Tuesday, November 12, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - An Elephant in my Kitchen; Francoise Malby-Anthony

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. 

An Elephant in My Kitchen; Francoise Malby-Anthony
Sidgwick & Jackson - 2019

The only walls between humans and elephants are the ones we put up ourselves.

Violent weather always unsettled our elephants, and the predicted gale-force winds meant there was a danger of trees blowing over and causing breaches in Thula's perimeter fence.  The cyclone has threatened for days, and while we desperately needed water after a scorching summer, we definitely didn't need a tropical storm.  We were worried about the herd, but my husband Lawrence and I were confident that, somewhere in the vast expanse of our game reserve, they had been led to safety by their new matriarch, and my namesake, Frankie.

We hadn't seen them near the house in a while and I missed them.

I've long loved these gentle creatures and thought this might be a great read for non fiction November.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Dutch House; Ann Patchett

AUTHOR:  Ann Patchett
PUBLISHER: Harper Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Pennsylvania
FORMAT: audio/library
RATING - 5/5

What a wonderful story of family, home, memories, love and loss. This is likely to be my favorite book of 2019.  

The "Dutch House" is a character itself in this story. The grand estate located outside of Philadelphia was acquired in the mid-1940s by real estate developer Cyril Conroy after the previous "dutch" owner falls into financial ruin.  When Cyril's wife, Elna learns that the family (they have a daughter Maeve, 10 and son Danny 3) are suppose to call this showy estate their home, she wants no part of it. Their previous home was tiny and cozy and now, the mansion comes complete with silk furniture, Chinese lightening and rich oil paintings along with hired help.

Elna had not been aware that her husband had acquired so much money and, the thought of living in this grand mansion causes her to flee to pursue her dream of helping the less fortunate.  This leaves the young children to grow up with their cold, distant father and the hired help and, soon a wicked-step mother with her own children.

Told over a 50 year period from the POV of Danny (Tom Hanks is the audio book narrator and really comes alive in this role).  He tells such an engaging and memorable story about the impact of our earliest childhood memories on our adult lives. I loved how this story came full circle and kept me engaged throughout. This just may be Ann Patchett's best book yet. I marvel at her ability to create a sense of tension and anticipation to her stories.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Three Women; Lisa Taddeo

TITLE: Three Women
AUTHOR:  Lisa Taddeo
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: print/library
RATING - 3.5/5

After so much buzz about this book, I decided to try it for myself; I'm glad I read it but, I didn't love it. Actually, I wasn't sure what to expect when I began this NF title except the author's intent was to write about female desire.

Profiled are stories of (3) very different women from different backgrounds and social classes.  There's 23 year old Maggie from North Dakota who was involved in a sexual relationship with her married high school English teacher when she was just 17.  A resulting criminal trial rocks their quiet community.  Lina, a mid-western housewife whose loveless marriage has her reconnecting with an old flame.  Finally there is Sloane, a gorgeous woman from a wealthy family in New York City. She moves to Newport, Rhode Island to become a successful restauranteur.  Sloane's husband is also in the same business with her. He enjoys watching her have sex with men and women.

While it's clear that each woman was craving something more, something missing in their lives, they often came across as both self abusers and victims.  Almost every story is a combination of raw, emotional and sexually explicit. All of the women have baggage or issues they were dealing with from alcoholic parents to eating disorders.

I thought the author captured the complex emotions of the women she writes about, but, I didn't really care for the way the stories seemed to jump back and forth between the women. I also thought a wrap up was needed as the ending seemed rather abrupt. It's clear the author did her homework, spending more than 8 years gathering data on these very different women. Each woman, in some way, felt like a victim to me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds & Legendary Life of Meryl Streep; Eric Carlson

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. 

 Eric Carlson - Hachette Books - 2019

Chapter 1
From Geek to Streep

I wanted to learn how to be appealing. So I studied the character I imagined I wanted to be, that of a generically pretty high school girl.

Meryl Streep was six years old when she discovered a talent for getting into character.  Her role: the Virgin Mary.  The scene: the Streep family living room, standing in for the nativity.  Meryl's you're brothers, Harry the Third, and Dana, whom she tended to boss around, were cast as Joseph and a barnyard animal, respectively.  When Meryl wrapped her mother's half slip around her head and held Baby Jesus (her Betsy Wetsy doll), she fell under a trance of quiet holiness that spread link gospel to her siblings, following their sister's solemn lead. While the kids' father, Harry the Second, shot footage on Super 8, Meryl learned an important lesson: she didn't have to yell at her costars to get them to do what she wanted.

Any interest in this one?

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Reckless Oath We Made; Bryn Greenwood

AUTHOR:  Bryn Greenwood
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: print/library
RATING - 3.5/5

The Reckless Oath We Made is a memorable story with several dysfunctional characters to root for.

As the story opens we meet Zee; she's 26, 6' tall with bright red hair and a young woman in a lot pain due to a shattered hip. Her father was deadbeat dad and convicted of murder; he died in prison.  Her mother is a homebound, 600 lb hoarder. To pay the rent on the apartment Zee shares with her sister and nephew, she supplements her waitress income as an occasional drug mule for her boss.  Most recently she had to bring along her 6 year old nephew with her when her sister failed to come home from her prison volunteer work, only to find out she's been abducted in a prison escape.  Then there is Gentry, a young man on the spectrum, who wants to rescue Zee and be her knight in shining armor.  He's loyal, has a heart of gold and speaks in medieval tongue.

I had really been looking forward to this book, as I loved the author's previous book: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. There was a lot to like about this story as it covers so many aspects of today's society, but at times it felt a bit too quirky for me. The Middle English speak on the part of Gentry was really off-putting for me - a little went a long way. Overall, a heartfelt story but also a challenging read at times.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Warlight; Michael Ondaatje

TITLE: Warlight
AUTHOR:  Michael Ondaatje
PUBLISHER: Vintage International / Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: London, England
FORMAT: print & audio/my shelves
RATING - 4/5

Historical fiction is not usually something I gravitate toward but, I was pretty happy my book group selected it as our October read. I really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, only 3 of the dozen or so members who came to the meeting liked the book.

Set in London right after WWII, Nathan 14, and his older sister, Rachel, are told by their parents that they need to go away to Singapore for a while.  The teens are left with Walter, A.K.A. The Moth, who stays at their home with them. The children wonder whether "the moth" is a criminal, but quickly forget that imagining when more motley characters join their household.

This novel ,although historical, had a nice element of mystery to it as well. Nothing is as we are first lead to believe and it's a slow reveal that held my interest throughout. It's definitely a darker story especially since a lot of things happen after dark.  The beautiful writing and the characters were really memorable. I loved how they tried to teach the siblings a variety of things - some are unusual to say the least.  The story is told from the POV of Nathan as a teen and later as a young man as he takes a job with the Foreign Office working in archives and trying to sort out what his mother was up to in the time she was absent from their lives.

This was a combo print and audio read for me. The audio narration was very good.