Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Lemon; Kwon Yeo-sun

 

Lemon; Kwon Yeo-sun
Other Press - 10/26/2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros -  hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.

SHORTS, 2002

I IMAGINE what happened inside the police interrogation room so many years ago.  By imagine, I don't mean invent.  But it's not like I was actually there, so I don't know what else to call it.  I picture the scene from that day, based on what he told me and some other clues, my own experience and conclusions.  It's not just this scene I imagine.  For over sixteen years, I've pondered, prodded, and worked every detail embroiled in the case known as "The High School Beauty Murder"--to the point I often fool myself into thinking I personally witnessed the circumstances now stamped on my mind's eye.  The imagination just as painful as reality.  No, it's more painful.  After all, what you imagine has no limit or end.


What do you think of that intro?   This was a short novella, just 147 pages. It was an excellent translation from the Korean by Janet Kong.

Brief Review:  This was a very different kind of story from anything I've read in a while. Each of the eight chapters held me captivated and my mind guessing as I tried to piece together how exactly this 2002 murder of Kim Hae, a high school beauty, would play out.  The story takes us back (17) years earlier to a time when there were two male suspects from different social classes but, since there was no concrete evidence the case eventually went cold.  

The story is told from (3) POVs: the victim's younger sister and (2) former classmates of the deceased.  More than solving the crime itself, this is a story that focuses on how the those impacted by the victim's death have dealt with what has happened.  This was a rather quick read that left me thinking; I was happy I had the chance to read it. The book releases today in the US.


Author Bio:
 Kwon Yeo-sun was born in Andong, South Korea, and now lives in  Seoul. In 1996 she received the Sangsang Literary Award for her debut novel, Niche of Green. Her subsequent novels and short stories have received numerous literary awards, including the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, and the Oh Yeong-su Literature Award, among others. Lemon is her first novel to be published in English. Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the 2018 TA First Translation Prize and the 16th LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the 2018 National Translation Award. Her recent translations include Ha Seong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Other Press in exchange for my unbiased review.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Book Review - The Family Plot; Megan Collins

 

The Family Plot; Megan Collins
Atria - August - 2021

After enjoying this author's last book, Behind the Red Door, I was looking forward to her latest release.

The Lighthouse siblings: Dahlia, her twin Andy, Charlie and sister Tate grew up in a secluded island mansion with most unusual parents.  The mother and father were true crime-obsessed and kept a shine of  murder victims. The children were kept isolated and home-schooled and, part of their curriculum was true crime research.  When Andy disappears on the eve of his sixteenth birthday it is suspected that he ran away. Dahlia, his twin is especially affected by the loss of Andy.

Dahila, now 26,  has returned to Blackburn Island following the death of her father and in the process a horrible discovery is made.  In her father's burial plot, Andy's skull has been unearthed, he was killed by an axe to the head.  Who killed Andy and how did he end up buried in the "family plot?"

This was a somewhat gruesome story told from the POV of Dahlia who came across as rather immature for 26. Well, honestly, the whole family is more than a bit strange in the way they have dealt with what has happened. I found it hard to connect with Dahlia and the others.  Actually, everyone in this story seemed a little suspect even though there had been several unsolved murders nearby believed to be the work of a serial killer.  This was a very quick read but,  IMO it was also rather far-fetched as well.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Note: I was able to download the eGalley from NetGalley, Edelweiss and Atria at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Book Review - Getaway; Zoje Stage

 

Getaway; Zoje Stage

                                                             Mulholland Books - August - 2021

This is my second book by author Zoje Stage; in 2018 I read Baby Teeth which was good and offered plenty of things to discuss with fellow readers. You can read my review HERE if interested. 

Getaway takes place in Colorado with (3) - 30-something women. There are sisters Beck and Imogen and Tilda, a close college friend. Beck is a doctor, Imogen is a struggling writer who sufferers from anxiety after a traumatic event and Tilda a former American Idol participant and an influencer. Imogen and Tilda had a falling out and had parted ways but Beck would like to see the friendship mended so the women agree to embark on Grand Canyon backpacking trip.  The sisters are skilled hikers from childhood but Tilda is not.  Pretty early on there is an uncomfortable vibe that something or someone is lurking close by. The women find their campsite ransacked and food missing. Things then get creepier and much worse when a lone male on the run shows up.

This story took a while to hook me. I loved the outdoorsy details which made the locale so vivid at times but, I also had a few scratch my head moments as some of what happens seemed unlikely considering two of the backpackers were experienced.  Despite a few roll-my-eyes moments overall, this was a tension filled thriller once the story finally got going. I think this is one of those thrillers that will have even greater appeal to those who love hiking the more difficult and remote ranges.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

I received an early eGalley of this book from NetGalley and Mulholland Books in exchange for my unbiased review.

Sunday Salon - Winding down with October






Can you believe Thanksgiving is roughly (4) weeks away?  My son asked if we felt comfortable getting together as a family this year and, my immediate response was "yes!"  We've all been vaccinated (except for the granddaughters and they are masked in school as well as pool tested.  I'm hoping with all the supply chain issues, we will still be able to find local turkeys big enough for (10) of us.  I look forward to having everyone together after a somewhat lonely Thanksgiving 2020.   Do you have plans with family this year?  Has anyone gotten the COVID-booster yet?  I have an appointment for the booster on Friday. (We did get flu shots though - no side effects.)

A new addition to my daughter's family. Meet Millie, a 6 month old Australian Shepard. She joins the 7 and 9 year old sisters and 10 year old, 3-legged cat Rae (who has been great about the newcomer thus far.)



Rae

PAST WEEK - The weather has been lovely and this is the first year I can recall not having to turn our heat on by October 15th. The days have reached some 70 degree highs, no frost yet but, this week the temperatures will be dropping - hey it is to be expected when you live in New England.  We managed to take some nice walks and just enjoy time outside.  A few weeks ago we took a ride to the Berkshires and although although it was nice at home it rained there.  There was tons of tourist traffic and construction traffic as well, so it kind of put a "damper" on our plans.  We ended up hitting the outlet mall which wasn't busy at all but, decided on delaying our Stockbridge lunch plans for somewhere outside of the hustle and bustle. It all worked out in the end.

THIS WEEK - I have a hair appointment on Tuesday and my book group lunch gathering on Wednesday and then our meeting at 2. Our book is Stay With Me; Ayobami Adebaygo which I hope to begin today.  Have your read it?  I spoke to a few people who really liked it. 

BOOKS

I've been reading a lot; still behind on reviews though and winding down on the RIP Challenge.  I read 12 books from my list of 20 and still have (2) more to review: Getaway; Zoje Stage - 3.5/5 stars and The Family Plot; Megan Collins - 4/5 stars.  

I ended up reading several non fiction books this month which I really enjoyed as well (for me it was kinda non-fiction October.)





Hope your week and month has gone well.



(no review yet but it was excellent)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Book Review - Red Crosses; Sasha Filipenko

 

Red Crosses; Sasha Filipenko

Europa Editions - August - 2021

It's a rare book that has an overall sad storyline can also make the reader smile at times.

Sasha Alexander is a 30 year old widower and father of a young daughter whose life is in upheaval since the loss of his wife.  He moves back to Minsk in an effort to move beyond his loss.  Oddly, on the door of his new apartment he finds a large red cross.  It isn't long before he learns the culprit is his neighbor, the 91 year old Tatyana Alexeyvena who is slowly losing her short term memory. She painted the crosses as a way to find her way back to her own apartment.  

With her long term memory pretty much intact, Tatyana is anxious to tell her new neighbor her earliest memories. Born in London, she moved to Russia at the age of nine (her father was Russian).  She marries, has a daughter and her husband eventually became a POW in WWII.  If that isn't terrible enough she was seen by the Russian government as a traitor and sent to the gulag for a decade where she was tortured.

So it's probably difficult, based on this, to see how a story like this could occasionally make me smile yet, it did. I loved the Tatyana character and the way she tells us about her past. Although she seemed lucid most of the time,  memory is a funny thing even for those of us who still seem to have it all together.  Do we always remember the painful parts of our past exactly as it happened?  For a story that is only about 200 pages, this wasn't a quick read for me. The translation was very good but the way the story is told takes took time for me. There are telegrams, poems, letters peppered within the story.  I do wish Sahsa's story was a bit more developed but, overall, this book was well-done. It's been a long while since I've read a book translated from the Russian so I was happy I tried this one.

Rating - 4/5 stars

The eGalley was provided to me as a free download courtesy of Europa Editions and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Book Review - Life Among the Savages; Shirley Jackson

 

Life Among the Savages; Shirley Jackson

Dreamscape Media - 2015 (6 hrs. 31 min)

Every October I automatically peruse a list of books available by author Shirley Jackson. Generally it's because I'm looking for a darker or creepier type of story but, this year I came across, Life Among the Savages,  and I ended up loving it. The book was originally published in 1953, the audio in 2015 is read by Lesa Lockford who did a great job.

This was written as a series of essays featuring an unnamed mother and father with two children who learn they are being evicted from their New York City apartment.  They decide to move to rural Vermont with their two children who are not yet in school.  It's the early 1950s and the family doesn't drive, but they do own thousands of books (love them already) which will need to be transported.  Both parents smoke and like their wine and while the mother tries to do it all the father seems unfazed by all that needs to get done. They end up living in an ancient house and besides getting settled, figuring out logistics in their new locale,  the youngest child has to get enrolled in kindergarten, there is shopping (without a car initially) meal preparation and more.  It's clear this woman, this family needs help.  She can't count on her hands-off husband who eventually ends up teaching a couple of classes at Bennington College, and when home spends some time writing and obsessing over his coin collection.  An attempt at hiring some part time help leads to some very funny outcomes.  If the mother isn't stressed enough, over the course of the book she gives birth to two more children.  Don't get me wrong the father came in handy when they found themselves with rodents - another hilarious event.  Book one of this bio ends shortly after the birth of the couple's fourth child.  

Are you familiar with Leave to Beaver the 1950/60s series with the Clever Family. Remember June the perfect stay-at-home mom and Ward, the dad who went to work each day, dinner was always ready, the house always perfect? Well, this family isn't like them in the least but, they were so fun to spend time with and get to know.  It's no wonder Shirley Jackson died before her 50th birthday, in her sleep, as she napped one afternoon in 1968.

Growing up in the1950s and 60s (we didn't have a car then either), I could definite relate to a few of the conundrums this family found themselves in.  I just requested book #2 of her child rearing exploits, Raising Demons from the library; it should be fun.  Have you read this one?

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

(I downloaded the audio from my public library.)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review - Once There Were Wolves; Charlotte McConaghy

 


Once There Were Wolves; Charlotte McConaghy
Flatiron Books and Penguin Random House Audio - 2021

After the author's last book, Migrations, made my favorites list last year I knew I wanted to read her latest release.  This one is good but, it's also quite different and a bit disturbing too.

Inti Flynn is a lead biologist working on a project that will reintroduce fourteen gray wolves into a remote part of the Scottish Highlands in an effort to rebuild our ecosystem whose forests are being destroyed by the lumber industry.  The wolves will also help control the deer population in the process.   When Inti arrives her mute twin sister Aggie is with her.  Inti's mission is two-fold: she wants to help the environment and also help her sister Aggie to heal from her past trauma.   Inti is met with resistance from locals, farmers who are concerned about the wolves destroying their sheep and when a farmer is found dead it is likely the blame will be put on the wolves but, not so fast here.  

This is one darker story that has a lot going on in it for a book that isn't all that long (272 pages).  There is the wolves aspect, environmental aspects, the sisters past, a murder mystery and even a romance. I loved the background on the wolves, the deep bond between Inti and the wolves as well as the environmental aspect of the story.  I also liked the flashbacks as to what has happened in the sisters past and the fact that I learned something new: a condition called, "Mirror Touch Synesthesia" it is a condition that enables a person to feel the sensory experiences of others.  It's something that can be both a gift and a curse.  It was first experienced by Inti when was just eight years old when she witnessed her father gutting a rabbit while living in the woods of British Columbia. Thus making sense of the opening sentence of the book:

"When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach."

If you are interested in the environment and something quite different, try this one but, beware there are some vivid unpleasant details along the way.  

Both the audio book and print version were borrowed from my public library system.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Book Review - David Copperfield's History of Magic;David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland and Homer Liwag (photos)

 

David Copperfield's History of Magic

David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland and Homer Liwag (photos)

(Simon & Schuster Audio - Release date 10/26/2021 - (4 hours 31 min)

I was lucky enough to see David Copperfield's Las Vegas magic extravaganza about twenty years ago, it was such a fantastic show.  So when I saw this new book I knew I'd want to listen to it.  Somehow I thought this was a memoir and in a small part it is but, the book is so much more.

David Copperfield, a New Jersey native, was a shy kid who at the age of ten asked his mother for a ventriloquist dummy -- so began his fascination with magic and illusion.  He was the youngest person ever to be accepted into the Society of Magicians.  

In this well researched book Copperfield along with fellow magicians Richard Wiseman and David Britland share the stories of some 28 magicians and illusionists, some dating back to the 16th century. The book is full of background on the early tricksters, magicians and illusionists and what they became famous for.  It was fascinating to learn how each of the magicians and illusionists seemed to inspire others to become passionate of their craft.

Anyone who has had an interest or curiosity about magic should check this book out. I loved it.  The audio was read by David Copperfield and Fedor Chin who were both excellent and highly recommended. However, now I want to get a copy of the print version as I understand there are some 100+ photographs and objects from Copperfield's Museum of Magic.

Rating - 5/5 stars


Audio download was provided to me by Simon & Schuster Audio in exchange for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Sentence; Louise Erdrich

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


The Sentence; Louise Erdrich
Harper - November 9, 2021

Time in Time Out

Earth to Earth

"While in prison, I received a dictionary. It was sent to me with a note.  This is the book I would take to a deserted island.  Other books were to arrive from my teacher.  But as she had known, this one proved of endless use.  The first word I looked up was the word 'sentence.'  I had received an impossible sentence of sixty years from the lips of a judge who believed in an afterlife.  So the word with its yawning c, with its hissing sibilants and double n's, this repetitive bummer of a word made of slyly stabbing letters that surrounded an isolate human t, this word was in my thoughts every moment of every day.  Without a doubt, had the dictionary not arrived, this light word that lay so heavily upon me would have crushed me, or what was left of me, after the strangeness of what I have done.

What do you think -- pass or read more?  I have enjoyed this author in the past so I'm looking forward to this one.    (I didn't read anything about this book but, from the intro I'm feeling like the person in prison is female. What do you think?)

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Review - The Book of Mother; Violaine Huisman

 


The Book of Mother; Violaine Huisman

Scribner & Simon & Schuster Audio - 10/19/2021

Translated from French by Leslie Camhi, The Book of Mother, is a deeply moving and, at times, a rather painful read.  It is a story about dysfunctional mother/daughter relationships: what goes on and how the individuals are affected by the emotional trauma and abuse later in life. 

The mother, Catherine, A.K.A. "Maman" is a beautiful but broken woman who suffers from mental illness in the form of manic depression.  Her daughters Violaine age 10 and Elsa, age 12 are the victims of their mother's instability in the form of sometimes violent mood swings and just an overall pervasive chaotic, unpredictable home environment.  The story takes place in Paris in the wake of Catherine's third marriage falling apart.  There is a horrible scene when she deliberately drives her car into traffic with the two daughters in the car.  Fortunately, everyone survives but it's clear that Catherine needs an intervention and  psychiatric stay.  The girl's father (second husband of Catherine) isn't interested in being tied down raising his daughters so the girls try to hide their situation from school officials - at least for a while.

The story is told in three parts - first by young Violaine (yes, same first name as the author but this is debut fiction, one which has a semi-autobiographical feel.)   We learn through Violaine what went on in the household and how she and her sister tried to understand the many things they witnessed and how their mother could mistreat them as she often did.  We also learn about Catherine's early life through a third person POV, which helps the reader understand what has "perhaps" happened early on to cause her to behave as he does and what triggers her violent mood swings.  Finally, the last part deals with the sisters as adults and trying to process what they have endured try to move forward with their adult lives.

I'm always interested in stories involving dysfunctional/mother daughter relationships.  Catherine comes across as vain and self-absorbed yet, there were moments when I felt for her and what had happened to her when she was younger.  This is a tough read but, it is well-written and the translation is excellent as well.  One thing that struck me was how much these sisters loved their deeply flawed mother despite all they had to endure.  Potential readers should be aware of potential triggers: sexual abuse, mental illness, substance abuse and suicide.

Rating - 4/5 stars

This was a combo read/listen for me. The audiobook was narrated by Tosca Hopkins who did a very good job. The eGalley and audio download were provided to me at no cost by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Book Review - Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

 

Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

Doubleday & Penguin Random House Audio - 9/2021

After being so impressed and moved by Colson Whitehead's last book, The Nickel Boys,  I decided anything the author wrote next would be an automatic read for me.

In Harlem Shuffle the reader is transported to 1959 Harlem, NY where we meet Ray Carney, a black man and the owner of Carney's Furniture on 125th Street.  Ray went to business school and tries to be an upstanding business man unlike his father Mike, a shady character and not at all a role model for his son.  Ray is also a decent family man who definitely married above his class as his wife Elizabeth comes from a prominent family.  Elizabeth is expecting their second child which means their small apartment will soon be a little more cramped.  For a little extra cash flow Ray begins to take in a few items from his cousin Freddie to sell, of course the items are likely stolen.  What starts out as only slightly dirty hands soon turns into something bigger and involves a bad element from bad cops, gangsters , crooked politicians and bankers and other bad-seed elements of society.  Ray's job now is to find the balance and survive and that won't be easy.

This novel is divided into tile periods: 1959, 1961 and 1964 and the real life Harlem Riots.  This story is vastly different fro The Nickel Boys, but it has well developed, memorable characters that help drive the story as well as a sense of place that seems to come alive as well.  I thought this novel was different and enjoyable. I liked the way the author captured Harlem, its people, the discrimination and the police violence.  The genre is hard to characterize but, to me it was darker crime story but, it did have more than a few funny scenes.  

This book was a combo read (eBook) and audio download. The audio was narrated by Dion Graham, the same person that narrated John Grisham's book: Sooley. He did an excellent job once again.  These books were made available to me at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Book Reviews - The Pessimists; Bethany Ball and Nothing But Blackened Teeth; Kassandra Khaw

It's always tough for me to write even a brief review when I just didn't enjoy the book but,  I always feel the need to tell a little bit about everything I read. These are (2) books that I expected to enjoy more.

The Pessimists; Bethany Ball

Grove Press/Dreamscape Media - 2021 

(8 hrs. 13 min.) (Carlotta Brentan - narrator / good)

I don't think I've read a novel set in Connecticut in quite a while so the setting definitely pulled me in.  The story features (3) upper middle class suburban families.  We meet soccer moms who want everything in their lives to be perfect but deep down are failing miserably and dissatisfied with life.  The couples have some serious issues and secrets: fertility and other health issues, infidelities, even preparing a basement cache for the end of the world, Who cares though as long as appearances have these individuals coming across as having it all together.  Besides the couples we have Agnes, the Nazi-like headmistress of The Petra School, an elementary school whose tuition is more than many colleges but where learning early on (even reading and math) and competition seem discouraged and no Jews please.

I know this book was supposed to be satirical but, for me I just never connected with the characters and the absurdity of their situations.  On audio all of the characters, their issues and unhappiness just seemed to blur together without a real plot line to the story.

Rating - Disappointed

Nothing But Blackened Teeth; Kassandra Khaw

Macmillan Audio - 10/2021

(2 hours - 32 min) (Suehyla El-Attar - narrator/good)

This sounded like a decent novella for a spooky October read.  The story features a group of five college-age friends who rent an ancient Heian mansion believe to be haunted as a wedding gift venue.  The Japanese folklore history here is that a bride-to-be was buried alive just before her wedding.  As the story unfolds we learn that one of the friends struggles with mental illness, there is too much alcohol consumed and soon the current day bride-to-be is believed to be taken by a spirit. Now it's up to the remaining friends to see that she is released.

I was never a fan of slasher movies but this short book had that same type of eerie vibe. Some parts seemed downright silly too but, isn't that cover art terrific?  Fortunately,  the entire audio was just 2.5 hours so it wasn't a struggle to finish this one. 

Rating - Disappointed

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Book Review - Lymph & Longevity: The Untapped Secret to Health; Gerald M Lemole M.D.

Lymph & Longevity: The Untapped Secret to Health; Gerald M Lemole M.D.

Simon & Schuster Audio - October - 2021

In just ten short chapters (audiobook is just under 5 hours total) I felt I had a much better understanding of why our lymphatic system is vital in preventing diseases. From such killer diseases like heart issues and cancers to minimizing cognitive decline and inflammation which attacks our body and causing quality of life issues and unnecessary pain.  There are chapters on: heart disease, cancer, GI disorders, weight management, brain & mind conditions and more.  The importance of body/soul/spirit - practicing meditation, the benefits of massages and yoga (covered in some detail). It also discusses why eating right and watching our weight in an effort to move toxins out of our system and stay healthy is so critical. 

Yes, some of these things covered in this book we've learned though other sources but just how crucial a healthy lymphatic system is to a good quality of life and a long healthy life is what is key here.  How we achieve this is critical in healing our imperfect bodies and preventing the more dreaded diseases in the future. 

I was so impressed with this audiobook.  The book is narrated by Fred Sanders who did an amazing job speaking at a pace which was conducive to absorbing all that this book had to offer.; he voice was quite pleasing as well.

The printed version includes some menus, recipes, information on supplements and foods to eat for flow discussed which was a little difficult to fully take in on audio so I hope to also pick up a copy of the print edition as a guide for future reference as well.

Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me access to this audio download in exchange to my unbiased review.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

About the Author

Gerald Lemole, MD, is a board-certified cardio thoracic surgeon, integrative physician, and a pioneer in the study of lymph. He is a full professor of surgery at Temple University and Thomas Jefferson Medical College. In 1968, Lemole was a member of the surgical team that performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States. He lectures at medical centers and universities around the world and lives in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Think Halloween with a few great books for Kids: Rise of Zombert and Return of Zombert; Kara LaRue - Poultrygeist; Eric Geron and Twitchy Witchy Itch; Priscilla Tey

 
 Rise of Zombert; Kara LaRue 
(Book 1 of 3)
Candlewick Press - 2020
(ages 8 - 12)

Nine year old Mellie has twin younger brothers that keep her parents pretty busy.   Mellie has plenty of time to spend with her good friend Danny, a boy who loves everything of about horror movies including making them.  One day the duo comes upon a scrawny looking black cat and Mellie decides to take it home and keep it a secret from her family by keeping it in her room. Big mistake...when the cat she named Bert destroys her stuffed animals and does some other freaky things her friend Danny is convinced Bert is not an ordinary cat and perhaps the renaming of Bert as Zombert  is more appropriate as he is acting like a bit of a zombie cat!

This book will amuse cat loving kiddos who enjoy the antics of a sometimes psycho-cat.  I liked the Danny and Mellie characters a lot and the way the story is told from multiple POVs including that of the cat.  The story does have a bit of a cliffhanger ending but, worry-not as book #2, Return of Zombert, has now been released.


Return of Zombert; Karen LaRue
(Book 2 of 3)
Candlewick Press - 2021
(Ages 8 - 12)

ZomBert is back and now he is an official member of Mellie Gore's household and we know a little more about where he came from and why he was acting a bit wild. Zombert escaped from the YumnCo Laboratories, a company that does not have animals best interests at heart.  Now at Mellie's house Bert is resting, eating and is healthy once again. He looks so good that Mellie is convinced he can win first prize, $200 in a contest, but the sponsor of the contest are up to no good and have other plans for the cat.  Of course Mellie and her friends are not about to let harm come to Bert.  

A very good follow-up with just enough mystery and spooky suspense for the targeted age group. Fun illustrations only add to the overall delight of the series.


Poultrygeist; Eric Geron (Ill. Pete Oswald)

Candlewick Press - 2021

(ages 4-8)

Do you remember the corny joke --"Why did the chicken cross the road?"  Well, the answer, "to get to the other side" has a whole new Halloween, ghostly meaning in this delightful kid pleaser.

Chicken's job is one that no one wants ---scaring people by pretending to be a ghost.  You be the judge -- is chicken a friendly ghost or a spooky one?

I loved the clever premise of this book and it's perfect for younger kids and Halloween.  In some cases adults may need to explain some of the funny, clever parts of the story so the littlest ones can fully enjoy it but, 7 and 8 year olds who enjoy spooky stuff will enjoy the darker elements here.  It's cute, intended to be funny and I thought the art was incredible as well.


Twitchy Witchy Itch; Priscilla Tey

Candlewick Press - 2021

(ages 4 - 8)

It's tea time with friends but, Itch is a bit of a Twitch when it comes to obsessing over preparations before friends arrive.  She get's herself all worked up into a bit of a frenzy.  Is it all that important having everything just perfect?  

There is a great message of friendship here. The story is told with humor and fun tongue-twisting rhymes. Have no fear parents, there is nothing really scary here. The perfect, fun Halloween book for younger children.  The illustrations are outstanding.



Thanks go to Candlewick Press for sending these fun books to me in exchange for my unbiased reviews.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Getaway; Zoje Stage and Once There Were Wolves; Charlotte McConaghy


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

This week I couldn't decide which book to post so I selected (2) that I will be reading this week.  

Getaway; Zoje Stage
Mulholland Books - 8/2021

Prologue

"It might have been a beautiful day. In her memory, the golden leaves of a gingko tree shimmered in poignant juxtaposition to the harrowing splatters of blood. But in reality, it could have been an ordinary maple tree. And the blood, though it had been shed, pooled indoors, beyond her field of vision.

Within moments of it happening, Imogen lost track of what was real, what was imagined.  Had she heard screams? Or were those in her head too?  Late, she could only tell the police her name, why she was there, what time she arrived and other unhelpful details.  When they asked what she saw, Imogen had shaken her head, distrustful of her awareness."

Once There Were Wolves; Charlotte McConaghy
Flatiron Books - 8/2021

1

"When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach.

In a forest in the wilds of British Columbia, sat his workshop, dusty and reeking of blood.  He had skins hanging to dry and they brushed our foreheads are we crept through them.  I shivered, even then,  as Aggie grinned devilishly in front of me, bolder than me by far.  After summers spent wishing to know what happened in this shed I  was suddenly desperate to be gone from it."

What do you think of these opening passages - read more or pass?

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Book Review - The Ugly Cry: A Memoir; Danielle Henderson

 


The Ugly Cry: A Memoir; Danielle Henderson
Penguin Audio - 2021

I was first attracted to this book by the catchy title and the cute little girl on the cover.   I felt an immediate urge to know more about Danielle's story.  So happy I read this memoir and, now my brief review.

Danielle Henderson's childhood was anything but normal. In the mid 80's at the age of 10 Danielle and her 11 year old brother Cory were dropped off at her grandparents house in upstate New York.  Her mother had no real plans to return for the children, choosing a life of drugs and multiple boyfriends over mothering.

The grandmother a hardworking, chain smoking, foul-mouthed woman with a penchant for horror movies thought that her child-rearing days were over yet, she did what she could in the only way she knew how and raised a second family.  

It is Danielle who narrates this audiobook and she does a wonderful job telling her story.  Yes, she was a deeply wounded girl who was abandoned by her mother and, yes, she suffered abuse in many forms early in life, yet she tells her story in a way that even has a way of lightening the painful moments of her life. There is also much humor infused in this story. I enjoyed all of the pop culture references from the 70s-90s, the time period that I raised my own two children.  I loved Danielle and enjoyed the way she described her challenges growing up  as a black girl in a white neighborhood.  I liked the ways she chose to stand out from the crowd in high school.  I wished the book gave even more information about the woman she became but I was, of course, able to Google it.  I also loved her spicy, foul-mouthed grandmother, the woman who stepped up to the plate, the woman who was not a role model for child rearing by any means but, she was a woman who raised Danielle with a sense of toughness and toward a greater sense of self-worth.

Readers who enjoy stories about dysfunctional childhood should add this to their reading/listening lists.  

Thanks go to Penguin Random House audio for allowing me access to the (7 hr. 33 min) audio download in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

(About the Author)
Danielle Henderson is a TV writer (Maniac, Dare Me, Harper House), retired freelance writer, and a former editor for Rookie. She cohosts the film podcast I Saw What You Did, and a book based on her popular website, Feminist Ryan Gosling, was released by Running Press in August 2012. She has been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, AFAR magazine, BuzzFeed, and The Cut, among others. She likes to watch old episodes of Doctor Who when she is on deadline, one of her tattoos is based on the movie Rocky, and she will never stop using the Oxford comma. Danielle reluctantly lives in Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Book Review - On Animals; Susan Orlean

On Animals; Susan Orlean

Avid Reader Press & Simon & Schuster Audio 10/12/2021

 On Animals was an interesting collection of essays written and published by the author over the last 25 years. Each of the essays examines animal-human relationships from the ones we are most familiar with: the animals who become a part or our family to farm animals and exotic animals as well.  Some of the animals featured in the essays were: tigers in New Jersey, lions in Africa, working oxen pairs in Cuba, the use of pack animals in rocky terrain like Afghanistan, show dogs, dog breeders, donkeys, rabbits, pandas, racing pigeons, Keiko, the orca whale featured in Free Willy and more.   

One essay in particular made me sad when the author wrote about the use of animals in the early movies. Animals in movies at that time were considered disposable, especially horses in movies like Ben Hur. It was terrible how cruelly they were treated at that time.

The essays were based on some of the authors previously published articles, observations and travel research over the last 25 years.  The author, at one point, also gave up city life in Manhattan for farm life in upstate New York where she was able to grow her animal passion - when she moved her animals moved as well.

As an animal lover, I found this collection of essays to be informative and fun to read. I enjoyed the writing style as well  I think most animal lovers will enjoy this book which was so full of interesting information. This was a combo read (eGalley) and (audio download) for me.  The audio was read by the author. For some reason the author's tone seemed a bit flat and uneven to me at times so I opted for eGalley as a supplement.

Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio, Avid Reader Press and Edelweiss for allowing me early access to this interesting collection.

RATING - 4/5 stars

Book Review - Peril; Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

 Peril; Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Simon & Schuster Audio - 9/21/2021

Peril is the third book by Bob Woodward about the Trump Administration; it follows Fear and Rage  (which I did not read.) I was particularly interested in this book as covers much of the final year of the Trump presidency as well as the first 100 days of the Biden presidency.  I also have a lot of respect for both Bob Woodward and Robert Costa as journalists who, in my opinion, speak the truth.

The book has 70+ chapters and is the result of some 200 interviews, transcripts, emails, secret orders and diary entries from individuals who were said to be inside sources.  Just a few of the eye opening chapters included Trumps admission to downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus, General Milley's need to take action after irrational behavior by Trump. Paul Ryan's concerns about the amoral behaviors of a narcissistic president. Trumps continuous pressure on Mike Pence to overturn the free and fair election, as well as the Pence call to Dan Quale asking his opinion. Trumps unwillingness to accept the reality of a lost reelection bid and jeopardizing democracy in the process, and the Trump presidency culminating in the January 6th insurrection.  There is also to a lesser degree background information about information about Biden and his campaign as well as, Biden's first 100 days which includes lots of detail on the Rescue Act and what it took to get it passed.

A worthy read for readers interested in politics. I'm pretty sure regardless of your political preferences, there will be some eye opening moments and insight gained by reading this book.  The problem, I suspect, is whether some will choose to believe what they read in this much divided nation of ours.  

The audio book was narrated by Robert Pertroff who did a fantastic job. The audio is 13+ hours  and the download was provided at no cost to my by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

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

Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead
Doubleday - 9/14/2021

THE TRUCK
1959

"Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..."

ONE

His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June. Ray Carney was having on of his run-around days--uptown, downtown, zipping across the city.  Keeping the machine humming.  First up was Radio Row, to unload the final three consoles, two RCAs and a Magnavox, and pick up the TV he left.  He'd given up on radios, hadn't sold one in a year and a half no matter how much he marked them down and begged.  Now they took up space in the basement that he needed for the new recliners coming in from Argent next week and whatever he picked up from the dead lady's apartment that afternoon.  The radios were top-of-the-line three years ago; now padded blankets hid their slick mahogany cabinets, fastened by leather straps to the truck bed.  The pickup bounced in the unholy rut of the West Side Highway.


What do you think --read more or pass? I love the initial description of Carney and, I've enjoyed this author in the past as well.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Book Review - An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed; Helen Tursten


Soho Press - 10/4/2021

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed, is a deliciously delightful series of connected mysteries featuring Maud, a feisty, cunning, 88 year old (almost 89) retired language teacher.  She is a woman who has a unique way of doing away or at least getting even with those who get in her way and/or irritate her or the people she cares about. When the police question her she has a way of pretending she is a bit senile or has a hearing problem and can't find her hearing aids. Of course this all works to her advantage because, seriously, who would expect an 88 year old woman of murder and mayhem?

This series begins with an overview of the last story from her earlier collection about an antique dealer who meets an unfortunate demise at the hands of Maud when she perceived he was trying to take advantage of her in a deal gone bad.  So it's time to get away from Sweden and take a luxury vacation joining (7) strangers on a safari to South Africa. Don't worry about Maud she's sharp, she's spry and can take care of herself just fine.

In most of these very brief stories Maud recalls an incident from an earlier time in her life and proceeds to tell the reader all about it. For example, there was a time when Maud was a teacher and was then demoted to a sub when another teacher returned from her leave.  Also, when her young developmentally disabled sister was bullied and Maud found a way to get even with the two bullies or, the time she found her neighbor in tears over things the woman's son had done and there is more to delight in as well.

Table of Contents

  1. An Elderly Lady Begins to Remember Her Past
  2. Little Maud Sets a Trap
  3. Lancing a Boil
  4. The Truth About Charlotte
  5. The Peter Pan Problem
  6. An Elderly Lady Takes a Trip to Africa
  7. Cookie Recipes  (probably best not to attempt these)

While I enjoyed the latest adventures with Maud series, I think I liked her first in this series: An Elderly Lady is Up To No Good (2018) just a tad better (review here).  Although this could certainly be enjoyed as a standalone of short crime mysteries, I highly recommend reading and enjoying the books in order - I doubt you will be disappointed, Maud is an unforgettable character. The writing is often witty, the stories work beautifully as the reader is privy to Mauds every depraved and misdirected thought which makes the reading and listening experience quite fun.

This book was expertly translated.  I was lucky enough to have access to both the Highbridge audio (NetGalley), read by Ann Richardson who was excellent as well as the eGalley provided by Soho Press and Edelweiss.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars