09 September 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Late Summer Reading

short book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsHappy Monday! It's been a while since I wrote a review post, so this is going to be long on books, but not necessarily long on words. Despite feeling overworked, I've still found time to make a dent in my reading list.

Even though it's September, I'm still reading summer books, though I just started listening to the new fall Elin Hiderbrand book. I couldn't wait any longer to read the next installment in her St. Johns trilogy.

We watched the movie Mary, Queen of Scots on HBO this past weekend. What a disappointment. Not only was it historically inaccurate but it was somewhat superficial. It didn't address any of the burning questions we have about Mary, so I'm not quite sure what the point of the movie was. Perhaps I was just too burned out from work to catch the details.

review of Someone We Know by Shari LapenSomeone We Know by Shari Lapena (Pamela Dorman Books; July 30): This thriller involves several families living in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in a small town in the Hudson Valley. The story starts off with a murder, and from there we learn about infidelities, betrayals, break-ins, and bad parenting. We meet best friends, troubled couples, a snoopy widow, and a couple of teenage boys with issues. Seriously, I would not want to live in that town. The gist of the book is figuring out who did the killing and why and whether any of the other neighborhood issues has anything at all to do with the death. Someone We Know held my attention, but there were a number of eye-rolling moments. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 7 hr, 50 min) was read by Kirsten Potter, who did a fine job with capturing the characters' personalities and their reactions to the various goings-on among their friends. (print and audio review copies provided by the publishers)

Review of I Guess I'll Write It Down by Beth EvansI Guess I'll Write It Down by Beth Evans (Morrow Gifts, June 11): This little hardcover journal is filled with a combination of lined and dot-grid pages, and at just over 6 x 4 inches, it's the perfect size to slip into your purse or tote bag. I'm not very good at keeping a journal on an everyday basis, but I do like to carry a small journal when I travel. It's the perfect size for jotting down info you want to remember: that restaurant you liked, the wine you tasted, or the museum you visited. You always think you're going to remember when you get back to your hotel, but I have better luck when I write things down right away. If you like to record your dreams, this little journal would be perfect for that too. I Guess I'll Write It Down would also make a nice stocking stuffer or hostess gift. (print copy provided by the publisher)

Review of The Perfect Wife by J. P. DelaneyThe Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney (Ballantine, Aug. 6): This techno/domestic thriller has shades of the movie Stepford Wives. Five years after his wife disappears under mysterious circumstances, Tim -- a leading AI developer -- succeeds in building a companion robot with Abbie's face and memories. What happens when the bot-Abbie develops self-awareness and begins to wonder what really happened to Tim's wife? To make matters more complicated she is beginning to question how Abbie could have voluntarily left her autistic son. The mystery/thriller parts of The Perfect Wife are very twisty and make you think about some of the issues surrounding AI. In addition the novel tackles theories of treating children on the autism spectrum. I stuck with the story, but I didn't love it. The majority of the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 10 hr, 42 min) was read by Saskia Maarleveld who did a fine job with the sections from bot-Abbie's point of view. Graham Halstead and Euan Morton read sections told by other characters. (digital copy provided by the publisher; audio copy for a freelance assignment)

Review of The Book Charmer by Karen HawkinsThe Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins (Gallery; July 30): This fun, light story has a touch of magic and a lot of charm. The small Southern town of Dove Pond is in trouble: businesses are moving out and the mayor isn't keeping close tabs on the town's budget. Sarah Dove (a descendant of the town's founding family) has grown up believing that she will save the town with a bit of the famous Dove luck. Meanwhile Grace Wheeler's life has been turned upside down when her sister overdoses, leaving behind a young daughter just when their foster mother (known as Mama G) begins to show signs of dementia. In a desperate plan to regroup, Grace moves her cobbled-together family to Dove Pond, Mama G's home town, hoping familiar surroundings and old friends will help the older woman feel less at sea. As it turns out Sarah's part in saving the town is convincing Grace, a business wizard, to take charge of the annual Fall Festival. A predictable plot is the comfortable backdrop for some of the larger issues found in The Book Charmer: aging, PTSD, found families, friendship, and trust. I really liked this sweet, small-town story -- perfect escape fiction. The unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hr, 42 min) was jointly read by Tavia Gilbert, Amanda Ronconi, and Sebastian York. Their voices blended well and each nicely portrayed their character's point of view. (audio copy for a freelance assignment)

review of National Geographic's Cat Breed Guide & Dog Breed GuideCat Breed Guide by Gary Weitzman and Stephanie Warren Drimmer & Angela Modany / Dog Breed Guide by Gary Weitzman and T. J. Resler (National Geographic Kids, Sept. 3): These books are definitive guides to all things about our favorite pets. These books may be labeled for kids, but they're really for anyone who wants to know more about domestic dogs and cats. The heart of each book is devoted to the different breeds of dogs and cats. The specific breed pages contain a photograph plus information about the animal's history, characteristics, and general disposition and include a quick-look chart on the breed's, size, grooming requirements, personality, and (for dogs) exercise requirements. But the books are filled with so much more: such as how to read dog and cat body language, how to communicate with your pet, stats on their senses (smell, sight, hearing, etc.), how to know which breed will be the perfect pet for your home and circumstances, how to prepare for and care for your pet, and how to train your pet. Plus you'll find features on dogs and cats in folk lore, art, and literature and you'll learn about dog and cat intelligence. Cat Breed Guide and Dog Breed Guide are must-have resources for any pet lover. (print copies provided by the publisher)

By the way, I finished Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner (see my feature here for information) and enjoyed getting to know the residents of this New York City apartment building. The book was generally light reading with a broader eye on relationships and marriage as well as on socioeconomic class and the generation gap. Recommended.


bermudaonion 9/9/19, 7:48 AM  

Ah, too bad about Someone We Know - I enjoyed Lapena's earlier book. I don't think The Perfect Wife is for me with the bots. I love all things Nat Geo Kids.

I need to get my hands on Carnegie Hill.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 9/9/19, 8:19 AM  

The Book Charmer is still on my wishlist.

Have a great reading week

Susie | Novel Visits 9/9/19, 8:52 AM  

You've been busy, Beth. That little journal does look like a perfect stocking stuffer and we're having a big family Christmas this year, so I may need to pick up a few! Can you believe I've never read Elin Hilderbrand?

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/9/19, 11:42 AM  

I enjoyed The Perfect Wife, and I'm curious about Book Charmer.

Enjoy your week, and here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

Vicki 9/9/19, 2:07 PM  

They all sound good. The Perfect Wife sounds freaky!

crackercrumblife 9/9/19, 2:47 PM  

That stinks about the Mary, Queen of Scots HBO movie. I think she is an intriguing figure in history and I was hoping it was going to be good! The Book Charmer sounds good!

Have a great week!

Yvonne 9/9/19, 2:54 PM  

The Book Charmer and The Perfect Wife look good. I hope you have a great week!

Kathy Martin 9/9/19, 3:13 PM  

Nice variety of books. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Greg 9/9/19, 7:23 PM  

The Perfect Wife sounds like something I might like, with the AI/ thriller angle. Sorry it wasn't better! Same with Someone We Know (the eye- rolling moments haha). I still need to get into that one, having started it but I keep getting sidetracked. Argh!

I'll definitely avoid Mary, Queen of scots- that's good to know.

pussreboots 9/9/19, 7:32 PM  

People We Know sounds good. My daughter has a copy of the Cat Breeds book. She liked it. My weekly updates

Daryl 9/17/19, 9:44 AM  

i think Write It Down sounds like a fabulous gift for travelers and those of us who need reminders

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