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

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness & Community; Born This Way Foundation Reporters with Lady Gaga

 

Born This Way Foundation Reporters with Lady Gaga
Feiwel & Friends - 2020

Let's face it, the last year has not been a good one for any of us has it? After all the terrible stories out there in the news, I knew I could use a few stories about unexpected kind deeds done for people who needed a sign of hope, a sign that someone cared about them.

The Born This Way Foundation was founded by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta in an effort to support those who are struggling in this world. The hope is to spread more kindness in a world  that needs this more than ever before. 

This is not a book about Lady Gaga but, I did find her particular story eye opening. I did not know that she was bullied and humiliated during her school years beginning at age 11. She has dealt with depression, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety and even cutting issues as a way to deal with stressful situations she encountered continuing into her 30s.

There are over 50 very short stories of individuals who have faced life changing challenges and have found their voice and the courage to tell their story about how an unexpected random act of kindness made such a big difference in their lives. Some individuals have faced bullying, mental health issues, sexual assault, LBGTQ discrimination and other life altering adverse situations. This book is considered a YA genre and although some of the stories are sad, they are important and also uplifting as well. This is a book to be read in small doses, absorbed and not binge read.  The message, help change someone's life, improve your community, help change the world by one small unexpected kind deed at a time. I'm so happy I came across this one.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis & the Power of Hope; Jon Meacham


Random House - 2020

His Truth is Marching On, is a beautiful tribute to recently departed Congressman John Lewis.  

John Lewis was a man who at just 25 years of age was nearly beaten to death on "Bloody Sunday" as he marched with others on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in the name of justice and equality. Lewis, the great grandson of a slave grew up in Troy, AL. He was the son of a cotton farmer and from an early age his strong Christian faith and non violent principals guided him as a way of life. While attending seminary school in Nashville, TN, in the hopes of becoming a preacher, he was encouraged to join the Civil Rights Movement by John Lawson. Lewis struggled with his own insecurities at times but, he always pushed forward by getting others to organize and fight for what was right, something he called "good trouble."

This book is not a full biography but rather focuses mostly on the turbulent years 1957-1968 leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. His 30+ year career in Congress plays a minor role here.  I though Jon Meacham did a fabulous job showing us what inspired and drove Lewis to become a man of action, a man who deeply believe in equality and justice for all. Even weeks before his death from pancreatic cancer, Lewis  made it a point to attend the Black Lives Matter March in June at Lafayette Park in Washington, DC.

It seems clear that Meacham looks up to Lewis as an American Hero, and, I'm pretty sure that most readers, like me, who read this book will agree. I enjoyed the photos peppered throughout, as well as the afterward which was written by John Lewis. So happy I read this book.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Nursing Homes Are Murder; Mike Befeler


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 week, before our presidential election, I find myself in need of an easy, fun read. My pick is a  book I got at a library sale in 2015 or so.


Five Star Publishing - 2015

One

"Deep in contemplation over how much longer my eighty-five year old body and soggy mind would last, I sat on the balcony of our Hibiscus Hotel room overlooking The Honolulu Ala Wai Yatch Harbor.  I felt a surge of gratitude that my limbs moved and my organs did what they were supposed to, but I did have this one little problem--overnight my short-term memory disappeared like a mosquito being zapped in one of those electric traps.  Getting old was a pisser, but I counted my blessings to be here in this tropical paradise with my family."

I chuckled at the intro, and thought this just might be my stress-free reading pick of the week. It is actually part of a series, but I'll try it anyways.

Would you read more or pass?

Friday, October 23, 2020

COVID and Libraries - Is your library working for you?


Are you a reader who loves using the library or one who just buys and reads their own books?  Recently Jade, posed a question about libraries in COVID times and, I was curious how this was affecting my blogging friends. If you use your local library, is it open or curbside only and how is this affecting what you've been reading?

Our library belongs to a system along with 148 other libraries in a 60 mile radius. We can select books within that system. This works well especially when our library might not own the particular book I want or, perhaps my library has the print but, I may want the audio version etc. The books then go to a central sorting area from each library and are sorted by the library that requested the books. There is then a delivery van which comes to our library 3x a week delivers those books and picks up books that need to go back to other libraries. With the virus, it takes time to get the books as they quarantine the books for a week when they arrive as well as when books are returned but, I use it all the time. We can put holds on up to 20 books that we want.

My local library (2 miles away) is open 6-days a week now but, you must make an appointment to go inside to browse (45min max). You can take out a max of 50 items: books, movies, audio, magazines etc. They also have curbside pickup - they brown-bag your items with your name and arrange them alphabetically, and you can pick them up during regular hours at the entrance without entering the main library. It has been working out very well. (2) large book drops outside to return items as well. I don't do inside browsing as the curbside has worked out really well.

Right now I have 16 items I'm waiting for (some are for popular new books so I have to wait my turn).
 I also have 4 borrowed books at home: Disloyal; Michael Cohen - The Pull of the Stars; Emma Donoghue and Channel Kindness; Lady Gaga and various authors. - His Truth is Marching On (John Lewis Bio); Jon Meacham

Hope you take a minute to share your library experience.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Confessions on the 7:45; Lisa Unger

Blackstone Audio - 2020 

When I read that this book this might be similar to Strangers on a Train ,I really wanted to return to Lisa Unger, an author I enjoyed years earlier. For some reason I stopped reading her thrillers but decided it was time to remedy that.

The set up for this thriller one was good, Selena Murphy works in New York city and one day she misses her train home from work so she catches the 7:45 instead.  Sitting next to her is a woman who strikes up a conversation, the woman who says her name is Martha, tells Selena she has been having an affair with her boss. (LOL- who does this with a complete stranger? )  In turn, Selena feels comfortable enough to tell Martha that she suspects her husband Graham, is carrying on with the nanny, Geneva. (She's actually caught them on the nanny cam.) The two say goodbye and Martha tells Selena that perhaps the nanny will disappear.  A few days later Geneva is missing and her car is parked down the street from Selena and Graham's home. When Geneva's sister report's her missing, it isn't long before the police arrive at the Murphy residence with lots of questions.

This book starting out well and engages me but, it quickly became a struggle and did not work out well as an audio. There were far too many characters introduced into the mix, each have a separate story and some even have a story within a story. I struggled to keep it all straight.  To have made this audio book work, I  felt multiple narrators were needed to help distinguish all these individuals. To complicate matters even more, we learn that some characters have changed their names in order to keep up their cons.  I didn't care about any of the characters, even Selena after a while. Perhaps this might be easier in print? Vivienne Leheny narrated this one and she did a fine job but, additional narrators were needed.

Rating - 2.5/5

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

His & Hers; Alice Feeney

 

His & Hers; Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books/Macmillan Audio - 2020

There are two sides to every story HIS (Detective Jack Harper) and HERS (Anna Andrews, BBC News anchor).  

Anna, is newly single, estranged from her mother and someone who drinks too much. She's also someone with some dark secrets from her past when she was a teen, which are about to come back and haunt her. When Anna is sent to cover a murder story in the quiet village of Blackdown, the victim turns out to be a woman she knew in her past.

Jack is a police detective, also single and also covering the same case. He arrives at the scene and realizes that he knows the victim as well, but, he decides not tell anyone just what he knows. Jack also drinks a bit too much.

When more women with connections to Anna and Jack end up dead, with a signature item tied to each of their tongues, it looks as if a serial killer is out there. Who will the next victim be? Who is lying?

I loved almost everything about this psych thriller. The (2) unreliable narrators alternate the short chapters of this novel. I loved how only bits and pieces of info/clues are revealed throughout the book, allowing the read to speculate what may have happened along the way and in the past.  As the story progresses the web gets larger - who is the killer and what was the motive?  

What I hated SPOILER - cat lovers, like me, will be appalled at what they read on page 247. Why do authors have to spoil books for animal lovers by resorting to animal abuse? It's toward the last 50 or so pages of the book so, I felt I still had to see how this one ended since I was already so invested. However, what would have been a 5 star rating is no more. This was a fast paced page turning thriller that I was able to read in just 2-sittings. Well done except for what I cited previously. I started this book on audio and it is well-done but, the male voice was really creepy, too creepy to listen to before bedtime so I picked up the print edition as well.

a couple quotes that I liked....

"We rarely deserve the lives we lead. We pay for them however we can, be it with money, guilt or regret."

"Silence is my favorite sympathy, I can't think clearly when life gets too loud."

"Some people build invisible walls around themselves in the name of self-observation. Hers was tall, solid and impenetrable."


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - White Ivy; Susie Yang

 

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.

White Ivy; Susie Yang
Simon & Schuster - 2020

PART ONE

"IVY LIN WAS A THIEF BUT YOU WOULD NEVER KNOW IT TO LOOK at her.  Maybe that was the problem.  No one ever suspected--and that made her reckless. Her features were so average and nondescript that the brain only needed a split second to develop a complete understanding of her: skinny Asian girl, quiet, overly docile around adults in uniforms. She had a way of walking, shoulders forward, chin tucked under, arms barely swinging, that rendered her invisible the way of pigeons and janitors."

What do you think, read more or pass?  I've been eyeing this one for several months, it releases on Election Day. I hope to start it this week.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fresh Water for Flowers; Valerie Perrin


 Fresh Water for Flowers; Valerie Perrin
Europa - 2020

Violette works as a cemetery keeper at a 300 year old cemetery in Bourgogne, France, she lives above the office in a tiny apartment. Her days consist of arranging funerals and getting to know the loved ones who have just experienced a loss. 

Violette Toussanit's life has never been easy, she had been an unwanted baby, sent to orphanage and several foster placements. Even at age 18 when she met the handsome, Phillipe, a man she would marry, she faced disappointment. Her husband, 10+ years older than her was a lazy, manipulative, abusive man. When her daughter Leonine is born, she's the bright spot in Violette's world, and the motivation for secretly teaching herself to read her daughter's books. Her love for her child is short-lived when tragedy strikes and her low-life husband Phillipe disappears for her life as well. But, one day Julien Seul, a police detective appears with an unusual request for his mother's burial, he also appears to know a lot about Violette and her missing husband who has never returned.

Fresh Water for Flowers a wonderful literary feast, a story about life, death and a bit of a mystery as well. Full of imperfect characters: from grave diggers, grounds people, a priest and the police detective, it's a story that will make you laugh one minute and shed a tear the next.  I was swept away by this story and read it very slowly because the writing was exception as was the translation.  It's not all bleak, I loved the flawed yet memorable characters, especially Violette. Written is short chapters, but there are many, each chapter heading begins with a thought provoking epitaph.  Although, I did thing this book was overly long, I really enjoyed it.  If you are looking for a story that you will not quickly forget, try this one.

"Don't Cry for My Death, Celebrate My Life"

"It's not uncommon to see visitors spitting on tombs. I've seen it more often than I would have believed.  When I first started, I thought hostilities died with the hated person. But tombstones don't put the lid on hatred. I've attended funerals with no tears, I've attended happy funerals. There are some deaths that are convenient for everyone."

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dear Edward; Ann Napolitano

 

Dear Edward; Ann Napolitano

Random House Audio - 2019

Twelve year old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a flight from NY to Los Angeles, CA. 183 passengers and a crew of 8 perished along with Edward's parents and his older brother.  Hospitalized and eventually recovering from his injuries, the next part, the emotional healing, is sure to be the hardest. How does a young boy like Edward deal with such horrific loss as well as the difficulties of adolescence and still find their place in the world?

Edward is taken in by Edward's mother's sister, Lacey, who is also grieving, dealing with the loss of her sister. Neither she nor her husband John are comfortable talking about their losses. Then there is Edward's therapist, Mike, and his beautiful yet quirky next door neighbor, Shay, who is always there for him when ever he needs a friend to talk to.

The back story alternates between some of the passengers that were on board who came from all walks of life. Edward's story left a lump in my throat at times, I found myself really taken by his story as well as one of the other passenger's story as well - a few others were less interesting to me. Overall, I was happy I tried this one, the writing is excellent and it was expertly narrated by Cassandra Campbell. If you are in the mood for a well written story about trauma, grief, survival, loss and healing, be sure to add this one to your list. Deeply moving.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

50 Favorite Audio Books


(50) Audio Books I Loved (no particular order)

Are you an audio book fan like me? I've been listening to audio books for well over 20 years, beginning with audio cassettes back in the day, then cds and now downloads only or Playaways for me).  At one time I used to do a lot of traveling for my job and audios certainly helped pass the time on the road. Even when I changed jobs and no longer had a long commute, I was able to listen to audio books at my desk while working on the computer. Then of course, as a couple, we listened to audio books on road trips (usually something like a mystery or thriller - to appeal to both of us.)   I also discovered the pleasure of combo reads (print and audios) I found it helps me finish books quicker this way and, then since retirement, audio books have become a pleasure while talking walks, cooking, on cars trips and often times at night when I can't sleep.  Don't get me wrong, I love print books, eBooks, all books but, audios definitely work well for me too.

For me, the narrator can make or break the listening experience. If I don't care for the narrator's voice, I won't listen to the book so I tend to preview before committing. Based on past experience, I generally do not care for the author narrating their own book - the exceptions have been Michelle and Barack Obama, David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, Oprah Winfrey and Trevor Noah.  

Have you listened to any from my favorites list?
  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking; Susan Cain (NF) 
  2. End of Your Life Book Club; Will Schwalbe (NF)
  3. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid; Bill Bryson (NF)
  4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Rebecca Skloot (NF)
  5. The Notorious RBG; Cameron & Knizhnik (NF)
  6. What I Know For Sure; Oprah Winfrey (NF) 
  7. Books for Living; Will Schwalbe (NF)
  8. Born A Crime; Trevor Noah (NF) 
  9. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership; James Comey (NF)
  10. Morningstar: Growing Up With Books; Ann Hood (NF)
  11. Alex and Me; Irene Pepperberg (NF)
  12. Calypso, David Sedaris (NF)
  13. The Commoner; Richard Schwartz
  14. The Things The Carried; Tim O'Brien
  15. The Kite Runner; Khaled Hosseini
  16. Life of Pi; Yann Martel
  17. The Gold Coast; Nelson DeMille
  18. Middlesex; Jeffrey Eugenides
  19. Cutting for Stone; Abraham Verghese
  20. The Namesake; Jhumpa Lahiri
  21. Defending Jacob; William Landay
  22. Boy in the Stripe Pajamas; John Boyne
  23. American Psycho; Brett Easton Ellis
  24. We Need To Talk About Kevin; Lionel Shriver
  25.  The Fault in Our Stars; John Green
  26. Eleanor and Park; Rainbow Rowell 
  27. The Signature of All Things; Elizabeth Gilbert
  28.  The Book of Unknown Americans; Christina Henriquez 
  29. Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami  
  30.  We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas
  31. Everything I Never Told You; Celeste Ng
  32. Our Souls at Night; Kent Haruf 
  33. My Sunshine Away; M.O. Walsh
  34. The Perfect Couple; Erin Hildebrand 
  35. The Wife Between Us; G. Hendricks and Sarah Pekkenan 
  36. Becoming; Michelle Obama - (NF)
  37. A Gentleman in Moscow; Amor Towles
  38. Pachinko; Min Jin Lee 
  39. The Wife; Meg Wolitzer 
  40. The Wartime Sisters; Lynda Cohen Loigman 
  41. A Stone for Danny Fisher; Harold Robbins 
  42. Before She Knew Him; Peter Swanson
  43. Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane
  44. Chances Are; Richard Russo
  45. The Dutch House; Ann Patchett
  46. Olive Kitteridge; Elizabeth Strout
  47. Olive Again; Elizabeth Strout 
  48. The Nickel Boys; Colson Whitehead
  49. Eight Perfect Murders; Peter Swanson 
  50. The Giver of Stars; Jo Jo Moyes

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - His & Hers; Alice Feeney



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.

His & Hers; Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books - 2020

It wasn't love at first sight.

I can admit that now. But by the end, I loved her more than I thought it was possible to love another human being. I cared about her more than I ever cared about myself. That's why I did it. Why I had to. I think it's important that people know that, when they find out what I've done. If they do. Perhaps then they might understand that I did it for her.

This is my third book by this author. I hope to start this one soon. Would you read more or pass?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Mothers; Brit Bennett


The Mothers; Brit Bennett - Penguin Audio - 2016

When The Mothers was first released in 2016, I didn't feel compelled to rush right out and read it but, that changed after recently reading and loving the author's second book, The Vanishing Half.  

Set in Southern California, Nadia Turner is a 16 year old black girl with a promising future in store, a scholarship to the University of Michigan. She's a bit rebellious yet she's thrived living with her father, despite the fact that her mother committed suicide when she was only 10 years old. 

The story begins with a 16 year old Nadia finding herself pregnant by the pastor's 21 year old son Luke Sheppard. Luke was once a football star, now a young man with shattered dreams as a result of an injury, he waits tables at the local diner. Too young for parenthood, Luke drops off Nadia at a clinic and pays for an abortion; he then disappears from her life but, they will meet again. What are the life long consequences of a secret of this magnitude that both have kept? It's something she hadn't even shared with her best friend Aubrey. 

There's a lot to think about in this novel. There are themes such as: love, loss, family and friendship and of course, "Mothers" and motherhood: the loss of a mother, a church group known as "the mothers", older women who curtailed church/community gossip and give superficial, often unsolicited, advice.  I think the author made it easy to understand how painful and long lasting the effects of losing a mother or having an uncaring mother, in the case of Aubrey really is.  I did think the characters could have been explored in more depth, especially since we follow them from the ages of 16 to their mid 20s. I also felt the overall flow felt uneven at times. I'm not sorry I read this novel, but I am thrilled that I read, The Vanishing Half first - that one was perfect for me.

The audio version was read by Adenrele Ojo who did a great job.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Hieroglyphics; Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics; Jill McCorkle 
Algonquin - 2020


Hieroglyphics is the story of 4 lives shaped by past trauma. 

Frank and Lil are an elderly couple in their 80s from Massachusetts, now residing in North Carolina, to be closer to their daughter Becca. Frank was a former history professor and Lil a former dance instructor. Frank's father died in a train derailment and his mother severely injured, just before Christmas when Frank was a  young boy staying with his grandmother.  Lil's mother died in a nightclub fire when she was young and, she has never made peace with her death as she didn't understand why her mother was at the Coconut Grove nightclub in the first place.

Shelley, in an overly nervous court stenographer and single mother to an older son, as well as 6 year old Harvey. Harvey is overly anxious, scared of ghosts, somewhat eccentric and inappropriate at school. It's an issue which has put additional stress on his already frazzled mother.

The chapters alternate between the characters and, the story made me think about just how much our present happiness or unhappiness results from childhood joy or trauma. Who would I have become and what would my happiness factor have been if all those stars had been perfectly aligned?

The writing style definitely takes some getting used to, but the writing is thought provoking - a beautiful example of literary fiction. Hieroglyphics is a multi-layered, slow build story that makes the reader think about their own mortality with its themes of grief, loss, secrets and redemption. This is my second novel by Jill McCorkle, I do love her writing. Life After Life is another thoughtful novel of hers that I enjoyed back in 2014.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Saturday, October 10, 2020

New Children's books: (2) just in time for Halloween from Candlewick Press

Love is Powerful; Heather Dean Brewer  (Ill. Leuyer Pham)

Love is Powerful  is based on a true story of a 6 year old girl named Mari and her "mama" who took part in the 2017 Women's March in New York City.  Their theme: "Love is Powerful."

It all started with a new box of crayons and poster board and the how their bonding experience allowed them to share their message of love and kindness, showing the world how our voices matter.

This picture book demonstrates how important it is to speak up, let your message be heard and to share the love beginning at a very early age.  Lovely illustrations and message.

Grades K to 3


Odlaw's haunted castle  full of cobwebs and hidden symbols, is the perfect setting to this Waldo Spooky Spotlight Search. There is a cool glowing wand to to help in your search and makes kids feel like it's something magical.  Wait until you see the skeleton holding a pair of leg bones, the lighted houses with slime-spitting sea monsters, the mysterious hidden cave with air breathing monsters, slippery snakes along a labyrinth - will you find the way out?

This Halloween, 5-9 year olds will surely have fun with this not-too-scary spook fest.

Ghostology: A True Revelation of spirits, ghouls and Hauntings

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Fresh Water for Flowers; Valerie Perrin

 

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.

Fresh Water for Flowers; Valerie Perrin 

Europa - 2020

1.
When we miss one person, everywhere becomes deserted.

My closest neighbors don't quake in their boots. They have no worries, don't fall in love, don't bite their nails, don't believe in chance, make no promises, or noise, don't have social security, don't cry, don't search for their keys, their glasses, the remote control, their children, happiness.

They don't read, don't pay taxes, don't go on diets, don't have preferences, don't change their minds, don't make their beds, don't smoke, don't write lists, don't count to ten before speaking, They have no one to stand in for them.

Their not ass-kissers, ambitious, groudge-bearers, dandies, petty, generous, jealous, scruffy, clean, awesome, funny, addicted, stingy, cheerful, crafty, violent, lovers, whiners, hypocrites, gentle, tough, feeble, nasty, liars, thieves, gamblers, strivers, idlers, believers, perverts, optimists.

They are dead.

The only difference between them is in the wood of their coffins: oak, pine or mahogany."

What do you think? I'm really enjoying this one (90 pages in). 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Death of Vivek Oji; Akwaeke Emezi


The Death of Vivek Oji; Akwaeke Emezi
Penguin Audio - 2020

Just who was Vivek Oji and, how and why did he die?  From the title and as the novel begins, we know he is dead. His mother finds his nearly naked, bloodied body on her doorstep.  Did his death have anything to do with the riots that were happening in their Nigerian town?  His family needs answers about the death of their only son who was born on the day that his grandmother died.

What a beautiful story, it pulled me in right away. The writing is vivid and powerful and, it's a story that has an air of mystery to it as well.  Each of the characters tells a piece of the Vivek story so that the reader gets to know the deceased a little better.  I loved learning about his family and I was impressed how well his character came to life with each new chapter.  Unfortunately, there is nothing else I can say about Vivek and this book without spoiling the story for you. 

DO NOT read the reviews out there - too much of the story is exposed in those reviews. This is a fairly short novel, a story that is beautiful and yes a bit sad, it will make many parents ask themselves, " how well do I really know my children?"    This novel is so worth reading and one that is sure to make make top 10 list for 2020; I loved it.  The audio version is read by Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji; both did a fabulous job.

RATING - 5/5 stars

Friday, October 2, 2020

September in Review

 

I read (10) books in September: (3) print, (4) eGalleys (3) audios.  (2) children's books, (1) non fiction/memoir and (7) fiction. (2) of the books I read were for the RIP Challenge and neither really impressed me sadly.  Year to Date - 91 books

  1. Grow: The Secret of Our DNA; Nicola Davies - 5/5 (print/ September)
  2. Gustavo: The Shy Ghost; Flavia Drago - 4.5/5 (print/Sept)
  3. The Vanishing Half; Brit Bennett - 5/5 - (eBook/September)
  4. One By One; Ruth Ware - 3/5 (eGalley/Sept) - RIP Challenge
  5. The Lying Life of Adults; Elena Ferrante - 3/5 stars (audio/Sept)
  6. The Answer Is: Reflections on My Life; Alex Trebek - 4/5 (audio/Sept)
  7. Unsheltered; Barbara Kingsolver - 3.5/5 (print/book group/Sept)
  8. The Yellow Bird Sings; Jennifer Rosner - 4/5 (audio/Sept)
  9. Daughters of Erietown; Connie Schultz - 4/5 (eGalley/audio/combo/Sept)
  10. Ghosts of Harvard; Francesca Serritella - 3.5/5 (eGalley/Sept) - RIP Challenge
Favorite Book of the month


October Reading Plans

(Finish)


(To Read)
How was your month in books? Any exciting plans for October?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Daughters of Erietown; Connie Schultz

 

Daughters of Erietown; Connie Schultz 
Random House Audio - 2020 (read by Cassandra Campbell)


Beginning in 1957 in a small town in Ohio and continuing for the better part of the century (1950s - 1990s), The Daughters of Erietown is a multi-generational story about women and their families.  Most of the residents are ordinary everyday people. The women are stay at home mothers and the men hold blue collar jobs to support their families.  There's a neighborhood bar and some friendly neighbors.

Brick McGinty and Ellie and young and in love. Brick grew up with an abusive father but, he is a basketball star and looking forward to promising future with a full scholarship to college. Ellie, raise by her grandparents, thinks about becoming a nurse but, it's an unplanned pregnancy that chases this young couple's dreams away.

This debut novel quickly drew me in to the lives of these of these characters. The writing was quite good with strong female characters and dialogue that felt genuine. I liked the way the author depicted small-town life. Seeing how the lives of the women had changed over the years was a highlight of this novel.  I did think this book was unnecessarily long (almost 500 pages in print and over 14 hours on audio); IMO it could have benefitted by some additional editing.  Overall, I was happy that I read/listened to this one. Cassandra Campbell narrated the audio which was very well done.

RATING - 4/5 stars