Tuesday, February 25, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Long Bright River; Liz Moore

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter 
First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s)
 of a book that they are reading or plan to read. Here's my pick for this week:

Long Bright River; Liz Moore
Penguin Audio - 2020

"There's a body on the Gurney Street tracks, age unclear, probable overdose, says the dispatcher.

Kacey, I think.  This is a twitch, a reflex, something sharp and subconscious that lives inside me and send the same message racing to the same base part of my brain every time a female is reported.Then the more rational part of me comes plodding along, lethargic, uninspired, a dutiful dull soldier here to remind me about odds and statistics: nine hundred overdose victims in Kensington last year.  Not one of them Kacey.  Furthermore, this sentry reproves me, you seem to have forgotten the importance of being professional.  Straighten your shoulders. Smile a little. Keep your face relaxed, your eyebrows unfurrowed, your chin untucked. Do your job."

What do you think? Read more or pass?

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Winters; Lisa Gabriele

TITLE: The Winters
AUTHOR:  Lisa Gabriele
PUBLISHER: Viking/Penguin
PUB. YEAR: 2020
SETTING: Cayman Island and Long Island, NY
RATING: - 3/5

Loosely based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel Rebecca, this is one of those books that you might have to suspend belief a bit, but, it hooked me early on -- at least for a while.

In this story, the 26 year old unnamed narrator looks back at a romance that is clear has ended badly. She's a sad young woman whose parents are dead, she's living in the Caribbean working at a charter boat rental establishment.  It's there that she meets Max Winter, a rich senator from the state of New York. After just a month or so there's romance, passion and expensive gifts, making Max hard to resist.

Max whisks the young woman back to his mansion Asherley, in Long Island, New York.  She leaves the Cayman Islands for a life of luxury, but, unfortunately, memories of the first wife, Rebekah, are everywhere haunting her at every turn.  Then there is his 15 year old daughter, Dani, who wants nothing to do with her father's fiancee, even threatening to kill herself.

This was a fun read initially. The air of mystery held my interest but, then unnecessary animal death written into the story line spoiled it for me, causing me to skip ahead to see how it would end. Overall, my rating might have been higher but, for me, never is animal cruelty acceptable -- even in fiction.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Mr. Nobody; Catherine Steadman

TITLE: Mr. Nobody
AUTHOR:  Catherine Steadman
PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books
PUB. YEAR: 2020
FORMAT: eGalley
RATING: - 3.5/5

"Mr. Nobody" is a 40-something man who is found on a British beach in Norfolk on a winter's day. With no ID, he is taken to a hospital where his identity remains a mystery. A nurse and the media, fascinated with this individual, begin to refer to him as Matthew.  As time ticks on and still no closer to finding out who the man is, those involved in his case begin to wonder whether he is truly unable to recall details of his past or, is he just unwilling to communicate?  Is there something in his past he is hiding from?

Dr. Emma Lewis is just over 30 years old and an expert in her field of neuropsychiatry. She is asked to step in on "Mr. Nobody, A.K.A. Matthew's case."  Emma, however, is a woman with a past she'd prefer to forget, and, stepping in on this case means returning to the town that she fled from years earlier.  Although Emma does not seem to know the mystery man, he seems to know her. Could there be a connection? Also, why is the government interested in him as well?

I love a good psych thriller and although the author's first book, Something in the Water, was a psychological thriller I enjoyed, this book failed to "wow" me. The first third of the book moved quickly, but then my interest waned a bit. There were some unexpected twists, but, overall, I felt somewhat unsatisfied when I finished this one.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Olive, Again; Elizabeth Strout

TITLE: Olive, Again
AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Strout
PUB. YEAR: 2020
FORMAT: library/audio
RATING: - 5/5

The sequel to Olive Kitteridge (2008), the prickly Olive is back in her charming town of Crosby, Maine.  A retired math teacher, now in her lates seventies to early eighties (she ages a decade in this offering), her husband Henry has passed away and, despite her tough exterior, she's lonely and misses having that human connection.  

Like the original book, Olive's story is told through a series of (13) somewhat connected stories involving some of the same characters and some new ones as well. We learn more about her strained relationship with her son and his new family, as well as details about Jack Kennison, a Harvard Alum and new husband to Olive. 

I loved traveling along side with Olive through her senior years as she reflects on her life. It's easy to see that beyond Olive's matter-of-fact, blunt style, she a woman with a big heart who faces  the same vulnerabilities as other seniors as she ages.  She's softened a bit and perhaps a little more tolerant as well, but, by the end, it's pretty clear that Olive is just a woman who is just looking for peace and contentment in the time she has left on earth.

Beautifully written, I found Olive, Again, to be an emotionally moving read. The author does an amazing job forcing the reader to think about the emptiness factor seniors can experience as one ages and the importance of that human connection. The audio was expertly done.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Weather, Jenny Offill

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from 
I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter 
First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s)
 of a book that they are reading or plan to read. Here's my pick for this week:

Weather, Jenny Offill
Knopf - 2020


Voted, that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; voted, that the earth is given to the Saints; voted, that we are the Saints.


"In the morning, the one who is mostly enlightened comes in.  There are stages and she is in the second to the last, she thinks.  This stage can be described only by a Japanese word. 'Buket of black paint,' it means.

I spend time pulling books for the doomed adjunct.  He has been working on his dissertation for eleven years.  I give him reams of copy paper, binder clips and pens.  He is writing about a philosopher I have never heard of. He is minor, but instrumental, he told me. Minon but instrumental!"

What do you think? Read more or pass?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Good Neighborhood; Therese Anne Fowler

TITLE: A Good Neighborhood
AUTHOR:  Therese Anne Fowler
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2020
RATING: - 4.5/5

Oak Knoll, NC is a "good neighborhood" that is about to face tragedy.

The story immediately draws the reader into the lives of two families: the Whitman's, a blended family with new money who buys a house, tears it down along with the surrounding trees to build a McMansion. Brad owns a successful HVAC business, his wife Julia, has a somewhat troubled teenage daughter named Juniper from Julia's previous relationship and, together the couple has a 7 year old daughter.  The other family is Valerie Alston-Holt, a black ecology professor and her bright, soon to be college-bound, biracial son, Xavier.  Initially, the two families seem to have very little in common, but, they try to be cordial as their property lines connect. Before long tensions rise between the neighbors leading to a devastating and unexpected outcome.

This page-turner has great character development, is emotionally complex and touches on a variety of topics: race, class, love and environmental issues as well. I was emotionally invested from beginning to end. This is one of those novels that would make for a great book club discussion.