Saturday, October 31, 2015

Salem's Lot; Stephen King Readalong Wrap-Up

Thanks to Melissa, Care and Trish for hosting this fun read-along. So happy I decided to participate after initially dismissing it.

(love this cover image I found online)

I was late jumping onboard with the Salem's Lot bandwagon, but so happy my library cooperated and eventually made the audio download available.  After 35 years, I probably enjoyed this more the second time around...such fun. Ron McLarty did a terrific job narrating this selection.

(The Overview)Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem's Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will help him cast out his own devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods and only one comes out alive, Mears begins to realize that there may be something sinister at work and that his hometown is under siege by forces of darkness far beyond his control.

(My Rambling Thoughts) - I loved the Marsden house and how it seemed to come alive as I read.  I loved how the first half of the books ratcheted up the tension for what was to some later on -- the details about the house, the town, the people etc.  Then wham, Ben and his vampire fighters really had their work cut out for them.  This book felt dated but I really loved that,  it took me back to those earlier days to what many of King's generation did for fun as teens (well minus the vampire fighting). I loved how these vampires were the good old-fashioned kind, no glitz and glamour or good looks, but scary, evil and smelly instead. I loved the characters King created, the sinister feel and, of course, the blood-sucking vampires of the night. 

Stakes, crosses, holy water - dark menacing and atmospheric, Salem's Lot is one of King's very best, in my opinion. It's a perfect horror selection to read most anytime, but something about October reading made it even more enjoyable.

Friday, October 30, 2015

It's. Nice. Outside.; Jim Kokoris

It's. Nice. Outside. ; Jim Kokoris
St. Martin's Press - 2015

Poor John Nichols, fifty-seven, has a lot on his plate. Father to (2) grown daughters and a nineteen year-old developmentally challenged son who often behaves like a 3 year-old,  John's also divorced from Mary, a woman he still loves -- she kicked him out after he cheated on her.

"Note: I wasn't a full-fledged philanderer.  In more than thirty years of marriage, I only stepped out with one woman, lovely Rita, and it didn't last long.  Then I came to my senses, confessed all, begged forgiveness, had a bar of soap thrown at my head, had a bar of soap hit me in the head, and was told to move out.  Nine months later I was a divorced fifty-five year old man, living alone, trying to decide whether to have Dominos for lunch, and mac and cheese for dinner, or mac and cheese for lunch and Dominos for dinner."

John's had more disappointments in life as well, he's an ex-basketball player, ex-English teacher, and one-time author. One thing he's sure about is that he cares deeply for his family. He evens attends a support group for parents with special needs kids. (Ethan's diagnosis was global brain damage - an extra chromosome on the 9th cell and later classified as mildly autistic.)

The story begins with John and son Ethan traveling by van from Illinois to South Carolina for daughter Karen's wedding.  John decided to take the car route with Ethan as last time they traveled by plane Ethan had a meltdown and the results were disastrous.  This trip proves challenging as well, as along the way Ethan tests his father's patience and the trip takes much longer than planned. 

When the family eventually hooks up both Karen and John have unexpected news to share with the family that shocks the other family members.

This was such a sweet story. The author does an amazing job for capturing what life might be life for parents with children developmental challenges.  Readers who love heartfelt stories and reading about quirky characters and dysfunctional families should give this one a try. I was so happy I tried this one. I definitely plan to read other books by this author - this was my kind of story for sure.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories; Audrey Niffenegger

This book actually was released on October 6th by Scribner, and I just finished the first 3 stories -- Black Cat; Edgar Allen Poe,  Secret Life, with Cats; Audrey Niffenegger and Pomagranate Seed; Edith Wharton.  I loved all 3, but especially the first 2. I can't wait to continue reading the rest -- delightfully creepy and spooky.  Be sure to check this collection out!

Scribner - October 2015


Collected and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry—including her own fabulous new illustrations for each piece, and a new story by Niffenegger—this is a unique and haunting anthology of some of the best ghost stories of all time.

From Edgar Allen Poe to Kelly Link, M.R. James to Neil Gaiman, H. H. Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre with tales going back to the eighteenth century and into the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic Horror to Victorian, with a particular bent toward stories about haunting—haunted children, animals, houses. Every story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, an acclaimed master of the craft, with some words on its background and why she chose to include it. Niffenegger’s own story is, “A Secret Life With Cats.”

Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this is a delightful volume, beautifully illustrated. Ghostly showcases the best of the best in the field, including Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, A.S. Byatt, Ray Bradbury, and so many more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Lake House; Kate Morton

The Lake House; Kate Morton
Atria - Oct-2015

The idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall holds many secrets.  The story begins in 1933 with 16 year old Alice Edevane, one of (4) children of Eleanor and Anthony.  Alice loves to write stories, she's a sleuth or sorts and as the story begins something mysterious is happening while she is in the woods.  Back home Alice's parents are hosting a grand "Midsummer's Eve Party, at Loennaeth, their grand estate. However,  as the party is going on something terrible happens.  Theo Edevane, infant son of the couple, disappears from his crib and is never found.  Devastated the family moves from the house to London, leaving the house vacant for years.

Fast forward to 2003, Sadie Sparrow, a former police detective who is on administrative leave goes to spend some time with her grandfather, Bertie.  While exploring the area, she comes upon the long abandoned 'lake house" and can't resist exploring the house's history.  She becomes obsessed with what happened to the missing boy.

There are several threads running through this story and through flashbacks, some as far back as 1911, the reader gets a glimpse into the family and their secrets.  The author did a great job especially with the characters of Alice, Sadie and Eleanor. Alice, now in her 80's, proves to be a very interesting character, and her talent as a mystery writer over the years makes her character all the more curious. Sadie has her own secrets too, making her great character as well.

There is plenty of suspense,  a few twists and even a surprise ending but, for some reason I didn't love this Kate Morton book as much as the others I've read. I felt it was unnecessarily overwritten and plodding at times (lots of unnecessary details), and it required me to suspend belief at times as well. Told from way too many points of view, The Lake House, will appeal to some readers who enjoy historical mysteries and stories with family secrets.

3.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Mare; Mary Gaitskill

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

The Mare; Mary Gaitskill
Pantheon - Nov 2015

"That day I woke up from a dream the way I always woke up; pressed against my mom's back, my face against her and her turned away.  She holding Dante and he holding her, his head in her breasts wrapped around each other like they're falling down a hole.  It was okay.  I was an eleven-year-old girl and I didn't need to have my face in my mom's titty no more, that is if I ever did.  Dante, my little brother, was only six.

It was summer, the air-conditioner was up too high, dripping dirty water on the floor, outside the pan I put there to catch it.  Too loud too, but still I heard a shot from outside or maybe a shout from my dream; I was dreaming about my grandfather from DR, he was lost in a dark place, like a castle with a lot of rooms and rich white people doing scary things in all of them, and my grandfather somewhere shouting my name.  Or maybe it was a shot.  I sat up and listened, but there wasn't anything."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Peg & Cat: The Race Car Problem; Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Candlewick Enterprises - 2015

Based on the PBS kids series, Peg & Cat: The Race Car Problem was an entertaining read that our 3-year old granddaughter loves to have read to her. It's the first of a new series.

The premise of the story is that Peg & Cat want to participate in The Tallapegga Twenty event, but to do so they need a race car. With junkyard parts the duo persists until the car is good enough to compete. But, it the car good enough to win against some stiff competition?

The book enforces the message of never giving up, it adds colorful shapes and basic math concepts to the story for added interest and some good vocabulary words for language skill building as well. I thought the story and colorful illustrations were fun as well. I did feel that the book a bit wordy for little ones under the age of 4.

4/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Blatherings - the books, the movies, the cats

The Movie

I've had a huge love for Apple beginning with it's iPod, around 2002. Love its stock, the iPhone, the MAC, the iPad and although I no longer use an iPod, it was the first Apple product I ever owned.  After reading and loving Isaacson's fantastic bio on  Steve Jobs, I couldn't wait to see the movie which was released here on Friday.

The movie portrays jobs as an innovator, a genius and an asshole. Does a genius get a pass from treating others with respect?  We liked the movie, but felt it did not cover enough, I would have liked to see more. It basically covers the years (1984-19980, pivotal times when Jobs introduced new technology to the world, and was dealing with personal issues as well.  Michael Fassbender, although he looked nothing like Jobs, did a terrific job portraying him.  Kate Winslet, as always, played a fantastic role: the head of marketing, ever at his side and his conscience -- yep, I think there was one scene when a flicker of a conscience came through.  Probably the most touching part of the movie was his relationship with his daughter who he refused to acknowledge for a number of years despite paternity tests proving she was his daughter.  A movie heavy in dialogue, not in action or set changes, it's one of those movies some may love and others might hate.  My opinion - definitely worth seeing.

The Books

I'm extremely late jumping on the bandwagon here, but my audio download just came through this week from the library. I'm about 1/2 way through and really enjoying this one, which I last read about 35 years ago and remember nothing!!!

Not sure how many people are reading this one this month, but thanks go to Melissa’s blog, Trish and Care for hosting.

I finished, Kate Morton's The Lake House this week (500p). I enjoyed it, a lot but it wasn't my favorite - still need to work on a review.Listening to Salem's Lot and Reading - It's. Nice. Outside; Jim Kokoris (this one is so good)

New Books

The Cats

Some of you who follow me on Instagram have probably seen my "cats" lately, but for those who haven't, please "indulge" me. At our house you can always tell when the temps get cooler as we have fireplace cats, and lap cats - we love all (3).

Freckles - age 12 - Loves my husband,
views me as his food source.
 Lily - age 12
Loves me and my husband's laps equally
extremely vocal

Buddy - age 13
His heart belongs to me

Enjoy your week Everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ Avenue of Mysteries; John Irving

A favorite author - can't wait to read

Avenue of Mysteries; John Irving
Simon & Schuster - Nov. 2015


John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.

In Avenue of Mysteries, Juan Diego—a fourteen-year-old boy, who was born and grew up in Mexico—has a thirteen-year-old sister. Her name is Lupe, and she thinks she sees what's coming—specifically, her own future and her brother's. Lupe is a mind reader; she doesn't know what everyone is thinking, but she knows what most people are thinking. Regarding what has happened, as opposed to what will, Lupe is usually right about the past; without your telling her, she knows all the worst things that have happened to you.

Lupe doesn't know the future as accurately. But consider what a terrible burden it is, if you believe you know the future—especially your own future, or, even worse, the future of someone you love. What might a thirteen-year-old girl be driven to do, if she thought she could change the future?

As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. As we grow older—most of all, in what we remember and what we dream—we live in the past. Sometimes, we live more vividly in the past than in the present.

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past—in Mexico—collides with his future.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - It's. Nice. Outside; Jim Kokoris

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. (I received this copy for review recently and really like the sound of it).

It's. Nice. Outside - Jim Kokoris
St. Martin's Press - 2015


What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, October 19, 2015

3 Popular Novels for 2015 that I just Couldn't Finish

It's been a long time since I had a DNF and over the last (2) months I had (3). It's not a reading funk either as I've enjoyed many other books in that same time frame. But, sadly, these 3 books that I expected to enjoy went back to the library unread. So happy I never purchased them.  Have you read them? What did I miss?

  • In The Unlikely Event; Judy Blume - Based in part of the author's personal experiences, the story is set against a backdrop of family life in the 50's and 60's,  and several plane crashes in a 3-month period which rocked the town of Elizabeth, NJ. I liked the nostalgia this story stirred and really wanted to love this book but, the 3rd person POV just did not work for me.  There were too many insignificant characters and a plot that was going nowhere fast.  I tried this one in September (print) and again in October (audio), but I just couldn't get myself to care about this one enough to finish it.
  • Purity; Jonathan Franzen - I've enjoyed several novels by this author in the past so was anticipated this would be another win. Sadly, the story had no real plot, and Pip, the central character was one that was easy to hate. She was one of those negative, downer personalities, that if she was someone I knew, I would go the other way if I saw her in a store. Her mother, no surprise, was equally annoying. This story was all over the place, and honestly, it was hard to believe that Franzen even wrote this one.
  • City on Fire; Garth Risk Hallberg - This is the debut novel everyone has been posting about with (900+pp). I got through about 200pp and decided it just wasn't for me.  This book isn't badly written, but rather "overwritten". It felt like the author was trying to show off his elaborate vocabulary, and I grew tired of having to look up the definition of what felt like every other word.

Friday, October 16, 2015

This is Your Life Harriet Chance; Jonathan Evison

Algonquin - 2015

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance is a wonderful story told through the POV of Harriet, a 78 year old widow who had been married for 55 years.  

After her husband Bernard passes away, Harriet learns he had planned an Alaskan cruise for two. With the reservations already in place, she decides to go it alone, hoping this will be just the new start she needs in life. She takes a yogurt container with Bernard's ashes and an unopened letter from her longtime friend for company.  

The cruise, buffets, entertainment, alcohol and time for reflection on her life thus far, some good times, some sad times, and some downright bad times, all have made Harriet the woman she is today.  Her husband's imagined voice frequently appears throughout these moments of reflection.  She also gets an unexpected appearance on the cruise by her daughter who she has had an on again, off again relationship with. 

I don't want to say too much about Harriet's story, which I think will have a wide appeal, especially among women.  It covers so many issues that many women face throughout their lives, beginning with painful childhood memories, sexual harassment, abortion, drugs, infidelity, marriage and even child rearing. 

Considering the issues covered, I was pleased that I never found this story depressing, but rather touching and even funny at times.  As a wife, mother, and a woman with plenty of life experience, it was easy to find something relatable in me to Harriet as I read her story.

The story is told in short chapters with timelines for titles, beginning with her birth through the present, although the focus is mostly on the present day.  Harriet was an endearing character.  Her selfish children were another story, but they did not detract from my enjoyment of this novel.

The overall message was one of how life has a way of marching on, not always working out how we thought it would. It's about putting on our big-girl pants and learning to live with disappointment and setbacks despite it all.  There were a few really thought provoking passages, but I didn't quote them as I read them a second time I noticed that one in particular contained a spoiler.  

Add this book to your reading list if you enjoy stories about family dysfunction and lovable heroines.

5/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - City on Fire; Garth Risk Hallberg

I wasn't planning on reading this book, but the hype got to me.  I just downloaded the audio version from the library this morning.  Any plans to read this one ? (it's 900+ pages)

City on Fire; Garth Risk Hallberg
Knopf - October 2015


An immersive, exuberant, boundary-vaulting novel
New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor—and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve. 
The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever. 
City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock ’n’ roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Lake House; Kate Morton

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. (On chapter 4 - so far very good)

The Lake House; Kate Morton
Atria - 2015


Cornwall, August 1933

The rain was heavy now and the hem of her dress was splattered with mud.  She'd have to hide it afterwards: no one could know that she'd been out.

Clouds covered the moon, a stroke of luck she didn't deserve, and she made her way through the thick, black night as quickly as she could.  She's come earlier to dig the hole, but only now, under veil of darkness, would she finish the job.  Rain stippled the surface of the trout stream, drummed relentlessly on the earth beside it.  Something bolted through the broken nearby, but she didn't flinch, didn't stop.  She'd been in and out of the woods all her life and knew the way by heart."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Blatherings and some New Kids Books

I'm loving this cool fall weather - 60's by day and 40's by night. Extra comforter on the bed and the new winter bathrobe has been purchased.

I've been in the furniture rearranging mood and while my husband was busy in the basement this morning I completely rearranged the living room. I was thinking he would hate it and so I had my "let's give it a try speech" all ready, but he loved it as much as me.  It's cozier and more sunlight comes in the 5 windows now. I also purchased some air plants and hanging glass globe terrariums for my kitchen which I love. They were so much cheaper online than in the specialty shops around here.

This weekend we did some leaf-peeping, but honestly all I need to do is walk around the neighborhood to take in the beautiful colors. We may take a ride to Vermont or New Hampshire this week, just to be sure we didn't miss anything prettier than what we've seen for foliage.

I'm reading a delightful book that I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I am - it's called --This is Your Life Harriet Chance; Jonathan Evison. I hope to start After You; JoJo Moyes and The Lake House; Kate Morton this week.

Candlewick Press sent my some beautiful new kids books. I can't wait to read them.

Have a nice week everyone.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

We Were Brothers: a memoir; Barry Moser

We Were Brothers; Barry Moser
Algonquin - 2015

Every now and then I crave a good memoir, not any memoir, but I generally look for one that I can relate to, one that is apt to stick with me for one reason or another.  We Were Brothers was just such a memoir. In many ways this story reminded me of the sometimes troubled relationship of my own two older brothers who grew up in the late 40's and 50's, both were about the same ages as author and his brother Tommy.

The author and his older brother Tommy were born and raised around Chattanooga, TN, and from an early age racism was ever present in their childhood town. The KKK was in full force and the divide between blacks and whites was present everywhere. Through no fault of their own each brother was raise to believe that white people were superior to black people. In many ways their childhood, minus the racism, was typical of many siblings -- sharing a room, riding bikes and trying to avoid bullies, especially since neither boy was athletic. Both were talented artists and each had childhood afflictions that in some ways made learning and success in school a challenge. Tommy had eye issues which kept him behind a few grades in school and may have attributed to his sometimes volatile personality.  Barry was dyslexic and more laid back and, despite the issues of both brothers they attended military school even though it was only Barry who graduated.

The older the brothers got the greater the divide between them became, because of their adult views on race. While Tommy remained in Tennessee, Barry moved to New England, embarrassed at times by his brother's actions. Although both brothers had families of their own and each experienced professional successes, their views about racism couldn't have been farther apart and, as a result, their relationship turned to ice for a good many years.  Fortunately, unlike many fractured relationships that stay that way to the grave, these brothers were able to eventually come to an understanding and make their peace before it is was too late.

This memoir was short, fewer than 200 pages, and very well written with several beautiful illustrations included. I enjoyed the story of these brothers and finished their story in one seating. I think this memoir will appeal to more mature readers, especially those who have experienced strained sibling relationships in their own families.

About the Author-----BARRY MOSER was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and other museums around the world. He has illustrated and/or designed over 350 books, including Moby-Dick, Frankenstein, The Divine Comedy, and the King James Bible. His edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland won a National Book Award. He is currently Irwin and Pauline Alper Glass Professor of Art and the printer to the college at Smith College.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Beautiful Bureaucrat; Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat; Helen Phillips
Henry Holt & Co - 2015

When I saw that readers who enjoy Murakami and Atwood would likely enjoy this book, I knew I had to give it a try. It's a great choice for book groups with plenty to discuss.

After being out of work for way too long Joseph and Josephine, a 30-something couple move to an unnamed city from the "hinterlands" where Joseph has just found a job. Soon after Josephine is hired as an administrative assistant but, her job and the workplace is anything but ideal.

Josephine's office is a windowless, dingy pink room (9997) with bright fluorescent lighting. Her faceless, boss, known only as, "The Person with the Bad Breath" provides her with files and instructions, Strictly data entry work, file after file she dutifully enters a series of numbers from the files into a database. She is not allowed to ask questions or discuss her job with anyone. She can't even hang a calendar on her disgusting office walls.  Then there's a girl named Trishiffany who calls her JoJo and who knows way too much personal information about Josephine, information that she's pretty sure she has never shared.  It gets more creepy and bizarre from there.  

Josephine's happy that at the end of the day she at least has her husband and the latest horrible place they call home to look forward to.  However, when Joseph doesn't come home one night and then when he does return he becomes more distant, Josephine's anxiety kicks into high gear. She thought their relationship was solid and that she could count on him and they silly routines and word games.

The story is told from Josephine's POV, and although it's  a novel fewer than 200 pages, there's plenty to like about this story. A blend of real and surreal, touching and thrilling and with a good dose of dark humor, The Beautiful Bureaucrat will make you smile and make you wonder. The ending was unexpected and honestly it made me go back and read some of the story again. A good choice for book groups to consider.

4.5/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Shantaram fans - a long awaited sequel - The Mountain Shadow; Gregory David Roberts

It's been (11) years since Shantaram had been published. This was such a fantastic (944 pp) novel.  I had read and discussed it with a coworker about 5 years ago, and we both couldn't shut up about it. I'm so excited for this sequel, despite it being another hefty tome at (912 pp). Have you read Shantaram? If not, you should try it sometime -- truly amazing.

The Mountain Shadow; Gregory David Roberts
October 13th - Grove Press


Shantaram introduced millions of readers to a cast of unforgettable characters through Lin, an Australian fugitive, working as a passport forger for a branch of the Bombay mafia. In The Mountain Shadow, the long awaited sequel, Lin must find his way in a Bombay run by a different generation of mafia dons, playing by a different set of rules.

It has been two years since the events in Shantaram, and since Lin lost two people he had come to love: his father figure, Khaderbhai, and his soul mate, Karla, married to a handsome Indian media tycoon. Lin returns from a smuggling trip to a city that seems to have changed too much, too soon. Many of his old friends are long gone, the new mafia leadership has become entangled in increasingly violent and dangerous intrigues, and a fabled holy man challenges everything that Lin thought he’d learned about love and life. But Lin can’t leave the Island City: Karla, and a fatal promise, won’t let him go.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Becoming Ellen; Shari Shattuck

Becoming Ellen; Shari Shattuck
G.P Putnam & Sons - 2015

Ellen Homes is a heartwarming character that was first introduced in Invisible Ellen. Ellen is a physically scarred and emotionally wounded young woman who meets a brother and sister who really care about her and who she begins to trust.

Becoming Ellen picks up where the last novel left off, and IMO, you MUST read Invisible Ellen first. Ellen is now living with brother and sister team, Temerity, a blind violinist and her protective but kind brother Justice.  As Ellen begins to open herself up emotionally, a bus crash and (2) young children who desperately need a caring adult in their lives opens old wounds to the days Ellen spent in the foster care system herself.

While her physical scars are becoming less noticeable and she's lost some weight, she still continues to work at her night time cleaning crew job at Costco, so that she can keep a low profile and not have to interact with a lot of people. Her work life routines and secret hideouts where she can snoop on conversations of the boss and coworkers make her privy to some surprising illegal activities.

Without giving away too much of the story, I'll just say that I thought this was a decent follow-up to Invisible Ellen, but without reading the first book, this story would fall flat IMO.  The first book was all about getting to know Ellen -- the author created a totally believable and endearing character that you wanted to see transform into a happy young adult.  The followup is more about how she is coming out of her shell and some antics that she gets caught up in along the way.  Some of what happens in this one did not feel realistic, but I still enjoyed spending more time with Ellen, an unforgettable character who is worth getting to know.  If you like stories about the underdog - read both of these novels.

3.5/5 stars
(personal copy)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~ Purity; Jonathan Franzen

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. (Planning to start this one this week)

Purity; Jonathan Franzen
Farrar, Straus and Giroux - 2015

"Oh pussycat, I'm so glad to hear your voice," the girl's mother said on the telephone. "My body is betraying me again. Sometimes I think my life is nothing but one long process of bodily betrayal."

"Isn't that everybody's life?" the girl, Pip, said.  She'd taken to calling her mother midway through her lunch break at Renewable Solutions.  It brought her some relief from the feeling that she wasn't suited for her job, that she had a job that nobody could be suited for, or that she was a person unsuited for any kind of job; and then, after twenty minutes she could honestly say that she needed to get back to work."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Gates of Evangeline; Hester Young

G. P. Putnam & Sons & Penguin Audio
(January Lavoy - narrator)

The Gates of Evangeline is a recent debut which blends mystery, ghost story, romance and Southern Gothic into a very readable novel. It's the first of a planned trilogy.

Charlotte (Charlie) Cates has a lot on her plate.  She's a grieving mother who tragically lost her 4 year old son Keegan. Now divorced and back at her fairly high powered job at Sophisticate magazine she's got even more reason for anxiety with big management changes happening at work.  Even bedtime fails to calm Charlie. She has been plagued with troubling dreams of young children calling out for help in the middle of the night. One small child in particular, a boy named JoJo calling out for help from a small boat in the middle of a swamp is especially haunting for her.

When a former colleague asks her to write a true-crime story about a young boy named Gabriel Deveau who went missing from his bedroom in 1982, his disappearance still unsolved, she accepts the offer. She believes this somehow might be connected to her dream.

Charlie travels from New York City to Chicory, Louisiana to research her story. Staying at the Evangeline plantation with the now 40-something twin sisters of the boy who disappeared decades earlier, she bumps heads with a unique cast of characters while doing her research.  Charlie has her work cut out for her as it's clear some people want long buried secrets to stay buried.

One of the best things about this read were the characters, especially Charlie. All the characters were very well drawn and believable.  The fact that some of them didn't want Charlie around made me wonder about what they had to fear or hide.  Although I felt engaged and invested in the story, it did drag in spots despite having an awful lot going on in it -- grieving mother, mystery, romance, ghost story and plenty of family drama and secrets.  Despite the great atmospheric feel, I might have enjoyed this one even more if it had been a little more straight forward.  Despite that I would still consider reading the sequel when it is released.

4/5 stars
(audio and eGalley)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Late Sunday Blatherings and New Books

How is your Sunday going everyone?  The day is quickly slip siding away it seams and I've been up since 5:30 am . We've had a few days of rain and windy conditions here, I almost turned on the heat when I saw 65 degrees in the house, but opted for the gas FP instead.  Today was sunny and near 60, but the next few days we may see sun and 70 so color me happy! On the dinner front this evening is blackened salmon, green beans and corn bread.

Friday we saw the first day release of The Martian in 3-D; it was incredible - I highly recommend it.

Today I took a shorter walk, and I've been catching up on reviews (not posted yet) but, this week I finished reading - The Gates of Evangeline, Hester Young; The Beautiful Bureaucrat; Helen Phillips; and Becoming Ellen; Shari Shattuck - feeling kinda happy about this. Review ratings range from 3.5 stars to 4.5 stars so it was all good reading or listening more or less.

Several new books made in mysteriously into my house over the last (2) weeks - just how does this happen? PLUS, I am hooked on audio downloads from the library now as well - no more books on cd for me thank you! Audio downloads to my phone are so easy and I can listen on the phone or through bluetooth in the car as well - love.

Up Next - After You; JoJo Moyes; In the Unlikely Event; Judy Blume (started this one but had to return it to library but it's back again as an audio download) and Purity; Jonathan Franzen

Have a Great Week  Everyone!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Souls at Night; Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night; Kent Haruf
Knopf - 2015

I loved this audiobook narrated by Mark Bramhall. The story left me feeling a bit sad, and with a thought that I often ask myself these days -- "Why can't people just live and let live?"

The story is a pretty simple one and involves two seniors in their 70's.  Addie Moore and Louis Walters are neighbors. They have both lost their spouses and live alone in the small town of Holt, Colorado.  One day Addie pays Louis a visit, she's lonely with no one to talk to. Her son and grandson live several hours away as does Louis' daughter.

Addie makes a surprising request after asking whether Louis ever feels lonely.  She asks him whether her might consider spending the night with her.  She's looking just for companionship and for a warm body next to her on those cold, lonely nights. Louis accepts her offer, and one night grows into two and then something more.  Each reveals very personal moments from their past as their fondness for one another grows.

Their relationship is problematic: town folks gossip, adult children express opposition and despite pretending not to care what others say, avoiding the subject is easier said than done.

I loved this short bittersweet story. The writing is beautiful and thought provoking and I felt sad that this will be the last book I'll ever see from this talented author, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 71. The story is a mostly hopeful story of friendship, love and understanding between seniors who had all but lost the human contact they once had enjoyed.  I think this book will mostly appeal to readers in the 50+ age range or to readers who have lost a spouse.

One quote in particular resonated with me -- "Who does ever get what they want? It doesn't seem to happen to many of us if any at all.  It's always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings."

5/5 stars

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ Thirteen Ways of Looking; Colum McCann

A longtime fan of author Colum McCann, I'm looking forward to his latest book, a novella and (3) short stories set to release October 13th.

Random House


In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life’s work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In “Sh’khol,” a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In “Treaty,” an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year’s Eve.
Deeply personal, subtly subversive, at times harrowing, and indeed funny, yet also full of comfort, Thirteen Ways of Looking is a striking achievement. With unsurpassed empathy for his characters and their inner lives, Colum McCann forges from their stories a profound tribute to our search for meaning and grace. The collection is a rumination on the power of storytelling in a world where language and memory can sometimes falter, but in the end do not fail us, and a contemplation of the healing power of literature.