Thursday, February 28, 2019

February in Review

February may be a shorter month but I still managed to read a good amount of books (11) although (2) of these were kids books. 

Some of my armchair travels through February's books included visits to: Rhode Island, Maine, New York City and New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Victorian England, Sweden, Bristol England and the Norfolk Coast.

  1. Morningstar: Growing Up With Books; Ann Hood - 5/5 (audio-library-Feb)
  2. Good Riddance; Elinor Lipman - 3/5 (eGalley-Feb)
  3. Great Expectations; Charles Dickens - 4/5 (audio-library-Feb)
  4. Detective Inspector Huss; Helene Tursten - 3.5/5 (eBook-library-Feb)
  5. The Stranger Inside; Jennifer Jaynes - 4.5/5 (eGalley-NetGalley-Feb)
  6. You Are Light; Aaron Becker - 5/5 (my shelves - Feb)
  7. The Whole Wide World and Me; Toni Yuly - 4/5 (my shelves - Feb)
  8. Rules of Civility; Amor Towles - 4/5 (audible - Feb)
  9. Watching You; Lisa Jewel - 4.5/5 (library - Feb)
  10. The Au Pair; Emma Rous - 4/5 (eGalley - Feb)
  11. The Kingdom of the Blind; Louise Penny - 4/5 (Library audio - Feb)

Fiction - 10
NF - 1
YTD - 21
Audios   - 4
eBooks  - 4
print      - 3
audio/eBook Combos - 0

Borrowed from Library - 5
Off my physical Shelves - 2
Kindle - 4

 Favorite Book of the Month

Book Group Read

The Stranger in the Woods; Michael Finkel

Our book group read The Stranger in the Woods; Michael Finkel in February and everyone seemed to enjoy this non fiction selection. I had listened to this one in May of 2017 when it was first published.

                                                        ( GoodReads Brief Review from May 2017)

A captivating true story of a man who survived alone in the Maine woods for some 27 years. 

Chris Knight was always a shy individual who preferred spending time alone. At 20, and for the next 27 years he made the Maine woods his home, breaking into cabins for food and other necessities which included an ongoing supply of books to feed his constant thirst for knowledge. 

A fascinating story and what led to his being discovered and arrested. The scientific information and research on hermits was interesting but, the way the story was executed could have been improved.

We listened to this audio book on a road trip in May of 2017 - good narrator.

Plans for March

In addition to reviewing: The Kingdom of the Blind (listened to in February), I plan to finish: An Anonymous Girl and A Gentleman in Moscow (both in progress) and read at least the ones below.

How was your month in books?

The Au Pair; Emma Rous

TITLE: The Au Pair
AUTHOR:  Emma Rous
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  Norfolk Coast
FORMAT:  - eGalley - NetGalley -  (384 pp)

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny never knew their mother. On the day they were born she threw herself off the cliffs of Summerbourne on the Norfolk Coast.  Now at 25 she has just lost her father to an accident and while sorting through her father's belongings and comes across a photo taken on the day the twins were born. The photo shows her mother smiling and holding one of the newborns. Why was there just one baby in the photo and why would her smiling mother have committed suicide on that very same day?

Does the "au pair" Laura, who lived with the family while caring for older brother Edwin, about 5 at the time, hold the answer to these questions? Seraphine is obsessed with tracking down Laura and quizzing any one else who may be able to fit the mysterious pieces of the puzzle together.

This was a pretty good mystery, well-paced with each chapter seeming to bring a new question or new clue. The story is told in the present from the POV of Seraphine and the past by Laura, the au pair. The ending wasn't an entire surprise but I didn't figure out everything either. Overall, I was happy I read this one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - An Anonymous Girl - Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

An Anonymous Girl - Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
St. Martin's Press - 2019

Part One

"You're invited: Seeking women aged 18 to 32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality conducted by a preeminent NYC psychiatrist. Genrous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.  Call for more details.

It's easy to judge other people's choices. The mother with a grocery cart full of Fruit Loops and Double Stuff Oreos who yells at her child.  The driver of an expensive convertible who cuts off a slower vehicle.  The woman in the quiet coffee shop who yaks on her cell phone.  The husband who cheats on his wife.

But what if you knew the mother lost her job that day? What if the driver promised his son he'd make it to his school play, but his boss insisted he attend a last minute meeting?"

What do you think? Curious or pass?  

Monday, February 25, 2019

Watching You; Lisa Jewell

Watching You; Lisa Jewell
Atria - 2018

AUTHOR:  Lisa Jewell
PUB. YEAR: 2018
SETTING:  Bristol, England
FORMAT:  - library -  (336 pp)
RATING: 4.5/5

Watching You was a bit of a different psychological thriller, a book that had me quickly turning the pages.

We know early on that someone has been brutally murdered but, who the victim is and why they were killed is never known until the end.  The title of this novel is perfect because, in this novel, it seems that everyone is watching someone - some of them a bit creepier than others.

Set in Bristol, England in an upscale neighborhood called Melville Heights where 27 multi-colored Victorian villas align the streets, there are several neighbors who seem a little off and several have more than a few secrets.

Josephine (Joey) Mullen is back in the area with her new husband Alfie. Both strapped for cash, they move into her brother Jack's villa where he lives with his expectant wife.  Joey's husband Alfie is kind and sweet yet, Joey finds herself obsessed with Tom Fitzwilliam, headmaster of a private school,  who lives a few houses down the street with his odd teenaged son, Freddie and his wife Nicolla. There's also the Tripp family who play a role in this story.

I loved the way this story played out with short chapters and police interviews that gave you clues to the suspects. The characters were well drawn, some quirky and just enough twists to throw me off track.  If psych thrillers are the kinds of books you enjoy, be sure to try this one.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Rules of Civility; Amor Towles

(Rebecca Lowman - narrator)

AUTHOR:  Amor Towles
PUBLISHER:  Penguin Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2011
SETTING:  New York City
FORMAT:  - audible -  (12 hours/368pp)

If you ever wonder what New York City was like in the 1930's, this is the novel for you.

The story opens in 1966 when Katey and her husband are at an art gallery in NYC for a photography show when she sees a picture of Theodore (Tinker) Grey, a former lover from her 20's.  Her memories then flash back to an earlier time, New Year's Eve, 1937 when Katey Kontent was just 25.

In 1938, Katey, an orphan of Russian immigrant parents, was just another working girl in a Wall Street secretarial pool and living in a boarding house with her friend, Eve Ross.  Katey is classy, confident and imagines herself as destined for something bigger and better in life. It's on New Year's Eve that Katey and her friend meet the handsome, rich young banker "Tinker" Grey at a Jazz bar in the city, a man who would change both of their lives.

Rules of Civility is Katey's story. It all happens, for the most part, over the course of a year. The story is narrated by her and although there really isn't much of a story line, the writing is very good, even if at times I didn't feel Katey seemed all that genuine. The author does an incredible job capturing what NYC was like in 1938. The sights, the Jazz clubs, dinner clubs etc. The dialogue is exceptionally good and the characters are well-written and flawed. Readers who love stories set in NYC, especially those from a much different time in the city, this is a book you should try.  

The audio book is narrated by Rebecca Lowman who does a great job.  I especially enjoyed the appendix, The Young George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (110 Rules). These added to my impression of the overall book IMO. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

2 New Kids Books from Candlewick Press

I was so happy to receive these 2 very different children's books recently. They are targeted for the 3-8 year old age group.

You Are Light; Aaron Becker
Candlewick Studio - 2019

You Are Light is a gorgeous die-cut board book that opens with a vibrant sun to warm our sky and the land around us.  Soon helping the sea produce rain to help things grow like the leaves on the trees that keep us cool and also lighting the moon at night. 

As you hold each page up to the light you can see the color transformation of the light around us. Simply beautiful!

Candlewick Press - 2019

The Whole Wide World and Me features a dark-haired girl, possibly Asian, who explores the world around her. The more she discovers outdoors and all the delights which surround her, the more she begins to feel a part of the the bigger picture.

The artwork is bold and bright and textured yet, it's never over powering.  There are just a few words on each page but yet little ones can see how the very small can be part of the very big world around them.

Both of these books are just lovely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Au Pair; Emma Rous

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

The Au Pair; Emma Rous
Berkley - 2019



August 2017

"WE HAVE NO photographs of our early days. Danny and I. A six month gap yawns in the Mayes family album after we were born.  No first-day-at-school pictures for Edwin, no means of telling which of us two looked more like him at the beginning.  An empty double page marks the overwhelming grief that followed our arrival."

What do you think? Curious enough to read more?

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Stranger Inside; Jennifer Jaynes

AUTHOR:  Jennifer Jaynes
PUBLISHER:  Thomas Mercer
PUB. YEAR: 2017
SETTING:  Massachusetts
FORMAT:  - eBook - NetGalley (286pp)
RATING: 4.5/5

Diane Christie is a mystery writer and a crisis center hotline volunteer. She has 2 teenagers, a son with medical issues and a college-age daughter who is difficult to say the least. The 3 have relocated to Fog Harbor from New Jersey after Diane's husband commits suicide.  

The murder of a college girl and a call Diane takes while volunteering at the crisis center puts her in the middle of the investigation. The caller, with a computer disguised voice, seems to know too much about the recent murder than what has been released. Subsequent calls from the same individual state that she is the only one who can stop the killings.

This was a well-plotted suspense thriller which had me guessing about the suspects and the possible motives, I was hooked from the very start and the surprise ending was awesome as well. A quick, satisfying psychological thriller, I loved the coastal setting, characterizations and the way the story played out.  I would definitely read more books by this author.

This book is actually book #4 of a series, but, I didn't realized that until after the fact and, it can clearly be read as a stand-alone.

The Kindle version is $3.99 on Amazon.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Detective Inspector Huss; Helene Tursten

AUTHOR:  Helene Tursten
PUBLISHER:  Soho Crime
PUB. YEAR: 2003
SETTING:  Sweden
FORMAT:  - eBook - library (320pp)
RATING: 3.5/5

(translated by Steven Murray - fair translation)

The first in this crime series set in Sweden, Detective Inspector Irene Huss has her work cut out for her when Richard von Knecht, one of the wealthiest businessmen from an Aristocratic family plunges to his death. Initially, suicide is suspected as his son and wife of 30 years have just returned by plane from separate destinations. When it seems apparent the the victim was unconscious when he took the plunge, the case quickly turns to a homicide investigation.

I liked the Detective Irene Huss character, she's about 40, talented, skilled at Ju Jitsu and dedicated to family (husband and twin teen daughters) but, also superior at her job as well. This is a well-crafted police procedural that has plenty of suspects, secrets and surprises that kept me guessing.  Many of the characters will likely be featured in subsequent installments. Overall, I can only give this mystery an average rating as it was slowed and spoiled by the translation which was frustrating.  I do want to try more of this series but, I need to check who the translator for subsequent titles is before deciding.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Great Expectations; Charles Dickens

AUTHOR:  Charles Dickens
PUBLISHER:  Recorded Books (Frank Muller, Narrator)
PUB. YEAR: 2001
SETTING:  Victorian England
FORMAT:  - audio - library

Set in Victorian England around 1860, this Dicken's classic was a first time read/listen for me and overall, I really enjoyed the story of "Pip" (Phillip Pirrip), a boy of about 7 who grows up with very little.  His much older sister, Georgiana beats him routinely for no real reason so he stays away from the home as much as possible.  In contract to his sister, his brother-in-law Joe is his solace. Joe is a kind-hearted soul who does all he can for Pip.

From the escaped convict Magwitch to the quirky, eccentric Miss Havisham the characters came alive as I listened. I enjoyed the parts with Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who lives in a dilapidated house and prances around in a wedding dress. Her adopted daughter Estella is someone Pip is always trying to impress as he longs for her love and attention.

There are multiple plot lines in this classic and I especially enjoyed the vivid imagery Dickens created.  I thought the narrative was excellent but that maybe this was just a little longer than it needed to be.  I liked the Pip character, even though he makes some foolish choices, I liked watching him evolve. Frank Muller, the audio book narrator did a fabulous job.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Good Riddance; Elinor Lipman

AUTHOR:  Elinor Lipman
PUBLISHER: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  - eGalley - Edelweiss

Daphne Maritch is a newly divorced New Yorker who is attempting to declutter her all too tiny NYC apartment when she comes across her deceased mom June's yearbook which she inherited. The yearbook is from 1968, Pickering, New Hampshire High School, the year when Daphne's mom was a new, 24 year old teacher and class advisor.  The yearbook was heavily annotated and updated with comments each time she learned new tidbits about class members through the years.  Her mother's obsession with the yearbook stirs many questions but mostly why was Daphne's mother so obsessed with this time and the people in her life?

With no interest in keeping the yearbook, Daphne tosses it down the trash chute. Geneva, a filmmaker  who lives in the building finds the yearbook and thinks it might make an interesting project - Class of 1968, Where are You Now? A return to NH by Daphne and Geneva for a reunion brings about some shocking surprises.

Elinor Lipman is a favorite author but this book wasn't a hit for me. In fact it took me a while to get through it after the first 1/3 of the book.  Daphne and Geneva were both irritating characters for different reasons, and Daphne's father who was a more minor character was probably my favorite.  The publisher calls this a romantic comedy and yes there is some romance but, readers might be disappointed if "romantic comedy" is the reason they chose this book.  Although the story is funny at times, it's also pretty far-fetched. For anyone who hasn't read this author but would like to, I'd recommend starting with some of her earlier books like The Inn at Lake Devine - a favorite.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros- The Stranger Inside; Jennifer Jaynes

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

The Stranger Inside; Jennifer Jaynes
Thomas & Mercer - 2017


"AN ICY BLAST of wind roared through the quiet night, sending a beer bottle jangling across the concrete and a shiver sliding down the young college student's back. Exhaling loudly, she almost laughed at herself for being so creeped out.


Does this seem like you you might want to read?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Week in Review

    It's a beautiful sunny day with temps expected to reach 36 degrees today. The past few days we had lots of wind reaching 50mph which kept us indoors mostly.
    Thankful  - too many things to list but, yes, I'm grateful for it all.
    Reading - Detective Inspector Huss; Helene Tursten (very good). Rules of Civility; Amor Towles (audio). I have so many books checked out from the library that I'm sure many will go back unread.
    Finished -  I finished Good Riddance; Elinor Lipman (disappointed as she's a favorite author, but, I'm giving this on a so so rating of 3/5 stars). I finished the audio Dicken's, Great Expectations (the audio version read by: Frank Muller was very good).
    Watched - The Good Doctor, and The Residents a few episodes of Law and Order and that's about it.
    The Husband's Birthday Dinner  - We had a fabulous birthday celebration for the hub on Thursday evening which started off with a celebratory toast: Cosmo for me and Crown Royal on the rocks for him, followed by: 
    SCALLOPS MARE E MONTI (appetizer - shared): 
    Pan-seared scallops nestled in a bed of sautéed wild mushrooms and sauced with a lightly spiced tangerine butter. 

    8 oz FILET MIGNON, pan-seared, topped with confit garlic, sautéed mushrooms, and a Pinot Noir wine/balsamic reduction.

     NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE: Rich and creamy with a buttery graham cracker crust. Finished with pureed strawberries (shared).

    Needless to say - we didn't eat much the following day
    New To Me Stuff - I picked up this Valentine's Day heart-shaped pan that I saw in a magazine recently. Can't wait to try it this week.

    Last Week - We went to the casino on the day before the hub's birthday and I won almost $500 in just one hour. I told him I was tired of winning (LOL) so we didn't gamble very long. Honestly, I didn't want to risk losing the money.  My son, and his family were at Disney for the week and their little 4 year old  was quite happy. They also had a perfect weather week.  Friday, the other 2 sister granddaughters visited and we babysat while mom and dad had a few hours to dine - kid free. Very fun for us.
              Today - Today we are going out to brunch later.
      This Coming Week: We are actually celebrating Valentine's Day on Saturday at another favorite fine dining restaurant.
      New Books 
Hope you all had a good week!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

2 reviews - Tapestry of Fortunes; Elizabeth Berg and Morningstar: Growing Up With Books; Ann Hood

AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Berg
PUBLISHER: Recorded Books (7 hours)
PUB. YEAR: 2013
SETTING:  Minnesota
FORMAT:  - audio (library) - Barbara Caruso (narrator-just okay)
RATING: 2.5/5

Lately I've been looking for a few lighter reads so I'm catching up on Elizabeth Berg novels. 

In Tapestry of Fortunes, Cecilia (Cece) who never married was once a motivational speaker who traveled the country hoping to inspire others. However, when her close friend Penny dies after a brief illness, she's left lost and uninspired. She decides to declutter and sell her home in Minnesota and, in what seems like a strange move, she decides to move into a huge lovely home with three female house mates who couldn't be more different.  Each woman has a past to be reconciled with so the women embark on a road trip to try and deal with unfinished business.

This particular book was unimpressive overall.  I felt like I never really got to know the characters and even though there was a good dose of wisdom to be found along the way, something about this felt like a rough draft that needed more work.  I just couldn't connect to the characters.  This audio performance by Barbara Caruso was just okay.

AUTHOR:  Ann Hood
PUBLISHER: HighBridge Audio  (3 hours 44 min)
PUB. YEAR: 2017
SETTING:  Rhode Island
FORMAT:  - audio (library) - Donna Postel (narrator-excellent)

Ann Hood has always been a go-to author and her memoir about her fascination with book from a very early age spoke to me.

The author grew up in Rhode Island in the 60's and early 70's and from the age of 4 developed a love for books and reading.  By the second grade she was reading fourth grade level books.  Neither her Italian immigrant grandparents nor her parents were readers and books were not part of their home. Her mother felt books were a waste of time. Books for Ann made her lonely childhood less lonely and, escaping into books made her happy.

This is a relatively short memoir. I loved that she discusses, in depth, some 10 books published at very different time periods that transformed her life, taught her about sex and love and made her want to be a writer. This book is a real gem that book lovers will enjoy. The audio was fabulous.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Detective Inspector Huss; Helene Tursten

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read.  (This week's pick is by an author that I fell in love with last month when I read An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good.)

Detective Inspector Huss; Helene Tursten
Soho Crime - 2012

"NOBODY SAW HIM FALL through the dense November darkness. With a dull, heavy thud he hit the rain-wet pavement.  Even though it was still rush hour, there were few people on the street.  The pedestrians huddled beneath umbrellas turned inside out and scrunched their chins turned-up collars for a little protection from the icy, whipping rain.  Everyone who could was driving a car or jammed into the steaming warmth aboard a bus or streetcar.

An elderly woman pulling a stubborn, soaking-wet dachshund on a leash stood closest. The howls that she and the dog announced to those people in the vicinity that something serious had happened.  Hurrying pedestrians slowed their pace. Curiosity got the upper hand, and they were drawn toward the site of the accident."

What do you think? Would you read more or pass?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Week in Review

    It's a beautiful day with temps expected to reach 40 degrees today.
    Thankful  - The below zero weather that we had for 3 days last week is gone and we're in for several days with 40-50 degree weather. 
    Reading - Still reading Good Riddance; Elinor Lipman (almost done but I had a few books going at the same time). I started the audio version of Dicken's, Great Expectations (never read that classic) and I'm enjoying it.
    Finished -  I  finished (but need to review) Morningstar: Growing Up with Books; Ann Hood - I loved it (no review yet).
    Watched - The Good Doctor, and The Residents also well as an episode of the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series about empty nesters decluttering. OMG this couple had so much stuff. I'm so happy, I'm not a collector or accumulator.
    In The Kitchen - I cooked one new thing this week - Orange glazed Chicken Breasts with potato pancakes and broccoli (surprisingly good). Once again, we ate out a lot.
    New To Me Stuff - I picked up a few light weight sweaters and a pretty scarf at the Loft on sale which will be great as we transition into spring - sooner than 6 weeks I hope according to the "Groundhog".                       
    Last Week - We only had yoga twice his week because of the snow. I did meet both my adult kiddos for lunch on Friday which was a short visit but nice.   We went to the movies to see the Green Book - LOVED IT! It was such a good movie, I can see why it's rated 8.3/10 stars.
    Today - We're going out to brunch later and tonight we will be watching the Super Bowl and cheering for our Patriots. I think only people from the New England states will be rooting for them and yes, I do understand why.

      This Coming Week: Thursday is my husband's birthday, so I've made reservations for dinner at a special restaurant.
    New Books 
Hope you all had a good week!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

January Reading in Review

I had a pretty good January for books. I read (10) books and had one DNF, The Overstory by Richard Powers. The writing and story was thought provoking for sure, but for me, I think it was a matter of bad timing as this book is not to be rushed and required a lot of thought. Unfortunately my mind was elsewhere much of the month so easier reads worked better for me.

One thing I noticed was that most of my book choices for January took me outside of the US - loved this.  I traveled to the island of St. John's, Germany, London, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and  France and then I did spend some time in the US as well: Iowa, Florida and Minnesota.

Favorite Book of the Month

  1. Winter in Paradise; Elin Hilderbrand - 3.5/5 (library print-Jan.)
  2. The Women in the Castle; Jessica Shattuck - 4/5 (eGalley and audio combo - Jan.)
  3. One Day in December; Josie Silver - 4/5 (eGalley - Jan)
  4. The Travelling Cat Chronicles; Hiro Arikawa - 4.5/5 (print-Jan)
  5. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good; Helene Thursten - 5/5 (library print-Jan)
  6. What To Eat When; M. Roizen, M.D. & M. Crupain - 3.5 /5 (NF- library-Jan)
  7. The Lady With the Purple Hat; Otilia Greco - 1/5 - pass (library print-Jan)
  8. The Whistler; John Grisham - 3.5/5 (audio-library-Jan)
  9. Waiting for Bojangles; Olivier Bourdeaut - 4.5/5 (eGalley-Jan)
  10. Tapestry of Fortunes; Elizabeth Berg - 3/5 (audio-library-Jan)

Fiction - 9
NF - 1

Audios   - 3
eBooks  - 3
print      - 5
audio/eBook Combos - 1

Borrowed from Library - 7
Off my Shelves - 1
Kindle - 2

February Previews

  • Morningstar; Ann Hood (completed/no review yet)
  • Good Riddance; Elinor Lipman (eGalley) (in progress)
  • Great Expectations; Charles Dickens (audio-library)  (just starting)
Happy Reading!