Book Club Mom’s July recap – walking, planting, reading and dreaming

We’re still in the middle of summer, but when July comes to a close, I always feel the rush of days and weeks, hurtling towards fall. And even though fall is my favorite season, my house will be a little less full in a month…children leaving the nest.

I’m also in the middle of my library’s summer reading challenge. This year, it’s called A Universe of Stories, created to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. So I’ve been reading and listening to books outside my usual genres, to complete different categories of the challenge. I listened to two audio books on my walks and I managed to squeeze in a couple books of my own choice, too!

Check out my reviews here:

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Audiobook review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Honor Girl – A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

Audiobook review: Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman,
narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Those People by Louise Candlish


I was happy to meet a new (to me) indie author, Jennifer S. Alderson. If you haven’t met Jennifer yet, please stop by and say hello!

Who’s That Indie Author? Jennifer S. Alderson

If you are a self-published or indie author and would like to be featured, email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.


I also posted and author update for Geoffrey M. Cooper. His new medical thriller, Nondisclosure, is available now:

BC Mom’s Author Update: new medical thriller by Geoffrey M. Cooper


I also did a little dreaming this month, wishing for unlimited time to read some best sellers and some classics.

Book Club Mom’s dream list TBR

Book Club Mom’s classic dream list TBR


There have been more Friday Fiction shenanigans in a new chapter of “A Man and His Phone.” Feel free to jump into this little series and relive the drama of the twenty-something dating world!

Friday Fiction – A Man and His Phone


Images: Pixabay

I like to think about grammar and new word uses – can you relate to that? Here’s a post about the more recent trend of the word “relatable.”

Grammar check – is relatable a real word?


After reading Those People by Louise Candlish, I thought about all the despicable characters in books I have read, and then I made a list!

Books with unlikable characters – can you add to the list?


I watched The Right Stuff movie as part of the Universe of Stories challenge. Even though there was a lot of hype about the movie when it was released in 1983, I had never seen it!

The Right Stuff – the book by Tom Wolfe, the 1983 movie and how we got to the moon


And last, I was happy to be featured on Norah Colvin’s blog in her special School Days, Reminiscences feature. Be sure to visit Norah’s blog below:

School Days, Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli


Did you have a good month? What was the best book you read? For me, I’d say Sounds Like Titanic.

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Death in a Mudflat by N. A. Granger

Death in a Mudflat
by
N.A. Granger

Rating:

When a dead woman’s body emerges from a mudflat in Pequod, Maine, it doesn’t matter that part-time detective Rhe Brewster and the chief of police are at a wedding across the way. Rhe and her former brother-in-law (and new love interest), Sam Brewster, are more than willing to run over, don a set of hazmat suits and secure the scene.

Sam and Rhe can only initially guess at the whys and hows, but their expert team’s careful attention to detail and Rhe’s nose for making connections take the reader on an investigation that is both cozy and challenging and in which Rhe places herself in many dangerous situations. Is she reckless or is she just an ace detective? Now that they’re a couple, Sam may have trouble working this out.

Death in a Mudflat is Granger’s fourth Rhe Brewster mystery, a fun series set in the fictional coastal town of Pequod. In this small-town setting, Granger has developed a cast of characters and community that reflect New England values and personalities. But just like other small towns and larger communities across the country, Pequod struggles with modern problems, including the east coast’s growing heroin crisis.

As the investigation continues, Rhe and Sam discover possible connections to other deaths, casting doubt on several shady characters. And when a student from Pequod College turns up dead, they must consider an even larger case. Granger does a great job introducing the second case into the story and readers won’t know if they are connected until the story’s exciting end.

These investigations consume a lot of time, while Rhe continues to work as an Emergency Room nurse at Sturtevant Hospital and also raise her son, Jack, an active eight-year-old. But Rhe, Sam and their friends manage to keep the fun going in their own lives. A little romance and a couple fights over Rhe’s risk-taking make the story both realistic and entertaining. In addition, Rhe’s close friendship with Paulette McGillivray adds another dimension to the story when Paulette joins a mystery group dedicated to solving cold cases.

Granger’s extensive medical knowledge shows, as Rhe’s hospital and police life forever overlap. The author also includes details about modern police procedures and technology which greatly enhance the story. Readers will also enjoy how Granger incorporates hot coffee and many tasty foods into her characters’ days, often from the Pie and Pickle, Pequod’s local café.

Themes about love, friendship, helping others and justice over the bad guys make Death in a Mudflat and the whole series great reads and I recommend these stories to mystery readers who like a good puzzle as well as others who enjoy reading about modern life in a small town.

Also by N. A. Granger:

Death in a Red Canvas Chair
Death in a Dacron Sail
Death by Pumpkin
Death at the Asylum (coming 2020)


I read Death in a Mudflat as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a book set within the past 20 years.

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Summer Reading Challenge – Libraries Rock!

When I think about summer, I think of sitting outside somewhere on a nice warm day, with an iced tea close by and a book in my hand. Summer reads should be fun and not too difficult, right? They should be easy to pick up, put down and pick up again because we all know what happens to our attention spans when the weather gets hot!

Summer reading challenges are in full swing at the library where I work. This year’s theme is Libraries Rock! I’m all signed up and have begun working on my BINGO card. Most of the squares are for reading, but some of them involve attending library programs, visiting museums and signing up for walking challenges. I’m hoping to win a prize, but I’ll have fun even if I don’t!

I’m off to make a pitcher of tea and find a shady spot outside. What about you? Are you doing a summer reading challenge? Hope to see you out there!

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Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Miller’s Valley
by
Anna Quindlen

Genre: Fiction

Rating:

Does the land you live on define your family? That question may not be as relevant in today’s world, but there was a time when multiple generations of families were born and raised in the same place. What happens when a family like that is forced to leave the only home they have known for hundreds of years?

That’s the problem Bud and Miriam Miller face when they learn that the government plans to displace an entire town and turn Miller’s Valley into a reservoir. It’s the central conflict in the Millers’ marriage and one which affects their family and neighbors in a multitude of ways. Bud does not want to leave, but Miriam is ready. Some friends sell, others are holdouts.

Miller’s Valley takes place during the 1960s and 70s in a small farming town in Pennsylvania and is narrated by Mimi, the youngest Miller. In addition to a story about eminent domain, it is Mimi’s coming-of-age tale. As a ten-year-old girl, her world is made up of her family and a couple friends, but as she grows and her two older brothers leave, Mimi tries to imagine what she will do. Her brother, Tommy, urges her, “You come up with your own plan, Meems. No matter what happens.”

Despite a promising future, family obligations and loyalty to her father’s beliefs press hard against Mimi’s heart and she becomes more entrenched in life in the valley, despite its doomed future. Mimi’s best friend, Donald, moves to California and her Aunt Ruth hasn’t left her house in years. Tommy and her other brother, Eddie, go off in completely directions and Bud Miller continues to ask, “Who will run the farm when I’m gone?”

I enjoyed reading Miller’s Valley because I had only thought of eminent domain in terms of roads being built, and did not know of the government’s practice of flooding towns in order to build reservoirs. I live near a manmade lake with a very similar story, so this book was interesting to me.

Miller’s Valley had the potential to be a great story, but it is a more of a fast read with characters I seem to have met in other books. In addition, Quindlen finishes fast, with a couple hanging plot lines and a “didn’t see that coming” moment that may frustrate some readers. But as I have many reading moods, this one fit in with a busy week and I enjoyed starting and ending my days with an easy story.

I recommend Miller’s Valley to readers who like light historical fiction about family and conflict.

And for those who are interested in the history, here’s a definition of eminent domain and a couple stories about towns that were flooded:

Merriam-Webster definition of eminent domain: a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

Ephrata Review: “Cocalico Corner: Two tales of two valleys” by Donna Reed – April 27, 2016

Pleasant Valley Lost by Joseph J. Swope – 2015

The Story of Milford Mills and the Marsh Creek Valley: Chester County, Pennsylvania by Stuart and Catherine Quillman – 1989


Other Anna Quindlen books reviewed:

      

Black and Blue
Good Dog. Stay.
Still Life with Bread Crumbs


I read Miller’s Valley as part of my library’s Summer Reading
Challenge to “read a book you own but haven’t read.”


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Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry
by
Jane Harper

Federal Agent Aaron Falk left his home town of Kiewarra in Victoria, Australia, twenty years ago, right after Ellie Deacon died in the river. Now another of Falk’s childhood friends, Luke Hadler and his family, are dead. Despite the friendship, Falk would rather stay in Melbourne, but when he receives a letter from Luke’s father, he knows he must go back. Gerry Hadler’s words are unsettling: “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.”

Falk dreads returning to a town that chased him and his father away years ago, all because of an alibi that no one believed. Since then, lies and secrets have crippled the small farming town and a two-year drought has made everyone desperate. Falk wants to get in for the funeral and get out as soon as he can, but at the service, a chilling picture rotates through the slide show. Luke, Falk, Ellie and Gretchen Schoner, a tight teenage foursome and now only two are left. Is there a connection between Ellie’s death and the Hadler murders?

When Luke’s parents ask him to look into the murders, Falk reluctantly agrees. Headed by Kiewarra’s new Sergeant Raco, Falk and Raco follow leads and suspicions as hostility against Falk grows. Nothing is at it seems, however, and Falk will have to dig to the raw core to understand, if he survives the process.

The Dry is a terrific atmospheric thriller in which Kiewarra’s setting on the edge of the bushland and the drought’s devastating effects weigh heavy on the characters. False leads, unclear motives and complex relationships make this story both an entertaining read and a more serious study of human behavior. Why do people keep secrets and what could have been different if the truth were told? Harper may not have the answer, but she shows how lies and secrets can crush.

I recommend The Dry to readers who enjoy mysteries and to anyone who is interested in human behavior. I’m looking forward to reading Harper’s next book, Force of Nature.


I read The Dry as part of my library’s Summer Reading
Challenge to “read a book set in a place you’d like to visit.”


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Book Talk – Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to a new and occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of new and not-so-new books that catch my eye.

Sometimes you need a feel-good book, a story in which realistic characters face many challenges, but are able to overcome them through love and faith. That’s what you get in Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt, a wonderful inspirational romance that promises just what the title suggests.

Jackson Daughtry doesn’t know what to think when a young, and very attractive, career-driven divorce lawyer arrives in Sweet Gum, Virginia. Melanie Harper is there to convince her Aunt Phoebe to move to Washington, D.C. because she is sure that Phoebe, her only relative, cannot manage on her own. But it may be that Melanie is the one in need, for despite a successful career and head-turning looks, Melanie lives in a shadow of sadness.

Add to the fact that Jackson, a handsome paramedic and single dad, shares ownership with Phoebe of Sweet Gum’s local café. They need each other. And Phoebe may not be a blood relative, but she’s definitely family to Jackson. This charming small town is where Phoebe belongs, and he’s about lock horns with Melanie on the subject.

As the story unfolds, readers learn more about Melanie’s mysterious past and why she is so entrenched in her career. In addition, Jackson’s back story explains why his little girl, Rebecca, has no mother in the picture. Could Melanie fill that void?

This isn’t just a love story, however. Weatherholt tackles important issues such as how to deal with loss and questions of faith. She presents a serious conflict and shows how her characters cope, using humor and keen insight into human behavior. Readers will need to read till the end to see how Weatherholt resolves the strong attraction and tension between Jackson and Melanie, which is also threatened by outside developments.

I very much enjoyed reading Second Chance Romance, and especially liked the small-town setting in which friends and neighbors look out for each other. I recommend this lovely romance to readers who like to see the good guys win.


I read Second Chance Romance as part of my library’s Summer Reading
Challenge to “read a book in a genre you don’t usually read.”

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On Libraries and Cats

Have you ever wondered why librarians are crazy about cats? Did you know that many libraries employ a resident feline? Maybe you have seen a cat snoozing on a book cart or sauntering down the aisles. You may think this is a modern infatuation, but cats and libraries have gone together since the earliest of times. For thousands of years, from ancient Egyptian temples to the present, cats have “worked” in libraries. Their main job? Keep the rats and mice away!

But cats in libraries offer another benefit. Many of us know the pleasure of having a cat nearby, to pet or cuddle up with and their proud and independent natures make them funny to watch. Library cats also offer a sense of community. They bring people in the door and give patrons an opportunity to interact with the staff and each other on another level.

Image: Today.com

If you’re a librarian, you probably know who Baker & Taylor are. They are the largest wholesaler and distributor of books for libraries. About thirty years ago, they heard about a library cat at a small library in Douglas County, Nevada. He was a Scottish Fold, affectionately named Baker because of the Baker & Taylor box he liked to hang out in. Baker needed a friend, however, and the book company made it happen. They issued a grant to purchase and care for a second Scottish Fold named Taylor (of course!). Soon after, the Baker and Taylor cats became the company’s mascots and the Nevada library became a national attraction. Cat photo shoots led to a high demand for B&T posters, calendars and tote bags. A fan club popped up and the famous cats were soon portrayed at library conventions in specially made Baker & Taylor cat costumes. Baker and Taylor lived many years and enriched the lives of patrons, staff and visitors. Their images continue to grace the B&T totes and posters.

Image: Today.com

Jan Louch, a long-time employee at the small library and a lifelong animal lover was there for all the action and, together with Lisa Rogak, wrote The True Tails of Baker and Taylor, published in 2016. It’s a fun story, with great pictures and gives a good look into the small library scene, its patrons and two amusing cats with distinct personalities. I enjoyed reading this chronicle which led to my research on cats in libraries.

I read The True Tails of Baker and Taylor as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a book suggested by a librarian.


For more information about libraries and cats, visit the links below:

OEDB article:  “A Quick Guide to Library Cats”
Wikipedia:  “Library Cat”
American Libraries article:  “Library Cats Leave Some Sneezing, Others Feline Fine”
Mental Floss article:  “10 Cats Who Live at the Library”
Petcha.com article:  “History of Library Cats”

Have you visited a library with a feline employee?

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The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer
by
Michael Connelly

Rating:

Mickey Haller has a big problem. As a criminal defense attorney, he works the system to get his clients the best deals, no matter the offense. He doesn’t ask if they did their crimes because it doesn’t matter. Admit to this, get a lesser sentence. Say you did this and avoid the death penalty. That’s his job and it pays the bills, usually. But deep down, he wonders if he could tell if one of them was truly innocent. The words of his famous lawyer father, a man who died before he could know him, echo in his brain, “There is no client as scary as an innocent man.” Haller is about to find out.

Haller’s office is the back of a Lincoln, driven by Earl Briggs, a former client who is paying off his legal fees. Briggs drives his boss from LA courthouses to area prisons and everywhere in between, meeting with biker gang leaders, drug dealers, and prostitutes. His two ex-wives still like to help him:  his case manager, Lorna Taylor and prosecuting attorney Maggie McPherson, mother of their young daughter, Hayley.

Everything changes when Haller picks up a new client, Louis Ross Roulet. Roulet is the son of the rich and powerful real estate mogul Mary Alice Windsor and he is sitting in a holding cell, arrested for assault against a woman he picked up at a bar. This case could solve many of his financial troubles.

The injuries to Reggie Campo and the evidence point to Roulet, but he claims innocence. Was it a set-up? Something from an older case nags Haller. His private investigator, Raul Levin begins to uncover the evil truth which will put Haller and those around him in great danger. Haller will have to use all his tricks, in and out of the courtroom, to keep his family safe.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a swift-moving and entertaining legal crime story, full of personality and fun details. Fans of Michael Connelly books will enjoy the brotherly connection between Haller and Harry Bosch, who share the same father. While they don’t meet up in this book, the relationship adds to Haller’s back-story.

While I liked the story and the characters, I was disappointed with a few plot twists that remain tangled and unexplained, and I wondered why Connelly introduced them. Connelly is a talented story-teller, however, and I look forward to reading more of both the Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch books. I recommend The Lincoln Lawyer to readers who like entertaining legal stories – a definite vacation read! I’m also looking forward to watching the movie starring Matthew McConaughey soon.


I read The Lincoln Lawyer as part of my Build a Better World 2017 Summer Reading Challenge to read or listen to any book I choose



Want more?  I enjoyed Echo Park by Michael Connelly – check it out here.

Have you read The Lincoln Lawyer or watched the film? What did you think?

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The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

the-beginners-goodbye
The Beginner’s Goodbye
by
Anne Tyler

Rating:

When Aaron’s wife suddenly dies, there’s no time to resolve the big and small issues in their marriage.  As a thirty-something widower, he can’t bear to go back to their house.  His memory of what would have blown over as a meaningless tiff hangs inside, unresolved.

Dorothy had come at just the right time in his life.  Disabled by a childhood fever, he’d spent a lifetime being managed by his mother and sister, Nandina.  Dorothy’s indifference and matter of fact personality had been just what he needed.  “What’s wrong with your arm?” she had asked when they first met.  When he explained, she said, “Huh” and they moved on and fell in love.  But their marriage was not exactly typical.  Dorothy’s medical career kept her self-focused and inattentive, on the surface.  That’s what Aaron had wanted after all.

After Dorothy’s death, Aaron wades through the early paralyzing months of grief and he remembers what he had loved about his wife, as well as a mix of other pointless marital misunderstandings.  And when Dorothy first appears by his side, he can’t make sense of her presence, but it could be his chance to make things right.

Several nice parallel stories make The Beginner’s Goodbye a refreshing read.  The title’s tie-in with Aaron’s experience is one of them.  As an editor of a family-run vanity press, his good-bye experience fits in well with the company’s beginner’s series, guides to help readers through life’s passages.  Tyler’s message seems to suggest a gentle and guided change through difficult times. I like that.  Aaron may be lost in the trenches of unhappiness, but even his predictable and monotonous office life offers new possibilities, if only he will notice.  I like that too.

Aaron’s relationship with Nandina also changes when he moves in with his sister.  Nandina, unmarried, still lives in their childhood home.  Living there, even temporarily while his house is fixed up, makes Aaron vulnerable to her doting ways.  Is it a step forward or backward?  A surprising twist in circumstances shows Aaron that nothing stays the same, and that’s good.

I enjoyed reading The Beginner’s Goodbye because of its refreshing outlook, even in tragic circumstances.  I have read several of Tyler’s books, but nothing recent and thought this was a good way to get back into my Anne Tyler reading mode!

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Summer Reading Challenge Update

Source:  keyword-suggestions.com
Source: keyword-suggestions.com

Well the weeks of summer are winding down and I’m only a little more than halfway through my 16 in 16 Challenge.  I’m not stressing though.  These are the lazy days of summer, right?

I’m reading lots of books I wouldn’t have selected on my own and, although the challenge runs through August, I’m going to keep cracking the books until the official end of summer, September 21.

Where did I get these challenge prompts?  They came from the library where I work.  Since many of you have asked, here’s the list:

A book you can finish in a day

A book recommended by a librarian

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

A book written in the year you were born

A book that was banned at some point

A book being made into a movie this year

A book translated to English

A book with a blue cover

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF

A book in a genre you typically don’t read

A book to help you learn something new

A book “everyone” has read but you

A book with bad reviews

A book written by someone under 30 or over 70

A book with non-human characters

The second book in a series


Here’s what’s been in my beach tote:

The Good Neighbor  Calmer Girls   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian   I Refuse   The Vacationers

The Ghost Map   The Beginner's Photography Guide   The Ocean at the End of the Lane   Brooklyn on Fire

How’s your summer reading coming along?

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