First Books of 2020 (In all Their Glory)

First up, Happy New Year.  Thank you to all of you who sent me a picture over the last few weeks of the book you are reading into the New Year.  It is, as I have said many times, a big harry deal to me.  So thank you for following me down the rabbit hole.

Below, you will see the pics of the books sent in.  In the mix, you will find Authors Brian Freeman, Kaira Rouda, Randy Susan Meyers and Nadia Hashimi with their first books.  LOVE THAT.  There are also friends and book acquaintances, leaders in the book industry, champions of the written word…  you get the drift.

I chose The Summerhouse by Jude Deveroux as my First Book of 2020 because this book has wonderful memories for me and has a storyline that left me thinking about it for weeks… well years really, afterward.

Summerhouse is about three girls who meet back in their school days, Leslie, Madison, and Ellie.  They become friends over the fact that they share the same birthday.  Well, life happens and they all go their separate ways and onward with their lives.  

Then, as they are about to turn forty, they all have different things going on in their lives that are not as they had hoped.  They decide to meet up at a Summerhouse in Maine and connect over a weekend of catching up.   The girls all spend the first evening opening up about what is going on in their lives and they talk long into the night.  In the morning, they decide to go out shopping for gifts for one another and go into town and split up with plans to meet up later.  When they do meet up, they all find out that somewhere along their shopping time, they all received a little card inviting them to Madam Zoya’s.  Thinking it would be a hoot, they decide to do it.  Once they arrive, they are offered a chance to go back in time to a time when they made a choice that really set their future path and have an opportunity to make a different decision…  thinking why not… its all just smoke and mirrors, they all decide to do it.

The result is a book that still holds a coveted spot on my bookshelves.  It is still a book I hand out to friends and is considered a “book rescue” meaning if I see a used copy somewhere I have to purchase it so someone else can take this magical journey.

I have been reflecting a lot lately.  Perhaps that why I chose this book for now.  I know the great discussion my book club had around it when we read it in 2003.  I know it will hold a different message for me now.

Happy reading all.  May 2020 lead you to books that you too will hold as treasures long after you have read them.

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A Little Ditty About First Book…


For those of you who have been around these last 10 years (EEP), you know I was once quite the blogger/book chatter/writer girl.  This site… if you dig through the glorious archives is not only an artifact of my love of books… within the posts, is also the story of me.

If you have been with me all these years.  You know much of that story… much of my strong review years, what slowed me down to now (life, loss, change) to this, my eventual pop in once in a while.
Because of all of that I just said, I keep this site active as it does hold much of me… a bit of a Horcrux (but not the evil kind).

Ok – this is not meant to be about that.  I wanted to share a little history of First Book – the one consistent I have held on this site.

First Book started with me, long before I knew what a blog was.  I always made a big deal out of my first book of the year… making it a “no rules book” – just merely guilty pleasure – a book I was reading not because it was the next hot thing, not because it should be read next, not because it was for my book club – etc etc…. First Book to me was a book that I wanted to read for me.  It could be anything.  A re-read of a favorite.  One I had put off for a while (years even) due to time restraints etc…, one that was not in my normal genre circle but I longed to give it a try…

Seven years ago I brought First Book to Book Journey.  Opening up my silly tradition to the masses – anyone else who wanted an excuse to read something they really wanted to read for no reason at all then they wanted to read it.

It has been a lot of fun. as you can see by the posts and the pictures of those who shared their first book (some of you are represented year after year!)

2019 First Book

2018 First Book

2017 First Book

2016 First Book 

2015 First Book

2014 First Book

I keep it going for many reasons.  It connects me to the book lovers/reviewers that I have come to know through the years – heck, I even met quite a few of you that are not in my everyday world.  It is also fun to see if there is a book that is selected many times (last Year Crawdads and Michelle Obama’s book Becoming were featured frequently).  And if I am completely open and honest – I do it because it gives me a project to get through the New Year and focus on something positive instead of losing myself in loss.

That all said… I do hope you join in this year.  It’s easy – you just send in a picture of yourself with the first book you plan to be reading into the New Year.  You can email me at or PM me on Facebook – or even add it to a Facebook post I wrote about First Book.

Thanks All!  Happy Holidays!


First Book of The Year 2020


Here we go – year 7.   I am THRILLED to continue this tradition, even when I don’t stay as well connected as I once did on this space. Thank you to those who have messaged me to ask if I will be doing it again.

The answer is…

Of course we are doing it.

My life has changed quite a bit.  Now working as a Full-Time Event/Promotions coordinator, and involved in a few non-profits, I don’t have the reading time or writing time that I used to.  I do write a bit at I Guess I Am Doing This (also a work in process… but I am not giving up.)

So what is First Book?  First Book to me, is that first book you plan on reading for the New Year.  It can be a long-coveted read you have not had time for, a guilty pleasure read like a re-read of a favorite…  really it can be anything – it is, after all, YOUR First Book.

Make it AWESOME.

Then, once you have picked what it will be, email/ Facebook message me a picture of you with the book (send it to  This adds to the excitement of the First Book.  You have between now and December 31st to send in your choice.  On January 1st I will post all the pics in a collage format of all of you around the world that are doing First Book.  I do hope you will join me – friends, family, fellow book lovers, a friend of a friend of a friend… this event each year and your willingness to do this with me makes my heart smile.  🙂
Here is some (yes some)  of what came in last year:

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Remember – this should be the first book you plan to be reading into the New Year.  Yes, you can start it New Year’s Eve. :p  You can send the picture ( anytime between now and December 31st so I can prep the collage.  Thanks, everyone… having this project to work on makes the New Year fun.

Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

Have you ever seen the movie The Social Network? It is the story of how Facebook came to be and I absolutely love it. I have always enjoyed books about everyday people (underdogs maybe?) that suddenly get an idea and it goes… well…. Facebook. Within the startup details of Facebook (and in the movie), you learn about two identical twin brothers, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss who went to Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg and played a pretty important part in the idea – at least the original thought – of what Facebook came to be.

In Bitcoin Billionaires, Tyler and Cameron are looking for ways to invest but find they are having “opportunities” due to their very public fight with Zuckerberg and peoples opinions on how that came to be – right or wrong, the opinions are out there. Fast forward to this book, in a case of being in the right place at the right time, the twins meet an eccentric character who starts them on the path of cryptocurrency, what is believed to be the future of currency. Bitcoin Billionaires is this true story. Admittedly, going into this book, I did not know a lot about Bitcoin. I have heard it talked about very little, and those that did talk about it – I felt that it was an incredibly risky and potential scam. After listening to this book on audio, I would say that Bitcoin has more credibility to me now knowing the twin’s investment and belief in what it means – however in the end – I am not sure I understand it much better than when I started. In their own words, the Bitcoin was“either the next big thing or total bullshit.

Definitely a worthy listen. I enjoyed knowing what the Winklevoss twins were up to after the craziness of Facebook. I found the book interesting and will follow the Bitcoin a little more closely, if for no other reason than pure curiosity.

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness ( a re-read)

The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the Chaos Walking series, holds a special place in my heart.  Never have I raved so much about an author’s brilliant writing style since JK Rowling.  Ness makes the book literally come alive and the font very well may be a character in itself.    ~Sheila

My brief synopsis:  Protagonist Todd Hewitt, lives in a world where a virus has killed off all of the women and caused men’s thoughts to be heard out loud in a way that has become known as Noise.  Todd is the youngest of Prentisstown at almost 13 years of age.
When Todd takes a walk away from the town one day he discovers a void in the noise.  When he searches more closely he finds something that he never thought he would see again…

a girl.

Suddenly Todd’s world has changed in a blink of an eye.  How can he keep his thoughts quiet enough so no one knows of his discovery?  And why are the people who raised him – the only people he trusts suddenly sending him hurriedly on his way once they know of his discovery?  Todd’s world has just been upended.

I wish my writing could do this book justice.  There is so much rave-worthy content yet when I try to write it down… I feel a little…well, “duh.”  I read this book (originally read in 2011) and now again I read it with my friend Mena over a series of weeks where we would talk every Sunday on the phone and discuss what we have read.  Even though it was a second reading for me – it was exciting and often new all over again.  There was so much I had forgotten.  With the movie hopefully out by the end of this year or the first part of 2020… I am renewed in my love of this book.  If you enjoy a good dystopian read, I recommend this book.  (So does Mena) 😀

Sunset Beach my Mary Kay Andrews

I think I have read just about everything Mary Kay Andrews has written.  She is one of those authors that is like cleaning the palate of your mind – her books tend to be lighter, yet interesting and characters that I totally want to hang out with.  ~Sheila

Drue Campbell is trying to keep it all together.  She is working a dead end job, has no relationship with her father, no siblings and she just buried her mother.  Her absentee father Brice, a personal injury Attorney, just showed up on the scene offering her a job with his firm extending the olive branch to reconnecting.

Oh – hells no.

Yet, as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, Drue is let go from her job and finding that she had inherited her Grandparents Beach home in Sunset Beach, near her fathers firm – she decides to bite the bullet.  How bad could it be?  Upon accepting the job offer, she meets the Office Manager – who is her frenemy from 8th grade… AND just happens to now be her dad’s wife.


Add in some quirky co-workers, a potential love interest, a case of wrongful death that may or may not have involved her father, a missing woman….  we have ourselves a pretty good story.


Ok what can I add to that?  I loved the book.  I enjoyed this one on audio while mowing the lawn, planting and weeding and even while cooking dinner.  The characters are a delight and our protagonist is someone I definitely want to hang out with at one of those local bars mentioned in the book.
Definitely a perfect read for this time of year, it left me wanting to know what is next from Mary Kay Andrews AND have I missed any of her other books.
Recommended?  You betcha.  Grab a margarita and settle in.


A Rip In Heaven by Jeanine Cummins

The things I don’t know about this world often astound and shock me… what the human mind can handle when it comes to tragedy and what we sometimes cannot unsee does as well.  ~ Sheila

A Rip In Heaven is the true story of Tom Cummins and his two cousins Julie and Robin Kerry and what happened to them one evening while hanging out late in April 1991 on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St Louis Missouri.  It is a story of true terror, unthinkable murder and what a mess media can make of things.


It’s hard to talk about this book without giving too much away.  I find in this case it is better for the events to unfold to each reader as they turn the pages, much as I did… having hope, having shock, having sorrow…  it is indeed a personal journey.

What I can say is that I found this book at the recent Friends of the Library Book Sale.  True crime, has always piqued my interest – I hate saying that, but it is true.  I am astounded not only by the actions of those who commit such crimes, but also the incredible spirit of those who become – survivors of such acts of the unthinkable… the families of victims, the friends – and even when the victim themselves survive.  A Rip In Heaven is about all of that.  Not only about what happened, but what happened in the following years to a broken family, and to those involved.

I read this book mostly in one sitting – unable to put it down and wanting to know what happened.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin



A book about four siblings knowing the day they will die and what they do with that knowledge….  it really opens up the question, would you want to know?



It is the late 1960’s and four children (from 7 – 13) find themselves before a Traveling Physic who claims to be able to tell them the day they will die.  She does, privately with each one and go on their way believing and not believing…

The Immortalists then breaks into 4 parts and follows each sibling throughout their life to that day.  What choices they make, and where it all ends.  Do they live recklessly – or with abandon – or fully… as we, those who do not know, all should never knowing when that day or this day – will be your last.

What does the sibling do that has the least amount of time?  What about the one with the most?


I finished this book late yesterday afternoon.  I was listening to it on audio while channeling Marie Kondo and tackling my closet.  And to be honest, I am still tossing around in my head what I think of it.

I think I am struggling because it was not what I thought it was going to be.  I expected a more magical element to the book.  One portion of the book was also way more sexually detailed then for my taste in books and while that chapter is extremely powerful, admittedly I had a few moments where I considered giving up on the book.

Now – that I have completed the book and understand what the author was doing… I feel that overall the book is brilliantly written.  The diving of the chapters is a perfect telling for this style of read.

This book was up for vote by my book club on three separate occasions and won for our current read that we will be discussing tomorrow evening.  I am super curious where they landed on this one and I feel it is going to bring out good discussion.  I am looking forward to the big questions regarding dealing with grief, and the supernatural – and of course… if we could know when our last day would be…

would we want to know? 


NPR Review of The Immortalists


Blank Etsy Profile

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben


In my teens… I loved me some Stephen King… he was my go to for dark stories.  In my twenties, I discovered Dean Koontz (a little less wild than King) and read everything the man wrote… and then I found Harlan –  who has a a way of mixing great mystery with witty humor…  there’s a little something he adds to the genre that makes my heart leap when a new book is coming by him.



New jersey Detective Napoleon Dumas (yes… Dumas… not a typo) is still haunted by the freak accident that took the life of his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana when they were all still in High School.  Both were found dead on the railroad tracks, the whole episode put in the books as teen partying.  That same night, Nap’s girlfriend Maura broke up with him and was never seen again… as years go on, it seems that other close friends of Leo’s are also dying in mysterious ways.  Is someone trying to keep something quiet?

15 years later… none of this still makes sense.

When Maura’s fingerprints show up in a rental car of a suspected murdered, Nap feels he may finally have a lead to answers.  His search becomes an obsession as he feels he is on the verge of knowing what really happened that night to his brother, Diane and what are these ripple effects that still seem to be happening….

Harlan Coben and I at the book expo in New York, 2011


I do love Coben’s mind.  Don’t Let Go, is a perfect title for this book and true to form… Harlan does not let me down with a protagonist with a last name of Dumas.

Classic Coben.

Don’t get me wrong –  Coben’s humor does not get in the way of a good mystery, in fact other than Dumas’s unfortunate name (which admittedly he was teased for throughout school) the book lends itself to a dark mystery of covered up events.  I found myself having a hard time putting the book down as I wanted to know what was going to happen.  The ending was a solid “Whoa!”  And that’s a good thing.

Readers who enjoy a good solid mystery that does not go too far or gory will enjoy Coben’s books.


5Sheila DeChantal enjoys reviewing books here, and also writes on other subjects (as well as books) at

The Retreat by Mark Edwards


Sometimes you need just a good solid mystery to wrap your mind around….



Julia’s world fell apart when two years previously she lost bother her husband and daughter Lily in the same day.  Her daughters body never surfaced and Julia, trying to move on but not sure how, remains in the same home which she has now opened up as an Author’s Retreat Center.

Lucas, an author who writes Horror, has come to the retreat escaping his own demons.  When he hears about Lily’s disappearance, he becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened.

Surrounded by a town that believes deeply in old superstitions, quirky characters and deep secrets – what is about to come to the surface is not at all what anyone expects.


I dove into the retreat looking for a good mystery to release my mind from the non fiction I had been reading of late.  A book about an Authors Retreat and a solid disappearance was just the ticket.  I enjoyed the mix of Author attendees at the retreat and the mystery of Lily had just the right amount of spooky flavor to not be over the top.  I thoroughly enjoyed this read – surprised in the end.


This was my first time reading author Mark Edwards, and it will not be my last.


5Sheila DeChantal writes book reviews at Book Journey as well as writes on other subjects including Life, Grief, Food and more at I Guess I Am Doing This.