Tuesday, January 12, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - My Grandmother's Braid; Alina Bronsky and The Push; Ashley Audrain

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon. 

 My Grandmother's Braid; Alina Bronsky
                                                                       Europa - 2021


'I can remember the exact moment Grandfather fell in love.  In my eyes, he was ancient--already over fifty--and his new, delicate secret hit me with a wave of admiration tempered by schadenfreude. Up to then I'd always thought that I was my grandparents' only problem.

I sensed that Grandmother wasn't supposed to know about it. She's already threatened to kill him for far less offenses, like when he crumbled bread during dinner."

The intro made me smile.  I already love the narrator from the brief paragraph above and, I can't wait to read more.   What do you think?  I hope to start this one today.

BTW - I had to look up:  Definition of schadenfreude enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

                          This week I'm featuring a second new book that has me somewhat curious:

                                                               The Push; Ashley Audrain
                                               Pamela Dorman Books and Penguin Audio - 2021

"It is often said that the first sound we hear in the womb is our mother's heartbeat.  Actually, the first sound to vibrate our newly developed hearing apparatus is the pulse of our mother's blood through her veins and arteries.  We vibrate to that primordial rhythm even before we have ears to hear.  Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother's ovary. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother.  This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother's womb and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother.  We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother's blood before she herself is born." 

(Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women)

(I just started the audio version, read by Marin Ireland, and am enjoying it thus far.)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

2021 - Book #3 - Fifty Words for Rain; Asha Lemmie


TITLE/AUTHOR: Fifty Words for Rain Asha Lemmie



GENRE: Fiction Historical

FORMAT:  Print/LENGTH: 463 pp.

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s): Japan

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: A touching coming of age story about a biracial girl growing up in post WWII Japan.

BRIEF REVIEW:  Noriko (Nori) Kamiza is a biracial child born to a woman from a prominent Japanese aristocratic family; her father a black, American G.I.  An embarrassment to the prominent family, the story begins in 1948 with eight year old Nori being dropped off with a suitcase at the iron gates of her grandparents estate.  Upon her arrival she is hidden up in an attic and is forced to endure painful bleaching scrub baths in an effort to lighten her skin color. She's a bright girl who learns to read, write and do math as well; she does what she is told. When Akira, the older half-brother that Nori never knew about arrives to live at the estate after his father's death, it is a lucky break for Nori. Akira, the likely heir to the grandparents fortunes, turns out to be an advocate for her. He shows her kindness, teaches her about music and helps her gain some freedom like being able to spend time outdoors.  However, grandmother is not happy about the closeness of the half-siblings and will do whatever is necessary to keep the them apart.

The story spans a few decades and although it starts out rather sad, the book is not all doom and gloom and there are some moments of joy as well.  This was an impressive debut novel even though at times I felt the Nori character felt inconsistent. I think this would make a very good book club discussion choice. I forgot just how much I really enjoy historical fiction whenever I read it.  I also liked the setting of post-WWII Japan.

RATING: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2021 - Book #2 -Those People; Louise Candlish


TITLE/AUTHORThose People; Louise Candlish



GENRE: Fiction / Domestic Suspense

FORMAT:  eGalley PP/LENGTH: 370 pp.

SOURCE: Net Galley

SETTING(s): An upscale neighborhood in South London, U.K.

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: What's a neighborhood of seemingly peaceful people to do when the new people on the block disrupt that friendly mix?

BRIEF REVIEW: Someone has died in a terrible accident as this novel opens, was it an accident or something more sinister?  As the police begin to interview the neighbors as to what transpired leading up to the tragedy, readers begin to learn more about each neighbor as well as the newbies: Darren & Jodie Booth who inherited the house next door eight weeks earlier.  

Haven't we all had an annoying neighbor at one time or another? It was easy to dislike the new couple, at least early on. The Booths turned the lovely street into what looked like a used car lot out front. The place was a construction zone with extensive renovations happening and loud music playing to name a few of the annoyances. When neighbors try to voice their issues in a civilized manner, nothing changes. 

This is a story where class divide comes into play.  Some neighbors seemed to feel they were better than the new people, especially when they saw their unwritten rules to conform ignored.  The story was pretty good and had a lot of potential but, I thought it could have been better.  I found it hard to keep all of the neighbors, as well as their various issues and secrets straight.  It would have been nice to have a feel where each of them lived on the street in relationship to each other.  If you enjoy domestic thrillers/suspense stories, you might want to add "Those People" to your list. 

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES: “It was in her hand, as everyone’s was these days, as if phones were dialysis machines that could not be out of reach without life-threatening consequences.” 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Fifty Words for Rain; Asha Lemmie

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon. 

                                                         Fifty Words for Rain; Asha Lemmie

                                                                        Dutton - 2020


Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Summer 1948

"The first real memory Nori had was pulling up to that house. For many years afterward, she would try to stretch the boundaries of her mind further, to what came before that day.  Time and time again, she'd lie on her back in the stillness of the night and try to recall.  Sometimes she'd catch a glimpse in her head of a tiny apartment with lurid yellow walls. But the image would disappear as quickly as it came, leaving no sense of satisfaction in its wake.  And so if you asked her, Nori would say that her life had officially begun the day she laid eyes on that imposing estate that rested serenely between the crests of two green hills. It was a  stunningly beautiful place--there was no denying it--and yet, despite this beauty, Nori felt her stomach clench and her gut churn at the sight of it.  Her mother rarely took her anywhere, and somehow she knew that something was waiting for her there that she would not like."

What do you think pass or read more? I loved the sound of this from the first time I read about it on Judy's Blog, Keep the Wisdom.  I'm enjoying this one so far.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2021 - Book #1 - Sleepless Nights; Elizabeth Hardwick

TITLE/AUTHOR: Sleepless NightsElizabeth Hardwick

PUBLISHER: New York Review Book Classics

YEAR PUBLISHED: 1979 (reprint - 2001)

GENRE: Fiction (partially autobiographical) 

FORMAT: print/trade paperback PP/LENGTH: 128 pp.

SOURCE: my shelves/purchased

SETTING(s): US: Kentucky, NY, Maine, Vermont, CT and Europe

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: An elderly woman writes the story of her life through memories.

BRIEF REVIEW: My first book of 2021, just 128 pages, was not the kind of story I'm normally drawn to, but it was one that I enjoyed reading.  It was written by the author when she was 63 years old and is partially autobiographical.

Intro paragraph --"It is JUNE.  This is what I have decided to do with my life just now.  I will do this work of transformed and even distorted memory and lead this life, the one that I am leading today.  Every morning the blue clock and the crocheted bedspread with its pink and blue and gray squares and diamonds.  How nice it is--this production of a broken old woman in a squalid nursing home.  The niceness and the squalor and sorrow in an apathetic battle--that is what I see.  More beautiful is the table with the telephone, the books and magazines, the Times at the door, the birdsong of rough, grinding trucks in the street."

From her Kentucky childhood, one of nine children to grad school at Columbia in NY we get a feel for the old smoky jazz clubs  of NY and long gone hotels of years passed. Traveling to her large summer home in Maine and to stays in Boston, Vermont, Connecticut and Europe we follow her life, her friends, her experiences in an unsentimental sort of way.  

The story is very visual, the writing excellent, it almost had a dreamlike quality at times. Although the writing style was a bit unconventional, it felt all the more personal to me, like I was an old friend that she was reliving her past experiences with.  I'm happy I started the New Years with this book from my shelves. -- quite, reflective, memorable.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars


"Darwin wrote someplace that suffering of the lower animals throughout time was more than he could bear to think of."

" Divorces and separation - that is one way to get attention. Everyone examines their own state and some say: strange, they were much happier than we are."

On deciding to sell her large home in Maine ----"For the rest of loss, perhaps my memories betray me a little and bleach the darkness of the scene, the agitation of the evenings. I am aware as anyone of the appeal, the power of the negative. Well, we go from one graven image to the next and, say what you will, each house is a shine."

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year - 2021 Reading Goals / Challenges

Wishing all my readers a Happy New Year. My love, good health and happiness make 2021 special.

I've been thinking a lot about 2021 reading. The past (2) years I've read between (135-142 books). This year's goal will be (125) so i won't feel any pressure. 

It seems like we will still be spending a lot of time home, at least for the first half of 2021 so I wanted to have more focus with on what I'm reading.  I want to read more books that I "purchased" over the years: physical books,  eBooks and audio books.  I really enjoy mysteries and thrillers so I'll try to read more of those in 2021 as well which will include some vintage mysteries as well. I alway start out with good intentions but, then plans fall apart or become less important LOL.

When I first started blogging in 2008, I joined loads of reading challenges each year but, have gotten away from that in recent years. Below are (3) challenges that seem to fit my goals which I decided to do informally:

                                                          (2-3 per month from my purchased books)

                                             (Reading the States will be an ongoing challenge)

1. Alabama
2. Alaska
3. Arizona
4. Arkansas
5. California
6. Colorado
7. Connecticut
8. Delaware
9. Florida
10. Georgia
11. Hawaii
12. Idaho
13. Illinois
14. Indiana
15. Iowa
16. Kansas
17. Kentucky
18. Louisiana
19. Maine
20. Maryland
21. Massachusetts
22. Michigan
23. Minnesota
24. Mississippi
25. Missouri
26. Montana
27. Nebraska
28. Nevada
29. New Hampshire
30. New Jersey
31. New Mexico
32. New York
33. North Carolina
34. North Dakota
35. Ohio
36. Oklahoma
37. Oregon
38. Pennsylvania
39. Rhode Island
40. South Carolina
41. South Dakota
42. Tennessee
43. Texas
44. Utah
45. Vermont
46. Virginia
47. Washington
48. West Virginia
49. Wisconsin
50. Wyoming

                                                             (Visit 20+ different countries)

(Goal 12 - one per month)
  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

Of course, I still plan to read favorite authors, some new releases, a few memoirs and other non-fiction as well as some literary fiction.

                                      Have you set any goals or joined any challenges for 2021?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Favorite Reads of 2020

I think we are all ready to say goodbye to 2020 but, didn't it start out with so much promise, didn't most of us have some fun plans in store? How quickly our lives can change in the blink of an eye.  I'm ready for 2021, very ready, but, I don't think my personal life will change much until most people are vaccinated. Although I missed not seeing my loved as often as in previous years. I'm thankful we did see them but always outdoors and, winter in New England that is not so easy. 2020 was a good year for solitary activities like reading, home projects and extra walks, don't you agree?  I was surprised that with more indoor time I read (6) fewer books this year.  I was pretty sure it would have been more.  Well here's to 2021 and for those of you who are interested here's what my 2020 in reading looked like :

Books Read in 2020 - 135 and (9 that I abandoned) GoodReads Goal was 125

  • (22) NF (113) FICTION
  • (34) MALE authors (101) FEMALE
  • (19) CHILDREN'S books
  • (51) AUDIO books
  • (38) PRINT books - (25) of these were print books off my shelves
  • (46) eBOOKS
  • (43) library borrows (print or library audio downloads)
  • (37,867) pages (GoodReads tracker)
Things To Do Differently in 2021
  • Although I started out tracking the locales from the books I read early on, I didn't keep up the list. I'd love to look back and see the different places where my reading took me. I know it's still doable but, don't have the patience so, "note to self, keep a list of settings in 2021".
  • Read more books from my shelves - sadly only (25) print books moved off my shelves in 2020 and were given away or donated. I only purchased about (5) print books in 2020 but about (20) eBooks and (13) audiobooks. "note to self, buy fewer books and read what I already have - borrow the rest from the library."
  • Join a couple of new challenges to help me meet my goals and make reading even more fun (more about that in a few days). When I first started blogging I joined lots of challenges but, the last (8) years or so I've mostly done only the RIP in the fall.
  • Another thing I noticed that makes me kind of sad is that ALL of my favorite books were published in 2019 or 2020. Why? Because, I'm drawn to new releases yet, there are so many older books that I want to read. "Note to self - read the favorites from years gone by that are still on my TBR list."
I'm sure there are other things that I'd like to do differently but, I that's the plan right now for 2021. 

                                                          NOW for My FAVORITES
                                                            (in no particular order)                        

                                                               Favorite Kids Books of 2020

                                                         Favorite Non-Fiction of 2020
                                                            Favorite Fiction Reads of 2020

(Favorite Fiction of 2020 continued)
I can't wait to see all of your 2020 favorites. Are you planning any changes for 2021?