Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Girl He Used to Know; Tracey Garvis Graves

AUTHOR:  Tracey Garvis Graves
PUBLISHER:  St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  Illinois
FORMAT:  - library print (291pp)
RATING - 4.5/5

Second chance romance stories are not the kind of story that normally appeals to me but, this one was a winner. I sat down, it pulled me in and, I read it in one sitting.

Annika Rose is a quirky young woman who has always struggle to fit in.  It's evident that she is somewhere on the autism spectrum: loud noises, strong smells, uncomfortable clothes, debilitating shyness and social situations are things she finds hard to deal with.  

Annika - "simply preferred the company of animals over most humans, the soulful look in their eyes as they learned to trust me sustained me more than any social situation ever would."

In 1991 Annika attended the University of Illinois and with encouragement from her friend Janice, she decided to join the chess club, something she was good at.  Her father taught her to play at age 7 to help her build confidence and deal with her shyness.  It's there, playing chess, where she meets Jonathan, a kind-hearted guy who patient enough to bring Annika out of her shell.  After college they go their separate ways, he off to NYC with a job on Wall Street and she in her dream job as a librarian at the Harold Washington Library.

Annika - "If there was one thing I loved almost as much as animals, it was books.  Reading transported me to exotic locales, fascinating periods in history and worlds that were vastly different from my own."

Now in 2001 (where the story begins) the two run into each other at a grocery store. She's living the safe, comfortable life as a librarian she wanted and Jonathan is back in Illinois. He was injured in the 9/11 attacks in NYC, now newly divorced and looking for a fresh start.

Even though it's easy to see where this story was headed, it was such an endearing read and I couldn't wait to see it play out. I liked the back and forth backstory from their college days to 2001 when they reconnected.  The first person POV worked well, making it easy feel for Annika, her social struggles and encounters with being teased and bullied. If you are in the mood for a feel-good read, be sure to try this one.

The (2) quotes I shared  reminded me of why I love animals and books so much.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls; Anissa Gray

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 they are reading or that they plan to read. 

Penguin Random House (Berkley) - 2019


"You do a lot of thinking in jail.  Especially when you're locked in the box that's your cell.  Mine is about as big as the walk-in closet I had back at home, but in place of clothes, I've got bunk beds, a stainless-steel sink-and-toilet combo, and a compact, padlocked cabinet.  The cabinet's where you keep you valuables, like family pictures, commissary, and letters, including the one from your daughter that's not addressed to you.  The letter that, truth be told, you just can't bring yourself to read, so you've got it tucked inside the bible that belonged to your dead mother."

Would you pass or keep reading?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Mailbox Monday - New Books

I haven't participated in MM in a long while but I did have new books to share so thought I'd join it. Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and now hosted on its own blog.  Here's what arrived over the last (2) weeks by mail.

Are any of these ones that you plan to read?

and a gratuitous Lucy in the Cat bag photo

(she and Ricky turned "1" last week)


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Daisy Jones and the Six; Taylor Jenkins Reid

AUTHOR:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
PUBLISHER:  Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  mostly CA
FORMAT:  - audio (9 hrs)
RATING - 4/5

I'm pleased that I decided on the audio version of this book with its (4) different narrators, which made for some very distinct and enjoyable story telling. This is an interview style driven story and although at times the voices sounded depressed or drugged, it worked well considering the book was about sex, drugs and rock n roll.

Set in the 1970's, a booming time for the music industry, Daisy Jones is just a pretty young teen of 14 who happens to have a voice like Janis Joplin.  Her parents are hippies and not into parenting, as a result, she stays out all night and hooks up with LA's Sunset Strip jet set.  Her dream is to write songs but, with her dynamic voice it isn't long before she is a natural for to Billy and Graham Dunne's band, The Six.  The group is an overnight sensation.  Billy and Daisy marry and have a love/hate relationship fueled by drugs and alcohol.  Their story, much like a train wreck, is hard to turn away from.

Initially, I was playing on passing on this book, but when I read the analogy to: Fleetwood Mac, a group I just loved, I had to try it for myself.  I loved hearing the stories of various group members, so passionate about their music and very much into living for the moment.  The story was a very fun trip to an earlier time when music was everything it seemed.  The music scene is beautifully captured by this author and while some of the characters seemed to recall important events a bit differently, the overall story worked well.  The band split for good in 1979. 

Normal People; Sally Rooney

AUTHOR:  Sally Rooney
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING:  Ireland
FORMAT:  - eGalley (268pp)
RATING - 4/5

Normal People is a quiet coming of age story which drew me in immediately as it's a story about early relationships and missed opportunities.

Marianne and Connell are both very bright but couldn't be more different, Yet when they meet, something clicks. Marianne's a cold, emotionless teen who comes from a wealthy but dysfunctional family. She's awkward and others her age think she's just plain odd. Connell is handsome and popular, his family is poor and his mother is a cleaning lady for Marianne's family.  One day when he goes to pick his mother up at Marianne's house, they begin to chat and soon become friends and eventually sexual partners.  Fearing he will be teased by his peers if their relationship is found out, he wants them to keep things secret and just between them. She goes along with this, probably because she's used to be mistreated, at least emotionally, by her own family.

The following year both Marianne and Connell end up at Trinity College in Dublin but here their roles seem reversed. Marianne becomes the popular one, a social butterfly and it's Connell who's feeling insecure, shy, depressed and like he doesn't fit it. Although they come in and out of togetherness, they always seem drawn back to each other.

The story is told from both of their POVs and although well written, at times I felt a bit frustrated by the story and the failure by both to communicate what they were feeling.  It reminded me about just how very much we are a product of our upbringing.  I also wish that the author delved more into Marianne's family and why she was treated the way she was growing up.

There are many themes running through this novel: social class differences, relationship dynamics, mental health issues, bullying, young love and more. A deeply drawn story with an overall darker tone. I'm glad I read it and, the more I've thought about this one, the more my opinion changed a bit overall to a slightly more favorable rating.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Stone for Danny Fisher; Harold Robbins

AUTHOR:  Harold Robbins
PUBLISHER:  Blackstone Audio 
PUB. YEAR: (1952 - original pub) (2007-audio)
FORMAT:  - Audible - almost 16 hours
RATING - 5/5

Set around the Depression era, we meet the central character, Danny Fisher, as a young Jewish boy growing up in Brooklyn.  His father, a pharmacist, has just purchased their first home, which he tells Danny is for him even though Danny has a sister. Danny loves his new house, but he quickly learns that he must learn to be tough. 

Because it's the depression, his family falls on hard times and are forced to leave Danny's beloved home and move to the lower east side to become renters once again.  Danny hates seeing what is happening to his family and must also contend with bullies, racists and violence on the streets of NY.  He learns to box so that he can be tough and, he finds that he is quite good at it as well.  All the while as Danny is trying to find his place in the world, his actions cause problems between him and his family, when in reality he is only trying to make things easier for his mother and father. 

Beautifully written, detailed, and emotional at times, A Stone for Danny Fisher, is a wonderful story about a lost childhood and the consequences of poor life choices. Harold Robbins knew how to write with a eye for detail. The intricate details are never boring, instead they drew me into the story even deeper, making me feel what Danny was feeling at times.  

There are some heavy subjects detailed here: anti semitism, bullies, prostitution, sex, violence and corruption. Not since Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, have I been so moved by a story.  Charles Leggett who narrated this audio book was absolutely outstanding. This is one of the best audio book stories I've ever listen more to and, although the audio is almost 15 hours, we couldn't wait to get back to this story every chance we got. Try it sometime, I'm betting you will enjoy it as well.