Posted in books

How I read so many books + “You” by Caroline Kepnes

I love books. Duh, right? Even if you don’t know me or haven’t read my blatherings on this blog, you can guess that by the title. I seriously wish I could get paid to read and tell you all about it.

And I rarely find books I don’t like. I feel like most books have a redeeming quality. Part of me realizes that these authors pour their heart and soul into their books, and I work hard to find the good.

But really, I just love to lose myself in the pages of a book — to let the words trigger my imagination and to pull me into a different reality.

And I read A LOT. My favorite way to read is a real book, but I’m almost as happy with my Kindle (and it is so much easier to carry around, and to have a spare book just in case). But I also have to do things that require my hands and my eyes; this means I can’t really work — or do laundry, or make dinner — with a book in my hands. Luckily, though, there are audio books.

I listen to audio books while I work or clean. I often get them from the library, but I also have an Audible subscription. One book a month from Audible, and I use it wisely: picking a book I haven’t read, or one that I want to reread but can’t quite fit into my reading schedule. I try to pick a longer book (a better value), and I attempt to buy books that I would want in my library. I have favorite readers for different genres, and certain writers that I like better in audio form.

And there is just something awesome about being read to by another human.

Audible is winning me over more and more, even away from the free library downloads, because it’s so easy to use with all my devices. On my phone. My tablet. My laptop. And, especially, my Alexa. Or I should say OUR Alexas. We have an original one in the kitchen, and I have a Tap in my office (which just became handsfree-which is why I just gave my husband my Dot, so he can use it in his office). It’s wonderful, because I can tell it to read my book by saying “Alexa, read (whatever book it is)” and it does! But, because Audible is an Amazon company, it’s the only one that can do that.

Now, I can listen to books (FREE!!) from the library through bluetooth, but it drains my phone battery and the quality isn’t as good as Audible (I keep hoping for a Skill or something similar for Overdrive, but I haven’t found it).

Any way, that’s one of my secrets to getting through so many books. While I’m working or cooking or cleaning or folding laundry, I can let someone read to me. And, if it’s a book I own for the Kindle and on Audible , I can switch back and forth easily without skipping a beat.

I would say one out of every four books I read is an audio book. I used to feel guilty about it, thinking that maybe an audio version doesn’t count as real reading. And maybe it isn’t quite the same. But I still find myself falling into the words, letting them transport me to different places, different times, different worlds. Yeah, someone else is reading the words, but I’m listening to them, and they’re having the same effect.

So I’m going to keep listening to my books, and counting those books as read. Purists may disagree, but to them I say GET A LIFE.


And just to prove my point, here’s a review of an AWESOME book I read listened to: You by Caroline Kepnes

“I love Stephen King as much as any red rum drinking American, but I resent the fact that I, the bookseller, am his bitch.”
Caroline Kepnes,  You

The Premise 

from the book blurb

When aspiring writer and recent Brown graduate Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: she’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and sexy beyond his wildest dreams. Joe needs to have her, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so. As he begins to insinuate himself into her life – her friendships, her email, her phone – she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom-made for her. So when her boyfriend, Benji, mysteriously disappears, Beck and Joe fall into a tumultuous affair. But there’s more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade, and their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences.

Dark, masterful, and timely, debut novelist Caroline Kepnes’ You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve heard before. A chilling account of unrelenting passion, this tale of love, sex, and death will stay with you long after the story ends.

My Thoughts

First off, let me say I’m not really into erotica for erotica’s sake. To each his own, but it’s not my thing.

That said, I’m fine it when it shows up in a book, if it fits in.  And often there is some erotic passages in a psychological thriller.

But, Wow! A creepy, psychological thriller should not have any right to be this erotic!

(It was dicey listening to You — with the girls only at school for about 7 hours).

But holy wow! Holy wow. Holy WOW! This book crossed a lot of lines for me. Erotic, funny, engrossing, and just plain fascinating. Joe Goldberg is a sort of Holden Caulfield with a psycho streak.  A loner who is willing to really get down and dirty for love. Seriously, Joe would kill for love. An outsider who doesn’t care, except when he REALLY cares.

Joe Goldberg is a psycho and a stalker and a killer, but he’s also funny and insightful. He’s a smart serial killer.

A little  confession:  I  read listened to the second installment of the Joe Goldberg saga — Hidden Bodies — so I already knew Joe Goldberg and I knew how the story ends here. And I didn’t think I needed You first, because I enjoyed Hidden Bodies so much. Both were really good (read all about my thoughts on it HERE). But, if I had it to do again, I would have read it listened to it in the right order.

Any way, I’m a little in love with Joe Goldberg, although I do NOT want to meet him, or have anyone I know date him! But I will listen to his ramblings and obsessions all day long.

I fell into You immediately. Kepnes created tension IMMEDIATELY and doesn’t let up for the whole book. It’s incredible, because it’s a long book.

And Joe Goldberg made me tense and nervous. I didn’t want him to do the pyscho stuff he does, and then I didn’t want him to get caught, all at the same time wishing someone would stop him! I wanted to know a little bit more about his upbringing, which seemed to have contributed more than a little to his obsessions and how he acts on them! (Maybe there’s a prequel in the works?).

I would LOVE to have lunch with Caroline Kepnes — but not in a Joe Goldberg kind of way. Her mind has to be dark and bizarre and abnormally funny.

If you’re into dark humor, or just dark, read or listen to this book (and Santino Fontana does a great job reading Joe Goldberg’s deepest, darkest, pyscho-ist thoughts–he’s a finalist for 2017  Thriller/Suspense Audie Award  for Hidden Bodies). It’s so creepy, but also clever and entertaining. I LOVED it.


Posted in books

My latest love: “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” by Kathleen Rooney

I do things because they make sense, and because they are elegant. Solutions of style have a greater moral force than those of obligation.

— Kathleen Rooney, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

The Premise

It’s the last night of 1984, and Lillian Boxfish is an 85 year-old Manhattanite out for a walk. After a disappointing dinner at her usual New Year’s Eve restaurant, Lillian decides to take a walk around her true love, New York City.

As she circles Manhattan on her feet, she meets those that make that city so strong. Bartenders, bodega clerks, parents, VERY pregnant women, criminals, children, limo drivers, security guards — all decent people living in Manhattan at a time when Manhattan wasn’t so decent. She finds common ground with all of them.

During her walk Lillian reminiscences on her life. Coming to Manhattan as a young woman, she took the city by storm as a copywriter and then an advertising wonder for R.H. Macy’s, becoming the highest paid advertising woman in the country along the way. But that wasn’t enough for Lillian: she also used her quick-wit and her way with language to become a celebrated poet.

There was love and marriage, a child, and then heartbreak. There were incredible highs and horrendous lows, and a life lived between the two extremes.

Lillian’s life is the story of a generation of forgotten women–strong and seemingly able to do it all. It’s also the story of a beautiful city that had lost its way (although we all know it found it again, thanks to Lillian and people like her).

My Thoughts

Okay, I love Lillian Boxfish. I LOVE her. She is the grandmother I want around right now (I loved both my grandmothers, but they’re both sadly gone). I love her as much as I love Jessica Fletcher (Read about my “Murder, She Wrote” OBSESSION).

I was sucked into Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk from the very start. Lillian hooked me. Her walk around mid 1980’s Manhattan had me racking my brain  — I moved to New York in 1989, so a lot of the construction she talks about was just finishing. And the whole Bernie Goetz/Subway Vigilante thing? I remember that, from the national news (although it was still a thing when I lived there).

Lillian takes everyone she meets on her walk at face value, creating a connection with everyone of them. This is a lesson in life — find something you have in common with everyone, even those trying to hurt you. We’re all human, and we all want the world to see the best in us. And CIVILITY, such a wonderful thing. We all need more of it (especially on social media, especially in today’s highly political world!) Lillian takes civility as her watchword, but not just for civility’s sake. To her, it makes the world a better, more reasonable place.

. . . but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity — one’s own and others’ — but only to the extent that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.


So, in creating connections and using civility, Lillian makes friends and helps those she meets in little and big ways.

But not only does Kathleen Rooney use the ineradicable Lillian to show us Manhattan in its 1980’s unseemliness.  Lillian’s walk is a pageant of New York City’s  history and grandeur, from The Jazz Age to the beginning of rap and hip hop (which Lillian, as a poet and a lover of language, really liked, at least The Sugarhill Gang and “Rapper’s Delight”), from prohibition to the beginning of Donald Trump.

Lillian is lovely in  her ability to look at every facet of The City and her life with realism. She doesn’t shy away from the bad or the ugly, knowing that there is beauty there, as well. I like to think she knows that you can’t have beauty without ugly, you can’t have the good without the bad.

Knowing that, Lillian (though the wonderful Kathleen Rooney) faces her own bout with true depression, presenting it in all its ugly sadness. Through Lillian, we see that even those that seem immune can fall into deep depression, a hole from which they cannot be pulled without serious professional intervention. Rooney delves into this with forthrightness and realism; exposing readers to the shame that shadowed depression and mental illness in the past, but presenting it with the frankness it needs and deserves.

Lillian was an artist, one that found a way to use words and language to sell the American dream (and R.H. Macy’s products), but also to describe the world around her in poetry. She was down-to-earth and humble about her gift, but also knew it drove her forward and improved her life. She used her gifts to make a living, creating an exceptional life in the process.

Kathleen Rooney styled Lillian Boxfish on a real person — Margaret Fishback, who was quite a bit like Lillian in profession and accomplishments. As Rooney says of  her high school friend who discovered Fishback in the archives at Duke:

 Angela. . .quickly realized that Fishback was a figure –a poet, a protofeminist, a successful career woman, and a mother — who would appeal to me as a poet, a feminist, and a professional myself.

And, after reading through Fishback’s works, Rooney confessed:

I instantly felt a deep connection to Fishback — an affinity for her writing both of ads and of poems, and her overall sensibility — though she’d been dead since the mid-1980’s. I knew that I wanted to do something to bring her story and those of others like her (this whole forgotten generation of pre-Mad Men advertising women) into the light.

Rooney is very clear, though, that Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is not a biography of Margaret Fishback, although the poems and ads in the book written by Lillian were Margaret’s creations (she’s used them with permission from her estate and Margaret’s son). In reading between the lines, I have to think that she used Margaret’s professional career for Lillian, but created Lillian’s life from her imagination. Or at least that’s what I think–so take that for what it’s worth.

Any way, Lillian Boxfish is wonderful. She’s pure New York and her life is a 20th Century life of a remarkable woman. There were many women like her, before the word feminism was uttered, women who did it all because it was what they wanted, or needed, to do.

Seriously, run out and get this  Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. It will make a trip to NYC seem necessary. In fact, I think we should all take Lillian Boxfish walking tours on our next visit! Yes, it’s 10 miles. But, if Lillian can do it, so can we–right?!



Posted in books

ToBeRead Tuesday!

It’s Tuesday! The best day of the week for book lovers!

(I plan to make this a weekly thing, FYI).

In case you didn’t know it, most books are released for sale on Tuesdays. So, every Tuesday of every week of the year (except for maybe those years when Christmas falls on Tuesday), a bunch of books are released into the world. Authors’ hopes and dreams — their deepest thoughts and darkest secrets and most imaginative ideas — are let loose on the public. Many hold their breath, waiting to see how their endeavors will be received by the reading and critiquing public.

Today is a great day for new books, and also a tough day for me. There are soo-many-great-books  released today, and I’m having a tough time getting through them all!!!

Here are the ones I’ve highlighted to read:

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. The story of a young boy loved by two women. One is his biological, undocumented mother; the other, his foster mother, a woman unable to have her own children. Haunting and lovely, a story of true love breaking hearts.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.


The Dry by Jane Harper. This one is getting A LOT of attention on many must-read lists. It’s next for me!

“I was surprised to realize that The Dry was Jane Harper’s debut novel. The writing is fantastic, and the plot – where many mystery/thrillers fall short these days – was completely unpredictable in the best ways possible. Federal Agent, Aaron Faulk, returns to his hometown in Australia to mourn, and inevitably investigate, his best friend’s apparent suicide. What comes next is a series of twists and turns that will keep you guessing all the way until the end. I repeatedly found myself shocked and pulled in by Harper’s fast paced and engrossing writing. Truly a fantastic read and hopefully the first of many to come from Ms. Harper.” –Penny Mann, The Amazon Book Review

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik. A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.


Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson. The author of the wildly popular The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying and downright Hitchcockian psychological thriller—as tantalizing as the cinema classics Rear Window and Wait Until Dark—involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder.


The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian.  (What I’m reading now!) When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee’s disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee’s husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs’ Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee’s disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

SEE! This is why my TBR list grows sooo out of control!!! So many great books this week (most of them mysteries, at least on my list). I’ve got to go so I can GET READING!!!


Posted in books

Quick Reads + CRM Review: Lisa Gardner’s “The 4th Man”

If you read like me, there are times you want something good to read but don’t have the time to read a full novel. Or maybe you want a little more information about something than what you get from a newspaper or magazine article, or just a non-fiction essay. But you don’t want to or don’t have time for 300+ pages.

This is why I keep a stock of Kindle Singles on my Kindle. Sometimes these get printed, but, more often, they’re only available in digital form, or as an inexpensive audio book. The beauty of them is that they’re cheap (digital versions are usually under $3) and quick.

Lately, my favorites of the Kindle Singles are written by well known mystery/thriller writers. John Grisham, Chris Bohjalian, David Baldacci, Lee Child . . . they all have good ones available. Other fiction writers, as well. Diana Gabaldon, Debbie Macomber, Jodi Picoult. They all have them waiting for you to read.

A lot of times these quick stories are “and then what happened?” stories. Sometimes they’re “what else happened?” stories. And, every once and awhile, they’re “what happened between books?” Sometimes they seem to be stories that just didn’t fit into a book. USUALLY they come out a month or two before a new novel.

And I love them. They often remind me why I like the characters or get me psyched to read something new.

So that’s why I love Kindle Singles. Let me tell you about my latest favorite: Lisa Gardner’s The 4th Man.

Combining the characters from her books, Gardner writes a compelling little story of Boston detective D.D. Warren coming together with ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, former police officer Rainie Conner. The three of them come together to solve a five year-old cold case with three viable suspects.

The case? “A young woman is found strangled in the stairwell of a college library, only her sneakers missing. With no physical evidence, no signs of sexual assault, and no witnesses, all the police have to go on are the three men who were in the library with her: her boyfriend and two campus security guards . . . all of whom have secrets, none of whom can be proven guilty.”

Warren, Quincy, and Conner must delve into the backgrounds of all three suspects, snaking out secrets and lies to figure out if one of these three suspects is guilty of murder, or did they miss someone? Could the guilty party be an elusive 4th MAN?

I loved The 4th Man. Quick, engrossing, and fun. And a great way to get ready for Gardner’s upcoming book: Right Behind You (starring Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner).