Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mid December Update - 2017

December has been a busy month and about to get busier for many of us.  This month is another milestone birthday month for me - hello Medicare - happy to be another year older and still healthy and feeling great!  I got an early birthday present from my husband, the new iPhone X, I previously had the 6 plus for the last 3 years which I loved, but this is a bit smaller yet just about the same screen display and has awesome camera capabilities. Love it!

Here's a pic from yet another birthday celebration; We are so lucky to have these little cuties in our lives.


We saw the new movie  a few weeks ago ---



Denzel Washington played a very different part as the title character in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Roman is a former activist lawyer who is always sloppily dressed and sometimes appears to be in another world, but is very bright, having spent much of his legal career behind the scenes doing case prep work. However, when the owner of the law firm where he works for dies unexpectedly, his career and life changes in inexplicable ways in a matter of just three weeks.

We enjoyed it!

Christmas Prep
  • Did a little decorating
  • I sent out our cards
  • Christmas shopping is done
  • We got our first snowstorm of 2017 - 4"
  • We saw a fun live performance in the midst of the snowstorm - Crimes of the Heart
  • I baked holiday cookies and froze them, then defrosted 6 for us to sample:) delicious
  • I attended a book group Christmas lunch at a nearby restaurant which was fun and, we got our 2018 reading list.
  • We tried a new to us top rated Italian restaurant a few towns away and we were very pleased.
  • We celebrated my birthday with a live production called, Home for the Holidays - it was fantastic.
  • Today we gathered family for Brunch with Mr & Mrs Claus, a tradition. 
  • Next week we are going away overnight to see friends in another state and out to dinner as well.
  • Finally Christmas get-together here on the 25th
Reading - very little of that happening again this month

Have a great week everyone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Turtles All the Way Down; John Green


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.  


Dutton Books - 2017

One

"AT THE TIME I FIRST REALIZED I might be fictionl, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time--between 12:37p.m. and 1:14p.m.--by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn't even begin to identify them.  If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would've met a different end--or at least a different middle.  But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell."

Based on that intro, would you read more or pass?  Feel free to join us by posting your own INTRO and linking below.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Small Blessings; Martha Woodroof


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.  


Small BlessingsMartha Woodroof
St. Martin's Press - 2014

Part One

Chapter 1

"There she was, as welcome in this insular community as fresh air in a multiplex, a woman who, rumor had it, risked being happy.  Tom had heard the most about her from Russell Jacobs, his colleague in the English Department, and now he was looking at her in the flesh, at this tall, slender, dark-haired creature, oddly stylish in her ill-fitting, baggy trousers and white Tee-shirt."

Based on that intro, would you read more or pass?  Feel free to join us by posting your own INTRO and linking below.



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Ninth Hour; Alice McDermott


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.  



 The Ninth Hour; Alice McDermott
Farrah, Straus & Giroux - 2017

These Short Dark Days

"FEBRUARY 3 WAS A DARK AND DARK DAY altogether: cold spitting rain in the morning and a low, steel-gray sky the rest of the afternoon.

At four, Jim convinced his wife to go out to do her shopping before full darkness fell.  He closed the door on her with a gentle wave.  His hair was thinning snd he was missing a canine on the right side, but he was nevertheless a handsome man who, at thirty-two, might still have passed for twenty.  Heavy brows and deep-set, dark-lashed eyes that had been making women catch their breath since he was sixteen.  Even if he had grown bald and toothless, as he seemed fated to do, the eyes would have served him long into old age."

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 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.