MONTHLY WRAP-UP AT YEAR’S END…

Here we are at the end of 2018, and it’s time to take a peek at how the final month ended.   Visit Book Date to check out other monthly wrap-ups.

FAVORITE DECEMBER READ:

Genres:

     Mystery/Thrillers/Suspense – 5

     Contemporary Fiction – 3

     Nonfiction – 2

     Literary Fiction – 2

 

Click titles to read my reviews:

DECEMBER 2018:

1.Adults, The (e-book), by Caroline Hulse – (352 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 12/24/18

2.Affliction, The (e-book), by Beth Gutcheon – (368 pages) – (mystery) – 12/27/18

3.After Nightfall (e-book), by A. J. Banner – (261 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 12/2/18

4.An Anonymous Girl (e-book), by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – (384 pages) – (Psychological suspense) – 12/8/18 – (NG-1/8/19)

5.Emily, Alone (e-book), by Stewart O’Nan – (272 pages) – (literary fiction) – 12/29/18

6.Fabulous Bouvier Sisters, The (e-book), by Kashner & Schoenberger – (295 pages) – (memoir) – 12/14/15 – (Library Book)

7.Gone So Long (e-book), by Andre Dubus III – (460 pages) – (literary fiction) – 12/22/18

8.I’ve Got My Eyes on You (e-book), by Mary Higgins Clark – (257 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 12/3/18 – (Library Book)

9.Perfect Liar, The (e-book), by Thomas Christopher Greene – (288 pages) – (domestic thriller) 12/15/18 – (NG-1/15/19)

10.Sophie Last Seen (e-book), by Marlene Adelstein – (308 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 12/31/18 – (Author Review Request)

11.Tell Me Lies (e-book), by Carola Lovering – (375 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 12/13/18

12.What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton – (513 pages) – (memoir) – 12/5/18

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN DECEMBER 2018:    12

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN DECEMBER 2018:  4,133 pages

BOOKS READ YTD:   147

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How did your month unfold?

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REVIEW: SOPHIE LAST SEEN, BY MARLENE ADELSTEIN

 

Six years ago, ten-year-old Sophie Albright disappeared from a shopping mall. Her mother, Jesse, is left in a self-destructive limbo, haunted by memories of her intense and difficult child, who was obsessed with birds. Trapped in her grief and guilt, Jesse stumbles through her workdays at a bookstore and spends her off hours poring over Sophie’s bird journals or haunting the mall to search for the face of her missing child.

When Star Silverman, Sophie’s best friend, starts working at the bookstore, Jesse is uncomfortable around the sarcastic teen, who is a constant reminder of her daughter. But Star has secrets of her own, and her childhood memories could be the key to solving Sophie’s disappearance.

With help from Star and Kentucky “Tuck” Barnes, a private detective on the trail of another missing girl, Jesse may finally get some closure, one way or the other.

My Thoughts: From the first pages of Sophie Last Seen, I was caught up in the emotional life of her bereft mother, Jesse. Sadly, the town has now stopped caring about Jesse and her loss, and the isolation she feels drives her to make even more bad choices.

Men, alcohol, and her hoarding of items that seem to be messages from Sophie keep Jesse slightly off-center. Her ex-husband is pushing her to sell the house, but she can’t imagine giving up Sophie’s home or even packing away all the precious objects that are reminders.

But there are more secrets that slowly come to the surface, and Jesse will have to confront what is really keeping her captive in the past and in her grief. Star is another one with dark secrets. Will she finally share them? Will answers come to both of them?

How Sophie’s notebooks and the birding connection led the characters to answers kept me intrigued throughout. There was also a mystical undercurrent that brought hidden dimensions and the ability to move on. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: EMILY, ALONE, BY STEWART O’NAN

 

A sequel to the bestselling, much-beloved Wish You Were Here, Stewart O’Nan’s intimate new novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long moved away. She dreams of visits by her grandchildren while mourning the turnover of her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood, but when her sole companion and sister-in-law Arlene faints at their favorite breakfast buffet, Emily’s days change. As she grapples with her new independence, she discovers a hidden strength and realizes that life always offers new possibilities. Like most older women, Emily is a familiar yet invisible figure, one rarely portrayed so honestly. Her mingled feelings—of pride and regret, joy and sorrow— are gracefully rendered in wholly unexpected ways. Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, Emily, Alone confirms O’Nan as an American master.

 

My Thoughts: As the years pass, people begin to settle into their routines, expecting little else except loss and the passage of time. But the characters in Emily, Alone, especially Emily herself, show us that each day can bring new life and new experiences.

Emily and her sister-in-law Arlene have their established routines: lunch on Tuesday at the diner, with their coupon. Occasional walks and visits to art museums. Looking ahead to the holidays. On one such day at the diner, however, Arlene has an episode that leads to hospitalization, and Emily’s routines are shaken to the core. She has to start driving again so she can visit Arlene and bring things to her. She varies her days, and even in the exhaustion of it all, there is something rejuvenating.

The holidays bring reminders of the family conflicts and issues, but with her new lease on life, Emily finds ways to enjoy the moments. And even with each loss, she realizes that each new day is a gift.

I liked how she enjoyed each day, even after some extra challenges, including aches, pains, and illnesses. Her dog Rufus was her steady companion and added an extra something to the story.

The inevitability of death follows each day, but so does the bliss of new possibilities with the dawn. The story was slow, but in that savoring kind of pace that I love now and then. As we followed the seasons, the holidays, and the measured routines of each day, the passage of time brought something new and inspirational, even as the end also loomed. By the conclusion, I felt as though Emily was a friend I would never forget.

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FAVORITE 2018 BOOKS: LET’S CURL UP AND READ…

A little over a week ago, I published a list of favorite books for the year…so far.

Now that December is ending, I am ready to proclaim my favorite December read, to add to my list of favorites this year.

There were several contenders, so it was a difficult pick.  In the end, I chose After Nightfall, by A.J. Banner:  my conclusions in my review settled it for me.  “Marissa’s first person narrative kept me following along with great intensity, anxious for answers, sorting through possible scenarios. Even when I thought I finally had them, I suspected that there might be more to the story. I was riveted to the pages, rubbing my eyes with fatigue when I couldn’t stop reading, and in the end, I still wanted more. 5 stars.”

 

This year was one with lots of wonderful books.  I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

Did you have a great reading year?  Have you settled on some favorites?

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MY JOURNEY THROUGH BOOKS AND BLOGS…

When I changed up my header this week, I added the above photo to the right side of my banner to spotlight my own bookish contributions, with a peek at my Wizard of Oz characters that illustrate my bookish journey. 

I feel as though I have wandered down my own Yellow Brick Road in my journey to books and blogging.  It has been more than ten years since I created my first blog, and since then, there have been a few attempts to go above and beyond, with as many as twenty blogs at one point.  Happily, I now have six.  If you enjoy rambling tales, you could check out My Blogging Journey, over at my Potpourri blog.

I just reread it all, and I sighed a little at the ups and downs.  I was very happy to add this particular blog (in 2009), where I track my purchases, my review books, and my reading.  Seriously, I am finding many uses for that information.

Here is a stack of my TBR when I created this blog.  I moved into this downsized space with boxes of these books, and I refused to include them with the books I’d read, on those shelves.  Since then, I have also donated a few hundred of the books I had already read and reviewed. 

While I have whittled down most of those stacks, I have added a few more.  But they are primarily hiding out on Paige, my Kindle.  Sneaky, right?

I have also utilized the Goodreads site to keep track, as I eventually updated my pages here to include books from 2014 forward.

So…to sum up this particular Bookworm’s Journey, I use blogs to help me with my reading, writing, etc.   With the holidays around the corner, I still look forward to those gift cards that allow me to add more books to my shelves.  Mostly e-books, though.  I am expecting a hardcover book next week, as I love books with photos, and this one will be one to savor:

Wallis in Love, by Andrew Morton

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Today I hope to finish an e-book that I’ve been reading off and on since early in the week:

Gone So Long, by Andre Dubus III

I have read and loved other books by this author, but my favorite so far was House of Sand and Fog, and the movie based on the book, starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley.

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So…I have offered just a peek at my journey, but I hope you enjoyed the somewhat convoluted path I have taken.

What does your journey look like?

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FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2018…SO FAR

As the end of the year approaches, I study my lists of books purchased and read, review books received, and favorite books of the year.  The latter category is easier, since I add each month’s favorite on a separate list.

One year I whittled the list down to Top Ten Favorites, but I think I’ll publish the whole list.

Right now, I am not sure what book will earn its place on December’s list.    There were several books I loved…and it will be hard to pick.

Meanwhile, I recreated my blog header here, just to occupy my time on this bookish site.  A week or so ago, I created pages for 2019…and now I realize that I need to create a Favorites of 2019 page, complete with logo.

Okay…you talked me into it.  Here is my 2018 Favorites List so far:

1.Great Alone, The (e-book), by Kristin Hannah – 448 pages – (literary fiction) – 1/26/18 – (NG-2/6/18)

2.Promise Not to Tell (e-book), by Jayne Ann Krentz – (334 pages) – (mystery) – 2/2/18

3.Good Liar, The (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie – (373 pages) – (mystery/psychological thriller) – 3/25/18 – (NG – 4/3/18)

4.Sometimes I Lie (e-book), by Alice Feeney – (264 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 4/3/18

5.Female Persuasion, The (e-book), by Meg Wolitzer – (464 pages) – (literary fiction) – 5/9/18

6.Before & Again (e-book), by Barbara Delinsky – (416 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 6/17/18 – (NG – 6/26/18)

7.  Our House, by Louise Candlish  – (416 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 7/18/18 – (NG – 8/7)

8 .Believe Me (e-book), by J. P. Delaney – (352 pages) – (thriller) – 7/8/18 – (NG – 7/24/18)

9 .A Noise Downstairs (e-book), by Linwood Barclay – (368 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 8/21/18

10.Lies (e-book), by T. M. Logan – (432 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 8/26/18 – (NG-9/11)

11.Dream Daughter, The (e-book), by Diane Chamberlain – (384 pages) – (suspense fiction) – (9/10/18) – (NG- 10/2/18)

12.Open Your Eyes, by Paula Daly, (339 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 10/29/18

13.A Spark of Light (e-book), by Jodi Picoult – (356 pages) – (literary fiction) – 11/2/18

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What, if any, are your favorites from this list?

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REVIEW: THE PERFECT LIAR, BY THOMAS CHRISTOPHER GREENE

 

Susannah, a young widow and single mother, has remarried well: to Max, a charismatic artist and popular speaker whose career took her and her fifteen-year-old son out of New York City and to a quiet Vermont university town. Strong-willed and attractive, Susannah expects that her life is perfectly in place again. Then one quiet morning she finds a note on her door: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Max dismisses the note as a prank. But days after a neighborhood couple comes to dinner, the husband mysteriously dies in a tragic accident while on a run with Max. Soon thereafter, a second note appears on their door: DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT?

Both Susannah and Max are keeping secrets from the world and from each other—secrets that could destroy their family and everything they have built. Thomas Christopher Greene’s The Perfect Liar is a thrilling novel told through the alternating perspectives of Susannah and Max with a shocking climax that no one will expect, from the bestselling author of The Headmaster’s Wife.

My Thoughts: The Perfect Liar opens when Susannah finds a frightening note on their front door. Not sure what to do, she calls her husband Max, who is also concerned. But then he reassures her.

As the story begins to unfold, we learn more about the secrets Max and Susannah are keeping, but neither is aware of the other’s duplicity. As more time goes by, however, we see the lack of trust building between them and feel a hint of what might happen next.

We learn Max’s secrets first, and only part of Susannah’s. As the pages turn quickly, with a rapid pace, the intensity increases. There is a sense of heightening danger throughout, and just when we think we have the answers, we will be stunned by another revelation.

It was hard to know who to root for, as each character seemed to hold just enough of the cards to be a threat to the other.

A thrilling domestic drama that kept me on the edge of my chair, this one earned 5 stars.


***I received the e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

REVIEW: TELL ME LIES, BY CAROLA LOVERING

 

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

My Thoughts: Tell Me Lies sweeps back and forth through time but begins in the present with Lucy Albright attending the wedding of one of her best friends from college. She is living in Manhattan, but her thoughts on this day take her back to her college years in California.

Lucy and Stephen had one of those relationships that never seemed to progress. They couldn’t seem to stay together for various reasons, but they couldn’t stay apart, either.

What drew them together? What kept them apart? Their inability to make the relationship work or stay away from each other kept me frustrated on their behalf.

They each had issues from the past that factored into their mishaps with one another, and these problems were severe enough that they seemed doomed to never have what they wanted from each other. As the story unfolded, and each narrator shared moments that had affected them, it was easy to see that the patterns of behavior were deeply entrenched, and the traumas of the past had contributed in some way. One shocking event from the past was revealed near the end and made the story feel climactic.

I found each of these characters frustrating and hoped that they would eventually manage to move on. But I was also curious enough to keep reading. I did enjoy how the author added that unique flavor of each setting, from LA to Manhattan, allowing the reader to experience the moments with the characters: tasting the hot dogs or the drinks, feeling the ambience of the various bars and restaurants, and seeing the interiors of the apartments and homes. A slower read than I usually choose, but in the end, it was enjoyable. 4 stars.

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CREATING BLOG BOOKSHELVES FOR 2019

It is time to ponder my 2019 books: books I purchase; books I read; and review books added to my shelves.

So…today I created pages for showcasing those books.

Meanwhile, I cringed at the sounds coming from outside my office window…the gardeners and their incessant Friday reverberation of leaf blowers, etc.  Why does the noise always annoy me so much?  They do it so early in the morning that it is impossible to ignore.  Sigh.

I think they are finally moving away from my windows and onto the next set of condos.  Maybe I can now resume my reading of An Anonymous Girl, which I am loving.

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Enjoy your week!  Do you create pages to spotlight your books each year?

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REVIEW: WHAT HAPPENED, BY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

 

In this “candid and blackly funny” (The New York Times) memoir, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. She takes us inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules.

“At her most emotionally raw” (People), Hillary describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. She tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. In this “feminist manifesto” (The New York Times), she speaks to the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

Offering a “bracing… guide to our political arena” (The Washington Post), What Happened lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future.

 

My Thoughts: What Happened offered a glimpse into the campaign and her life leading up to it; a look at HRC’s reaction afterwards; and some solutions about how to move forward despite the negative ramifications for the election.

HRC showed us that forces at work have played on people’s fears and anger, and how a candidate who provokes the darkest thoughts and feelings can appeal to those who are searching for ways to release those emotions.

Clinton also discussed in depth how the timing of the email controversy, which had turned out not to compromise security in any way, had gained so much importance in the media and critically affected how people viewed her actions. Comey’s announcement of continuing the investigation after he had initially closed it made the whole thing worse. And then, when he backtracked, that fact had little effect. By the same token, Comey’s failure to bring out the Russian interference in a timely matter allowed the election to proceed without giving the voters information that might have made a difference.

I came away from the book with an enhanced frustration about how we access information, and how we decide what and whom to believe when there are so many conflicting voices out there. Especially when there appears to be a concerted effort by some to make it harder for citizens to distinguish between truth and lies.

An excellent book that took me a few weeks to read, since I perused just a few chapters at a time. 5 stars.

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