Monday, October 31, 2016

2 Quick RIP XI Reviews - Pretty Girls; K. Slaughter and the Girls She Left Behind; Sarah Graves

 Pretty Girls; Karin Slaughter
Blackstone Audio - 2015
Kathleen Early - Narrator

Pretty Girls is a gritty, disturbing, psychological thriller. The Carroll family has never been the same since the disappearance of daughter and sister Julia from her college dorm some 24 years earlier.

After Julia's disappearance the two remaining sisters, Claire and Lydia haven't spoken in years and their lives couldn't be more different. Lydia is a single mom and recovering substance abuser with an ex-con boyfriend. Claire married a wealthy architect but, the effects of Julia's disappearance has affected her as well. She's spent time on house arrest and just when her monitoring device is removed, her husband is killed right before her very eyes.

As police begin to ask questions it appears that Claire did not know her husband all that well. And, what exactly happened to Julia when she went missing?  Lydia and Claire reconnect to do a bit of their own investigation.

I haven't read this author in several years and always enjoyed her psych thrillers previously but, wow, has her writing become disturbing. It's overridden with violence and brutality against women and, was very tough to listen to.  I had to fast forward over some of that violence.  Definitely not recommended for the faint of heart.

2.5/5 stars
(library audio)

Dreamscape Media - 2016
Kirsten Potter - Narrator

A few months ago I listened to the first book of a new series by Sarah Graves. The book was Winter at the Door, with protagonist, Lizzie Snow. In that story Lizzie had just relocated to rural Bearkill, Maine to accept a job as Sheriff's Deputy. Previously, Lizzie had been a homicide detective in Boston but, relocated hoping to follow a lead concerning her missing niece Nicki.

Now in this second mystery, while fierce wildfires threaten homes nearby and a young girl named Tara goes missing, Lizzie has her work cut out for her, meanwhile her missing niece Nicki is always on her mind. The latest missing girl, Tara, has run away before but her mother is sure this time is different.  Meanwhile, a psychopath named Henry Gemmeil has escaped and in the past he has kidnapped women and kept them hidden.

Although this story is the second book of a series, there is plenty of background information provided so that you need not feel compelled to read book one before trying this one.  Overall, I enjoyed listening to this mystery. It's a bit darker than book one but, not overly so.  Lizzy is a decent protagonist but she can be a bit of a flake when it comes to romantic interests.  I loved the cold, dark, rural Maine setting of both of these books which makes the mystery aspects more atmospheric.  Kirsten Potter is a great audio book narrator as well.

3.5/5 stars
(library audio)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Someone; Alice McDermott

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book I'm reading or will be reading soon.  "Someone" was my book group pick for October, I read it over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot (review coming after our group discussion).

Someone; Alice McDermott
Farrah Straus and Giroux - 2013


"Pegeen Chehab walked up from the subway in the evening light.  Her good spring coat was powder blue; her shoes were black and covered the insteps of her long feet. Her hat was beige with something dark along the crown, a brown feather or two. There was a certain asymmetry to her shoulders. She had a loping, hunchbacked walk.  She had, always, a bit of black hair along her cheek, straggling to her shoulder, her bun coming undone.  She carried her purse in the lightest clasp of her fingers, down along the side of her leg, which made her seem listless and weary even as she covered the distance quickly enough, the gray sidewalk from subway to parlor floor and basement of the house next door."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

This past week we had the pleasure on spending several days on Cape Cod with 75-79 degree mostly sunny weather, which is very unusual for Massachusetts mid October.  We spent most of our time in Chatham and Provincetown with briefer moments at The National Seashore in Wellfleet and Dennisport.  The picture above is of the Provincetown Public Library and the photo beneath is The Rose Dorothea Schooner which is housed inside the children's department. It's really amazing and not to be missed if ever in the area.

Chatham Coast Guard House, Cape Cod

Nauset Lighthouse, Eastham, MA, Cape Cod

The park near the Chatham Inn had a pumpkin patch with Hillary and Donald, as well as many other fun pumpkin exhibits.


Today the weather is more typical of New England weather. It's 53 degrees and sunny with a high of 59 slated for today. Today's plans call for a lot of nesting: a little cooking, a little reading and perhaps a short walk.  Hope everyone has a great week.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Harmony; Carolyn Parkhurst

Harmony; Carolyn Parkhurst
Pamela Dorman Books - 2016

Harmony is a story of marriage, parenting and the guilt felt when things don't turn out as planned.

The story begins with the Hammond family: Alexandra (mom), Josh (dad) and daughters Iris, age 11, and Tilly, age 13.  The family leaves their home in Washington, DC behind to live in an off the grid community called, Camp Harmony in New Hampshire.  The camp's leader, Scott Bean, is a self-proclaimed, cultish parenting expert who professes to help families who are struggling.

Tilly Hammond falls somewhere within the autism spectrum with no specific diagnosis.  She has been expelled from several schools for inappropriate behavior. She's prone to meltdowns, licks floors and has frequent vulgar and violent outbursts.  For the Hammonds, Camp Harmony seems to be their last result for keeping their family together.  But just who is Scott Bean and to what lengths will he go to change the behaviors of Tilly and other challenging children who have come to the camp?

The story told from the POV's of Iris and Alexandra where we learn about family life before Camp Harmony and life at Camp Harmony.  Peppered throughout are excepts to show how Tilly reacts to various situations.  Younger sister Iris is a wonderful narrator and Alexandra truly believes that Scott Bean may just be their last chance as others have suggested institutionalizing Tilly.

The author does a great job capturing the desperation of the parents. I did read that the author has an autistic son and her knowledge of the challenges shows.  There is a sense on tension throughout, especially when Scott Bean becomes a bit unpredictable.  The novel wasn't perfect and the epilogue seemed unrealistic and at times forced but, it was still an enjoyable read overall.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Book That Matters Most; Ann Hood

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book I'm reading or will be reading soon. 
W.W. Norton Company - 2016




"Ava saw it as soon as she turned the corner.  She stopped, squinting as if that would change what she was looking at.  It was a week before Christmas on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence.  The Christmas lights already shone, even at five o'clock, because the day was so dark and gray.  The air had that festive holiday feeling that came from people bustling about with oversized shopping bags, cold air, tired decorations, a guy selling Christmas trees on the corner.

But Ava felt anything but festive."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Leave Me; Gayle Forman

Leave Me; Gayle Forman
Algonquin - 2016

Maribeth Klein is a 40-something wife, mother to 4 year-old twins and career woman who tries to be all to all people. Her health suffers until one day she realizes she's had a heart attack and requires surgery.

When she finds recovering from surgery and taking care of her own needs extremely difficult with her family still depending on her, she decides to flee. Without any prior discussions she leaves her husband and kids to fend for themselves. She leaves NYC for Pittsburg while she heals and tries to find out about herself and her earliest roots -- she was adopted. WHAT?

This novel was a very quick read with nice short chapters and, while I think many overextended moms dream about escaping, few actually do so without some discussion at least.  I just couldn't understand Maribeth, instead of feeling grateful for making it though surgery she becomes resentful and bitchy. She never talks about her feelings and needs with her mother or spouse and just takes off.  I guess somewhat in MB's defense, her husband Jason, seemed a bit aloof and neither made any effort to communicate and understand the others needs. I think the author missed the mark by never developing her characters in a way that would make them more real and sympathetic.  In addition, the ending resolved itself way too easily to me.

3/5 stars

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Heavens May Fall; Allen Eskens

The Heavens May Fall; Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books - 2016

Detective Max Rupert (Guise of Another) is back and is as good as ever in this part mystery, part crime and part legal thriller. 

Max is still struggling with the hit and run death of his wife Jenni and, on the one year anniversary of her death, he's been assigned to a murder case. The victim is Jennavieve Pruitt, and her attorney husband Ben seems to be the prime suspect, although there are others who might want her dead as well.

Meanwhile,  attorney Boady Sanden,  Rupert’s longtime friend, has been hired by Ben Pruitt to defend him in the murder trial. Boady is dealing with his own demons after an innocent man he represented was sent to prison.  After that incident Boady gave up practicing law and took a job teaching it instead but, Ben convinces him to take his case.  Max and Boady now find themselves with very different opinions about the guilt versus innocence of Ben Pruitt.

This story is told from both Max and Boady’s opposing POVs and, the story divided into sections : The Death, The Defense and The Trial.  The story is well written, with characters who come across as very human and compelling. The mystery itself kept me wondering and, who doesn't loved a surprise ending?

Allen Eskens is one author who has never disappointed, readers who love mystery and crime novels should give this one a try. I also enjoyed, The Life We Bury and The Guise of Another by this author. BTW -  It's not necessary to read these books in a particular order.

5/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Harmony; Carolyn Parkhurst

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book I'm reading or will be reading soon. 

Harmony; Carolyn Parkhurst
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking - 2016


"In another world, you make it work.  In another world, you never even hear the name 'Scott Bean.' Or you do, and you maybe even subscribe to his newsletter, but on the night that he comes to speak at a library not far from your house, Iris is sent home from school with a stomach bug, or Josh is out of town and you don't want to hire a sitter.  You figure you can catch him next time. Later, when you hear his name on the news and it sounds familiar, you shake your head and think, 'What a wacko.'  It doesn't even occur to you to say, 'That could have been me.' Because you know yourself, and it goes without saying.  You would never get mixed up in something like that. End of story."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Blatherings

It's beginning to look a little more like fall here but, the foliage is kind of late this year. I'm loving the 60 degree temps and cool nights.  Hope to get in a fall trip to Cape Cod this month. There is nothing like visiting seaside towns once the tourists have gone home.

I'm someone who has never enjoyed exercise (even grade school gym) but, I've always wanted to try Yoga.  Last month I started going to yoga 3 mornings a week and am loving it.  I can't believe I found some exercise I love.  I started out in a regular class (not gentle yoga) but, only found 2 positions that are a little tougher for me so I'm very pleased.  Do any of you do yoga?


  • The Heavens May Fall; Allen Eskens - fantastic mystery finished this week (review next week)
  • Leave Me; Gayle Forman - now reading (I'm enjoying this one but, the protagonist is annoying. She should be feeling grateful but she's bitchy instead IMO)



Have a great week!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

They May Not Mean To, But They Do; Cathleen Schine

Macmillan Audio - 2016
Cynthia Darlow (narrator)

They May Not Mean To But, They Do is an intergenerational story about the Bergman family. Joy and Aaron Bergman are now in their golden years having raised their son Daniel and daughter, Molly in New York City.  

The truth is Aaron's health is failing quickly, he suffers from dementia and has been doing some embarrassing things. His wife Joy is strong-willed and believes she can care for him alone at home while maintaining her part-time job at a small Jewish museum. The reality is that's just not possible long term.

Molly, left her husband Doug back in NYC and now is in love with a woman. They have moved across the country to Los Angeles.  Joy misses not having her daughter close by even though Molly does comes home when crisis calls. Daniel and his wife and children still live nearby but, as often is the case parents tend to rely on daughters more than sons in times of crisis.

The novel addresses serious issues yet the author infuses humorous moments among the seriousness of what life is like for aging parents and their adult children.  There are lots of issues and emotions running through this novel: loss, loneliness, money worries and moving on to name a few.  The characters were well developed but, I thought the adult children were a bit annoying at times. They did seem to mean well and wanted to make sure their mother would be okay, but often went about things in a less than ideal way.  The audio book was pleasant to listen to but, the plot seemed to drag a bit at times.

3.5/5 stars
(library audio)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Damaged; Lisa Scottoline

Damaged; Lisa Scottoline
Macmillan Audio - 2016
Rebecca Lowman - narrator

Damaged is a mystery/thriller that held my interest from beginning to end.

In this story Mary DiNuzio is a busy Philadelphia attorney with a lot on her mind. She's about to be remarried and, a new case she's taken on has her emotionally involved.  Mary's new client is Edward, a retired veteran who is the guardian of his 10 year old grandson, Patrick O'Brien.

Patrick is a small boy, shy, and dyslexic; he's the perfect target of bullies at school.  His grandfather has been Patrick's guardian since his mother was killed in an auto accident. Edward only wants the best for his grandson but, now Patrick has been accused of attacking a teacher's aide. The aide has resigned and is now suing Patrick, his grandfather and the school district.  Mary knows quite a bit about special education and disability law so she agrees to take on this case. She quickly discovers that there is much more going on behind the scenes than she could have anticipated for.  To say much more might lead to spoilers.

This is a fast paced thriller/mystery with unexpected twists along the way. I enjoyed the writing, the characters and the story even though a few things seemed a bit contrived.  I hadn't realized that this novel was book #4 of the Rosato & DiNuzio series but, that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment. The audio was a delight to listen to.

4/5 stars
(library audio)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Leave Me; Gayle Forman

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book I'm reading or will be reading soon. 

Leave Me; Gayle Forman
Algonquin - 2016

"Marybeth Klein was working late, waiting to sign off on the final proofs of the December issue, when she had a heart attack.

Those first twinges in her chest, however, were more a heaviness than a pain, and she did not immediately think heart. She thought indigestion, brought on by a plate of greasy Chinese food she's eaten at her desk the hour before.  She thought anxiety, brought on by the length of tomorrow's to-do list.  She thought irritation, brought on by the conversation with her husband, Jason, who when she'd called earlier was having a dance party with Oscar and Liv, even though their downstairs neighbor Earl Jablonski would complain and even though keeping up the twins up past eight upped the odds that one of them would wake in the night (and wake her up, too)."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Wintering; Peter Geye

Wintering; Peter Geye
Knopf and Blackstone Audio
Suzanne Toren (narrator)

Wintering begins in the fictional town of Gunflint, MN, on the shores of Lake Superior.  Harry Eide is a man suffering from dementia. His mind takes him back to an earlier time when he and his young son Gus left home for the wilderness. At the time Harry was fleeing a bad marriage.  This time however, it's the middle of the night and the dead of winter and Harry is not the man he was 30 years earlier.  He leaves his home and is never heard from again.

The story is told in both time periods.  As Gus visits Berit Loving, Harry's lover for several decades, to tell her about his father's disappearance, we learn about the dangerous adventures of father and son 30 years earlier as they traveled by canoe, in freezing conditions exploring the wilderness the way the French voyagers did long before them.

I enjoyed this audio and I couldn't imagine anyone living through such harsh conditions as Harry and Gus.  I liked the part of the story told by Berit, flashing back to her relationship with Harry and also learning the secrets and backstory of some of the people of Gunflint, including Harry's own grandmother who Berit had cared for.

For me, this novel was all about the atmosphere, the desolate snow covered wilderness. It's a rather slow, reflective story but, one that was well executed. This is my first time reading this author but, I will definitely consider other books by him in the future.

4/5 stars
(library audio)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary; Simon Winchester

Harper - 2005

I cringed a bit when I learned what our book group selection for September was. Clearly, it seemed like a book that I would have little interest in especially considering the shelves and shelves of little gems I need to read from my shelves.  However, I gave it a shot, but, in the end it was just not for me.

(Description from Amazon Website)

Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor – that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, an English asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.

Here's what are group thought of the book.

  • Only (9) people showed up to discuss this book, normally we have about 15.
  • Only (3) people enjoyed it; one of the 3 was fascinated and stated she has a new fascination with word origins
  • Those of us who did not care for the book gave the following reasons ----
  • Not enough time spent on the actual compilation of the dictionary which took some 70 years to complete
  • Writing was too simplistic and repetitive 
  • For a non fiction work, the author often seemed to know what others were thinking
  • Would have been nice to see references for things represented as fact
  • No footnotes
  • Seemed embellished and sensationalized
Have you read this one?  If so what did you think?

2.5/5 stars
(library book)