Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - A Noise Downstairs; Linwood Barclay

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.  (Started this yesterday, very addictive story.)

A Noise Downstairs; Linwood Barclay
William Morrow - 2018


"Driving along the Post Road late that early October night, Paul Davis was pretty sure the car driving erratically in front of him belonged to his colleague Kenneth Hoffman.  The ancient, dark blue Volvo station wagon was a fixture around West Haven College, a cliche on wheels of what a stereotypical professor drove."

Would you read more?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Everything Here is Beautiful; Mira Lee and I Am, I Am, I Am; Maggie O'Farrell

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking - 2018

Everything Here is Beautiful was an impressive debut novel about sisters and mental illness.

Miranda and Lucia are sisters, Miranda is seven years old and has always been the cautious one, watching out for her ofter unpredictable younger sister Lucia.  After their mother dies of cancer, Lucia begins to hear voices and as her mental illness becomes more intense, she does some outlandish things including marrying someone she hardly knew and later even moving to a different continent.

Can Lucia ever lead a normal life, often refusing to take her meds?  Can her sister or Lucia's husband influence her and keep her safe?

Told in alternating POVs, this is a beautifully written, compelling story about mental illness and family. I will definitely be looking for future offerings from this promising new author.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Maggie O'Farrell
Knopf - 2018

This is a different kind of memoir in which the author describes in very short stories her, seventeen near death experiences.  The stories cover an array of experiences beginning when she was just a toddler through adulthood and follow no particular chronological order. It's not a memoir that feels like all doom and gloom and it never felt morbid or depressing. Instead, this was a book that helped me to reflect on my own life and the things that are most precious.

A few of the stories were quite intense and even felt jarring at times while a few others seemed far from threatening to me.  Overall, this book was great reading experience, I loved the quality of the writing.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Friday, April 13, 2018

2 short reviews - Trick; Domenico Starnone and Sunburn; Laura Lippman

Trick; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions - 2018

Since I absolutely loved, Ties, by D. Starnone, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, another terrific read.

When seventy-five year old Daniele Mallarico is asked to babysit for his 4 year old grandson Mario, he is more than a little reluctant to do so. His daughter Betta and her husband need to attend a 3-day academic conference.  Not only is Daniele recovering from a recent hospital stay but, the babysitting commitment also means returning to his childhood home in Naples, the place of unhappy memories.  
Daniele is a man who enjoys his solitude and his quiet life in Milan. A one time famous illustrator, he is now working on meeting a deadline to illustrate a ghost story by Henry James, however, not wanting to disappoint his daughter, he agrees to stay with little Mario.

The 3-day visit proves to have both comical and touching moments. Mario finds ways to distract Daniele from his work, and sometimes these distractions are welcome taking the grandfather's mind off his childhood and other depressing thoughts.

This was a sweet and moving story about life, ambition, choices made and later life regrets. 

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Sunburn; Laura Lippman
Harper Collins - William Morrow - 2018

Polly Costello (not her real name, she has many), is an attractive, bright woman with a somewhat wild and dark past.  She's also a woman on the run.  She's just abandoned her loveless marriage and young daughter Jani, while the family was on a beach vacation in Delaware.  Believe it or not, this is not the worst thing that Polly has ever done.  So, who is Polly and why has she spent much of her adult life on the run?

Much of the story is told through the POV of Adam Bosk, a stranger Polly hooks up with in a bar/diner in Bellevue, DE. (population, 2,000) while on the run. But, Adam, has his secrets as well, yet an intense relationship begins. Who is Adam and was his meeting Polly more than just coincidence?

A stand alone novel, tense and dark, had me quickly turning the pages. I loved the strong, cunning, Polly character and, when bad things happened it was hard not to suspect anyone but Polly was involved.  Best categorized as dark noir, this was a very quick, satisfying read.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2 quick book reviews - Mercury; Margot LIvesey and The Other Girl; Erica Spindler

Mercury; Margot Livesey
Harper - 2016

I started this book over a year ago and finally decided to give it another go. It's a somewhat familiar story.

Donald and Viv Stevenson are a married couple who have drifted apart. Don is an Ophthalmologist, originally from Scotland. Now married to Viv, an American and a  former mutual funds manager, the couple lives in a Boston suburb with their two children.

Viv has given up her job to pursue her real love of horses and, she now manages a stable with her childhood friend.  When a new horse, Mercury, is boarded at the stables, Viv becomes almost obsessed with the majestic beauty, Mercury, sometimes at the financial and emotional expense of her family.  Yet, Viv can't be totally faulted for the couples separateness as Donald has become more and more distant with the recent death of his father.

Mercury, is the story of a marriage and how easy it sometimes is to do one's "own thing" often losing sight of the things that are most important.  There was an air of mystery to this story which kept me interested, yet at times I felt somewhat bored.  I am happy I finally read it.

Rating - 3.5/stars

The Other Girl; Erica Spindler
Macmillan Audio
(library audiobook)

Miranda Radar is a small town police officer in a town where not too much happens.  One day she and her partner are called to investigate the murder of a well liked English professor. The murder appears to be a crime of passion given the gruesome details.

When another man, this time a cop,  is also murdered, a common link seems to be Miranda.  She was involved in incident in her teens, 15 years earlier, which she hoped was long buried and, the dead cop was the individual involved in her case.

The Other Girl is a  story which flashes back from present to Miranda Wilder's teen days, with a few twists along the way.  I thought that this was an okay story and audio, interesting enough to hold my interest on my walks but, it's probably a story that won't stay with me for very long.

Rating 3/5 stars

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Tangerine; Christine Mangan

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. 

Tangerine; Christine Mangan
(ECCO) - Harper Collins - 2018



"It takes three men to pull the body from the water.

It's a man--that much they can tell, but little else.  The birds have been at him by then, perhaps attracted b the glinting piece of silver that adorns his tie.  But that's only the magpies, they remind themselves.  He must have seen three, one of the men says to the others--a crude attempt at humor.  They life him, startled by the weight. Do dead men weigh more, another wonders aloud. Together they wait for the police to arrive, doing their best not to look down, to avoid the empty sockets where once the dead man's eyes rested.  They are strangers to each other, these three, but they are bonded now by something deeper than kinship."

What do you think - read more or pass?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death; Maggie O'Farrell

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. 

I've read wonderful things about this memoir, so I'm really looking forward to starting it.

 Maggie O'Farrell
Knopf - 2018


"On the path ahead, stepping out from behind a boulder, a man appears.

We are, he and I, on the far side of the tarn that lies hidden in the bowl-curved summit of this mountain.  The sky os a milky blue above us; no vegetation grows this far up so it is just me and him, the stones and the still black water.  He straddles the narrow track with both booted feet and he smiles.

I realize several things. That I passed him earlier, father down the glen. We greeted each other, in the amiable yet brief manner of those on a country walk.  That, on this remote stretch of path, there is no one near enough to hear me call.  That he has been waiting for me: he has planned the whole thing, carefully, meticulously, and I have walked into his trap. 

 I see all this in an instant."

This intro hooked me, what do you think? Read more or pass?

Monday, April 2, 2018

A few quick book reviews - Best Day Ever; Kaira Rouda and Lucky Us; Amy Bloom

Best Day Ever; Kaira Rouda
Graydon House - 2017

Best Day Ever is a novel that takes place in a single day. On the surface, Paul Strom seems to have the perfect life. His wife Mia is lovely, the couple has two young sons, a beautiful home, and a lake house as well.  Paul's planned what he hopes will be the "Best Day Ever" as he whisks Mia away for some alone time at the lake retreat while the boys are left with a babysitter.

As the couple travels by car to their destination, the tension builds and the reader begins to realize that lies and other secrets within this marriage are certain to ruin any other plans Paul had for the weekend.  

The story is narrated by Paul, who is really a self-absorbed liar.  The tension builds as you turn each page, making for a quick, absorbing read. There were a few twists along the read and a surprise ending as well which made me happy I decided to try this one.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Lucky Us; Amy Bloom
Random House - 2015

Lucky Us was our book group selection for March and while the most of the group liked this book to some degree, we really got to appreciate it more after our open, lively discussion.  Some of the members then wanted to reread it after our discussion.

The opening quote, hooked me and made me chuckle as well - “My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”

A coming of age story with half-sisters Eva and Iris at the heart of the novel. These half-siblings have been disappointed by their family and the two couldn't be more different. The story takes around WWII and many of the characters have been dealt some bad breaks in life, but despite their struggles, I wanted to know them better. Many of the characters are quite eccentric which made for some humorous moments. There were quite a few characters introduced along the way, most were well drawn, some so memorable, and others I despised. A story about luck and about what constitutes a family.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Trick; Domenico Starnone

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. 

Just take a look at this awesome cover art, doesn't that make you curious for more?

Trick; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions - 2018

(Description)Trick is a stylish drama about ambition, family, and old-age that goes beyond the ordinary and predictable. Imagine a duel between two men. One, Daniele Mallarico, is a successful illustrator who, in the twilight of his years, feels that his reputation and his artistic prowess are fading. The other, Mario, is Daniele's four-year-old grandson. Daniele has been living in a cold northern city for years, in virtual solitude, focusing obsessively on his work, when his daughter asks if he would come to Naples for a few days and babysit Mario while she and her husband attend a conference. Shut inside his childhood home―an apartment in the center of Naples that is filled with the ghosts of Mallarico's past―grandfather and grandson match wits as Daniele heads toward a reckoning with his own ambitions and life choices.
Outside the apartment, pulses Naples, a wily, violent, and passionate city whose influence can never be shaken.
Trick is a gripping, brilliantly devised drama, "an extremely playful literary composition," as Jhumpa Lahiri describes it in her introduction, by the Strega Prize-winning novelist whom many consider to be one of Italy's greatest living writers.

"One evening Betta called, crankier than usual, wanting to know if I felt up to minding her son while she and her husband took part in a mathematics conference in Cagliari.  I'd been living in Milan for a couple of decades, and the thought of decamping to Naples, to the old house I'd inherited from my parents, and where my daughter had been living prior to getting married, didn't thrill me.  I was over seventy and, having been a widower for some time, had lost the habit of living with others.  I only felt comfortable in my own bed and in my own bathroom.  Furthermore, I's undergone, a few weeks earlier, a small surgical procedure which, even in the clinic, seemed to have done more harm than good  Though the doctors poked their faces day and night into my room, to tell me that everything had gone fine, my hemoglobin was low, my ferritin was poor, and one afternoon, I saw small black heads, plaster-white, stretching toward me from the opposite wall..............................................
(stopping here as this is an extremely long intro)

What do you think? Would you read more?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

White Houses; Amy Bloom and The Perfect Neighbors; Sarah Pekkanen

(2) quick eGalley reviews:

The Perfect Neighbors; Sarah Pekkanen
Washington Square Press - 2016 

The Perfect Neighbors, takes place in the lovely tree lined, neighborhood of Newport Cove, known as a great place to raise a family and a place to really get to know your neighbors.  Social gatherings and even a public list serve where neighbors are kept up to date on events, unneighborly happenings and other random posts.  Of course like most neighborhoods and families there is drama and secrets that they individuals hope to keep quiet, most of which are revealed as the story progresses.

I found this to be a light, beachy type read which might have been even a bit more fun if there was more of a mystery to it.  I will admit, the list serve posts were super entertaining, and overall, made for a fun read.

Rating 3.5/5 stars

White Houses; Amy Bloom
Random House - 2018

Amy Bloom's White Houses is a fictionalized account of the FDR White House years. The story begins in 1945 just after FDR's death and moves back and forth in time.  We learn of FDR's affair with his secretary, Missy but surprisingly, very little about his relationship with his own wife, Eleanor. Instead focusing more on the, previously reported, romantic relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Associated Press journalist, Lorena Hickok (Hick), when the two women met in 1932 while Hick was covering White House news.  

The story is told by Hick and the reader learns much about her poor childhood in South Dakota, and her dysfunctional childhood and her abusive father, We also get insight into her White House days as one of the first female journalists to have such a high profile job. Details are shared about her friendship and genuine love for Eleanor.  

I found the book to be a quick read, the writing often humorous, but at times it also fell a bit trashy, which was disappointing as I loved, the in depth NF story Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn.

Rating 3.5/5

Monday, March 19, 2018

Saints for All Occasions; J. Courtney Sullivan and Census; Jesse Ball

Both of these books were ones I finished in February but neglected to post my mini reviews.  I enjoyed them both even though they were nothing alike.

 Saints for All Occasions; J. Courtney Sullivan
Knopf - 2017

I fell in love with the cover art of Saints for All Occasions and had a hunch I'd enjoy the book, which I did.

In 1957 two young sisters, Nora 21 and Theresa Flynn 17 are bound for the US from Ireland hoping for a better life.  Nora is the older sister and a mother figure for Theresa.  Theresa is everything that Nora is not - smart, popular, out going. Nora imagines her sister will have the perfect life in America but, things don't exactly work out the way she imagined that they would.  Theresa is seduced by a married man and finds herself pregnant and Nora must protect her sister and do whatever it takes. Set in (2) time periods late 1950s and then 2009, the sisters must confront the past and deal with the choices that were made many years earlier.

I liked the great character development and found this to be an enjoyable story overall.

4.5/5 stars

Census; Jesse Ball
Ecco - 2018

Census was a quick and somewhat unusual read but, I liked it very much.

The story begins with an unnamed man digging his own grave. The man, a widower, a former surgeon is gravely ill and his concern is not what is about to happen to him but, what will happen to his son who has Down's Syndrome.

The man decides to take a job as a census taker for the government and father and son take to the road in an unnamed country, visiting various counties (A-Z). Each chapter is short and represents one of the counties along their journey and the individuals they meet, on what will be their final journey together.

This story is a brief meditation on loss, love and the meaning of life. It was written as a tribute to the author's brother who died of complications of Down's Syndrome at the age of 24.

4/5 stars

3 delightful Books for Kids from Candlewick Press

 I'm a Duck; Eve Bunting
Candlewick Press - 2018

I'm a Duck, is a perfect spring or Easter, 2018 book choice for your favorite little one. Written by beloved children's author, Eve Bunting. The beautiful watercolor illustrations by Will Hillenbrand will appeal to kids and adults as well.

The story is about a sad, little duck who is too frightened to go in the water -- afraid of sinking and drowning.  His friends, Big Frog and Owl, try everything the can to encourage him to coax him into practicing his water skills.  Before long this little duck's confidence begins to grow and he is doing what ducks love to do best.


Windows; Julia Denos
Candlewick Press - 2017

Windows, by Julia Denos is a lovely book which encourages exploring the neighborhood in which you live. Doing this at dusk, when neighbors return home from work and the lights begin to go on in the tall houses within this somewhat urban neighborhood.  A young boy takes his dog for a walk just before dark and gazes at the houses, cats and other critters along his walk. He takes time to notice the many tall windows, low windows and activity in his neighborhood but, ultimately returning home to his own house and the windows he loves best.

The sparse prose does not detract from the overall charm of this book.  The vivid, detailed illustrations throughout by, E.B. Goodale, make this a book that children will want to choose again and again.


The Tip Toeing Tiger; Philippa Leathers
Candlewick Press - 2018

The Tip Toeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers is sure to appeal to your preschool child.  What kiddo does not love to tip toe around and try to scare someone?  Such is the goal of Little Tiger.  He's small and clumsy and in the end he scares himself by seeing his own reflection in a pond.

Lovely earth tone illustrations and just enough words to hold a pre school child's interest or to challenge new readers.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Book Arrivals

I've been a bit lax with the blog these days but,  I'm still enjoying reading as much as ever.  Here are the new books which arrived by mail over the last month.  Don't they look good?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Lucky Us; Amy Bloom

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. This week's book is our book group selection for March.

Lucky Us; Amy Bloom
Random House - 2016

Part One

I'd Know You Anywhere

"MY FATHERS WIFE DIED. MY MOTHER SAID WE SHOULD DRIVE down to his place and see what might be in it for us.

She tapped my nose with her grapefruit spoon. It's like this, she said.  Your father loves us more, but he's got another family, a wife, and a girl a little older than you.  Her family had all the money. Wipe your face."

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

Books and Movies for February

I knew it was risky hanging my new spring wreath earlier this week. Today we are in the midst of a Nor'Easter! Fortunately, for us, so far it's just 45MPH winds and heavy rain. Better this than snow at this point as long as we do not lose power.

Books Read in February - 5

  1. The Woman in the Window; A.J. Finn - 4/5 (eGalley) Feb/2018
  2. Nomadland; Jessica Bruder - 4.5/5 NF/library Feb/2018
  3. Saints for All Occasions; J. Courtney Sullivan (eGalley) - 4.5/5 - Feb/2018 (review not completed yet)
  4. Girl on the Train; Paula Hawkins (reread/book group) - 4/5 - Feb/2018
  5. Census; Jesse Ball - (eGalley) 4/5 - Feb/2018 (review not completed yet)
My Book Group read for February was: Girl on the Train; Paula Hawkins. It was a reread for me.  It made for a lively discussion and I enjoyed the refresher. Only (1) club member did not like the book!

Movies Watched in February - 9

Plans for March

  • Catch Up on reviews
  • read/review a few children's books
  • read Lucky Us; Amy Bloom (book group read)
  • read a few review books releasing in March
  • plan a mini getaway

How was your February?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Census; Jesse Ball

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.

 Census; Jesse Ball
Ecco - 3/2018

"As I turned to lean my shovel against the rusted gray of the car, I looked in passing down into the grave I had dug, and saw there, along the face or wall, in trembling roots, the path I had traveled these several months taking the census in the farthest districts.  As if by chance, my eye followed the slender red roots down and down into the grave, first left then left, then left then left, then right, then left then left, then right, then left, and always down.  It was as if I could feel my hand upon the wheel, driving those field-wrapping roads and felt almost removed into the person I had been--someone like to myself, someone I myself might have known, someone bound in fact, as an arrow towards me, towards my heart and the place in which I now stand.  Had I known him? Who is it that can claim at any time to know his own appearance, his own ideas?  And yet we come back into ourselves again and again--there must be some recognition, something, even so slight. Must there be?"

What are your thoughts? Read more or pass?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Saints for All occasions; J. Courtney Sullivan

Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.

Saints for All Occasions; J. Courtney Sullivan
Knopf - 2017



"IN THE CAR on the way to the hospital, Nora remembered how, when Patrick was small, she would wake up suddenly, gripped by some terrible fear--that he had stopped breathing, or spiked a deadly fever.  That he had been taken from her.

She had to see him to be sure.  They lived then on the top floor of the three--decker on Crescent Avenue.  She would practically sleepwalk through the kitchen and past Bridget's door, and then down the hall to the boys' room, her nightgown skimming the cold hardwood, the muffled sound of Mr. Sheehan's radio murmuring up from downstairs."

Based on the into above, would you read more or pass?

(I just started this one and so far it's a great story.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Week in Review - 2/11/2018

This has been a tough week for us.  My husband's birthday celebration was not meant to be. Wednesday we had a snowstorm, Thursday and Friday brought some funky stomach bug for me and a granddaughter and then yesterday and today the birthday boy himself is feeling lousy.  This bug hit me hard and I can't ever remember having such a violent stomach bug as this one. Even today I'm not back 100 percent and living on tea and toast. (I did lose 4.5 lbs. very quickly though with no effort) Today we'll be taking it easy.

This week I finished 2 books and both were very good.

William Morrow (2018)

Anna Fox worked as a child psychologist but now spends her days inside her $3,000,000 Manhattan brownstone, afraid to go outside. She watches movies, visits internet chat rooms for agoraphobics, over medicates, drinks too much and she spies on her new neighbors in the building across the street. Anna was once married to Ed and together had a daughter Olivia, but now she lives alone. One day she thinks she's witnessed a horrible crime, but then she is an unreliable narrator, so did something awful really happen or did she imagine it?

This book started out kind of slow for me, but gradually the tension and excitement builds. I figured out part some of the twists but not all.  Overall, an enjoyable read that made me want to watch  lots of old movies once again.

Rating 4/5 stars

Jessica Bruder (2017) W.W. Norton

Nomadland looks at the growing trend of unemployed, uninsured, often older individuals (baby boomers ages 55-75), some who are too young to collect social security benefits but, also find themselves cash strapped and unable to afford housing and food.  These nomads "workampers" are leaving behind the towns they've called home, the homes that are now worth less than what they still owe on them for seasonal employment wherever they can find work.

The work is hard, hours are long and pay is low but, they take what they can find and begin living a lifestyle on wheels be it by RV, van or camper. Some of these individuals have made bad choices in life,  but many have lost everything through no fault of their own. Instead of enjoying life in their 60's and 70's, they find their savings depleted, social security benefits inadequate and are being forced to work long hours to simply survive.

A well-written and researched book yet a sobering and depressing read as well. I read this book in one sitting and as a baby boomer, it was quite an eye-opener.

Rating 4.5/5 stars

New Books Arrivals - Kiddo Pleasers
Thanks to Candlewick Press

Movies Watched this Week

As I read The Woman in the Window this week, there were several references to old movies and the movie Gaslight so I just had to see it. What and excellent movie from (1944); loved that it was in black and white. Murder at 1600 (1997) was chosen for the cast Wesley Snipes and Diane Lane. The movie was okay but not exceptional. I think that movie was based on a book by Margaret Truman.

Hope all of you had a good week and may this coming week be even better.