Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware

AUTHOR:  Ruth Ware
PUBLISHER: Gallery/Scout Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Scottish Highlands
FORMAT:  eGalley (print 352 pp.)
RATING - 4/5

When Rowan Caine, a child care worker, learns of a job as a live-in nanny that seems too good to be true she decides to apply. Even though it's not the kind of job she wanted, the salary is too good to pass up.  Heatherbrae House is a secluded Victorian located in the Scottish Highlands. After an interview with Sandra and brief encounter with husband Bill, she's pretty much hired on the spot to care for their 3 young children (1, 5 and 8)  and one daughter, 15, who is away at school.

Almost immediately after being hired the couple who run an architectural firm, is off on a business trip. Rowan is left with the care of the small children and relatively no direction other than a thick binder of instructions and a smart-technology home prone to malfunction.  It isn't long before creepy happening begin, some due to technology and other incidents not o easy to explain. The tension increases with odd noises during the night. There's also an unfriendly housekeeper and a handyman who lives on the property whose motives seem unclear.  Rowan also learns that several nannies have come and gone abruptly before her and, she is constantly feeling as if she is being watched.

The story begins with Rowan in jail for murder. She is writing a letter to Mr. Wrexham,  her solicitor, proclaiming her innocence. Rowan is far from the perfect nanny; she has her share of secrets that are revealed as the story progresses.  Ware does a great job structuring this story, leaving clues and creating an eerie atmosphere throughout. Something bad happens in this mystery and you know it early on but, the details are only revealed at the end.  I read this book before bed every night for about a week and let me tell you, it does have a very creepy feel at times.  I really liked this one even though the ending left me a bit confused at first but, I now think I've finally figured it out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

City of Girls; Elizabeth Gilbert

TITLE: City of Girls    
AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Gilbert
PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: New York City
FORMAT:  audio (15 hours - approx.)
RATING - 3.5/5

Vivian Morris, now 89, looks back on her life in the 1940's New York City's theater district.

Vivian came from a wealthy family and attended Vassar College briefly but, she quickly realized college wasn't for her. She didn't take it seriously and was kicked out after her freshman year.  Her parents decided to send her off to Manhattan to live with Aunt Peg who had just purchased a rundown, little midtown playhouse called The Lily. Peg and her friend Olive run the place with some low budget performances, surrounded by a cast of colorful and unconventional characters: Celia, Uncle Billy, Frank and Edna. Vivian is good at sewing so she quickly becomes an asset to the playhouse team.

The entire experience gives Vivian a whole new look at freedom and self-fulfillment; it's a lifestyle that appeals to her.  She loves her freedom to be with whomever she pleases and as often as she wishes. Yes, there is plenty of talk and action when it comes to sex and booze and Vivian never feels any guilt as she looks back on those younger, wilder days.  Then there was her grave indiscretion that led to professional embarrassment and scandal. 

Vivian, however, was one of those girls who needed to experience life her own way without regard to what was considered proper at the time. This story is really all about Vivian and, Vivian loves Vivian at the cost of all else. Have we met people like Vivian? She definitely was a feminist before her time.

I loved the first half of this book, it's very long (over 15 hours on audio and beautifully narrated) I did think that after a while it began to feel a bit repetitive.  I liked the colorful world of New York's theater district in the 1940s and the characters were great as well. Each character was trying to find their place in the world. Despite a few too many cliches, overall, I felt happy I read this one.  I do think it would make a great book club pick.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro

AUTHOR:  Deborah Shapiro
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  library/print - 224 pages
RATING - 4/5

About to turn 40 and having recently suffered a miscarriage, Emily and husband David move from Chicago to a newly acquired property in MA where Emily spent many a summer growing up.  The property was once an old summer camp that belonged to Emily's late aunt.  The property is in a state of disrepair but the couple is hoping to turn it into a possible resort.

While David is away and working long hours Emily is unemployed, looking for work and trying to come up with ideas for the property. As she roams the property she discovers a young woman named Stella that has been staying in one of the cabins. Emily befriends Stella and even keeps her presence a secret for a while. When she does tell David, he doesn't seem troubled by her being on the property temporarily.  As the two women who are almost a generation apart in age, get to know one another, it seems each is just who the other needs in their life at the moment. Who is the mysterious Stella and what brings her to the area? As the women get to know one another, watching French films, swimming in the lake and spending lazy summer days together opening up in other ways, I couldn't help but wonder how this story would all end.

The novel has a quiet style and was slow paced but, the beautiful summer setting and a writing style that enables you to easily visualize what is going on made it work pretty well. It was a book I read in one sitting and in some ways it reminded my of younger days, those summers gone by and the early female friendships of our past that are a part of who we are today. A nice summer choice overall. 

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Lock Every Door; Riley Sager

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 
(I started this one last night and I'm really enjoying it so far.)

Lock Every Door; Riley Sager
Dutton - 2019


Light slices the darkness, jerking me awake.

My right eye--someone's prying it open. Latex-gloved fingers parting the lids, yanking on them like they're stubborn window shades.

There's more light now, Harsh. Painfully bright. A penlight aimed at my pupil.

The same is done to my left eye. Pry, Part, Light.

The fingers release my lids, and I'm plunged back into darkness.

Someone speaks. A man with a gentle voice, "Can you hear me?"

I open my mouth, and hot pain circles my jaw. Stray bolts of it jab my neck and cheek.....

What do you think? Read more or pass?
(The intro is rather long so I only included part of it)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro

On Tuesdays, Vicki, ( I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that plan to read.

The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro
Catapult - 2019


"Summer, green and still and slightly grainy. The way it is in foreign films from the 1970s and '80s. A lulling, enveloping heat.  I had things to do, I swear, written on lists, but those things seemed to only get done if they coincided with the slow, inevitable rhythm of the days.  From the couch in the room with the bay window, I would watch those movies, watch young French women who never wore bras move around in philosophically provocative situations, and then I would get up and go outside, go down to the lake, or watch another movie.  The days passed into each other without much distinction, dulling all anxiety but heightening a sensitivity. Like walking out of a dark theatre into a bright afternoon, one world exchanged for another.  Being stunned and not minding it, wanting to hold to an in-between."

What do you think? Read more or pass? It's a pretty short novel - just 211 pages.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Never Tell; Lisa Gardner

TITLE: Never Tell     
AUTHOR:  Lisa Gardner
PUBLISHER: Brillance Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  audio (12 hours - approx.)
RATING - 4/5

Book #10 of the D.D. Warren series, Never Tell, features Flora Dane, a returning character from previous novels.  The audio is read by Kirsten Potter who did a great job.

Conrad Carter is dead, shot three times in his home office. His computer screen is riddled with more than 10 bullets and, his pregnant wife Evie is found holding the gun.  Sixteen years earlier, Evie was cleared in the killing of her father, which was later ruled accidental.  Is this all too coincidental? Just what is going on with this family?

The story is told in alternating POVs: Evie, who appears guilty, Detective D.D. Warren and Flora Dane, D.D.'s assistant. (Flora was a kidnap victim years earlier and she realizes that Evie's late husband looks familiar to her).

This story has strong female characters, which I loved and, the author did a great job developing each character along the way.  Bonus, I never figured out the ending. It's one of those stories that makes you ask how well you really know those closest to you.