Saturday, May 28, 2022

Book Review - Father's Day; Simon Van Booy

 

Father's Day; Simon Van Booy
Harper Audio  (2016) - 6 hours 57 minutes
(narrated by Bronson Pinchot-very good)

This book has been among my purchased audio downloads for several years so I decided to try it as Father's Day is just (3) weeks away.

Harvey was just six years old when her parents were killed in a car accident.  Her kind social worker, Wanda is desperate to keep her out of foster homes but, her only living relative is a disabled uncle named Jason who is has a violent criminal record.   Although the two have never met, Wanda sees something in Jason that makes her believe that having him as Harvey's guardian may be just what the other needs. At first Jason refuses as he isn't convinced that he can care for a young girl but, Wanda is persistent and finally he agrees as he can't stand the thought of her going into the foster care system. Harvey teaches Jason how to care and love and Jason begins to learn what being a father is all about and, eventually he is granted permanent custody of Harvey.

The story alternates from Harvey's past to the present as a 26 year old young woman living in Paris.  Jason comes to visit her and she presents him with a gift, a memory box, which triggers flashbacks to set the story in motion.  I liked the way Jason's big heartedness begins to shine through and the reader sees that while their relationship is never perfect but it clearly worked and Harvey grew and thrived under his care.  This story moved along at a nice pace, the writing is simple and not too emotional either.  Recommended.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Book Review - Klara and the Sun; Kazuo Ishiguro

 

Klara and the Sun; Kazuo Ishiguro
Random House Audio - 2021
(Sura Siu - narrator - very good)

Klara is an AF (artificial friend) who shines bright thanks to the sun.  She waits in a store until the time a special human will take her home.  Klara is an older model, there are fancier AFs with more bells and whistles it seems.  Klara is often stuck at the back of the store but, she loves those days she gets moved to the front window so she can enjoy the sun's warmth. Older models like Klara need lots of solar recharging.  

A young girl named Josie wants to take Klara home but, Josie's mother needs time to think about it.  Eventually Klara does become the AF to lonely Josie who doesn't seem to have any real friends except for neighbor boy Rick. Josie is schooled at home.  When Josie grow ill, we are never sure what is wrong with her,  her mother grows very concerned as she has already lost one daughter.   Klara is determined to comfort Josie and to find a way for her to get better and thrive.

I really enjoyed this thought provoking story and thought Klara,  as the narrator worked beautifully. She was such a keen observer and a caring friend to Josie.  It was easy to fall in love with this mechanical girl. 

The audio was delightful, well except for the numerous times that "Melania HouseKeeper" was spoken -- what was up with that??  Despite this minor annoyance, Klara and the Sun, is a real gem. Just the kind of story I needed. Don't miss it!

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

NOTE: Thanks go to Random House Audio for allowing me access to this download in exchange for my unbiased review.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Privacy; NIna Sadowsky

Welcome to First Chapter/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. 

Privacy, Nina Sadowsky
Bantam - June-2022

Watching

She's so relaxed, so easy in her own skin, with her long blond hair bound up in a ponytail and her T-shirt,  damp with sweat from her morning run, knotted below her breasts to expose a taut abdomen. She radiates youth and health.

She's also seemingly unaware of the dark temptation her very light ignites.

Would that change if she knew I was watching?

She's oblivious to the telephoto lens I wield from an anonymous sedan parked down the street, which is precisely what makes my surveillance so exquisite.  People reveal so much when they don't know they are being observed.

As I tried to decide what new book to begin, it was the title and cover drew me to this one.   What do you think - read more or pass?  This book releases next month.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Brief Book Reviews - The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner - The Shore; Katie Runde and The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson and Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient; Theresa Brown

 

The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner
Park Row - 2021
Book Group Read 

The Lost Apothecary was our book group pick for May (discussion this week).  I thought the premise sounded really good. Set in 1791 London, Nella Clavinger took over an apothecary after her mother's death.  Her mission was to help women with their illnesses, afflictions and other more personal issues like providing them with poison when the men in their lives have done them wrong.  There is also 12 year old Eliza Fanning, who helps her mistress/employer Mrs Armwell but, when Eliza enters the picture and frequents the apothecary, Nella wonders how long the secret of what she has been doing will be safe.  

In the present day, Caroline Parcewell who has been married to James for ten years, but James is a cheater - she'll deal with him later.  She is also a woman who loves history. and after finding a mysterious blue vial in the Thames River (yes suspend belief here) with the help of a research librarian who Caroline develops a friendship with, she realizes the vial may be tied to the apothecary murders.

Told between (3) POVs, I really only enjoyed Nella's storyline. Caroline's melodrama was and the way her storyline was written was way too over the top at times.  I had never read about the terms "mudlarking/mudlark" ( the name given in the 19th century to children and adults who scavenged the banks of the River Thames in London.) I alway love when I learn something new when I read even though in this case it did not help with my overall opinion on the book.

Rating - 3/5 stars

(NOTE: An eGalley was provided to me by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.)

The Shore; Katie Runde
Simon & Schuster - 2022

The Shore was a debut novel that takes place over the course of one summer in Seaside, New Jersey.  It's the story of the Dunne family: Brian (father), Margot (mother) and teenage daughters Liz and Evy.  The family has made a business of renting summer cottages along the shore to vacationers.  When Brian is diagnosed with a brain tumor, the family is forced to shift their focus while trying to maintain at least a little sense of normalcy while struggling to care for Brian as well.

The story is told from MPOV and this ended up being a much heavier read than what i had anticipated from the lovely cover art and title.  I alway struggle about reading the descriptions provided by the publishers which often reveal too much of the story. Unfortunately, in this case I wished I had.  As it turns out I was not a good a fit for this book.  I kept wishing the story stayed more focused on the family unit but, oftentimes it seemed to meander to details about the teens and their friends which caused me to lose interest.  There were several audio book narrators: Andi Arndt, Priya Ayyan, Dan Biltner and Ines del Castillo.  The ones portraying the adults were good, the ones who portrayed the teens seemed to irk me at times. Although this book was not a good choice for me, I can see how others might enjoy this story a bit more.

Rating - 3/5 stars

(NOTE: An audio download and eGalley were provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.)


The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson
Harper Audio -2020 - 10 hours and 17 min.
(Narrators - Johnny Heller, Karen White, Kathleen Early, Keith Szarabajka - very good)


Peter Swanson is one of those author's I'm always drawn to.  I like the fact that most of his books are set in New England and tend to have a riveting storyline that makes it hard to put down.  The Kind Worth Killing was such a story.

In a Heathrow (UK) airport lounge to strangers, Ted Stevenson and Lily Kintner strike up a conversation after their Boston bound flights have been delayed.  Their conversations get quite personal after a few drinks and, Ted confesses that he thinks his wife of three years, Miranda has married him for his money and believes she is having an affair and even knows who she is involved with.  He also tells Lily that he has thought of killing her to avoid a messy and costly divorce.  Lily, stuns him by saying that she thinks he should kill her and even offers to help him get rid of his problem.

Why would a complete stranger get involved? Well, it seems Lily has her own reasons.

This is a story built on deceit and revenge. The characters are all detestable but, it was hard to stop listening to this one.  Flashbacks into Lily's past give the reader insight into just what a nut job she is. A good story with several unexpected plot twists. The audiobook was read by (4) different narrators - all did a great job.)

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

(NOTE: I downloaded this audiobook from my public library)

Algonquin Books - 2022 (library book - hardcover)

Theresa Brown was an oncology and hospice nurse when she found herself on the other side in the role of patient - newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  Although she had non cancerous lumps removed at the age of 16, she did have relatives who died of breast cancer.  She tells her story of being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, her surgery, follow up care and treatments.  She speaks about how healthcare professionals failed her at times and she has quite a bit to say about why compassionate care and positive attitudes are so important.  One thing she mentioned was that while she was in treatment, she felt she was doing something meaningful to avoid future recurrence but, added that once her treatment was finished those previous fears had a way of resurfacing. It seems once you are diagnosed with cancer, it never is truly gone from your mind.

In alternating chapters the author speaks of some of her unnamed patients during her time as an oncology and hospice nurse, recognizing how she, as well, had failed some of her patients.

I was drawn to this memoir for personal reasons and while I was happy I read it, I wished it had felt a bit more personal (I don't even think she mentioned her age when she was diagnosed). I can't describe it accurately but, I felt a little bit distanced by the way the author shared her breast cancer journey; it left me wanting more. 

Rating - 4/5 stars

NOTE: I borrowed the print edition of this book from my public library.


                                                              This Week's Reading Plans

Father's Day; Simon Van Booy
Harper Audio - 2016
6 hours 58 min - Bronson Pinchot narrator


Klara and the Sun; Kazuo Ishguro
Random House Audio - 2021
(Sura Siu - narrator - 10 hours 16 minutes)

(almost done with this one - so very good)

The Foundling; Ann Leary
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
(12 hours 40 minutes - Laura Benanti narrator)


I'm so excited about 20 Books of Summer and have just about finished compiling my list.  I'll be posting next weekend and looking forward to what I've picked. Are you making a summer reading list?

Share your week by posting a link on Deb's Blog HERE

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Spotlight Post - Metropolis; B.A. Shapiro

Metropolis; B.A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books - 5/2022

I've been working on my Summer Reading List for 2022 and, this is one new release that caught my eye.   Doesn't this one sound good?  (My full Summer Reading List (books both new and old) will post by the end of the month.)

About this Book

The New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger delivers a spellbinding and moving novel about what we hang on to, what we might need to let go, and how unexpected events can lead us to deeper truths.

Six people, six secrets, six different backgrounds. They would never have met if not for their connection to the Metropolis Storage Warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When someone falls down an elevator shaft at the facility, each becomes caught up in an intensifying chain of events.

We meet Serge, an unstable but brilliant street photographer who lives in his storage unit, which overflows with thousands of undeveloped pictures; Marta, an undocumented immigrant finishing her dissertation and hiding from ICE; Liddy, an abused wife and mother, who recreates her children’s bedroom in her unit; Jason, a former corporate lawyer now practicing in the facility; Rose, the office manager, who takes illegal kickbacks to let renters live in the building; and Zach, the building’s owner and an ex-drug dealer, who scans Serge’s photos as he searches for clues to the accident.

But was it an accident? A murder attempt? Suicide? As her characters dip in and out of one another’s lives trying to find answers and battling societal forces beyond their control, B. A. Shapiro both questions the myth of the American dream and builds tension to an exhilarating climax. Taut and emotional, 
Metropolis is impossible to put down and impossible to forget.

About the Author

B. A. Shapiro is the bestselling author of MetropolisThe Collector's ApprenticeThe Muralist, and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads across the country and translated throughout the world. She has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University, and she and her husband, Dan, divide their time between Boston, Massachusetts, and Naples, Florida.
 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson



Welcome to First Chapter/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. 

The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson
Harper Audio -2020

Chapter 1

TED

"Hello There," she said.

I looked at the  pale, freckled hand on the back of the empty bar seat next to me in the business class lounge at Heathrow Airport, then up into the stranger's face.

"Do I know you?"  I asked.  She didn't look particularly familiar, but her American accent, her crisp white shirt, her sculpted jeans tucked into knee high boots, all made her look like one of my wife's awful friends.

I started this yesterday and it's quite intense - detestable characters for sure but I'm liking it so far.

What do you think --read more or pass?

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Brief Book Reviews - Playing Catch Up - Little Souls; Sandra Dallas -- Marrying the Ketchups; Jennifer Close and Xstabeth; David Keenan

 

Little Souls; Sandra Dallas
Macmillan Audio - 2022
(audio narrator - Carly Robins - very good)

As I've mentioned previously, I don't read a lot of historical fiction but this premise appealed to me when I first read about it.  Set in Colorado, 1918, WWI is happening and the flu pandemic is raging on.  Little Souls is story about (2) sisters: Helen, a nurse and her husband to be, Gil, is a medical student.  Luttie, Helen's 24 year old younger sister, lives with her. Luttie is a bit of a dreamer who has an interest in fashion design and works for a high end department store. Luttie's boyfriend joined the Army to do his part with the war effort.  The sisters are very close. Dorothy is a 10 year old girl who lived with her parents in a small apartment located in the same house the sisters had shared.  When both parents die, under very different circumstances, the sisters take the girl in wanting to make sure that Dorothy is loved and cared for after learning how she had been abused.

Once I started this story I found it hard to put down and it was very easy book to listen to on audio. Not only is this a story about sisters but, it is also a story about helping those in need and righting past injustices that occurred. I found the story kind of comforting even though there were some sad moments, tragic events, but,  there was also a happier ending and a satisfying epilogue as well. Highly recommended to historical fiction fans.

Rating - 4.5/5stars

(NOTE: I received an audio download from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review)

Marrying the Ketchups; Jennifer Close
Knopf - 2022

Marrying the Ketchups was a book I became curious about by the unusual title and Jennifer Close being an author I enjoyed years ago but one that I hadn't read in a while.

It's a story of (3) generations of a large Irish Catholic family who run an Oak Park (Chicago) restaurant called JP Sullivans.  The founders, Bud and Rose, opened the restaurant in the 1970s and in 2016 a few strange things had happened:  the Chicago Cubs win a World Series, their first in 108 years, poor Bud dies unexpectedly and Trump wins the presidential election  This complicated family must pick up the pieces and get their acts together and, they also must decide what is now best for mother Rose after Bud's death.

There are sisters: Gretchen - mid 30s, a bit on the wild side, lead singer in a band called the Donna Martin Graduates:) and Jane, a mother of two, successful, married to a wealthy man who just might be cheating on her.  Then Teddy, a cousin who manages the restaurant. He's a people-pleaser with issues of his own and then we have Reilly, Teddy's teenaged half-sister.

This is a story about complicated families and the author does a great job helping the reader to get to know and understand these unhappy people and their issues.  Well written, character driven, lots of funny moments even though most everyone is pretty miserable.  I liked this book but, think I might have appreciated it even more if I were younger.  The 2016 political aspects of the story were not overdone - thank goodness.  Worth considering for readers who enjoy a character driven story about complicated families.

Rating - 4/5 stars


(Note:  I received an eGalley download from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.)
Xstabeth; David Keenan
Europa Editions - 2022

I loved Europa Editions and Xstabeth intrigued me when I read about it. I thought it seemed a bit unusual but worth trying especially because it was also a novella with fewer than 140 pages.

I'm really not sure how to classify this or even what to write about it as it was a bit too far out there for me. It's a story about a daughter, a father and the father's his best friend.  The father is singer/songwriter, but not a very good one. His daughter, Aneliya, loves her father but, begins seeing her father's best friend Jaco, who is a better musician than the girl's father.

When I have to skim a novella, it's because the book is not a good fit for me and that was the case here.  There were some explicit sex and, I just didn't get the whole point of the story unfortunately.

Rating - 1.5/5 stars

(Note: I received an eGalley of this novella from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.)

What Else I'm Reading

The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner
Park Row - 2021
Book Group Read -  finished - no review yet
3.5/5 stars

Algonquin Books - 2022 (library book - hardcover)
(just started - page 57)

The Shore; Katie Runde
Simon & Schuster - 2022
(reading now - 27% mark)

Klara and the Sun; Kazuo Ishiguro
Random House Audio - 2021
(starting soon)


What are you reading?

Share your week by posting a link on Deb's Blog HERE



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Book Review - The Lioness; Chris Bohjalian

 

The Lioness; Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday and Random House Audio
May 2022

It's 1964 when Katie Barstow, an A-List Hollywood actress marries David Hill, an art gallery owner. The couple decides to invite Katie's brother, Billy Stepanov, who is also David's best friend, Billy's pregnant wife, Margie, and some other wealthy Hollywood actors and friends on a Serengeti safari honeymoon destination.  As the guests settle into their home base enjoying the beauty and taking photos, the day after isn't anything they could have anticipated. Pretty quickly, the much anticipated adventure turns into a nightmare when Russian mercenaries arrive at the home base as they are about to set out on safari and kidnap the Americans and their safari guides.

The story pulled me in and I liked the adventure, suspense, time period as well.  The beautiful setting, the descriptions of the beautiful animals in the wild was vividly described.  There were some gory parts but nothing too hard to take. I found the background info on Katie and Billy's childhood at the hands of their Broadway theatre parents interesting and felt for Billy who was often abused while sister Katie was groomed for the stage/screen. 

The audiobook was excellent and narrated by: January Lavoy, Grace Experience and Gabrielle DeCuir.  I also had the eGalley which came in handy while waiting for an oil change and at a doctor's appointment last week.  Even though the audio was addictive, there were far too many characters for me to be able to fully appreciate whose POV I was getting at various times.  I found that a bit confusing and frustrating even though the audio and eGalley lists the characters at the beginning of each.  Overall, I enjoyed this story and the wrap up was satisfying. I did think it would make a good story for the big screen.

Rating - 4/5 stars

NOTE: Thanks go to Doubleday, Random House Audio and NetGalley for allowing me access to these electronic downloads in exchange for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner


Welcome to First Chapter/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. 

Park Row - 2021

1

NELLA

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak--the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dar things of which she dreamed when night fell.  She could be a vicim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: that woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

This is our book group pick for the end of the month and from this intro I am really looking forward to it.  It is told in (2) timelines past and present day.

What do you think -- Read more or pass?

Monday, May 9, 2022

Book Review - Project Hail Mary; Andy Weir


Ballantine Books and Brilliance Audio - 2021
(audio narrator - Ray Porter - fantastic)

I put this book on the back burner for a while even though I enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. It's just that SF is generally not my thing.  After several rave reviews from fellow bloggers, I decide to try a combo (eBook/audio) and I was so glad I did.  

Ryland Grace is a junior high science teacher, concerned about the Earth's dropping temperatures possibly leading to another ice age.  One day he wakes up on a space ship light years away and naked as well except for some breathing apparatus and lots of connected tubes and cameras watching him.  He eventually finds out that he is the sole survivor of a suicide mission and how all that came to be.

There is a character, well okay an alien life form, named Rocky that add so much interest and made for some fun as well as touching moments between he and Ryland.  Learning what actually happened through flashbacks worked so well.  I loved the audio narration but, was glad I had the eBook as well so I could gloss over some of the scientific and math components which bored me a bit.  There was a good amount of funny dialogue which I especially enjoyed. If you'd like to try something different be sure to check this one out. I sure hope the movie is in the works as, I enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir which I read/reviewed in 2015  - the movie was great as well

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

NOTE: The eBook download was sent to me by the publisher at no cost and the audio book was borrowed from my public library.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Book Review - Remarkably Bright Creatures; Shelby Van Pelt

 

Ecco Books - 2022

Remarkably Bright Creatures was a mostly feel good story about making connections in unexpected ways and unexpected places. 

Tova Sullivan is a 70 year old widow who not only has lost her husband but, she hasn't truly gotten over the loss of her only child, Erik, who died at age 18 some 30 years earlier.  To keep busy Tova takes a part time night job as janitor at the Sewell Bay aquarium where she forms a deep connection with a very bright, giant 60 pound octopus named Marcellus who is living out his remaining days there.  

Marcellus the octopus likes to wander after hours once he discovers a way to escape his tank. One night Tova finds Marcellus in trouble and unable to get back to his tank after he did a little after hours exploring. She helps him and a connection is formed.  He eventually finds a way to pay her back.

Cameron Cassman is new to the Puget Sound area, abandoned by his mother at age nine, Cameron is searching for the father he never knew. He is hired by the Sewell Aquarium on a temporary basis after Tova has a slight accident.

This was a hard story for me to review with giving away too much but, I loved this debut novel which is about the importance of human connection (both human and mammal).  Tova was a strong, compelling character determined to make her own decisions. The story is narrated in part by Tova, part by Cameron and part by Marcellus  -- my favorite POV.  Yes, you have to suspend belief at times but, his intelligence and determination were quite moving.  I loved the ending as well.  I will definitely be looking for future books by this promising new author.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

NOTE:  Thanks go to Ecco books and Edelweiss for allowing me access to an eGalley download.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Book Review: Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole; Susan Cain

 

Crown - April 2022

I was a huge fan of this author's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, so, this book was a must read for me.   Although this book is very well researched and written, it just didn't resonate with me in the same way Quiet did.

Bittersweet -- "a melancholic direction"; "a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of the passing of time and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world."

This books seemed to be part memoir but, it also covers other experiences such as trauma, loss of a loved on, grief etc.  There seemed to be quite a bit of spirituality infused as well.  Finally,  readers could take a "Bittersweet" Quiz to see whether you identify with the Bittersweet type. I took the quiz and, I'm definitely more the sanguine type.  I guess that was the reason, in some ways, I had difficulty relating to this book.  I still think this book was worth reading and will appeal to many readers.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Note: The eGalley download was made available by the publisher (Crown) and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Lioness; Chris Bohjalian


Welcome to First Chapter/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. 

 The Lioness; Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday and Random House Audio - May 10, 2022

PROLOGUE

Oh, I can't speak for the dead. And I won't speak for the missing. I can only tell you what I think happened.  Others--the dead and the missing--would probably have their own versions.  Blame, I can tell you firsthand, is every bit as subjective as truth.

Of course, I am also confident that the missing will never be found: the Serengeti is vast and it's been years. Years.  But Africa is changing. One never knows.  Someday it's possible that some of their bones--a femur that is recognizably human or a skull that was clearly a woman's or a man's --will be spotted beside a dirt road where a jackal or hyena or magnificent lappet-faced vulture decades ago finished off what a leopard or lion didn't.  Just think for a moment of the age of the fossils and remnants of ancient man that have been found a little south of where we were in the Olduvai Gorge.  Mary Leakey began piecing together the Nutcracker Man only five years before we were there when she saw what looked like two teeth in a jaw.  Nutcracker Man lived two million years ago.  We were there and (most of us, anyway) died there in 1964.

Chris Bohjalian is a favorite author and, from this intro, I can't wait to begin.  What do you think--read more or pass?