My 2010 Favorites

Wow, 2010 was a great year for reading.  I had a tough time limiting my favorites to eleven so I made an honorable mention list.  Check that out for some really good and entertaining books.
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My Favorite Books of 2010
They are in the order read with the exception of the Jodi Thomas books.
Click the cover to link to my Goodreads posts and blog links.
Brava, Valentine Saving Ceecee Honeycutt
I enjoyed Trigiani’s second book of the Valentine series as much as the first.
CeeCee Honeycutt charmed her way into my heart.
I love that the animals touched me as much as the humans in Katrina Kittle’s novel.
Welcome to Harmony Somewhere Along the Way
Jodi Thomas tells a story like a treasured aunt.  She makes me laugh and care about her characters.
The Unnamed Girl in Translation
Joshua Ferris’ novel quietly wowed me. I listened to the audiobook read by the author.
Jean Kwok’s immigrant story of a young girl and her mother making their way in America despite the challenges inspired me.
Daphne Kalotay intrigued me with the story of artists’ lives in post WWII Russia and beyond.
The Bells Safe from the Sea
Richard Harvell had me from page 1 with his story of a young boy’s transformation into renowned  singer.
Safe From The Sea is Peter Geye’s story of an epic storm and its effect on a man and his son.  I couldn’t put it down.
Tom Franklin’s novel tells the story of two characters and the secrets that connected them with life-changing results.

Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke

Title: Wedding of the Season

Author: Laura Lee Guhrke

Genre: Historical Romance

About: (Pub. synopsis) Lady Beatrix Danbury has always known she would marry William Mallory. She’d loved him forever, and she’d never doubted he loved her, too. But when she made him choose between their life together and his lifelong dream, Will chose the latter, and left two weeks before their wedding.

Will has no illusions that Beatrix will welcome him back with open arms, but six years has not diminished his love or his desire for her. The only problem is that she’s about to marry someone else. Someone safe and predictable… the complete opposite of Will. But can he stop the wedding of the season and win Beatrix back, or is it just too late?

My thoughts: I think what I  liked most about this novel is the era – early 1900s England.  There are Daimler motorcars and women might wear trousers while driving.  In fact, some women are pushing the limits that society has placed on them regarding such things as smoking, drinking or having a job.  Beatrix is a bit of a modern woman but she still feels the pull of family responsibilities and expectations.

Will, however, was tired of family demands and decided to follow his own dreams of archeology in Egypt.  When Beatrix refused to marry him if it meant leaving England, Will left without her.  Six years passed and Will returned to find Beatrix planning her wedding to another man.

There are  misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and bitterness about the past but (this isn’t a spoiler because it’s a historical romance) Guhrke’s characters eventually find their way to a happy ending.  Although the novel wrapped up neatly, it left me wondering about a couple of characters.  I think the next book in the series may answer my questions.

Source: HarperCollins/Avon via NetGalley

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Mailbox Monday – Dec. 27


Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page and is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month’s host is Let Them Read Books.   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!

How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal (I bought)

Deadly Sanctuary by Sylvia Nobel (I bought)

Edge of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire (giveaway win from Hachette and Ashley’s Bookshelf

My Favorite (Christmas) Cookie

This is my favorite Christmas cookie.  My mom used her mother’s recipe and that’s how it came to be known as Grandma O’Neill Cookies.  You might know them as Brown Sugar Drop cookies.


Grandma O’Neill Cookies


1 cup shortening (I used butter)

1½ cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in ¼ cup hot water

1 tsp. cinnamon

2½ cups flour

½ tsp. salt

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped nuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 375°

Combine dry ingredients, set aside

Mix shortening, sugar, eggs, vanilla.

Add dry ingredients alternating with water with soda

Make 1 inch balls and place on parchment paper (or greased cookie sheets)

Bake 10-15 minutes (my oven took 12 minutes)

Place cookies on wire rack to cool.

When cooled, frost with almond icing (powdered sugar mixed with milk and almond extract to your taste and consistency preference).  * I use ¼ tsp. extract

Sprinkle with red or green sugar (optional)

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room: A Novel

Author: Emma Donoghue

Genre: Fiction

About: (from Goodreads – a bit of a spoiler alert: read only if you don’t mind finding out more than I knew before I read the book)  To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. …more

My thoughts: I was completely absorbed in Jack’s world of Room – the 11 ft. shack where he and his mother live.  The story is told by Jack, in a five-year-old’s words – that’s the wonderful aspect of what would normally be a tough read for me.  If it seems like a book you wouldn’t usually read I say take a chance!  I’m so glad I listened to Room.  It’s a novel I won’t soon forget.

Source: The book was a gift.  I also bought the audiobook.

Recommend: Yes, it’s a unique reading experience that is an even better listening experience.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Title: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Author: Tom Franklin

Genre: Fiction

About: (from Goodreads)  In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

My thoughts: I loved being immersed in the southern Mississippi rural landscape of country dark nights, snakes, kudzu, and unsolved mysteries.  Well, I didn’t enjoy the snakes so much.

“Scary Larry” Ott is the prime suspect in the recent disappearance of a local college student.  He is still considered the only suspect in a similar crime twenty years earlier but a body was never found so he couldn’t be charged.

Constable Silas “32” Jones is busy trying to solve other recent violent crimes when he becomes involved in the latest case involving Larry Ott.  He and Larry have a history that Franklin slowly reveals to the reader.  In fact,  this novel is as much about relationships as it is about the crime.  It’s about long held secrets and the lies told to cover them up.

I really enjoyed Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.  It’s the first of Tom Franklin’s books that I’ve read and I look forward to more.

Rating: Keeper shelf.

Recommend? Yes, to fans of a good atmospheric story.

Source: I bought it.

Mailbox Monday – Dec. 20


Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page and is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month’s host is Let Them Read Books.   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!
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From FSB Associates for review:
Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
From my Book Blogger Holiday Swap secret santa Melissa:
Room by Emma Donaghue
From another booklover exchange:
Suddenly One Summer by Barbara Freethy
Cold River by Carla Neggers
A giveaway win from Kim at Metroreader:
Charles Dickens; Chuck Fischer
My thanks to Hachette Books for providing this beautiful book!
In honor of Jane Austen’s birthday
Sourcebooks offered their ebook editions of Jane Austen’s books
as well as Austen-inspired novels by a variety of authors at no charge.
Wow!  Thank you, Sourcebooks!
I downloaded:
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Continuing the Austen theme I downloaded
a free public domain edition of Lady Susan:

Weekend Cooking – Cookie Swap

I heard that Dawn of She Is Too Fond of Books is hosting a cookie swap so, at the last minute, I decided to join in the fun.  The thing is, I didn’t have on hand a few ingredients for my family’s favorite cookie.  So I’m sharing my secret go-to cookie:

Ghirardelli Chocolate “Milk Chocolate Shortbread Cookies”.  Each fall I pick up a box (three mixes inside) at Costco.  It’s the easiest cookie out there and I dare say one of the tastiest.  For one mix all you need is ¾ cup butter.

I don’t care for that after taste that can be found in many commercial mixes but I don’t taste it at all in this cookie.  So, from the back of the box:


¾ Cup (1½ sticks) Butter, Melted

1 Pouch Cookie Mix (enclosed)

1 Pouch Milk Chocolate Drops (enclosed)


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Place melted butter and cookie mix in medium bowl.  Stir until dough forms..

Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons and shape into 1-inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until light golden brown around bottom edges (top will be pale).

Remove from oven and immediately place a chocolate drop on each cookie, pressing halfway into cookie.  (For best results, press chocolate drops into freshly baked, hot cookies.) Transfer cookies from pan to wire rack.  Each batch makes 24 cookies.

* Variations for the recipe are included on the box (Quick & Easy Chocolate Shortbread Dessert Bars, Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies, Chocolate Pecan Dipped Cookies).

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Next week’s Weekend Cooking post will be my family’s favorite cookie.


at Beth Fish Reads

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap gifts

The UPS man delivered a package on Monday.

How exciting to open it and find:

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning!


I found a cute “meowy christmas” card tucked inside.



ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Harney & Sons Holiday Tea and White Christmas Tea

A great mug (click photo for a closer look)

Burt’s Bees Hand Creme and Lip Balm

Thank you to my generous secret santa, Melissa.

She selected a book I’ve wanted to read since I first heard about it.

And the rest of the gifts are perfect for someone (me) stuck in

the deep freeze aka the north central US

Check out Melissa’s  blog

A big THANK YOU to the Holiday Swap coordinators 🙂


2011 Reading From My Shelves Project

Diane at Bibliophile By The Sea is again hosting the Reading From My Shelves Project in 2011.  I joined last year and made it a goal to meet the minimum of 20 books (I cleared 24).  I’m joining up again for the 2011 challenge and hope to surpass that number.

Click here to join the challenge.


  • Challenge runs from January 1 – December 31, 2011.
  • Read books from your own shelves, and then pass the books on to someone else: a friend, relative, the library, used book store, swap them, just as long as the book leaves your house once it has been read.
  • Decide on your goal (12 is the minimum – no maximum). Cross over books are allowed.
  • Grab the button and do a post about the challenge.
  • Keep a running list of the books you’ve read and passed on.

My List

1. Promise Canyon by Robyn Carr

2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

3. Unveiled by Courtney Milan

4. Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr

5. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

6. The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long

7. Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

8. The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter

9. Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr  

10.  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

11.  Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

12.  Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

13.  How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal

14.  At Witt’s End by Beth Solheim

15.  The Trophy Bride’s Tale by Cyrilla Barr      

16.  Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

17.  The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

18.  Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

19.  To Be Queen by Christy English

20.  The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore                                                                                                 


War and Peace Readalong in 2011

Earlier this year I followed along as Stacy and Molly read War and Peace.  I went so far as to buy the edition shown here.  And then I got busy… with other things.

So when I saw that Jillian at A Room of One’s Own is hosting a chapter-a-day readalong (yes, there are 365 chapters) it seemed like one I could manage.


Jillian’s Guidelines –

  • the readalong will last from January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011
  • there will be 6 discussion posts for this novel, one at the end of every second month
  • I plan to include a ‘participant list’ in each bi-monthly post, as well as in this initial sign-up
  • you can blog however you want, and of course write more or less than 6 posts, if you prefer
  • I may do more than 6 posts, but I’ll only list participants in the 6 scheduledposts
  • you can also follow along without reading War and Peace, and comment as you please
  • no one who joins is required to comment on the posts of participants, including mine; this is just a place to gather, no obligation required

The Bells: A Novel by Richard Harvell

The Bells is a novel that is larger than life – starting with a bell so large and loud that people who heard it were forever changed.  A young boy lived with his mother who could neither hear nor speak.  They lived mainly in the bell tower and she rang the bell morning, noon and night. For some reason the boy was unaffected by the bell – except for one thing.  He had an acute sense of hearing.  One day the man who turned out to be his father found out that the boy could speak.  The boy could ruin him with what he knew so he took him out of the village and threw him in the river. The boy’s father didn’t know that two men (monks) witnessed the incident. When the man left the scene one of the monks quickly saved the boy.  They took him back to the abbey with them where it was eventually discovered that he could also sing. That discovery brought life-changing consequences.

The novel moves from a mountain village to an abbey to Vienna’s finest concert hall. I don’t want to reveal any more of the plot because it is such a fascinating story and really should be discovered through reading it yourself.

The Bells is written in three acts – much like a work of music.  As I read I couldn’t help thinking this novel would make a wonderful opera. It has heart-breaking drama, humor, and moments that made me want to cheer out loud. Harvell reveals to the reader various aspects of certain musicians  in the 1700s. There are historical characters (the composer Gluck, for one) that figure into the story.  The author’s note at the end of the book points out more facts and the research behind the book.

If you’re looking for a unique novel I would say read The Bells.  I’m glad I did.

You can hear more about the novel here.  Diane Rehm interviewed the author in Sept. 2010.

Mailbox Monday – Dec. 6



Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page and is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month’s host is Let Them Read Books.   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!
(For review from Hachette)
Pemberley Ranch by  Jack Caldwell (my buy)
The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn (my buy)

2010 Reading Challenges Wrap Up

First up is the 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project. The goal was to read at least 20 books from my TBR shelves.  I read 24, yay!  I’ll probably sign up for the 2011 project just to keep moving books off the shelves (I give most of them away after I read them).


Next, my Summer 2010 Challenge.  This has been a personal challenge the past two summers to move books off the shelves during the summer months (kind of a sub-challenge of the 2010 RFMSP).  I challenged myself to read eight books.  Result: five.  I’m ok with that.

I signed up for the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge which is a perpetual challenge to read as many books of this imprint that appeal to me.  So far I’ve read and enjoyed three books. I plan to continue this challenge.

The Okra Picks Challenge is a six month challenge to read the Southern books selected by SIBA to handsell: the Okra Picks.  I signed on to read 1-3 books and so far I’ve read one.  I have until March 31 to read two more.

Last but not least is the 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge.  I need to read 1-5 holiday related books.  As of Dec. 4 I’ve read one book.  So, while not great, at least I’ve met the challenge!  I hope to read at least one more book for this challenge.