Monday, March 31, 2014

March ~ Month in Review


March was a good reading month for me, because I got to listen to several audiobooks at work this month. I managed to read (15) books:  (4) were kids books and (6) were audiobooks.  (YTD total is 34 books)

  1. Still Life with Bread Crumbs; Anna Quindlen - 3.5/5  (library) March
  2. The Signature of All Things; Elizabeth Gilbert - 4.5/5 (audio) March
  3. The Bear; Claire Cameron - 4/5 (audio) March 
  4. The Winter People; Jennifer McMahon - 3.5/5 (audio & eGalley) March 
  5. Nest; Jorey Hurley - 5/5 stars (library) March 
  6. Someday; Alison McGhee - 5/5 (personal copy) March
  7. All Our Names; Dinaw Mengestu - 4/5 (eGalley) March 
  8. Fear Nothing; Lisa Gardner 4.5/5 (audio)  (March)
  9. Coincidence; JW Ironmonger - 4/5 (arc) March
  10. The Apartment; Greg Baxter - 3.5/5 (eBook) March
  11. My Dad Thinks He's Funny; Katrina Germein - 4/5 (library) March 
  12. Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?; Gray and Pak - 5/5 (print - library) March 
  13. Standup Guy; Stuart Woods - 3.5/5 (audio-library) March
  14. The Road Home; Rose Tremain - 3.5/5 (audio)  March (review soon)
  15. Visible City; Tova Mirvis - 4.5/5 (eGalley) - March (review soon)
Favorite Book -
   April Plans - 

Standup Guy; Stuart Woods

Standup Guy; Stuart Woods
Penguin Audio - 2014

For a number of years my husband and I have turned to Stuart Wood's Stone Barrington novels when we took a road trip. Their entertaining and don't require much brain power. Most recently we chose a recent release called, Standup Guy.

The Standup Guy in this novel is John Fratelli, an ex-con who spent 25 years in jail for armed robbery. Now just out of jail he's seeking the legal advise of Stone Barrington, another "stand-up guy", regarding an ultra sensitive financial issue.  It seems his former cell mate., Eduardo Bruno, has gifted Fratelli the key to a safe deposit box which contains $2-million dollars. The money was obtained some 20 years earlier in a heist that took place at JFK Airport. 

Barrington gives Fratelli his legal opinion and thinks he's heard the last of him, but before long there seems to be several other individuals knocking on Barrington's door interested in the missing money. The plot thickens when the secret service, a former FBI agent,and even a goon or two are added to the mix. Of course as with most Stuart Wood novels, there are some beautiful women, or at least wealthy women which add some steam to the story.

The audio book, was read by Tony Roberts who made the story very entertaining. Overall, my husband liked this one a lot more than I did, but there are some amusing scenes along the way. 
 
Joint rating - 3.5/5 stars
(library audiobook)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? Rita Gray and Kenard Pak

Rita Gray and Kenard Pak
2014 - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I love discovering new children's books, especially seasonal ones. With spring comes the return of resident birds, singing happy bird songs and building nests for their families. In  Have You Heard the Nesting Bird, two young children explore nature and observe different birds along the way.  

Each page has just a few words (sometimes less is more) and shows a different bird along with text of it's bird song - Mourning Doves - coah, cooo, cooo, coooo; Woodpecker (pecking on a tree- cuk, cuk, cuk, cuk, cuk; the Starling singing from a metal pole - whistle--ee--wee--tree. They children notice and wonder why there is no sound heard from the nesting bird. 

Continuing their nature journey they see sparrows, swallows, crows, cardinals, chickadees, catbirds, blue jays, whip-poor-wills and a woodthrush. Each bird is beautifully drawn and the children learn more bird sounds.  One day our little nature lovers hear a tapping and cracking sound coming from the previously quiet nest, and a few days later sounds and activity coming from the nest-- babies have arrived.

What a beautiful book to help little ones experience the simple joys of nature. The artwork by Kenard Pak is so well done and realistic. The earth tones selected were perfect, with just occasional pops of color especially with the robins and cardinals. I loved that there were educational Questions and Answers at the back of the book, called "A Word With the Bird" that asks questions of the mother and father robin.  For example: Why are they so quiet in the nest? What is the role of the father robin? What should you do if you fins a bird sitting in their nest? What happens to the babies once they leave the nest, plus several more useful Q/A's. This would make for great discussions with parent/child or preschool teacher and students. 

This is truly a beautiful book - a terrific addition for libraries and parents of little ones. (Ages 4+)  - Buy It! - 5/5 stars





(library book)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - Frog Music; Emma Donoghue

While trying to prioritize my lengthy list of new books coming out in 2014, I decided to try a new feature on my blog. I'm hoping this idea will hopefully serve a few purposes: keep me focused on books I'd like to read, give a little PR to the authors (especially new authors) who worked so hard getting published, and to let other readers know about books that will be hitting the book stores soon (within the next 90 days).
 
Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today 



 Frog Music; Emma Donoghue
April 1, 2014 - Little Brown and Company
(Description)

From the author of the worldwide bestseller Room: "Her greatest achievement yet...Emma Donoghue shows more than range with FROG MUSIC--she shows genius." -- Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boom town like no other.


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Does this sound like a book you might add to your wish list?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fear Nothing; Lisa Gardner

Fear Nothing; Lisa Gardner
Dutton - Brilliance Audio

Boston Police Detective D.D. Warren is back in this latest installment by Lisa Gardner. Fear Nothing starts out with a heart-pounding scene and never lets go. It's bad news for the detective Warren when she foolishly returns to a murder scene late at night alone. When she hears a noise and tries to check it out, she is pushed down a flight of stairs, never seeing her assailant. She is severely injured and put out of commission.

To help her deal with the pain, she sees a doctor, Adeline Glen who specializes in pain management. A doctor, who herself has never experienced pain, due to a rare genetic disorder that prevents her from feeling pain. There's more to  Dr. Glen that's a little out of the ordinary as well. Dr. Glen's biological father, now deceased, was a serial killer and her sister Shana, is now incarcerated having committed her first of several murders at age 14. Now there seems to be some connection between the Rose Killer and Dr. Glen's killer kin, and maybe sister Shana can help.

This story is one of Lisa Gardner's finest, in my opinion. Without giving too much away, this audio book kept me in my car far longer than I normally would with most audio books. It's a story that has mail-biting moments, has you guessing, throws you off track and is just totally engrossing. Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers should be sure to add this one to your list. Kirsten Potter does an awesome job as narrator.

4.5/5 stars 
(library audiobook)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Apartment; Greg Baxter

The Apartment; Greg Baxter
Twelve - Hachette - 2013

The Apartment was a strange kind of novel, roughly 200 pages; it's a debut novel and although there isn't any real action, it's the quiet, deliberate tone that held my interest for the most part.

The story has a 41 year-old unnamed male protagonist who has moved to an undisclosed European city.  We learn that he is an American, has plenty of money, spent time in the Navy, two tours of duty during the war, and that he spent time in Iraq as a Intel contractor as well. He's an introspective individual who claims to never think about his time in Iraq, yet he does think about it. It is through these flashbacks that the reader gets a glimpse of his past and the reason for his somber inflection. It is clear he has seen plenty of violence and even caused some of the violence as well.

The entire novel takes place in a day, a cold, snowy, damp December day as he tires of his six weeks living in a cheap hotel, and intent on finding a suitable "apartment" instead. He is accompanied by a pretty young woman named Saskia who he has just met at an art museum. It's unclear what Saskia's relationship is with the protagonist. She lives in a rundown flat with a roommate, but seems like she has a vested interest in helping her friend find a much better place in the best part of town. Together they go about town trudging through icy walkways and snowy streets, shopping (he needs a warm winter coat as he arrived from a desert town in the US). They spend time eating, drinking tea and searching for an "apartment" over the course on the novel.

So what is the point of this story? Well, I'm not exactly sure.  It's certainly a quiet sort of novel, where nothing exciting happens, yet when small doses of the protagonist's past are revealed, I  was anxious to find out more about the mysterious man who seemed so intent on forgetting much of the darker details of his past.  I'm on the fence about how I felt about this one. The writing was decent, but overall a bit too quiet for my taste.

3.5/5 stars (eGalley)

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - Shotgun Lovesongs; Nickolas Butler


Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Today's pick is a book that was released this month ----


 Shotgun Lovesongs; Nickolas Butler
Thomas Dunne Books - MacMillan
March - 2014
H

" We invited him to all of our weddings; he was famous.  We addressed the invitations to his record company's skyscraper in New York City so that the gaudy, gilded envelopes could be forwarded to him on tour --in Beirut, Helsinki, Tokyo.  Places beyond our ken or our limited means.  He sent back presents in battered cardboard boxes festooned with foreign stamps--birthday gifts of fine scarves or perfume for our wives, small delicate toys or trinkets upon the births of our children: rattles from Moscow, little silk booties from Taipei.  He would call us sometimes, the connection scratchy and echoing, a chorus of young women giggling in the background, his voice never sounding as happy as we expected it to."

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What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Dad Thinks He's Funny; Katrina Germein (Tom Jellett - illustrator)

Katrina Germein (author)_Tom Jellett - Illustrator
Candlewick Press - 2013

Funny dads anyone? My Dad Thinks He's Funny, is told from the perspective of a little boy.  Each page begins with the statement, “My dad thinks he’s funny.”  Admittedly, most of these corny saying are ones we adults have heard over and over again, but if you think back to childhood, some of them were pretty darn funny and made for special memories with our dad. Examples of the funny dad's humor are:
  • When young son tells dad "my finger hurts". Dad says, "Let's chop it off". When son says "my foot hurts", dad says, "No problem. You've got another." 
  •  When mom says to the young boy, "come and give me a kiss gorgeous," dad says, "I'll be right there".
  • A fun book full of sarcasm and eye-rolling sayings at the turn of each page.
  • This children's book is for kids ages 5 through 8 years, but I even think kids a bit younger might enjoy this one.
  • I think kids will LOVE this one, but some parents may want to "misplace it" after hearing the silliness once too often.
The illustrations were very quirky, in a good way, especially the facial expressions of both father and young son. Many of the facial sketches are done on graph paper with what looks like crayons, chalk and charcoal. The drawings are simple, but actually seem perfect for this type of book.

A fun read - This book would make a great dad's day gift for the " new dad", especially if "he thinks he is funny."

4/5 stars.  (library book)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

Is the weekend over already?  It hardly seems possible.  Yesterday started with a trip to the grocery store -- nice and early before the masses arrived. Then the hub and I tried a new restaurant, a few towns over, for lunch, and was it FANTASTIC.

The rest of the day was spent watching movies - Gravity (good) and Nebraska (loved it). Have you seen these?  Today we watched the first (3) episodes of House of Cards (Season 1) - yep we are behind the times, but plan to catch up soon.

Baking -  Today I was inspired to try a new dessert: Gram Lindquist's Banana Cake with Maple Frosting and Salted Hazelnuts after seeing it on one of my favorite foodie blogs by Susan, The Spice Garden. I used a 10" square pan instead of a 9" and walnuts instead of hazelnuts, but it was awesome all the same. (Thank you Susan). It's easy to make and I had all of the ingredients on hand as well.

New Books
Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ The Transcriptionist; Amy Rowland


While trying to prioritize my lengthy list of new books coming out in 2014, I decided to try a new feature on my blog. I'm hoping this idea will hopefully serve a few purposes: keep me focused on books I'd like to read, give a little PR to the authors (especially new authors) who worked so hard getting published, and to let other readers know about books that will be hitting the book stores soon (within the next 90 days).
 
Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today -


 The Transcriptionist; Amy Rowland
May 13, 2016 - Algonquin
Description
No one can find it. That’s the first thing. The Recording Room is on the eleventh floor, at the end of a rat-hued hallway that some workers at the newspaper have never seen; they give up on the ancient elevator, which makes only local stops with loud creaks of protest. Like New Yorkers who refuse to venture above Fourteenth Street, there are newspaper workers who refuse to go above the fourth floor for fear of being lost forever if they leave the well-lit newsroom for dark floors unknown.

In this room you’ll find Lena. She works as a transcriptionist for the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper. There once were many transcriptionists at the Record, but new technology and the ease of communication has put most of them out of work, so now Lena sits alone in a room on the building’s eleventh floor, far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the paper. Still, it is an important job—vital, really—a vein that connects the organs of the paper, and Lena takes it very seriously.

And then one day she encounters something that shatters the reverie that has become her life—an article in the paper about a woman mauled to death by lions in the city zoo. The woman was blind and remains unidentified, but there is a picture, and Lena recognizes her as someone whom a few days before she had met and talked to briefly while riding home on a midtown bus.

Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will ultimately destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. In the process she finds a new set of truths that gives her the strength to shed what she describes as her “secondhand life” and to embrace a future filled with promise, maybe even adventure.

An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, The Transcriptionist is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish a place for herself in an increasingly alien and alienating world.


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Does this sound like a book you might add to your wish list?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Coincidence; J W Ironmonger


Coincidence; J.W. Ironmonger
Harper - 2014

June 21, 1982, a very young little girl with flame red hair and a scar near her eye is found wandering a fairground late at night in Devon, England. How she got there is a mystery and no one has claimed her nor can any relatives be found. The little girl who says her name is Azalea tells authorities that her mommy was taking her to see her daddy on a boat.

When a woman’s body washes up on shore many months later, no one even suspects a connection to the little girl, who has since been adopted by teachers, Rebecca and Luke Folley. The Folleys take Azalea to Uganda where they will be teaching at a mission school for orphan children. Exactly ten years to the day, on June 21, 1992, a horrific incident occurs and Azalea is an orphan once again. An uprising in Uganda and an attack by rebels claims the life of her adoptive parents. Fortunately for her, at 13, she is adopted by two medical students and is taken back to England.


As an adult Azalea believes she is destined to experience more unfortunate events in her life, whether to bad luck or “coincidence”. Now living in London and teaching literature, the fateful ten-year date is soon approaching and Azalea wonders whether her life could soon be over. She meets Thomas Post, a fascinating man and a Philosophy professor who specializes in probability debunking the mystique behind “coincidence”. The way the two meet might even be considered by some as “coincidence”. Sensing her genuine fear, he begins spending more time with her trying to apply statistics and the use of logic to help to reassure her, but then, he himself begins to wonder if her fears just might be justified.


A fascinating story, a bit of a love story, it was also challenging at times. The story jumps back and forth in time. I loved the portion that takes place in Africa, and the way the author was able to balance the darkness with some lighter moments was amazing. The author also did a terrific job balancing theories and real life occurrences. I am happy I stuck with this novel, the characters are vivid and the writing is very good. It’s a story that will make you think about whether at least certain aspects of our lives are predetermined or do we control our destiny.


4/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intro - The Year She Left Us; Kathryn Ma

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Today's pick is a book that will be released in May.

 The Year She Left Us; Kathryn Ma
Harper Collins - May 2014

"Lucky girl.  That's what I was told from the first moment I can remember.  Another stranger, smelling unlike my mother, would swoop in low with a scary-wide smile to ruffle my hair or pinch my cheek.  I would shrink and scamper, hide my face in my mother's knees, hear them laughing at my baby shyness.  Later, I stared, black-eyed and baleful.  I hated to be reminded.  Hello, Ariadne.  What a lucky little girl.  Now you have a family.  I'm  the one who's lucky my mother would always chirp.  She knew my fell looks, was afraid of my eruptions, my locked face and the storms that followed.  When left alone, I would say please and thank you.  When prompted to be grateful, I went gleefully mute."
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What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.
 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Blatherings and New Books


I'm moving a little slow today as yesterday we celebrated (3) birthdays in our family: daughter, daughter-in-law and son-in-law  (all within a 3 week period..(ages 30-39)....yup, I'm old. Both of the birthday gals are the expectant moms, so they was plenty to celebrate.  Since everyone's favorite food seems to be turkey - we had another Thanksgiving dinner, the only difference was the only dessert was birthday cake and ice cream instead of all the pies that normally comes with a Thanksgiving meal.  It was a tiring but special day and our granddaughter who will be (2) next month was entertaining as always.

Today -- no cooking, just leftover turkey. I  was busy cleaning out kitchen drawers and closets. I filled (2) trash bags full of clothes and like new high heels that I will unlikely wear again. I hope some thrift store shoppers will like my discards:)

What I'm Reading
 New Book Arrivals (2) week's worth


~Have a good week everyone~

Friday, March 14, 2014

All Our Names; Dinaw Mengestu


Knopf - 2014

All Our Names is the story of young men who grew up during a revolution in Africa. One man flees the violence thanks to his good friend Isaac (nicknamed Dickens) who had been granted a student-visa to study Victorian Literature in the US.  Once the man of many names arrives in the US, he can’t stop thinking about the friend(s) he left behind.

" Isaac was the name his parents had given him and, until it was necessary for us to flee the capital, the only name he wanted.  His parents had died, in the last round of fighting that came just before independence, Isaac was their legacy to him, and when his revolutionary dreams came to an end, and he had to choose between leaving and staying, that name became his last and most precious gift to me." 

In alternating chapters, titled Isaac and Helen, we learn the story of how Isaac came to arrive in America pretending to be an exchange student on a one-year student visa, and what his life was like during the African revolution.

Helen, is the book’s second narrator, who Isaac meets when he comes to the fictional college town of Laurel, somewhere in mid-west, US. Helen is a white, 30-year old social worker assigned to Isaac, and responsible for getting him settled in his new environment. Helen finds herself immediately attracted to Isaac, a black man with a British accent alone in a new country.  Before long the two begin a romantic relationship which proves challenging. Unfortunately, it is 1970 and there is still little tolerance for interracial relationships in this Midwest town. After a racially charged incident at a local diner, Helen finds herself sneaking around and spending most of her time with Isaac behind closed doors.

I found Helen to be a compelling character. Until she met Isaac she had a boring life, stuck in a rut and still living with her mother. She had never even left the mid-west. I admired her for taking a huge leap of faith beginning a relationship with someone like Isaac. It was like she was fulfilling a need to rebel, and a desire to play detective as well.  Helen found herself camping out in her car, spying on Isaac, and trying to find out more about his mysterious past, than he had shared with her. For a sheltered and reserved woman, Helen really put herself out there, knowing that the time she might have with Isaac might be short-lived. 

The story, like Mengestu's previous two books: The BeautifulThings That Heaven Bears (2007) and How To Read the Air (2010), this story is also about the immigrant experience. This novel was very well written, but it felt a bit different from the author’s two earlier books.  In this novel, I found myself more drawn to Helen’s story and her relationship with Isaac, then I was to Isaac’s story and his life and his friends in Uganda.  I did think the author did a great job contrasting the world views of Isaac and Helen and the loneliness aspect experienced by someone being cut off from everything that is familiar. The split narrative worked well in reminding us how fragile life and relationships really are.

Mengestu is an author who knows how to write about the immigrant experience. He came to the US as a toddler from Ethiopia and was raised in the suburbs of Chicago. He graduated from Georgetown University and received his MFA from Columbia University. In 2010 he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker. He is married with two young children and also teaches courses at Georgetown.

4/5 stars (eGalley)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ Worst. Person. Ever.; Douglas Coupland


While trying to prioritize my lengthy list of new books coming out in 2014, I decided to try a new feature on my blog. I'm hoping this idea will hopefully serve a few purposes: keep me focused on books I'd like to read, give a little PR to the authors (especially new authors) who worked so hard getting published, and to let other readers know about books that will be hitting the book stores soon (within the next 90 days).
 
Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today -


Worst. Person. Ever. - Douglas Coupland
April 3 - 2014 - Penguin, Blue Rider Press 
Description

Raymond Gunt likes to think of himself as a pretty decent guy—he believes in karma, and helping his fellow man, and all that other good stuff. Sure, he can be foulmouthed, occasionally misogynistic, and can just generally rub people the wrong way—through no fault of his own! So with all the positive energy he’s creating, it’s a little perplexing to consider the recent downward spiral his life has taken…Could the universe be trying to tell him something?

            A B-unit cameraman with no immediate employment prospects, Gunt decides to accept his ex-wife Fiona’s offer to shoot a Survivor-style reality show on an obscure island in the Pacific. With his upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, in tow, Gunt somehow suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to reenact the “Angry Dance” from the movie Billy Elliot, and finds himself at the center of a nuclear war—among other tribulations and humiliations.


            A razor-sharp portrait of a morally bankrupt, gleefully wicked modern man, Worst. Person. Ever. is a side-splittingly funny and gloriously filthy new novel from acclaimed author Douglas Coupland. A deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value, it’s guaranteed to brighten up your day.

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Does this sound like a book you might add to your wish list?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Someday; Alison McGhee


Someday; Alison McGhee (author) Peter Reynolds (illustrator)
Atheneum Books - 2007
(My Thoughts)

Oh my goodness, what a special book. This is book that is definitely more for mothers than it is for little ones.  It's a book that will make many mothers (new and old) tear up when they read it. It's a wonderful story that beautifully sums up what most mothers will or have experienced raising a child from infancy to later life.
Beautiful, touching verse dispersed through pages of pen & ink pastel watercolor drawings done by Peter Reynolds. It's one of those rare books that will be read, tucked away, and reread once again at a time when mothers feel that pull, back to days gone by. It's a book that would make a wonderful gift for a new mom, old moms and grandmothers alike.  If you haven't seen this one, take a peek. (5/5 stars - personal copy)
One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.
One day the first snowflakes fell, and I held you up and watched them melt on your baby skin.
One day we crossed the street, and you held my hand tight.
Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child.
Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream,
and I dream too…

That someday you will dive into the cool, clear water of a lake.
Someday you will walk into a deep wood.
Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine.
Someday you will run so fast and so far your heart will feel like fire.
Someday you will swing high — so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.
Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.
Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.
Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you.
Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small.
Someday you will feel a small weight against your strong back.
Someday I will watch you brushing your child’s hair.
Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun.


And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.

Nest; Jorey Hurley


Nest; Jorey Hurley (author/illustrator)
Simon & Schuster - 2014

What a perfect book to welcome the return of the robins after our long, cold winter.  In Nest, author and illustrator Jorey Hurley, has created a lovely book that outlines the year of a robin family, beginning with the parents, a nest and their egg.  After the egg hatches a tiny, hungry baby bird is born, the parents feed it, teach it to fly and to fend for itself.  As the seasons change, the illustrations beautifully reflect their changes. The baby bird then comes full circle one year later returning to the area, finding a mate and building their own nest, repeating the life cycle.

There is only one word on each page, but that is all that is really needed engage a young child and talk about what the birds are doing as you turn each page. The illustrations are crisp, and beautiful. A truly amazing debut book that will please young children and adults alike, as they follow the journey of the robin and the change of the seasons. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~Tuesday Intros ~ Fear Nothing, Lisa Gardner

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Today's pick is a book that released in January, by an author I've enjoyed in the past.

Fear Nothing; Lisa Gardner
Dutton and Brilliance Audio - 2014

PROLOGUE 

"Rockabye, baby, on the treetop.... 

The body was gone, but not the smell.  As Boston homicide detective D.D. Warren knew from experience, this kind of scene could hold the stench of blood for weeks, even months to come.  The crime scene techs had removed the bedding, but still, blood had a life of its own.  Seeping into drywall. Slipping behind wooden trim.  Pooling between floorboards.  Twenty-eight year-old Christine Ryan used to have approximately 4.7 liters of blood pumping through her veins.  Now most of it saturated the bare mattress occupying center stage of this grim, gray space. 

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock... 

The call had come in shortly after 9:00a.m. Good friend Midge Roberts had grown concerned when Christine hadn't answered the knocks on her front door or the texts to her cell phone.  Christine was a responsible kind.  Didn't oversleep, didn't run off with a cute bartender, didn't come down with the flu without providing a heads-up to her best bud, who picked her up promptly at seven thirty each weekday morning for their joint commute to a local accounting firm."
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What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Winter People; Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People; Jennifer McMahon
Doubleday and Random House Audio- 2014 

Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, The Winter People was a good story to curl up by the fire with.  It’s a story that blends the past with the present and takes place in the northern woods of Vermont.The audio version was read by Cassandra Campbell who did a very good job.
The story begins with long passage from the (1908) diary of Sara Harrison Shea, whose family farm bordered woodlands believed to be haunted. Sara and her husband Martin experience lost several babies until finally Gertie was born and all appeared to be fine.  Sara was over protective of her young daughter, but there was no changing that, since Sara waited long and hard for a healthy child.  One day Gertie, at the age of 6, goes missing and she found dead at the bottom of a well. Sara becomes hysterical and quickly unglued, and suddenly just weeks later, she too is dead, but this time it’s a mysterious and violent death.
Ruthie Washburne, a younger woman now lives in the same old farmhouse as Sara Harrison Shea. Ruthie’s younger sister Fawn, age 6, and their mother Alice also live there.  When Ruthie’s mother mysteriously disappears, Ruthie is frantic as their mother is not one to leave the house. While searching for her mother unusual things are discovered in the old farmhouse including some secret passages. These, and even an old diary belonging to Sara's diary (pages are missing).  As they dig more into their mother’s disappearance it appears that some supernatural ties “sleepers” from the past may be at play.
The story shifts back and forth with Sara’s story and present mystery. The blending of the past with the present was fairly well done and kept me engaged, but I enjoyed the focus on the "past" more.  I was a little put off by the addition some undeveloped characters toward the end that appeared to be added for the purpose of rushing the ending along. Overall, it’s a decent story, even though for me it never felt too creepy (audio or eBook). The best part of this one, in my opinion, was the setting. The woods had a ghostly feel of its own, which helped keep the eeriness factor ever present in the reader’s mind throughout.
3.5/5 stars
(eGalley and audio book)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Bear; Claire Cameron

Little Brown - Hachette Audio - 2014

Based on an actual incident that took place in 1991, this novel tells the story of a family camping trip on a remote Island in Canada which turned deadly.  In the middle of the night the children hear shouting by their parents. Anna, the oldest child, who is almost 6, thinks that her father is yelling at her because she was “being bad",  when suddenly her dad grabs them and puts them inside of their giant Coleman cooler and telling them to stay there and be quiet. 
A black bear then begins attacking the mother and father, while the little children are hiding in the cooler. The father is literally eaten alive, the bear leaving pretty much just a leg behind. With the cooler lid slightly ajar, allowing for minimal site lines to the outside,  it appeared that the children did not know what was happening.   Anna later tells that she saw a “black dog” with tomato juice on its paw approach the cooler and looked like he was crunching on a bone. When the children on longer hear any sounds just open the cooler, hearing their mother's whispers to for Anna to take their canoe, and her younger brother, Alex (Stick) and paddle away to safety.
What happens next is the story of how two very young children (one just 3 and still in diapers) alone in the woods struggle to survive, battling the elements and fighting off hunger with a container of cookies as basically their only food.
The story is told by innocent little Anna, and her voice sounds so honest and alive.  Anna’s version of what might have happened is so different to the truth. They way that she projects her feelings of loss, abandonment and confusion were difficult to listen to at times. She used her beloved teddy bear Gwen as a sounding board for many of her emotions and her thoughts about things she really is too little to understand.
This is a relatively short novel and fortunately the children are eventually rescued, but it is definitely one of those stories, like Room by Emma Donoghue, where the young narrator makes a huge impression on the reader. The author worked as a camp counselor at the time the actual incident occurred, and based her book on her recollection of the actual event. The frightening thing was that the couple appeared to be seasoned campers and did not do anything that might have drawn the bear to their campsite or to provoke it.
The audio book is read by Cassandra Morris who did an excellent job.
4/5 stars 
(audio - provided by publisher)