December 23, 2016

2017 Challenges

I'm joining several challenges!

First up is Litsy's AtoZ Reading Challenge  #LitsyAtoZ      One book for every letter of the alphabet. That's 26 books!

Mount TBR 2017 has the goal of paring down TBR books.   I joined Pikes Peak or Bust, with the goal of finishing up 12 books/ARCs.

In connection with those TBRs is Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge.

I'm also part of three book clubs/swaps.

The ones below will be filled in when possible.

Book Riot has a Read Harder Challenge 

Litsy has a Reading Challenge 2017 bingo card.   
Categories are:
Non-fiction: food/drink
With "Girl(s)" in the title
Written by a woman of color
Starts with "Z"
Set in Africa
Published 10 years ago
About immigration
More than 400 pages
Person of color memoir
Multiple perspectives:  Loving
From the "Rory Gilmore" list
Set in the 1970s
Based on historical event
2016 award winner
Translated from another language
Written by someone your age
About music/theatre
With an LGBTQ relationship
By an indie publisher
On TBR over 1 year
Recommended by ...
Takes place over 150 years ago
Freezer-worthy horror
Judge by the cover

There's the Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge with a Goodreads group.

Of course the same book can and will be counted in more than one challenge.

December 12, 2016

Absolutely Fine

It's All Absolutely Fine:  Life is Complicated So I've Drawn It Instead
by Ruby Elliot
publisher Andrews McMeel Publishing
published December 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  A-ha moments come in the middle of books or events.   My a-ha moment came when I read other reviews and realized this is the author's memoir and that mental illness is part of her life.

Ruby Elliot posts cartoons on Tumblr    Her book opens with mad drawings such as this.    Those eyes!  Both pairs.  I cringed.

Then towards the end they become clearer, while Ruby finds herself.  Ah, such a walk of pride!

My favorite is a double-page spread telling how it feels when someone claims to know exactly what you're going through (pages 230-231).    Whoa, Ruby puts her finger on our pulses!

My perspective:  It was difficult to read on Bluefire because of the small print on my iPhone.   I hope to find a physical book soon.  

December 10, 2016


Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg
by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
source:  library

reflections:   The results of the election hit me hard.  It was great to read about other "Nasty Women" on Facebook and in print.   Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the second woman chosen to be on the Supreme Court.

This book taught me a lot about the Supreme Court as well as RBG.   I liked the double-page spread of a photo of the nine justices.   One of the best biographies I've read this year.  

Here's a quote to ponder:

December 7, 2016


Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
author: Kate Clifford Larson
source: the library

Reflections:   I've always enjoyed reading about the Kennedys.    I was aware of the story of Rosemary, hidden away, until the Shrivers became involved with work with the disabled. More new biographies have come out, so I was interested in reading Rosemary.

This biography of Rosemary Kennedy has some shocking quotes.  I was horrified to read of Rosemary's birth. If the doctor missed the birth, 
"he could not charge the extremely high fee of $125 for prenatal care and delivery.  When holding Rose's legs together failed to keep the baby from coming, the nurse ... (resorted to) holding the baby's head and forcing it back into the birth canal for two excruciating hours."
Rosemary ended up with a lobotomy because
"Joe Sr., if not other members of the family, felt Rosemary's behavior had now become a menacing disgrace to the Kennedys' political, financial, and social aspirations."
I'm off to look for more Kennedy biographies. 

November 2, 2016

The Murder Game

The Murder Game
by Julie Apple (Catherine McKenzie)
Publisher  Lawsome Books
Published November 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:   The last book I read was Fractured.  The Murder Game is a fictional book (or is it fictional?) mentioned throughout Fractured.  

The Murder Game time-shifts between four students in law school in Montreal and the same people twelve years later.    Julian confesses to a murder while sleepwalking.  Jonathan is his defense attorney.    Meredith, our main character and narrator, is the prosecutor in Julian's trial.

Here's  an excerpt of the Murder Game to whet your interest.  The middle of the book took up too many pages with questions in the trial about medications for sleep issues and sleepwalking.    Once beyond that, the story became much more interesting.

I would have enjoyed reading more about how the law students created The Murder Game itself.   

Pondering:   Will Catherine McKenzie aka Julie Apple write a book about the ten years between The Murder Game and Fractured?   There's the story of the stalker to explore.

October 25, 2016


by Catherine McKenzie
Publisher  Lake Union Publishing
Published October 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:   Ever had bad neighbors?  Neighbors who snoop and tell everyone else what to do in the neighborhood?   Fortunately, I haven't.   But Julie in Fractured does.

Julie Apple Prentice, a best-selling author, and her family move to Cincinnati from Washington state, mainly to get away from a stalker.   They choose a lovely neighborhood, however the people around them are not so lovely.   Things start badly at a block party and get worse.  Then, there's Cindy who publishes newsletters giving rules.  She forbids the Prentices from attending any more block parties. 

And the stalker?  How did the stalker find them?!

My perspective:  At times the story was confusing,  it jumped around from "Today" to "Four months ago" to remembering things from college years. Everyone is in the courthouse, waiting to be called to give testimony.   But what happened to require attendance in court?

Connecting novel:   Julie's best-selling novel  The Murder Game  which was mentioned several times in Fractured will be available next week!

October 15, 2016

All the Little Liars

All the Little Liars
by Charlaine Harris
publisher  Minotaur Books, St. Martin's Press
publshed October 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:   My last post told about how I like police procedurals.  This book, All the Little Liars, is a cozy mystery.    As my mother used to say, "Everyone to his own taste," said the old maid when she kissed her cow."   That last sentence is a Wellerism,  but I digress.

This was my first Aurora Teagarden book.  Aurora is a pregnant librarian. Several children and teens, including her half-brother, are missing or dead.   Because this is a chick-lit, she is able to solve the mystery, not the local police, not the FBI.

My perspective:  Better books await.

October 4, 2016

Apprentice in Death

Apprentice in Death
author J. D. Robb
published September 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  Jargon.  It can make or break a book.  I also feel like the White Rabbit hollering "I'm late, I'm LATE."   Read on to see why.

I'm late to the game.  Very late.  I started reading Apprentice in Death and was confused by the jargon.  Then I discovered the book is set in the year  2061.  There have been at least 43 books about the character Eve Dallas, written by J.D. Robb who also writes as  Nora Roberts.   Well, I'll be!  How come I didn't know all this?   Why is J.D. Robb so new to me?   I'm grateful that NetGalley offered the book to me.

Back to Apprentice in Death,   once I got past the jargon, the story grabbed my attention.   It is a police procedural.  Lieutenant Eve Dallas is hunting a LDSK  (long-distance serial killer) who has a young apprentice.    Of the dead victims, which one is the one the killer is targeting?   Lt. Dallas realizes the LDSK and apprentice aren't finished with their mission.  

My perspective:  I adore police procedural t.v. programs. Law and Order: SVU is a favorite. Lt. Dallas reminds me of  Olivia Benson of that program.   Both bark out orders while hunting the perps.   Reading Apprentice in Death was a delight.    I also enjoyed learning about the new techniques and lifestyles of 2061.   I'm adding more J.D. Robb books to my list to read!

October 3, 2016

Being a Dog

Being a Dog

by Alexandra Horowitz
publisher Scribner, Simon & Schuster
published October 2016
source  NetGalley

reflections:   I've always been fascinated by the dog's power of scent.  My favorite mystery book series 20 years ago was the Bloodhound series by Virginia Lanier.    I've enjoyed other books about dog scent ability:  What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren and Elle and Coach.

Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell is the newest on the list.  Have you ever wondered why a dog rolls around in the dirt?  Or wondered why sniffing pee is so important to a dog?

Alexandra Horowitz, a psychology professor specializing in canine cognition, tells us about her two dogs and experiments.  One experiment involved a motion detector camera on a post in the middle of a park to see how often dogs return there to pee and/or sniff. 

The title Being a Dog also examines how humans (specifically the author) can be more like a dog in smelling and sniffing things.  Because Horowitz is a professor, some of her paragraphs are a bit too textbook-like.  The topic of scents, however, is still intriguing.

Suggestion:  read the  interview with Alexandra Horowitz as an scentful appetizer, then rush to buy Being a Dog.

October 2, 2016

Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love
by Jennifer Weiner
publisher Atria, Simon & Schuster
published August 2015
source  NetGalley

reflections:   Have you ever met someone over and over again throughout your life?  Or had many years pass in between meetings?   The movies When Harry Met Sally and Two for the Road have this theme.   

Rachel and Andy first meet in the Emergency Room when they are eight years old.  Chapters alternate between each other's life experiences.    They are as different as can be in economic status, religion, personality and outlook on life.  Their sex, however, is good.   Along come misunderstandings,  arguments, separations.  Finally...... 

My perspective:  A quick read, although I stopped in the middle and left the book alone for many months.  It was easy to pick it back up.   Jennifer Weiner's books give a relaxing flow through the years.

October 1, 2016

Waldorf in Alaska

Mr. Waldorf Travels to the Wild State of Alaska
by Beth Ann Stifflemire and Barbara Terry
publisher:  Waldorf Publishing
date published:  October 1, 2016
source:  author and publisher

reflections:   Alaska!  One of my favorite memories of my trip to Alaska in 2013 was the flight in a sea plane over five glaciers.  When we landed back on the water, it was so smooth I barely noticed the touchdown. 

The first page of Mr. Waldorf Travels to the Wild State of Alaska shows him in a sea plane.   You may recall from the previous book in the series when Mr. Waldorf traveled to Texas, that he lost his glasses.  He does it again!

Rather than mentioning towns and cities in Texas, this book focuses more on the animals in Alaska.  

my perspective:  I preferred the Mr. Waldorf in Texas book because it has more variety.  That won't stop my grandson from enjoying reading the book in the car when I pick him up after school.

September 24, 2016

The Ferryman Institute

The Ferryman Institute
by Colin Gigl
publisher The Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
to be published September 27, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:   (a) Do you remember the mythological ferryman Charon when you read myths in high school?  He ferried the dead across the River Styx.   (b) Have you ever been burned out in a job?

Charlie is a top ferryman,  handsome,  sarcastic, and mentally burned out.   He has worked for 25 decades at The Ferryman Institute leading the souls of the dead to the afterlife.  He has written 6049 requests to be transferred out of the Institute.  Each request has been denied, because his services are too valuable.  

One day, Charlie makes a mistake.  

my perspective:  Loved loved loved this book.  Witty, sarcastic humor. 

a 17th century painting of Charon

September 23, 2016

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena
publisher:  Penguin Viking, Pamela Dorman
published: August 2016
source:  borrowed from my daughter

reflections:   Secrets.  Everybody has secrets.  Would your secrets make someone's jaw drop open?

My jaw dropped open a few times while reading The Couple Next Door.   Doing that to me makes for a great book!   Good development of characters,  and exploration of their anxieties and guilt feelings.  

However, by the time I reached the ending and anti-climax, I was ready to be done with the book.

September 4, 2016

Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone
by Christa Allan
publisher Waterfall Press
to be published October 11, 2016
source  NetGalley  

reflections:   Have you ever discovered a gift not meant for you?   Is there a member of your immediate family whom you don't get along with?

publisher's description:  Olivia is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after. The next moment, she learns that her fiancĂ©, Wyatt, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was fifty miles away…with a baby gift in the backseat.  

my perspective:  Five stars because the book kept my interest.  I wanted to know the whys and wherefores of the gifts.  There were events I did not expect.    Soon after Wyatt's death, Olivia discovers she is pregnant.    Her ultra-religious mother disapproves.   Olivia and her mother battle throughout the next several months.   Fortunately, the other characters are not as despicable as her mother.   Olivia's best friend tells it like it is.  Her dad is a go-between her and her mother.  Her grandmother is more of a contemporary than a grandmother.  

That baby gift in the backseat of Wyatt's car?  I kept wanting to scream at Olivia "go ahead and open it,  see what's inside."    The author kept us in suspense throughout most of the book.  

September 2, 2016

Bridge to Brilliance

The Bridge to Brilliance
by Nadia Lopez with Rebecca Paley
publisher  Penguin Group Viking
published August 30, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:   I used read Humans of New York on Facebook every day.   Here's a link to a sample post about what a young boy said about an influential person in his life.

The Bridge to Brilliance is written by the influential person mentioned in the link I just gave you.    Ms. Lopez received a grant to open a middle school in inner-city Brooklyn in 2010.   The first chapters tell details about her plans for the school.   The students would be called scholars, not students.  The school color would be purple and black.  She had high expectations for the scholars, staff and teachers.

I found the beginning of the book  hard to read because Ms. Lopez jumped around chronologically and threw out statistics.

I jumped to Chapter 8 "Praise for Humans" and immediately found the book much more interesting.   In this chapter,  Ms. Lopez is at her breaking point.   Then she receives a text asking her if she has seen this.    From there, events happen quickly.     After I finished that chapter, I was able to read the earlier portions of the book.

epilogue and more reflections:    Not a spoiler,   on the last page, Ms. Lopez tells about a young boy who knows whenever he feels so angry in class that he will erupt, he can leave the room to go to her office.    For a few years, I had an office in the elementary school.   The fourth and fifth grade teachers and I had an agreement:  if a certain boy felt  he would blow up in class, he had blanket permission to leave their classrooms to come to my office to chill and calm down until he was ready to go back.    This young boy is now a successful young adult.  


September 1, 2016

Waldorf in Texas

Mr. Waldorf Travels to the Great State of Texas
by Beth Ann Stifflemire and Barbara Terry
publisher:  Waldorf Publishing
date published:  September 1, 2016

reflections:  Have you ever lost your glasses?  I have.  The last time,  I searched and searched.  My husband suggested I look in the laundry room.  A-ha!   I took them off there because they were fogged up from the steam when I opened the dryer.  

Comical dogs can lose their spectacles too.  Mr. Waldorf is a  Labrador named after author Barbara Terry's publishing company and her real lab.   He travels through Texas asking people and animals through comic-strip word-balloons if they have seen his reading glasses. 

The child reader will be intrigued by the large colorful illustrations and will delight in finding the glasses on double-page spreads.  We get to see the Dallas Cowboys,  oil rigs, the Alamo and even bluebonnets.

Mr. Waldorf Travels to the Great State of Texas is the first in a series The Spectacular World of Waldorf.

epilogue:  I was delighted to receive this book for review from the author and publisher.   It will be mailed to Texas to a special pair of three-year-old twins.  The sister wears glasses (and she is tickled to know her favorite character Minnie Mouse wears glasses too).  The brother will enjoy searching for the glasses.   Their older sister grieved more than a year about moving from Tennessee to Texas.  Now that she has settled into her kindergarten class, she loves school.   Hopefully, this book about Texas will help her love her new state.

August 31, 2016


Breast Cancer Smoothies  
by Daniella Chace
publisher HCI Press
to be published September 20, 2016
source  NetGalley

reflections:  Who doesn't love a smoothie!     Who has friends who are survivors?   Every fall, the school where I used to work has a basketball game honoring staff members who are breast cancer survivors.

Daniella Chace is a nutritionist and author of several books focused on smoothies and other health food.    Her Breast Cancer Smoothies book emphasizes what to avoid and what to add.

Avoid sugars because they feed the cancer cells.  Dairy products are contraindicated.  Plastic food containers and utensils are a big no-no.   Add proteins and fiber.  Fiber slows the release of the natural sugars in the smoothies so that our bodies have time to use the nutrients.

A healthy kitchen is described.  Basic smoothie making steps are given.   Foods that are the most and the least sprayed with pesticides are listed.    The majority of the book are recipes which include detailed nutrition facts and research studies.  

My perspective:  I need to fire up my Vita-Mix machine!

August 27, 2016

In Such Good Company

In Such Good Company
by Carol Burnett
Crown Publishing
to be published September 13, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  I enjoyed watching the Carol Burnett Show in the sixties even though there were no captions.  I didn't quite catch all the verbal jokes, but there were enough pratfalls to keep my interest.    

Fast forward to 2016.  There are many You Tube videos of several sketches from the show.  Alas, there still are no captions.

It was a sheer delight to read Carol's memories of the actors and actresses. Jim Nabors was the guest on the first show every year for the entire eleven seasons.  I laughed at some of the jokes told in the book.   It was wonderful to read the background information of some of the characters such as the Charwoman.  

I'm grateful to NetGalley to have had the opportunity to read this book, and for the chuckles I got from Carol's written words.    Hopefully one day, the owners of the Carol Burnett Show videos will add captions to their YouTube versions.

August 25, 2016

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life   
by Ruth Franklin
publisher  W.W. Norton & Co.
to be published September 27, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  When I was a teenager,  I babysat across the street.   The children's mom had bookshelves overflowing.  I found many favorites, including Shirley Jackson's humorous  Life Among Savages and Raising Demons.  To think!  This is the same author who wrote The Lottery,  in one of Pat's anthologies of short stories.  During those teenage years, I also went to the movie The Haunting based upon Jackson's book The Haunting of Hill House.    Shirley Jackson was a strong part of my literary upbringing, so I was delighted to be able to review her newest biography.

The author of Jackson's biography gives a too-long chapter "Foundations"  about Jackson's ancestors.  The chapter explains why she wrote spooky stories about haunted houses.   Her maternal ancestors were architects of mansions in California and fans of the supernatural such as the Ouija board.  The fact that Shirley's mother was overly-critical goes on to tell why there are no loving maternal characters in her novels.

The author goes off on several tangents throughout the book. One example is the description of the Witch Trial years in Massachusetts.   True, Shirley wrote about witches, however I felt the author attempted to pad the biography in order to add more pages.   Six hundred twenty four pages!

While reading the biography, I also read some of Jackson's short stories on the internet:
Charles  (exactly as I remember it from the first time I read it)
The Man in the Woods

My perspective:  a shorter biography would have packed a better punch at describing Shirley Jackson, her life and its influence upon her writings.

August 14, 2016

Three Sisters, Three Queens

Three Sisters, Three Queens
Philippa Gregory
published August 2016
publisher Simon & Schuster, Touchstone
source  NetGalley

reflections:  Most of us are familiar with Henry VIII's six wives and the rhyme that tells of their fates "Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced, beheaded, survived."   But how many of us know about his sisters?

Phillipa Gregory blends fact with fiction in novels that completely immerse the reader in the world of the Tudors. Three Sisters, Three Queens is no exception. 

The focus is on King Henry VIII's sisters, who become queens of Scotland, England and France. Gregory's character development highlights the compex bonds between family -- where rivalry, jealousy, and love intertwine to form an unbreakable bond, even in the midst of political controversy and war.

guest post by T.M.T.

August 13, 2016

Watching Edie

Watching Edie
author:  Camilla Way
publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group
source:  NetGalley

reflections:   Ever been in a relationship so toxic you are walking on eggshells?  That's the plot of Watching Edie.

Synonyms that build up dread:   watch,  watch over,  surveillance,  stalk.   
Apprehension escalates for the reader.  What happened in the past?  What will happen in the future?  

One of the characters in the book:  "I feel as if we are all waiting for something although I have no idea what for."

The story is told with  Before and After perspectives.
Before:  Heather and Edie meet when they are sixteen.  Edie,  a beautiful wild girl, has just moved to town.   They become instant friends because they like to complain to each other about their mothers. Edie picks up a boyfriend, Connor.    Then something terrible happens.  We readers don't know exactly what until the end of the book.
After:  Edie is a single mother suffering from postpartum.  Heather comes back into her life.

My perspective:  it took me several days to read because of the building apprehension.   I had to take a break to come back to the real world for a few days.


July 29, 2016

Dark Matter

Dark Matter
author Blake Crouch
publisher Crown Publishing
published July 26, 2016
source:  NetGalley, publisher, Blogging for Books

reflections:  All of us wonder "What If?"   Some of us wonder,  "wouldn't my life be better if I had ......"

Dark Matter -- whoa!  Oh.My.Word.  Jason is a physics professor with a lovely wife Daniela and a 15-year-old son.   One night while they are fixing dinner,   Jason goes out for a brief time,  promising to bring home ice cream. 

 "I don't look back.  
I don't say goodbye.   
And this moment slips past unnoticed.    
The end of everything I know, everything I love."

That's all I'm going to say.    Hint:  I learned a new word multiverse.  There are  some scientific terms in the middle of the book that went over my head, but remember our main character teaches physics.   
This was a quick mind-blowing read.  I woke up in the middle of the night to read more and more.  A major movie studio should option Dark Matter.

For more info and to read an excerpt, check Penguin Random House

FTC disclaimer I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

July 10, 2016

Baby Doll

Baby Doll
by Hollie Overton
publisher Redhook Books
publishing date July 12, 2016
source NetGalley

reflections:  Most of us have read Room or seen the movie based on it.  We've heard about the true life Castro case in Ohio where women were held captive for years.   How do the women and their family members react once they are free?

Baby Doll opens with Lily realizing the locked door is no longer locked.   She grabs her daughter and escapes.   While she's running outside, she recognizes landmarks and realizes she's close to home.

After she's reunited with her family,  Lily leads the police to her captor.   His identity is a shock to everyone in town.  "No way!! It can't be!!"

The author did good characterizations of Lily, her twin Abby, their mother Eve and the captor.    Most of the book is family drama, adding on the high school sweetheart and the sheriff.   Meh.   Very little was said about the six-year-old who seemed to be an afterthought during all the drama.

Emotions of the characters run up and down.   At points, the book and characters didn't seem true to me.  However, I enjoyed racing to find out what happens between Lily, Abby and the captor.

June 23, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors
author  B. A. Paris
publisher  St. Martin's Press
to be published August 9, 2016
source  NetGalley

reflections:   Doesn't every family have secrets behind their closed doors?   What secrets would be the most horrifying?

I was glued to Behind Closed Doors from the very beginning.    I knew from reading on-line that Jack is a successful attorney for domestic violence victims.  Jack and Grace host a dinner party;  the reader goes through several disturbing foreboding moments.   There's a new guest in the house who asks several questions.    After the guests leave, we finally find out what actually goes on Behind Closed Doors.   

Best read so far in 2016,  thanks to NetGalley.