Monday, October 14, 2019

Upcoming Reviews Fall 2019

My reading schedule for this fall.

1. Olive, Again (Random House, Oct. 15) by Elizabeth Stout - This is a sequel to her Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, dealing with the complicated and poignant life of Olive in Crosby, Maine.

2. The Family Upstairs (Atria Books, Nov. 5) by Lisa Jewell - Three siblings who have been out of touch for more than 20 years grapple with their unsettling childhoods, but when the youngest inherits the family home, all are drawn back together. (Kirkus)

3. Palm Beach, Mar-A-Lago, and the Rise of America's Xanadu (Atlantic Monthly Press, Nov. 15) by Les Standiford - The author recounts the creation of the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, by cereal company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband, E.F. Hutton in 1927.

4. Good Girls Lie (Mira, Dec. 30) by J.T. Ellison - The heroine of this high-tension thriller from bestseller Ellison, leaves the U.K. after the death of her parents to attend the Goode School, an exclusive girls’ boarding school in Marchburg, Va.

And these are the books I am reading for In Good Company, our book group:

October - Milkman (Ann Burns)
November - Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)
December - A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

29 SECONDS (2019)

29 Seconds29 Seconds by T.M. Logan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There seems to be much repetition and hand wringing by our heroine Sarah in the beginning; but once things start to happen, you'll read right through until the end. A perfect summer choice.

FIRST LINE: "The Rules were simple enough."

THE STORY: Sarah has been playing the academic game and waiting patiently for her reward - a permanent seat on the faculty. Her boss is a well-known BBC personality and a terrible womanizer. He is making Sarah's life unbearable.

Then one day she is given a gift. Having stopped a kidnapping, the child's wealthy father offers Sarah the chance to name a person she would like to disappear. She has 72 hours to decide, but things are never that simple.

You may think you know where this story is going, but there are lots of twists and turns. What a surprising ride!

WHAT I THOUGHT: This is my second book by T.M Logan. My first one was Lies, which I actually liked better; but this was still another great read. The sexual harassment Sarah endures will resonate with many readers.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. Watch for T.M. Logan's newest title The Holiday, which is currently only available in the United Kingdom.

Disclaimer: A copy of 29 Seconds was provided to me by MacMillan/Net Galley for an honest review.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher:  Macmillan Press/September 10, 2019
ISBN-10: 1785770802
ISBN-13: 978-1785770807

Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK's biggest ebooks of 2017, selling 350,000 copies and gathering more than 1,400 5-star reviews so far. It was published in the USA in September 2018 and has also come out in South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.
(From Amazon)

Thursday, August 1, 2019


The Last True Poets of the SeaThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Taking my own advice, I decided to read several young adult novels. My choices were Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart and The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake. See May 21, 2019 entry). I should point out that both books won't be available until October 1, 2019.

FIRST LINE: "Fun fact: my great-great-great-grandmother was the lone survivor of a shipwreck."

THE STORY: Drawing comparisons to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Violet has been banished to Lyric, Maine for the summer after her brother Sam attempts suicide and is placed in a treatment center.

There Vi meets Orion (Orsino) and Liv (Olivia), who seem to be perfectly suited to each other. She is fascinated by both of them.

As children, Vi and Sam spent hours planning how they would find the shipwreck someday. Their ancestor Fidelia founded Lyric, Maine.  Now the goal becomes an obsession for Vi. 

WHAT I THOUGHT: In general, I do not often read Young Adult books, but this one came highly recommended. In other reviews no one mentioned the complicated language. How the young people communicated was foreign to me and there were many words with which I was not familiar. Abstract and clever, I still found it difficult to follow.

Obviously the world has changed since I was a teen. Some of the content was unexpected: the discussion of specific sex acts, bi-sexuality, depression, and mental illness. Obviously young people today need to be able to relate to the new world they must navigate.

I enjoyed the theatrical aspects, the search for the shipwreck, and the details about the Lyric Aquarium. I wish I had liked the book better.

BOTTOM LINE: Sometimes choppy, sometimes poetic, I guess I would recommend reading this book before sharing it with someone you love. You'll want to be able to discuss how it affects them and you.

Disclaimer: A copy of The Last True Poets of the Sea was provided to me by Hyperion Press/Net Galley for an honest review.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion (October 1, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1368048080
ISBN-13: 978-1368048088

Julia Drake grew up outside Philadelphia. As a teenager, she played some of Shakespeare's best heroines in her high school theater program, and their stories would stay with her forever. She received her BA in Spanish from Williams College, and her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, where she also taught writing to first-year students. She currently works as a book coach for aspiring writers and teaches creative writing classes for Writopia, a nonprofit that fosters love of writing in young adults. She lives in San Francisco with her partner and their rescue rabbit, Ned. (From Amazon)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

BIG SKY (2019)

Big Sky (Jackson Brodie, #5)I have been a Kate Atkinson fan since Stephen King raved about Case Histories a number of years ago in Entertainment Weekly. Her earlier books are mostly literate mysteries featuring Jackson Brodie, former police inspector now a private investigator. I loved them all not to mention the free standing Life After Life, which I read twice.

This is the 5th book in the series which includes:
1. Case Histories (2004)
2. One Good Turn (2006)
3. When Will There Be Good News (2008)
4. Started Early, Took My Dog (2011)

Although you don't have to read them in order and Big Sky is certainly able to stand alone, there's much to enjoy by reading the whole series. Visit Kate Atkinson's offical website here.

FIRST LINE: "So what now?" he asked.

THE STORY: Jackson Brodie is living in a quiet seaside village on U.K.'s northeastern coast in order to share custody of his teenage son and an aging dog, with his ex-partner Julia. Now a private investigator his jobs seem reduced to spying on an unfaithful husbands.

While walking along the sea cliff one evening he ends up saving the life of a desperate man which draws him into a sinister network and back across the path of his friend Reggie. Old secrets and new lies intersect.

WHAT I THOUGHT: There are lots of characters to follow in this intricately plotted story with the narrative jumping from present to past and back again (but then that's typical Atkinson). If you pay attention, you'll have a sense of what's happening.

Of course, we are all in love with Jackson Brodie but other characters caught my attention this time out. Nathan, Brodie's recalcitrant son, is a typical teenager especially contrasted with Harry, Crystal's stepson, who is an amazing big brother to his half sister. Crystal herself is a character with a past but a heart of mostly gold. Actually Atkinson finds a way to keep us interested in all the various good and bad actors in the story.

Another bit of fun comes from identifying the popular allusions although I must confess I don't get them all. Doesn't matter. This is great storytelling.

QUOTES: "Perhaps the past was no longer the concept for the present. Perhaps none of it mattered anymore. Was this how the world would end - not with a bang but a 'So'?"

"He was becoming a walking, talking history lesson, a one-man folk museum, except that nobody was interested in learning anything from him."

BOTTOM LINE: All the usual features are here: fascinating characters, an elaborate story line, and literary and social media references. Do be aware that sex trafficking is involved. Highly recommended if you like literate mysteries.

Disclaimer: A copy of Big Sky was provided to me by Little, Brown and Company/Net Galley for an honest review.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher:   Little, Brown and Company (June 25, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0316523097
ISBN-13:  978-0316523097

Kate Atkinson’s first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award. She has been a critically acclaimed, bestselling author ever since, with over one million copies of her books in print in the United States.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog. Case Histories, which introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, was made into a television series starring Jason Isaacs.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh (from Amazon).

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Scars Like WingsScars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taking my own advice, I decided to read a young adult novel. They tend to be shorter but no less compelling. This one and The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake were my choices. See May 21, 2019 entry). I guess I should point out that both books won't be available until October 1, 2019.

FIRST LINE: "One year after the fire, my doctor removes my mask and tells me to get a life."

THE STORY: What's it like to lose everything you love including yourself? 16 year old Ava survived a fire that left her alone and disfigured. How she faces trying to find a new normal is heartbreaking and inspiring. This is an amazing view into what burn survivors live through, but then all of us have scars, although some aren't as visible.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I was immediately drawn into the story by the awful facts of Ava's situation. At first she turns away from everyone but, forced to go back to high school, she encounters and makes friends with Piper and Asad.

"For each species on the planet, finding this community is not a luxury; it's an essential element of survival."

I loved the social media aspects and the musical theater references. Ava makes some bad decisions that worried me, but these issues were overcome by others who love her enough to help her find appropriate outcomes. Ava's world will never again be what it was before the fire but there is a new normal that is worth living.

BOTTOM LINE: Well written, plotted, and paced, this debut novel is worthy of the attention it has garnered. Although the story is about teenagers, I think anyone can read and take away a message of hope. Appropriate for 12 and over/7-9th grades.

Disclaimer: A copy of Scars Like Wings was provided to me by Delacorte Press/Net Galley for an honest review.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher:  Delacorte Press (October 1, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1984848828
ISBN-13:  978-1984848826

Erin Stewart is the author of Scar Like Wings, her debut novel. Erin is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and a BYU undergraduate who works as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a weekly columnist in Salt Lake City.

Erin lives in Utah with her husband and three children. She is represented by the amazing Brianne Johnson of Writers House.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Short Takes 6/24/2019

Don't have enough time to read? Check out this excellent list of 50 Must-Read Short Books Under 250 Pages from BookRiot.

Do you know the difference between a cozy and a traditional mystery? Here's an article that interviews the Agatha Award nominees before they attended Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland.

An what about using Instagram/Bookstagram? I didn't even know that was a thing until recently. Here are some tips from blogger Dominique: My Top 5 Bookstagram Tips.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

DARK SITE (2019)

Dark Site (Sam Dryden, #3)
Definitely another page-turner from Patrick Lee.

FIRST SENTENCE: "The last decision Danica Ellis made in her ordinary life - the life in which stress meant playing chicken with the rent due-date, and wondering if going back to school was another slow-motion train wreck of a mistake - was whether to buy sixty watt or hundred-watt light bulbs."

THE STORY: Two people who do not know each other barely escape attempted abductions. Thus begins another wild adventure featuring Sam Dryden, a retired military special forces experienced with off-the-books black op work.

As he an Danni try to solve the riddle of their connection while running from an unknown foe.

WHAT I THOUGHT:  Rather than the roller coaster ride of Runner (2014), Dark Site has an amazing start and then is interrupted by lots of exhausting back story in great detail.

The flashbacks to the past when Danni and Sam were twelve doesn't read like real children, but those are minor complaints in a story that will keep you up past your bedtime.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended but I would read Runner first, not for any background but because I still think it is the better book.

Disclaimer: A copy of Dark Site was provided to me by Minotaur Books/Net Galley for review purposes.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher:  Minotaur Books (May 28, 2019)
ISBN-10: 125003079X
ISBN-13:  978-1250030795