Monday, August 31, 2020

August Reading in a Nutshell

August was a pretty good month for books - (11) books read and (4) were perfect 5 star reads for me. Another (4) earned a 4 or 4.5 star rating, (2) - 3 to 3.5 stars and just (1) that I thought was really terrible.

Here's my faves which I hope you will try if you haven't already read them.

  1. Anxious People; Fredrik Backman 5/5 - (eGalley/August)
  2. The Operator; Gretchen Berg - 3.5/5 - (audio/August)
  3. The Party Upstairs; Lee Conell - 3/5 (eGalley/August)
  4. The Caretakers; Eliza Maxwell - 4/5 - (print/library/August)
  5. The Giver of Stars; Jo Jo Moyes - 5/5 - (audio/library/August)
  6. Night Swim; Megan Goldin - 4/5 (eGalley/August)
  7. Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of John Lewis; Jabari Asim - 5/5 (library/print/August)
  8. When I Was You; Amber Garza - 5/5 - (eGalley/August)
  9. The End of Her; Shari Lapena - 1.5/5 (audio//August)
  10. 28 Summers; Elin Hilderbrand - 4.5/5 (combo/audio & print/August)
  11. Beneath the Scarlet Sky; Mark Sullivan 4/5 - (print/book group/August)
81 Books YTD

Plans for September
(so far my focus will be on these (6)

     (in progress)                                                                                                   (RIP XV Challenge)

(RIP XV Challenge)                                                                                        (September Read-along)
(Reread for bookgroup)

Sunday, August 30, 2020

RIP XV - 2020

This is my 12th year participating in the RIP Challenge which runs from September 1 thru October 31. Every year I try to read (4) mysteries or thrillers during the challenge.  Here's this years lineup:

Interested? All you have to do is find some spooky reads or movies, or both, and then post about them using the hashtags above.

Sunday Salon - Week in Review

This was a bit more interesting of week for me because my library book group actually met in person on a glorious sunny day the park...socially distanced of course. Although only 8 showed up (we are all seniors except for 2 members), it was great to see readers in person after 6 months apart.  Planning more outdoor meetings, weather permitting for September and October), The book we read was one I didn't think I'd have interest in but, it was very good. Everyone liked this book to some degree, parts were quite sad. Next month's book is Unsheltered; Barbara Kingsolver which I read and reviewed in October of 2018.


Soon to be a major television event from Pascal Pictures, starring Tom Holland.
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
Beautiful sunny day with high temps 76 degrees,  windows open for sleep tonight for sure. Looking forward to fall temps but not what follows.

I didn't watch any of the RNC,  I've heard more than enough lies from this administration in the last 4 years.  The news was sad enough with yet more shooting of black men that just didn't need to happen.  We did watch (2) repeat movies that I loved: Hidden Figures and The Help.



I've read 9 of 10 books I selected for my Summer Reading List. The exception was: Kept Animals (hopefully, I'll get my hands on a copy by year's end).

If It Bleeds
If It Bleeds (4/5 stars)
Double Indemnity
Double Indemnity (4.5/5 stars)
28 Summers
28 Summers (4.5/5 stars)
Girls of Summer
Girls of Summer (4/5 stars)
Kept Animals
Kept Animals (did not read yet)

Finished Reading...

This week I finished -

Currently Reading...

  • One By One; Ruth Ware (in progress)
  • The Lying Life of Adults; Elena Ferrante

                                        Deb Nance at Readerbuzz hosts The Sunday Salon. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Book Review -The End of Her; Shari Lapena

The End of Her; Shari Lapena
Penguin Audio - 2020

Patrick and Stephanie are sleep deprived parents of twins. It's her first marriage and Patrick's second. Patrick's first wife died while expecting their first child; her death ruled an accident, but, was it?  Why didn't Stephanie know all the details about this until Erica, another woman from Patrick's past shows up and is trying to blackmail him? Who is telling the truth?

I've read everything that this author has written but, this was not a favorite. I thought the story was slow to start and I didn't care for the writing, it felt rushed. In addition, there was too much, "he said - she said" which is always very annoying especially on audio.  The characters, except for Stephanie were unlikeable and the storyline quite implausible.  To top it off, the ending made me say "WHAT?" I was so sorry that I purchased this book through Audible. So disappointing.

A generous 1.5/5 stars rating.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Book Review - When I Was You; Amber Garza

When I Was You; Amber Garza
Mira - August 2020

A totally engrossing psychological thriller, that is hard to put down; I can't wait for more books by this talented new author.

When Kelly Medina receives a call from a pediatrician's office reminding her of a well-baby visit appointment for her son, she is stunned. She tells the woman on the other end of the line that she is "19 years too late".  Could there possibly be (2) Kelly Medinas in such a small town? Obsessed with finding out more about Kelly #2 , especially after learning that the woman even goes to the same gym, she decides to wait outside the doctor's office on the day and time of the appointment to see if she shows up.

When the women do meet, the older Kelly quickly has a new enthusiasm for her rather lonely life: she has a grown son, her husband is away a lot and she really only has one other person to talk to.  She soon begins showing up unexpectedly at the younger Kelly's apartment, buying things for the baby and the one-sided friendship soon turns to obsession, quickly spiraling out of control.

When I Was You is a well written thriller with unexpected twists. I was never sure where this story was going. I loved how the story is told from the second person POV so you always know what the older Kelly was thinking (she definitely had some mental health issues); her thoughts were often funny, sometimes just so inappropriate and other times downright terrifying. A must read for psych thriller fans. Don't miss this one!

Rating - 5/5 stars

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review - Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of John Lewis; Jabari Asim (Illustrated by E.B. Lewis)

(Illustrated by E.B. Lewis) - Nancy Paulson Books - 2016

(Grades K-3)

Civil Rights Leader and activist, and Congressman John Lewis, grew up on a farm in Georgia where he attended church with his family regularly.  On the farm John's job, as a young boy, was caring for the chickens: 60 Rhode Island Reds.  Everyday he rose early to feed them and add fresh straw to their nests.  He also talked to the chickens and he also practiced peaching his bible verses like "Blessed are the peacemakers,' while the chickens fought over their morning meal.

When others came to the farm and wanted to barter baking goods for a few chickens, John convinced his parents to trade seeds and eggs instead. He was very protective of his chickens.  He even baptized them and when he preached some would often cluck back at him.  His siblings soon referred to John as : "the preacher"

This was a lovely and inspiring story about hard work, faith and caring for all living things. The watercolor illustrations were so well done and the message of empathy: speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves shows the compassion and spirit of one young boy.  
Highly recommended - 5 stars

I'm looking forward tp reading more about John Lewis in the new adult biography released this week:
 His Truth is Marching on: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by historian, Jon Meacham

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

September Read-along

I read about this read-along posted by Ti on Book Chatter and decided to order a copy of the book; it's a fairly short book and, I like the 1930s vibe as well. You can find more information about the read-along here: Wuthering Expectations.
Here's an overview of Appointment in Samarra:
One of the great novels of small-town American life, Appointment in Samarra is John O’Hara’s crowning achievement. In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction.

Brimming with wealth and privilege, jealousy and infidelity, O’Hara’s iconic first novel is an unflinching look at the dark side of the American dream—and a lasting testament to the keen social intelligence if a major American writer.

Interested in reading something a bit different, why not join in?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - One By One, Ruth Ware

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.

One By One; Ruth Ware
Gallery/Scout Press - 2020

Taken from BBC news website

Thursday, 16th January

The exclusive French ski resort of St Antoine was rocked by news of a second tragedy this week, only days after an avalanche that killed six and left much of the region without power for days. 

Now, reports are emerging that in one remote ski chalet, cut off by the avalanche, a "house of horrors" situation was unfolding, leaving four Britons dead and two hospitalised.

What do you think, read more or pass?  I just started this and am really enjoying it so far.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Book Review - Night Swim; Megan Goldin

The Night Swim, Megan Goldin
St. Martin's Press - 2020

Rachel Krall is a successful true-crime podcaster. Her podcast "Guilty or Not Guilty" features people believed to be wrongly accused of a crime. For her upcoming season she is covering a high profile, small town rape trial where an Olympic hopeful and has been accused of raping the granddaughter of the town's police chief.  

In the midst of the trial Rachel finds a disturbing note on her windshield from a young woman named Hannah who claims her sister Jenny was murdered 25 years earlier and that the case was covered up, it was ruled as an accidental drowning. Hannah is begging Rachel to look into her sister's case which has haunted her for so many years.  It appears that there are many similarities in the two cases both in this small beach town.

The subject matter of rape is a tough topic so readers should be aware of this before deciding if this is a book that they want to read.  It's also a story about memory, secrets, cover ups and the justice system. It's all rolled up into a page turning mystery and courtroom drama.  Told through Rachel and Hannah's third person POV, where Hannah slowly reveals her late sister's story and Rachel's coverage of the current courtroom rape trial plays out.

The characters were well explored, I  felt Hannah's pain and the emotional trauma for what she witnessed and for what had happened to her only sibling Jenny. The author does a very good job tying the two similar stories together;  well done overall.

Rating 4/5 stars

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Week in Review

How was everyones week? The highlight of my week was having my children and grandchildren, my DIL over outside all at the same time. My SIL had a zoom meeting after work so couldn't make it (he was missed). We had pizza and salad, spread out the blankets and lawn chairs and caught up.  Although we've seen my son and his family since COVID, they hadn't visited since Christmas so this was pretty special.

I also got my haircut for the second time since February, another treat, I'm the first appointment with just me and stylist in salon and I was my hair before I arrive. I picked a few things up at the library. Great new system, curbside stopped but, you can call and they brown bag your items, check them out and leave then on 2-tables arranged alphabetically inside the main door - no contact whatsoever.  In-house browsing or use of computers is available by appointment in 45 min. blocks - haven't found a need to do that.

Our state is not fully reopened. Restaurants are curbside, outdoor dining or in some cases, indoor dining at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing. Bars (outside only) and movie theaters are still closed. Gyms are opened with lots of restrictions.

School openings vary in our state. All of the Catholic schools in our area are opening as they have room to spread out to allow for social distancing. My son lives in a very tiny town where the only school has just 12 students total in first and second grade. So my granddaughter will be starting out in the classroom/first grade.  My daughter's 2 girls (1st and 3rd grades) go to an older school with many more students so the only option until November is remote learning. Mom will be taking a LOA from her job to make this work for the family.  I feel so bad for all the parents struggling with educating their children in our new normal.

After some beautiful (no AC) weather, we are back to 90 degrees for a few days. In some ways I want fall weather yet emotionally I can't think about the holidays and the possibility of not having family together. 

Except for the DNC, I didn't watch much television last week. I was so moved by how well done and how inspirational the 4 days of the Democratic convention were.  I was in tears after the touching speech by the 13 year old, Brayden Harrington from NH who stuttered and was inspired by what Joe Biden had told him about himself.  No one is perfect but, I do long for compassion and decency for our country once again.
Exercise and other highlights…
Regular floor exercises most days. Most are leg strengthening exercises but also some yoga. No walks because of the knee and heat.
To Do List…
  • Staying home today: read, play cards, some television and prepare dinner. Got some beautiful fresh picked blueberries from my DIL so perhaps a blueberry buckle dessert.
Retail Therapy...

(2) new hot weather tops - 
Wish my arms looked                                                  like the models LOL


This week I finished - 
  • The Giver of Stars; Jojo Moyes (which I loved)
  • When I was You; Amber Garza (which I loved and need to review)
  • Night Swim; Megan Goldin - (very good and need to review)
Deb Nance at Readerbuzz hosts The Sunday Salon. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Book Review - The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes
Penguin Audio - 2019

Based on the true story of the Packhorse Library initiative in which a group of women traveled by horseback through rural Kentucky to isolated residents.  The 1930's program was part of Eleanor Roosevelt's traveling library program.

The women is this story were so memorable. My favorite character was Alice, an Englishwoman who married Bennett an American imagining a better life. Unfortunately, she finds herself in an intolerable situation living under the same roof with her toxic father-in-law. Her marriage and living in small town KY was not at all what she imagined. There is also Margery with her can do attitude who heads up the initiative,  along with Izzy, Sophie, Beth and Kathleen. 

It's a beautiful story of the power of books and the friendship of women.  I loved how strong and tough as nails the women were despite the personal difficulties each had faced, especially as they stepped outside of traditional roles of women at that time.

This audio was beautifully narrated by Julia Whalen. I thought I might have difficulty following each character's story on audio but, that never was an issue.  Rich in history and well-developed characters, I highly recommend this book.

Rating - 5/5 stars
(borrowed from the library)