Friday, July 31, 2015

Europa Editions - New Purchases

For a number of years I really cut down on book purchases. Of course, when you love books, one cannot go completely cold-turkey so I still buy from library book sales and purchase Europa Editions , an imprint that publishes great literary fiction (often translated works). The book spines look wonderful on the shelves they occupy in my reading loft.  So these last few weeks, I used some retirement gift cards to treat myself to even more Europa Editions.

Here's what I got. I've posted a little synopsis of each one as well. Can't wait to curl up with one of these.

  • Everybody's Right; Paulo Sorrentino ---Born on the streets and born singing, Tony Pagoda has had his day. But what a day it was! 
    He had fame, money, women, and talent. He spent his golden years entertaining a flourishing and garishly happy Italy. His success stretched over borders and across the seas. But somewhere things began to go awry, the public's tastes in music first and foremost. His band is now a shadow of its former self and his life is fraught with mundane but infuriating complications. It's time to make a clean break with the past. Following a brief tour in Brazil, Tony decides to decamp and make a life for himself in South America. Here, his hyper- developed and very peculiar vision of the world, irreversibly shaped by those years in which he hobnobbed with Sinatra and enjoyed the adoration of audiences the world over, is under assault. Now that he has abandoned music the world strikes him as a barren place that is completely at odds with his understanding of it. Tony's story is the story of a worldwizened but yet strangely naive man forced to reconcile with life or lose himself entirely. Told in a breathless, irreverent first person voice that is as original as any in contemporary literature, Everybody's Right is the debut novel from one of Italy's most compelling and singular creative minds. Paolo Sorrentino, known principally as the director of movies considered to be among the finest examples of cinematic art by any Italian filmmaker in recent decades, here proves himself to be an equally formidable novelist.
  • Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness; Jennifer Tseng--Books may be Mayumi Saito’s greatest love and her one source of true pleasure. Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife and dutiful mother, Mayumi’s work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.
    Wary of the consequences of following through on her fantasies, Mayumi hesitates at first. But she cannot keep the young man from her thoughts. After a summer of overlong glances and nervous chitchat in the library, she finally accepts that their connection is undeniable. In a sprawling house emptied of its summer vacationers, their affair is consummated and soon consolidated thanks to an explosive charge of erotic energy. Mayumi’s life is radically enriched by the few hours each week that she shares with the young man, and as their bond grows stronger thanks not only to their physical closeness but also to their long talks about the books they both love, those hours spent apart seem to Mayumi increasingly bleak and intolerable. As her obsession worsens, in a frantic attempt to become closer to the young man, Mayumi nervously befriends another librarian patron, the young man’s mother. The two women forge a tenuous friendship that will prove vital to both in the most unexpected ways when catastrophe strikes.
    Exquisitely written, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness is part wry confession, part serious meditation. At its most anxious, it’s a book about time, at its most ecstatic, it’s a deeply human story about pleasure.
  • Timeskipper; Stefano Benni--Italy's foremost satirist recounts the adventures of Timeskipper, a young man endowed with a rare gift: the ability to see into the future. A tale in which innocence and imagination defy corruption and conformity, in which the eccentricities and innocence of yesteryear come face-to-face with the moral aridity of today's money-obsessed society, Timeskipper is one of Stefano Benni's most touching and enduring creations. Colored by Benni's trademark linguistic inventiveness and irresistible humor, this is a coming-of-age story with a difference.
  • The Red Collar; Jean-Christophe Rufin--In 1919, in a small town in the province of Berry, France, under the crushing heat of summer heat wave, a war hero is being held prisoner in an abandoned barracks. In front of the door to his prison, a mangy dog barks night and day. Miles from where he is being held, in the French countryside, a young extraordinarily intelligent woman works the land the land, waiting and hoping. A judge whose principles have been sorely shaken by the war is travelling to an unknown location to sort out certain affairs of which it is better not to speak.
    Three characters. In their midst, a dog who holds the key both to their destinies and to this intriguing plot.
    Full of poetry and life, The Red Collar is at once a delightly simple narrative about the human spirit and a profound work about loyalty and love.
  • The Hollow Heart; Viola DiGrado--In this courageous, inventive, and intelligent novel, Viola di Grado tells the story of a suicide and what follows. She has given voice to an astonishing vision of life after life, portraying the awful longing and sense of loss that plague the dead, together with the solitude provoked by the impossibility of communicating. The afterlife itself is seen as a dark, seething place where one is preyed upon by the cruel and unrelenting elements. Hollow Heart will frighten as it provokes, enlighten as it causes concern. If ever there were a novel that follows Kafka’s prescription for a book to be a frozen axe for the sea within us, it is Hollow Heart.
  • Blackbird; Tom Wright--In a small town in Ark-La-Tex, Detective Jim Bonham has been assigned to a new case. On the outskirts of the town, a woman has been found brutalized and nailed to a cross. Bonham recognizes her immediately: it is Dr. Deborah Gold, one of the town’s psychologists. The questions pile up quickly. How many perpetrators would it have taken to commit this atrocity? Why was a Roman coin found at the foot of the body? And why a murder as gruesome and cruel as crucifixion?
  • Take This Man; Alice Zeniter--Alice is about to marry Mad. Alice is white. Mad is black. Alice is French; Mad, though he has studied and lived in France for years, is not. They have been friends since childhood and never been romantically involved. But now Mad is being threatened with deportation and marrying Alice strikes both friends as the best solution to their problems. On the eve of her wedding, Alice reflects on their years of friendship-from their childhood together to the first time she ever heard racial slurs being directed at her friend to the victory of Jean- Marie Le Pen in the presidential primaries in 2002. This succession of personal anecdotes forms a grand history of racism and a moving portrait of contemporary youth. Recounting stories of rebellion and friendship, of the passage from indignant adolescent to consciously engaged adult, Take This Man is a delightful and original novel by a talented young author.
  • Billie; Anna Gavalda--A number 1 bestseller in France and translated into over twenty languages, Billie is one of the most beloved French novels to be published in recent years. A brilliant evocation of Paris and a moving tale of friendship, Anna Gavalda’s new novel tells the story of two young people, Billie and Franck, who, as the story opens, are trapped in a gorge in the Cevennes Mountains. With darkness encroaching, their situation is dire, and Billie begins to tell stories from their lives in order to survive. In alternating episodes, the novel moves between recollections of the two characters’ childhoods and their dreadful predicament.
    Franck’s life has been impacted by a childhood spent with a perennially unemployed father who toyed with Christian extremism and a mother aestheticized by antidepressants. A bright kid, Franck’s future was menaced at every turn by the bigotry around him. Billie’s abiding wish as an adult is to avoid ever having to come into contact with her family again. To escape from her abusive and alcohol-addled family, she was willing to do anything and everything. The wounds have not entirely healed.
    At the heart of Gavalda’s tender story lies a generosity of spirit that will take readers’ breath away, and an unshakable belief in the power of art to lift the most fragile among us to new vistas from which they can see futures full of hope, love, and dignity. Billie is a beautifully crafted novel for readers of all ages and from all walks of life that conveys a positive message about overcoming life’s trials and tribulations.
  • The Hollow Land; Jane Gardam--The barren, beautiful Cumbrian fells provide the bewitching setting for the adventures of Bell and Harry, two children who find enchanting wonder at every turn, as they explore THE HOLLOW LAND. Everyday challenges give a daring edge to this rural work and play. There are ancient mysteries to explore and uncover, like the case of the Egg Witch, and everyone is curious about the Household Name, a wildly famous Londoner moving in to the jewel of the territory, Light Trees Farm. With painterly ease, Jane Gardam’s stories fly with a marvelous spirit that will delight readers of all ages!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You; The State We're in: Maine Stories; Ann Beattie

A Maine fan from way back, I'm looking forward to this collection of linked Maine stories that debuts next month.

Scribner - August - 2015

From a multiple prize–winning master of the short form: a stunning collection of brand-new, linked stories that perfectly capture the zeitgeist through the voices of vivid and engaging women from adolescence to old age.

“We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go,” writes Ann Beattie. The State We’re In, her magnificent new collection of linked stories, is about how we live in the places we have chosen—or been chosen by. It’s about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love.

Many of these stories are set in Maine, but The State We’re In is about more than geographical location, and certainly is not a picture postcard of the coastal state. Some characters have arrived by accident, others are trying to get out. The collection opens, closes, and is interlaced with stories that focus on Jocelyn, a wryly disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.
Riveting, witty, sly, idiosyncratic, and bold, these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being—now. A Beattie story, says Margaret Atwood, is “like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what’s happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man’s-land known as interpersonal relations.” The State We’re In is a fearless exploration of contemporary life by a brilliant writer whose fiction startles as it illuminates.From a multiple prize–winning master of the short form: a stunning collection of brand-new, linked stories that perfectly capture the zeitgeist through the voices of vivid and engaging women from adolescence to old age.

“We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go,” writes Ann Beattie. The State We’re In, her magnificent new collection of linked stories, is about how we live in the places we have chosen—or been chosen by. It’s about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love.

Many of these stories are set in Maine, but The State We’re In is about more than geographical location, and certainly is not a picture postcard of the coastal state. Some characters have arrived by accident, others are trying to get out. The collection opens, closes, and is interlaced with stories that focus on Jocelyn, a wryly disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.

Riveting, witty, sly, idiosyncratic, and bold, these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being—now. A Beattie story, says Margaret Atwood, is “like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what’s happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man’s-land known as interpersonal relations.” The State We’re In is a fearless exploration of contemporary life by a brilliant writer whose fiction startles as it illuminates.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Long Way Home; Louise Penny

The Long Way Home; Louise Penny
Macmillian Audio - 2014
(Ralph Cosham - reader)

A Long Way Home is the 10th book in this mystery series featuring now retired, homicide inspector, Armand Gamache.  Gamache left his job after an on the job incident that nearly took his life. He has recovered, but emotionally he is still troubled and has not adjusted to retirement all that well.

Like the other books in this series, this mystery is set in the small, small idyllic village of Three Pines in Quebec.  Several of the characters from early stories reappear here ---central to this story is Clara Morrow, considered the talented resident artist of the village. Her husband, Peter is a painter, but not well known like his wife.  The couple had agreed to a one year trial separation when Peter was having difficulty dealing with Clara's success. When the year is up and Peter does not return or contact her she becomes concerned. Even though he's acted immature (IMO), Clara thinks he may be in trouble since he has not been in touch.

She contacts retired friend and inspector Gamache to report Peter missing and ask his assistance in helping to locate him. He agrees and has several other villagers help him in the search: his wife Reine-Marie, SIL, Jean-Guy, Myrna, a retired psychologist who now runs the village used bookstore, and Ruth, a grumpy neighbor and poet. Following credit card use and other clues leads to several dead ends, but there is no shortage of possible suspects in this mystery.

I have to admit this one got off to a slow start for me, but because this author has a way of stirring ones senses with her small village setting, scenery, things like violent snowstorms, smell of baked goods from bistro owners etc, I knew my persistence would pay off eventually.  The author also has a way of incorporating art, music, poetry and even occasional recipes into each mystery.  Her characters are well developed and memorable. Some of the characters are quirky and conflicted, and it's always fun to see how each returning character has evolved as the stories progress.

This wasn't a favorite in the series, mostly because of the slow start and the way some of the treads came together in the end, but for the most part I was still happy I listened to this one.  The narrator, Ralph Cosham did a decent job, but takes some getting used to.

3.5/5 stars
(library audio)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Mislaid; Nell Zink

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph (sometimes 2) of a book I am reading or thinking of reading soon. 

Mislaid; Nell Zink
Ecco - 2015


"Stillwater College sat on the fall line south of Petersburg. One half of the campus was elevated over the other half, and the waters above were separated from the waters below by a ledge with stone outcroppings.  The waters below lay still, and the waters above flowed down.  They seeped into the sandy ground before they had time to form a stream.  And that's why the house had been named Stillwater.  It overlooked a lake that lay motionless as if it had been dug with shovels and hand-lined with clay.  But the lake had been there as long as anyone could remember.  It had no visible outlet, and no docks because a piling might puncture the layer of clay.  Nobody swam in the lake because of the leeches in the mud.  There was no fishing because girls don't fish."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass?  [ I love the 60;s cover art, but not sure after the first paragraph - need to read more]
(feel free to join in by posting your link below)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mailbox Monday - New Books

It felt like Christmas everyday last week and the mail lady was none too pleased as I also had several large boxes arrive from a few different places. (Hey, she gets a gift at Christmas and it is her job so she should suck it up and smile --right?)

Here's the book loot that arrived by mail. I'm anxious to get started.

above books sent by 
(inscribed as well)
  • This is the Earth;  Shore & Alexander with Wendell Minor (illustrator)
  • Trapped; Robert Burleigh with Wendell Minor (illustrator)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Finders Keepers; Stephen King

Finder's Keepers; Stephen King
Scribner - 2015
(Book 2 of a trilogy)

I was anxious to see what would follow Mr. Mercedes (2014), and Finder's Keeper's did not disappoint.  I must admit that after the first chapter, this one seemed more like Misery, an all time favorite King book.  

This review was tough to write but I tried to keep out spoilers as most every review I've read since finishing this one gave away the whole story.

The story begins in 1978 with 20-something Morris Bellamy and two buddies breaking into the home of reclusive author, John Rothstein.  Rothstein hasn't written anything in decades, but was famous for his Jimmy Gold character. Morris, the ringleader here, had been a huge fan seeing himself in the Jimmy character until, in Morris' opinion, Rothstein ruined the character in his last novel.  By the end of the night Rothstein is dead, Morris' buddies are out of the picture and Morris now has the contents of Rothstein's safe --plenty of cash, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and loads of filled Moleskine notebooks which includes another unpublished Jimmy Gold story.

Fast forward to 2009, Pete Sauber's is a teenage who now lives with his financially strapped mom, dad and sister in Morris Bellamy's old house. Morris, has spent the last 30 years in prison for another crime and is about to be released. Pete is another fan of the late Rothstein's work. So how exactly are Morris and Pete linked and what happened to the loot from the robbery?

The story jumps back and forth in time between these two characters.  There are references to the Mr. Mercedes killer and, several characters from that novel reappear in this novel as well: retired detective Bill Hodges, Holly and Jeremy.  IMO new readers to this series would be just fine reading this one as a stand-alone, but as with any trilogy, most readers will want to begin with book one.

I liked Finder's Keeper's, it was a story that had me quickly turning the pages, and there wasn't any blood or gore in this one either.  King fans will be happy to know that the seed has been planted for the reappearance of Mr. Mercedes for the final installment. I think most King fans will be pleased with this one.

4.5/5 stars
(library copy)

Saturday Snapshots - On My Walk

On my walk along a bike path one day this week the weather was perfect and, I even saw some pretty flowers among the trees. (It almost made me want to sit on a bench and enjoy, but after I snapped the pics, I marched on:)

Taking time to smell the roses daisies is one thing I should do more often.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - The Last September; Nina de Gramont

I love psychological thrillers and this one also takes place on Cape Cod which make it doubly What do you think from the overview?

The Last September; Nina de Gramont
Algonquin - September - 2015

The Last September is a wonderful, glowing book populated by characters that become a part of your life long after the last page has been turned. It is the type of novel writers admire and readers long for.” —Jason Mott, author of The Returned

Brett had been in love with Charlie from the day she laid eyes on him in college. When Charlie is found murdered, Brett is devastated. But, if she is honest with herself, their marriage had been hanging by a thread for quite some time.

Though all clues point to Charlie’s brother Eli, who’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years, any number of people might have been driven to slit the throat of Charlie Moss--a handsome, charismatic man who unwittingly damaged almost every life he touched. Now, looking back on their lives together, Brett is determined to understand how such a tragedy could have happened--and whether she was somehow complicit.

Set against the desolate autumn beauty of Cape Cod, The Last September is a riveting emotional puzzle. Award-winning author Nina de Gramont is at the top of her game as she takes readers inside the psyche of a woman facing down the meaning of love and loyalty. 
“Brilliant rendering of love story, murder mystery, pitch-perfect study of horrific ‘ordinary’ mental illness, and that rare coming-of-age novel that deals with adults who actually do come of age in the most difficult ways. I was hooked by the first paragraph, which somehow contains all the beautiful, luminous grief of the whole story, and I truly did not want to let it go in the end.” —Brad Watson, author of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I Was Here; Gayle Forman

I Was Here; Gayle Forman
Random House/Penguin Listening Library - 2015

Cody and Meg were the best of friends throughout high school, but once they graduated their life took different paths.  Both girls came from poor communities, but while Meg gets a scholarship and heads off the college in Washington State, Cody stays home and gets a job cleaning houses. Her parents could not afford to send her to college, and her grades were not good enough to warrant a scholarship.  So when Meg's parents get a call that their daughter is was dead after drinking industrial strength cleaning fluid in a motel room, Meg's parents and Cody are shocked beyond belief and want to know why?

Cody, on behalf of Meg's parents, travels to Meg's college town to collect her belongings, and while there tries to find out why her friend felt life was no longer worth living.  Bit by bit she uncovers secrets that begin to piece together a story about her troubled former friend.

Cody's character comes across as very real, a girl truly upset about the loss of her friend and angry at herself for not noticing certain signals. The author touches of some controversial groups out there for people seeking help with depression.

(SPOILERS Start Here)

There is a whole mystery element to this story as Cody searches for answers to why her friend did what she did.  But, then the author throws readers a curveball and writes in what seems like an inappropriate love/loss of virginity twist which ruined the serious storyline --suicide. It just didn't fit IMO.  The audio book was read by Jorjena Marie who did a decent job with this YA themed story.

Have you read this one? What were your thoughts?

2.5/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Valley Fever; Katherine Taylor

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph (sometimes 2) of a book I am reading or thinking of reading soon. 

Valley Fever; Katherine Taylor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux - 2015


"I don't return to places I've lived.  I avoid my high school dorm by not going back to all of Massachusetts.  In London, I'll avoid Holland Park so as not to be reminded of the basement flat on Addison Road.  The furnished two-bedroom on Via Annia in Rome, the bright studio in the white brick building on West Eighty-fourth Street with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the two bedroom in Prenzlauer Berg I shared with a publishing-heiress insomniac who would speak only Russian: some of those places were good for a while. Still, whole neighborhoods, whole cities can be ruined by the reasons you left."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass?
(feel free to join in by posting your link below)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Invisible Ellen; Shari Shattuck

Invisible Ellen; Shari Shattuck
Putnam - 2014

"Occasionally, though not very often, Ellen Homes would wonder how she gained two hundred seventy-three pounds and simultaneously disappeared.  Not that she necessarily need an answer, or even wanted one, because, simply put, being unseen was everything Ellen ever wanted.

Ellen leads a solitary life, by choice. The product of an abusive, neglectful mother, Ellen now lives on her own in a studio apartment with her cat. For entertainment she eats--a lot -- and she spies on her neighbors in the apartments across the way. She keeps detailed notes of their comings and goings - the drug seller, the pregnant girl, the neighbor who neglects their potted plants - it's all recorded in her journal.   Each evening she takes the bus to her nighttime cleaning crew job at Costco, where her slimeball boss is known to bully and harass some employees, but she likes the fact that she doesn't need to interact with many people there.

One day when a blind girl on the bus asks Ellen to tell her when they approach her bus stop, Ellen agrees. When some thugs then try to steal the blind girl's purse, something snaps and the "invisible Ellen" springs to life to help the young woman named Temeritry, and an unlikely friendship is forged.    She moves out of her comfort zone to accept a thank you dinner invitation from Temerity who she believes lives alone. She soon meets Justice, who lives with his sister and, like his sister, is very sweet and accepting of Ellen.

The story takes the reader on a sometimes sad and sometimes comical journey of Ellen - her childhood, her job at Costco and other antics which arise with her new friends, Definitely a character driven novel, it moving to see Ellen who initially sees herself as "invisible" slowly taking chances and putting herself out there.  At times the antics border on slap-stick, but it was ultimately a story that left me feeling happy, that our protagonist, Ellen, would be just fine.  

Loving stories with quirky characters, this story was a fun, quick read for me.  The author has a new book coming out in August called, Becoming Ellen, which I am anxious to try as well. 

4/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

Sunday Blatherings - Fitbit and more

Hello Readers,  I'm here to tell you "retirement" is exhausting! 

I made it through week one expecting this to be the "Week of Diane", but my husband had other ideas.  He's been retired for almost 3 years and routinely walks about 7-8 miles a day (5) days a week...yes, I know you hate him already --me too LOL.

While I was working, I walked 1.5 miles Mon-Friday most weeks and called that exercise. I've had a Fitbit One for (1) year now and, although I came close, never hit 10,000 steps in one day.  This week I walked my retired butt off because of him, Granted he toned it down a bit but my Fitbit has now seen over 13,500 steps in one day, and I didn't kill me.  I did comment constantly how bored I was, so on subsequent days I listened to an audio book and we even walked some trails at a state park one day.

Do any of you have Fitbits?  Well, as I mentioned I've had the Fitbit One --shown here (clip it on my bra) and wear it every day. You really have to move to get credit for each step. I love how it syncs to my iPhone and I can track calories etc. I do work for each step I get.

I regret the day decided to buy my husband the Fitbit Charge though ( Father's Day gift last month) - the model he has is what I call the "cheater's model"---shown here ---

He hit 20,000 steps his first day wearing it on his dominant wrist, I then changed the setting to account for the dominant wrist and, he walked basically the same distance and still got about 18,000 steps, when his tracking prior to Fitbit, walking the same route each day was about 14,000 steps. ---Opinion --- he's getting step credit for sitting on his butt clicking the remote, writing checks, flipping pages ------Call me a sore loser, but I'm annoyed, and have threatened to cut the Fitbit off his wrist as he sleeps.

Trust me -- there is a difference in how these 2 Fitbits track movement.  This week when we walked the same distance together and then did little else (stayed in afterward) he had nearly 2,000 more steps than me at the end of the day.

Seriously, I'm ticked off, but happy to be moving my butt a whole lot more. I also joined the YMCA (he already had a membership) for those hot and humid or snow and ice days.  

When I wasn't in constant motion, we went out for lunch several times --seniors do that now and then, saw the little ones one day, and ordered a new car now that I don't have to worry about the ridiculous parking situation at work.  I also hit the library twice, caught up on some book reviews, read (of course) and did all that other house related things that working people cram in on weekends. All is good - I can handle retirement I decided!

New Books this Week

Have a Great Week Everyone!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Daylight Starlight Wildlife; Wendell Minor

Wendell Minor (author/illustrator)
 Nancy Paulson Books - 2015

If your young children are interested in wildlife and you are interested in teaching them about the amazing creatures that roam outdoors by day and by night, this is the perfect book to share.  

Lovely illustrated wildlife can be found throughout the pages of this book. Swallow tale butterflies, opossum and her plods, cotton tale bunny and kits, red-tale hawk, barn owl, white tail deer, fox, woodchucks, skunks, chipmunks, box turtles, bob cats, coyote, raccoon, wild turkey and cardinals.

The text is relatively simple, yet is written in a way to engage little ones in conversation about the critters they see on each page. Next to the illustrations, I though the "fun facts glossary" at the end of the book which shows a small picture as well as pertinent facts on each of the animals on the preceding pages.  The vivid colors and textures throughout the books are outstanding. 

An excellent teaching opportunity for parents and teachers to educate and encourage little ones to be outdoors and to care about the critters that live in the wild.

5/5 stars

I will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Friday, July 17, 2015

If You Were a Panda Bear; Florence Minor (author) Wendell Minor (illustrator)

Florence & Wendell Minor
Katherine Tegan Books - 2013

Husband and wife team Florence and Wendell Minor together have created a a unique celebratory collection of poems and lush art work that illustrates all kinds of bears. --Sloth bear, panda, polar, black, moon bear, sun bear, grizzly bear, spectacled bear and even a teddy bear.

It is through the short poems that the young children will learn about the habits and types of foods that various bears like to eat.  Included in the back of the book is a "facts glossary" that provides a small picture as well as information about each type of bear.

Young children and adults should enjoy the opportunity to learn about all kinds of bears and will be impressed with the wonderful illustrations as well.

4.5/5 stars

Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb
W.W. Norton - 2015

The "Best Boy" in this novel is Todd Aaron who is autistic.  For the last 40 years he has made his home at the Payton Living Center for individuals on the autism spectrum.  Todd was just 11 years old when his mother dropped him off there telling him to be, "the best boy ever."  Todd always thought he'd be going home, but that never happened.  His mother has since passed away and he has infrequent phone calls from his brother and even less frequent visits from him since he lives 700 miles away.

Now called the "old fox" since he's been at Payton the longest. Todd's life is best when routines are followed. He is obsessed with reading the encyclopedia, follows rules well and has never been a problem for the staff there. He works around the facility as well, Except for a disruptive roommate who had a way of setting him off, a one-eyed female who is interested in Todd and a new caretaker called Mike the Apron, who Todd takes an instant dislike to his life at Payton has been pretty good. 

Through this story readers get a good picture of what life is like for an adult with autism, and how sights, sounds and change of most any kind can really set the individual off.  The story is told in the first person voice of Todd which took some getting used to, especially when his mind and emotions were racing or jumbled. At times Todd seemed like a sympathetic character, but at other times he seemed stereotypical.  The story jumps around a bit from Todd's early years at home with his mother, an abusive father and vindictive younger brother and then his time living with other individuals with autism.

I liked this book well enough but the writing style made me read this one a few chapters at a time over a period of a few weeks.  I think this novel will  have the greatest appeal to readers interested in stories about individuals with autism, 

3.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Fall of Princes; Robert Goolrick

I've enjoyed this author's earlier books so I'm pretty this one will be high on my summer reading list.

The Fall of Princes; Robert Goolrick
Algonquin - 2015 - August 


 A dark, intoxicating morality tale . . . With his impeccable prose, Goolrick focuses his unflinching eye on the grittiness beneath the sleek fa├žade of nightclubs, fashion, and monied Manhattan extravagance. Beautifully crafted, seductive, and provocative.” —Garth Stein, author of A Sudden Light and The Art of Racing in the Rain

In the spellbinding new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robert Goolrick, 1980s Manhattan shimmers like the mirage it was, as money, power, and invincibility seduce a group of young Wall Street turks. Together they reach the pinnacle, achieving the kind of wealth that grants them access to anything--and anyone--they want. Until, one by one, they fall.
With the literary chops of Bonfire of the Vanities and the dizzying decadence of The Wolf of Wall Street, The Fall of Princes takes readers into a world of hedonistic highs and devastating lows, weaving a visceral tale about the lives of these young men, winners all . . . until someone changes the rules of the game. Goolrick paints an authentic portrait of an era, tense and stylish, perfectly mixing adrenaline and melancholy.

Stunning in its acute observations about great wealth and its absence, and deeply moving in its depiction of the ways in which these men learn to cope with both extremes, the novel travels from New York to Paris to Los Angeles to Italy to Las Vegas to London on a journey that is as seductive as it is starkly revealing, a true tour de force.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tampa; Alissa Nutting

Tampa; Alissa Nutting
Ecco - 2013

Beware -- this story will shock some readers, but it's really a page turner.

Celeste Price is a 26 year old beauty with a gorgeous husband, money and a hot little red Corvette.  She's also just landed her dream job teaching English to eight graders at a Tampa school. 

She's so excited about beginning this new job she can't sleep and her mind keeps racing. It's not the idea of molding the minds of her new students that excites her, instead she sees this job as the perfect opportunity to fulfill her fantasies -- by having sex with young boys.  

Celeste's first conquest Jack Patrick, age 14 who in her eyes is just about perfect -- a little shy and not the type to brag about his conquests with the pretty teacher.  He lives alone with his divorced father who occasionally work late and things get hot hot hot very quickly.  Of course her plans don't work out perfectly and complications do arise along the way.

Celeste is a piece of work. She's vain, judgmental, outrageous, a sexual predator and sociopath. She detests her handsome husband who she married for money and, who at 31 is too old to satisfy her fully.  Some of what this woman does will shock you and other things might make you feel guilty for laughing out loud.  

The story is told from Celeste's POV which is perfect as it makes you realize even more just how twisted she is.  For me though an evil, well-developed character like Celeste makes for a much more entertaining read than a likable, straight shooter.  Some of the things that happen in this story are ridiculous, but it is all part of the shock value delivered in this novel.

This book would make a great discussion book, but I doubt you'll find many library book groups selecting it since the main character is clearly a sexual predator.and the story is definitely cringe-worthy. 

The book is loosely based on the real life, Debra Lafave case in Florida. Readers who enjoy stories with deeply troubled characters and fiction that at times may be uncomfortable to read might want to give this one a try. It's not perfect, but I did enjoy it and read it in less than 4 hours as it was kind of hard to put down.

4/5 stars

(Cover comment - the hardcover I had from the library was the stark black cover, and although both seemed a bit boring, I am not sure what else would be appropriate after having read the book)  This book was brought to my attention by Jackie - Farm Lane Books.