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)

(8) Books read in April - (40) Books YTD

  1. How To Be Human; Paula Cocozaza - 3.5/5 - April/2017
  2. The Inner Life of Cats; Thomas Macnamee - 4.5/5 - April/2017
  3. Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty; Ramona Ausubel - April/2017
  4. Born A Crime; Trevor Noah (NF) - (audio) 5/5 - April/2017
  5. White Fur; Jardine Libaire - (ARC) - 5/5 - April/2017
  6. Strays: A Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America; Britt Collins - 4.5/5 - April/2017
  7. Everything I Never Told You; Celeste Ng - (audio) (book group) - 4.5/5 - April/2017
  8. Dark Flood Rises; Margaret Drabble - library - 4.5/5 - April/2017
  9. The Hideaway; Lauren Denton - (arc) - 4/5 April/2017

Favorite Read in April

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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E 4/15/2017

Well, I'm pleased to announce every last bit of snow has melted and daffodils were spotted on my walk today. Sunday is Easter and we are supposed to hit 80 degrees, perfect weather for opening the windows for our Easter brunch. This past week was lunch with little ones and lunch with old high school friends, yoga and some time spent at the park.  I managed to finish (2) books as well. Here's what I read:

 Riverhead Books - 2016

(My Thoughts) - As I began this novel, I immediately thought of a novel called, The Nest, by Cynthia Sweeney which I had read last year, a book about rich entitled siblings that I wasn't thrilled about.  In this novel, set in mostly the 1970s, the unlikeable rich couple is Edgar and Fern who reside in Cambridge and an ocean front home on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.  Both come from money but, Edgar said NO to his parents steel industry riches hoping to live a different life and write a book.  Ferns parents have died and the couple and their 3 young children have been living off her parent's money until one day they learn that the money is all gone. We get a good glimpse at the life of the couple's parents and begin to understand why Edgar has shunned his family's lifestyle.  When Fern suggests Edgar may have to get into his family business after all, he begins an affair with a woman who understands him. Meanwhile, it's the children who suffer while the parents are wrapped up in their own misery and new circumstance.  The story alternated from present to flashbacks of their earliest times together and, although I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, I really grew to detest the parents and I began to lose interest a bit.  If you like stories of rich people behaving badly, then this one might be for you. (3.5/5 stars)

Brilliance Audio - 2016

(My Thoughts) - As a huge fan of his comedy show, since he replaced Jon Stewart on the Daily Show at Comedy Central in 2015, I couldn't wait to read Trevor Noah's memoir. This book is read by the author and is pitch perfect.  Noah who is 32 years old, tells his story of growing up in South Africa during apartheid.  Noah's mother is black and his father white and, mixed parentage was illegal when he was born.  His story is both serious and humorous and, the chapters are both informative and compelling, focusing on specific topics. Each chapter focuses on a specific story that deals with matters like parenting, racism, love, crime, punishment, and teen antics and teen angstSome of the people who played a significant role in his life are spoken of in multiple chapters.  His mother was a strong-willed but stern woman. A deeply religious woman who loved her son and tried to show give him a good foundation for success. It amazed me how well the author could take a sad or tragic event and turn the experience into a positive. I was also surprised to learn that Noah was fluent in six languages.  This book was amazing in every way, a history lesson and a wonderful memoir as well.  BTW: If you've never seen The Daily Show, you are missing out on some terrific comedy. (5/5 stars)

(2) new books arrived by mail last week:

Have a good weekend and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Dark Flood Rises; Margaret Drabble

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 Dark Flood Rising; Margaret Drabble
Farrar, Straus and Giroux - 2017

"She often suspected that her last words to herself and in this world will prove to be you bloody old fool or, perhaps, depending on the mood of the day or the time of the night, you fucking idiot.  As the speeding car hits the tree, or the unserviced boiler explodes, or the smoke and flames fill the hallway, or the grip on the high guttering gives way, those will be her last words.  She isn't to know for sure that it will be so, but she suspects it.  In her latter years, she's become deeply interested in the phrase call no man happy until he is dead. Or no woman, come to that. Call no woman happy until she is dead. Fair enough, and the ancient world had known women as well as men who had met unfortunate ends: Clytemnestra, Dido, Hecuba, Antigone. Though of course Antigone, one must remember, had rejoiced to die young, and in a good (if to us pointless) cause, thereby avoiding all the inconveniences of old age."

Would you read more or pass on this one?

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - 4/8/2017

This has been an interesting week and although I did finish (2) books I've found myself wasting lots of time playing Scrabble and Yahtzee online (so addictive). The weather has been rainy and we still have a small mound of snow left but next week we are supposed to have a few 70 degree days so hopefully that will be the last of the snow.  

These are my (2) completed books for the week.

How to Be Human; Paula Cocozza
Metropolitan Books - Henry Holt - May, 2017

(My Thoughts) - Set in an urban area of London where fox sightings are common, Mary is a troubled young woman with a lot on her mind. She's recently broken off her engagement and is on leave from work over a disciplinary issue.  As the story opens she sees a baby on her doorstep and a beautiful fox in her garden.  The fox soon becomes a regular around her home, he brings her little gifts and the two seem to have a deep soulful connection.  Is Mary losing her grip on reality or is there something more here?  The story is told mostly from Mary's POV but, occasionally we hear from the fox as well. An odd, quirky different kind of love story which focuses on loneliness and obsession. 
 (3.5/5 stars)

Thomas McNamee - Hachette - March, 2017

(My Thoughts) - Being a cat lover all of my life, I really enjoyed the insight that this book provided.  This book is well written and I liked that much of it was a love letter to the author's cat, Augusta, who arrived as a kitten one cold day in winter when the author lived in Montana. The book also provides terrific information about the psychology and biology of cats both domestic and those in feral colonies.  He makes the reader think about the needs of a cat and what owners need to insure to make the cat's life a good one.  There was much in this book that made me smile like when he discussed how his cat and his wife "mastering the art of the slow turn in bed at night" so as not to disturb the cat sleeping in the fold of one's legs.  This is something that I grew to love and now miss that our Lily is gone. At times I found myself in tears as the author explained signs to look for when your cat be very sick since cats do an excellent job hiding illness (we missed many of the early signs ourselves). He describes the euthanasia process and his decision to have his 15 year old beloved cat, Augusta put to sleep. This part was tough to read about for me since it was just (7) weeks ago that we had our sweet Lily put to sleep but, I was also appreciated reading about how the grieving process for a beloved pet is very normal and that it takes months and sometimes longer to heal (I still feel our sweet girl's presence everywhere and hardly a day goes by when I don't tear up at some point thinking about her).  I really enjoyed this book overall, very readable, even the research and scientific material was interesting and not dry in the least.  
(4.5/5 stars)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty; Ramona Ausubel

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.

Riverhead Books - 2016

"SUMMER FATTENED EVERYBODY UP. The family buttered without reserve; pie seemed to be everywhere. They awoke and slept and woke in the summerhouse on the island, ate all their meals on the porch while the sun moved across their sky. They looked out at the saltwater cove and watched the sailboats skim and tack across the blue towards the windward beach, littered with the outgrown shells of the horseshoe crabs."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E - 4/1/2017

It is spring but still doesn't feel like it here - a few mounds of snow still remain and although we are getting some heavy rain, some areas not too far away are getting more snow.  This past week we had an unexpected guest on our deck eating some seed we had thrown out for the birds.  (Very unusual to see a red fox like this in my backyard but apparently his food supply is scarce.) 

 This past week found me watching more movies at times than time spent reading books: My Cousin Vinny, As Good as it Gets, Something's Gotta Give and Dan in Real Life -- all movies I've seen before and LOVE.

 This Week in Books 

St. Martin's Press - 2017

Inspired by the story of a NYC woman named Margaret Fishback, this fictionalized story just didn't work well for me. Lillian Boxfish is a woman who has lived and worked in NYC since 1934 and on New Year's eve in1984, at the age of 85, she walks and walks the city reflecting on her half-century of life living and working in New York City and all the changes that have taken place. 

(I tried the audio and then the print edition but, ultimately, this just wasn't a book for me. DNF)

The Futures; Anna Pitoniak
Lee Bourdreaux Books - 2017

(My Thoughts) - This was a fun debut novel about a young couple, Julie and Evan, who meet and fall in love while students at Yale. Their backgrounds are quite different - Evan is from a working class family in Canada and Julie family are wealthy Bostonians.  After college the couple moves in together full of love and plans but their career paths are totally different. Evan's job for a hedge fund in the midst of a financial crisis requires long hours and missed communication opportunities with Julie. It's no surprise when their relationship begins to tank but, ultimately all in not lost.  Told in alternating chapters, The Futures was an engaging story about young lives, young love and all the hopes and uncertainties in life that sometimes makes holding a relationship together challenging. (4/5 STARS) 

Widowmaker; Paul Doiron
Macmillan Audio - 2016

(My Thoughts) -- Mike Bowditch is a Maine game warden who is approached by an attractive woman named Amber who needs his help. Her adult son is missing and she him claiming that he is Mike's half brother. Mike's father, Jack is dead and even when he was alive their relationship was strained as his father had a history of violence. Reluctant to look into Adam's disappearance, he can't quite resist knowing the truth which leads him to some strange and often dangerous situations.  A hybrid wolf, sexual predators and vigilante justice in the snowy, mountainous terrain of Maine are just some of the things this game warden uncovered, making for an interesting and at times addictive audio book listen. This was my first book by this author and although it was part of a mystery series, starting out midway I didn't have any problem following the story. I'd definitely try other books by this author. (4/5 stars)

 Green Pants; Kenneth Kraegel
Candlewick Press - 2017

(My Thoughts) A beautiful kids book with delightful illustrations that many parents with young people will be able to relate to.  Jameson is a spunky young boy with a mind of his own and a unique style of his own --- he insists on wearing "green pants" day after day. His parents love his independence and go with flow until he is asked to be in his cousin's wedding party where ---gasp--he must wear black pants!  Terrific fun to read over and over and, a great resolution as well. (5/5 stars)

Rain, Sam Usher
Templar / Candlewick - 2017

(My Thoughts) - The cover and illustrations are amazing, almost multi dimensional. Narrated by a young boy who wakes up to a rainy day and can't wait to go outside and play.  His granddad thinks they should stay indoors until the rain stops, but the boy is persistent, waiting for the opportunity for new adventures outdoors. Overall, a beautifully illustrated and engaging rainy day adventure that is sure to please little ones in the 2-6 age range.  This book is #2 of a seasonal series that began with "Snow"(5/5 stars)

Books Read in March

  1. Among the Lesser Gods; Margo Catts - (arc) - 4.5/5 - March/2017
  2. First Women; Kate Anderson Brower - (audio) - 3.5/5 - March/2017
  3. The Residence; Kate Anderson Brower (audio) - 4/5 - March/2017
  4. What I Know For Sure; Oprah Winfrey (NF) (Audio) - 5/5 - March/2017
  5. Books for Living; Will Schwalbe (NF) (audio) - 5/5 - March/2017
  6. Every Living Thing; Cynthia Ryland - (my shelves) - 4.5/5 - March/2017
  7. Ill Will; Dan Chaon (eGalley) - 4/5 - March/2017
  8. All the Stars in the Heavens; A. Trigiani (library) - 2/5 - March/2017
  9. The Widowmaker; Paul Doiron (audio) - 4/5 - March/2017
  10. The Futures; Anna Pitoniak (arc) - 4/5 March/2017
  11. Green Pants; Kenneth Kraegel - 5/5 March/2017
  12. Rain; Sam Usher - 5/5 - March/2017
Favorite March Reads 

New arrivals by mail this week
(minus the 14 year old cat)