Monday, November 30, 2020

Goodbye November - a decent month for reading



Hello Reader Friends,

Everything about this month seemed different. Our COVID numbers once excellent have gotten worse, yes we are one of the red states once again. So far we have managed to keep the virus away from us and loved ones, by avoiding unnecessary risks.  I was surprised to visit one doctor this week that had the strongest protocol yet. Ring a doorbell to enter waiting room, place a second mask over my personal mask, temperature check, wash hands with antibacterial soap and then proceed into first exam room. No other patients in this small office practice - just staff. 

Our Thanksgiving was different even though I tried to make the meal a traditional one. I can't lie, I felt sad not having the kids and grandkids here.  After dinner we watched the first Christmas movie for 2020 - ELF, Will Ferrell makes me smile - just love this movie, so it helped cheer me up.  Most of the gifts I've ordered on line have arrived and I'm happy that I only have a few smaller things and gift cards to finish up our shopping. I'm hoping we get a warm December day to maybe have the family over for hot chocolate and Christmas cookies outdoors or in garage with masks on if necessary.

How are you planning on celebrating Christmas?

November Reading

  1. A Polar Bear in the Snow; Mac Barnett (Ill. Shawn Harris) - 4.5/5 - (print/Nov)
  2. Nursing Homes are Murder - Mike Befeler - 3.5/5 (Nov)
  3. Don't Look for Me; Wendy Walker - 4.5/5 (combo - audio/eGalley/Nov) 
  4. Summer Longing; Jamie Brenner - 4.5/5 (library/Nov)
  5. The Talented Miss Farwell; Emily Gray Tedrowe - 4/5 (eGalley/Nov)
  6. The Christmas Table; Donna Vanliere - 4/5 (eGalley/Nov)
  7. Snowflakes (Book 1-Hush Series); Ruth Ware - 3/5 (eBook/Nov)
  8. Treasure; O. Braithwaite (Book 2 Hush series) - 4/5 (eBook/Nov)
  9. Greenlights (Memoir); Matthew McConaughey - 2/5 (audio/Nov)
  10. Troubles in Paradise; Elin Hilderbrand - 2/5 (print/library/Nov)
  11. Good, Morning Monster: A Therapist Shares Five Heroic Stories of Emotional Recovery; Catherine Gildiner - NF - 4/5 - (eGalley/Nov)
  12. The Wrong Kind of Woman; Sarah McCraw Crow - 3.5/5 (eGalley/Nov)
  13. The Undoing; Jean Hanff Korelitz - 4/5 - (eBook/Nov)
Most Memorable Reads of November

(no review yet)


November - (13) books read (1) childrens (2) novellas (2) NF and (8) other fiction
(YTD - 118) - (I'm 14 books behind my 132 books as of  November 30, 2019)

December Plans
  • Finish a few reviews from November
  • catch up on some lovely children's books
  • 2 Christmas Reads
  • 2-4 Christmas movies
  • Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell
  • (finish): A Promised Land, Barack Obama
  • (finish): Amazon Prime Hush series - novellas - 3 more to go)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving COVID edition and 2 Disappointing new releases

 


I'm trying to stay positive this Thanksgiving, it's always been my favorite holiday. I love that it's all about being with loved ones and not about gifts. I am thinking about all the things and people I am grateful to have in my life.  I've hosted Thanksgiving almost every year since my first marriage back in 1972.  There were a few years when the kids were young (the years right after my parents died) that they spent the holiday with their dad and their step-mother but, for the most part I've always cooked and enjoyed doing so. This year it will just be the 2 of us, and I'm okay with that. What I'm honestly going to miss the most is celebrating my son's birthday with the family (#43) as we've done every year. He was born on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so his day has always been close enough to be cause to celebrate at Thanksgiving.  I'm still cooking a traditional turkey with all the sides but, this year just (2) purchased desserts instead of homemade.  On a positive note, I can relax more, stress less and just have it all ready when I'm ready and not at a particular time coordinated by what works for everyone.  I don't mind the cooking or the clean up and we love having the leftovers.  I look forward to a 2021 family celebration when it is safer for everyone to gather.

What does your day look like for Thanksgiving?  Will it be different?


RECENT READS  - I read (2) recent releases that I was very disappointed in (1) fiction and (1) NF/Memoir - Have you read these?

Troubles in Paradise; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown - 2020

This was book, #3, the conclusion of the Winter in Paradise series was quite disappointing. It begins with an overview of the highlights of the earlier 2 installments which I really enjoyed. 

Irene Steele's husband Russell had been living a double life in St. Johns in the Virgin Island.  While Iowa City Irene thought he was traveling for business he was living a separate life in a 15 million dollar villa along with his mistress Rosie and their daughter.  It is only when Russell, Rosie and the helicopter pilot are killed in a crash that the years of deceit are revealed.  Irene and the couple's grown sons head to St. John to deal with the aftermath.

In this final installment, it seems Russell may have also been involved in some illegal activity and perhaps his death wasn't an accident at all. The FBI arrive to seize the villa and all property while more details are obtained and everything is sorted out.  Meanwhile, hurricane Irma  prepares to wreck havoc with the island.

I thought this final installment lacked substance and was nothing more than fillers, it's not a short novel either and felt rushed. There are a lot of characters in this novel, many of which I wasn't interested in. Irene is also involved with a man named Huck, who was married to Rosie, the woman killed along with Russell.  Many of the minor characters, Irenes sons and a few others, are shallow or immature and unmemorable as well.  Had this been book #1 of the series, I would have never continued. I admit to flipping pages after the first half to see how the story played out.

Rating - 2/5 stars

                                               Greenlights: a memoir; Matthew McConaughey

Random House Audio - 2020

I was so looking forward to this memoir, I think McConaughey is a great actor, with over 30 movies in just over 20 years.  Married with 3 children, he only married his Brazilian American wife after she became pregnant with their third child.  McConaughey grew up in a dysfunctional family, the youngest of 3 sons.  His parents married each other 3x and divorced twice.  There were often vicious battles between the couple yet McConaughey seemed to love both parents and, he seemed to seek his father's approval - at least it was evident when he told him he wanted to give up law school for film school. 

McConaughey kept journals from an early age, his memoir is reflective of some of those events.  The flow of this memoir was off-putting for me, it was read by McConaughey and honestly, it felt more like an acting gig.  He uses lots of vulgarities and his thoughts seem to ramble at times.  I also found it hard to believe some of the escapes he writes about. His Foundation: "Just Keep Livin" benefits at risk high school students.  

Rating - 2/5 stars







Tuesday, November 24, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Wrong Kind of Woman; Sarah McCraw Crow

 


Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon. 

The Wrong Kind of Woman; Sarah McCraw Crow
Mira - 2020

Chapter One

November 1970

Westfield, New Hampshire

Oliver died the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the air heavy with snow that hadn't fallen yet.  His last words to Virginia were, "Tacks, Ginny? Do we have any tacks?"

I forgot I had downloaded this eBook and I love that the intro takes place around Thanksgiving even though it's a sad opening.

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Christmas Table; Donna VanLiere

 

The Christmas Table; Donna VanLiere
St. Martin's Press - 2020 - Macmillan Audio

Even though I don't consider myself a religious person, every year I am drawn to Donna VanLiere's Christmas offering. Her "Hope series" offers hopeful stories about faith and believing in miracles; a few of her books have been made into Hallmark movies as well.  Each of the books can be read as a stand alone but, this years story does have a few characters from an earlier story. This year's story is told in (2) timelines (1972) and (2012).

In this story (1972) John Creighton is determined to build a holiday table for his wife Joan. The only problem is that he has only done small woodworking problems in the past. The family has (2) young children and Joan has been busy learning to cook, using recipes passed down from her own mother.  Joan has also found out she has breast cancer which has spread and she is undergoing treatments.

(2012) Lauren and Travis Mabrey are a young couple who are expecting their first child. Lauren grew up in foster homes and longs for a real home and family.  Lauren buys a used table and in the drawer of the table she finds recipes, each has a special message written on them.  Lauren is certain the person who originally owned the table did not intend to part with these recipes. She is determined to find the family and return the recipes.

The story alternates between these stories and made for a mostly uplifting read. I loved seeing how Lauren was able to form a beautiful family and home. She had a community of people willing to make sure that happen for her. At the end of the book and peppered throughout are the recipes, many of which seem worth trying.  I thought this was a nice holiday story for believers and non-believers alike.

I started this one on audio (very good) but, I also supplemented it with the eBook to see the recipes in print.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Thursday, November 19, 2020

(2) Short Story Reviews - Snowflakes; Ruth Ware and Treasure; Oyinkan Braithwaite

 I've long been an Amazon Prime member but, I've never really taken advantage of all the freebies being a subscriber affords: free eBooks, free movies and free music downloads and, I'm sure there are other benefits as well.  I decided to try some eBook downloads (10) maximum at one time and was pleasantly surprised by the (2) short stories I read.  What I loved about these short stories was that one was 37 minutes and the other 43 minutes so, it was perfect before bed reading on (2) consecutive nights.

(a collection of 6 brief political mysteries and psych thrillers)

Snowflakes was a fast an engrossing read that I was able to finish in about  (35) minutes.

A father who seems to be obsessed with guns seems to be quickly losing grips with reality. He forces his children (2) boys (2) girls to gather huge stones to build a tall wall around the property because of something bad that is about to happen.  A gun shot and a shout-out by the father that "their coming" and suddenly the family, minus the mother, escapes by boat with some essentials. What happened to the mother? What has really happened here? 

A dark story that was well-written and left me pleasantly surprised overall. Told from the POV of Leah an older daughter.   4 stars

                                                       Book # 2 Hush Series

Treasure is a young girl who lives in Nigeria obsessed with becoming an Instagram influencer with a huge following. She shows off expensive clothing and accessories with a background of her opulent, gated community.

@Sho4Sure is a mechanic; he is obsessed with Treasure and flirts with her online. He is obsessed with meeting her in person and, he eventually finds a way to make that happen - think "stalker".

An eye-opener and warning to those who pretend to be people they are not.  A surprise ending too. This was described as darkly comedic. I found it dark, indeed, comic? not so much.  The author of this one has also written My Sister the Serial Killer, it's one book I had meant to try but never did.  I plan to remedy that soon. 4 stars

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Talented Miss Farwell; Emily Gray Tedrowe

 

The Talented Miss Farwell; Emily Gray Tedrowe
Custom House Publishing - 2020

Becky Farwell is a bright young woman who learned to take charge when at an early age.  Her mother died when she was young and she took care of the house and quickly learned how to turn around her father's failing business, which she basically ran up until his death. Her father had no business sense but, Becky had it all.  By most standards Becky's life is rather boring, a loner who worked too much and played too little. She does develop a fine appreciation for art after picking up a piece at an estate sale that she absolutely adores and, then as if a lightbulb goes off in her head, a new focus.

After her father's death she continues to live in the family home in Pierson, Illinois. She gets a job in accounting at Town Hall at the age of 19 and is quickly promoted to Assistant Comptroller and then Comptroller by the age of 23 - her superiors have so much confidence in her take charge attitude and abilities that she has almost no oversight.  Her outside interest continues to be art and she learns all she can about the art scene, galleries and art shows. On weekends she heads to Chicago to immerse herself in the art scene. There she meets a man named Mac who shows her the rope and even suggests she go by the name of Reba. Becky (Reba) begins to dress the part, even renting a pricey condo for her weekend art escapes.  Unfortunately, this dual lifestyle all costs money, lots of money but the bright, resourceful Becky figures a way to get what she wants even though the scheme she comes up with. Embezzlement, however, is a crime. 

Becky (Reba) is an unlikeable character yet, I was pulled in by just how cunning this young woman was and how her criminal mind worked. It was fascinating to see how her art obsession took over rational thinking. I did find it hard to imagine her pulling off this double life: CFO by day and the high states domestic and even sometimes international art fancier on weekends. 

The Talented Miss Farwell is a clever work of crime fiction loosely based on a true story. Although this one starts off a bit slow, I enjoyed the story quite a bit. Becky was a brilliant con artist, master of deceit who found a way to skim money off the government to support her obsession.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Troubles in Paradise; Elin Hilderbrand

 


Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon. 

Troubles in Paradise; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown - 2020
(Book #3/3 in the Paradise series)


ST. JOHN

"The gossip recently has been as juicy as a papaya, one that gives slightly under our fingertips and is as fragrant on the inhale, the inside brilliant coral color, bursting with seeds like so many ebony beads.  If you don't fancy papaya, think of a mango as we crosshatch the ripe flesh of the cheeks with a sharp knife or a freshly picked pineapple from the fertile fields of ST. Croix, deep gold, its chucks sweeter than candy. Like these island fruits, the talk around here is irresistible."

I enjoyed this series, a very good escape read so I was looking forward to the finale. I must say I wasn't expecting so much "fruit" for the intro...LOL

Would you read more or pass?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Summer Longing; Jamie Brenner


                                                           Summer Longing; Jamie Brenner

 Little Brown & Co. - 2020

Summer Longing was a great escape read. It takes place in Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, a place I've often visited.

Fifty-something Ruth Cooperman is easing into retirement. She's divorced and has an adult daughter Olivia who she has a strained relationship with. She has rented a magnificent beachfront home for the summer while she takes her time deciding on a property to hopefully purchase there. Provincetown is a place with good memories for her, she can't wait for it's quiet and all that this quirky, walkable town offers.  What she doesn't expect is to find a baby girl on her porch and, she isn't prepared for all the drama that follows.

This book offers a little bit of everything: a story about motherhood and its challenges, female friendships and relationships, interesting characters and even a few surprises along the way. I loved the charming town with the tea shop and bakery, the close-knit community, the friendships and even a bit of mystery and a bit of romance.  Need a feel good read with a wonderful setting? Be sure to try this one.

Rating - 4.5/5 (library book)

                           I've included some of my favorite Provincetown photos from travels there.

                                                                  (inside their public library)











Friday, November 13, 2020

Don't Look for Me; Wendy Walker


                                                         Don't Look for Me; Wendy Walker

                                                  St. Martin's Press & Macmillan Audio - 2020

Don't Look for Me, a dark, thriller full of twists, was a combo read for me (eGalley and audio download). The audio was read by Therese Plummer who did a great job.

In this story Molly Clark is a wife and a mother and her life is a mess.  Her youngest child was struck and killed by a car at the age of 6 and, Molly was driving the car that killed her daughter.  Her older children. a daughter and a teenage son barely speak to her now and her husband has been avoiding her as well. 

When Molly fails to return home one rain and stormy night, her car abandoned on the side of the road with her cell phone still inside, foul play is suspected. However, when a note left in a casino hotel room miles away that appears to have been written by Molly, just maybe Molly decided to walk away from her miserable life?

This was a fast-paced thriller that could have easily been read in one sitting. I found myself trying to piece it all together and, although it wasn't quite perfect, it did hook me and had more than a few surprises. I always love when a story is just too riveting to put down.  

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, November 12, 2020

6 Kids Books from Candlewick Press

 


Just look at these terrific new books for children. Books and the topics offered sure have come a long way since I was a child or, even since my own children were young.

Anatomicum: Welcome to the Museum - Jennifer Z Paxton - Step inside the pages of Anatomicum to enjoy the experience of a museum from the comfort of your own home. The 2019 offering from Welcome to the Museum guides readers through the human body, from the muscles we use to show emotion, to the delicate workings of the brain. With sumptuous artwork by Katy Wiedemann and expert text by professor Dr Jennifer Z Paxton, this beautiful book is a feast of anatomical knowledge.

One of a Kind : A Story About Sorting & Classifying - Neil Packer - It’s classified! With intricate artwork and refreshingly simple language, Neil Packer’s introduction to the many ways of ordering things will thrill the detail-oriented among us.


Meet Arvo. Now look at his family tree. Meet his cat, Malcolm, and check out Malcolm’s family tree, too. Whether people or cats, buildings or books, food or vehicles, there’s a category for everything. And in this mesmerizing narrative introduction to taxonomy, readers follow Arvo through his day to learn about the order of the animal kingdom, to his music lesson to help categorize instruments, and across town to classify cloud formations he sees along the way. Neil Packer’s detailed illustrations and simple narrative are perfect for readers who itch to classify and find order in their daily lives. (Grades 2-5)



The Secret Starling: Judith Eagle - Clara Starling lives a life of dull rules, deadly routine, and flavorless meals under her cold uncle's strict regime—until the day Uncle disappears, leaving Clara alone in his old mansion. When streetwise orphan Peter and his rescue cat arrive unexpectedly, the children seize the chance to live by their own rules. But when the pair’s wild romps through the halls of Braithwaite Manor reveal a single, worn ballet slipper, they are hurled into a mystery that will lead to London’s glittering Royal Opera House and the unraveling of twisted Starling family secrets of poison, passion, and murder. Diabolical villains, plucky orphans, and glamorous ballet stars populate this absorbing adventure with a classic feel.


Wonder Women of Science: Fletcher and Rue - What does it take to be a STEM genius? Check out these exciting, highly readable profiles of a dozen contemporary women who are on the cutting edge of scientific research.

Searching the cosmos for a new Earth. Using math to fight human trafficking. Designing invisible (and safer) cars. Unlocking climate-change secrets. All of this groundbreaking science, and much more, is happening right now, spearheaded by the diverse female scientists and engineers profiled in this book. 

Meet award-winning aerospace engineer Tiera Fletcher and twelve other science superstars and hear them tell in their own words not only about their fascinating work, but also about their childhoods and the paths they traveled to get where they are—paths that often involved failures and unexpected changes in direction, but also persistence, serendipity, and brilliant insights. Their careers range from computer scientist to microbiologist to unique specialties that didn’t exist before some amazing women profiled here created them. Here is a book to surprise and inspire not only die-hard science fans, but also those who don’t (yet!) think of themselves as scientists. Back matter includes reading suggestions, an index, a glossary, and some surprising ideas for how to get involved in the world of STEM. (Grades 4-7)

A Kitten Named Holly (Jasmine Green Rescues) - Helen Peters - Animal lover Jasmine Green is back to rescue an adorable kitten, just in time for the holidays.

On her family’s farm, Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, find the ideal clubhouse for their animal rescue group. But much to their surprise, the shed is already home to a feral cat and her three kittens. When the mother cat leaves, abandoning one of her babies, Jasmine and Tom feel compelled to step in and raise the tiny kitten. But with a house full of rescued animals—and a veterinarian mother who has reached her limit—will Jasmine be able to keep another pet? Or is it someone else’s turn to make a new animal friend? A holiday backdrop and some lighthearted family mayhem add to the charm of this feline-focused addition to the Jasmine Green Rescues series—perfect for readers who think that animals are the best gift of all. (Grades 2-4)

Leonard: My Life As a Cat: Carlie Sorosiak - He’s not a stray house cat, he’s an immortal being. And now he must choose whether to return to his planet or remain with his new human friend in a humorous, heart-tugging story from the author of I, Cosmo.

The cat that Olive rescues from a flood has a secret: he’s not really a cat at all, but an alien who crashed to Earth on a beam of light. The cat, whom Olive names Leonard, was prepared to visit the planet as a human—but something went wrong. Now Leonard may never know what it’s like to hold an umbrella, go bowling, or host a dinner party. (And his human jokes still need some work: Knock, knock. Who’s there? Just Leonard. It is me.) While Olive worries about whether she will have to move after her mom and her new boyfriend get back from their summer vacation, Leonard tries to figure out how to get from South Carolina to Yellowstone National Park, because if he’s not there at the end of the month, he’ll miss his ride home. But as Olive teaches Leonard about the beautiful and confusing world of humans, he starts to realize how much he cares about this particular one. A sweet and dryly funny story about what it means to be human—and what it means to be home. (Grades 3-7)

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending these lovely books my way. 
(I will share my reviews on each soon)

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Talented Miss Farwell; Emily Gray Tedrowe



Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon. 

The Talented Miss Farwell; Emily Gray Tedrowe

Custom House - 2020 

 

 1

Pierson, Illinois

1979

Fourteen-year-old Becky Farwell lay on the horn with her forearm.

Daddy, let's go!

Engine running, she tilted the rearview mirror to study her eye makeup, a wash of greens running dark to light from her eyelashes to eyebrows. Greens, of course, because the magazines all said redheads had to, even indistinct blond-red mixes like her own.  What she really wanted was the set that gave you three kinds of purple, pale violet to dusky eggplant. Becky ran a quick calculation on how much she was owed by the four girls she did homework for--geometry and algebra, although she could stretch up to pre-calc too, even as a ninth-grader.  Though for pre-calc all she could guarantee was a B, not that any of the girls complained.  Sometimes she took payment in shoes, like the almost-new Tretorns she had on now, without socks because no one did.  Becky flipped the mirror back with a snap.  They needed cash too bad to daydream about makeup.

This is one book I've been eyeing and it's getting very good reviews as a crime novel.  What do you think - read more or pass?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Nursing Homes are Murder; Mike Befeler

 

Nursing Homes Are Murder; Mike Befeler

                                                                      Five Star Pub - 2014 

Eighty-year-old Paul Jacobson has been on vacation with his new wife and family in Honolulu when he is asked to go undercover.  The job is to pose as a nursing home resident to help crack a case in a home where a few female residents have been robbed or sexually assaulted during the night.  Paul agrees and his wife Marion is housed in a condo next door to the facility for the interim.

Paul has a great memory by day but, come sundown confusion sets in and he must resort to writing things that happen in a journal.  Paul and his blind, war veteran roommate get along great. As Paul snoops around meeting residents and asking questions, it seems like there are several potential suspects to keep tabs on.

I was in need of a quick read, something totally different pre-election and, this cozy mystery that sat on my shelves for years fit the bill.  I liked the humor, lots of funny things happened even though it was sometimes over done, I liked it. The quirky seniors made me smile. 

I learned afterward that this was a series book (book 6 of a 6 book series with Paul Jacobson as amateur - sleuth). Since I hadn't read anything else by this author,  I wondered what  Paul's job was pre-retirement? I'm guessing he might have been a detective as why would he have been asked to go under cover?  Despite stepping in mid-stream, I still had fun with this one.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Friday, November 6, 2020

A Polar Bear in the Snow; Mac Barnett (Ill. Shawn Harris)

 

A Polar Bear in the Snow; Mac Barnett (Ill. Shawn Harris)
Candlewick Press - 2020


A polar bear asleep blends in with the snow, that is until he begins to wake and shows us his dark-colored nose and then is dark eyes and finally his full form. But, where is he going on his journey? Each turn of the page makes the wonder what adventure does the polar bear have in store. Is he traveling to visit the seals or, perhaps he just wants to play?

Sometimes simplicity is everything and, this book is a perfect example. I liked the simple text and the illustrations. Cleverly illustrated with a paper cut and ink design that makes the landscape look quite barren but, then as we turn a page we see the deep blue sea for contrast.

This is a sweet winter treat to be enjoyed in front of the fireplace or with a nice cup of hot cocoa. (Pre-K to Grade 1)

Rating - 4.5/5 stars




Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending this book my way in exchange for my unbiased review

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Disloyal: A Memoir The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump; Michael Cohen

 DID NOT READ - I JUST COULDN'T DO IT!

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.  I haven't read any political books over the last (4) years but, this is one that got my attention. 

Disloyal; Michael Cohen (a memoir)
Skyhorse Publlishing - 2020

FORWARD The Real Donald Trump

"The President of the United States wanted me dead.

Or, let me say it the way Donald Trump would: He wouldn't mind if I were dead. That was how Trump talked. Like a mob boss, using language carefully calibrated to convey his desires and demands, while at the same time employing deliberate indirection to insulate himself and avoid actually ordering a hit on his personal former attorney, confidant, consigliore, and, at least in my heart, adopted son."

Curious or pass?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

October Reading Highlights - What Will November 2020 Bring?

 

Happy Halloween

This year all 3 granddaughters got together for an outdoor scavenger hunt in the melting snow. Not your typical New England Halloween but, given COVID and the unexpected pre-Halloween snow this worked.


How was your October? Are you happy it's over? I feel like I've been wishing my life away this past year given all we have been through (not us personally, but, our country in general.)  

October was a very good month for me reading-wise. My reading numbers were up as I just couldn't stand to watch the news in recent weeks, many of you feel the same I am sure.  We voted early, by mail, as our virus numbers are beginning to creep up as there are everywhere else it seems.  

I started watching a new series last week, The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant & Donald Sutherland. It's on HBO and I'm hooked - psych thriller feel.  It's based on the book: You Should Have Known ; Jean Hanff Korelitz (I just purchased the eBook for $2.99 so hope to read it soon).

Book Group

Wednesday was my library book group meeting. We hoped to meet in the park one last time before it was too cold but, it was pouring out so it was a Zoom meeting instead. There were (8) of us and our read was Two-Family House (2016); Lynda Cohen-Loigman - St. Martin's Press. I actually read the book when it was released in 2016 and I liked it a lot. The group enjoyed the story, a debut novel, but, we agreed it was not fine literature. It did make for a good discussion. What was surprising was all of us, except for one person grew up in Two-Family houses as children. Who knew it was that common?In my case, my family lived on the first floor and my grandfather, an unmarried uncle and an unmarried aunt lived on the second floor. (Built in baby-sitters, I guess)

Our next meeting isn't until January as we don't meet over the holidays and, this year we won't be having a Holiday luncheon due to the virus.

Here's a snapshot of what I read in October:

                                                                              Favorite Fiction

                                                                           Favorite Non-Fiction

October Reads (14)
YTD - (105)
  1. The Death October of Vivek Oji; Akwaeke Emezi - (5/5 (audio/Oct.)
  2. Hieroglyphics; Jill McCorkle - 4.5/5 - (print/library/Oct)
  3. The Mothers; Brit Bennett - 3.5/5 - (eGalley/audio combo/Oct)
  4. Ghostology; Curtle & Steel - 5/5 (print/October)
  5. Where's Waldo? Spooky Spotlight Search; Martin Handford (print/October)
  6. Love is Powerful; Heather Dean Brewer - 5/5 (print/October)
  7. Fresh Water for Flowers; Valerie Perrin - 4.5/5 (print/library/Oct)
  8. Dear Edward; Ann Napolitano - 4/5 - (audio/October)
  9. His & Hers; Alice Feeney - 4/5 - (print/audio/October)
  10. Confessions on the 7:45; Lisa Unger - 2.5/5 (audio/October)
  11. Goodnight, Beautiful; Aimee Molloy - 3.5/5 (audio/October)
  12. White Ivy; Susie Yang - 4.5/5 - (eGalley/October)

RIPXV 

I read all (4) books that I planned to read for the challenge plus (3) additional ones that would fit the bill.


4.5/5 stars

5/5 stars

3.5/5 stars

Movies - I only watched (1) creepy movie in October: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (love that movie but, my God). We did watch  (3) other no-creepy ones The Art of Racing in the Rain , Richard Jewell and The Green Book once again - all excellent movies.

November Plans

I never formally join "Non-Fiction November" but, I do try to read a few.  This year I hope to read these NF titles:
November Fiction Possibilities

Saturday, October 31, 2020

White Ivy; Susie Yang

 

White Ivy; Susie Yang
Simon & Schuster - 2020

Ivy Lin is a Chinese immigrant toddler, left in China to be raised by her grandmother when her parents came to the US in the 1980s. At age 5, Ivy boarded a plane from China to Boston, flying solo to join the parents she didn't even remember.  Fortunately for Ivy she has her grandmother, Meifeng who helps assimilate her to the American ways. She teaches her to shoplift at yard sales, telling her that the people have plenty and don't even care about the things there are trying to get rid of.  As Ivy get's older she carries her thievery from yard sales to store theft.

Sent to Grove Prep Academy on scholarship, it's here that Ivy, a poor girl among wealthy, white kids  gets her determination to fit in among the wealthy.  She sets her sights on Gideon Speyer, the wealthy son of a US Senator.  When her grades slide and her mother discovers her stash of new items in her room, she sends Ivy back to China to live with a relative over the summer, in the hopes that she will change her ways.  The only one the age that seems to understand Ivy is her next door neighbor Roux, a poor boy her age with a single mother that is rarely home.

As an adult Ivy becomes an elementary school teacher but she's restless. A chance meeting with Gideon Speyer's sister reconnects her with Gideon. She becomes even more determined to find her way into the inner circle of private clubs, parties and vacation homes. Ivy will do whatever it takes to get the life that she thinks she wants. 

This was a very hard book for me to review but, let me say that I really liked it a lot. It's so well-written, a story about ones Chinese heritage while aspiring to become someone else entirely.  It was a bit of a slow burn but turning into an unexpected thriller by the end. I thought it was also a terrific character study with insight into Chinese-American child-rearing.  Ivy's grandmother Meileng, was one of my favorite characters, she and Roux seemed to be the two people who really understood the real Ivy.  The ending was satisfying enough but, it made me wonder whether we might hear more about Ivy in a sequel. I hope so. An impressive debut novel.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Friday, October 30, 2020

Goodnight Beautiful; Aimee Molloy

 

Goodnight Beautiful; Aimee Molloy 

Harper Audio-2020

Sam Statler and Annie Potter are newly married and leave New York City for a great opportunity to live a quieter life in a large Victorian home in upstate New York. Sam's mother has dementia, she's living in a retirement home nearby. Even better, Sam, a psychologist can set up his therapist practice in their home. Annie is a Woman's Studies professor at a local college. The couple, who married rather quickly, haven't shared everything about themselves to their partners. As we read, we see these secrets closing in.  One day as Sam's patients appear for their therapy sessions, Annie realizes that she can hear the conversations through the vents; it's hard to resist not listening in.  Then one day Sam disappears during a snowstorm. Annie is frantic, calling police and hospitals to see whether there has been an accident. Or, could Sam, have left his new wife for one of the attractive women who have confided in him their most intimate thoughts during their therapy sessions?

I love psychological fiction but, perhaps I'm on overload. This book started out interesting enough, it has the trademark unreliable narrators, family secrets and some unexpected twists. I liked Annie's wry sense of humor. The narration is both first and third person and the audio is narrated by four different individuals. While I thought this would work well,  I sometimes found myself questioning who the narrator was, which proved a bit confusing.  In this psych thriller, I quickly learned that nothing is as it appears. There was also a famous scenario from a Stephen King book used to have this story play out, to me that just felt wrong.

Rating - 3.5/5