Tuesday, March 26, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - My Life in a Cat House; True Tales of Love, Laughter, and Living with Five Felines, Gwen Cooper

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. 

 Gwen Cooper - Ben Bella Books - 2018

I Choo-Choo Choose You!

"Pandora ('Pandy' for short) was a purebred Siamese and could only be described -- although this phrase wasn't in common use twenty years ago -- as a hot mess"

(At one time we had 5 cats, in fairness it was a pretty large home for 2 humans - now we just have 2, so naturally this sounded like a good and fun choice to me.)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food; Ann Hood

AUTHOR:  Ann Hood
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  mostly Rhode Island
FORMAT:  -  print - library ( 229 pp)
RATING: 4.5/5

Part memoir, part culinary delight, author Ann Hood shares, in essay format, tidbits about her life, growing up in Rhode Island in an Italian family and the loves in her life.

In adulthood, the former airline stewardess and author moved some 14 times in 15 years yet describes herself as a "nester." To her it was important to always create a sense of home wherever she lived. Through heartaches and loss: the death of her 5 year old daughter, Grace, her brother and an aunt, as well as, through divorce and remarriage, it was cooking and creating that has sustained her through her grief.

Each essay in this book takes the reader back to a particular place and time in the author's life where food and meal prep was a comfort to her - recipes included.

The recipes are mostly comforting fare, definitely not for the heath conscious as they are often cholesterol raising ingredients, heavy in fats and sugar. I smiled when she stated the American Cheese was a favorite of hers (ugh) and that Thomas' English muffins were the superior brand (my favorite).

I really enjoyed this foodie memoir, the perfect book to enjoy on a rainy day or when you are feeling in a reflective mood.

How to Walk Away, Katherine Center

AUTHOR:  Katherine Center
PUBLISHER:  Macmillan Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2018
FORMAT:  -  audio - library ( 10+ hours)

Margaret (Maggie) Jacobson's life is looking up. She's 27, just earned her MBA and has been offered an incredible job at a very high salary.  Her boyfriend Chip, soon to be fiancee, is planning to propose on Valentine's Day in a very unique manner, but then an unexpected and tragic accident leaves Maggie with a spinal cord injury putting an end to those hopes and dreams, or does it?

This is one of those books that even though things look bleak, you have a feeling everything will be okay for Maggie in the end.  This is a story about the ups and downs of life and relationships. It makes you realize that sometimes a tragedy can make you stronger.

After reading a few too many sad or depressing stories in March, How to Walk Away turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Maggie's story has some highs and lows, just like most of our lives, but, in the end things have a way of looking up. I'd definitely classify it as a lighter read, not perfect but enjoyable. The audio version read by Therese Plummer was very well done.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The End of Loneliness; Benedict Wells

TITLE: The End of Loneliness
AUTHOR:  Benedict Wells
PUBLISHER:  Penguin 
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  Germany
FORMAT:  -  ARC ( 272 pp)
RATING: 3.5/5

Lately it seems I'm drawn to books that turn out to be sad or more depressing than I expected. So is the case with The End of Loneliness, it's translated from German, deep, moving and sad.

Set in Munich Germany in the 80's,  this story follows Jules Moreau who was just 11 years old when his parents died in a car accident and he and his older siblings, Liz and Marty were orphaned.  Sent to a depressing boarding school the trio is separated and Jules withdraws more and more into himself. It's a girl named Alva who has her own sad past who begins to make Jules see some light at the end of the tunnel.  As adulthood approaches sadly, Alva moves on while Jules struggles with his life and wonders whether he might ever see her again.

The story begins some 30 years after the children were orphaned after Jules was involved in a terrible motor bike accident. I thought the characters were fairly well explored and shows how each sibling dealt with the tragedy and loneliness factor they experienced in early life.  It makes you think about how different your adult life might be had fate not intervened at some critical juncture.

While I like how deep the author got into his characters, at times the translation came across strained.  It was a very good effort by the author but, for me,  just too much of a downer overall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Red Address Book; Sofia Lundberg

TITLE: The Red Address Book
AUTHOR:  Sofia Lundberg
PUBLISHER:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  Sweden
FORMAT:  -  ARC ( 300 pp)
RATING: 3.5/5

The "Red Address Book" at the heart of this novel belongs to Doris Alm. The book was given to Doris as a young girl by her father and, over the years she has chronicled the names and stories of people who she met along the way. Most of these individuals, now deceased, hold a secret and shed light into her interesting past.

Today at 96 years of age, Doris lives alone in her Stockholm apartment with occasional caregivers stopping by to help her.  Her great niece, Jenny, lives in the US but the two stay in touch through Skype.  One day Doris falls trying to get herself something to eat when her caregiver did not arrive at the regular time. She is hospitalized so her great niece and youngest child make the trip to spend time with her. The visit serves as an opportunity to learn much about the brave, strong woman she cares so deeply for.

Many who have read this book loved it and I couldn't wait to read it.  I really wanted to love this book but, I just didn't even though I loved the premise and the writing was pretty good overall. It's not a terribly long but, I found that there were too many insignificant details about Jenny as well as Doris which felt like fillers at times.  Some of he topics like illness, loneliness and death made it depressing as well. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - My Coney Island Baby; Billy O'Callaghan

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. 

My Coney Island Baby; Billy O'Callaghan
Harper Collins - 2019

The Boardwalk

"The air out here is mean with cold.  It was bitter on the journey out from Manhattan too, but nothing like this.  This is bleakness without respite. An hour in the subway was an hour shielded from the wind, and now it was almost noon and already threatening snow."

When I read the overview, I really thought this would be a "me" book. I'm hoping it's a good one.

Would you read more?