Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Warlight; Michael Ondaatje

TITLE: Warlight
AUTHOR:  Michael Ondaatje
PUBLISHER: Vintage International / Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: London, England
FORMAT: print & audio/my shelves
RATING - 4/5

Historical fiction is not usually something I gravitate toward but, I was pretty happy my book group selected it as our October read. I really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, only 3 of the dozen or so members who came to the meeting liked the book.

Set in London right after WWII, Nathan 14, and his older sister, Rachel, are told by their parents that they need to go away to Singapore for a while.  The teens are left with Walter, A.K.A. The Moth, who stays at their home with them. The children wonder whether "the moth" is a criminal, but quickly forget that imagining when more motley characters join their household.

This novel ,although historical, had a nice element of mystery to it as well. Nothing is as we are first lead to believe and it's a slow reveal that held my interest throughout. It's definitely a darker story especially since a lot of things happen after dark.  The beautiful writing and the characters were really memorable. I loved how they tried to teach the siblings a variety of things - some are unusual to say the least.  The story is told from the POV of Nathan as a teen and later as a young man as he takes a job with the Foreign Office working in archives and trying to sort out what his mother was up to in the time she was absent from their lives.

This was a combo print and audio read for me. The audio narration was very good.

Non-Fiction November

I've never joined this challenge even though I tend to read a fair amount of non fiction, but I see Nonfiction November posts popping up all over some of my favorite blogs, so I decided to join in.

Nonfiction November is an annual event, an entire month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction. The hosts this year are:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Julz at JulzReads
Rennie at What's Nonfiction
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Leann of Shelf Aware

Favorite NF of 2019 (thus far)

(my most recommended NF as well)

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? 

 I've read (13) NF in 2019, and only disliked one book - (Maid; Stephanie Land). My interest seems to be mostly with memoirs or bios. I do enjoy NF about health, food, animals and occasionally politics.  Here is a list of the NF read in 2019 thus far.
  1. Morningstar: Growing Up With Books; Ann Hood
  2. My Life in a Cat House: True Tales of Love, Laughter and Living With fIve Felines; Gwen Cooper
  3. Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting; Anna Quindlen
  4. Dopesick: Doctors & the Drug Companies That Addicted America; Beth Macy
  5. The 31 Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World; Ocean Robbins 
  6. What To Eat When; M. Roizen, M.D. & M. Crupain
  7. Mama's Last Hug; Frans de Waal
  8. Small Fry; Lisa Brennan-Jobs Herstory: 50 Women & Girls Who Shook Up the World; Katherine Halligan
  9. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay & a Mother's Will to Survive; Stephanie Land
  10. A Bite in the Apple; Chrisann Brennan 
  11. Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food; Ann Hood 
  12. I Am Malala; Malala Yousafzai 
  13. Inheritance: a memoir; Dani Shapiro 
Goal for November - 2019

I'm thinking about reading (or listening to):

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Dutch House; Ann Patchett

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 Dutch House; Ann Patchett
Harper Audio - 2019

Part 1 - Chapter 1

The first time our father brought Andrea to the Dutch House, Sandy, our housekeeper, came to my sister's room and told us to come downstairs.  "Your father has a friend he wants you to meet," she said.

"Is it a work friend?" Maeve asked.  She was older and so had a more complex understanding of friendship.

(the audio is narrated by Tom Hanks and his 
voice makes this story just wonderful so far)

Any plans to read this one? What about that intro?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Warlight; Michael Ondaatje

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. 


A Table Full of Strangers

"In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.  We were living on a street in London called Ruvigny Gardens, and one morning either our mother or our father suggested that after breakfast the family have a talk, and they told us they would be leaving us and going to Singapore for a year.  Not too long, they said, but it would not be a brief trip either.  We would of course be well cared for in their absence.  I remember our father was sitting on one of those uncomfortable iron garden chairs as he broke the news, while our mother, in a summer dress just behind his shoulder, watched how we responded.  After a while she took my sister Rachel's hand and held it against her waist as if she could give it warmth."

I normally would have passed on this book at first glance but, this was chosen as our book group read this month. I'm actually enjoying it - beautiful writing.

What do you think - pass or read more?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Catching Up with a (4) Mini Reviews - The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall - The First Mistake; Sandie Jones - The Institute; Stephen King - The Whisper Man; Alex North

I've been on a bit of an audio book binge lately while walking, driving, cooking, cleaning - you name it.  (3) of the (4) books were audios and thrillers which helped me to finish RIP Challenge as well.

The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall
Simon & Schuster - 2019

The Dearly Beloved is a debut novel about love, faith, friendship and community. It's set in the 1950s -1960s New York City and follows two couples  (Charles and Lily and James and Nan) from college to marriage and beyond. The men become co-ministers of a Presbyterian church in NYC. We witness the couple's struggles within their marriage, the community and their struggles with faith.  Although religion and faith played a major theme in this novel, it didn't feel overly preachy or in your face.  This book started out strong for me, but then the characters started to come across as rather flat. This was one of those stories that I found it harder and harder to get back to once I took a little break.  I'm on the fence about a rating but, for me, I decided on 3/5 stars. I'm not sure whether I would have felt differently about the novel if I was a person of faith.

The First Mistake; Sandie Jones
MacMillan Audio - 2019

I was looking forward to The First Mistake by Sandie Jones after totally enjoying The Other Woman, her previous book. Best classified as a domestic thriller it's full of twists and a surprise shocking ending as well.

Set in the U.K. we meet Alice, who lost her first husband, Tom, in an accident. She still misses Tom even though she's now married to Nathan. Alice and her new husband run a successful international company founded by her first husband.  Despite Alice's success and having two great daughters, she begins to have her doubts about her new husband and wonders whether he's been completely honest with her. She also suspects he might be having an affair. Alice confides in her best friend Beth about her suspensions but, before long her anxiety working overtime makes her wonder whether Beth has her best interests at heart.

Without giving too much info, this thriller that took the reader in directions I never expected.  Everyone has secrets in this one -- who can you trust? The ending was a shocker as well. 4/5 stars

The Institute; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio 

The Institute was an 18+ hour audio book production that begins with a drifter named Tim Jamieson who takes a night beat job with a small town South Carolina sheriff's department and then jumps to main focus of the story, the exploitation and kidnapping of exceptional kids (younger than 16).  Luke Ellis, is one of these children, kidnapped from his home in Minnesota and ending up in a strange place in Maine (The Institute).  It's a tight knit operation kind of place with strict rules. Luke's not the only child, there are other gifted children who have suffered a similar fate and ended up like Luke-- kidnapped in the middle of the night and their parents murdered.  The Institute is a place you enter, get promoted, as one progress through some cruel experimentation but, they don't get to leave. I liked that the Tim Jamieson character resurfaces once again before the end.

For me this story had more of a SF feel at times than horror. There is a good deal of physical and certainly mental abuse in this novel and you'll yes, you will be able to tell that Stephen King is no fan of our President as well. This novel felt like it could be a standalone but, by the end I found myself wondering whether there might be a sequel as the ending was a little loose and ambiguous. The audio narration  (Santino Fontana) was very good (this story just way too long for me).  I didn't feel it was scary and overall, I enjoyed this one. 4/5 stars.


The Whisper Man; Alex North
MacMillan Audio - 2019

I do love a good old intense thriller and many of the reviews I read called this "creepy, chilling etc".  I listened to this one every evening, before bed for about a week and although the audio was excellent, and, the whispers - atmospheric, I never found this serial killer preying on a small town story too scary or felt the need to put it down. I did think it was an addictive story.

After Tom's wife dies unexpectedly, he tries for a fresh start in a new town with young son Jake.  The town has a dark past, a serial killer Frank Carter, "The Whisper Man" was, however,  finally caught. Soon after they settle down in their new town and house, which has a haunted feel,  a young boy goes missing. Is this a copy-cat killer or were the rumors true, maybe Frank did have had a partner, who has now taken up where he left off?  It isn't long before young Jake begins acting weird and hearing things.

This was an addictive story, perfect for those cooler fall nights.  The character development was very good, the troubled characters, added to the intense feeling of dread at times. I heard was optioned for a movie, which could be great on a big screen production. The audio version was terrific and kept me in suspense and eager to find out how it would all turn out.  4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros; The Reckless Oath We Made; Bryn Greenwood

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 loved this author's last book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

The Reckless Oath We Made; Bryn Greenwood
G.P. Putnam and Sons - 2019

Chapter 1


"People talk about having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  I had a pair of imaginary bill collectors, so no matter which way I turned, there was somebody to remind me I needed money.  That's how I ended up on the train at four o'clock in the morning with my nephew and a hundred pounds of weed."

 What do you think about this intro - read more or pass?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Someone We Know; Shari Lapena


AUTHOR:  Shari Lapena
PUBLISHER: Pamela Dorman Books
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: print/Library
RATING - 4/5

A nice, safe neighborhood in upstate New York is shocked to learn their neighbor goes missing and soon after turns up dead. Amanda Pierce has been murdered and, although her husband  Robert is a suspect, there are a few people who might want the young, attractive and flirty woman out of their lives for good.

Meanwhile, a teenage boy from the same neighborhood has been breaking into houses and not stealing anything but, gaining access to the homeowner's computers and learning some secrets which are capable of causing havoc. Could there be any connection?

This is a novel where there are so many so many suspects, secret affairs and other motives. It is a  twisty thriller that had me wondering and changing my opinion about the killer several times over before I was done reading. Although I enjoyed this one, a quick read indeed, I didn't think it was quite as well plotted as the author's previous offerings, but, it was still a good read overall.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Daughter of Moloka'i; Alan Brennert

NOTE--- possible spoilers -- read book 1 - Moloka'i first!

AUTHOR:  Alan Brennert
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Hawaii and CA
RATING - 4.5/5

The much longed for sequel to a favorite book of mine, Moloka'i (read in 2008), which told the story of Rachel Kalama, a young girl growing up in Hawaii who developed leprosy at the age of seven.  She was taken from her family and forced to grow up in a leper colony on the island of Molokai.

While Rachel does return in this sequel, the focus is more on her daughter, Ruth Utagawa who was sent to an orphanage and then adopted by a Japanese family at the age of five.  Ruth moves from Hawaii to California along with the couple's three boys, and then sadly, Pearl Harbor forces a relocation to an internment camp.  When an unexpected letter from Rachel to Ruth arrives shortly after the war ends, the story takes an unexpected and pleasant turn.

Very little of this novel focuses on the island of Moloka'i. There was a lot of informative history which reveals the suffering some had faced, but, there were also heartwarming moments as well.  A powerful, well-researched piece about a time in history that was not spoken about often enough IMO.  I enjoyed the focus on Ruth from her birth to adulthood. I thought the author did a great job creating characters that I really cared about.

 I enjoyed this sequel, but wished that I had reread Moloka'i again since it has been 11 years since book #1. I guess you probably could read this as a standalone novel but, you'd be missing a really beautiful story.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The First Mistake; Sandie Jones

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 First Mistake; Sandie Jones
Macmillan Audio - 2019


"She looked at me with real warmth in her eyes, as if she trusted me with her life, and for a moment I thought I wouldn't go through with it.

But then I remembered what she'd done and I suddenly felt calm again.  What comes around, and she deserves everything that's coming her way.

Trust is a funny thing; it takes such a long time to build, yet it's broken in a second.

She shouldn't trust me--it will be her undoing.

What do you think?  I'm almost done with this one; a  highly addictive, psychological thriller.

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Nearly Normal Family; M.T. Edvardsson

AUTHOR:  M.T. Edvardsson
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: audio
RATING - 3.5/5

A Nearly Normal Family is a complex family drama and legal thriller that explores how far parents will go to protect their child.  The Sandells have an 18 year old daughter named Stella who has been accused of the brutal murder a wealthy and unscrupulous businessman, Chris Olson, who in his early 30s. How could this be, what is the connection?

This multi-layered story drew me right in as I watched this dysfunctional family begin to unravel bit by bit. The story is told from the POVs of Adam, the husband and father, who is also a pastor. We also get to hear from Ulrika, the wife and mother who is also a criminal defense attorney, as well as the POV of the accused, daughter Stella.

The story was clever and detailed but, slow moving as well.  Stella was a rebellious teen who got away with a lot; her parents desperate to protect their daughter but not the best parents. The trial was enlightening and lead to some unexpected surprises.  I did like that it's a story that gives you plenty to think about, especially since the epilogue answered the questions I wondered about.

Readers who enjoy legal thrillers might want to try this one.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

September in Review

 I was happy to welcome fall, the weather has been beautiful and the leaves are starting to change. My reading pace was good in September (16) books - (6) of these were kids picture/story books). 

Our book group met to discuss The Secret Chord; Geraldine Brooks, a story about King David.  Only (1) person finished the book, needless to say our meeting was off point., but still a fun meeting.) The librarian chose this one as Brooks is a  Pulitzer Prize winner, but this one just didn't work for most of us; it was a DNF for me.

  1. Pick a Pumpkin; Patricia Toht - 5/5 (print/my shelves-Sept)
  2. Give Me Back My Bones! Kim Norman - 5/5 (print/my shelves-Sept)
  3. On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous; Ocean Vuong - 4/5 (audio- Sept)
  4. The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman - 3.5/5 (ARC/Sept)
  5. Never Have I Ever; Joshilyn Jackson - 4/5 (eGalley/Sept)
  6. The 31 Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World; Ocean Robbins 4.5/5 (print/my shelves-Sept)
  7. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill; Abbi Waxman - 4/5 (print/library-Sept.)
  8. Drawing Home; Jamie Brenner - 4/5 - (ARC-Sept)
  9. The Truth About Grandparents; Elina Ellis - 2/5 (print/Sept)
  10. Hide and Seek; Katie Green - 4/5 (print/Sept)
  11. The Escape Room; M. Goldin - 4/5 (print/library-Sept) - RIP CHALLEGE
  12. Daughter of Molakai; Alan Brennert - 4/5 (ARC/Sept)
  13. Someone We Know; Shari Lapena - 4/5 (print/library-Sept) - RIP CHALLENGE
  14. A Nearly Normal Family; M.T. Edvarsson - 4/5 (audio/Sept)
  15. Just Because; Mac Barnett - 4/5 (print/Sept)
  16. Mr. Scruff; Simon James - 4.5/5 (print/Sept)
                                                       Places visited in September
 Florida, Connecticut, Hawaii, California, (2 times), Australia, the Sweden and New York (2 times)


Fiction - 15  NF - 1 
YTD - 116
Audios - 2
eBooks - 1
print     - 13
ARCS/Review Books - 3
audio/eBook Combos - 0
Borrowed from Library - 4
Off my Shelves - 9

DNF - 2 - The Secret Chord; Geraldine Brooks
                Fleishman is in Trouble; Taffy Brodesser-Akner-Akner 

                                                       October Plans (so far)


  • (FINISH) The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall (it's very good but, I've been side-tracked)
  • (FINISH) The Institute; Stephen King's (listening to audio - 18+ hours and almost done)
  • (READ) - The First Mistake; Sandie Jones
  • (READ) - The Whisper Man; Alex North
  • (READ) The Family Upstairs; Lisa Jewell
  •  RIP 14 Challenge runs from September 1 - October 31). I finished (2) of my 4 books, but only reviewed (1) so far. This is my 11th year participating.
  • Hope everyone had a great month!

    Wednesday, October 2, 2019

    a couple more books for kids - Just Because; Mac Barnett and Mr. Scruff; Simon James

    (2) more kids books from Candlewick Press

    Just Because; Mac Barnett
    (illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault)
    Candlewick - 2019

    Just before she goes to bed an inquisitive little girl has many, many questions for her dad.  Questions like: Why is the ocean blue? What is the rain? Why do the leaves change colors? What happened to the dinosaurs? Why do we sleep etc... The dad, in this case, has a wild imagination and comes up some creative responses trying to satisfy his daughter's young, inquiring mind. (I had a bit of a problem with the almost flippant way the dad answered the little girl's serious questions in an effort, I suspect, to get her to go to sleep.  Beautifully illustrated. 

    Mr. Scruff; Simon James

    A sweet little boy and his dog story told in delightful and comical rhyme. The dogs in this book are - "Polly - who belongs to Molly",  "Eric who belongs to Derek", "Minnie who belongs to Vinnie" (well you get the picture). But, poor Mr. Scruff, is still in a cage and belongs to none. Little Jim wants to adopt him and we all know that names don't matter.  

    Then comes Mr. Gruff, whose big like Mr. Scruff, but, Mr. Gruff has his eyes on a tiny puppy names Tim, a tiny dog that would have been perfect for Little Jim. You guessed it - it all worked out perfectly, in the end!  Sweet story, fun to read, a definite kid pleaser. I enjoyed the story and the illustrations. 

    Tuesday, October 1, 2019

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Family Upstairs; Lisa Jewell

    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 Family Upstairs; Lisa Jewell
    Atria - 2019


    "It would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was normal before they came.  It was far from normal, but it felt normal because it was all I'd known.  It's only now, with decades of hindsight, that I see how odd it was.

    I was nearly eleven when they came, and my sister was nine.

    They lived with us for more than five years and they turned everything very, very dark.  My sister and I had to learn how to survive.

    And when I was sixteen, and my sister was fourteen, the baby came."

    What do you think? Read more or pass?