Tuesday, July 23, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Chances Are; Richard Russo

On Tuesdays, Vicki, ( I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (or 2 ) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read.

This is my second book this month that takes place at least in part in 1969 - 50 years ago. The last book was, Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand - loved it but no review yet.

1969 - 50 years ago: Woodstock, Bobby Kennedy assassination, Vietnam war, Apollo moon landings, the last Beatles concert and so many more memorable events. I was in high school in then - definitely old enough to remember what a wild year it had been.  

Today's featured book is a story about 3 male friends (all 66 years old in the present). The story also flashes back to 1969 and something that happened back then....I'm about 50% through and it's really a good story by a talented author.

Chances Are; Richard Russo


The three old friends arrived on the island in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, practically cross-country from Las Vegas; Teddy, a small-press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer, from nearby Cape Cod. All were sixty-six years old and had attended the same liberal arts college in Connecticut where they'd slung hash at a campus sorority.  The other hashers, invariably frat boys, claimed to be there by choice, because so many of the Thetas were hot, whereas Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey were scholarship students doing the job out of varying degrees of economic necessity. Lincoln, as good-looking as any of the frat boys, was immediately made a face man,  which meant donning a scratchy white waist-length jacket serve the girls in the sorority's dining room.  Teddy, who worked at a restaurant during his junior and senior years of high school, became a cook's helper, making salads, stirring sauces, plating entrees and desserts. Mickey? They took one look and escorted him over to a sink where a mountain of dirty pots sat piled alongside a large cardboard box of off-brand steel scrubbers. Such was their freshman year.  By the time they were seniors, Lincoln has made head hasher and could offer both his friends positions in the dining room.  Teddy, who'd had enough of the kitchen, promptly accepted, but Mickey said he doubted there was a serving jacket big enough to fit him.  Anyway, he preferred remaining a kitchen slave to making nice with the fancy girls out front, since at least the galley was his own."

Does this seem like one you'd want to read?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

If She Wakes; Michael Koryta

TITLE: If She Wakes
AUTHOR:  Michael Koryta
PUBLISHER: Little Brown & Co (400 pp)
PUB. YEAR: 2019
RATING - 4/5

Tara Beckley is a senior at Hammel College in Maine. She's in charge of driving a visiting professor, Amandi Oltamu to deliver a keynote address at a conference but things don't go as planned.  The professor had been acting strangely and made a few unusual requests of Tara. One of those requests was that Tara stop the car and that they take a selfie of the two of them for social media. Tara complies and Professor O is struck and killed outside of the car. Tara is left in a vegetative state but, oddly, she can hear everything that is being said around her.

Abby Kaplan is an investigator hired by the university to look into this accident. It doesn't take long for her to see that things just don't add up and that this was no accident, it was most likely a "hit".  As Tara lies in her hospital bed,  hearing everything that is being said she learns that someone wants her dead as well - but why?

 This thriller had an odd set up to get the story moving but once it took off I felt like there was good character development and a fast moving plot. There was a young hitman and a few other interesting characters, as well as some unsuspecting twists that made this a thriller pretty decent read overall. I found myself quickly turning the pages to find out how it would all turn out. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand

On Tuesdays, Vicki, ( I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (or 2 ) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read.

Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown & Company - 2019

Fortunate Son

"When the Selective Service notice comes for Tiger, Kate's first instinct is to throw it away. Surely, this is every mother's first instinct? Pretend it got lost in the mail, buy Tiger a few more weeks of freedom before the U.S. Army sends another letter--by which time, this god-awful war in Vietnam might be over.  Nixon has promised to end it.  There are peace talks going on right now in Paris.  Le Duan will succumb to the allure of capitalism or The will be assassinated and someone with better sense will take over.  Frankly, Kate doesn't care if Vietnam succumbs to the Communists. She wants to keep her son safe."

I started this yesterday and am really enjoying it, especially since I can relate to the time period. Does this one appeal to you? Is it on your summer reading list?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Summer Reading Check In and New Book Arrivals

Right before Memorial Day I posted a list of 10 Books I hoped to read this summer.  I haven't even looked at the list since then and was curious whether I stayed on plan or not. I was surprised to see that I've read 4/10 and am on a 5th one right now.  (None were outstanding but, a few were in solid reads) Here's an update:

  • Restoration Heights; Wil Medearis - A debut novel about a young artist, a missing woman, and the tendrils of wealth and power that link the art scene in Brooklyn to Manhattan’s elite, for fans of Jonathan Lethem and Richard Price (finished in June)
  • Drawing Home; Jamie Brenner - An unexpected inheritance, a promise broken, and four lives changed forever: discover "the gold standard of summertime escapism" from USA Today bestselling author Jamie Brenner (Elin Hilderbrand).
  • The Last Resort; Marissa Stapley - The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the “last resort” offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.
  • The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted; Robert Hillman - A tender and wise novel about love, family, and forgiveness in 1960s Australia, in which a lonely farmer finds his world turned upside down by a vibrant woman determined to open the first bookstore his town has ever seen--and to leave her haunting memories of the Holocaust far behind.
  • The Secretary; Renee Knight - A novel of psychological suspense about the intricate power struggle between a prominent female executive and her faithful personal assistant—and its explosive consequences. (finished-June)
  • If She Wakes; Michael Koryta - "an edgy suspense story...that brilliantly plays on the primal fear of being buried alive."―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review (finished July - no review yet)
  • Man of the Year; Caroline Louise Walker - Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinnerand Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.
  • The Ditch; Herman Koch - The bracing and inventive new novel of suspicions and secrecy from Herman Koch, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dinner (finished - June)
  • Summer of 69; Elin Hilderbrand - Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a summer when everything changedin New York Timesbestselling author Elin Hilderbrand's first historical novel  (in progress-July)
  • The Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware -“Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel.” Kirkus Reviews

  • Are you enjoying your summer choices?


    I think it has been several weeks since I posted new books that arrived by mail from publishers. Take a peek, I thought they looked pretty good. Have you read any of them yet?

    Sunday, July 14, 2019

    Ask Again, Yes; Mary Beth Keane

    AUTHOR:  Mary Beth Keane
    PUBLISHER:  Simon and Schuster Audio (12+ hours)
    PUB. YEAR: 2019
    SETTING: New York
    FORMAT:  - eGalley/audio down load
    RATING - 5/5

    Set in the early 1970s, Ask Again, Yes, tells the story of two working class families over a period of about forty years. The men, Francis Gleason, an Irish immigrant and Brian Stanhope meet while attending NYC's police academy.  Francis quickly marries Anne, a nurse and Irish immigrant herself, and, although we don't learn until later, she's also mentally unstable.  Brian marries Lena,  Polish/Italian background, and soon after the two families become neighbors in a suburb outside of New York City.  Anne is standoffish and, when Peter, the couple's only child and Kate, the youngest of the 3 Stanhope daughters become very close, Anne doesn't want her son to spend time with Kate. In a fit of rage, Anne does something that shatters the lives of both families longterm.

    If you enjoy domestic fiction, this is it at it's finest. Completely engrossing and character driven, it's a story that pulled me right in. At times I felt like I was observing some of what happened first hand.  The characters seemed like everyday people and their experiences, although tragic at times, made the entire store feel that much more realistic.  The audiobook is read by Molly Pope who did and excellent job. This is one of my favorite reads of 2019 this far.

    Friday, July 12, 2019

    As We Are Now; May Sarton

    AUTHOR:  May Sarton
    PUBLISHER:  WW Norton
    PUB. YEAR: 1973
    SETTING: New England
    FORMAT:  - print/library (133 pp)
    RATING - 5/5

    I recently read about this book from JoAnn@ Lakeside Musing and, I'm so happy I decided to read it.

    It's not that often that I've read a book written from the perspective of a senior citizen, especially one in failing health.  Such is the case of Caroline (Caro) Spencer.

    Caro is 76 years old, a quiet, intelligent and sensitive woman. She never married and spent 40 years as a teacher.  When she suffers a heart attack, she's no longer able to navigate the stairs in her home and briefly moves in with her older brother John, 80, and his much younger wife, Ginny.  Soon after this brief stay, her brother drops her off at Twin Elms, a rural nursing home over 100 miles from where she once lived. He's not sure what to say so he remains quiet and quickly leaves.

    She tries to make the best of her situation. Caro is happy to have her own room with a nice view, as well as some music and poetry. She begins journaling as a way to preserve her failing memory. Some days she begins to doubt those memories. She calls her journal, "The Book of the Dead", as when someone discovers it, she knows that she will be dead. 

    On the days she sits outside, she pretends to be on vacation enjoying the scenery. She enjoys the times the resident cat, sneaks into her room for a visit.  She wonders where her brother John has been, he hadn't visited since he dropped her off. When he does eventually show up (4 weeks after he left her there) he only stays for fifteen minutes and once again remains quiet.

    What is not so pleasant about life at Twin Elms are the mother and daughter team that runs the home: Harriet and Rose. They seem to find a way to show their disapproval of things the residents do by withholding privileges or occasional niceties. Like in childhood, she's sent to bed without supper because of a tantrum. Deep down she is bitter and angry.

    So if this sounds like a downer of a story, it is, but, it is also seemed so honest and so beautiful. It's only 133 pages, and I loved it so much. It was written more like a journal with the first person narrative.  Highly recommended.