Tuesday, November 21, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Heart's Invisible Furies; John Boyne


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.  


Hogarth - 2017

The Good People of Goleen

"Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore."

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Catching Up - 3 mini book reviews and Movies too

With Thanksgiving festivities coming up this week and my book reviews being placed on the back burner, I thought I'd try and play catch up!

Television and going to the movies has kept us busy. We've been binge watching The Good Doctor on ABC (love this new series - all caught up) and Curb Your Enthusiasm -(on season 5) Larry David is a genius!  (It feels so good to laugh hysterically again) I can't believe we are just watching this now.

First we saw (2) new movies this week - Wonder (OMG - it's wonderful - 9/10 stars) and Murder on the Orient Express (have never read the book so the ending was a huge surprise - 6.5/10 stars).














As far as reading, it's still happening, just at a slower pace.  2017 will be my lowest # of books read in about 10 years, but I'm still hoping to come close to 90 books by the end of the year. I'm actually much happier that this year wasn't all about books and blogging - life is good.

Here's what I finished recently:


 Ties; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions (2017)


Ties,  was a powerful story of what was "once" a happy marriage. It's a story that's compelling yet familiar.  Aldo leaves his wife and two children for a much younger woman.  At home, Vanda, the wife he left, begins to fall apart but, eventually manages to pick up the pieces and move on.

The story is more of a novella, approximately, 150 pages but, it packs a punch.  The writing is excellent: the story of a fractured family told in parts, and, how a destructive relationship affected each of them. First we hear Vanda's POV after Aldo leaves her, then Aldo's POV, many years later and the the POV of the two children (now adults).

The story reminded my of Elena Ferrante's Days of Abandonment, and, I later read that this author is Ferrante's (AKA Anita Raja) husband. Powerful themes, love, betrayal and guilt and, a wonderful intro and translation from the Italian by author Jhumpa Lahari.

5/5 stars - try it!














Unraveling Oliver; Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press - 2017

From the shocking first paragraph of this book --

"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.  She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent.  She didn't even seem surprised."

While some readers might have closed this book, never to return, after reading that opening paragraph, I was immediately pulled into this story, curious to learn what made this sociopath/wife beater tick.  As it turns out this was not the first time that Oliver hit his wife but, it was the first time to cause brain damage. What happened in Oliver's past to make him act the way he did?

The story is mostly about Oliver, told through various voices and POVs - relative, former friends and acquaintances throughout his life, leading up to the brutal attack.  I found the story engaging but, was left a bit disappointed by the fact that Alice's story, before the assault, is never really told.  I was still happy that I gave this debut novel a try.

4/5 stars














Midwinter Break; Bernard MacLaverty
W.W. Norton - 2017

I don't think there are enough books written these days about older married couples, perhaps because it doesn't always make for as exciting of a story when we read about affairs and relationships that are falling apart.  This story, while not exciting had many tender moments and even occasional humor that made me happy I gave it a try.

Stella is a retired English teacher who likes to people and doing crosswords to keep her mind sharp..  Gerry, her husband, likes architecture, music and looks forward to a nightcap, sometimes drinking a bit more than he should.  Having to guess their ages, I'd have to say late 60s to early 70s.

The couple is on a 4-day holiday to Amsterdam and during their time there the reader not only gets to enjoy some armchair travel but, they also get a bird's eye view of the fissures within their long term relationship, and an examination if the marriage is worth saving. Not terribly exciting reading but, a tender story that many couples might be able to relate to.

4/5 stars

I also had (2) DNF in the past few months: 

You Don't Have To Say You Love Me; Sherman Alexie - a memoir that started out rather depressing and had an incident of animal abuse that made me stop reading.


 Forest Dark; Nicole Krause - Start out strong but quickly lost my interest - confusing story and just felt frustrated after the 15% point on my Kindle.


Hope everyone is having a good weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Midwinter Break; Bernard MacLaverty


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.  (There seem very few novels these days with seniors as main characters so I decided to give this one a try).




Midwinter Break; Bernard MacLaverty
W.W. Norton - 2017

In the bathroom Stella was getting ready for bed.  Gerry Had left the shaving mirror at the magnifying face and she was examining her eyebrows.  She licked the tip of her index finger and smoothed both of them.  Then turned to her eyelids.  She was sick of it all -- the circles of cotton wool, the boiled and sterilized water in the saucer, the ointments, the waste bin full of cotton buds."

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - 1


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've seen this one around other blogs and was intrigued; it's a page turner so far.)


Unraveling Oliver; Liz Nugent
Scout Press / Simon & Schuster

1.

Oliver

"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.  She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent.  She didn't even seem surprised."

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Forest Dark; Nicole Krauss


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.  (This intro is a bit long, but, it really drew me in and made me want to read more).



Forest Dark; Nicole Krauss
Harper - 2017

1

Ayeka

"AT THE TIME of his disappearance, Epstein had been living in Tel Aviv for three months.  No one had seen his apartment.  His daughter Lucie had come to visit with her children, but Epstein installed them in the Hilton, where he met them for lavish breakfasts at which he only sipped tea.  When Lucie asked to come over, he'd begged off, explaining that the place was small and modest, not fit for receiving guests.  Still reeling from her parents' late divorce, she'd looked at him through narrow eyes--nothing about Epstein had previously been small or modest--but despite her suspicion she'd had ho accept it, along with all the other changes that had come over her father.  In the end, it was the police detectives who showed Lucie, Jonah, and Maya into their father's apartment, which turned out to be in a crumbling building near the ancient port of Jaffa.  The paint was peeling, and the shower let down directly above the toilet.  A cockroach strutted majestically across the stone floor.  Only after the police detective stomped on it with his shoe did it occur to Maya, Epstein's youngest and most intelligent child, that it may have been the last to see her father.  If Epstein ever really lived there at all--the only things that suggested he had inhabited the place were some books warped by the humid air that came through an open window and a bottle of the Coumadin pills he'd taken since the discovery of an partial fibrillation five years earlier.  It could have been called squalid, and yet the place had more in common with the slums of Calcutta than it did with the rooms in which his children had stayed with their father on the Amalfi coast and Cap d'Antibes.  Though, like those other rooms, this one also had a view of the sea."


Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Catching Up - (5) short book reviews

My reading has picked up a bit but my reviewing, not so much, so I thought I'd try and play "catch up" with a few mini-book reviews.



The Almost Sisters; Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow and Harper Audio - 2017 
(narrated by author)


Leia Birch Briggs illustrate graphic novels and, at the age of 38, she finds herself pregnant.  The father is a groupie that she met at a convention and, the fact that Leia is white and the baby's father is black is sure to cause more than a little commotion with her southern Alabama family.

In addition to Leia's troubles, her step sister's marriage is in trouble, and her 90 year old grandmother Birchie has dementia.  To complicate things, it seems Birchie, has more than a few secrets of her own she has been hiding. As Leia returns home to help get her grandmother's affairs in order we begin to learn more about her past.

A fun, multi generational novel, complete with a witty protagonist.  Some of the story seemed a bit over the top at times, but, overall, a fun listen/read.

3.5/5 stars


The Deep Dark Descending; Allen Eskens 
Seventh Street Books - 2017


A follow-up to The Heavens May Fall, The Deep Dark Descending is a book that I'd hesitate to recommend if you haven't read the previous book first. (There are some references to that story contained in this novel, but not enough background info IMO).

In this installment, Detective Max Rupert is back and this time he seems determined to settle the score with person he believes was responsible for the death of his wife, Jenni, in a hit and run accident 5 years earlier.

Set in MN in a bleak, frigid winter, this was a haunting story that makes you wonder whether vigilante justice will win out.  I was happy I read this follow-up story even though it moved a bit slow at times.

Rating 3.5/5 stars

Camino Island; John Grisham
Doubleday / Random House Audio - 2017
(narrator - January Lavoy)

This Grisham novel was a departure from his earlier legal thrillers and court dramas but, many book lovers will be drawn into this story about literary came, rare books and book stores.

The story begins with a brazen heist by several small time crooks at the Princeton University Library.  Five of the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, priceless, but insured, are taken.  The insurance company enlists the help of Mercer Mann, a novelist with a serious case of writer's block to look into some leads to determine whether she might be able to lead them to the priceless (in excess of $25 million) loot.

Fun, engaging characters, a lighter but fun listen.

3.5/5 stars


The Music Shop; Rachel Joyce
Random House - 2017

By the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and, The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy, The Music Shop turned out to be a sweet story that not only deals with music but about wounded people and second chances as well.

The story is set in the late 1980's where Frank owns a "music shop" in a somewhat rundown area of town.  Although he sells all kinds of music and can recommend just the right piece for each customer who enters his shop, the one thing Frank refuses to do is to change with the times and to begin selling CDS, the latest rage. For Frank, nothing will ever replace vinyl.

One day a mysterious woman enters his shop.  Her name is Isle Bachmann, but before he ever learns her name or anything about her, something happens and she's gone in a flash.  He soon finds himself somewhat obsessed with finding out who the lovely woman in the green pea coat is and what brough her to his shop.

Part mystery but, this novel, for me was all about quirky Frank, a charming, wounded man who is easy to root for.  Readers who enjoy reading about music and like flawed characters should give this one a try.

4.5/5 stars


The Muralist, B.A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books - 2015

The Muralist, was our October book group selection and, for the first time in a while, it was a book that all (12) of us enjoyed to some degree.

The story begins in 2015 at a New York art appraisal house where (3) paintings are discovered by Danielle, a worker there.  Danielle, happens to be the great-niece of Alize Benoit, an artist who disappeared in 1940 when the country was preparing for war.  Danielle sees similarities in these works and those of her great-aunt's other paintings.

A parallel story, that of Alize, begins in 1939 where we learn about her work, the work of other artists and the plight of the Jews and the effects of the Great Depression. Interesting information about President Roosevelt's WPA (Work Progress Administration) and, the efforts of his wife Eleanor to further the works of various artists.

This was a work of fiction but much was based on fact.  There was so much to discuss from the works of great artists to the frightening similarities of the world of politics then and now.  I enjoyed reading about abstract expressionism and great artists as well.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Ties; Domenico Starnone


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.  


Europa Editions - 2017

Chapter One

"In case it's slipped your mind, Dear Sir, let me remind you: I am your wife. I know that this once pleased you and that now, suddenly, it chafes.  I know you pretend that I don't exist, and that I never existed, because you don't want to look bad in front of the highbrow people you frequent.  I know that leading an orderly life, having to come home in time for dinner, sleeping with me instead of whomever you want, makes you feel like an idiot.  I know you're ashamed to say: look I was married on October 11th, 1962, at twenty-two, I said: I do in front of the priest in a church in the Stella neighborhood, and I did it for love, nothing forced me into it; look, I have certain responsibilities, and if you people don't know what it means to have responsibilities you're petty.  I know, believe me, I know.  But whether you like it or not, the fact remains, I am your wife and you are my husband.  We've been married for twelve years--twelve years in October--and we have two children.  Sandro, born in 1965,  and Anna, born in 1969.  Do I need to show you their birth certificates to shake some sense into you?"


Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - You Don't Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir; Sherman Alexie


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.   Has anyone read this book yet? I read that there is a part about a cat that is disturbing, so as a cat - lover, I am on the fence, and, of course, I will have to skip that section.


Little Brown - 2017


1.

Forty Knives

"IN 1972 OR 1973, or maybe 1974, my mother and father hosted a dangerous New Year's Eve party at our home in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

We lived in a two-story house--the first floor was a doorless daylight basement while the elevated second floor had front and back doors accessible by fourteen-step staircases.  The house was constructed by our tribe using grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more tersely known as HUD. Our family HUD house was new but only half finished when we moved in and remains unfinished, and illogically designed, over forty years later.  It was worth $25,000 when it was built, and I think it's probably worth about the same now.  I don't speak my tribal language, but I'm positive there are no Spokane Indian words for real estate appreciation.

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 




Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Muralist; B.A. Shapiro



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.  This week's selection is for my October book group read.


The Muralist; B.A. Shapiro
Algonquin - 2015

1

Danielle

"It was there when I arrived that morning, sitting to the right of my desk, ostensibly no different from the other half-dozen cartons on the floor, flaps bent back, paintings haphazardly poking out.  As soon as I saw it, I ripped off my gloves, dropped to my knees, and pawed through the contents.  I didn't realize I wasn't breathing until my chest began to ache and little black dots jumped around the edges of my vision.


Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Reading and Reviewing Slump Continues


Hello Readers,

Between the loss of our cat Freckles on Monday and the outrageous news we face day after day, my reading slump continues.  I'm reading, but very slowly as I'm easily distracted it seems.  It's just easier to play Words with Friends or Yahtzee on my phone while watching the baseball playoffs, comedy shows and occasional news.  I do have so many books that I want to read, so I'm hopeful I snap out of this slump.

Back in early 2008, we were a 5 - cat family but now we are down to just 1 cat.

Buddy


Buddy is 15 years old now and is pretty spry for his age. Every day we can count on him practicing his jumping skills, making it half way up the door jamb or higher.  Although he's always just tolerated the other cats, preferring my lap any chance he got, he seems lost this past week.  His appetite has increased (he needed to gain a few pounds after losing a few over the last few years.  I feel sad though as he sometimes cries out like he's missing Freckles or isn't sure what has happened.  He's more of a lap cat and had even slept between our pillows briefly a few times this week.  I'm enjoying it while I can, as we all know -- life is short.

We almost brought home this little guy this week --


BUT, we decided that now was not the time to introduce a kitten to a 15 y/o cat who was never overly fond of other cats.  We gave a donation to the shelter instead and, decided that when Buddy is gone we'll either adopt 2 - kittens or a senior cat instead.

Hope everyone has had a good week and that next week is even better. 


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce


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.  

As some of you know, I've been in a bit of a reading slump but, I must say, I started this yesterday and am a third of the way through and really enjoying it.


The Music Shop; Rachel Joyce
Random House - Jan/2018

Prologue

There once was a music shop. From the outside it looked like any shop, in any backstreet.  It had no name above the door. No record display in the window.  There was just a homemade poster stuck to the glass. FOR THE MUSIC YOU NEED!!! EVERYONE WELCOME!! WE ONLY SELL VINYL! IF CLOSED, PLEASE TELEPHONE--though after that it was anyone's guess because, along with more happy exclamation marks, the only eligible number was an 8 that could well be a 3; there were other things that might be triangles.

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 




Monday, October 2, 2017

RIP Dear Freckles


(Freckles - 2003 - 2017)

As I mentioned in my Sunday post, our 14 year old cat Freckles was not doing well.  He had lost weight and for the last few days he had turned his nose up at most foods except for a couple of licks and a few laps of water here and there.  Then last night his breathing seemed a bit labored, so first thing this morning we made an appointment to bring him to the Vet.  On the way there in his carrier in the back seat, a 20 minute ride, he let on one cry (our cats have always hated the car) but, when we got to the Vet he seemed unresponsive in his carrier so they rushed him in to be checked.   We soon got the sad news that he had passed away.  We were told he had a lot of fluid in his lungs and that, his weakened state, along with the stress of the car ride, most likely resulted in heart failure.

We got Freckles as a kitten in Rhode Island, always an indoor cat, he was never a lap cat, but he loved being close to us (especially my husband). He loved being brushed, watching the birds, squirrels and chipmunks and playing with toys.  He was well loved and will be deeply missed.

2017 has been a terrible year for us and our furry friends. As some of you might recall, in February, we lost our sweet Lily, also 14 years of age, and I can't say we are over her loss, even 8 months later.   Our fur babies are down to just 1 now, Buddy, who is 15 and, like his humans,  is quite sad today. He's looking around the house for his friend and seems a bit nervous, not able to find a place for himself.

To all my readers with a furry family member, give them an extra hug and extra treat today.  Our time on earth is short and we are never ready when faced with that loss.

RIP Freckles, you were loved.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Goodbye September, Hello October - Books, Life and Cats



What a pitiful month September was for me and books. I only read (5) books which I'm pretty sure is the lowest number read in the 16 years I've been tracking.  I felt easily distracted and just found it easier to watch television or play games on my phone instead. Here's to a more exciting October for me and books.

The little one's continue to love preschool and kindergarten, a loved one is recovering nicely from hernia surgery and the best of the fall foliage here, is yet to come. It had been fairly warm here, humid almost until yesterday when cooler temps hit which will help speed up the pretty colors of fall.

September Reads

  1. Before, During and After; Richard Bausch (ARC) 4/5 (Sept/2017
  2. Little Fires Everywhere; Celeste Ng (eGalley) 5/5 (Sept/2017)
  3. Death of a Busybody; George Bellairs - 4/5 (eGalley) Sept/2017
  4. The Old Man; Thomas Perry (audio) 4.5/5 - Sept/2017
  5. Almost Sisters; Joshilyn Jackson (audio) 4/5 (Sept/2017) (no review yet)
Our book group met to discuss Station Eleven (read and reviewed in January of 2015. I didn't reread it but, the discussion was lively and everyone was surprised by how much they enjoyed it.

New Books


Thanks to Candlewick Press, I received these lovely children's books.

  1. The Twelve Days of Christmas: Panorama Pop-Up
  2. Christmas Decorations: Press Out & Color; Kate McLelland
  3. Windows; Julia Denos
Plans for October

Book group pick is The Muralist; B.A. Shapiro, still reading: The Deep Dark Descending and Never Coming Back; B.A. Shapiro. I dare not make any more reading commitments based on my recent slump.



Freckles, our 14 year old cat is not doing well.  Once playful and a lover of all food, he is now just moping around and turning his nose up on every food offering, including deli turkey.  He is a bad vet patient and at his last visit 2.5 years ago, he tried to bite the vet and they were unable to perform a full exam.  Now, his weight is down from about 15 to 11 pounds -- we will be taking him back for an exam and blood work -- hoping he will cooperate.  After losing our sweet Lily this past year, I hope its something easy like a thyroid issue.  Purrs for Freckles please.

Have a Great Month Everyone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Never Coming Back; Alison McGhee


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. 
Never Coming Back; Alison McGhee
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - 2017

"Now that my mother was disappearing, I wondered when it began to happen.  A few months before her neighbor called to tell me something was wrong, or maybe years ago, when I was in my nomadic twenties and home only once or twice a year?  Or did something inside her change in a single moment? Quit working? Decide enough was enough?

Hard to say. Hard to know."

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below. 




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Deep Dark Descending; Allen Eskens


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. This one is a followup to The Heavens May Fall, which I really enjoyed.

Seventh Street Books - 2017

Chapter 1

Up North

"I raise the ax handle for the third time and my arm disobeys me.  It stiffens above my head, and my hand tangled in knots of shouldn't and should and all those second thoughts that I swore wouldn't stop me.  My chest burns to take in oxygen.  My body trembles with a crystalline rage, and my mind screams orders to my mutinous hand.  For Christ's sake, get it over with.  This is what you came here for. Kill him!"

Does this intro make you curious for more?

Please feel free to join in each Tuesday with your own "First Chapter, First Paragraph Intro" by linking your post from the book you are reading below.