Saturday, April 29, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - 4/29/2017

Penguin - 2014

(April Book Group Read) - This was a reread for me (audio both times) and, my opinion remains unchanged - I loved this book as did everyone in my book group even though it's a sad story.  Here is my review from a few years ago----

"Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet." is how this story begins. As the Lee family sits together for breakfast mother, Marilyn, father, James, oldest child and brother Nathan, and youngest child, Hannah, Lydia is absent, but they expect Lydia to be down any minute. When she doesn't join them, they discover her bed has not been slept in and Lydia isn't around. It isn't until two days later that her body is discovered in a nearby lake. So what happened to sixteen year-old Lydia and why?

The year is 1977 and the Lee's live in a college town in Ohio. The father, James is a Chinese American and teaches History at the college in town, and his wife, Marilyn is a white stay at home mom. Lydia and her siblings are the only children in their school of Chinese descent, and have been the subject of taunts and slanted-eye gestures from some unkind classmates over the years. Both parents have different wants for their daughter Lydia, andthey pressure her in different ways to become what they what their daughter to be. Brother Nathan will be heading off to Harvard in the fall, and he believes a neighbor may have been involved in Lydia's disappearance and drowning.

The story is told in the third person, and from that we learn a great deal about the family background, a short separation of the parents, and the way the children handled that. And, although this story is certainly part mystery (what happened to Lydia -- murder, suicide or accidental drowning), it is much more a story about the Lee family dynamics and how that impacted not just Lydia, but the other two children as well. What happens when parents try to see their unrealized dreams materialize through their offspring?

The audio version was read by Cassandra Campbell and so well done. This is an impressive debut novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy well written stories about family dysfunction, while mystery fans might be a little disappointed.

4.5/5 stars
The Dark Flood Rises; Margaret Drabble
Farrah, Straus & Giroux - 2017

(My Thoughts) - Fran Stubbs, 70 - something is still an active working woman,  her job involves housing for the elderly, traveling to various locales and conferences keeping abreast of housing options for British seniors.   Fran does, however, read the obits and can't help thinking about her own death and that of others she has known as she drives long distances for her job. Her best friend from childhood is terminally ill and her son's girlfriend died way too young. Drabble makes the topic of death and dying touching, entertaining and thought provoking at times as she talks about the way old age has a way of "thinning our emotions.".  I loved the writing and the story, and, even though it meandered along at times, it was never boring or depressing.  There was much about Drabble's writing that spoke to me and, I found myself highlighting various passages as I read. Highly recommended for readers of a certain age -- Drabble is a master at writing about aging and death. (4.5/5 stars)

The Hideaway; Lauren Denton
Thomas Nelson - 2017

(My Thoughts) - The Hideaway, a debut novel, was a nice light read with two story lines -- one storyline features Sara Jenkins who runs a popular antiques shop in New Orleans. The other story like is that of her grandmother, Margaret (Mags) Van Buren who ran a B& B in Sweet Bay, Alabama where Sara grew up.  When Sara receives word that her grandmother has died she heads to The Hideaway and learns that she has been willed, B&B provided she refurbish it, as it had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Sara agrees and is surprised by the emotions that are stirred from her childhood and even more surprised by what she learns about her grandmother while sorting through items she left behind.  Although the story has been done before, it was still an enjoyable, easy read.  I liked the quirky cast of characters and how the Mags story was slowly revealed.   A nice choice for your summer reading list. (4/5 stars)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Down City; Leah Carroll

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon. 

Grand Central - 2017


On the night she died, my mom drove to a motel to buy cocaine with two men: Peter Gilbert and Gerald Mastracchio.  Once inside, Gilbert watched television while Masttracchio spread the cocaine on a table and demanded sex from my mother.  She complied.  Years later, Gilbert would testify that "Mastracchio emerged from the bathroom with a towel, threw it around Carroll's neck and yanked. Mastracchio grunted to Gilbert to help as Carroll's face turned purple. ' Come you rat', Mastracchio wheezed. 'Give me the death rattle.'"

This happened at the Sunset View Motel in Attleboro, Massachusetts, just minutes from the Rhode Island border.  It was October 18, 1984.  My mother was thirty. Her name was Joan Carroll.  I had just turned four years old.

Would you read more or pass on this one?

Feel free to join in by linking your INTRO Post below.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E 4/22/2017

This past week started with all of us together for a nice Easter Brunch. It was 80 degrees outside so the little ones did lots of bubble blowing and running around the yard after we ate.  On Monday I met a former coworker for coffee, hit the outlet malls and had lunch out. On another day we went to the movies to see Going in Style (silly but fun), and then there was yoga, which always makes me feel good. This weekend the sisters are celebrating their 5th and 3rd birthdays (their birthdays are 5 days apart), so we'll be at the party.  It's amazing how fast those years have past.

Finished (2) books this past week and, I loved them both.

White Fur; Jardine Libaire
Hogarth - 2017

(My Thoughts) - This is an addictive debut novel: a love story that is raw, gritty and sexually explicit.  Jamey Hyde and Elise Perez were neighbors in New Haven, CT. They meet and fall in lust love but, their backgrounds couldn't be more different.  It's 1986, Jamey is white and a junior at Yale. His family is extremely wealthy. Elise is bi-racial and never even graduated from high school. She grew up in a Bridgeport, CT housing project.  Somewhat blinded by the chemistry,  Jamey decides to leave Yale in the hopes of building a life with Elise. The couple moves to Manhattan to begin their life together.  Without giving away too much I'll just say that all does not go smoothly for this young couple. White Fur is a terrific character driven novel with flawed characters who struggle to keep it together despite prejudices over gender, race and class differences. I was impressed with the writing and thought that the character development and back stories were very well done. The romp around New York City in the mid 1980s made for some great reading.  (5/5 stars)

Britt Collins - Atria Books - 2017

(My Thoughts) - You don't have to be a cat lover to be moved by this story. It's a true story about (2) men and one cat: the man who lost the cat and one who found it.  Michael King, was a depressed alcoholic, homeless and living in Portland, Oregon.  One rainy night he finds a skinny, dirty, injured cat who he begins to feed and care for. He names the cat Tabor and day by day Tabor shows his appreciation by staying close by. He gives Michael a new sense of purpose - someone to care for.  In another area of Portland is another man, the one who misses and longs to see his missing cat once again. Tabor is an amazing cat, who obviously becomes very attached to his new caretaker and also learns to be a very good cross country traveler, hitch-hiking to various locales in his carrier with Michael.  Reading about the plight of both homeless people and homeless cats was both heart-warming and heart-wrenching.  Well-written, so happy I read this one. (4.5/5 stars)

Have a Great Weekend!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - White Fur; Jardine Libaire

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon. (I actually started this book last night and I'm liking it a lot - it's that train wreck you can't quite look away from).

White Fur; Jardine Libaire
Crown - 2017

June 1987

"OUTSIDE THEIR MOTEL WINDOW, WYOMING IS LURID WITH SUNSET.  A billboard for Winstons simmers on the horizon of highway as if the cigarettes might ignite in their box.

Standing rain has collected in the sagebrush close to the road, and heat makes a perfume from these puddles: herbal, medicinal, other-worldly.

Inside Room 186 of the Wagon Wheel Inn, Elise will be kneeling on the carpet, which is orange like a tangerine.  Her hair is greasy and braided, and a name--tattooed in calligraphy on her neck--is visible.  She keeps both hands on the shotgun--the muzzle is pressed into Jamey's breast."

Would you read more or pass on this one?

Feel free to join in by linking your INTRO Post below.