Saturday, August 31, 2019

August in Review and Plans for September

August felt like the fastest month of the summer - I always say this, but, "it really, really flew by."  Back to school shopping for the (3) granddaughters (all will be in school full-time this year); (2) in Kindergarten and the oldest in second grade. 

 My reading continued at a decent pace (9 books) and it's been nice to see the temperature in the high 70s or very low 80s with cooler nights as we ease into fall.

Our book group read and discussed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and everyone loved it.  (I read it in 2017 so I didn't reread it, even though I loved it as well).

No perfect reads this month, but most were enjoyable.
  1. Keeping Lucy; T. Greenwood - 4.5/5 - (eGalley - August)
  2. What Does an Anteater Eat?; Ross Collins 4.5/5 - (print/my shelves - August)
  3. The Last Resort; Marissa Stapley - 3.5/5 - (ARC - August)
  4. Never Tell; Lisa Gardner - 4/5 - (audio-August)
  5. Cape May; Chip Cheek - 4.5/5 (audio-August)
  6. The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro - 4/5 (library/print-August)
  7. City of Girls; Elizabeth Gilbert - 3.5/5 (audio - August)
  8. Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware - 4/5 (eGalley - August)
  9. Lock Every Door; Riley Sager - 4/5 (eGalley-August)
Places visited in August: Massachusetts (3 times), a Mexican resort, New Jersey, the Scottish Highlands and New York City (2 times)

Fiction - 9  NF - 0  
YTD - 100

Audios - 3
eBooks - 2
print     - 3
ARCS/Review Books - 1
audio/eBook Combos - 1
Borrowed from Library - 2
Off my Shelves - 2

DNF - 2   - Speaking of Summer; Kalisha Buckhanon (August
                - The Family Next Door; Sally Hepworth (August)

September Plans (so far)

  • (FINISH) The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman
  • (FINISH) On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous; Ocean Vuong (audio in progress)
  • (FINISH) 31 Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World; Ocean Robbins (print - in progress)
  • (READ) The Institute; Stephen King's new book with releases on the 10th. I pre ordered the audio.
  • (PARTICIPATE) in the RIP 14 Challenge that runs from September 1 - October 31) I hope to post more about that over the weekend. This will be by 11th year participating.
  • Hope everyone had a great month!

    Thursday, August 29, 2019

    Lock Every Door; Riley Sager

    AUTHOR:  Riley Sager
    PUBLISHER: Dutton
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: New York City
    FORMAT:  eGalley
    RATING - 4/5

    Jules Larsen is a young woman who is down on her luck.  Her parents have died, her sister disappeared, she's lost her job and is about to be homeless after moving out of her cheating boyfriend's apartment. Can things get any worse for her ?-- (oh, yes, definitely.)

    Desperate for cash, she learns of a job as a apartment sitter at the swanky Bartholomew in Manhattan. It's a job that pays $12,000 for a 3-month commitment. She applies and is hired but, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is as Jules quickly learns.

    It isn't long before Jules begins to learn about the Bartholomew's mysterious past. Then there are the odd and very strict rules that she and the other apartment sitter's must adhere to. Jules befriends Ingrid, another sitter, and is warned by her that she must be careful because bad things that have occurred in the building.  Almost immediately after warning Jules, Ingrid goes missing in the middle of the night. Jules feels compelled to investigate what happened to her and learning she wasn't the first sitter to disappear from the Bartholomew. It's a race against the clock for Jules who realizes that she must find away to leave the job before it's too late.

    The story begins with the "NOW" with Jules on a stretcher after she's been hit by a car.  The story is well-paced going back from the present to what transpired in the six days prior. There are several odd characters, I thought some felt rather flat but, I did like that it was hard to tell who could be trusted.  The story slowed a little early on but, it did hold my interest and it ended with a twist I never anticipated. Overall, a pretty darn good creepy read.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman

    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 they are reading or that they plan to read.  Here's an except from a book I've been looking forward to. What do you think?

    G.P. Putnam - 2019


    "She didn't stay long as far as marriages go, just a year and ten months. Her note was brief, too:

    I'm leaving, Don't know what to say,

    Love  Trudy

    And Tom Hope was left injured in a way that seemed certain to kill him."

    Thursday, August 22, 2019

    The Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware

    AUTHOR:  Ruth Ware
    PUBLISHER: Gallery/Scout Press
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Scottish Highlands
    FORMAT:  eGalley (print 352 pp.)
    RATING - 4/5

    When Rowan Caine, a child care worker, learns of a job as a live-in nanny that seems too good to be true she decides to apply. Even though it's not the kind of job she wanted, the salary is too good to pass up.  Heatherbrae House is a secluded Victorian located in the Scottish Highlands. After an interview with Sandra and brief encounter with husband Bill, she's pretty much hired on the spot to care for their 3 young children (1, 5 and 8)  and one daughter, 15, who is away at school.

    Almost immediately after being hired the couple who run an architectural firm, is off on a business trip. Rowan is left with the care of the small children and relatively no direction other than a thick binder of instructions and a smart-technology home prone to malfunction.  It isn't long before creepy happening begin, some due to technology and other incidents not o easy to explain. The tension increases with odd noises during the night. There's also an unfriendly housekeeper and a handyman who lives on the property whose motives seem unclear.  Rowan also learns that several nannies have come and gone abruptly before her and, she is constantly feeling as if she is being watched.

    The story begins with Rowan in jail for murder. She is writing a letter to Mr. Wrexham,  her solicitor, proclaiming her innocence. Rowan is far from the perfect nanny; she has her share of secrets that are revealed as the story progresses.  Ware does a great job structuring this story, leaving clues and creating an eerie atmosphere throughout. Something bad happens in this mystery and you know it early on but, the details are only revealed at the end.  I read this book before bed every night for about a week and let me tell you, it does have a very creepy feel at times.  I really liked this one even though the ending left me a bit confused at first but, I now think I've finally figured it out.

    Wednesday, August 21, 2019

    City of Girls; Elizabeth Gilbert

    TITLE: City of Girls    
    AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Gilbert
    PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: New York City
    FORMAT:  audio (15 hours - approx.)
    RATING - 3.5/5

    Vivian Morris, now 89, looks back on her life in the 1940's New York City's theater district.

    Vivian came from a wealthy family and attended Vassar College briefly but, she quickly realized college wasn't for her. She didn't take it seriously and was kicked out after her freshman year.  Her parents decided to send her off to Manhattan to live with Aunt Peg who had just purchased a rundown, little midtown playhouse called The Lily. Peg and her friend Olive run the place with some low budget performances, surrounded by a cast of colorful and unconventional characters: Celia, Uncle Billy, Frank and Edna. Vivian is good at sewing so she quickly becomes an asset to the playhouse team.

    The entire experience gives Vivian a whole new look at freedom and self-fulfillment; it's a lifestyle that appeals to her.  She loves her freedom to be with whomever she pleases and as often as she wishes. Yes, there is plenty of talk and action when it comes to sex and booze and Vivian never feels any guilt as she looks back on those younger, wilder days.  Then there was her grave indiscretion that led to professional embarrassment and scandal. 

    Vivian, however, was one of those girls who needed to experience life her own way without regard to what was considered proper at the time. This story is really all about Vivian and, Vivian loves Vivian at the cost of all else. Have we met people like Vivian? She definitely was a feminist before her time.

    I loved the first half of this book, it's very long (over 15 hours on audio and beautifully narrated) I did think that after a while it began to feel a bit repetitive.  I liked the colorful world of New York's theater district in the 1940s and the characters were great as well. Each character was trying to find their place in the world. Despite a few too many cliches, overall, I felt happy I read this one.  I do think it would make a great book club pick.  

    Tuesday, August 20, 2019

    The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro

    AUTHOR:  Deborah Shapiro
    PUBLISHER: Catapult
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  library/print - 224 pages
    RATING - 4/5

    About to turn 40 and having recently suffered a miscarriage, Emily and husband David move from Chicago to a newly acquired property in MA where Emily spent many a summer growing up.  The property was once an old summer camp that belonged to Emily's late aunt.  The property is in a state of disrepair but the couple is hoping to turn it into a possible resort.

    While David is away and working long hours Emily is unemployed, looking for work and trying to come up with ideas for the property. As she roams the property she discovers a young woman named Stella that has been staying in one of the cabins. Emily befriends Stella and even keeps her presence a secret for a while. When she does tell David, he doesn't seem troubled by her being on the property temporarily.  As the two women who are almost a generation apart in age, get to know one another, it seems each is just who the other needs in their life at the moment. Who is the mysterious Stella and what brings her to the area? As the women get to know one another, watching French films, swimming in the lake and spending lazy summer days together opening up in other ways, I couldn't help but wonder how this story would all end.

    The novel has a quiet style and was slow paced but, the beautiful summer setting and a writing style that enables you to easily visualize what is going on made it work pretty well. It was a book I read in one sitting and in some ways it reminded my of younger days, those summers gone by and the early female friendships of our past that are a part of who we are today. A nice summer choice overall. 

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Lock Every Door; Riley Sager

    Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 
    (I started this one last night and I'm really enjoying it so far.)

    Lock Every Door; Riley Sager
    Dutton - 2019


    Light slices the darkness, jerking me awake.

    My right eye--someone's prying it open. Latex-gloved fingers parting the lids, yanking on them like they're stubborn window shades.

    There's more light now, Harsh. Painfully bright. A penlight aimed at my pupil.

    The same is done to my left eye. Pry, Part, Light.

    The fingers release my lids, and I'm plunged back into darkness.

    Someone speaks. A man with a gentle voice, "Can you hear me?"

    I open my mouth, and hot pain circles my jaw. Stray bolts of it jab my neck and cheek.....

    What do you think? Read more or pass?
    (The intro is rather long so I only included part of it)

    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro

    On Tuesdays, Vicki, ( I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that plan to read.

    The Summer Demands; Deborah Shapiro
    Catapult - 2019


    "Summer, green and still and slightly grainy. The way it is in foreign films from the 1970s and '80s. A lulling, enveloping heat.  I had things to do, I swear, written on lists, but those things seemed to only get done if they coincided with the slow, inevitable rhythm of the days.  From the couch in the room with the bay window, I would watch those movies, watch young French women who never wore bras move around in philosophically provocative situations, and then I would get up and go outside, go down to the lake, or watch another movie.  The days passed into each other without much distinction, dulling all anxiety but heightening a sensitivity. Like walking out of a dark theatre into a bright afternoon, one world exchanged for another.  Being stunned and not minding it, wanting to hold to an in-between."

    What do you think? Read more or pass? It's a pretty short novel - just 211 pages.

    Sunday, August 11, 2019

    Never Tell; Lisa Gardner

    TITLE: Never Tell     
    AUTHOR:  Lisa Gardner
    PUBLISHER: Brillance Audio
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    FORMAT:  audio (12 hours - approx.)
    RATING - 4/5

    Book #10 of the D.D. Warren series, Never Tell, features Flora Dane, a returning character from previous novels.  The audio is read by Kirsten Potter who did a great job.

    Conrad Carter is dead, shot three times in his home office. His computer screen is riddled with more than 10 bullets and, his pregnant wife Evie is found holding the gun.  Sixteen years earlier, Evie was cleared in the killing of her father, which was later ruled accidental.  Is this all too coincidental? Just what is going on with this family?

    The story is told in alternating POVs: Evie, who appears guilty, Detective D.D. Warren and Flora Dane, D.D.'s assistant. (Flora was a kidnap victim years earlier and she realizes that Evie's late husband looks familiar to her).

    This story has strong female characters, which I loved and, the author did a great job developing each character along the way.  Bonus, I never figured out the ending. It's one of those stories that makes you ask how well you really know those closest to you.

    Thursday, August 8, 2019

    Cape May; Chip Cheek

    TITLE: Cape May
    AUTHOR:  Chip Cheek
    PUBLISHER: MacMillan Audio
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Cape May, NJ
    FORMAT:  audio (7.5 hours - approx.)
    RATING - 4.5/5

    In 1957, Henry and Effie are newlyweds from Georgia, who at Effie's suggestion, decide to honeymoon at the seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey. Effie fondly recalls childhood summers spent at her uncle's cottage there.  One thing the couple hadn't planned on was just how desolate, September can be off season at some resort towns. With boarded up businesses and very little to do, this couple is bored and lonely after just one week and talk of cutting their honeymoon short.

     Having had enough solitude, one evening the couple notices lots of lights at a home nearby. Henry and Effie decide to stop in and say hello. It's there that they meet some irresistible and uninhibited party people: Max, Alma and Clara, who draw them into their party circle of booze and other exploits.  The newlywed's marriage will be tested as a result.

    I went into this book knowing very little about this story other than the seaside setting: Cape May, New Jersey. I was immediately pulled into the lives of this young couple and, I couldn't stop wondering what would happen to them.  The story was unsettling at times, the sense of dread and self-destructiveness I felt for the characters pulled me in and never let go. 

    Cape May is definitely not a book that will appeal to everyone. It seems most are in the "loved-it or hated it camp." It's the kind of story that many will want to read in one sitting -- it's not too long of a story. The audio was excellent, read by George Newbern.  Be advised that the story gets pretty steamy and sexually explicit, and it's definitely not a book that most readers will quickly forget - the story and the characters will stick with me for a long while. 

    Tuesday, August 6, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Cape May; Chip Cheek

    On Tuesdays, Vicki, ( I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that plan to read.

    Cape May; Chip Cheek
    Celadon Books/Macmillan Audio - 2019


    "The beaches were empty, the stores were closed, and after sunset, all the houses on New Hampshire Avenue stood dark.  For months, Effie had been telling him about this place and the many things they would do here, but she had only known it in summer, and this was the end of September. She had not understood what 'off season' meant. They came up from Georgia on the overnight train.  They were supposed to spend two weeks here, for their honeymoon."

    "I love it, Henry said their first evening. It's like we got the whole place to ourselves."

    What do you think? Read more or pass?

    Sunday, August 4, 2019

    The Last Resort; Marissa Stapley

    AUTHOR:  Marissa Stapley
    PUBLISHER: Grayden House
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: Mexico - Mayan Rivera
    RATING - 3.5/5

    A tropical island, a hurricane and a few marriages on the rocks made for a surprising, suspenseful and atmospheric novel.

    Drs. Grace and Miles Markell are well known couples therapists who run Harmony Resort; he's 52 and she's just 35. If your marriage is in trouble and money is no object, this resort and the intensive therapy sessions it offers may be just what is needed to save a marriage.

    Johanna and Ben are pretty much newlyweds but, already their marriage is in trouble. She is a social worker and has a good deal of emotional baggage affecting the marriage.  Shell and Colin, on the other hand, have been married 20+ years, but he's a workaholic and together they have also had to deal with a traumatic experience.  Miles, Grace and assistant Ruth are not at all what I was expecting.  Miles is a power hungry, ego maniac and Grace a victim of his emotional abuse. As the couples begin intensive 2-week sessions, deep, dark secrets begin to get revealed all around. 

    This book took me a bit longer to finish than expected-- it started off slow and then picks up. I thought some of the issues that came out seemed more realistic than others and I was surprised that this was a darker story than I had expected as well.  Some of the therapy seemed questionable and while the cover seemed somewhat serene, the story was not.  I felt a feeling of dread as I was approaching the last quarter of the book and the ending was somewhat explosive as well. Honestly, I was on the fence about how to rate this one and finally decided on 3.5/5 stars. 

    What Does an Anteater Eat?; Ross Collins

    AUTHOR:  Ross Collins
    PUBLISHER: Nosy Crow (Candlewick Press)
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: n/a
    FORMAT:  print/my shelves 
    RATING - 4.5/5

    Targeted for the preschool or beginning reader, this story features one hungry anteater who wakes up hungry and just can't recall what he is supposed to eat. 

    Anteater begins asking the critters he meets along the way what he should eat. One critter is rude to him, a tiger in a tree says that he thinks anteater looks pretty tasty and another suggests watermelon might be a good choice.  When the anteater runs in to a anthill full of -- yes, ants, and asks the same question, what happens next is not what you'd suspect. 

    Funny story with large print and just enough words on each page to tell a cute story and not frustrate a beginner reader. The illustrations were fun as well.

    Friday, August 2, 2019

    Keeping Lucy; T. Greenwood

    AUTHOR:  T. Greenwood
    PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: MA (and cross country)
    FORMAT:  eGalley (320pp)
    RATING - 4.5/5

    In 1969 Ginny Richardson, wife of Abbott, mother to 4 year old Peyson gives birth to a baby girl, Lucy, who is born with Down's Syndrome.  Without her consent, her husband under pressure from his powerful father Abbott Sr. sign the baby over to the care of Willowridge in Western Massachusetts, known as "a place for the feeble-minded".

    When Ginny finds out she is devastated and every time she talks about visiting her baby she's stalled and pressured to move on with her life. Two years later her best friend Marsha shows her articles about Willowridge being a filthy and neglectful place for the children residing there.  Ginny and her friend decide to visit Willowridge and find out for themselves. When they do they are horrified by what they witness.  Lucy, now 2,  has in fact been neglected so she decides to check her little girl out for the weekend and figure out her next move in getting her daughter back. Her husband does no know what she's doing and the women, along with Ginny's six year old son travel cross country to figure out what to do. 

    Keeping Lucy was a very good read but a sad read.  Ginny is a courageous mother whose unflinching love for her children makes her unstoppable. Her supportive friend has her back and, I thought that their journey had a Thelma and Louise feel to it.  This story is based in part on true events and it felt very real as well given the 1969-1971 time period.  The characters were well explored and I liked that the story also gave insight to an earlier time in Ginny and Abbott's relationship as well.  Great characters however,  the father-in-law Abbott Sr. was hard to take. I was a bit disappointed that the horrors of the school were not more deeply explored, but, perhaps that would have turned off some readers.

    Note: This book was of particular interest to me as I grew up in Western MA and there was a place like Willowridge. It was called Belchertown State School for the Feeble Minded that did in fact exist for some 70 years. It finally closed its doors for good in 1992. I recall that my aunt's friend had a daughter, my age, with Down's Syndrome, who spent her life there -  so sad.