Monday, September 30, 2019

The Escape Room; Megan Goldin

AUTHOR:  Megan Goldin
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: New York City
FORMAT: hardcover/Library
RATING - 4/5

Vincent and colleagues Jules, Sam and Sylvie are ruthless, cut-throat employees of Stanhope, a Wall Street finance company.  The group receives an invitation to compete in a team-building exercise which requires them to work together in order to escape from the locked elevator of high rise building that is still under construction.

The group is given questions and clues that will hopefully help them figure out a means of escape.  However, the longer it takes the more claustrophobic and unhinged each becomes, especially as they soon realize there seems to be a price to pay for their unscrupulous past deeds.

The chapters create reader insight into the backgrounds and dirty deeds of Vincent, Sam, Jules and Sylvie as they try to figure a way out of the locked elevator.  Alternating chapters feature Sara Hall, a newbie analyst at Stanhope.  Unlike the ruthless 4, Sara is an extremely sympathetic character and, it was her story that really hooked me and made this debut novel so enjoyable.

The story starts out with a prologue that lets readers know that something bad has happened. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but, this is one of those books that was extremely hard to but down once I started it.  I will look for further offerings by this talented author.  Try it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Someone We Know; Shari Lapena

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.

Someone We Know; Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books - 2019


Friday, September 29

"She's standing in the kitchen, looking out the large back windows. She turns towards me--there's a swing of thick brown hair--and I see the confusion and then the sudden fear in her wide brown eyes.   She has registered the situation, the danger.  Our eyes lock.  She looks like a beautiful, frightened animal.  But, I don't care. I feel a rush of emotion--pure, uncontrolled rage; I don't feel any pity for her at all.

We're both aware of the hammer in my hand. Time seems to slow down. It must be happening quickly, but it doesn't't feel that way. Her mouth opens, about to form words. But I'm not interested in what she has to say. Or maybe she was going to scream."

I haven't started this one yet (a favorite author), but I love the intro - how about you, would you read more?  

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill; Abbi Waxman

AUTHOR:  Abbi Waxman
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Los Angeles, CA
FORMAT: trade softcover/Library
RATING - 4/5

Nina Hill is happy with her life overall. She's the only child of a single mother. She is an introvert who works at a failing independent bookstore, she great at trivia, enjoys her book groups and, she likes her safe predictable life with her cat Phil who she converses with on a regular basis.

When her biological father, who she never really knew, dies, Nina learns that she has quite a few dysfunctional, biological siblings who live close by and want to get to know her.  They have nothing in common with Nina except for the bright red hair.

Bit by bit Nina is taken out of her comfort zone and her predictable life. It happens gradually so she's not overwhelmed. Then there is Tom, a smart, patient and attractive trivia buff who tries to understand Nina and help her through her life stresses.  She gradually lets him into her life and, neither tries to change the other person.

The story is told mostly from Nina's POV but we do see other perspectives along the way. I loved Nina as she was just so entertaining; her sarcasm was so funny as well. I found her story entertaining, heart warming and light enough to breeze through in no time.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Truth About Grandparents; Elina Ellis and Hide and Seek; Katie May Green

AUTHOR:  Elina Ellis
PUBLISHER: Little Brown & Co.
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  print
RATING - not recommended

At the heart of this story for young children are (pardon my bluntness) 2 extremely funny looking, old grandparents. The grandmother is obese and the grandfather very slim.  The story uses statements and adjectives like: GRANDPARENTS are: slow, clumsy, not bendy, scared of new things. don't dance, not into romance, not adventurous etc.  Each picture then shows the grandparents doing the opposite of what was initially stated about them and, then the story ending on a positive note stating: grandparents are amazing.

Even though the book definitely shows grandparents in a positive light, I didn't care for the negative tone/cues throughout.  In my opinion, there are much nicer grandparent books out there for young children. The illustrations are quite comical.

AUTHOR:  Katie May Green
PUBLISHER: Candlewick
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  print
RATING - 4/5

Shiverhawk Hall is the setting for this semi-spooky but, not scary game of Hide and Seek.

The DeVilleechild twins live in pictures framed and hanging on the walls. However, when the moon comes out, the twins disappear from their frames and the other children: Percy, Lily and Billy set out to search for them.

They hunt through elaborate mazes on their large estate as their black cat follows along.  As they search they find many interesting things including the twins who are on the run but, once a rain storm hits the twins pop back into their wall frames until the next time the moon is aglow and it's time for another game of Hide and Seek.  

Cute imaginative story with incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall

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.

The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall
Simon & Schuster - 2019


"On the day Charles Barrett died, James MacNally closed the door to his study, sat down in his chair, and laid his head on the thick edge of his desk so he could weep.  His wife, Nan, did not knock to be let in, though his rough, heavy sobs hit her like stones. She knew Jame's own death would wring the same sounds from her, if he went first and her adrift in the world, unmoored."

I'm really enjoy this one and so happy that Kathy @ BermudaOnion's Blog raved about it.  What do you think?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Drawing Home; Jamie Brenner

AUTHOR:  Jamie Brenner
PUBLISHER: Little Brown & Co.
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: The Hamptons, NY
RATING - 4/5

Henry Wyatt was something of a fixture at the iconic American Hotel in Sag Harbor. As an artist, he preferred the slower pace, familiar friends and quiet times to the times he spent in New York City.  So when Henry dies suddenly on Memorial Day weekend, everyone who knew him is shocked and saddened.

Even more shocked is his former Manhattan business partner Bea, and Emma, the American Hotel's front desk manager. It seems for some reason Henry chose to leave his elaborate waterfront home and estate to Emma's teenaged daughter Penny Mapson to whom he had given informal drawing lessons while he spent time at the hotel. Why would Henry make such an unusual bequeath? Bea is furious and determined to get to the bottom of this.

Part mystery, Drawing Home, was an unexpected treat. I loved the charming setting of this idyllic island town and it's small town life. I thought the characters were well drawn as well, but, at times there was a bit too much unnecessay detail. The added mystery element added to the overall charm of this one.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

31-Day Food Revolution; Heal Your Body, Feel Great & Transform Your World; Ocean Robbins

AUTHOR:  Ocean Robbins
PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  print
RATING - 4.5/5

I've never been much of a meat eater with the exception of an occasional burger and turkey on Thanksgiving. I prefer pasta dishes, soups and every type of veggie. I often thought it would be easy for me to become a vegetarian but, I just never took the plunge. 

I borrowed this book from the library and was intrigued after listening to the first few chapters on audio. So I decided to order the print edition realizing that there was lots of info I'd like to highlight and refer back to afterward. 

The book is written by the vegan grandson of the founder of Baskin Robbins ice cream. So much of what he writes just made sense and the book has also been promoted by people like: Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Mark Hyman, Paul McCartney and several others.

If you are interested in healing your body, losing extra weight and freeing yourself of toxic foods this book provides some easy enough to follow guidelines.

The book is divided into (4) parts -- 1) Detoxify, 2) Nourish, 3) Gather and 4) Transform.
  • Detoxify - discusses what foods to eliminate (think all processed foods) from our diet and our shelves.  
  • Nourish - discusses how to go about fueling our bodies to beat breast cancer and heal your gut by focusing on healthy super foods.  
  • Gather - discusses the social aspects of food and how lonely people are often negatively impacted by poor food choices as opposed to people who are socially involved. 
  • Transform - educates us as to how to be part of the solution by choosing organic foods and making our food choices cruelty free.
I the book was well-organized with great ideas for changing your eating habits bit by bit. I learned several interesting things and, I was surprised to learn that eating a high-protein after age 50 just might contribute to cancer and, how eating lots of greens can ward off dementia.  The book does not promote a specific diet, it's not preachy and it includes some pretty easy and delicious sounding recipes as well.  I really liked this book a lot and, I have already taken steps to purge my pantry and restock it with healthier alternatives as I get ready for beginning the 31-day challenge.

Never Have I Ever; Joshilyn Jackson

AUTHOR:  Joshilyn Jackson
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Florida
FORMAT:  eGalley
RATING - 4/5

Jackson's newest book, Never Have I Ever,  was somewhat of a departure from her earlier southern fiction novels.

This story starts out innocent enough as Amy Whey hosts the book group gang. However, when an unexpected newbie, Angelica Roux (Roux), who is new to the neighborhood shows up, the evening takes a darker turn.

Roux quickly takes over and, as the wine keeps flowing, the guests begin to feel a bit loose-lipped. Roux initiates a game, "Never Have I Ever",  where each person confesses the worst thing they've done that day, past week, past month or in their entire lives.  As uncomfortable secrets are revealed, the game takes a darker turn.

It seems Roux knows a lot more about the hostess, Amy's past than what she has revealed. to those closest to her. Amy has built a nice comfortable life and intends to keep it that way. Just how far will Roux go and just how will Amy deal with her blackmailer?

Told primarily from Amy's POV and moving back and forth in time, this is a psych thriller that moved at a good pace. They story was suspenseful and although some parts seemed a bit unrealistic, the story kept me reading and curious. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Escape Room; Megan Goldin

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.

The Escape Room; Megan Goldin
St. Martin's Press - 2019

It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07A.M. on an icy Sunday morning. The young security guard spoke in an unsteady voice, fear disguised by cocky nonchalance.
Miguel had been an aspiring bodybuilder until he injured his back lifting boxes in a warehouse job and had to take night-shift work guarding a luxury office tower in the final stages of construction. He had a muscular physique, dark hair, and a cleft in his chin.
He was conducting a cursory inspection when a scream rang out. At first, he didn’t hear a thing. Hip-hop music blasted through the oversize headphones he wore as he swept his flashlight across the dark recesses of the lobby.
What do you think? Read more or pass?

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman

AUTHOR:  Robert Hillman
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Australia
RATING - 3.5/5

Set in rural Australia 1968, Tom Hope, a man still in his early 30s is a broken soul.  He's a hard working farmer, introvert and his wife of less than 2 years (Trudy) has left him. He's devastated and  to make matters worst when she returns, she's pregnant with another man's child.

Tom learn's to love the baby boy, named Peter, and then experiences another set back when Trudy leaves him a second time to join a Jesus cult. This time she leaves Peter as well while Tom is left to figure out how to care for a young child only. Then is true Trudy style a few years go by and she's ready to take her son with her.

When Tom is at his lowest point, Hannah Babel arrives in town to open a book shop. She's a wounded soul as well. Hannah has experienced much pain as a Hungarian-Jewish woman, who survived Auschwitz a quarter of a century earlier. The couple quickly fall in love but when Peter comes back into Tom's life, Hannah is not prepared or receptive to the idea of all of them being together. 

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted is a story of love, loss and redemption.  There's a lot sadness within the pages, especially the parts that alternate back to Hannah's dark past.  I'm not sorry I read this one but, this was my second sad read in a row after just finishing, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, so at times I just had to put this one down after just a few pages. This was another book that took me longer than anticipated to complete.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous; Ocean Vuong

AUTHOR:  Ocean Vuong
PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Connecticut
FORMAT:  audio (7+ hours)
RATING - 4.5/5

Did you ever read a book that was beautifully written but an emotionally draining experience?  This was the case with this book.  The author was previously known for his award poetry (awarded the Elliot prize). This is his debut novel and it is partly autobiographical.

The narrator, nicknamed "Little-Dog" was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother; his father was an American. His single mother brought him to the US (Hartford, CT) as a toddler; she was abusive, volatile and possibly schizophrenic. 

The story is written like a letter by the 20-something narrator to his mother who cannot read. It helps the reader to understand Little Dog's past as well as what his mother has endured. We learn of his life as a bullied child, mostly based on racism. He even tells about his early homosexual experiences when he falls for Trevor, the son on a tobacco farm owner, that he met while working on the farm as a teen.

As beautiful as is the writing, it's a very painful, heart-tugging story as well. This book is not for everyone especially because of the physical abuse as well as explicit sexual material. Some of the images of his painful childhood and search for love and acceptance will not be easily forgotten.

The audio is read by the author. I thought he did a great job but, his voice very depressing to match the tone of the novel. It took me a long time (2+ weeks) to finish this one; it was almost like a bad accident where you just couldn't walk away. READER BEWARE: Possible trigger warnings

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Give Me Back My Bones! Kim Norman (Illustrated by Bob Kolar)

Give Me Back My Bones!   Kim Norman 
(illustrated by: Bob Kolar)
Candlewick Press - 2019

My middle granddaughter, age 5, likes books that are a bit creepy, so I was pretty sure this one might be a hit.  The timing is perfect for Halloween and yes, "she loved it" as well.

A stormy night, a shipwreck, a pirate skeleton and scattered bones along the ocean floor but, who do these bones belong to? Well, it seems it's the pirate that is missing his bones. Can this poor pirate recover his missing bones?

A fun, quirky and educational story told mostly in rhyme except that the last line on each page actually gives the proper name for that particular bone.  The illustrations are well done, colorful and funny, not scary -- just a tad spooky for Halloween. The book is fun to read out loud and helps children to learn more about bones at the same time. The back of the dust jacket also has great poster that lists each of the skeleton's bones.  (Another winner for ages 5-8 from Candlewick Press)

Cast a spyglass ’round here

while breakers curl and pound here.

There’s treasure to be found here — 
I feel it in my bones!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Pick a Pumpkin; Patricia Toht (Candlewick Press)

AUTHOR:  Patricia Toht
PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT:  print
RATING - 5/5

Last year I fell in love with Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht which turned out to be the perfect book to prepare for all that is Christmas. It's a book that that still remains a favorite for my youngest granddaughter.  This year, Toht, has a new gem, Pick a Pumpkin. a beautiful book about family and a story that gets us into the mood for fall festivities. This one is another winner.

In this fall delight a young family gets ready for fall by a trip to the pumpkin patch to pick the perfect pumpkin to take home and carve into a Jack-0-Lantern for Halloween. The story is told in fun rhymes  
and is beautifully illustrated by: Jarvis. The fall colors are vibrant and fun; some illustrations have an old-fashioned feel while others seem very modern and the whole carving of the Jack-o-lantern process is both fun and quirky. This is one of those lovely books that I consider keepers: a relatable story of family and creating memories together.

Pick a Pine Tree; Patricia Toht
Candlewick Press - 2017


A festive read-aloud brimming with all the joy and excitement of Christmastime — beginning, of course, with picking out a tree!

Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn and rhythmically written, this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season is as merry as the tradition it depicts.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous; Ocean Vuong

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.

Penguin Audio - 2019


Let me begin again,

Dear Ma,

I'm writing to reach you--even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are. I am writing to go back to the time, at the rest stop in Virginia, when you stared, horrorstruck, at the taxidermy buck hung over the soda machine by the restrooms, its antlers shadowing your face.  In the car, you kept shaking your head. "I don't understand why they would do that. Can't they see it's a corpse? A corpse should go away, not get stuck forever like that."

What do you think, pass or read more? (I actually started this audio about a week ago and also have the eGalley. The writing is beautiful, poetic really, but it's also a very depressing story overall, so I'm taking it slow - almost done.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

R.I.P. Challenge 14

It's the FOURTEENTH year of Readers Imbibing Peril, or RIP, as it is affectionately called. For these many years, we here at RIP headquarters have embraced the spookiness of the seasons’ change.
The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:
Dark Fantasy.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.
The goals are simple. 
  1. Have fun Reading
  2. Share that fun with others

There are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.I.P. XIV without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives.
Peril the First:  Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shirley Jackson or Tananarive Due…or anyone in between.

Peril the Second:  Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the challenge categories.

Peril the Third:  This Peril involves reading one book that fits within the R.I.P. definition.

Peril of the Short Story:  We are fans of short stories and our desire for them is perhaps no greater than in autumn. 

Peril on the Screen:  This is for those of us who like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows, or your favorite film. If you are so inclined, please post links to any R.I.P.-related viewing you do on our book review pages as well.

Starts September 1st. Use the #ripxiv hashtag on all the socials. 

You can sign up; HERE
I plan to read (4) of these (5) books for the Peril the First.
  1. The Institute; Stephen King
  2. The Whisper Man; Alex North
  3. The First Mistake; Sandie Jones
  4. Someone We Know; Shari Lapena
  5. The Escape Room; Megan Goldin