Tuesday, July 23, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Chances Are; Richard Russo

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 they plan to read.

This is my second book this month that takes place at least in part in 1969 - 50 years ago. The last book was, Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand - loved it but no review yet.

1969 - 50 years ago: Woodstock, Bobby Kennedy assassination, Vietnam war, Apollo moon landings, the last Beatles concert and so many more memorable events. I was in high school in then - definitely old enough to remember what a wild year it had been.  

Today's featured book is a story about 3 male friends (all 66 years old in the present). The story also flashes back to 1969 and something that happened back then....I'm about 50% through and it's really a good story by a talented author.

Chances Are; Richard Russo


The three old friends arrived on the island in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, practically cross-country from Las Vegas; Teddy, a small-press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer, from nearby Cape Cod. All were sixty-six years old and had attended the same liberal arts college in Connecticut where they'd slung hash at a campus sorority.  The other hashers, invariably frat boys, claimed to be there by choice, because so many of the Thetas were hot, whereas Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey were scholarship students doing the job out of varying degrees of economic necessity. Lincoln, as good-looking as any of the frat boys, was immediately made a face man,  which meant donning a scratchy white waist-length jacket serve the girls in the sorority's dining room.  Teddy, who worked at a restaurant during his junior and senior years of high school, became a cook's helper, making salads, stirring sauces, plating entrees and desserts. Mickey? They took one look and escorted him over to a sink where a mountain of dirty pots sat piled alongside a large cardboard box of off-brand steel scrubbers. Such was their freshman year.  By the time they were seniors, Lincoln has made head hasher and could offer both his friends positions in the dining room.  Teddy, who'd had enough of the kitchen, promptly accepted, but Mickey said he doubted there was a serving jacket big enough to fit him.  Anyway, he preferred remaining a kitchen slave to making nice with the fancy girls out front, since at least the galley was his own."

Does this seem like one you'd want to read?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

If She Wakes; Michael Koryta

TITLE: If She Wakes
AUTHOR:  Michael Koryta
PUBLISHER: Little Brown & Co (400 pp)
PUB. YEAR: 2019
RATING - 4/5

Tara Beckley is a senior at Hammel College in Maine. She's in charge of driving a visiting professor, Amandi Oltamu to deliver a keynote address at a conference but things don't go as planned.  The professor had been acting strangely and made a few unusual requests of Tara. One of those requests was that Tara stop the car and that they take a selfie of the two of them for social media. Tara complies and Professor O is struck and killed outside of the car. Tara is left in a vegetative state but, oddly, she can hear everything that is being said around her.

Abby Kaplan is an investigator hired by the university to look into this accident. It doesn't take long for her to see that things just don't add up and that this was no accident, it was most likely a "hit".  As Tara lies in her hospital bed,  hearing everything that is being said she learns that someone wants her dead as well - but why?

 This thriller had an odd set up to get the story moving but once it took off I felt like there was good character development and a fast moving plot. There was a young hitman and a few other interesting characters, as well as some unsuspecting twists that made this a thriller pretty decent read overall. I found myself quickly turning the pages to find out how it would all turn out. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand

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 they plan to read.

Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown & Company - 2019

Fortunate Son

"When the Selective Service notice comes for Tiger, Kate's first instinct is to throw it away. Surely, this is every mother's first instinct? Pretend it got lost in the mail, buy Tiger a few more weeks of freedom before the U.S. Army sends another letter--by which time, this god-awful war in Vietnam might be over.  Nixon has promised to end it.  There are peace talks going on right now in Paris.  Le Duan will succumb to the allure of capitalism or The will be assassinated and someone with better sense will take over.  Frankly, Kate doesn't care if Vietnam succumbs to the Communists. She wants to keep her son safe."

I started this yesterday and am really enjoying it, especially since I can relate to the time period. Does this one appeal to you? Is it on your summer reading list?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Summer Reading Check In and New Book Arrivals

Right before Memorial Day I posted a list of 10 Books I hoped to read this summer.  I haven't even looked at the list since then and was curious whether I stayed on plan or not. I was surprised to see that I've read 4/10 and am on a 5th one right now.  (None were outstanding but, a few were in solid reads) Here's an update:

  • Restoration Heights; Wil Medearis - A debut novel about a young artist, a missing woman, and the tendrils of wealth and power that link the art scene in Brooklyn to Manhattan’s elite, for fans of Jonathan Lethem and Richard Price (finished in June)
  • Drawing Home; Jamie Brenner - An unexpected inheritance, a promise broken, and four lives changed forever: discover "the gold standard of summertime escapism" from USA Today bestselling author Jamie Brenner (Elin Hilderbrand).
  • The Last Resort; Marissa Stapley - The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the “last resort” offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.
  • The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman - A tender and wise novel about love, family, and forgiveness in 1960s Australia, in which a lonely farmer finds his world turned upside down by a vibrant woman determined to open the first bookstore his town has ever seen--and to leave her haunting memories of the Holocaust far behind.
  • The Secretary; Renee Knight - A novel of psychological suspense about the intricate power struggle between a prominent female executive and her faithful personal assistant—and its explosive consequences. (finished-June)
  • If She Wakes; Michael Koryta - "an edgy suspense story...that brilliantly plays on the primal fear of being buried alive."―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review (finished July - no review yet)
  • Man of the Year; Caroline Louise Walker - Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinnerand Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.
  • The Ditch; Herman Koch - The bracing and inventive new novel of suspicions and secrecy from Herman Koch, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dinner (finished - June)
  • Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand - Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a summer when everything changedin New York Timesbestselling author Elin Hilderbrand's first historical novel  (in progress-July)
  • The Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware -“Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel.” Kirkus Reviews

  • Are you enjoying your summer choices?


    I think it has been several weeks since I posted new books that arrived by mail from publishers. Take a peek, I thought they looked pretty good. Have you read any of them yet?

    Sunday, July 14, 2019

    Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane

    AUTHOR:  Mary Beth Keane
    PUBLISHER:  Simon and Schuster Audio (12+ hours)
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: New York
    FORMAT:  - eGalley/audio down load
    RATING - 5/5

    Set in the early 1970s, Ask Again, Yes, tells the story of two working class families over a period of about forty years. The men, Francis Gleason, an Irish immigrant and Brian Stanhope meet while attending NYC's police academy.  Francis quickly marries Anne, a nurse and Irish immigrant herself, and, although we don't learn until later, she's also mentally unstable.  Brian marries Lena,  Polish/Italian background, and soon after the two families become neighbors in a suburb outside of New York City.  Anne is standoffish and, when Peter, the couple's only child and Kate, the youngest of the 3 Stanhope daughters become very close, Anne doesn't want her son to spend time with Kate. In a fit of rage, Anne does something that shatters the lives of both families longterm.

    If you enjoy domestic fiction, this is it at it's finest. Completely engrossing and character driven, it's a story that pulled me right in. At times I felt like I was observing some of what happened first hand.  The characters seemed like everyday people and their experiences, although tragic at times, made the entire store feel that much more realistic.  The audiobook is read by Molly Pope who did and excellent job. This is one of my favorite reads of 2019 this far.

    Friday, July 12, 2019

    As We Are Now; May Sarton

    AUTHOR:  May Sarton
    PUBLISHER:  WW Norton
    PUB. YEAR: 1973
    SETTING: New England
    FORMAT:  - print/library (133 pp)
    RATING - 5/5

    I recently read about this book from JoAnn@ Lakeside Musing and, I'm so happy I decided to read it.

    It's not that often that I've read a book written from the perspective of a senior citizen, especially one in failing health.  Such is the case of Caroline (Caro) Spencer.

    Caro is 76 years old, a quiet, intelligent and sensitive woman. She never married and spent 40 years as a teacher.  When she suffers a heart attack, she's no longer able to navigate the stairs in her home and briefly moves in with her older brother John, 80, and his much younger wife, Ginny.  Soon after this brief stay, her brother drops her off at Twin Elms, a rural nursing home over 100 miles from where she once lived. He's not sure what to say so he remains quiet and quickly leaves.

    She tries to make the best of her situation. Caro is happy to have her own room with a nice view, as well as some music and poetry. She begins journaling as a way to preserve her failing memory. Some days she begins to doubt those memories. She calls her journal, "The Book of the Dead", as when someone discovers it, she knows that she will be dead. 

    On the days she sits outside, she pretends to be on vacation enjoying the scenery. She enjoys the times the resident cat, sneaks into her room for a visit.  She wonders where her brother John has been, he hadn't visited since he dropped her off. When he does eventually show up (4 weeks after he left her there) he only stays for fifteen minutes and once again remains quiet.

    What is not so pleasant about life at Twin Elms are the mother and daughter team that runs the home: Harriet and Rose. They seem to find a way to show their disapproval of things the residents do by withholding privileges or occasional niceties. Like in childhood, she's sent to bed without supper because of a tantrum. Deep down she is bitter and angry.

    So if this sounds like a downer of a story, it is, but, it is also seemed so honest and so beautiful. It's only 133 pages, and I loved it so much. It was written more like a journal with the first person narrative.  Highly recommended.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Searching for Sylvie Lee; Jean Kwok

    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 they plan to read. (Today's pick is a new release by an author I've enjoyed in the past)

    William Morrow - 2019

    Part 1

    Chapter 1

    Amy - Monday May 2

    "I'm standing by the window of our small apartment in Queens, watching Ma and Pa leave for their jobs.  Half hidden by the worn curtains Ma sewed herself, I see them walk side by side to the subway station down the street.  At the entrance, they pause and look at each other for a moment. Here, I always hold my breath, waiting for Pa to touch Ma's cheek, or for Ma to burst into tears, or for either of them to give some small sign of the truth of their relationship.  Instead, Ma raises her hand in an awkward wave, the drape of her black shawl exposing her slender forearm, and Pa shuffles into the open mouth of the station as the morning traffic roars down our busy street.  Then Ma ducks her head and continues her walk to the local dry cleaners where she works."

    What do you think? Pass or

    Thursday, July 4, 2019

    What Alice Forgot; Liane Moriarty

    AUTHOR:  Liane Moriarty
    PUBLISHER:  Berkley
    PUB. YEAR: 2009
    SETTING: Australia
    FORMAT:  - print/my shelves (459 pp)
    RATING - 4/5

    What Alice Forgot was our book group read for June. Almost everyone, including me, thought it was a nice summer read.

    When Alice Love falls off an exercise bike at the gym, she hits her head and ends up with a serious concussion. She wakes up to find that she has lost 10 years of her memory. She thinks that she's 29 and expecting her first child, when in fact, she's 39, in the process of a divorce from Nick and has 3 children: Madison, Tom and Olivia.

    Bit by bit the pieces of what happened in Alice's life between 1998 and 2008 are revealed. The story setup was quite clever. I liked that the author kept you wondering what happened in those 10 years and then slowly gave Alice recall or allowed other characters like her sister, Elizabeth to fill in the holes in various ways.  Alice's reactions to hearing about what happened in her past seemed realistic and were often laugh out loud funny, while other parts were quite serious.

    Most of us felt the story was unnecessarily long at (459 pp) and that certain story lines were not needed. Overall, I liked this one and plan to try another by this author soon, perhaps: Big Little Lies.

    Wednesday, July 3, 2019

    3 cute kids books for summer - Candlewick Press

    The Pawed Piper; Michelle Robinson (Illust: Chinlun Lee
    Candlewick Press 2019

    This is a delightful tale about a little girl who desperately wants a cat of her own, just like Hector, her granny's cat.

    She comes up with an idea to attract cats and it works. Sixty-seven cats have made their way to the young girl's house. She never anticipated this would happen, what will she do?  Of course, everything works out well in the end including one happy little girl with a cat of her own.

    Regardless if you are a little (or big) cat lover, you are going to adore this gem - utterly delightful and such sweet illustrations as well.


    Michelle Houts (Illust: Bagram Ibatoulline)
    Candlewick Press

    When Thomas visits his grandmother's sea side cottage she gives him a magnifying glass that had once belonged to his grandfather.  As Thomas begins to explore the beach, he finds unique pieces of sea glass and other treasures. His imagination has him dreaming of shipyards, the christening of ships and other imaginings about the past as well.   Fast forward and years later Thomas is a grandfather himself, he gets to see his own granddaughter Annie, explore the magic of the sea as well.

    This book was a nice trip into the past. It's a book that will appeal to anyone who has sweet memories of summers spent at the beach. The book has lovely illustrations which includes a very elderly looking grandmother, but it also is a book which encourages conversations, exploration and imagination.


    Bear's Book
     Claire Freedman (Illust: Allison Friend)
    Templar / Candlewick Press

    Bear loves to read but his very favorite book is so worn out that one day when it's windy, the pages blow away.  Instead of being saddened by what has happened, he has an idea - maybe he can write his own storybook. If he can't do it alone, then maybe his friends, mouse, rabbit and owl will help him. Of course, the friends accomplish their goal by working together and they are already planning another book. Great whimsical illustrations and BONUS: a copy of their new book -  "Bear's Story" is inserted within the main book.

    A cute story about working together to get things done.


    All 3 books seem perfect for pre-school to grade 1 perhaps.

    Sunset Beach; Mary Kay Andrews

    TITLE: Sunset Beach
    AUTHOR:  Mary Kay Andrews
    PUBLISHER:  Macmillan Audio
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  - audio/library
    RATING - 4/5

    I love having at least a few good beach reads every summer and this one fits the bill.

    Drue Campbell is a young woman trying to find her place in the world.  Her parents were divorced when she was young and she hadn't seen her father, Brice, a personal injury attorney, in about 20 years. Now her mother has just died and it's at the funeral where father and daughter reconnect. It's awkward to say the least. To make matters worst, her father has remarried and his new wife, Wendy is someone Drue went to school with - the two never liked one another.

    Drue has just learned that she has inherited her grandmother's run-down beach cottage on Sunset Beach (prime location), she's back in the area where her father and his new wife live and work.  When her father offers her a job at the law firm, she's hesitant, but needs the money.  It isn't easy having to report to Wendy but she tries to make the best of it it. 

     It's here on the job that Drue learns about an old buried case. An older black woman's daughter was murdered while working at a beach front hotel.  Now the woman is responsible for raising her granddaughter.  She has been screwed with the settlement and her father's firm had the case. Drue is determined to find out how this happened and, she hopes to make things right for this woman and her young granddaughter, even if it means exposing the ugly truth

    This was such a pleasant surprise; the audio was very good as well; it's read by Kathleen McInerney.  It's got the beach setting, a good mystery, sympathetic characters, some humor and more.  There were also a few good sub plots built into the story as well. Try it if you are looking for a nice summer read.

    Tuesday, July 2, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane

    On Tuesday, 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 they plan to read. 

    Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane
    Scribner - 2019

    July 1973

    "FRANCIS GLEASON, TALL AND thin in his powder blue policeman's uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that the station house of the Forty-First Precinct. A pair of pantyhose had been hung to dry on a fourth floor fire escape near 167th, and while he waited for another rookie, a cop named Stanhope. Francis noted the perfect stillness of those gossamer legs, the delicate curve where the heel was meant to be Another building had burned the night before and Francis figured it was now like so many others in the Four-One; nothing left but a hallowed-out shell and a blackened staircase within.  The neighborhood kids had all watched it burn from the roofs and fire escapes where they dragged their mattresses on that first truly hot day in June. Now, from a block away, Francis could hear them begging the firemen to leave just one hydrant open.  He could imagine them hopping back and forth as the pavement grew hot again under their feet."

    I'm on chapter 9 and so far I must say it's wonderful. It's supposed to be one of the hottest books this summer. Would you read more or pass?

    Monday, July 1, 2019

    The Better Sister; Alafair Burke

    AUTHOR:  Alafair Burke
    PUBLISHER:  Harper Audio
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  - audio/library
    RATING - 3.5/5

    When (2) sisters marry the same man and that man ends up murdered, do the police need to add to the list of suspects? 

    Nicky is the first sister to marry Adam Macintosh, a man with a promising career. The two have a son, Ethan, but Nicky is a bit irresponsible and the couple eventually divorce and Adan seeks custody of their son. In the present Ethan is now16.

    When Adam moves to New York City, younger sister, Chloe, a successful professional at a leading women's magazine, helps her ex-brother-in-law find a job as a US prosecutor.  Chloe is stranged from her sister but was always a friend to Adam. The two eventually marry and, once again, Chloe helps Adam find even a better job. This time the job ends up being one that Adam hates and their relationships gets rocky from that point on.  When Chloe is up for a big award and celebration at her company, Adam skips the affair, it's that very night that he ends up dead. But, just who killed Adam?  It seems that more than a few may have wanted him dead?

    This was a pretty good story but not perfect.  I liked how the relationship between the sisters was well-explored. I actually ended up liking Nicky,  the first wife more even though she had many issues she was dealing with.  One of the detectives (Guidry) got on my nerves a bit but, the then author then did a good job slowly revealing secrets the suspects had been hiding.  There were some surprise twists that I hadn't anticipated. Not perfect but and enjoyable enough audio book production.

    Sunday, June 30, 2019

    Goodbye June - Mid Year Reading Progress

    June was a very good reading month for me, probably because it was hot, I had some cranky days and I mostly felt like staying indoors with the AC on. I found myself venturing out in the early mornings for yoga, groceries etc and some lunches and/dinners out.  I was able to hook up with (3) high school friends for dinner (we do this a few times a year) and it was so much fun. The hub and I headed to Cape Cod for a weekend, it was an okay getaway but, super windy while we were there. 

    School is out and this past week I got to see Toy Story 4 with 2 of the granddaughters which was fun.; the sisters are headed to grade K and Grade 2.  The youngest granddaughter graduated from pre-school and will also be in full-time K in September.

    A few Pics from June

    Books - I read (17)  books in June and, I posted short reviews for most of them.  (82 books YTD).

     In June my armchair travels kept me mostly here in the USA with the exception of a brief stint in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Australia and the UK. The US states visited were:  Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Florida, New York and West VA.

    I enjoyed most of my June picks a few were just okay.  These (3) were favorites.

    What I Read
    1. The Secretary; Renee Knight - 4/5 (ARC-June)
    2. The Night Visitors; Carol Goodman - 4/5 (print/library-June)
    3. The Ditch; Herman Koch - 3/5 (eGalley-June)
    4. Dopesick; Beth Macy - (NF) - 5/5 (audio/library-June)
    5. Mama's Last Hug; Frans de Waal  (NF) - 4.5/5 (print/library-June)
    6. The Mother-in-Law; Sally Hepworth - 4/5 (audio/library-June)
    7. Captivated; Jeffrey Deaver (short story - audio) - (3/5 - June)
    8. Stone Mothers; Erin Kelly - 3.5/5 (ARC-June)
    9. Memories of Another Day; Harold Robbins - 3.5/5 - (audio-June)
    10. No Exit; Taylor Adams - 4/5 (eGalley-June)
    11. Restoration Heights; Wil Medearis - 3.5/5 (ARC-June)
    12. Evvie Drake Starts Over; Linda Holmes - 4/5 - (audio/ARC combo - June)
    13. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls (memoir); T. Kira Madden - 5/5 - (NF-June)
    14. What Alice Forgot; Liane Moriarty - 4/5 (print/book group-June)
    15. The Better Sister; A. Burke 3.5/5 (ARC-June)
    16. Sunset Beach; Mary Kay Andrews 4/5 (print/audio/combo/library-June)
    17. As We Are Now; May Sarton - 4.5/5 (print/library-June)

    Fiction - 14  NF - 3  - YTD - 82

    Audios - 6
    eBooks - 2
    print     - 5
    ARCS/Review Books - 5
    audio/eBook Combos - 2
    Borrowed from Library - 7
    Off my Shelves - 6
    July Plans
    (so far)

  • The Last Resort; Marissa Stapley - The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the “last resort” offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.
  • The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman - A tender and wise novel about love, family, and forgiveness in 1960s Australia, in which a lonely farmer finds his world turned upside down by a vibrant woman determined to open the first bookstore his town has ever seen--and to leave her haunting memories of the Holocaust far behind.
  • If She Wakes; Michael Koryta - Two women fight for their lives against an enigmatic killer in this electrifying novel from a New York Times bestselling author and "master" of thriller writing (Stephen King).
  • Women Rowing North: Navigating  Life's Currents & Flourishing As We Age; M. Pipher - Women growing older contend with ageism, misogyny, and loss. Yet as Mary Pipher shows, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life. Their struggles help them grow into the authentic, empathetic, and wise people they have always wanted to be.
  • Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane - A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.
  • Hope everyone had a great month!

    Thursday, June 27, 2019

    Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls; T. Kira Madden

    AUTHOR:  T. Kira Madden
    PUBLISHER:  Bloomsbury
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  - print/library
    RATING - 5/5

    I've always enjoyed a good memoir, especially one that delves deep into a dysfunctional childhood. Brutally honest, gritty, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, I loved everything about this woman's journey to self-discovery.

    As her story begins we meet "Uncle Nuke" (a mannequin) -- 

    Uncle Nuke

    "My mother rescued a mannequin from the J.C. Penney dump when I was two years old.  He was a full-bodied jewelry mannequin: fancy, distinguished.  

    Madden grew up in Boca Raton, FL to a single mother who was Chinese and Hawaiian.  Initially they lived alone and not the best neighborhood.  For safety, her mother rescues "Uncle Nuke" from the dump.  She dresses him up and props him near a window so it looks like a man lives with them.

    Her father was white, wealthy and married; he eventually leaves his family to marry her mother and lives with his new family.   Although money was never an issue for Madden growing up: she went to private schools and had plenty of material possessions, she struggled to fit in. She felt different than her peers as a biracial girl in Boca Raton and she was dealing with her sexuality as well.  She also lacked stability and security in her life, both of her parents battled alcohol and drug addictions. 

    Her story is so beautifully written, Madden is tough, strong and forgiving. The memoir is told in a series of very short essays, each one drawing the reader deeper and deeper into her life journey.  Some of her memories were beautiful and funny, others painful. There was so much in this memoir that stuck with me - This memoir did not disappoint; I really loved it.

    Note:  Madden was a victim of sexual assault at the age of 12, so readers for who this might be a trigger need to know this beforehand.

    Wednesday, June 26, 2019

    Evvie Drake Starts Over - Linda Holmes

    TITLE: Evvie Drake Starts Over
    AUTHOR:  Linda Holmes
    PUBLISHER:  Ballantine
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Maine
    FORMAT:  - ARC/Audio (Combo)
    RATING - 4/5

    Evvie Drake is a 30-something widow who lives in a small town in Maine. Everyone who knows her feels bad that her husband has died in an automobile accident. What they don't realize is that instead of sadness she's feeling guilt. Her husband died on the very day that she had packed her bags and planned to leave him for good. No one, including her late husband, knew of her plan.

    Now she's stuck and rarely leaves her house. Evvie hadn't even told her good friend Andy what she had been planning.  Now Andy has two good friends in need of help, Evvie and also Dean, a former has-been major league baseball star that lives n New York and is looking for a new start. Andy suggests that Evvie rent out a small apartment that is part of her house for the extra income.  She is apprehensive to say the least, realizing that she is a hot mess but, the extra money would help so she decides to go along with the idea.

    Predictably, as the two get to know one another they help each other to heal from old wounds and disappointments.

    Romantic comedies are not generally my thing but, I was looking for something light and fun and this one definitely fit the bill.  It's pretty evident early on how this one will turn out but, the characters were fun, made me laugh at times and they became ones I grew to care about as well.   This was a combo print and audio read for me: Julia Whalen was the audio book narrator, she did a terrific job.  A nice light choice for summer reading.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - If She Wakes; Michael Koryta

    On Tuesday, 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 they plan to read. 

    If She Wakes; Michael Koryta
    Little Brown and Company - 2019

    Part 1 - Ignition


    "Nineteen minutes before her brain and body parted ways, Tara Beckley's concern was the cold.

    First night of October, but as the sun set and the wind picked up, it felt like midwinter, and Tara could see her breath fogging the air.  That would have been crisp New England charm on another night, but not this one, when she wore only a thin sweater over a summer-weight dress.  Granted, she hadn't expected to be standing in the cold, but she had a commitment to deliver one Professor Amandi Oltamu from dinner to his keynote presentation, and the professor was pacing the making lot of the restaurant they'd just left, already staringinito the darkness and playing with his phone."

    What do you think - pass or read more? I haven't started this one yet but, I did like the intro.

    Saturday, June 22, 2019

    No Exit; Taylor Adams

    TITLE: No Exit
    AUTHOR:  Taylor Adams
    PUBLISHER:  William Morrow
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Colorado
    FORMAT:  - eGalley
    RATING - 4/5

    When Darby Thorne learns that her mother is dying of pancreatic cancer and needs immediate surgery she heads out from Colorado where she is a college student to Utah for what might be one last visit.  One the way Darby is caught in a blizzard with a broken windshield wiper and no snow tires, so before long she is forced to pull off at a remote rest stop.

    Her cellphone battery is low, she forgot her charger in her dorm and the cell service in the area is basically non existent. At the rest stop are (4) other individuals: (3 men and 1 other woman).  All are forced to wait out the storm until morning when the plows can get through.  If things can't seem to get any worst for Darby, she discovers a little girl, duct taped and caged in one of the vans in the parking lot.   The girl has obviously been kidnapped and Darby is determined to free her and get help.  Just who is the kidnapper and who can she trust?

    While being stranded in a snowstorm and remote rest stops are hardly new plot devices for a thriller, the author does a very good job creating one nail-biting moment after another with a considerable amount of violence as well. The story is told mostly through Darby's POV and she has plenty of her own emotional baggage. This is a story that hooked me despite some implausible scenarios.  Jay, the 6 year old victim who was way too wise for her age and Darby at times seemed to have super human strength.  Despite these flaws, this was a good quick read that seems like it would make a great movie. 

    Thursday, June 20, 2019

    a few more quick reviews - Stone Mothers; Erin Kelly and Restoration Heights; Wil Medearis

    TITLE: Stone Mothers
    AUTHOR:  Erin Kelly

    PUBLISHER:  Minotaur
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Outside of London
    FORMAT:  - ARC
    RATING - 3.5/5

    Marianne Thackeray has built a good life for herself with her husband Sam and daughter, Honor.  She also has a darker side that she has done a good job of keeping hidden from her family. Her dark secrets are from 30 years earlier (1988) in Nusstead (outside of London) when she was just 17. She moved out of that area long ago and thought her secret and body she and her boyfriend, Jesse had buried would never be brought up again.

    Now Marianne's mother is suffering from dementia and Sam wanted to make things easier for his wife so he purchased a second home at Park Royal Manor, a luxury apartment complex located in a former mental hospital, a place Marianne would prefer to forget.

    This story has (3) different timelines (1958), (1988) and (2018) and is told mainly from (3) POVS, Marianne, her daughter Honor and a woman named Helen Greenlaw who also had her secrets surrounding Stone Mothers, the victorian mental asylum.

    I started this book on audio and had trouble following the multiple POVs and the fact the book was divided into 4 parts, so I switched to the print version which worked out much better.  I loved that much of this story had a Gothic feel. The first part was awfully slow and I felt frustrated but as the story progressed it began to make sense.  The images of life at the old asylum were very chilling and just awful to read about, but I liked the way it drew me into the story.  If you like books with a Gothic feel or reading about mental asylums of days gone by, you might want to try this one.

    TITLE: Restoration Heights
    AUTHOR:  Wil Medearis

    PUBLISHER:  Hanover Square Press
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  - ARC
    RATING - 3.5/5

    Reddick is a 30 something artist who works as an art handler in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a black neighborhood undergoing gentrification. One day he notices a beautiful blond woman, who seems out of place, stagger into one of the apartments. She appears drunk.

    The next day, coincidentally, when Reddick arrives at the apartment of a client, the Seward family, a wealthy family in the city, he overhears a conversation and realizes that the young woman he saw is named Hannah and was the fiancee of his client. Oddly, he's pulled into the girl's disappearance by yet another wealthy family who wants answers. What has happened to Hannah and why does one family not want the police involved yet another family is wanting answers?

    This is a debut novel that I'd have to say was part mystery, part psych thriller.  I thought the whole plot line setup was a bit too convenient, but yet, it's the kind of story that would make for a lively group discussion.  I do think it could have benefited from some deeper character development - overall an okay read.