Tuesday, June 30, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - This Little Family; Ines Bayard

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

This Little Family; Ines Bayard
Other Press - 2020
(review copy provided by the publisher)

"Little Thomas didn't have time to finish his stewed apple. His mother hadn't given him the slightest chance.  The speed at which the poison circulated through his blood simply meant he didn't suffer when he died.  Only Marie's body was still upright, securely wedged against the back of her chair, her head tipped back.  She must have struggled to ensure this was noticed.  Laurent had been served first.  Few people stumbling across these three ashen bodies could have imagined the warm laughter filling the room just moments before the tragedy occurred."

What do you think, pass or read more? 


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Goodbye June

I said this in last month as well, I'm happy to say goodbye to yet another month. Thank goodness I'm a reader and my knee is lot's better, because that news on television is so damn depressing. I still can only walk about a mile right now without pain but I'll take it. 

Our state is still taking it slow with re openings. Some restaurants opened this week for indoor dining at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing. Are state's numbers continue to decline and, our libraries are still only doing curbside. I also have a feeling our senior center (and my yoga classes held there) will not be opening this year but, safety first! I dread the day when bars open indoors as that's when numbers most likely will spike again with people being careless. We don't plan to change our routine back to the old normal even though I am a homebody but, I'm starting to get very sick of spending so much time at home - (4) months now. I did get my first haircut in 4 months (3" off) and, it felt great. I was the first appointment and the only one in the salon except my stylist.  

June was my 12 year blogging anniversary - never expected to reach that milestone but, I finally gave myself permission to post just when I feel like it. Thank you to all of you who take the time to stop by now and then.

We were officially in a drought last week but be got a few hours of steady rain yesterday and thunderstorms are in store for the next few days. Sunny now but looks like it's clouding up a bit. It's been hot and humid this past week. 
I didn't watch much television last week, except for one movie: My Cousin Vinny  (perhaps my 10th time and still enjoy it). I want to watch The Hate U Give some time this week and would also like to read the book.
Exercise and other highlights…
Regular floor exercises everyday. Most are leg strengthening exercises but also some yoga..
To Do List…
  • Depends on the weather really and how fast I get moving.
  • Follow up doctor visit for my knee on Tuesday (last visit I suspect).
  • This week is the 6th birthday of our other granddaughter so plan to stop by to see her.
  • Recall for my car and that I've put off for 4 months, so having that done on Wednesday.
Retail Therapy...


JUNE Reads-  (11) Books  (57-YTD) - (2) NF, (9) fiction. Quite a few were just so so reads unfortunately.
  1. The New Husband; D.J. Palmer - 3.5/5 (audio/June)
  2. If it Bleeds; Stephen King - 4/5 (audio/June)
  3. A Week at the Shore; Barbara Delinsky - 4/5 (eGalley/June)
  4. Save Me the Plums: A food memoir  (NF) - 4.5/5 (audio/June)
  5. Girls of Summer; Nancy Thayer - 3.5/5 (eGalley/June)
  6. Death in Her Hands; Ottessa Moshfegh - 2.5/5 - (audio/June)
  7. A Good Marriage; Kimberly McCreight - 3.5/5 (eGalley/June)
  8. Malice Aforethought; Francis Iles 4.5/5 (print/June)
  9. Saint X; Alexis Schaitkin - 2.5/5 - (eBook/June)
  10. The Sea of Lost Girls; Carol Goodman - 3.5/5 (audio/June)
  11. Hidden Valley Road; Robert Kolker (NF) - 3.5/5 (eGalley/June)                                                                 
Fave Books of June

Reading Plans for July (so far)
  • Tomorrow There Will Be Sun; Dana Reinhardt (print - in progress)
  • Home Before Dark; Riley Sager (eGalley - really good need to finish today)
  • Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Agatha Christie (in progress audio)
How did your week go? What are you doing to stay sane in COVID times?
Any favorite reads in June?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Book Review - Malice Aforethought; Francis Iles

AUTHOR:  Francis Iles
PUBLISHER:  Dover Publications (2018)
PUB. YEAR: 1931 (original pub date)
Setting: Wyvern Cross England
Format: print/purchase
Rating - 4.5/5

Dr. Edmund Brickleigh had long been troubled by an inferiority complex. A short man and the son of a shopkeeper, when he meets and marries Julia, a woman 8 years older and of a higher social class, his insecurities live on.  The couple has been married for 10 years and neither appears happy in the relationship.  Julia is unattractive and very domineering.

As the story begins we learn that the doctor has been a bit of a run around throughout the marriage. Tired of being bossed around, it is at a tennis party that he decides he must kill his wife since every woman he has met seems better than Julia.  However, it is Madeleine, who makes he heart skip a beat.  Just thinking about Madeleine makes him realize that doing away with his wife is the only chance he has to win her heart and make her his next wife.  However, even a well-planned murder doesn't always work out as planned.

This was touted a one of the "Eight Perfect Murders" in Peter Swanson's latest novel.  Written originally in 1931, the story started out slow, but quickly picked up pace and hooked me.  The mystery is well-plotted, had me smiling at times and, the story had such a surprise ending as well, one that I could have never anticipated. Well worth reading if you like good old-fashioned murder mysteries. Such a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Tomorrow There Will Be Sun; Dana Reinhardt

Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

Pamela Dorman Books - 2019


"A perfectly prepared margarita (rocks, salt, subtle with the triple sec, less so with the tequila) placed in your hand when you didn't even ask, with an itty-bitty half lime floating up top. something local grown just down the street where the patchy pavement gives way to dirt, which then surrenders to jungle, can almost take the edge off a day of truly shitty airport mishaps.  Let's not recount them. Airport mishaps are dull.  They're like dreams.  We convince ourselves that ours are potboilers, cliffhangers, whodunits.  They're not.  And yet, despite the entirely predictable debacle that was our direct flight from LAX to PVR, in business class no less because those were the only seats left for which we could use miles and so drained our entire account, we still managed to arrive at Villa Azul Paraiso before the Solomons."

What do you think - read more or pass?  

Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review - A Good Marriage; Kimberly McCreight

AUTHOR:  Kimberly McCreight
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: NY
Format: eGalley
Rating - 3.5/5

Lizzie Kitsakis is a lawyer at a prestigious law firm in NY and once was an underpaid federal prosecutor, but that was a job she enjoyed. She's married to Sam, he's smart, devoted (or so she thought) but, now she is beginning to see trouble in the relationship.

While working late one night Lizzie gets a call call from Zach Grayson, an old law school friend, now in prison at Rikers, accused of murdering his wife Amanda.  He want's Lizzies help in proving his innocence. 

This is a book with quite a few characters, most are wealthy people behaving badly with something to hide. Told mostly from the point of view of Lizzie and the deceased Amanda a week before she was killed, it's a dark, psychological thriller that kept me guessing. The story has multiple layers of deception to unravel. It's not just a story about one bad marriage but, a look at multiple marriages and their dirty little secrets.

This book started out very slow for me, I wasn't sure whether I'd like it but, after about 50 pages or so things became a bit more interesting.  Definitely not the best in psychological thrillers but, you still might want to try this one.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

2 somewhat disappointing reads from 2020

AUTHOR:  Ottessa Moshfegh
PUBLISHER:  Penguin Press
PUB. YEAR: 2020
SETTING: ?? cabin in the woods
Format: audio download (Ann Marie Lee, Narrator)
Rating - 2.5/5

As the story opens Vesta, a recent widow in her 70s, is taking a walk in the woods with her dog Charlie when she finds a note on the ground held in place by stones. The note read "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body."

Vesta moved to a cabin in the woods on the lake after her husband died.  Since she is new to the area, and doesn't know anyone she finds herself obsessing over the note in the woods, imagining the life that Magda might have lived. As she ponders the life of Magda, we get some insight into Vesta's mindset and her unhappiness about how her own life has played out.

I've read several books by the this author which I really enjoyed but, this one was not one of them.  Told in a stream of consciousness style from the imaginings of a lonely old woman living an isolated life, I kept waiting for a revelation but, I ended up disappointed overall. I found that I couldn't even feel sorry for this lonely, isolated woman, if I was able to, I think my rating would have been a bit higher.

TITLE: Saint X
AUTHOR:  Alexis Schaitkin
PUBLISHER:  Celadon Books
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: NY and Caribbean
Format: eBook purchase
Rating - 2.5/5

In 1990 a family from NY is vacationing on Saint X, a fictional 5 star resort in the Caribbean.  It's a vacation that ends in tragedy for their college freshman daughter, Allison.  Although there were (2) suspects in Allison's death, they were released when authorities decided there just wasn't enough evidence to hold the young men. As a result, the husband, wife and Claire, their 7 year old daughter, are forced to leave the island and attempt to rebuild their lives in NY.

This is not a story about one brilliant young woman's death but, how the younger sister is affected by the loss of the much older sister she had idolized.  Once the family returns home, the story fast forwards pretty quickly to Claire as a young woman who has now become obsessed with her sister's death and how her life has been affected.

As I read this story I immediately thought of the Natalee Holloway case (2005) who disappeared from Aruba on her senior high school trip and although she was never found, she has since been declared dead.

Although I was immediately drawn into this story, I had a problem with the writing style, quite often I found I never knew who was speaking. I also thought that the the ending was a disappointing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Home Before Dark; Riley Sager

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

Home Before Dark; Riley Sager
Dutton - 2020


July 1


I paused in the doorway of my daughter's bedroom, startled in the way that all parents get when their child says something confounding.  Since Maggie was five, I suppose I should have been used to it.  I wasn't. Especially with a request so unexpectedly odd.

"I do?"

"Yes, Maggie said, insistent. I don't want them in my room."

What do you think, pass or read more?

Friday, June 12, 2020

Book Review - Girls of Summer; Nancy Thayer

AUTHOR:  Nancy Thayer
PUBLISHER:  Ballantine
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: MA
Format: eGalley
Rating - 3.5/5

Lisa Hawley has been single for over twenty years. Her husband left her and their two young children, Juliet and Theo, for another woman.  Devoting her life to her young children who are now grown and out of the house, she runs a popular boutique on Nantucket and never thought much about dating.  Over the years she's neglected keeping up with maintenance on her big old house and when the ceiling begins to crumble, she has no choice but to get repairs started.  She calls Mack Whitney, and island contractor with a good reputation.  Mack is rugged, a handsome widower with an adult daughter; he's also ten years younger than Lisa.

Can you see where this story is headed? Yes, romance blooms on the island but, not just for Lisa and Mack.

I loved the beautiful island setting, a story of summer romance and second chances.  I enjoyed the beginning of this story but, it jumped twenty years so fast, I felt cheated. I wanted to read a bit more about her first marriage and children when they were young.  The story felt rushed and some of the characters undeveloped.  This was not a favorite for me by this author but, still a decent light, quick, summer read from my summer reading list.

NOTE: eGalley provided by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

Book Review - Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir; Ruth Reichl

AUTHOR:  Ruth Reichl
PUBLISHER:  Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
Setting: NY
Format: audio download
Rating - 4.5/5

Ruth Reichl was a food writer and restaurant critic for the NY Times and later became the editor & chief of Gourmet magazine; this is her gourmet memoir. What a delight this memoir was and the fact that the author reads the audio version made it all the more personal.  She definitely knows how to write in a manner that appeals to the readers senses.  

Her story is peppered with tantalizing recipes and, I now feel like I have to get my hands on the print version to perhaps try a few of the recipes she mentions.  What an interesting life Ruth Reichl has lived and, I loved that she reflects about her mother might have finally been proud of her since as a child, she never felt like she could please her mother who suffered from mental illness.  I also enjoyed the interesting behind the scenes tidbits about the publishing industry and how the food world has changed over the years.  Readers do not have to be a gourmet themselves to enjoy this memoir.

Audio book download was provided free of charge by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book Review - A Week at the Shore; Barbara Delinsky

AUTHOR:  Barbara Delinsky
PUBLISHER:  St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: Rhode Island
Format: eGalley
Rating - 4/5

Mallory Aldiss is a photographer and single mother to 13 year old Joy. Twenty years early she left Rhode Island and Bay Bluff's beach community when family scandal rocked her world. The scandal ruined her parents marriage and separated Mallory and her sisters. It also caused her to run from Jack Sabathian, a man she loved. Her younger sister and her father, who now suffers from dementia, still live in the beach community as does Jack. When Mallory receives a call from Jack saying that her father had threatened him with a gun, it is with reservation that she and her daughter return to RI to check on her father. By doing so she must confront the painful past which drove her away.

I haven't read this author in decades but, I was quickly pulled into the story: part mystery, part romance and dysfunctional family drama.  The story dragged a little at times, but the setting and mystery aspects kept my turning the pages.  This was one from my 2020 Summer Reading List and I was happy I read it

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Malice Aforethought: The Story of a Commonplace Crime; Francis Iles

Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

Originally published in London in 1931
 Dover Publications - 2018

Part 1
Chapter 1

"It was not until several weeks after he had decided to murder his wife that Dr. Bickleigh took any active steps in the matter.  Murder is serious business.  The slightest slip may be disastrous.  Dr. Bickleigh had no intention of risking disaster."

This book was listed as one of the (8) perfect murder mysteries in Eight Perfect Murders; Peter Swanson.  Read more of pass?

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Week in Review

The week has been pretty warm and humid and, the pollen is everywhere. In fact our deck is yellow pollen dust so our cars stay in the garage as much as possible. It's really nice out today but, still the pollen so that means more time indoors except for a short walk.
                                                                 Reviews this Week: 

                  3.5/5 stars                                                                                               4/5 stars                                          

Reviews Needed

   Currently Reading/or/listening to:
Once again, I didn't watch much television except for Jeopardy, a few episodes of House Hunters and yes, the news (such a sad week).  Ohhh - Did anyone watch the Belmont Race yesterday? I couldn't believe the masses of people crowded together and NO MASKS! What the heck?

FOLLOW-UP - OMG - (I just realized we watched last year's Belmont race as this year's race was postponed by 2 weeks - to be held on June 20th! LOL - good reason for no masks I guess) 

Other highlights…
My knee finally began to feel back to near normal mid-week, I started PT and have some, at-home exercises to do 2X a day. Today, I actually walked about a half-mile for the first time in almost 4 weeks. I had to walk slower, not wanting to push it but, it feels pretty good still. Somehow I managed to lose 7lbs in May without dieting (fewer trips to the kitchen I suspect because of the painful knee).  FEELING GRATEFUL about my now pain free knee! 
Today’s To Do List…
Hope to read some, take another walk, perhaps a little longer this time, and make a new shrimp recipe I found in the NY Times.  I made some corn chowder yesterday and we have enough left over to freeze some. 
Retail Therapy...

No shopping online this week other than boring things. (You don't want to hear about our new thermometer and new face masks do you ? (I decided basic black is the easiest for both of us and they go with most everything, but boy, I kinda envy Nancy Pelosi's color coordinated face masks for all her many beautiful outfits) - LOL

How was your week?

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Book Reviews - If it Bleeds; Stephen King and The New Husband; D.J. Palmer

TITLE:  If it Bleeds
AUTHOR:  Stephen King
PUBLISHER:  Simon & Schuster Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: varies
Format: library audio / download
Rating - 4/5

Stephen King's latest releases is a collection of (4) novellas, similar to his Full Dark No Stars, a collection which I loved.

Mr. Harrigan's Phone (my favorite) - Craig has done errands for his reclusive, elderly neighbor (Mr. H) since the age of 9.  As the boy gets older he also spends time reading to his neighbor. Mr. H is a bit cheap but always remembers Craig on holidays and his birthday and Craig can count on him including a scratch lottery ticket along with the card.  On one occasion Craig, now a teen, wins $3,000 on the ticket. He has he father cash the ticket in and with his winnings he buys an iPhone for himself and also one for Mr. H as a thank you.  Mr. H is amazed at what this phone is capable of.  When Mr. H dies unexpectedly, Craig is left an $800,000 inheritance. At the wake, Craig decides to hide Mr. H. iPhone in his suit pocket, because he loved it so much.  When Craig realizes the phone still rings after his death, Craig leaves the most unusual message and calls in a favor. 

Beautiful, revengeful tale told in my favorite style: first person narration.

The Life of Chuck - A story that begins in reverse order with what feels like the end of the world. Told in (3) parts, it has that surreal feel: earthquakes, food is scarce and what on earth has happened to the internet?

Well craft, just not a huge fan of reverse order story telling.

If it Bleeds - The longest story of the (4), this one brings back characters from previous King work: the Bill Hodges trilogy. Detective Holly Gibney and Det. Ralph Anderson have their work cut out for them.

I was expecting to like this one the best and, although it was good, it wasn't my fave.

Rat - This one in some ways made me thin of The Shining. Drew is a writer who is struggling and frustrated. He moves to a cabin for solitude. There is an element of blood and horror and, yes, the writer, just might be going insane.

I think this was my second favorite and made me think of King's earlier works.

I loved that at the end King shares what had inspired him to write each of these stories.  The audio version has (3) separate readers who each did a terrific job: Will Patton, Danny Burstein and Steven Weber.

AUTHOR:  D,J. Palmer
PUBLISHER:  Macmillan Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: NH
Format: Library download/audio
Rating - 3.5/5

Nina Garrity's husband disappeared on a fishing trip. He was alone on his boat except for the family dog, Daisy.  Daisy is found with blood on her paws and there is blood in the boat but, no body has surfaced.

Nina is the mother of (2) teens and needs to move forward with her life. She may even have to move back home with the kids to her parents house in a different state. but, then Simon, the perfect man, comes into Nina's life.  He's a teacher who seems to know just what to say and what Nina needs but, things Nina seems blinded by, her teenaged daughter, Maggie is not. and she's determined to find out more about him.  How does Simon know so much about all of them? Is Simon really that perfect man or is there a darker side to this widower?

I loved the way this story started out but, wow, I wanted to slap Nina pretty quickly. She was just so oblivious to the obvious. Her behavior was not how most responsible mothers would act IMO.  Secrets, lies and plot twists, their were too many, you have got to be kidding moments, to make this one a winner for me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Girls of Summer; Nancy Thayer

Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

Girls of Summer; Nancy Thayer
Ballantine - 2020


"Remember, Lisa's mother had often said, it's good to know where you want to be, but sometimes you have to go in the opposite direction to get there.  Lisa knew her mother was right because her mother was, as was her father, a high school teacher full of knowledge and experience.  She also knew that when they had married, her mother had wanted to have five children and her father wanted to be a novelist.  Instead, they taught in the Nantucket high school and had only one child, the fortunate Lisa, but they said they were extremely happy throughout their lives.  So maybe they didn't get where they intended to go, but they ended up where they were meant to be."

I've been in the mood for a few light, fun reads this summer. What do you think for this intro - read more or pass?