Tuesday, August 14, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Other Mother; Carol Goodman

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read.

The Other Mother; Carol Goodman
William Morrow - 2018

Part 1

Chapter One

"She's crying again.

I don't know why I say again.  Sometimes it seems as if she's done nothing but cry since she was born.  As if she'd come into this world with a grudge."

 I read a few favorable reviews on this one, what do you think?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Go Ask Fannie; Elisabeth Hyde

Go Ask Fannie; Elisabeth Hyde
G.P. Putnam -2018

Murray Blaire is 81 and has been a widower for over 30 years. A tragic car accident took the life of his wife Lillian as well as their son Daniel who was 15 at the time.

At Murray's request, over the course of a weekend, his grown children gather at their father's rural New Hampshire farm home. The three very different siblings - Ruth, controlling, Lizzie, a free spirit with a much older boyfriend and, George, the overly sentimental son.  Each sibling has their own issues which are revealed as the weekend progresses.

The "Fannie" at the center of the story is a reference to an old-time cookbook called, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook", a beloved item, complete with the cryptic margin jottings by the late mother.  The cookbook, like Lillian, has met with an unfortunate ending.

Although this story wasn't perfect, it was engaging. I like stories about dysfunctional families and this one had well-crafted characters and plenty of drama to hold my interest.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Sunday, August 12, 2018

I Love Candlewick Press - New Books for Fall-2018

Lovely books that 3 to 7 year olds will just love. The illustrations and the stories are so well done.

The Stuff of Stars, Marion Dane Bauer


In an astonishing unfurling of our universe, Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer and Caldecott Honor winner Ekua Holmes celebrate the birth of every child.

Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was . . . nothing. But then . . . BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poetic text, Marion Dane Bauer takes readers from the trillionth of a second when our universe was born to the singularities that became each one of us, while vivid illustrations by Ekua Holmes capture the void before the Big Bang and the ensuing life that burst across galaxies. A seamless blend of science and art, this picture book reveals the composition of our world and beyond — and how we are all the stuff of stars.

by: David Ezra Stein


Surprise! The little red chicken is back — and as endearingly silly as ever — in David Ezra Stein’s follow-up to the Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken.

It’s homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say “Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he’s right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in “The Ugly Duckling,” “Rapunzel,” or “The Little Mermaid” — or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well. Full of the same boisterous charm that made Interrupting Chicken so beloved by readers, this gleeful follow-up is sure to delight fans of stories, surprises, and elephants alike.

by: Bethany Deeney Murgula
September - 2018


Is believing in magic the key to seeing a unicorn? If you keep your eyes open to wonder, the possibilities are endless.

Is that a horse wearing a hat? It’s definitely not a unicorn in disguise — that would be ridiculous, right? It’s probably just a horse that’s having a bad hair day. Or trying to keep the sun out of its eyes. Or perhaps this horse just really likes hats! If you follow it long enough, maybe it will take off its hat and you’ll finally know for sure. Or will you? It’s all a matter of perspective in this cheerful, cheeky story about seeing magic in the everyday.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

2 books by Ellen Meeropol - House Arrest and Kinship of Clover

When I found out that the author resides in an area where I grew up, I decided to research her a bit. A former Nurse Practitioner, she began writing fiction in her 50's. Her fiction explores medical ethics, political activism and family life.  

A founding member of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, her husband, Robert Meeropol, was the youngest son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed in 1953, accused and convicted of running a spy ring to help the Soviet Union make an atomic bomb. I was more than a little shocked making this connection but, I do recall seeing this sad story on news a few years ago.

2011 - Red Hen Press

In House Arrest, Emily Klein is a home visit nurse who is given a new pregnant client, Pippa Glenning. Pippa is on home confinement until the trial resulting from her young daughter's death in a cult-like ritual.  If Pippa plays by the rules she may be allowed to keep this baby, and just be on parole for 3 years after the baby is born. Pippa, however, is torn and feels she must find a way to participate in an upcoming cult Solstice ceremony which means ignoring her "house arrest".

House Arrest was a short, debut novel which made me feel sad at times for Pippa and the circumstances that lead to her daughter's death and her subsequent home confinement.  Initially, I  was surprised by how quickly Emily and Pippa began to develop a concern for each other but, Emily's family circumstances do make this easier to understand. The novel had several other characters that were introduced but not in too much detail. I liked that the novel reflected the names of actual places that I am well familiar with in that the author is from the area where I grew up.  Note - A family cat ends up dead in this story which bothered me.

Rating - 4/5 stars

2017 - Red Hen Press

Kinship of Clover is a novel which reintroduces a few of the characters from House Arrest.  I actually read this book first without realizing it and it worked out just fine for me.

Jeremy and Tim are twins from an unconventional family. Their parents  were sentenced to prison for criminal negligence which resulted from the deaths of 2 young children who froze to death in a park in 2005.  When Jeremy was a 9 year old child he claimed to have felt plants wrap themselves around him and borrow into his skin during a greenhouse funeral ceremony. Now, a Botany major at the University of Massachusetts, Jeremy is upset about the variety of plants that are becoming extinct because of ecological changes.  When his passion for endangered species at college is perceived to be a little over the top, college officials, concerned for his well-being take action and place him on leave, reuniting him with his twin brother in Brooklyn. But, in Brooklyn Jeremey's passion for the environment is still front and center. He becomes involved with some eco-terrorists that just might not have his best interest in mind.

In this novel a few new family members are introduced which include,  Flo, grandmother and aging political activist who is dealing with dementia. Zoe, Flo's granddaughter, who has spina bifida, Tian, the cultish leader whose children froze to death in 2005.

This book addressed some tough issues, the environment, trauma, Alzheimer's and the importance of finding ones place in life.  Like House Arrest, I loved the references to familiar places as well as the political and social justice issues covered.  I felt this book was fairly well written, although a bit slow at times, but, ultimately what started out as somewhat sad story made me feel hopeful by the end.

I plan to read the author's other book, On Hurricane Island (2015), touted as a "fast-paced political thriller" soon.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

2 - Non-Fiction - audiobooks - Educated; T. Westover and The Death of Truth; M. Kakutani

Educated: A Memoir; Tara Westover
Random House Audio - 2018

We listened to this audiobook on a recent road trip and although the narration was very good, read by Julia Whalen, we just didn't love this story as much as many other readers. 

For those who haven't read it, the author was one of many children born to Morman, survivalist parents in Idaho.  The mother was a self-taught herbalist and midwife, the father operated a junk yard and was paranoid of the government.  The children didn't even know their actual birthdates or have birth certificates for a long while. They never saw a doctor or visited a hospital even for serious burns and injuries.  The father was sometimes abusive, probably the result of undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. Home schooled, the author claims she never set foot in a classroom until the age of 17 but began teaching herself math and grammar and was admitted to Brigham Young University where she studied history and later attended Cambridge and received a Phd from Harvard.

Maybe I'm just a skeptic but, I found some of this memoir quite far-fetched as to just how this wilderness girl, without formal education, was able to figure out the multi-faceted college application, entrance exam process, etc. to make the college experience a reality, especially since she wasn't given a full scholarship and her father had opposed formal education.

Although the first half of this book was quite interesting, learning about the family dynamics, overall, this was a just okay memoir for us.

Rating - 3/5 stars

Michiko Kakutani - Random House Audio - 2018

This was another non-fiction audiobook that we listened to this summer as we traveled.  This is one of those books that most likely will only be read by readers who are outraged by the current political climate and the cultural forces that allow the President to continue to say the things he says, discrediting the media, conspiracy theories and proven science.

The book is short, well-organized and informative.  It examines the state of the world,  the phenomenon of "fake-news", racist ideologies, and the role of social media to fuel the fires that divide us.  There are references to Huxley's, Brave New World and Orwell's, 1984.  

Well-organized, concise and informative.  We had plenty to talk about after we finished this one.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

The Ones We Choose; Julie Clark

The Ones We Choose; Julie Clark
Gallery Books - 2018

The Ones We Choose is a debut novel that packs a punch.  The author uses fiction and fascinating science tidbits about the DNA that shapes each of us. 

Paige Robson is a successful genetic research scientist in a small California town. Busy with her career, she soon realizes that her only chance at motherhood might be through the use of a sperm donor. 

Fast forward, Paige's son Miles is a lonely 8 year old who has issues fitting in. He also resents his mother's, kind, patient boyfriend Liam, and longs to know why he is the only child who doesn't know who his father is.  (Paige, has also had a childhood with an absent father who reappears later in the story.)

As the story progresses secrets to the identity of Miles father begin to unravel and are revealed. 

This is an amazing debut novel that blends literary fiction with science. At the beginning of each chapter are interesting genetic facts. I really enjoyed this book, a tender, heartwarming and informational read, reminding me of author, Lisa Genova.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Beartown; Fredrik Backman and Moonglow; Michael Chabon

 Beartown; Fredrik Backman
Atria - 2017

Beartown is a small close-knit community in Sweden, surrounded by forests.  The town doesn't have much going for it, except that it's residents are believers that a better day is coming.  The town has an ice rink and the junior teen ice hockey team are excited about competing in the semi-finals. Ice hockey and competition becomes all consuming.

There are a lot of characters in this story, each with their own story or personal issues.  The pass for the sport is felt throughout this novel, but, there are also some tough issues that surface and the execution of these difficulties is beautifully done. Bear town may be a small town but, they still must deal with many of the issues larger cities face:  Sexual assault, homophobia, bullying, peer pressure and the need to belong.

The story starts out a bit slow but once it gets going, it was hard not to become a little emotionally invested in the lives of Beartown residents. I started listening to the audio (beautifully done) and I also had the luxury of reading the print version as well. Recommended

Rating - 4/5 stars

Moonglow; Michael Chabon
Harper - 2016

Moonglow was our July book group read and of the 14 group members, only (1) liked the book (I did not like it).

The book was nearly 500 pages and touted as fictional, non fiction, as well as an autobiography wrapped in a novel, disguised as a memoir. The story unfolds as a deathbed confession of sorts of a man referred to only as "my grandfather".  Over the course of a week the reader hears tales of war, marriage, sex, the space program and more.

Here's what some of our book group members had to say -
  • the story seemed to lack focus and was hard to follow and confusing
  • oftentimes, the players were unnamed and you didn't know who was being written about
  • couldn't connect to the characters
  • the story switched back and forth in time too often, it was not put together well.
  • some really didn't care what happened to the grandfather as he came across as a mean child who grew into a mean man.