Tuesday, September 27, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Old Place; Bobby Finger

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 Old Place; Bobby Finger
G.P. Putnam - 2022


Mary Alice Roth woke up and stared at the the big old trunk, which may as well have been a reflection.  Unmoved for years, the trunk of carved, glossy hardwood sat under the window in her bedroom because she'd lost the only people strong enough to lift it somewhere else.  At her age, the number of able bodies in a house --hold doesn't tend to change, and neither does the way you sleep, which meant Mary Alice--the sole inhabitant of 4 County Road 1818 for over ten years and a left-sided sleeper since she was in a crib--knew that for the rest of her life,  the first thing she'd see in the morning would be the hideous antique trunk she hated more than just about anything else in the world.  And now she couldn't get rid of it even if she tried, unless she wanted to throw out her back and and spend hours moaning on the floor hoping someone would knock on the door and check on her.  It was that sort of bottomless pit of fact that made her wish she were dead.  Bur she wasn't, not today at least.  So she silenced the buzzing clock and began another week of living.  What else was there to do anyhow?

I forget where I read about about this books but, from the lengthy into, I'm curious to know more about Mary Alice.  How about you read more or pass?

Friday, September 23, 2022

Some September Reading


Hey readers, this week finds me with enough energy to share some bookish thoughts on some more recent  books that  I've read or listened to in September (so that's progress.) 

Dark Tales: Stories; Shirley Jackson
Penguin Audio - 2021
)8 hours - multiple narrators - all excellent

Dark Tales was a collection of (17) short stories.  I enjoyed more than half of the stories and, although all of the stories were new to me, I didn't find them all that scary or creepy.  If anything some of the stories that I didn't care for just seemed just kind of odd. The best part of the collection was the quality of the audio narrators: Ottessa Moshlegh, Kirsten Potter, Kimberly Farr, Karissa Vacker and Mark Deakins.

One very short but powerful story was called; What a Thought, which explored all the different ways a wife considers killing her husband who seems likely a decent guy.  She is obsessed  with these thoughts and the ending was shocking.  Louisa Please Come Home was another one I liked.  A younger girl isn't happy with her home life and runs away, changing her appearance many times.  After being gone for over (3) years and no response to the reward the family has offered, a man she meets convinces her to go home so he can claim the reward.  The family does not recognize their daughter with her changed appearance and the man who brings her home has a history of trying to claim rewards with other missing persons so in the end nothing has changed. The final one I will mention was All She Said Was Yes - A young girl's parents have died in a car accident and the neighbor takes the girl in until some family is able to take her with them.  When trying to talk to the girl about her feelings about her parent's death, her response is a rather flat affect and the claim that she told her parents this would happen to them but, they didn't listen.  The girl has other warnings including one for the neighbor who took her in but, will they heed her warning?

I liked the situations Jackson created with these stories, simple, everyday people and occurrences which suddenly take a darker turn and the reader can easily imagine that things will not end well. Other stories had a locked-room feel.  It was fun to listen to a few of these at a time. Worth trying.

RATING - 4/5 stars

Park Row - 2022

Three couples all family and friends escape to a luxurious, isolate cabin in Georgia, complete with all amenities including spa and personal chef.  It isn't long before a dangerous storm take hold, internet is out and all communication to the outside comes to a halt.  If things couldn't get much worse one of the group members goes missing.

A thriller with a creepy, locked-room feel, this story is told from multiple POVs and past and present timelines which made this story all too much at times. All of the characters seemed spiteful and full of secrets (except for one individual). I found it hard to keep turning the pages at times and put this aside for several days at one point.  I did love the set up and the setting but, the characters left me mostly disappointed.

RATING - 3.5/5 stars

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook;  Ellen Marie Wiseman
Recorded Books - 2022
(Library audio download - 13_ hours - Morgan Hallett narrator - very good)

This story is based in part on a true story surrounding The Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York in the 1970s.

Sage and Rosemary Winters ere identical twins who loved many of the same things, even though Rosemary had some developmental and emotional issues.  At age 13, the girl's mother was killed in a car accident and Sage is led to believe by her step father that her twin sister died of pneumonia.  The truth is Rosemary was sent to Willowbrook because he didn't want to deal with her after the mother's death.

At 16, Sage discovers the truth and goes to Willowbrook to find her sister.  At Willowbrook Sage is mistakenly believed to be Rosemary who had recently gone missing.  While trying to convince staff that she isn't Rosemary she begins to witness first hand the horrors of how residents of the state school are mistreated and abused.

This was a tough read at times to see how those trusted in the state's care were treated prior to this institution being closed in the 1970s.  Although some of the story felt repetitive, I thought that the author did a good job emphasizing the abuses that took place and how administrators looked the other way.  I was happy I decided to listen to the audio which was well done.

RATING - 4/5 stars

We Spread; Iain Reid
Simon ^ Schuster Audio - 2022
(5 hours 58 minutes)
Narrator - Robin Miles - very good)
(audio download sent by publisher)

Penny is an elderly artist who has lived in the same apartment with her long term partner for years and years.  After her partner passed away, she felt comfort in the sameness of her days, surrounded by the things she loved and which brought her comfort. She felt happy and at peace despite the fact her partner had died.

After a few incidents at the apartment, she finds herself uprooted from her apartment and the things that she loves to a strange but beautiful home occupied by several elderly residents her age and some kind staff.  The group dines together, continues with hobbies and socializes. They are supervised by a caring staff who monitors their daily activities but, for Penny it is not the same as her apartment.

This was quick, well-written novel that I very much enjoyed.  It was one of those stories that as a senior myself, made me pause and reflect. It was hard to see many of Penny's prized possessions of her former life packed away as she was moved to her new residence.  Her new life was often clouded by confusion yet it felt quite realistic.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Quick Update and a blogging break


Hello readers,  I've been missing from the computer and blogging in general but, life threw me an unexpected curveball.

On Friday, 9/2, I woke up with low blood pressure and a high heart rate, felt a little little headed and ended up passing out in the kitchen and banging my head on the ceramic floor.  My doctor was concerned about a brain bleed so wanted me to go to the ER.  Good news, no head injury, bad news they found other areas of concern including a blood infection, low BP, elevated heart rate. I spent (4) nights in the hospital after almost constant IV antibiotics and fluids.  They believe dehydration lead to the passing out incident.  I have had other issues I've been dealing with  so, this was just another unexpected setback.

Needless to say,, I came home very weak and am slowly trying to regain my energy.  I'll be following up with a few different doctors over next few weeks.

On a positive note I have finished (2) audio books. (1) I started and finished in the hospital and the other since I've been home - both very good.

We Spread; Iain Reid
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
RATING - 4.5/5 stars
Narrator - Robin Miles - excellent
(review at a later date)

                                            Lost Girls of Willowbrook; Ellen Marie Wiseman
                                                        Recorded Books -2022 (library loan)
                                                                   RATING -   4/5 stars
                                                           Narrator - Morgan Hallet - very good
                                                                        review at a later date

                                                                        UPCOMING READs

That's it for now. I'll post some reviews when I feel up to it otherwise you can check my 2022 Books Read Tab to see what I've read.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Book Review - Killers of a Certain Age; Deanna Raybourn


Killers of a Certain Age; Deanna Raybourn
Berkley - 9/2022

This is my first time trying this author and the appeal of this book for me was the fact that the main characters were women who were easing intro retirement in their 60s after a career in a non traditional female field - 40 years as female assassins. The all female team worked for a group called The Museum, originally tracking Nazi but over their tenure as the as the world changed so did the kinds of people they went after such as  drug smugglers and human traffickers.

Now Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie are on an all expense paid cruise but, when they spot a former assassin from the Museum among the ship's crew something doesn't feel right and the women wonder if they are suddenly not on a leisurely cruise but targets. Can this group of savvy women use the skills that honed over the years to stay alive? Why has the Museum turned on the women?

The story is told from the POV of Billie and takes the reader into the past as we learn about some of their missions over the course of their career. but, more of the book was set in the present day.  It was easy to get a feel for the individual strengths of the relationships of the women.  I felt the story moved along at a good pace but, I was surprised by the darker details the storyline took at times. There were some moments that made me smile but, the story wasn't at all light and humorous either.  I can't really say that I would even  classify this as a mystery.  In the end this was just another case of a book that wasn't a good fit for me.

RATING - 3/5 stars

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro - Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six; Lisa Unger


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 -2022


Christmas Night 2017

The carcass is spread in the middle of the table. Carved, flesh torn away, eaten, ribs exposed.  The turkey when it was removed from the oven, is now just a pile of bones.  Plates are smeared with gravy, wineglasses empty, stained red.  A swath of maroon lipstick mars a white cloth napkin. The lights from the Christmas tree blink, manic.

I used to read everything Lisa Unger wrote but, it's been a while. This catchy title had somewhat of a creep factor for me so I added it to my RIP Challenge list.  What do you think, read more of pass?

Monday, September 5, 2022

Brief Book Review - The Woman in the Library; Sulari Gentill


The Woman in the Library; Sulari Gentill
Poison Pen Press - 2022
(library Loan)

This was a book that I passed on initially but, my self-imposed pressure, based on reviews from some who enjoyed it, and the setting of the Boston Public Library held lots of appeal..  Unfortunately, this book was a struggle and ultimately a disappointing read for me.

The setting of the Boston Public Library, a blood-curdling scream early that ultimately ends in the murder of a young woman, makes fast friends of four strangers sitting at the same table who bond after the crime.  The more the group discusses what they recall the plot thickens and suspicions intensify. Hannah Tigone is a mystery writer based in Australia who shares the book she is writing with a Boston based mega fan named Leo who critiques her work it for locale and other accuracies, since the pandemic has preventing Hannah from coming to Boston herself.  Her novel is shared basically through email exchanges at the ends of the chapters and the whole correspondence gets very odd and uncomfortable as well at at times.

I'm not a fan of a story within a story kind of novel and found this one hard to get into and even confusing at times. I think I was expecting more of a traditional mystery. I'm not even sure this can be classified as a traditional mystery as it also seemed heavily character driven. I especially found the correspondence distracting and felt it added very little to the mystery overall. Sorry readers I can't recommend this one.

RATING - 2.5/5 stars

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Book Review - The Left-Handed Twin; Thomas Perry


The Left-Handed Twin; Thomas Perry
Highbridge Audio - 2022
(audio purchase - 8 hours 49 minute)
(Joyce Bean - Narrator - good)

Jane Whitefield  a 30-something part Seneca woman who is married to a surgeon. she has a unique gift and has helped about 100 people terrified people safely escape their former lives often when it is a life or death situation. After taking a break from her work for a bit, she is asked by a friend to help a young woman named Sara who testified against he badass boyfriend in a murder trial. The former boyfriend is acquitted and he is looking for Sara and even has the help of the Russian mob who are more interested in finding Jane than finding Sara. They have an interest in finding out the real names of the people that Jane has helped start new lives over the years.

From upstate New York, New Hampshire and even along the Appalachian Trail, Jane seems to keep just one step above her pursuers. The pace of this story is fast and the tension nail biting at times including the story's terrifying conclusion.  This is book #9 of the Jane Whitefield series but, it can clearly be read as a stand alone novel.  There is plenty of backstory, almost too much at times IMO.  I've read a few of the previous series books but not in order and,  I like Jane's character. She is a smart, strong and fearless sort of woman who is dedicated to what she does. I think new readers will find the information she provides about charging identities and staying under the radar interesting as they read.

I purchased this audio download and although I've enjoyed Joyce Bean as a narrator previously, her voice to me sounded like a much older woman who did not fit Jane's part as a woman who was in her 30s. A decent thriller overall.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Book Review - Fairy Tale; Stephen King - release date September 6th


Fairy Tale; Stephen King
Scribner and Simon & Schuster Audio - 9/6/2022
(Narrators: Seth Numrich and Stephen King)
(length - 24 hours)

In Stephen Kin's latest novel which releases on September 6th we meet Charlie Reade whose life hasn't been easy. His mom died when he was a young boy after being hit by a van.  His dad tried to do the best he could but instead he drowned his grief in alcohol until he eventually found the help he needed to get sober. Charlie in turn for a number of years became the responsible one in the household. He was also a good student and talented athlete.

One day Charlie,  now 17, is riding his bike by the home of a recluse named Howard Bowditch. The man's barking dog summoned Charlie to see that Mr.Bowditch had fallen off a ladder and couldn't get up. After Charlie calls for help and Mr, Bowditch is hospitalized for a fractured hip, it's clear the older man will require a lengthy period of rehab, home care and someone to feed Radar, his German Shepard while he is away from home.  Charlie steps in and an unlikely bond of trust and respect is formed between Charlie, Mr. Bowditch and Radar.  Things at Mr. Bowditch's home are a little retro to say the least but, the most mysterious of all are the contents of a safe and a mysterious backyard shed that leads to an alternate universe where those who enter will grapple with good versus evil.  

After Mr. Bowditch dies and Charlie is left a cassette tape from Mr. Bowditch explaining several thing as well as inheriting the property and his elderly dog Radar, the reader will wonder whether Charlie and Radar have what it takes to survive the battle that they will be forced to face.

Best described as a dark fantasy kind of thriller, something I sometimes grapple with, this story pulled me in immediately. Charlie Reade was such a likable character, the kind of teen you would be proud to have for your son and mature beyond his years.  Charlie had a heavy burden to carry sacrificing much to be of service to others. I loved Radar the senior dog and his bond with former master and then with Charlie was heartwarming.  This book is very good and I never found it disturbing either. Once again it amazes me just how very wild and imaginative King's mind is. In this case he created several deeply complex and memorable characters, a unique and odd alternate universe complete with a beautiful palace, glass towers, and even a magical sundial that could turn time around. King fans will not be disappointed.  The audio version was excellent.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

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

Thursday, September 1, 2022

RIP XVII Challenge - September 1 through October 31, 2022


  • Grab your spooky books, because it’s the best time of year again!
  • To join the R.I.P. Challenge, just read as many mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, dark fantasy, supernatural, or Gothic books as you’d like September 1st – October 31st, and post/discuss them on your blog, Instagram, or Twitter. The group is also on Discord!
  • Use #RIPXVII to connect with other challenge participants.
  • Check out this link for all of the challenge details: https://linktr.ee/perilreaders
Possible RIP Choices

  1. The Night She Disappeared; Lisa Jewell - 4/5 stars
  2. Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six; Lisa Unger  - 3.5/5 stars
  3. The Couple at Number 9; Claire Douglas
  4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Victor Hugo (bucket list book)
  5. Dark Tales; Shirley Jackson - 4/5 stars
  6. The Haunted Hotel; Wilkie Collins (bucket list book)

I’ll be tracking my RIP books for this challenge on this post and on my sidebar:

  1. Dark Tales; Shirley Jackson - 4/5 stars
  2. The Night She Disappeared; Lisa Jewell - 4/5 stars
  3. Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six; Lisa Unger  - 3.5/5 stars