Monday, July 16, 2018

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff
Penguin - 1970

This book was such a lovely, charming and even sometimes funny memoir. A story that began with a simple letter inquiring about the availability of some used books.  Helene Hanff lived in New York City and worked as a freelance writer, she initiates a book inquiry letter. Frank Doel, is a proper Englishman who managed a used book store, 84, Charing Cross Road in London, the bookstore where Helene's first letter is sent. 

Helene and Frank never meet but correspond for over 20 years. Initially their letters seem to be mostly about books, but as the years go by the letters begin cover a variety of topics.  Where Helene is often witty, Frank is generally serious and proper. It was wonderful to see how over the years their letters change and a very special friendship develops. I found the ending unexpected and sad but, I was so happy I finally decided to read this slim gem of a book.

I immediately decided to watch the movie version of this memoir, staring Anthony Hopkins and Ann Bancroft, and, although I did like the movie, I loved the book even more.

Here is a paragraph from of the letters that Helene writes that made me chuckle ---

"Trust you and Nora had a fine holiday. Mine was spent in Central Park, I had a month's vacation from Joey, my dear little dentist, he went on his honeymoon.  I financed the honeymoon. Did I tell you he told me last spring I had to have all of my teeth capped or all of my teeth out?  I decided to have them capped as I have got used to having teeth. But the cost is simply astronomical.  So Elizabeth will have to ascend the throne without me, teeth are all I'm going to see crowned for the next couple of years."

Have you read this book or watched the movie?

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Tin Man; Sarah Winman

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Tin Man; Sarah Winman
GP Putnam - 2017


"All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle.

She remembered being out in the back garden, as lights from the Crowley Car Plant spilled across the darkening sky, smoking her last cigarette, thinking there must be more to life."

This book is just 213 pages and, although I've only read a few pages, I'm really enjoying the writing. What do you think, pass or read more.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI; David Grann

David Grann - Penguin Random House - 2017

In the 1870's the US government drove the Osage Indian tribe off their land to a small reservation in Oklahoma. 

Fast forward to 1920 and the Osage were some of the richest people in the world once oil was discovered on their land.  However, it wasn't long before members of the tribe were ending up dead. Some had been poisoned, murdered and others dead under mysterious circumstances.  Those who attempted to investigate also found their lives cut short. When over 20 members were killed, the newly formed FBI took matters into their own hands. The FBI uncovered until a conspiracy of vast proportion which revealed coverups, greed and other injustices done to members of the Osage tribe.

A moving, chilling, eye opening, well-written story that will stick with. The audio book was well done and narrated by Will Patton..

Rating - 4/5 stars

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Chalk Man; Tudor and The Outsider; King - a couple of creepy reads - mini reviews

 The Chalk Man; CJ Tudor
Crown and Random House Audio - 2018

I wasn't actually sure what to expect when I first started listening and also reading this book but, it wasn't long before it started to feel like a story Stephen King might write.  It had a small town setting, gritty, some nail biting moments and even a bit a horror.

The story begins in 1986 and follows Eddie Adams and his buddies as a young boys when the gang would draw chalk figures leading others to a particular location.  One day someone else leaves an unrecognized chalk figure drawing leading to a body in the woods.  Fast forward 30 years with the guys now in their 40's, when a letter arrives with a chalk figure drawing. The letter arrives while one friend is visiting another to work on a book about that terrible year, 1986. When a friend ends up dead with a chalk figure drawing attached to the body, finding the identity of the "chalk man" killer is critical.

The story alternates between flashbacks of 1986 and the present day, the characters are great, a nice dose of creepy and enough twists that led to an ending that I didn't expect.  This was a nice surprise by a new to me author, it's worth reading or listening  to for fans of creep fiction.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars
(eGalley and Audio)

The Outsider; Stephen King
Scribner - 2018

In this 58th King novel in the last 44 years, a young 11 year old boy is found brutally murdered. All evidence seems to be leading to Terry Maitland, an English teacher and youth sports coach.  Terry is a well respected, family man who seems like an unlikely suspect but, the evidence against him is strong.  Yet, there is one opposing piece of evidence that seems to contradict all the other facts that have been gathered including DNA.  How can this be? Has Terry been living a lie?

I loved the first half of this 500+ page novel. I also liked that the strong central characters from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy reappeared in this book.  I found myself quickly turning pages and thinking that King plot style was about to change and soften a bit but, then by the second half the old King style had returned with some blood, gore and supernatural elements at work.  I should have known better.  I loved the set up, the small town mystery elements and the characters but, I ended up a bit disappointed by the end -- don't get me wrong it was still worth reading just headed into territory I wasn't expecting.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July and a few short book reviews

Wishing everyone a peaceful day!

Right Behind You; Lisa Gardner
(Book #7 of the Quincy and Rainie Series)
Brilliance Audio - 2017

The story begins with when Sharlah May Nash was just 5 years old and living with her older brother Telly Ray and their alcoholic and drug abusing parents.  One terrible night, in an attempt to protect his little sister, the parents end up dead and the siblings separated in foster care.

Now 13, Sharlah is about to be adopted by FBI profilers Quincy & wife Raine, and the brother Sharlah hasn't seen is 8 years is on the run after he is wanted for questioning for the deaths of his foster parents and some store clerks.

While Quincy & Rainie try to protect Sharlah from harm, they try to piece together what has happened in the last 8 years to Telly.

Although this was book #7 of a series, it wasn't necessary to read the previous books to enjoy this one. There were good plot twists and it was a fun story to listen to on a recent road trip.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

 The Banker's Wife; Christina Alger
GP Putnam & Sons - 2018

A private plane carrying Swiss United banker, Matthew Weiner and his assistant crashes as they fly to Geneva.  He leaves behind his young widow, Annabel whose life soon turns chaotic when it appears she is being followed.  As Annabel delves deeper into Michael's business she soon realizes that that her life might just be in danger.

Back in New York, Marina is engaged to the grandson of a presidential candidate and, although she planned to stop working as a journalist, the unexpected death of her mentor makes her want to find out more.

Readers who enjoy political intrigue, international conspiracy and mystery might want to try this one.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

The Waiting Room; Emily Bleeker
Lake Union Publishing - 2018

Veronica Shelton is a children's book illustrator now suffering from postpartum depression. She hasn't even been able to hold her baby for the last 6 months so her mother has taken on that role.  She's in therapy as she's also dealing with the loss of her husband.

As things seem to be improving slightly, her infant daughter goes missing and Veronica becomes the prime suspect.

This is a story that hooked me immediately but, soon began to feel like just another story with an unstable, unreliable narrator.  I do think that readers who like twisty, psychological fiction might want to try this as it was a very quick read.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Moonglow; Michael Chabon

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Moonglow; Michael Chabon
Harper Collins - 2016


"This is how I heard the story.  When Alger Hiss got out of prison, he had a hard time finding a job.  He was a graduate of Harvard Law School, had clerked for Oliver Wendell Holmes and helped charted the United Nations, yet he was also a convicted perjurer and notorious as a tool of international communism.  He had published a memoir, but it was dull stuff and no one wanted to read it.  His wife had left him. He was broke and hopeless. In the end one of his remaining friends took pity on the bastard and pulled a string.  Hiss was hired by a New York firm that manufactured and sold a kind of fancy barrette made from loops of piano wire.  Feather combs, Inc., had gotten off to a good start but had come under attack from a big competitor that copied its designs, infringed on its trademarks, and undercut its pricing.  Sales had dwindled.  Payroll was tight. In order to make room for Hiss, somebody had to be let go."

This one is a book group read for July. What do you think?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Month in Review _ Goodbye June

June was a busy month in general and yet, still a good month for reading. I finished (9) books in June, making this (49) books for the first half of 2018. 

Books Read in June (reviews coming soon - I hope)
  1. The Great Alone; Kristin Hannah (audio) 4.5/5 - June/June 2018
  2. The Little Clan; Iris Martin Cohen (ARC) 3.5/5 - June/2018
  3. Saving Cee Cee Honeycut; Beth Hoffman - 4/5 - June 2018 (reread-book group)
  4. The Banker's Wife; Christina Alger - (eGalley) 3.5/5 June 2018
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI; David Grann - 4/5 (audio) June/2018
  6. Right Behind You; Lisa Gardner - 4.5/5 (audio) - June/2018
  7. The Outsider; Stephen King (print/library) - 4/5 June 2018
  8. The Chalk Man; C.J. Tudor (audio) 4/5 June/2018
  9. The Waiting Room; Emily Bleeker (eGalley) 3.5/5
New Book Arrivals
  1. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock; Imogen Hermes Gowar (sent by Penguin UK)
  2. The Great Believers; Rebecca Makkai (sent by Viking)
  3. Sweet Little Lies; Caz Frear (Zaffre Publishing)
  4. Putney; Zafka Zinoieff (sent by Harper)
  5. Go Ask Fannie; Elisabeth Hyde (sent by Amazon Vine - GP Putnam)
  6. Safe Houses;Dan Fesperman (sent by Knopf)
  7. The Myth of Perpetual Summer; Susan Crandall (sent by Gallery Books)
  8. The Long Path to WisdomJan Philipp Sender (sent by Other Press)

In case you missed my post with my summer reading plans, here are the books I hope to complete.
  1. Baby Teeth; Zoje Stage - We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen...a twisty, delirious read that will constantly question your sympathies for the two characters as their bond continues to crumble.”―Entertainment Weekly
  2. 84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Haniff - "84, Charing Cross Road will beguile and put you in tune with mankind... It will provide an emollient for the spirit and sheath for the exposed nerve." -- The New York Times
  3. Clock Dance; Anne Tyler - "A bittersweet, hope-filled look at two quirky families that have broken apart and are trying to find their way back to one another . . . The cast of sharply drawn characters dominates in ways both reflective and raucous across a series of emotional events.”
    Publishers Weekly
  4. The Dry; Jane Harper - A small town hides big secrets in The Dry, an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.
  5. The Outsider; Stephen King - An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories. (completed 4/5)
  6. The Other Mother; Carol Goodman -“An atmospheric and harrowing tale, richly literary in complexity but ripe with all the crazed undertones, confusions, and forebodings inherent in the gothic genre. Recommend this riveting, du Maurier–like novel to fans of Jennifer McMahon.” — Booklist (starred review)
  7. Made for Love; Alissa Nutting - From the exciting and provocative writer of Tampa, a poignant, riotously funny story of how far some will go for love—and how far some will go to escape it. 
  8. The House Swap; Rebecca Fleet -" She may not know exactly who is in her house. But she knows why they are there.  A house swap becomes the eerie backdrop to a chilling look inside a broken marriage filled with tantalizing secrets."
  9. Something in the Water; Catherine Steadman - “With unreliable characters, wry voices, exquisite pacing, and a twisting plot, Steadman potently draws upon her acting chops. . . . A darkly glittering gem of a thriller from a new writer to watch.”Kirk's Reviews (starred review)
  10. Moonglow; Michael Chabon - “A wondrous book that celebrates the power of family bonds and the slipperiness of memory….A thoroughly enchanting story about the circuitous path that a life follows, about the accidents that redirect it, and about the secrets that can be felt but never seen, like the dark matter at the center of every family’s cosmos.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)
Somebody had a birthday ---

Our youngest granddaughter is now 4
(Where did the time go?)