Friday, August 12, 2022

Book Review - Small Things Like These; Claire Keegan

 

Grove Press - 2021
(library loan)

I borrow this book from the library before Christmas and although it's short, just a (114 pages), I returned it unread --Big Mistake as I  loved this book!

Set in the month approaching Christmas 1985, Bill Furlong a hardworking coal and wood merchant lives with his wife and (5) young, delightful daughters in New Ross, Ireland.

One day on a rare Sunday delivery at a local convent Bill witnesses something deeply troubling. The convent operates a laundry business (Magdalene Laundries - operated until 1996).  It was also a home for wayward girls.  Bill cannot stop thinking about this situation and, unfortunately, his wife doesn't seem as moved by the situation he describes to her.

Bill is a decent man who never knew who his father was. His mother gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and, she was lucky enough to be taken in by her kind employer, Mrs. Wilson and given a place to live with her infant son Bill.  I loved learning about Bill's early life and what a strong influence Mrs. Wilson seemed to play on his moral compass growing up. I thought his young daughters were delightful and bright as well.  I was less moved by his wife.

Small Things Like These is a powerful little gem with a strong message. It is beautifully written and although I loved the ending, I wanted the story to be longer, I just hated to see this one end.  I plan to now read other books by this author as well. READ IT!

Rating - 5/5 stars

QUOTES

  • “The next year, when he’d won first prize for spelling and was given a wooden pencil-case whose sliding top doubled as a ruler, Mrs Wilson had rubbed the top of his head and praised him, as though he was one of her own. ‘You’re a credit to yourself,’ she’d told him. And for a whole day or more, Furlong had gone around feeling a foot taller, believing, in his heart, that he mattered as much as any other child.” 
  • “He found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another?” 
  • “He thought of Mrs Wilson, of her daily kindnesses, of how she had corrected and encouraged him, of the small things she had said and done and had refused to do and say and what she must have known, the things which, when added up, amounted to a life. Had it not been for her, his mother might very well have wound up in that place.... 
  • “People could be good, Furlong reminded himself, as he drove back to town; it was a matter of learning how to manage and balance the give-and-take in a way that let you get on with others as well as your own. But as soon as the thought came to him, he knew the thought itself was privileged and wondered why he hadn’t given the sweets and other things he’d been gifted at some of the houses to the less well-off he had met in others. Always, Christmas brought out the best and the worst in people.” 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Book Review - Godspeed; Nickolas Butler

Godspeed; Nickolas Butler
G.P. Putnam - 2021

Long time friends, Bart, Cole and Teddy, three blue-collar guys have formed a home renovation and construction partnership in the Jackson, Wyoming area.  To date the threesome has mostly focused on renovations and smaller jobs but an opportunity to prove themselves in the luxury home building market presents itself when they are offered an opportunity of a lifetime. A workaholic San Francisco lawyer named Gretchen, a woman with plenty of money at her disposal offers the men the job promising big dollars and multiple six figure bonuses as well. It all has strings attached as the multi million dollar house far off the beaten path, complete with stream, spring and the most stunning views must be completed in four months - by Christmas.  

Almost from the start there is an ominous tone to this story, as a former contractor died on the property. It soon becomes clear that all of the pressure to complete the home on time as winter approaches will not go smoothly for Bart, Cole and Teddy.  I haven't read many books over the years about male friendships and this author does a great job showcasing just how much these three guys care about each other.  I loved how flawed they were and that I was able to still care about them.

Godspeed was crime drama and cautionary tale, it was a one of those books that had me quickly invested in the story - I hated to put it down. Not only was the writing beautiful, it was a compelling story of about male friendships. I do wish that Gretchen's character was more deeply explored - it wasn't until almost the 60% point that we begin to learn more about her - I wanted more.  The story also had a gorgeous setting and it is not just the setting that is beautifully described, it's everything - yes, again, gorgeous prose.  This is my second read by this author, Shotgun Lovesongs was my first - very good as well. Now to catch up on few books that Butler has written in between, a talented writer. If you a looking for something a bit different, slower paced (in a good way) give this one a try.   

I won this trade paperback from a Goodreads Giveaway.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Book Review - The Family Remains; Lisa Jewell

The Family Remains; Lisa Jewell
Atria - August 9, 2022

(sequel to The Family Upstairs)

This is a story has a lot going on in it but, it's also a very good read.  The story begins when human bones are found by a mudlarker in the River Thames. Detective Inspector Samuel Owusu is in charge of the investigation and, it appears that the bones may be tied to a nearly 30 year old cold case involving a ballerina and a suicide pact that left (3) adults cult members dead and several children wondering what happened in their Chelsea mansion. Lucy Lamb and brother Henry are adult children of the tragedy.  Lucy is temporarily staying with Henry along with her (2) teenage children.  Henry, however, has other things on his mind and is obsessed with finding Phin, another character tied to the the Chelsea mansion days.  Henry is off on a mission, determined to find Phin.  Henry is a seriously obsessed and creepy character with one thing on his mind which moves the story into high gear. Then yet another storyline about Rachel and husband Michael who also happens to also be the former husband of Lucy.  Rachel and Michael meet and marry quickly and things go very wrong very quickly.  

The description states that this is a standalone sequel but, I think that is a far stretch as so much of the story is tied to former characters from the first book. I would describe this novel as crime drama more than a mystery or thriller. It is a story that kept me quickly turning the pages.  A character driven novel told from multiple POVs and timelines, I started this as an audio, which was expertly narrated by multiple performers.  I switched to the print edition only because it was easier for me to keep the timelines and POV straight.  I was quite happy I read the first book of the series before this sequel. I found the ending satisfying as well.  I'll definitely be returning to read more books by this author that I may have missed.

Rating - 4/5 stars

(NOTE: (a print edition and audio download were sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.)

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Godspeed; Nickolas Butler and The Messy Lives of Book People; Phaedra Patrick

                                                    

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon. This week I'm featuring (2) books - one I've started and one that I plan to start in a couple of days.

This first book is from my (20) Books of Summer list and was inspired by true events. I started this one and am enjoying it.

Godspeed; Nickolas Butler
G.P. Putnam - 2022
1

Outside Jackson, Wyoming

This was the house that would change their fortunes.  They could feel it.  Cole had barely steered his pickup off the highway and [assed through an open cattle-gate before they began climbing the dusty canyon road north, and they could feel it--money--like a vibration in the crisp mountain air.  It was humming out there, an expectancy, a promise, and they were driving toward it cotton-mouthed, skin crawling.  They could practically see it on the wind pushing the late-summer leaves, swaying the yellowing meadow grasses, smiling down upon the dappled river water below.  The whole world here looked like money.  Money just waiting to be plucked up off the ground--the leaves like greenbacks, the shimmer of the water like silver coins.

I read the very first novel by this author, Shotgun Lovesongs, in 2014 and enjoyed it so I decided to give his most recent book a try as well.  What do you think, read more or pass?

Park Row - 2022


1.
THE APARTMENT IN THE CLOUDS

"Liv Green wore her polishing cloth draped over her arm in the same proud way a maitre d' might wear a napkin.  She'd already cleaned Essie Starling's two bathrooms, each bigger than her own bedroom, polished the white marble kitchen worktops and left uniform vacuum cleaner tracks on the dove gray carpets, just how the best selling author liked them.  She wore one earbud while she worked, listening to the audiobook of Essie's nineteenth novel for the second time and leaving her other ear free in case the author called out any commands."

I was at the library browsing the new book shelves and this one caught my eye. What do you think -- read more or pass?

Sunday, August 7, 2022

My Bucket Reading List through 2023

 


Lately, I've felt inspired to take that perpetual TBR list of mine a bit more seriously.  After all, I'm not getting younger LOL, so it felt like it was about time to think about some books that I've been putting off reading for years but ones that I really want to read and think I would enjoy.

I narrowed down a list of several hundred and came up with these (25) books as top priority - what do you think - are any of these ones you have enjoyed?  In all cases, I've never read any of these books nor have I seen the movie - if there was one. BTW - I currently own all of these either in print, eBook or audio format. (Note: (4) of these titles will also work well for this years RIP challenge.)
  1. The Bonfire of the Vanities; Tom Wolfe 
  2. Boy's Life; Robert McCammon
  3. The World According to Garp; John Irving
  4. Mystery and Manners; Flannery O'Connor
  5. Flannery: A Life; Brad Gooch
  6. Stoner; John Williams
  7. The Summer Book; Tove Jannson
  8. Shuggie Bain; Douglas Stuart
  9. Hotel; Arthur Hailey
  10. The Hotel New Hampshire; John Irving
  11. A Room with a View; E.M. Forster
  12. The Lacuna; Barbara Kingsolver
  13. The Haunted Hotel; Wilkie Collins
  14. The Making of a Marchioness; Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Price of Salt; Patricia Highsmith
  16. The Jewish Husband; Lia Levi
  17. My Brother Michael; Mary Stewart
  18. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life; Ruth Franklin
  19. A History of Loneliness; John Boyne
  20. The Custom of the Country; Edith Wharton
  21. Dreamcatcher; Stephen King
  22. Appointment in Samarra; John O'Hara
  23. Post-Office Girl; Stefan Zweig
  24. Quartet in Autumn; Barbara Pym
  25. The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Victor Hugo
Share your week by posting a link on Deb's Blog HERE


Friday, August 5, 2022

Book Review - a winner - Metropolis; B.A. Shapiro

Metropolis; B.A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books - 2022
(ARC sent to me by the publisher)

Metropolis, is a grand, five-level storage facility located in Cambridge, MA near MIT.  As the story opens we know that there has been a 911 call for an accident involving an individual who has fallen into the elevator shaft. The building is in foreclosure and the the young owner, Zach has a company auctioning the contents of the unclaimed units to recoup some money given the potential of a gigantic lawsuit.

As the story progresses the reader gets to know more about six of the individuals who have ties to the storage facility and who have been using the facility for purposes other than short/long term storage.  Most of the characters are dealing with difficult circumstances and I found some of their stories quite moving.  In addition to Zach, who attended Ivy league schools and dealt drugs, we have Rose, the manager of the facility who has several issues on the home front and, she has used her job as manager of the facility as a way to get extra cash by breaking a few of the rules and allowing renters to use their units for purposes other than storing things.  There is Marta, a grad student working on her dissertation who is also trying to stay under the radar and to avoid ICE agents finding her as she has outstayed her visa.  Liddy is a mother of twins who attend a boarding school in Switzerland. She is married to a wealthy, powerful man and is in an abusive situation but, he refuses to let her leave him.  Jason is an attorney who saw the wrong his law firm had done and ventured out on his own even if it meant an uncertain future for him.  Serge is another character who works in a restaurant but is a brilliant street photographer, he makes a deal with Rose to access other rented units for the purposes of taking pictures of the contents.

This is a story that I really enjoyed, it's a bit of mystery and the characters are ones I grew to care about.  I liked the unusual setting, a high end storage facility and learning about the motivations of the individuals using the facility. I liked the way the author had wrapped up this story as well - very satisfying. I loved the author's writing style and I now plan to read a a previous book by this author called: The Art Forger. If you are looking for something different and satisfying - try this book.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Book Review - Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders; Kathryn Miles

 

Algonquin - 2022 - (library loan)

Trailed. tells the still unsolved violent murder case of a lesbian couple, Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, two skilled backpackers who headed out to Shenandoah National park for week long camping trip along with their dog. When the couple failed to return home as planned authorities were able to locate their campsite, slashed tent and their bodies.   Although there are several theories of what may have transpired, some (26) years later their murders remain unsolved. 

The author taught at Unity College, a small environmental college in Maine where Lollie was once a student.  A backpacker herself she became consumed with the case and, after interviews with park rangers, law enforcement, forensics experts, friends and family, it became clear that the evidence that there was sloppy investigative work involved: mismatched timelines, bureaucracy and other systematic failures throughout the investigation.

The storyline jumps around a bit and involves discussions of other cases but, it never felt confusing.  An individual by the name of Darrell Rice was charged with the murder but never tried and based on what the author has reported, it seemed unlikely he was the killer of these women.  However, another serial killer, Richard Evonitz, may have been responsible but, that investigation led to closed mouths and several dead ends.

I thought that the author did a good job pointing out the many missteps gathered throughout the investigation which even included contradictions about the date the women died.  Readers who enjoy true-crime stories will likely enjoy this offering.

Rating - 4/5 stars