Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Week in Review - Favorite Books of July and Thinking About August

Thank You Deb@ Reader Buzz

This week was "a very good busy." Lunch with a friend, catching up by phone with a few other friends, book group meeting, hair appointment and a somewhat annoying fine dining experience.

The book group met to discuss: Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane. I loved this one and thought others would as well and although most enjoyed it some were quick to find fault with certain aspects of the writing.  Oh well, it will be interesting as next months book is American Dirt which I also liked a lot so I have no idea what my fellow group readers will think.  Our fine dining experience was interesting on Friday night.  We had last been to this restaurant in May and the website still states "all wait staff wears masks". We are vaccinated but because of the variant virus to worry about now we decided to wear masks. Well, NO ONE, maitre d or wait staff had masks on - just us.  I would have expected when our waiter came to the table seeing we had masks on would put one on but, NOPE. I didn't want to make a big deal as there were only two other tables in our dining room, but we won't be going back anytime soon even though the food was very good as was service.   Are you noticing that all of your favorite finer restaurants have eliminated some of your former favorites?  It seems to be the case wherever we have gone in the last few months.


I caught up on some reading and reviews that I put off.

  1. The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer (NF); Liz Rodman - 3.5/5 stars
  2. Kill Your Darlings; David Bell - 4/5 Setting: KY
  3. Dead By Dawn; Paul Doiron - 4/5 Setting: Maine
  4. Mrs March; Virginia Feito - 5/5 Setting: NYC (briefly-Maine)
July Reading Favorites

  1. The Temple House Vanishing; Rachel Donohue - 4/5 - Setting: Ireland (July)
  2. Northern Spy; Flynn Berry - 4/5  Setting: Ireland
  3. When the Stars Go Dark; Paula McLain - 3.5/5 Setting: CA
  4. The Therapist; B.A. Paris - 3.5/5 Setting: London suburb
  5. Swimming Back to Trout River; Linda Rui-Feng - 4.5/5 Setting: China and US
  6. Malibu Rising; Taylor Jenkins Reid - 4/5 Setting: CA
  7. Such a Quiet Place; Megan Miranda - 3.5/5 Setting: VA
  8. Hairpin Bridge; Taylor Adams - 4/5 stars Setting: Montana
  9. That Summer; Jennifer Weiner - 3/5 stars Setting: Cape Cod, MA and PA
  10. The Guncle; Steven Rowley - 4.5/5 - Setting CA and CT
  11. The Newcomer; Mary Kay Andrews - 4/5 - Setting: FL and NY
  12. The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer (NF); Liz Rodman - 3.5/5 stars
  13. Kill Your Darlings; David Bell - 4/5 Setting: KY
  14. Dead By Dawn; Paul Doiron - 4/5 Setting: Maine
  15. Mrs March; Virginia Feito - 5/5 Setting: NYC (briefly-Maine)
YTD Total (117) - YTD - DNF - (10)

Countries traveled to through the books I've read:  Ireland (2x) , London and China 

US States CA (3X), VA, MT, MA, PA, CT, FL, NY (2X)

August Plans

My eGalleys and review copies are a bit out of control to say the least so I want to try to be more on top os this moving forward. 

Here are (10) books that I hope to read or finish. - we will se how that goes.
  1. Shoulder Season; Christina Clancy
  2. We Are the Brennans; Tracey Lange (in process)
  3. The Stranger Behind You; Carol Goodman (in process)
  4. The Last Chance Library; Freya Sampson
  5. No Touching; Ketty Rouf
  6. Where I Left Her; Amber Garza  
  7. Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead; Emily Austin
  8. Getaway; Zoje Stage
  9. His Only Wife; Peace Adzo Medle
  10. Songbirds; Christy Lefteri
How was your month? Are there any books you are looking forward to?

Friday, July 30, 2021

Book Review - Mrs. March; Virginia Feito


TITLE/AUTHOR:   Mrs March; Virginia Feito

PUBLISHER:  Liveright


GENRE: Fiction / Domestic/Psych Thriller

FORMAT:  eGalley / LENGTH: 302

SOURCE:   Edelweiss

SETTING(s):  New York City (and briefly Maine)

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  An addictive story about one whack-a-doodle lady you will never forget; you owe it to yourself to read about Mrs March.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Mrs March is the wife of George March a successful author who has just published a successful book that everyone is talking about.  The couple lives on the upper East Side in NYC and the couple has an eight year old son named Jonathan.  The March family has a maid named Martha and Mrs March (we never learn her first name until the very last sentence in the book), is very concerned about appearances and hosting parties, mostly for her husband's benefit, she also has an exaggerated sense of self.  The highlight of her days seems to be going out daily shopping and stopping at a local pastry shop for "black olive bread and macarons."  It is on one of these daily excursions that Patricia, the "big haired red cheeked woman" who manages the shop enlightens Mrs March by asking her, "Isn't this the first time he's based a character on you?"  The problem is the main character in George's new book is a despicable woman and whore that no one wants to sleep with.

From this point on Mrs Marches paranoia and delusional thoughts begin to spiral out of control as she wonders whether the Johanna character in the new book could really be what her husband thinks about her. The more she dwells on whether she was the inspiration for his book, the worse her thoughts become. She begins suspect that her husband may be a murderer and is determined to find out if her hunches are correct. What follows is the continued unraveling of poor Mrs March. The reader gets the impression that something bad is about to be revealed or even something more sinister is yet to come but, that is the hook with this fantastic story. The reader is privy to every delusional thought and action by Mrs March including flashbacks to some rather bizarre childhood incidents.

The story appears to take place in modern days yet, it also appears that the internet and cellphones were not available so perhaps it may be the late 1970s or early 1980s. This is an example of a book that was so well-written that it did not matter that none of the characters were likable. The images created are ones that will stick with me.  It's this type of dark, dead pan character that tends to work so well for me. I'm not surprised that this has already been optioned for a screenplay as I could envision it as I read.  A must read for readers who like stories with a darker side. It's a definite page-turner but, also a story I did not want to end. This is sure to make my list of favorites for 2021.

This book releases on August 10, 2021. Thanks go to Liveright and Edelweiss for allowing me early access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING:  5/5

Just one of the hilarious quotes and examples of writing style

"She ended up purchasing lingerie at a small store downtown owned by a limping, mole-ridden woman who correctly guessed her bra size after one look at her fully clothed form.  Mrs. March liked the way the woman had pandered to her, complimenting her figure and, better yet,  maligning other clients' figures between disappointed oy veys. The women in this store gazed at her expensive clothes with perceptible yearning. She never returned to Bloomingdales."

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Book Review - Dead By Dawn; Paul Doiron


TITLE/AUTHORDead By Dawn; Paul Doiron

PUBLISHER:   Macmillan Audio


GENRE: Fiction/ mystery

FORMAT: audio download LENGTH: 8 hours 44 min.

SOURCE:  NetGalley and Publisher / audio download

SETTING(s):  Maine

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A killer wants Maine Game Warden,  Mike Bowditch dead and soon he will be fighting to stay alive.  

BRIEF REVIEW:  This story starts out in high gear with Game Warden, Mike Bowditch and his half-wolf dog Shadow, crated in his truck, driving home on a frigid winter's night when large spiked jacks-shaped objects placed randomly in his path. This causes his tires to blow out and his truck careens into the frozen Androscoggin river below.  Will man and dog survive the icy plunge?  Who set him up and is someone waiting to attack as Mike tries to escape the vehicle and save himself and the dog?

In the other storyline of what happened earlier in the day we learn that Mike was asked to revisit the death of a wealthy professor by his difficult daughter-in-law. She believes her FIL's death was not accidental (death by drowning) as it was ruled. She claims that her late FIL been duck hunting on the Androscoggin river and supposedly fell out of his boat and drowned yet when he was found he did not have his life vest on. She claims that he would never have gone on a boat without a life vest. She further suspects a survivalist who was hunting with him that day had something to do with his death.  

The entire story is told over a 24 hour period and the writing is very good and engaging. I loved the 1st person POV and how the mystery played out. I also enjoyed how humor is peppered at appropriate times which was a nice touch.  This one is #12 of the Mike Bowditch, Game Warden series and unfortunately, I've only read a couple of other books in this series.  I definitely would have benefited by reading the previous installment involving the Dow family as there were references to people and events that were foreign to me.  I don't recall feeling that way with the other 2 series books I read previously.  I do now want to go back and read all of the ones I've missed - the writing is well worth it and the characters well-crafted.

RATING:  4/5

Thanks go to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for access to this audio book in exchange for my unbiased review. The audiobook was read by Henry Leyva did a very good job.

Book Review - Kill All Your Darlings; David Bell

TITLE/AUTHORKill All Your Darlings; David Bell

PUBLISHER:   Berkley Publishing


GENRE: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery


SOURCE:  NetGalley and Berkley Publishers


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  When a struggling college professor decides to use a stolen manuscript as his own, he gets far more than he bargained for.

BRIEF REVIEW:  Professor Connor Nye teaches creative writing and has his tenure on the line unless he gets busy and gets published.  The problem is he is in a bad state after the death of his wife and son in a tragic accident.  When one of his writing students goes missing and is presumed dead he decides to pass her work off as his own and the book is quite successful.  Thinking he can relax a bit and no longer have to worry about tenure, his plagiarism comes back to haunt him in ways he never anticipated.  Not only is he being blackmailed but, the police are also interested in him as the storyline in the book he passed off as his own has similarities to a murder case of a local girl two years earlier.  Is there a connection and if not, who is the real killer?

This is a story that held my interest and kept me wondering. I liked the college setting and the issues typical in academia. I also thought the characters were well written with a few I liked and felt for and a few that were easy to dislike as well.  I though the multiple POVs worked well as well as the insights into what had happened in the past. This story is similar in some ways to a book I read earlier this year and also enjoyed called: The Plot by Jean Hanff-Korelitz in which a writer feels pressured by his publisher to write and steals "the plot" for his book from someone else.

RATING:  4/5

Thanks go to NetGalley and Berkley Publishers for allowing me access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

David Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author whose work has been translated into multiple foreign languages. He’s currently an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he directs the MFA program. He received an MA in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a PhD in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. His previous novels include The RequestLayoverSomebody’s DaughterBring Her HomeSince She Went AwayThe Forgotten GirlNever Come BackThe Hiding Place, and Cemetery Girl.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Book Review - The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer; Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

TITLE/AUTHOR: The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer; Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

PUBLISHER:   Simon & Schuster Audio and Atria (print)


GENRE: Non Fiction / Bio/memoir / true crime

FORMAT: combo: eGalley and audio download LENGTH: 9 hours 1 min.

SOURCE:  Edelweiss and Publisher / audio download


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  Part biography and part true crime, it isn't until decades after the fact that the author realizes the nice man who babysat her and her sister as children was actually a serial killer.

BRIEF REVIEW:  Liza and her sister were lonely little girls growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s. Their mother was not the nurturing kind. By day she worked at a Provincetown motel where they also lived and by night she danced at a local nightclub. It wasn't unusual for her to leave the girls with whomever was available when she had to work or had a date.  One of the babysitters at the time was the handsome, friendly Tony Costa who worked as a handyman and made trash runs to the dump for the motel.  Often on these runs the girls would accompany Tony who Liza recalls as kind, fun and often treated them to ice cream treats.  As it turned out Tony lived a double life during these years and in 1969 it finally comes to light that he was responsible for numerous murders and dismemberments of young women he met in the area.  He buried their bodies in the Truro woods on Cape Cod which he referred to as his "secret garden".

The story is told in alternating story lines from Liza's young, lonely and sad life with her irresponsible mother and then shifting off to Tony's troubled early years and history of drug abuse and his abusive treatment of women up until his arrest in 1969 and death in prison in 1974.  I thought it was interesting that it wasn't until decades after Tony's death that Liza learned that her babysitter early in life, was actually the same Tony Costa responsible for several gruesome murders.

The story was fascinating yet the flow of this story felt quite jarring at times for me. It was almost like two separate books.  The story is very graphic at times with gory details of the murders and other vivid details of abuse: drugs, physical, verbal and sexual abuse.  Fortunately for Liza, as she recalls, Tony seemed to feel sorry for Liza and her sister and treated them with kindness and she remembers him as more dependable than their own mother.  Once Liza learned Tony "the serial killer" was also Tony "her babysitter", she became obsessed with finding out all the details of the man she had long considered to be a nice man.

RATING:  3.5/5

Thanks go to Atria and Edelweiss for access to the eBook. The audiobook was a free download from my library. It was read by Andi Arndt and Aida Reluzco  - both readers did a good job overall.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Stranger Behind You; Carol Goodman

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.  This week I selected a thriller that was released earlier this month.

                                          The Stranger Behind You; Carol Goodman
                                                        William Morrow - July 2021


"I have noticed in my professional capacity that when someone makes a point of saying they're not lying, that usually means they are.

When the realtor brags that she hasn't lied about the view, though, I have to admit that her claim is demonstrably true: the view is spectacular.  Standing at the elegant bay window it's as if I'm perched on a cliff overlooking the river.  There's nothing between me and the Palisades but water and light.  A person who was afraid of heights would be terrified, but heights aren't what I am afraid of."

What do you think - read more of pass? I've read several books by this author so hoping this new one will be a winner. I hope to start it later in the week.

Monday, July 26, 2021

2 Book Reviews - The Guncle; Steven Rowley and The Newcomer; May Kay Andrews

I was looking for a couple of light summer reads and these (2) fit the bill. They weren't perfect but, they were fun and I was happy I tried them.

TITLE/AUTHOR: The Guncle; Steven Rowley

PUBLISHER:   G.P. Putnam


GENRE: Fiction / LBGTQ / Family

FORMAT: print LENGTH: 324 pp

SOURCE:  Library

SETTING(s):  CT and CA

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  Gay uncle Patrick "The Guncle" steps up to care for his young niece and nephew just when his brother and the kids need him the most.

Patrick lives in Palm Springs, CA and once was a famous actor but his life hasn't been quite the same since someone he loved was killed by a drunk driver.  When his brother Greg, an attorney in CT loses his wife to cancer and he is struggling with his own personal crisis, he asks for  Patrick's help in caring for his two young children for a few months. The children: Maise 9, and Grant 6, love when they visit GUP (gay uncle Patrick) in Palm Springs but, living with him for several months will prove quite different for all of them.  Grant, the adorable and toothless. The 6 year-old speaks with a lisp and is super inquisitive adding much humor to the story as does, Patrick in the manner he deals with the (2) youngsters in his life.

The story is heartfelt, funny and a tad sad at times (not overly so(. It's a story of family and loss and about stepping up when others are hurting. I loved all the old-Hollywood references and all of the charming characters. Patricks relationship with his niece and nephew was special. I'm not surprised that this one has been optioned for a movie - very sweet.

I picked this one up from the library on a whim and was glad I did.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

TITLE/AUTHOR: The Newcomer; Mary Kay Andres

PUBLISHER:   Macmillan Audio


GENRE: Fiction / Family

FORMAT: audio download LENGTH: 14 hours 30 min.

SOURCE:  Publisher/Library  / audio download


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  One sister is dead and the other flees with her motherless 4 year old niece to Florida.

When Letty finds her sister Tanya dead in her expensive Manhattan townhouse, she heeds her sister's previous warnings that if anything were to happen to her Letty was to take her daughter Maya and flee as her ex-Evan is most likely the killer.  Letty then takes her sister's Mercedes, her to-go bag packed with $19,000 in cash and a motel clipping of a place in Florida called the Murmuring Surf Motel and heads off with Maya.  When she reaches her destination she finds a "no vacancy sign" on the run down motel.  She plays on the heartstrings of the kind owner Ava about her long drive and needing a place for her and Maya to sleep and although they are fully booked Ava agrees to help them out.  Soon Letty is working there in exchange for charging her room fees.  However, is The Murmuring Surf motel the safest place for Letty and Maya? Why did her sister have the clipping in her bag in the first place?

I felt there was a lot to like about this story, it is part mystery (Tanya had a dark past) yet overall a light summer read. I loved Letty and her relationship with Maya. I loved the run-down motel setting which was mostly inhabited by grouchy senior snowbirds who return year after year and think they set the rules, of course, they see Letty as "The Newcomer."  There is also Joe, who is Ava's daughter. He is a cop although he seems a bit unethical at times. He first gives Letty a difficult time but, before you know it there appears to be a budding romance which I felt seemed out of place.

Overall, I thought this story was entertaining with the unique cast of characters. I thought the author did a good job meshing Tanya's story with the present story as Letty tried to figure out what really happened to her sister and why.  My biggest complaint was that this story was way too long (14+ hours) on audio. A story this long is not what most would expect for a summer beach read. The audio was read by Kathleen McInerney who did a very good job.

RATING:  4/5

The audiobook was a free download provided by Macmillan Audio in exchange for my unbiased review.  Unfortunately, the download disappeared from my NetGalley shelf before I had a chance to listen to it but, I was able to download it from the library.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Week in Review - Reading and New Books

Thank You Deb@ Reader Buzz

It was a pretty good week, with better sleep and less knee pain (the shot is working and the gin soaked raisins still marinating:).  Managed to walk a couple days this week and had lunch with my daughter and granddaughters and we time spent time at another different library this week.  I've been practicing my yoga poses as yoga is resuming in August, 3x a week, after a 17 month COVID closure at the senior center in our town. I am so excited about getting back to that routine and seeing some of my yoga buddies again.

This coming week will be a busy one: I'm meeting a friend that I haven't seen since in 18 months for lunch one day, my book group meets to discuss: Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane. I read and reviewed it in 2019 and loved this one. Have you read it? I'll be curious to see what the other group members have to say. I also have a hair appointment another day and then we are going out to dinner at the end of the week.


I reviewed (2) books this week (ratings and links below).

2.5/5 stars

4/5 stars

I also finished (2) other books but no reviews yet.


fun and heartwarming - 4/5 stars (no review yet)

I liked this a lot just way too long - 4/5 stars ( no review yet)

                                                           Currently Reading/ Listening

(enjoying this mystery)

(I love Mrs March, she's making me laugh even though she is obviously psychotic)

                                                    (NF - interesting but not for everyone)

New Book Additions

 No Touching; Ketty Rouf

 Where I Left Her; Amber Garza

 The Double Mother; Michel Bussi

Plans for theWeek
  1. catch up on reviews
  2. Blog tour post - Kill Your Darlings; David Bell
  3. new Kids books and reviews
  4. July - month in review post
How was your week?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Book Review - That Summer; Jennifer Weiner


TITLE/AUTHOR: That Summer; Jennifer Weiner

PUBLISHER:   Simon & Schuster  Audio


GENRE: Fiction / Contemporary / Women / Family

FORMAT: audio download LENGTH: 13 hours 21 min.

SOURCE:  Publisher / audio download

SETTING(s):  Cape Cod, MA and PA

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A story of two women who seem to have little in common except for a secret from the past.

BRIEF REVIEW:  When I began listening to this book, the prologue introduces us to 15 year old Diana, a young girl with her first job as a nanny and spending the summer on Cape Cod with the family she would be helping out.  It seems like the perfect summer for a young girl, away from home, meeting other teens her age and a first boyfriend named Poe.

The story soon after shifts to the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA to a woman named Daisy, wife to Hal a corporate lawyer and stay at home mother to teen Beatrice and a cooking business and volunteer work which also keeps her busy.  Daisy, however,  is clearly unsatisfied with her life and over-dependent on her husband.  When she starts receiving misdirected emails for a woman named Diana (their emails are different by one character) she's intrigued by what seems to be the glamorous life and corporate job of the mysterious Diana Starling.  Eventually an apology for the mixup leads to a meet up of the two women leading to a friendship.  The whole setup is not accidental.  What is Dianas real motive in getting close to Daisy?  

This story was not at all what I was expecting to be -  a light summer read. I actually thought the overview was a bit misleading for readers looking for something light. Readers need to know that there was a rape that took place and there is some explicit sex as well in case readers would prefer to avoid this in their fiction. That being said, this book left me disappointed. It wasn't the idyllic summer to remember story I was looking for; there was too much of the #metoo aspect to this novel. The story felt overly long and needed a bit of editing IMO. The saving grace in this one for me was daughter Beatrice who was difficult at times but, she provided a nice diversion from Diana and Daisy who were both a bit annoying in different ways.  Initially my review rating was a bit higher but, the more time passed and I thought about the story the more disappointed I was.

RATING:  2.5/5

The audiobook was a free download provided by Simon & Schuster Audio in exchange for my unbiased review. I did think the audio narration that was read by Sutton Foster was good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Dead By Dawn; Paul Doiron


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.  This week I selected a mystery that was just released last month.

                                                                Dead By Dawn; Paul Doiron
                                                                   Minotaur Books - 2021


The hill is steep here, and there is no guardrail above the river. I think I am being careful, keeping a light touch on the wheel, feathering the brakes. But then I come around the curve and see the spiked objects scattered across the asphalt in my headlights.  They look like barbaric versions of children's jacks. Or medieval caltrops laid on battlefields to maim horses--that these hunks of metal have been welded from box nails and placed here for the malign purpose of blowing out automobile tires.

The front wheels of the Jeep run over the first of them before I can react, and the sound is like two muskets being fired in tandem. The wolf dog in his enormous crate in the rear lets loose a strangled yelp. And now the back tires are bursting, too, and the steering wheel tugs one way, then the other, and when I pump the brake pedal nothing happens because I'm going too fast. I am over the edge before I can exhale.

What do you think, read more or pass?   This is book #12 of the mystery series featuring Mike Bowditch, a Maine Game Warden.  I've read only a few of the books in this series and enjoyed them a lot. What I liked was you really don't need to read the series in order to enjoy the stories.