Monday, August 20, 2018

REVIEW: The Lost For Words Bookshop

The Lost For Words Bookshop
Author: Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew's best friends are books. She tattoos the first lines of her favorite books on her body like a collection of fond memories she wants to keep close forever. She hides a secret about her past and never lets people past her defenses. Books don't judge. Books don't pity. She works in a bookshop, surrounded by the peace and feeling of safety the books give her. But, someone has found out about her past. And Loveday Cardew's quiet little world is about to tumble into chaos.

I loved this book! As the story progressed and I learned more and more about Loveday....her past, her thoughts, her secret....I found myself sympathizing more and more with her. Sometimes the past keeps a tight grip on a person that takes years to loosen. I know this experience personally from my disastrous relationships with my birth family. For Loveday, she hides from her hurts and emotions and only loves books...until she lets her defenses down just a bit. And the world comes crashing in. So realistic. I also love the idea of getting tattoos of first lines of favorite books, or those with personal meaning,

I listened to the audio book version of this novel.  Narrated by Imogen Church, the audio is just under 9 hours long. Church's voice is perfect for this book, and I loved the audio. Even with my hearing loss, I was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

This was a binge listen for me.....I couldn't stop once I got immersed in the story. This book is sad, hopeful, and beautiful. Despite how we remember our lives Before, there is always a life After.

I absolutely loved this book and will be reading more by this author. I usually steer away from emotional fiction, but this story is beautiful. I have to admit that this book sat on my To-Read shelf for awhile before I worked up the courage to read it. I knew it would poke at the hurts still present from my own past...and I had to work up the courage to go there. I'm so glad I did.....totally rewarding experience. Full stars from me!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island

Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island
Author: Kathryn Kenny

I loved the Trixie Belden series as a young teenager. The tales of her sleuthing with help from her brothers and friends were my favorites for years. The final books in the series published in the early 1980s were the first books I ever pre-ordered. I babysat my spoiled nephew to earn the cash to buy those books. At one time I had the entire set. All matching. Before I went to college, I sold the whole set to a 12-year old. I hope she loved them as much as I did! This year I decided to revisit the Bob-Whites of the Glen and Sleepyside, NY out of nostalgia. I have been working my way through this series a little bit at a time and enjoying every minute! Some of the books were re-released in new editions, but most are long out of print. Luckily, it is easy to find used copies cheaply.

The Mystery on Cobbett's Island is the 13th book in the series. There are 39 books in total. I enjoyed this sailing and treasure hunt themed story. The kids go on vacation to Cobbett's Island. Trixie finds an old letter hidden in a book, sending the kids on a treasure hunt for hidden money. The story is entertaining and the mystery is light, but interesting. Totally age appropriate for middle grade kids. The series is definitely dated, but still fun to read.

I love the book lists in the back of these old paperbacks...in the back of the old copy of Mystery at Cobbett's Island that I have it lists "The Meg Mysteries'' as a recommended series. I did a little bit of research....the Meg Mysteries is a series with a middle grade age amateur sleuth written in the late 60s. Sounds like a good series to try when I'm done re-visiting Trixie!

The first six books of the Trixie Belden series were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was published under the pen-name Kathryn Kenny. The books were written by various authors all using this same pseudonym. It's very similar to how the Nancy Drew books were published. I wish I knew the names of the actual writers who penned the various books.....   I never knew that Kathryn Kenny wasn't a real person until I was an adult. I hope all the writers who anonymously penned these great books for kids realized how much enjoyment they brought to all of us who read their work!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

REVIEW: The Creature

Creature
Author; Hunter Shea

Kate Woodson suffers with autoimmune disease. Her health problems are slowly killing her. As an escape from her mounting physical problems and the subsequent damage to their relationship, her husband Andrew rents a cottage in Maine for the summer and takes a 3 month leave of absence from his job. They both need a break from their day-to-day lives. But, in the woods surrounding the seemingly idyllic cabin lurks something so horrible, something so monstrous it might just destroy them both. The Creature....it lurks, it waits, it knows them.....

I love Hunter Shea's books. I love horror stories with monsters and Hunter Shea always delivers! He has creeped me out with everything from legendary beasties like the Jersey Devil to urban rats. This book hits close to home for me as I deal with physical and health issues on a daily basis. I identified with Kate Woodson and her husband. Physical pain and limitations have a direct and sometimes destructive effect on daily life and relationships. I wanted them to enjoy their summer in the backwoods of Maine.....and the downward spiral their attempt to escape took was horrifying in itself. I let myself get pulled totally into this story, reading it on my front porch in a comfy chair.....at night....in the dark....all alone....dark woods right across the street.....     Even the cup of hot, sweet, caramel flavored coffee sitting next to me wasn't enough to keep me from getting very much creeped out as the Woodsons started hearing leaf-crunching, branch breaking, heavy footsteps circling their cabin.....then rocks being thrown on the roof.....and a snuffling, roaring beastie standing just outside the door. The realization that the monster could bust through the glass patio doors at any time terrified not only the Woodsons, but me too. Perfect! I was immersed in this story from start to finish. I love how the plot relates to Hunter Shea's real life. I think that is why the story seems so real and grabbed my interest so thoroughly. Loved it!

Hunter Shea is the author of several other horror novels including The Montauk Monster and Jurassic Florida. Any lover of creature features or monster tales will love his books! This book gets full stars from me because of the personal connect I had with the characters and the totally creepy experience! Can't wait for his next book!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Flame Tree Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No monsters were harmed in the writing of this review, although I did suffer quite a scare when my cat hopped on my lap while I was reading it in the dark. No permanent injuries to either of us. Luckily.**

Saturday, August 18, 2018

REVIEW: The Outsider

The Outsider
Author: Stephen King

Stephen King is pretty much hit or miss for me. Some of his books I absolutely love. And others (like Dreamcatcher, for example) I had to DNF....unreadable, in my opinion. His last couple of books have been enjoyable for me....so I put myself on the library wait list for The Outsider and waited weeks for it to be my turn for the audio book. This book was well worth the wait. I was not disappointed. The story is suspenseful, creepy and classically King-esque.

An 11-year old boy is murdered in a completely horrific and terrifying way. The police have a suspect, a local youth baseball coach. Terry Maitland has never done anything illegal or broken any laws, but his fingerprints and DNA point to him as the killer. Local authorities believe they have an open and shut case. But.....at the time the boy was killed, Terry Maitland was hours away at a conference for teachers. Witnesses saw him at both places...at the same time. How can a man be in two places at once?

This story is warped and disturbing yet mesmerizing, as only Stephen King can spin a tale. What starts out as an investigation into a brutal murder morphs into something much more dark and evil. Once I started the audio book, I listened while driving, while gardening, while cleaning.....I couldn't stop listening! I breezed through 18+ hours of this story in just 3 days. I was hooked on the story. It's been awhile since a King novel completely sucked me in.....loved it!

Narrated by Will Patton, the audio book is almost 19 hours long. Patton reads at a nice speed and manages different voices, the required King-esque creepiness and the acting required with great skill. I'm sure it's not easy to bring something as demented, strange and awesome as a King novel to life...but Patton did a great job! I really enjoyed the performance! I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

Warning: This book contains some graphic descriptions of child murder and rape. If that's something you can't handle, it might be best to pass on this one.  For King fans -- this story is classic.

Friday, August 17, 2018

REVIEW: S'more Murders

S'More Murders
Author: Maya Corrigan

Val Deniston usually caters meals from a set list of menu choices. But when a wealthy man offers her a lot of money to recreate a 10-course meal served to first class passengers on the Titanic, she agrees. Bills gotta get paid...and the money is too good to refuse. At first the dinner aboard his yacht, the Abyss, is enjoyable for the eight people seated at the table. It quickly takes a bad turn when the captain is knocked unconscious and the host disappears off the boat. Was it an accident....or murder?

This is the first book in the 5-ingredient Mystery Series that I have read. S'More Murders is the 5th book in the series. I was easily able to follow the story and the characters without reading any of the prior books. There is some character development and background that I was lacking, of course, but I still enjoyed the story. I will definitely be backtracking to read this series from the start.

The mystery kept my attention. I liked the recreation of the Titanic dinner with a murder mystery game element added. There were plenty of suspects and sleuthing, and having the murder victim disappear off a ship at sea was a creative, interesting way to bump him off. Val and her grandpa are great characters, and I even liked all of the side characters. The fact that Val is helping her grandpa write a cookbook about old codger's favorite recipes made me smile. Cute! Plus, there are several yummy sounding recipes based on the Titanic cuisine in the back of the book! I love it when cozies include recipes that aren't all sugary desserts or cookies! An example of a first class dinner menu from the Titanic is included as well. I found it an interesting fact that none of the actual recipes for foods cooked on the Titanic still exist. Val had to wing it and create her own in the story. I'm surprised the White Star Line doesn't have a record of food preparation or recipes on its liners from that time....but I suppose the Chef also winged it and created his own versions of the foods. After finishing the book I did a little online research. Head Chef  Charles Proctor and most of his staff did not survive the sinking. The ship's Head Baker, Charles Joughin, did survive, floating in the water in a lifebelt until rescue arrived. So, no wonder there are no authentic recipes for the foods served to first class on that fateful voyage. There are several restaurants around the world offering a recreation of the last meal served to passengers -- one even offers a 1907 vintage wine that was actually salvaged from the wreck (I find this morally wrong....but they didn't ask my opinion) for nearly $2,000 per person.

Enjoyable cozy! I will definitely be reading the rest of this series...and more by this author!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, August 16, 2018

REVIEW: Spying on Whales

Spying On Whales
Author: Nick Pyenson

I've always had a fascination with whales, dolphins and other mammals that live in the sea. I think maybe it's because they are so like us, and yet so different at the same time. When I saw this book written by a Smithsonian paleontologist, I knew I had to read all about the past, present and future of whales. I'm glad I did -- this book is fascinating!

Nick Pyenson shares so many facts about whales...species that still swim in our oceans and ones that are long gone. He discusses the ancestors of the whales we know today, the life of whales now and what the future might be for some of the largest creatures on the planet. There is still so much about whales that we don't know because they spend most of their time in deep ocean where even modern humans have a hard time following. I found it fascinating that Pyenson shared the fact that some whales can live more than 200 years...so there are some still swimming that saw wooden ships with sails skimming across the ocean. It made me wonder with awe what experiences the oldest whale in the world might have had over its long life.

There is a lot of information and facts shared in this book, and at times Pyenson does get a bit academic. I read this book in small pieces, not in large chunks. The information is interesting and fascinating. But at times, the author let his ego show a bit. I don't fault highly educated people for this at all....they have a lot of knowledge and experiences that I don't. For me, small doses is best with information dense nonfiction like this book. Every night I would read a chapter or two while the HD television across the room showed an ocean documentary for ambiance. It just so happened that I was reading this book while Shark Week was on Discovery Channel....so it worked out perfectly. Sharks aren't whales of course...but the lovely ocean scenes made a perfect background for my enjoyment of this book.

Lovely book! A nice blend of Pyenson's personal experiences and facts, history and information about whales themselves. He presents the information in an interesting way. Pyenson actually gives tours at the Smithsonian. After reading his book, I imagine he is an awesome guide! Great read!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Penguin/Viking via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

REVIEW: Cross My Path

Cross My Path
Author: Clea Simon

The first thing that caught my attention is the cover of this book. What a beautiful black cat! And then the premise of the series pulled me in the rest of the way.....  Carrie "Care'' Wright is a private investigator. She solves cases for those in need with the help of her cat, Blackie. Blackie isn't just a cat....he's special. The story is told from the cat's point of view.

Cross My Path is the third book in this series. Usually I am picky and prefer to read a series starting at book 1. When I chose this particular book for review, I didn't realize it was part of a series. As I started reading, I was a bit confused at first....having no previous knowledge of the characters or their background. But I quickly figured things out. Blackie is a very, very special cat.....and I immediately loved him! Such a creative and interesting character! But, I think it would have been best -- and less confusing -- to start this series at book one. I'm going to backtrack and start over....beginning with The Ninth Life and As Black As My Fur before re-reading this book. Even with the slight confusion over prior events, I enjoyed this story and will definitely be reading more from Clea Simon!

This is the first book by Clea Simon that I have read. I like her story and writing style. And I definitely liked the characters in this series. It has a very gritty, noir feel. Fun and enjoyable read!

Ordered a copy of The Ninth Life -- I have to read this series from the beginning!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. All black cats encountered during the reading of this book had their ears scritched and tummies rubbed, as required by Cat Law.**