06 January 2020

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Weekly Reset 3

Book reviews and books to screen at Beth Fish ReadsThe first full workweek of the new year is about to begin! Although I worked through most of the holiday break, today still feels like a return to reality, probably because I can expect to start hearing from my clients.

I spent the early part of last week prepping for our annual New Year's Eve dinner and movie-watching night and the second half on a kind of yearly reset: changing out calendars, thinking about goals for the coming year, straightening the house, and putting away the holiday decor.

This week's reset: I organized some incoming books, outlined this week's blog posts, and took stock of my e-galleys. Yes, I am serious about increasing the percentage of books I read digitally and spent some time going through Edelweiss+ and NetGalley to pick a few January titles.

I also took note of a few bookish shows to watch on television this month, including Anne with a E, Tolkien, Dracula, Dare Me, and Jane Austen's Sanditon. We watched the first episode of Netflix's Dracula: I have mixed feelings because it dragged a bit and doesn't follow the book. Sill, it seems worth watching. We also watched the first episode of Dare Me, which we really liked.

What I Read Last Week

Review of One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManusI decided I couldn't wait to get to the newest Karen M. McManus book, One of Us Is Next (Delacorte Press, Jan. 7), the second in the Bayview High series. This mystery, like the first in the series, has a strong foundation in social media and modern forms of communication. Although this story focuses on a new batch of students, we get to revisit characters we met in book one. The mystery involves a truth or dare game, which is a thinly veiled method of bullying. The questions for us readers are who is setting up the game, who is threatening to reveal secrets (the truths) if a student fails to take the dare, why are only certain students tapped to play, and what is the game master's end plan? As in the first book, the story is told via multiple viewpoints and there's a death. While I enjoyed the mystery (and didn't figure it out before the reveal) and appreciated the multilayered plotting, I wasn't as invested in One of Us Is Next as I was in One of Us Is Lying. Part of the issue may lie in the general setup of the mystery. I liked the closed-room premise of the first book more than the open-ended setting of this one. Regardless, I would happily read more about these characters if McManus writes another in the series. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library; 10 hr, 24 min), read by Maria Liatis, Holly Linneman, Fred Berman, and Karissa Vacker. All the narrators were good in terms of pacing and building tension and dramatic impact, but the characterizations didn't blend quite as nicely as they did on the first audiobook. (audiobook provided by the publisher)

Review of Stormy Petrel by Mary StewartStormy Petrel by Mary Stewart (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019, 6 hr, 11 min) was originally published in the 1990s and is a standalone mystery set in the Hebrides. When a Cambridge professor and author takes a holiday cottage on an isolated island, she is looking forward to a peaceful couple of weeks to finish her latest novel. She hopes her doctor brother will be able to join her, as the island is the perfect place for him to get in some bird watching and photography. On a rainy night before her brother arrives, Rose is visited by a young man who says he grew up in the cottage and didn't know anyone was staying there. Soon thereafter, another man knocks on the door seeking shelter after his campsite became drenched. Both men are charming, but each seems to be harboring secrets. Whom should Rose trust and what do these men really want? Stewart creates believable characters and makes the Hebridean landscape an integral part of the plot. Fun escape reading. I listened to the unabridged audiobook, which was published last fall and read by Eilidh Beaton, for a freelance assignment. Beaton did a fine job keeping me engaged throughout. My full thoughts about the audiobook production will be available via AudioFile magazine.

New to My Bookshelves

What to read in January 2020

I'm grateful to have had a nice variety of books arrive on my doorstep in the last couple of weeks. Here are a few that caught my attention; all come out this month:
  • The Vineyards of Champagne is about how the Champagne region of France survived the German Occupation. (Berkley)
  • Hope in the Mail is "part writing guide and part memoir" and is geared to young teens. (Knopf)
  • House on Fire is Finder's latest thriller; this one is set in the pharmaceutical industry. (Dutton)
  • Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a dual-time-period story of two marriages. (Dutton)
  • A Good Man is a mix of domestic thriller and psychological suspense set in New York. (Penguin)
  • Kidnapped on Safari is a thriller, set in Africa, that addresses the all-to-serious business of illegal logging of public lands. (Skyhorse)
  • The New Improved Sorceress is the second in a portal fantasy series set in Richmond, Virginia, as well as in a magical realm. (Ace)
  • The Secret Chapter is the sixth book in the Invisible Library series, which is a very adult alternative world(s) fantasy with many bookish themes. I love these books, but I'm one behind. Time to catch up! (DAW)


Shaban 1/6/20, 7:20 AM  

What do you mean dracula dragged on a bit? Does it not use the books as its source material? I've been thinking about starting to watch it, but i just cant get myself into it.


JoAnn 1/6/20, 8:19 AM  

I much prefer digital reading (on the kindle, not ipad) over print... just love the adjustable font and bad lighting is never an issue. Being able to read in bed without a book light is the best. I'm looking forward to watching Sandition, too!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 1/6/20, 8:21 AM  

I'm terribly interested in The Vineyards of Champagne. It pushes all my buttons: WWII, France.

I have found that I have become less and less interested in new books, though I always want to read the best of the new, of course. I have never done anything with Netgalley and Edelweiss. It is probably my age. I feel like I don't have time to read everything good, and I don't want to miss the best books.

Have a great week!

Susie | Novel Visits 1/6/20, 8:41 AM  

I'm an e-book fan, too. I feel like I read much faster than I do in a print copy and love the adjustable fonts and backlighting. Plus it makes taking books along so easy.

I have a friend who absolutely loved One of Us is Lying, so I'll pass your review of One of Us is Next on to her.

Have a great week!

Jackie McGuinness 1/6/20, 9:14 AM  

I love e-books, easy on the eyes with the ability to change to font and having a light.
Champagne and Recipe caught my eye.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 1/6/20, 9:25 AM  

It’s my daughters birthday on Wednesday, and One of Us is Next is at the top of her birthday wishlist list (though it comes out the day after)
Enjoy your new books

Wishing you a great reading week

Judi Easley @ a thoughtful reveal 1/6/20, 9:38 AM  

I'm looking forward to your review of Recipe for a Perfect Wife. I recently read and reviewed it and am interested in other's reactions to it. It's so quirky!

Mae Travels 1/6/20, 9:44 AM  

Stormy Petrel sounded good -- I just bought the Kindle version (only $2.99).

War in the Champagne region is a fascinating topic: another book about it is "Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times" by Don and Petie Kladstrup.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

bermudaonion 1/6/20, 10:07 AM  

I don't know why I'm just now hearing about the McManus series - everyone seems to have loved the first book. Stormy Petrel sounds good too.

You got some great looking books - I'm just a little jealous of Recipe for a Perfect Wife.

Kathy Martin 1/6/20, 10:13 AM  

I really should look for One of Us Is Lying. I've heard good things; I like mysteries. But I've been reading less YA lately. Mary Stewart used to be a favorite. I had no idea she was writing in the 90s since all I read were earlier. Come see my week here and Happy New Year!

Laurel-Rain Snow 1/6/20, 11:40 AM  

I'm very curious about Stormy Petrel...and it is now on my list. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for sharing, and here are my Weekly Updates

Katherine P 1/6/20, 12:24 PM  

Great variety of books! I want to do some more Mary Stewart reading. I've read a few of her books and enjoyed them but want to read them all.

sherry fundin 1/6/20, 3:17 PM  

a nice variety. hope you enjoy them all
sherry @ fundinmental

Yvonne 1/6/20, 3:21 PM  

Stormy Petrel looks good. I'll have to look for that one. I've been thinking about watching Dracula, but will the shows returning this week I'm not sure I'll have time but I will add it to my list.

Happy New Year and have a great week!

(Diane) bookchickdi 1/6/20, 10:14 PM  

The Mary Stewart and Joseph Finder books have caught my eye.

Greg 1/7/20, 12:25 AM  

Ooh Netflix has a Dracula show? Hmmm...and One Of Us Is Next is one I can't wait to get into. Been looking forward to it.

Love the cover of Stormy Petrel. And set in the Hebrides? Nice!

Happy New Year!!!

Tina 1/7/20, 8:21 AM  

The Herbrides and bird watching with a mystery plot - sold! I’m going to follow Mae and see if I can buy that book.
The Good Man and Perfect Wife are on my radar as well. You received some nice books.

Kay 1/7/20, 8:53 AM  

I'm another e-book lover (for most of the same reasons that JoAnn mentioned). I love the fact that Mary Stewart's books are being released again in audio with new narrators. I know I've read The Stormy Petrel, but I suspect it was soon after it was published. I'm going to use an Audible credit for it and also take a look at what else has come out by her. I picked up One Of Us Is Next this morning and will look forward to reading it. Already so many fun books to try (including rereading books).

Vicki 1/7/20, 5:02 PM  

I have 3 Kindles, Fire, Voyage, and Paperwhite, so I guess you can say I love digital readers too.

I'm going to listen to Recipe for a Perfect Wife as soon as I finish my current listen.

I'm so glad the next season of Annie With An E is available, it seems like I've been waiting forever to watch it.

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