Tuesday, June 30, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Hyacinth Girls; Lauren Frankel

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

Hyacinth Girls; Lauren Frankel
Crown - 2015


"On a chilly October morning I watched them put Callie's face on a billboard: two men in hard hats hoisting the vinyl sheet on a rope through the air.  I chewed gum in my parked car, the traffic whizzing by me, as the sheet billowed and flapped in the wind like a huge dark flag.  I wanted to be the first one to see her, so I'd driven over early, making promises to myself about how I was going to be. Focused. Resilient. Like nothing could touch me.  I wouldn't reach for the tissues in my pockeys, and I wouldn't start wailing in front of the highway."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass?
(feel free to join in by posting your link below)

Monday, June 29, 2015

May and June Reading Update

My reading has been so off for the last (2) months, I just realized I never posted a summary of my May reads,  I know to some of you, it probably looks like I had some good months, but I know otherwise based of previous patterns.  I finished (61) books in the first half of 2015, that is (10) fewer than the halfway mark of 2014 when I had (71).

My reading started to slide after finishing A Little Life (3) months ago. This was a book like no other that left me with the feeling that I will never find another book as terrific as this one.  Don't get me wrong, I've still read some decent books, but I've also grown bored more easily with mediocre reads.  Has this ever happened to you?

So this is what my May and June looked like.
  1. The Shore; Sara Taylor - 4.5/5 - (arc)  (May)
  2. The Listener; Rachel Basch - 4/5-  (eGalley) (May)
  3. You Nest Here With Me; Yolen and Semple - 5/5 (personal copy) (May)
  4. I Saw a Man; Owen Sheers - 3.5/5 (eBook) (May)
  5. Love May Fail; Matthew Quick -4/5 (arc) (May)
  6. The Grasshopper and the Ants; Jim Pinkney - 5/5 (library) (May
  7. The People in the Trees; Hanya Yanagihara - 4,5/5 (audio) (May)
  8. Big Ray; Michael Kimball - 3.5/5 - (personal copy) (May)
  9. Beside the Sea; Veronique Olmi Page - 4.5/5 (library) (June)
  10. Liar's Bench; Kim Michelle Richardson - 3.5/5 (arc) (June)
  11. Radiant Angel; Nelson Demille -4/5 (audio) (June)
  12. Tad and Dad; David Ezra Stein - 5/5 (personal copy) (June)
  13. The Farmer and the Clown; Marcia Frazee - 5/5 (library) (June)
  14. It's Only Stanley; Jon Agee - 4.5/5 (library) (June)
  15. The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens - 4.5/5 (personal copy) (June)
  16. Glaciers; Alexis Smith - DNF - (June)
July Plans
 mood reading (except for 3 books I committed to)
Happy Reading Everyone!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Life We Bury - Giveaway Winner

Thanks to all who took the time
to comment. 

The giveaway winner was....

Congrats to Kay and thanks to all
my loyal readers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens

The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens
 Seventh Street Books – 2014

The Life We Bury is an addictive debut novel that hooked me from the very first paragraph and never let go:

The story begins with 21 year-old Joe Talbert, a college student who is struggling financially.  He has an irresponsible, alcoholic mother and an autistic brother named Jeremy at home.

As part of a college English assignment, Joe must meet with a senior citizen, and write about that person's life.  Joe sets out to interview, Carl Iverson, a Vietnam Vet and convicted murdered who was sent to prison after being found guilty of raping and murdering a 14-year old girl who lived next door to him.  Carl is dying and no longer in prison, instead spending the remaining weeks in a nursing home since his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Throughout his arrest and confinement, Carl has maintained his innocence. Joe along with Lila, a romantic interest, and Joe's brother Jeremy, set out see whether what Carl professes just may be true. Is it possoble that the real murderer is still running free?

Part thriller, part mystery, part coming of age story, The Life We Bury, is fast paced and well written. Most of the characters have depth and substance, and the story line keeps you engaged, with some edge of moments, making this one hard to put down.  It's a story that has some controversial threads - child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism, and a sometimes failed justice system. The author does a terrific job tying it all together.  After finishing the book, I now see just how perfect the title the author chose for this one is as well.

Readers who enjoy well written mysteries and stories about justice and redemption are likely to enjoy this one as well.  The author has a second book coming out in October called, The Guise of Another, that sounds very good as well.

4.5/5 stars
(personal copy)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Last Bus to Wisdom; Ivan Doig

I love the way this author writes and was excited to see that a new book will hit the shelves later this summer. Sadly, this is his finial book, having passed away in April of 2015 at the age of 75. Have you ever tried this author?

Last Bus to Wisdom; Iran Doig
Riverhead Books - August 2015

(Amazon Description)

The final novel from a great American storyteller.
Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Ivan Doig’s beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a landscape that gives full rein to an eleven-year-old’s imagination. But when Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate–bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate  packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way.

Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is a last sweet gift from a writer whose books have bestowed untold pleasure on countless readers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Only Stanley; Jon Agee

It's Only Stanley; Jon Agee - Dial Books - 2015

In this cute story, the Wimbleton family: Wendy, Wanda, Willie and Wylie, has been trying to get some sleep, but it isn't happening.

Stanley, the family dog, has been hard at work from one noisy project to the next. Sometimes Stanley is banging pots while cooking, fixing the drain or the television and other noisy projects, but little does his family know that he has been planning for a big adventure as well -- an interplanetary trip, not in a spaceship, but by launching the house. Whoever thinks worker bees and worker ants are all the rave, evidently,  has not met Stanley.

This is a very fun story with cute and colorful, as well as engaging illustrations.  The story itself is written in rhyming verse, which I loved and found quite fun to read. The illustrations showing Max, the family cat, throughout all of Stanley's projects was especially fun as well.

This is one that most children will ask to have read to them more than once.

4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Best Boy; Eli Gotlieb

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb
Liveright - W.W. Norton - 2015

Part ONE


"PAYTON LIVING CENTER WAS THE SIXTH PLACE IN a row Momma had taken me but neither of us knew it was the one where I'd stay forever and ever.

My darling manzipan, I'm just so sure you're going to be happy here, she said that day with her red mouth that never stopped talking.

Then she started crying.  It was raining, We were sitting in the parked car and I touched the glass of the window that was clear as air.  Rain was exploding silently on the other side and this scared me."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass?
(feel free to join in by posting your link below0

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Blogging Milestone and an Informal Giveaway

It's hard for me to believe that I've been blogging about books for (7) years this month  Other than a few header changes over the years, I haven't made any significant changes to my blog. My focus is still mostly about books for adults and young kiddos, with some occasional posts about family and life.

Last year and again this year, I thought about giving up blogging, but deep down I'm afraid I might miss it if I gave it up completely. So, I decided to continue until at least the end of 2015, because when I retire next month, I should have lots more free time to post without feeling stressed about having to do so.

Yes -- just (11) more working days for me. Not counting part-time or summer jobs while in school, In my adult life I've worked (27) years - full-time and (8) years part-time. I've had several high-powered jobs and a few fun and sometimes mindless jobs as well over the years. I've worked with my share of wonderful people and one wonderful mentor in my early HR days, and I've also worked for a few insensitive jerks as well....but haven't we all?

People ask me, "are you afraid to retire, or is the idea of never working again scary?"  My answer is "no way!!" I've dreamt about retirement for years and now I'm there.  I do tell these same people -- what is scary for me is the question I keep asking myself -- "where did my life go"?

Plans -- spending time with my (3) - 1-3 year old granddaughters before they start school fulltime, some travel with my husband, trying lots of new recipes, joining a gym, volunteering at at animal shelter and of course, reading --lots.

As far as blogging and books, it seemed appropriate to do something bookish for my post today. I decided to share what I considered to be the #1, favorite book I read each year for the last 15 years.

Here's my list.  How many of my favorites have you read or enjoyed?
(US and International)

(I just finished this book and thought it was terrific. An extremely well-written psychological mystery. Just leave a comment stating you'd like to be considered for the giveaway (it's a trade softcover, like new). I'll draw the winner next Sunday.) I hope to post my review later this week. Definitely worth reading.

Have a Great Week Everyone.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Snapshots - Birds of Prey

I'm fascinated with all the webcams that are available online which capture the Peregrine Falcons returning to their former nests each spring, and hatching new offspring.  The cams are fascinating and time wasters each day for me at work. It's fun to  watch several cams right here in New England, and see the little ones hatch, mature and fly the coop just 6+ weeks later.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a lovely woman from Massachusetts who, with her partner, takes in wounded birds of prey. She had with her several of the birds that she has been trying to rehabilitate for some time.

I was able to take a few pictures with my iPhone which came out really well after I cropped them. Shown below are a red-tail hawk, great horned owl, Peregrine falcon, barn owl and a  saw-whet owl, .  These birds will never be able to be released for one reason or another. Aren't they amazing?

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Farmer and the Clown; Marcia Frazee

 The Farmer and the Clown; Marcia Frazee
Beach Lane Books - 2014

Wow - what a treat. In this marvelous, wordless picture book, a small circus train passes through a rural farm land where an elderly farmer lives alone.  When the train hits a bump, off flies the littlest clown you've ever seen -- picture a toddler in clown garb.

The taller than life, stern-faced farmer comes to the rescue or this pint-sized, frightened little clown, and prepares a space for him inside his humble home. As daylight comes, he includes the little one in his daily farm chores: milking the cow, gathering eggs, pitching hay etc. and even plans a little picnic lunch for the two of them.

Luckily for the little one, the same train passes through the very next day and the clowns on board rescue their little one. The old man gives the little one his hat to remember him by. The ending, which at first glance is sad, being the old man will be left alone once again, does have a surprise ending that will make you feel better and maybe even smile.

The art work is lovely and perfect for this wordless book. The contrasting colors, clothing and expressions between the child and larger than life man, are wonderful.

A beautiful book and just a welcomed addition to any collection.

Tad and Dad; David Ezra Stein

 Tad and Dad; David Ezra Stein
Nancy Paulsen Books - Penguin - 2015

I'm a huge fan of this author and illustrator's book "Interrupting Chicken".  When I saw this adorable new book last month, I immediately ordered (2) copies as Father's Day gifts for my son and SIL to read to their little girls.

Tad is a little tadpole, but getting bigger every day. Tad loves bragging about his dad and spending time with him.  Even at night Tad manages to find Dad's lily pad much more comfortable than where he's suppose to sleep.  When his dad asks why, he tells him he is afraid his dad will miss him.  As Tad gets bigger, the pad gets smaller and with Tads poking and croaking, dad can't get any sleep.  It isn't long before both Tad and Dad realize they really do need each other --even at night.

David Ezra Stein, is a Caldecott Honor Winner.  His talent shows in his ability to create engaging stories that kids enjoy over and over again. His watercolor and colorful drawings of the frog and tadpole as well as pond feature are delightful as well.

A funny, heartfelt story about family. Any proud dad would be happy to receive this book and enjoy reading it to their special little one as well.

5/5 stars

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb

I read about this book the other day, and I just love the sound of it. Sure hope it measures up to the description.
Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb
Liveright - W.W. Norton - AUgust 2015


For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes this landmark novel about autism, memory, and, ultimately, redemption.
Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy―with its unforgettable portraits of Todd’s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd “reflects the beauty of His creation”―is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Radiant Angel; Nelson DeMille

Radiant Angel; Nelson DeMille
Hachette Audio - 2015

On a recent road trip to Maine we listed to Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille.  This book is # 7 in the John Corey series, but even if you are a newbie to the series, you still might enjoy this one. The story line is easy to follow and has enough background on the John Corey character so new readers should not feel lost.  The audio book is read by Scott Brick, who as always, does a superb job.

John Corey is known for his acid tongue. A former NYPD detective, former member of FBI and the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, he now works for the DSG (Diplomatic Surveillance Group) in New York City. 

His current assignment is to keep tabs on some Russian Diplomats at the UN. When one Russian diplomats gets a bit slippery and goes missing at a Hampton's party, John's job heats up. It's rumored that the missing Russian, Vasily Petrov may be planning a nuclear attack on NYC, by way of a suitcase containing the so-called "Radiant Angel.

The elusive Petrov takes John and partner Tess Faraday on a rollar coaster of a ride.  From wild Hampton's parties, prostitutes, and more, John Corey's sardonic wit makes this audio book a fun listening experience for readers. At times, John's humor is a bit overdone, and some of the cat and mouse escapades seem to conveniently achieve the unachievable, but despite this, Radiant Angel is a decent political thriller with an especially appropriate line for 2015. Although the story is fast paced, it is shorter in length than previous installments, resulting in less character development, and a bit more fluff. Still very fun though. 

Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this audio book.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Glaciers; Alexis M Smith

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Honestly, it's the pretty cover that attracted me to this one.

Glaciers; Alexis M. Smith
Tin House Books - 2012


"Isabel often thinks of Amsterdam, though she has never been there, and probably never will go.

As a child in a small town on Cook Inlet in Alaska, she saw volcanoes erupting, whales migrating, and icebergs looming at sea before she ever saw a skyscraper or what could properly be called architecture.  She was nine years old, on a trip to her aunt's with her mother and sister, the first time she visited a real metropolis: Seattle.  She took it all in--the towering buildings and industrial warehouses, the train tracks and bridges, the sidewalk cafes and neighborhood shops, and the skylike along Highway 99, the way the city seemed to rise right up out of Elliot Bay, mirroring the Olympic Mountains across the sound.  The breadth and the details overwhelmed her, but soon she loved the city the same way she loved the landscape of the old nprth. Old churches were grand and solemn, just like glaciers, and dilapitated houses filled her with the same sense of sadness as a stand of leafless winter  trees."

What do you think? Keep Reading or move on to something else?
(feel free to join in by posting a link to you intro below)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Books

Several new books came my way for the first (2) weeks of June. Thanks go to Harper, Crown, Vintage and Pamela Dorman Books,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Snapshots -- Maine and Cats

Last weekend we took off for a weekend getaway to Portland, Maine.  What a treat. Portland is such a hip city, It's walker friendly and such a lovely seaside town with wonderful cobblestone streets, fabulous shops and yummy restaurants.

Here are a few pics -- I shot with my phone, but here are some better ones I found online..(More of Portland, Maine)

 Old Port

Friday, June 12, 2015

The People in the Trees; Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the Trees; Hanya Yanagihara

After totally falling in love with this author's dark, yet captivating, 2015 offering, A Little Life, I knew that I had to try her debut book, The People in the Trees.

I finished this book about 6 weeks ago, taking notes along the way as I read.  It's difficult to say that you enjoyed a book when the protagonist is evil and has done the unthinkable, but this book was another addictive read. It's a story that will make many readers think about some tough moral questions about prolonging life if it were possible and, whether horrible people can still be respected and be capable of doing great things.  For theses reasons, writing this review has been one of the most challenging tasks I've taken on in a while. This may also be the book that attributed to my reading slump once I finished --so good yet intense.

In this story protagonist, Norton Perina is a brilliant scientist yet, possibly an evil human being. He was accused of molesting one of his many (40+) adopted children from a Micronesian tribe in U'ivu where he, along with anthropologist, Paul Tallent had been doing research on a lost tribe.  Their research turns up more than expected when they discover some forest dwellers who seem to live forever. Their secret to immortality just may have been achieved by consuming the meat of a rare turtle.

As the story opens Norton is in jail, serving time for the molestation charge. As a prize winning Nobel scientist, while in jail, he is encouraged by his memoirs. Through a series of letters to his former associate the reader learns more and more fascinating facts about Norton and his research. The revelations will amaze, disturb or at least shock some readers. The reader gets to ferret out the fact from the fiction, from a sometimes unreliable narrator.

Blending science with fiction, this is one of those rare debut novels that isn't an easy read, but it is a worthwhile one. I doubt that I will ever read another novel that moved me as much as this author's book, A Little Life, but that being said, The People in the Trees is certainly an amazing debut novel.

4.5/5 stars
(audio and print)

(Another book that was read/reviewed by Jackie@Farm Lane Books)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Days of Awe, Lauren Fox

Days of Awe; Lauren Fox
Knopf - August - 2015

Sound like a book you might read?


Celebrated for her irresistibly witty, strikingly intelligent examinations of friendship and marriage, Lauren Fox (“An immensely gifted writer—a writer adept at capturing the sad-funny mess that happens to be one woman’s life” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times) has written her most powerful novel to date. Days of Awe is the story of a woman who, in the wake of her best friend’s sudden death, must face the crisis in her marriage, the fury of her almost-teenage daughter, and the possibility of opening her cantankerous heart to someone new.

Only a year ago Isabel Moore was married, was the object of adoration for her ten-year-old daughter, and thought she knew everything about her wild, extravagant, beloved best friend, Josie. But in that one short year her husband moved out and rented his own apartment; her daughter grew into a moody insomniac; and Josie—impulsive, funny, secretive Josie—was killed behind the wheel in a single-car accident. As the relationships that long defined Isabel—wife, mother, daughter, best friend—change before her eyes, Isabel must try to understand who she really is. 

Teeming with longing, grief, and occasional moments of wild, unexpected joy, Days of Awe is a daring, dazzling book—a luminous exploration of marriage, motherhood, and the often surprising shape of new love.