Tuesday, March 2, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Quiet in Her Bones; Nalini Singh

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. 

                                                           Quiet in Her Bones; Nalini Singh
                                                                         Berkley - 2021


My mother vanished without a trace ten years ago.  

So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash from my father's safe.

The police came.

The neighbors whispered that she was a thief.

My father called her a bitch.

"She'll turn up and when she does, I'll have her in handcuffs!"

That's what he said. That's what he screamed.

He was right.

It took ten years, but she has turned up.

The police found her car in the dense bush of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park four hours ago.  She was inside. Well, her bones were anyway.  Those bones were clothed in the remnants of the red silk shirt she was wearing that night.

The night I heard her scream.

What do you think, read more or pass?  I actually chose this one because the setting is New Zealand and, I can't recall reading anything that has taken place there previously but,  I can't wait to begin - finishing something else up right now.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 2021 in Review

It was a snowy February, over a foot of the white stuff here I'm sure, but, the weather is starting to warm a bit with (2) rainy days to help with the melting. More time spent indoors this month for sure but, it was a good month for reading.  I read (16) books of which (5) were lovely books for younger kids.  I do have some good news: My husband gets his second vaccine on Wednesday and, my darling, determined daughter scored me appointments for both vaccines yesterday - #1 vaccine appointment on Wednesday, different location from the hub but only about 10 miles from home.  Honestly, I was so happy, just thinking that by the third week of April I will be having coffee with a vaccinated friend and hopefully getting out more, I just can't wait until the younger family members are vaccinated as well.  Have any of you been vaccinated yet?

READING: My reading choices for February were mostly winners so I was pleased.

I read (16) books and had (2) DNF.

(5) children's books

(14) Fiction

(2) Non Fiction

(9) print books - (6) from my shelves of which (5) were sent by publishers and (3) from library

(4) audio books - (2)  library  download and (1) publisher download (1) purchased

(3) eBooks/eGalleys - (3) publisher downloads

(13) female authors  (YTD) (25)

(3) male authors       (YTD) ( 6)

YTD Total (30)

Countries traveled to through the books I've read:  United Kingdom (3X),  Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Tehran

In the US, I visited Massachusetts (3X) and California (2X) - funny how that happened??

                                             Some of Favorite Books Read in February

Complete List of February Reads

  1. We Run the Tides; Vendela Vida (4/5) Setting: San Francisco, CA
  2. Good Morning Zoom, Lindsay Rechler - 3/5
  3. Will the Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Caitlin Doughty (NF) (4/5)
  4. Migrations; Charlotte McConaghy - (5/5) Setting: Ireland, Australia, Greenland
  5. Champ and Major: First Dogs, Joy McCullough - (5/5)
  6. The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett; Annie Lyons (4/5) Setting: UK
  7. The Murder at the Vicarage; Agatha Christie - (3/5) Setting: England
  8. Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence; B. Cooper - (NF) 4/5
  9. Ella's Night Lights, Lucy Fleming - 4.5/5
  10. No Buddy Like a Book; Alan Wolf - 5/5
  11. See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog; David LaRochelle - 4.5/5
  12. Nature of Fragile Things; Susan Meissner - 4.5/5 Setting: CA
  13. A Girl Returned; Donatella DiPetrantonio - 5/5 Setting: Italy
  14. Before She Disappeared, Lisa Gardner - 4/5 Setting Mattapan, MA
  15. The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali - 4.5/5  Setting: Tehran and Massachusetts
  16. A Month in the Country; J.L.Carr - 5/5 Setting: Oxgodby England

DNF  - February (2) ( Because Life is too short to read bad books) (YTD) - (4)

March Plans

How did your month go? Any exciting plans for March?

Friday, February 26, 2021

2021 - #30 - A Month in the Country; J.L. Carr

TITLE/AUTHORA  Month in the Country,  J.L. Carr



GENRE: Fiction Classics

FORMAT:  print PP/LENGTH: 135 pp

SOURCE: my shelves

SETTING(s):  Oxgodby England

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A quiet yet deeply moving story about the calming effects of a peaceful environment and power of art to heal ones suffering.

BRIEF REVIEW:  In the summer of 1920 Tom Birkin is a WWI veteran suffering the after effects of war. He has taken a job in the country, in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby, restoring a medieval wall mural of Judgment Day, that had long been covered up in a rural church. The project is funded by a deceased benefactor yet, the Vicar Keach is not very happy to have Birkin there.

Tom spends long days up on the scaffolding and quiet nights sleeping on his thick woolen coat up in the belfry.  The work and atmosphere are calming , helpful in the recovery process having seen the horrors of war. There is also another veteran, Charles Moon who had been hired to work on locating a grave of an excommunicated member of the church.  As Tom's work extends longer than planned, the vicar is not too happy and anxious for him to move on.  His lovely wife Alice, unhappy in what appears to be a loveless marriage enjoys spending time talking with Tom.  There is also the Ellerbeck family who welcomes Tom into their home and brings him food offerings.  So it isn't a surprise that the job seems to be taking more of the summer than anticipated.

Told in the first person this is a short, stunning literary piece, as the author looks back nearly six decades after his "month in the country." I loved the writing and all of the intricate details whether it was of the rural landscape, details of church, the belfry or even the people Tom interacts with.  The setting was so tranquil, I felt calm and peaceful myself reading this one and I wanted it to last longer.  I thought the ending was bittersweet. 

I purchased this one along with a dozen or so other NYRB Classics over the last 5-10 years, such well-written literature and lovely to look at on the shelves as well.  This is the second NYRB I've finished in 2021. Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick, is another that I enjoyed. It was my first book of 2021.

RATING: 5/5 stars (Don't Miss It)


"The marvelous thing was coming into this haven of calm water and, for a season, not having to worry my head with anything but uncovering their wall-painting for them.  And, afterwards, perhaps I could make a new start, forget what the war and the rows with Vinny had done to me and begin where I'd left off.  This is what I need,  I thought -- a new start and, afterwards, maybe I won't be a casualty anymore."

"If I'd stayed there, would I always have been happy?  No. I suppose not.  People move away, grow older, die and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never, we must snatch at happiness as it flies."

Thursday, February 25, 2021

2021 - #29 - The Stationery Shop; Marjan Kamali


TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

PUBLISHERSimon and Schuster Audio


GENRE: Fiction 

FORMAT:  audio download PP/LENGTH: 9 hours and 13 min.

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s):  Tehran and US (MA)

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A story of young love, cultural divides and the road not taken.

BRIEF REVIEW:  The story begins in 2013 with an elderly woman visiting an elderly man in a nursing home in Massachusetts. The woman is Roya and the man, Bahman,  who she was planning on marrying 60 years earlier in Tehran.  It all began back in 1953 Tehran, at a "stationary shop" run by the kind Mr. Fakhri.  Roya, just 17 at the time loved to visit the store near her school to see the beautiful writing papers, colorful, specialized inks and lovely fountain pens as well as the lovely books the store had stocked.  The shop was the place where the owner introduced Roya to Brahman, a handsome young man with a love of poetry and a thirst for justice.  Before long the two planned to marry but, on the eve of the wedding violence, a coup, breaks out in the city square and Roya never sees Braham again. 

Sixty years later after a whole other life: college in CA, marriage to Walter, a good American man, and the birth of two children plus loss of one child, Roya has an opportunity to get the answers to questions that have haunted her for decades.

This is quite a sentimental story about young love and the what ifs about that road not taken.  I loved learning about the Iranian culture, customs, class systems and political climate. The descriptions of places, Persian foods , teas and spices were delightful.  The "stationery shop" reminded me of a place I used to spend many Saturdays when I was young, purchasing pretty writing paper, pens and stickers for letter writing to friends far away and, then I'd move a few isles over to browse the book shelves as well. Such a nice story, I think this would make a very good book group discussion story. as well  

I listened to the audio version, read by Mozhan Marno who did a very nice job, however,  there were a couple of occasions that I felt a little confused about who was speaking so I did wish that I had the print version or eBook instead.  Despite this I must say this was a nice change of pace kind of story for me from thrillers and mysteries - happy I tried this one.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES: "She could spend an entire afternoon just looking at fountain pens and ink bottles or flipping through books that spoke of poetry and love and loss."

"You might think that the world is complicated and full of lost souls, that people who've touched your life and disappeared will never be found, but in the end all of that can change."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2021 - #28 - Before She Disappeared; Lisa Gardner


TITLE/AUTHOR:  Before She Disappeared; Lisa Gardner



GENRE: Fiction Thriller

FORMAT:  eGalley PP/LENGTH: 395 pp.

SOURCE: NetGalley

SETTING(s):  Mattapan, MA

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  One woman on a mission to find the missing people others have forgotten about.

BRIEF REVIEW:  Frankie Elkin is a middle-aged woman and a recovering alcoholic who is obsessed with searching for cold case missing persons.  She travels light and lives dangerously. Her latest mission brings her to the Boston suburb of Mattapan, it's a place know for rival gang activity.   She gets a job as a bartender and a tiny apartment above the bar as long as she's willing to share it with a feral cat who comes and goes. When she's not working or talking with locals she off trying to work the cold case.

Her current missing person is a high school girl named Angelique Badeau who disappeared after school eleven months earlier.  The girl's backpack and cell phone were found in the bushes by the school.  It seems Angie may have even been spotted yet no one is talking.  Angelique has Haitian roots and was a bright girl who had dreams of being a doctor.  Her family and police are not happy about Frankie snooping around for answers, at least at first, but she persists.  

This is a stand alone novel that had some interesting characters. The story is told in the first person so that we slowly get a more intimate look at our troubled protagonist Frankie.  She's tough on the outside yet vulnerable and battling her own demons as her story unfolds. Then there is Stony, the bar owner who takes a chance hiring Frankie and, Viv the cook at the bar, who has taken a liking to Frankie and encouraging a romance between her and Detective Lotham.  The story is a slow build, and although some of what happens seemed a bit unrealistic, that it could have even been pulled off, overall I enjoyed the story quite a bit.  There were some tense moments with gang activity and a twist here and there as well. I'd like to read more about Frankie should she appear in another offering.

RATING: 4/5 stars

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Stationery Shop. Marjan Kamali

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. 

                                                       The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

                                                          Simon and Schuster Audio - 2019

Chapter One


The Center

"I made an appointment to see him."

She said it as if she were seeing the dentist or a therapist or the pushy refrigerator salesman who had promised her and Walter a lifetime guarantee of cold milk and crisp vegetables and unspoiled cheese if only they would buy this brand-new model.

Walter dried the dishes, his gaze on the kitchen towel and its print of a yellow chick holding an umbrella. . He didn't argue. Walter Archer's penchant for logic, his ability to let reason trump all, was a testament to Roya's own good judgment. For hadn't she married a man who was reasonable and, my goodness, unbelievably understanding?  Hadn't she, in the end not married that boy, the one she had met so many decades ago in a small stationery shop in Tehran, but lassoed her life instead to this Massachusetts-born pillar of stability? This Walter. Who ate a hard-boiled egg for breakfast almost every single day, who said as he dried the dishes, "If you want to see him, the you should. You've been a bit of a wreck, I'm afraid."

What do you think, read more or pass?  I came across this one while searching library audio downloads.  So far so good and a nice narration as well.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

2021 - #27 - A Girl Returned, Donatella DiPietrantonio


TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Girl Returned, Donatella DiPietrantonio

PUBLISHER: Europa Editions


GENRE: Fiction 

FORMAT:  print PP/LENGTH: 170 pp.

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s):  Italy

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A coming of age story about a girl caught between two families.

BRIEF REVIEW:  On what started out as an ordinary day in August of 1975, our unnamed narrator, just thirteen years old, is driven by the man she called "uncle," the man who lived with her mother, to now live with her "other mother" who she did not know.  All she is told was that her mother was sick and that this new family was her real family.

Now in the mountain town of Abruzzo, instead of being the only child, living in a nice home by the sea, she has been thrust into a chaotic household with 4 other children and too little of everything.  In this home the siblings must even fight for food.  Despite the trauma of being removed from the only family she had known,  our narrator develops a special relationship with the younger sister Adriana, 3 years her junior. The sisters become each others protector.  Over the course of a year although she receives money and gifts from her other mother, it isn't until almost the end of the novel that the mystery surrounding why she was taken from one family and given to another is revealed.

This is a brief novella, just 170 pages, and such a compelling coming-of-age story. My heart went out to the unnamed narrator, referred to only as the "Arminuta " (the returned), she was such a bright girl, a good student and a good daughter who struggled to understand why she was taken from her home so suddenly and forced to live with another family. The story was translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein who has translated all the Elena Ferrante works.  A wonderful story, I loved how it ended as well.  Highly Recommended.

RATING: 5/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  "One had given me up with her milk still on my tongue, the other had given me back at the age of thirteen. I was a child of separations, false or unspoken kinships, distances. I no longer knew who I came from. In my heart I don't even know now."