16 September 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading across the Genres

book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsOh happy day! I'm now officially back to a human-level workload. I met all my crazy deadlines last week and now I'm looking forward to having more time to read blogs and, especially, to read books. Yay!

I spent the weekend doing some baking (sandwich / toast bread and banana bread) and catching up with the household chores. I even did a little fun shopping.

We finally started the second season of Mindhunter, and it's just as good as we remembered. We often make Saturday a movie night, but this week, we ended up reading and listening to music instead. It was relaxing and just what I needed.

Here's what I listened to and read last week.

review of Elin Hilderbrand's What Happens in ParadiseI couldn't resist listening to Elin Hilderbrand's What Happens in Paradise (Little, Brown, Oct. 8). This is the second book in Hiderbrand's Paradise series, which is set on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The story revolves mostly around the Steele family, a few months after Russell, the father/husband, was killed in a helicopter accident. Irene is still reeling from her sudden widowhood and because she had no idea her husband had a secret life in the islands: not only a much younger mistress but also a tween daughter. The only good news is that Irene's husband left her a wealthy woman . . . or did he? It turns out Russell's business may not have been on the up and up. Sons Cash and Baker have their own woes: Cash's outdoor supply store is going under and Baker's wife is leaving him for a woman. Independently, all three decide to relocate to Russell's St. John luxury villa and think about a fresh start. In Hilderbrand's signature style, the story involves family and romantic relationships with broader themes stirred into the mix. In this case, the novel deals with sleazy business dealings, tax havens, secrets, and ethics. I loved getting to know the Steele family and their friends in St. John. As always with Hilderbrand, I felt the relationships and characters were realistic, and I'm fully invested in what happens next. But ARGH, I hate waiting until next fall to find out whether the Steeles find lasting happiness.

The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 47 min) was read by Erin Bennett, who (as I've said before) is *the* voice of Elin Hilderbrand. I love the way Bennett picks up on Hilderbrand's style and tempo. She also creates great characterizations and never tips us off when someone is hiding secrets. Can't wait for next fall. (digital and audio copies provided by the publisher)

review of Renia's Diary by Renia SpiegelRenia's Diary (St. Martin's Press, Sept. 24) by Renia Spiegel and her sister, Elizabeth Bellak, is one of those rare things: a Holocaust diary that reveals the daily life of a young girl in Russian-occupied Poland. The diary starts out with typical 15-year-old thoughts about school and gossipy comments about classmates. After Poland is divided between Germany and Russia, Renia's thoughts turn to her mother, who is living in the German side -- almost daily she writes about how much she misses her mother as she tries to cope with everyday teenage issues (school, girls, boys) in an increasingly dangerous environment. Reina and her family are Jewish, but not particularly religious. She hopes God will protect her, but she never mentions going to the synagogue and only rarely acknowledges a holiday. Her diary is filled with poems she writes for various occasions and to express her deep feelings. Life gradually changes as food and goods become more scarce, the Germans come, and Jews are put under more and more restrictions. Finally, she is to be sent to the ghetto, and Jews without work permits will be likely be sent away to camps. Reina, 18 years old by then, hands her diary over to her longtime boyfriend. He hides Reina and his parents with friends and smuggles Reina's little sister into the city, where she is eventually taken to Warsaw to be reunited with her mother. Reina and the elderly couple were not so lucky. Decades after the war, the boyfriend tracks Elizabeth and her mother down in New York and returns the diary, where it remained hidden to the world until relatively recently. It's a hard read, but important. I read a digital galley and thus missed the photographs, though many are shown on the Smithsonian website. Never forget--especially in the current political climate. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

review of The Swallows by Lisa LutzThe Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Ballantine; Aug. 13) is set in a New England boarding school and addresses the #MeToo movement and sexual bullying. When new teacher Alex Witt asks her creative writing students to fill out an anonymous Q&A about themselves (what do you like, what do you hate, who are you), she learns about something called the Darkroom, which turns out to be a secret website created by the academy's male students. The site includes inappropriate photographs of female classmates and the running scores for a contest the girls don't know they're participating in: who gives the best blow jobs. Although the Darkroom and contest are not all that secret, the faculty seems to have a boys will be boys attitude. Alex is having none of it and so begins to help a couple of the girls who are determined to shut the boys down. The story is told from a variety of viewpoints and includes a couple of other plot lines. Lutz has written a timely book, and I hope it makes at least some young adults think twice about their behavior. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio, 11 hr) read by a Abby Elliot, Lisa Flanagan, Ari Fliakos, Michael Crouch and Johnny Heller. The performances were spot-on and captured the different emotional reactions of the students and faculty. More on the audiobook at AudioFile magazine. (audio copy for a freelance assignment)

review of Cat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-ToppenCat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen (photos by Matthew Rakola) is a National Geographic Kids book (Aug. 27) that helps kids (and adults) learn more about their furry feline friends through easy in-home experiments and activities. The book is illustrated with photographs of kids and and their pets, and I'm happy to report that the book features a diverse group of young scientists. The activities help us learn about cat health, senses, predatory behavior, and intelligence. The activities are easy, fun, and inexpensive to do. For example, kids can test their pet's hearing and purring by using a smartphone. The photos, fonts, and colors are engaging, and I can't wait to try some of these tests with my niece's cats. Fun and informative for cat lovers of all ages. Below is an example spread from the book--click to enlarge. (print copy provided by the publisher)

review of Cat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen


Kay 9/16/19, 6:55 AM  

I'm planning on reading Lisa Lutz's book. She writes some interesting characters and this book seems like a good fit for her. I saw her at an author event several years ago and she's quite interesting to listen to.

Glad your workload has eased a bit. Hope you can enjoy some fall now. :-)

rhapsodyinbooks 9/16/19, 6:59 AM  

Renia's Diary sounds really good, even if difficult.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 9/16/19, 7:08 AM  

I went straight to Amazon after reading your post and I added Renia's Diary to my wish list. I will definitely read this book.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 9/16/19, 7:41 AM  

The Swallows is timely,sounds like it’s one my teens should read too.

Have a great reading week

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/16/19, 7:59 AM  

The Swallows looks like one I could immerse myself in...and I always love a new Elin Hilderbrand. Enjoy your week, and here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

Susie | Novel Visits 9/16/19, 8:56 AM  

I hadn't even heard of Renia's Diary, but it sounds like a great history of WWII form an inside/personal perspective. I've been wondering about The Swallows, so I'm glad to know you liked it and that's a great group of narrators. I may give it a try.

Susan @ The Book Bag 9/16/19, 11:10 AM  

I'm hoping to get Hilderbrand's series read soon. I really enjoy her books. Have a great week!

Kathy Martin 9/16/19, 1:38 PM  

Interesting assortment of books. I'm glad your work life has slowed down enough for you to get back to reading. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

bermudaonion 9/16/19, 1:41 PM  

I love all the National Geographic Kids books! I'd like to read Renia's Diary and The Swallows after reading your thoughts.

Yvonne 9/16/19, 8:33 PM  

Congrats on meeting all your deadlines! The Elin Hilderbrand book looks good. I have to read that series. I've read others by her that I've loved. Hope you have a great week!

Greg 9/17/19, 12:48 AM  

I've heard good things about Mindhunter, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Soon hopefully.

The Lisa Lutz book sounds good, I read a book co- written by her a couple years ago.

Mystica 9/17/19, 3:04 AM  

What a nice mix of books. Always makes for a very good reading week. Enjoy them all.

Daryl 9/17/19, 9:49 AM  

glad you're able to come up for air .. and to share

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