Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo


cover157556-mediumBeverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away

DiCamillo has delivered another poignant story of a young woman searching for her place in the world. Here she focuses on Beverly Tapinski, one of the three friends from Raymie Nightingale. We pick up with Beverly shortly after she has buried her beloved dog and right after Louisiana has left. Beverly decides to leave, too. She has nothing keeping her at home now that Buddy is dead, so she bums a ride with a distant cousin to a new town where she gets a job and moves in with an old lady who needs some help. Even though she doesn’t want to like, or even love people, she finds they grow on her.

The whole trio of books about this group of friends should be read together and by every 12-13 year old. DiCamillo handles friendship, heartbreak, disappointment, and all the emotions that come tumbling down at that age and does it in a gentle, reassuring way. Well done.

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister


cover154444-medium Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

This book is a gift that I did not expect. The story is by far one of the most unusual and imaginative I’ve read in a long time, and the characters by turns fascinating and exasperating. I first became interested in the properties of scent, particularly of how scent can trigger memories, when working with an elderly woman. Scent was a trigger for her and she shared the loveliest memories of her childhood and early adult years living on a farm and serving in the WAVES in World War II.

Emmeline’s experience with scent and the scent-machine is fascinating, and I particularly appreciated how scent continued to play a role in her life even after she left the island. I was pleased that she found a new family, and even more pleased that she eventually reconnected with her mother. However, the first meeting between Victoria and Emmeline was a little hard to swallow. Victoria’s acceptance of Emmeline as her daughter was a little too quick from someone being portrayed as hard-as-nails. Even so, their relationship building was interesting, and I totally loved the end, bringing both of them full circle back to John. Fans of M.J. Rose will enjoy this. Recommended.

Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


cover165880-mediumFrom the Publisher: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

This is a tough one for me. I confess, I did not love this book. I *liked* it well enough, but found the structure disconcerting. I sometimes struggle with focusing on books that alternate stories with each chapter, which is why this did not fully resonate with me. I kept wanting to read the Zachary Ezra Rawlins narrative and got annoyed that it kept being interrupted by the alternating fairytale chapters. Yes, it all comes together in the end, but the format kept me disconnected and made the narrative drag. It didn’t help that I was reading this in e-format. If I’d hard a print copy, I would have totally skipped around the chapters to satisfy my curiosity.

At the same time, this is a book filled with gorgeous language and description, the fairyland of my childhood dreams where one can get lost for centuries among all the stories in the world. Could there be a better place? I think not. I did enjoy the DungeonMaster/RPG approach to telling Zachary’s story, which at times made me feel as those I was inside the story, and I really enjoyed the characters.

I am 100% certain that fans of The Night Circus will eat this up. Morgenstern’s writing gets ALL the adjectives – lovely, luminous, lyrical, etc. and I predict this will appear on all the “Best of 2019” lists.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Published By: Doubleday
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman


cover161184-mediumFrom the Publisher: In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive. In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel to Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, then to a convent in western France known for its silver roses, then to a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be, waiting to avenge her little sister.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

I have started to write this review about 10 times and simply cannot express the blend of tragedy and joy you will find in this book. Hoffman has taken the horrifying historical context of the Holocaust and distilled it into the stories of four women: Lea, Ettie, Marianne, and the golem-woman Ava. It’s about survival when everything you know is ripped away; disbelief that your neighbors, friends, and country can suddenly turn on you because of your beliefs; love when the world seems consumed by hate; courage when faced with unimaginable loss, and humanity when it’s needed most. It takes a writer as skilled as Hoffman to take these heart-wrenching stories and tell them with such grace and beauty.

The story begins and ends with love – the undying, monumental love of a mother for her child, and of the child for her mother. Hoffman’s trademark magical realism is here in the form of Ava, the golem created to keep Lea safe who performs her job to perfection. In the face of unimaginable horror, ordinary people find strength, courage, and yes, love.

The best of the year for me.

“Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman’s exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us—it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances—and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world, the universe, in a way that it absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping.” —Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge

“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil. It’s my new favorite Hoffman book—and if you know how much I adore her writing, that’s truly saying something.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light

“An exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss…one of [Hoffman’s] finest. WWII fiction has glutted the market, but Hoffman’s unique brand of magical realism and the beautiful, tender yet devastating way she explores her subject make this a standout.” —Booklist (starred review)

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

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cover163601-mediumFrom the Publisher: From Ann Cleeves, bestselling author of Vera and Shetland, beloved by readers and TV viewers alike, comes a spectacular new series, told with deep compassion and searing insight.

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

I discovered Ann Cleeves a few years ago and binged her Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez books. Now she has introduced a new detective, Matthew Venn, who struggles with his past while working on a future with his husband Jonathan. Cleeves does some of her best storytelling here, creating likable and intriguing characters working their way through a clever plot. She sets the stage for further development of Venn, Jen Rafferty, Ross, and Jonathan, which makes me eager for the next one in this series.

Here, I particularly appreciated Cleeves’ sensitive and accurate portrayal of adult women who have Downs Syndrome. Lucy Braddick is especially sassy, intelligent, and clever, with a smile that lights up the room.

I’ll be recommending this new series and looking forward to the next TV adaptation of Cleeves’ work!

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Reader Profile – Alex Yudelson


AlexAlex Yudelson serves as Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester. He oversees the Mayor’s office and serves as the Mayor’s senior advisor, assisting her with the day-to-day operations of City Hall. He also manages intergovernmental affairs with local, state, and federal elected officials. Alex returned home to the City of Rochester from the White House, where he served as a Policy Advisor in the office of the President’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett. He served as President Obama’s primary liaison to sports teams, leagues, and athletes, and helped coordinate the President’s relationship with local and state elected officials and other constituencies. During college, Alex studied abroad at the University at Oxford and was chosen to be a delegate for President Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Alex graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy.

What are you reading right now?

Master of the Senate, by Robert Caro.

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not? Never – I didn’t even know that was a thing!

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Ulysses, by James Joyce

Is there a genre or type that you are over and wish would just go away?

I hate to say it, but the old Victorian literature is just… not good. Sure, they might paint a beautiful picture of a scene in your imagination, but the characters and plot are almost never compelling.

Describe your favorite place to read.

As I get older (I’m 26 going on 70) I find myself falling asleep while reading, so I need to be sitting upright at a coffee shop or in the living room.

Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?

Most books are better than the movies, because they can include more substance. The only exception I’d say would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The books are good; the movies are better.

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

I have some sort of mental block with audio books – I can’t focus. Has to be either hardcover or paperback, but no preference between the two.

Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” from The Great Gatsby. To me, it perfectly sums up the human condition of being unable to move beyond (and learn from) the past.

What book would you love to see made into a movie? Who would play the lead role?

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, with Mahershala Ali and Daniel Kaluuya.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?

Shortest Way Home, by Pete Buttigieg

Is there a book you feel is highly overrated?

Catcher in the Rye and any book by Ayn Rand.

Why do you read?

Reading helps my critical thinking and decision-making processes. It’s important to keep your reading skills sharp for any job – and it’s a healthy alternative to so many of the other leisure options in our life.

Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever


In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet.
From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Safeguard the Seas founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as:
  • Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;
  • Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;
  • Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;
  • Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;
  • Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year.

McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets, how the shark has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.”

At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.

Book Details:
Book Title: Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 320 pages
Genre: Environment, Ocean Wildlife, Marine Life
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: June 25, 2019
Tour dates: June 25 to July 12, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Intense underwater moments and descriptions of interactions with Sharks both in diver and hunting situation)
Buy the Book:
 
 
Watch the trailer:
 
About the Author:
Photo Credit: Debra Somerville
William McKeever is a writer and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of Safeguard the Seas, an NGO dedicated to ocean conservation. He is the producer and director of the forthcoming feature-length documentary Man Bites Shark.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram 

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 20, 2019

Mythos by Stephen Fry


cover166354-mediumFrom the Publisher: Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths—stylishly retold by beloved author and actor Stephen Fry. In this first installment of a projected trilogy, he begins with the birth of the cosmos, and leads readers on a romp through the stories of the Olympians: wise Athena, imperious Hera, fleet-footed Hermes, and impulsive Zeus. Each adventure is infused with Fry’s distinctive voice, which perfectly balances genuine love for the material and a wry, modern perspective. He draws out the humor and pathos in the gods’ quarrels and love affairs, and reveals the myths’ relevance for our own time. Illustrated throughout with classical art inspired by the myths, and wrapped up with a textured and foiled case, this collector’s edition is worthy of the intense devotion fans feel about both Stephen Fry and the Greek myths.

I have found that Fry’s work is an acquired taste and his humor not always appreciated by those who like their literature unadulterated and traditional.

That, my friends, is not me.

His irreverent and saucy retelling of Greek mythology is quite possibly the most hilarious thing I’ve read this year. The irreverence, however, is a light blanket over some serious and thorough research. Fry knows his subject well enough to skewer the gods with 21st century wit and humor. I look forward to the next installment. Well done!

Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

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cover155614-mediumFrom the Publisher: The author of Other People’s Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone’s radar.

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell. The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Chick Lit is one of my least favorite genres, but a friend just recently raved to me about Abbi Waxman, so I thought I’d give this one a try. The writing is chatty and colloquial, with frequent bits of some biting wit tossed in for good measure. The story is a cute modern fairy tale where shy girl born to outgoing, world-traveling single Mom discovers family she never knew she had at the same time her trivia team loses, her bookstore is bought out, she finds love and, you guys! IT’S ALL TOO MUCH FOR HER!

Snark aside, I really enjoyed this and am 100% certain this will be a hit with women looking for a light summer read. It’s great fun.

Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Published By: Berkley
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Guest Post – Brian VanDongen


OBSERVATIONS FROM THE PLAYGROUND – Brian VanDongen, author of Play To Live

As a recreation professional, one of the (many) hats I wear is that of a youth sports league administrator. For eight Saturdays in the fall and the spring at one of the parks in town, there is the youth soccer league. There are leagues for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders, and 3rd to 5th graders.

Right next to the soccer fields is a playground. When the soccer games end, the children line up for the post-game handshake, eat their orange slices, then make a dash to playground.

The playground is a modern take on the old school jungle gym.It has climbing structures, cargo nets, and floating boards (a series of ropes with platforms to walk across). The playground was recently installed and Im glad its popular with the children.

One day after the soccer games were over, I decided to walk over to the new playground to see it in action.

I noticed a younger child trying to walk across the floating boards. Step by step, he intently assessed how to reach for the next pole, how to balance his weight on the board, and how to step toward the next board. He did this all by himself, without parental guidance (that is often more harmful than it is helpful).

During this time playing, he learned to assess risk. Some questions that were probably going through his mind as he attempted to traverse the floating boards: Where is the best place for me to balance, while still reaching for the next board?,” “Is this surface stable?and Do I feel safe?

By not having specific direction on how to complete the floating boards, he was able to assess and manage risk on his own. This activity is not dangerous; it was a safe place to partake in risky play. There is a difference between risky play and dangerous play.

Assessing and managing risk is almost a daily part of adult life. There is no better place to learn how to manage risk than as a child on a playground or partaking in risky play. Little does he know that his play as a young child will help him in his adult life.

If you enjoyed the spotlight of Brian’s book, Play to Live, and his guest post above and you live in Rochester NY, check out Play ROCs on July 13.