigns each person who wants to play along a letter and we're to name our favorite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. I've been assigned the letter "P."

Favorite Book...

Well, this one is easy - it has to be Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. You'd think Simon set this one up for me, wouldn't you?!

Favorite Author...

Another easy choice for me - Ann Patchett, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books (Bel Canto) as well as several other books I've read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Favorite Song...

This one was tougher and I'm not sure I really have a favorite song that starts with the letter "p," so I'm going with a song that takes me back to my college days. It's "Planet Claire" by the B-52's - such fun!

Favorite Film...

Several movies that start with "P" might make my top 100 movies; of those, though, the winner has to be "The Princess Bride." I never tire of it, can recite so many lines, and always laugh when Buttercup and Westley go rolling down the hill.

Favorite Object...

I can't entirely narrow this down to one object; rather it's a collection of objects made by my family that start with the letter "p" - pottery, paintings and photography. I've written before about how these are some of the things that feed my soul.

If you'd like to play along, head on over to Stuck In A Book and have Simon assign you a letter!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters by Timothy Shaffert

The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters by Timothy Schaffert
Published October 2007 by Unbridled Books
Source: my copy purchased at the Omaha Lit Fest

Publisher's Summary:
Schaffert’s celebrated debut novel chronicles two sisters on the cusp of womanhood as they struggle to understand their father’s suicide as well their mother’s abandonment of them many years earlier. On graduating from high school, the sisters are once again set adrift, this time by their grandmother who leaves them for Florida. In order to survive, and perhaps even thrive, on their path to adulthood, they must learn to reconcile their pasts and discover how to depend upon themselves as well as on each other.

My Thoughts:
I'm a big fan of Schaffert's Coffins of Little Hope (my review) and was delighted to find here, in his debut novel, much of its charm. Schaffert has a wonderful ability to blend great sadness with humor, the mundane with the quirky.

Mabel and Lily have had a hard life. Even before their father's suicide, they were living with a mother suffering from depression. Abandoned by everyone they depended on, the girls must rely on each other. But this is not the story about how two people bonded and overcame; it's more the story about how they survived what they'd been through and each other.  Because, despite being all each other really has, Mabel and Lily are just t as likely to hurt as help each other.

Here's what I really enjoy about Schaffert's books: they do not end all "happily ever after" but they do  end in satisfying ways that feel realistic. Well, as realistic as a girl who pretends to be the recipient of a donor eye to try to get in with the family of a girl who died can be. Yep, realistic...but twisted! Of course, it helps, for me, that Schaffert's book are set in Nebraska, bringing with them familiar places and a familiar sensibility. But you needn't have been to King Fong's in Omaha to appreciate the world that Schaffert creates in The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter
Published July 2014 by Oneworld Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
After Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.

My Thoughts:
I've read a lot of books set in India but very few about the experiences of Indian immigrants. The title,  Losing Touch, refers not just to the disease that will rob Arjun of his ability to function, but to his inability to maintain his Indian ways as his family struggles to make their home in England. It also refers to his inability to maintain the control over his family he is so desperate to keep.

Hunter tells her story in an unusual fashion, tracking the progress of Arjun's disease over decades by devoting individual chapters to a particular month, often skipping entire years. It reads almost as though it were a collection of short stories. It was surprisingly effective; it allowed Hunter to focus only on the keys points of her story yet still allowing her to fully develop her characters. And though the entire novel is told in third person, Hunter moves her point-of-view to different characters, allowing the reader to get a complete picture. I started the novel feeling sorry for Arjun, who has just lost his brother to a disease he is already beginning to suspect he is suffering from. But when the focus switches to Sunila, my feelings about Arjun quickly changed. They softened over time as I came to realize the Arjun's behavior was more about his culture than about his own weakness.

I really became involved with the characters in losing Touch and raced through the book in just a day. I was as much fascinated by the progression of Arjun and Sunila's marriage as I was by their struggle to fit in in their new country while retaining their heritage.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, see the full tour schedule. Sorry about the wonky link; I've never had to do a review on my iPad before. Clearly I'm missing something!

Life: It Goes On - July 6

Well, hello! I hadn't meant to go AWOL this week but apparently that's what I did - unplugged almost entirely without meaning to at all. I've tried to keep up on Facebook on my phone but I'm not sure I've sat down at my desk all week. I have been reading - just not reviewing the books.

I've also been having loads of fun over the long holiday weekend. Hope you've all had plenty of time for the same! We enjoyed lots of fireworks (thanks to our neighbor who put on multiple amazing shows over the weekend), family and friends' music. How did you celebrate the birth of our nation?

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Still No Time To Wave Goodbye but I'm not sure I'll stick with it. I really did not enjoy the first part of the book and when I finally read the synopsis of the book, I think I'll soon be annoyed that Mitchard, rather than really delving into the repercussions from the events of the first book, has used exactly the same hook.

Watching: Took advantage of free HBO last weekend to get caught up on "Game of Thrones." Now wanting to pick up the first book in the series but not sure how I'll fit it in to my reading plans in the foreseeable future.

Reading: Just finished Losing Touch by Sandra Hunt for a TLC Book Tours review tomorrow then I'm back to Jojo Moyes One Plus One.

Making: Red velvet cake, hot homemade chocolate sauce for the homemade my mom brought, monster cookie dough dip, and mini peach/rhubarb pies for my dad.

Planning: An upcoming vacation and a bridal shower for my nephew's fiancee.

Grateful for: This long weekend - it's been great for recharging my batteries.

Enjoying: The wonderfully cool temperatures we've been having. It's back to reality today, though. May need to find some water to play in.

Feeling: Relaxed.

Looking forward to: My brother-in-law and his wife coming to town this weekend. Haven't seen them in months. What are you looking forward to this week?