The Darkest Evening of the Year

I had never read a novel by Dean Koontz before, so I was intrigued when I found The Darkest Evening of the Year in a pile left for me by my voracious reader- (I don’t know how she puts the books away like she does) soul sister- friend.  The image of the Golden Retriever on the cover sealed the deal as I am a dog lover, especially of Retrievers.

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So, reading through chapter one, Koontz had my attention, but not in the way I had hoped.  Tears were welling in my eyes at his description of dog abuse.  I was nearly “out,” so to speak, and onto the next novel, until my friend reassured me the novel does not focus on the abuse for long.  Whew!  Give me murders, natural disasters, disease, I can read on and on, but I cringe at even the mention of animal abuse.  Yes, I am the one who changes the channel when “that commercial” comes on because the one time I watched, I was wiping tears as I reached for the computer to search the inventory of our local humane society.  Ugh!

As for the book itself, its structure reveals each character’s perspective chapter by chapter which kept urging me to read further even into the wee hours of the night.  The protagonist Amy Redwing has such a passion for Golden Retrievers she has founded Golden Heart whose mission is to find forever homes for this particular breed.  Koontz detailed description of the behaviors of Redwing’s dogs is uncanny.  I laughed thinking of how my own Labrador Retriever acts in the same manner if not in a more untrained fashion.  Working on it!

The reader slowly learns along with her boyfriend Brian of her past which she has kept secret for nearly a decade.  As he reveals his own regrets, the truth of how the characters’ lives are entwined comes to fruition.

What made me sit up and take notice is that sprinkled throughout the novel, Koontz offers his outlook on life with some truly deep thoughts.  One such example comes at the conclusion of The Darkest Evening of the Year:

Too many dogs continue to be abused and abandoned- one is too many- and people continue to kill people for money and envy for no reason at all.  Bad people succeed and good people fail, but that’s not the end of the story.  Miracles happen that nobody sees, and among us walk heroes who are never recognized, and people live in loneliness because they cannot believe they are loved . . ..  (354)

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to know how people come across any and all books they read.  While having lunch the other day with two amazing women blessings and discussing my weekly three-hour drives to see a loved one, they suggested I listen to audio books while travelling in the car.  Eureka!

The last time I can recall listening to audio books was when I drove three hours from grad school to home, which is a long time ago.  Thus, I was anxious to explore the offerings at our local library.  My squirts, now pros on two wheels, and I hopped onto the bike trail across the street from our house and found our way to Glen Carbon Centennial Library (in one piece, I might add).  Here I explored nearly four rows of books on cd, a welcome increase in selection from years past.

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A foodie at heart, the title which caught my eye was Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake, a New York Times bestseller.  A compilation of essays told in Crosley’s own voice, this was the ideal reintroduction to audio books for me.  I didn’t have to remember a cast of characters or settings.  Instead, I  only had to hone in on one nonfictional account at a time ranging from the mystery of the bowel movement found on the rug in her small New York bathroom to her near death experience with hemochromatosis (yes, I didn’t  know what this ailment was before listening either).

Crosley’s careful manipulation of words made me giggle aloud as I waited in my lane for prescriptions to be filled or checks to be cashed.  I even found myself more than a tidy bit miffed when the GPS lady interrupted as I was trying to drive to a new-to-me locale.

So, if it has been a while since you have listened to an audio book or never tried one before, pick up Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake and listen to her straightforward story told in her own words.

The Cake Mix Bible

If you are like me, a passion of mine is baking.  Now, I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie when I focus and fail to rush the process, taking time to chill the dough and soften the butter organically [not via Chef Mic(rowave)].  If I don’t take the proper steps, I end up with flat-as-pancake cookies burnt on the edges and stuck to the pan.

I am also a wanna-be extreme couponer.  So, I purchase cake mixes at Schnucks when they have the 10/10 sale with the 11th being FREE.  I like FREE.  Thus, I have a fairly decent stockpile of cake mixes in my pantry.

So, when I came across The Cake Mix Bible, I knew I needed to add this to my cookbook collection.

Last night I attempted the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cake with much success.  I substituted mini Oreos for whole chocolate sandwich cookies cut into quarters because that is what I had on hand.  Also, I did reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes because I like my cakes nice and moist.  Yet, my final product nearly mirrors the picture in the book if wearing in-need-of-cleaning glasses as I was last night.  The recipe was easy, the batter was yummy, and the family chowed the cake in one sitting.

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Besides the ease of the recipes, I like the beautiful pictures throughout so that I can keep an end goal in “sight.”

My next attempt will be the Easy Lemon Cookies (hello?  who doesn’t like easy?) so that I can gift them to my BFF.

Accidents of Marriage

accidentsofmarriageRandy Susan Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage is not your typical happily-ever-after, and I like that.  Instead, what Meyers offers in black and white is brutal honesty reinforced with extensive dialogue throughout so that the reader is truly able to “listen” to each of the characters from his/her perspective.

Accidents of Marriage revolves around the marriage of Maddy and Ben, two successful professionals with three children.  A tragedy occurs which pushes to the forefront a marriage and family in trouble, trouble which can no longer be ignored or masked by other means.

As for Meyers’ writing style, her descriptive detail makes use of the senses:

Why?  That’s your first worry?  Why?’  Ben smelled his musk rising- exhaustion, court, aftershave gone flat, and beery rankness.  (Loc 610)

In addition, throughout, the carefully constructed dialogue offers life lessons to be absorbed by all:

She pointed her finger at him like a gun. ‘I’m not asking anything- I’m assuming you were out having a drink.  But don’t try and bully your way out of anything with me.’

‘I love your daughter,’ Ben said.

‘Love isn’t an excuse for anything but treating someone well.’ (Loc 2227)

Moira’s smile lit up the face that must have been lovely before old bruises and lines set in so deep. ‘I said to myself, stop worrying about him killing you.  You’re murdering yourself.  All he has to do is finish the job.  I’d been praying to God, not realizing that all that time God was helping, I just didn’t recognize his hand.  He’d sent me you all- I just hadn’t been listening.  All these years, it was like the Bible says, I’ve been a prisoner of hope.’ (Loc 4318)

If hosting a book club discussion to accompany Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage, the meal of choice should definitely be turkey meatloaf, honeyed carrot pennies, baked potatoes, and croissants in honor of Maddy’s independence.

Welcome to My New Pad

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Howdy!  Welcome to my new pad.  I have relocated from AuthorGroupie.blogspot.com.

Join me as we discuss books, writing, teaching, and life in general.  Do not miss Writing Workshop Wednesdays where we will gather for a weekly prompt and Link Partay                or  Sunday Thanks where our focus will be on what we are thankful for in the past week.

Know of someone in need of ANONYMOUS encouragement, praise, prayers, congratulations, make a Card Shower Request.

If you are a published author or aspiring author, take some time for my online interview at Ten Questions.

I am looking forward to meeting you and reading your writing.

Happy Reading and Writing,

Author Groupie

Twitter/@AuthorGroupie

 AuthorGroupie@gmail.com