Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week in Review - W/E - 1/28/2017

This was a great reading week for me; the lousy weather we had for a few days helped me stay in and read more  I finished (3) books - mini reviews below.   I also got to yoga 3x again this week, met my son for lunch, (stayed away from my daughter and her flu-infected family) and attended my monthly book group meeting.  I'm also planning a Vermont getaway -- always a fun place to travel to (no snowstorms please).

Here are the books I read:

Hospital Hill; Katherine Anderson
2016

Hospital Hill appealed to me because although it's a work of fiction (mystery), the setting is real. Northampton (Lunatic) State Hospital was opened in 1858, as the third hospital in Massachusetts for the insane.  It was located about 20 miles from the town where I grew up. Deinstitutionalization began in 1978, a slow process, but, the hospital finally closed for good in 1993.  All of the buildings were leveled in 2007-2008 and the site is now called, The Villages at Hospital Hill, a very cool residential community, walkable to Smith College.

In this mystery Valerie Martin is a state hospital employee who once worked at Northampton Hospital but, transferred to another state facility a number of years earlier.  Now, nearing retirement, she is encouraged to come back to Northampton by her former boss to work on a cataloging records project involving former patients who were at the hospital while Valerie had worked there.  As she begins the project she notices an odd pattern of reported suicides of young female patients, her mind reflects back and she begins to sense that something sinister may have behind the deaths of these individuals.  

This was a pretty simplistic mystery and a very quick read but, the real enjoyment was in the atmospheric feel of this old asylum traveling the halls and isolated rooms as I read. It was great fun to have referenced many of the places, restaurants and places that I know well.  This was a fun, non-stop,  3-hour read. I enjoyed the book but the lack proofreading and the many typos spoiled it a bit. (3.5/5 stars)

Second Hand; Michael Zadoorian
Dell - 2000

Richard Satoria is the 30-something proprietor of Satoria Junk outside of Detroit, Michigan. Although Richard knows the difference between "junk" and "coveted finds", he's not so experienced when it comes to the opposite sex.  He meets Theresa, who comes to his store and soon the two soon begin a relationship -- each have plenty of baggage they are dealing with. Richard's mother has just died and he and his sister are cleaning out the family home which leads to new revelations about their parents. Theresa is haunted by the memories of all of the animals she has had to euthanize at her job at the animal shelter.

This book is well written, I enjoyed the interesting finds he scoffs up in his travels and the memories that are triggered as he begins the clean-out process of his parent's home.  Teresa was a bit of a mess and I didn't appreciate all the sad details that will upset animal lovers as I read this book.  One in particular made me almost close the book for good.  

BEWARE ----One scene a woman brings her 5 - year old white cat to the shelter because he keeps getting fur on her sofa -- Can you imagine this??  This excerpt - brought me to tears -- I know it's fiction but still.

"I do it practically every day. Why is this one any different? I don't know. It's just that some of them affect you more than others. Like people.......The only time he really calmed down was right before. I held him for a while. He was such a sweetheart. I gave him some hotdog and he was purring. He seemed happy to be held............He knew. Right before I gave him the shot he turned and looked at me. I thought, He knows I'm going to kill him. Then he touched my hand with his paw. It was like he forgave me. He was purring when I killed him."

(3.5/5 stars) - I would have rated this much higher were it not for the animal shelter passages.

Simon & Schuster - 2015

This story is bused on the true story of Rachel Pomie Petit Pissarro and set on the island of St. Thomas in the 19th century. Rachel Pomie is a young Jewish girl with big dreams who hopes to move to Paris someday. Instead those plans are dashed when she instead finds herself in an arranged marriage with a man 30 years older than her. Issac Petit is a widower with (3) children, but, Rachel dutifully fulfills her role as wife number 2 and together they have 3 more children -- and then he dies, leaving her with his business, which she knows nothing about,  and 6 children.  

When Issac's young nephew arrives from Paris to help Rachel sort out the business left by her husband, there is an immediate attraction, union and more children, including one who becomes the famous Impressionist, Camille Pissarro.

Beautiful descriptive writing, you could practically smell the flora and ocean breezes. With themes of love, friendship, religious intolerance and racism, there was plenty to discuss at my book group meeting this week.  Rachel was a strong woman, finely drawn character. Like most every Hoffman novel there is some magical realism. This one has the ghost of Issac's first wife, a turtle-girl and talking parrots but, it worked well.  There are a number of inter-related characters in this novel and I almost didn't finish this one but, I'm glad I did.  Everyone in my book group enjoyed this one (very unusual). (4/5 stars)

Current Reads




  • (still reading & creepy) The Beautiful Dead; Belinda Bauer (Atlantic Monthly Press) - 2017
  • (next up) The Fifth Floor; Julie Oleszek (2015)
  • (next up) Excellent Women; Barbara Pym







  • We saw Bridge of Spies (2015) on Showtime this week but, had originally seen it on the big screen when first released. As good the second time around, who doesn't love a movie starring Tom Hanks?  A true-life espionage which takes place during the Cold War.

    Have a Great Weekend All

    27 comments:

    1. So glad you had a good week, Diane! A book group meeting is always fun and sorry about your daughter's family illness, but much better for you to stay away. You could deposit things on the front porch (what my daughter offered to do when we were sick). HOSPITAL HILL sounds like one I'd enjoy. And a Vermont getaway also sounds like fun. Enjoy it!

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      1. Kay, I feel bad I never made a crockpot of soup and left it out her porch. Why didn't I think of that? Thanks for making this mom feel guilty now. LOL LOL

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    2. I'm a Hanks fan but haven't seen BoS. I'll keep it in mind next time I'm browsing netflix. Its hard to avoid all the nasty sick germs right now. My husband has bronchitis which I'm really trying to avoid. Hope you stay healthy and have a great week, Diane.

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      1. Mary, so many people are sick, I'm almost afraid to leave home LOL

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    3. I like the sound of Hospital Hill... spent some time in Northampton when my SIL was living there and love the area. Hope you have a wonderful Vermont getaway!

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      1. I love the Northampton, 5-College area as well, it's just so liberal and diverse.

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    4. There are some darn interesting ones there and I like the sounds of Hospital Hill too.

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    5. Hospital Hill sounds interesting. I love atmospheric books. There is also something about stories wet in old institutions. Too bad that it was simplistic. I like a little complexity.

      I also love the cover.

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      1. Brian Joseph, Hospital Hill was't perfect but still a fun read.

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    6. I have read and discussed The Marriage of Opposites in one of my reading groups and another one will discuss it next week. I don't always like Alice Hoffman but I thought this one was quite good.

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      1. Judy, sometimes Hoffman's realism is a bit much but, this was well done.

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    7. We saw Bridge of Spies sometime last year and really enjoyed it too. Sounds like you had a great reading week and yay for getting to your yoga class. I love yoga but haven't practiced in a a long time.

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      1. Yoga is the one thing that makes me feel so happy I went once I'm done. Getting out of the house at 7:45 is tough but, it's so worth it. So limber and flexible these days.

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    8. You can't go wrong with an Alice Hoffman book. This one does sound good. It's a pity about the proofreading in Hospital Hill. When publishing independently, authors need to realize the benefit of paying a professional. Glad you had a calm week with lots of books.

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    9. Diane, I stopped by earlier but had to leave before I could leave a comment. You have had a good, busy week. I saw Bridge of Spies not too long ago. It is really well done. The Marriage of Opposites sounds excellent. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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      1. Marriage of opposites was a nice read Susan. It bogged down a bit but, the story left our group with plenty to discuss.

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    10. Sounds like you've had a great week. I love reading books set in places I know. Also love the look of the Alice Hoffman, one for the list.

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      1. Thank Emma, I love books that have a familiar setting.

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    11. I liked Bridge of Spies, it's my kind of movie. Sounds like you had a good week.

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    12. There have been some British tv shows involving old mental hospitals, and all of them were so creepy. The one in Massachusetts that we heard about up here was Danvers. Nursing students would do their psychiatric training there. I don't think I would want to live in any building on the property. I'm positive there would be unhappy ghosts. More here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danvers_State_Hospital and this site confirms the ghostliness https://roadtrippers.com/stories/visit-danvers-state-hospital-birthplace-of-the-lobotomy The pictures in the last site are horrible. Where in Vermont?

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      1. I agree about not wanting to live in the buildings and even, the lovely new housing on the grounds LOL

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    13. I really need to read more Alice Hoffman books. She used to be an auto-buy for me, but I have fallen so far behind.

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    14. I think you will like the Barbara Pym, I know I did. Hospital Hill sounds scary and one I may read. A trip to Vermont in your future, fabulous.

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    15. That excerpt made me tear up so the book might break my heart.

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