Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~ Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh
Penguin Press - 2015


"I looked like a girl you'd expect to see on a city bus, reading some clothbound book from the library about plants or geography, perhaps wearing a net over my light brown hair.  You might take me for a nursing student or a typist, note the nervous hands, a foot tapping, bitten lip. I looked like nothing special.  It's easy for mr to imagine this girl, a strange, young and mousy version of me, carrying an annonymous leather purse, or eating from a small package of peanuts, rolling each one between her gloved fingers, sucking her cheeks, staring anxiously out the window.  The sunlight in the morning illuminated the thin down on my face, which I tried to cover with pressed powder, a shade too pink for mywan complexion.  I was thin, my figure was jagged, my movements pointy and hesitant, my posture stiff.  The terrain of my face was heavy with soft, rambling acne scars blurring whatever delight or madness lay beneath that cold and deadly New England exterior.  If I'd worn glasses I could have passed for smart, but I was too impatient to be truly smart.  You'd have to expect me to enjoy the stillness of closed rooms, take comfort in dull silence, and gaze moving slowly across paper, walls, heavy curtains, thoughts never shifting from what my eyes identified--book, desk, tree, person.  But I deplored silence. I deplored stillness.  I hated almost everything. I was very unhappy and angry all the time.  I tried to control myself, and that only made me more awkward, unhappier, and angrier.  I was like Joan of Arc, or Hamlet, but born into the wrong life of a nobody, a waif, invisible.  There's no better way to say it: I was not myself back then.  I was someone else. I was Eileen."

What do you think, would you keep reading?

Feel free to join in by linking your post sharing the first paragraph of the book you are reading or planning to read soon. Link Below.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara

 A Little Life; Hanya  Yanagihara
Doubleday - March - 2015

When I first decided to read this book, I thought that the cover image was a terrible choice, however, after finishing this 700+ pp book over the course of a few weeks, I now think the image is perfect.  It so accurately depicts the emotional pain, physical pain and trauma experienced by the focus character, Jude, from childhood through adulthood. I loved this book. It is by far, the BEST book I've read in years.

A Little Life, is a novel about a 30 year friendship of 4 male college friends. Jean Baptiste (JB) a self-centered artist, Malcolm, an architect, Willem, a kind, caring man and actor, and Jude, a handsome, brilliant man who entered college at 16. He is now a successful, but deeply troubled attorney.  

Nick-named by his friends, Saint Jude, (Patron Saint of lost causes), Jude's friends really know very little about their friend. He keeps his painful childhood to himself. As an adult he is mostly crippled and, oftentimes he must rely on his wheelchair to get around.  He tells his friends he was in a car accident at the age of 15, but there is much more to that story than is initially revealed. Abandoned as an infant, he never knew anything about his parents, he was in and out of group homes, and he even spent years with monks at a monastery. 

Just when Jude felt there was some adult he could trust, his hopes were crushed by some cruel act by someone who he hoped had cared about him. When he thinks that his situation couldn't get any worst, it does.  His first gift ever was at the age of 5, a fossil which he cherished, given to him by Brother Luke, a monk who would later betray him.

It is difficult to say to much more without revealing spoilers -- there are several reviews out there that give away way too many details, which will spoil the reading experience for others. The story is well paced and I was quickly drawn into the story and into Jude's dark world, and his past and present pain and trauma, which is slowly revealed. Even when he is in a happy situation, he can't stop himself from dwelling on the fact he feels so unworthy of any form of happiness.

Although the story was sad, heartbreaking really, the reader will also see that there is much kindness toward Jude by his friends and others who truly cared about him. Willem, who is guardedly allowed to be part of Jude's life. Harold, a former Harvard Law professor, who wants to adopt Jude as his own son, and Andy, a friend and doctor who is there for Jude when he desperately needed someone to help him. 

A Little Life, cuts deep; it's real and gritty, yet beautiful as well. It's a book that examines, the good, the bad and the ugly people and things in life. It forces the reader to think about the uncomfortable things in life, the life long effects of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and trauma.  It makes you wonder whether, even as adults, with supportive individuals ones side, is it ever possible to free oneself from the trauma of the past?  This book is certainly not a good choice for the faint of heart reader -- individuals who shy away from graphic descriptions of abusive situations in various forms.  This is one of those stories that will stick in my mind forever. I am so very happy I read this book, it makes my less than perfect childhood seem almost normal after reading this book. Hanya Yanagihara is a talented individual. In fact, I just started reading her debut novel, The People in the Trees, which I am also enjoying. 

Thanks to John Pitts, VP from Doubleday for providing me with a finished copy of this book.

5/5 stars

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

Can you believe it snowed here for a good 6 hours yesterday? Not much accumulated because it was mid 30s. but geez could you give us a break please?  The next week means Passover (Friday) and Easter (Sunday) celebrations for many -- we actually celebrate both. I'm especilly looking forward to a small family dinner. It will be fun putting together 3 small Easter baskets for the grandaughters, even though only the oldest will really enjoy it this year.  Do you have any special plans to celebrate?

Last Week's Reading and Reviews
  1. Fetch; Jorey Hurley - 5/5 (library) (March) (pre school)
  2. Findng Spring; Carin Berger 3.5/5 (library) (March) (preschool)
  3. Us, David Nicholls 4/5 (eGalley) (March)
  4. The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd 4.5/5 (eGalley) (March)
  • Last Night I finally finished A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara  - I took this 700 page book very very slow.  It's a wonderful, extremely well-written, but heart breaking story.  It will be hard to review without giving spoilers, but I'll try to write one this week. PLEASE - take the time to read this book - it is unlike anything that I have ever read in the past.  I LOVED it so much, I just began the audio version of the author's debut novel, The People in the Trees.

New Books - The last (2) weeks many new books arrived by mail [grin]. So many of these seem like real winners.

Enjoy your week everyone!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd
Viking - 2014

I'm not a huge fan of true stories that are later fictionalized, so when this book was first released, I was curious, but didn't rush out to read it. It's this month's discussion book at our library, so I decided to give it a try.

Sarah Grimke and her younger sister Angelina (Nina) were born into a wealthy, slave-holding, Charleston family in the early 1800s.  In real life, these sisters rebelled and became leading forces for women, fighting hard to abolish slavery, despite being ostracised by those closest to them.

The novel begins with Sarah being given her own personal slave for her eleventh birthday. The slave girl, Handful (Hetty), was presented to Sarah with a big fancy bow around her neck.  Even at her early age Sarah realizes what her parents have done is wrong. She refuses the gift, but realizes that she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. She is punished by her father and banned from his library, after she writes a document to "free" her newly gifted slave Handful.

Sarah is strong willed and realizes she may not win the battle, but wants to make Hetty's situation better for her.  Sarah secretly teaches Hetty to read, something that is clearly forbidden.  The connection between the two girls strengthens Sarah's determination to change the way things are as she matures. She fights hard against slavery and the treatment of women as second class citizens.

The story alternates from the POV of the women from as early as 1803 through1838.  I loved that the women had distinct voices. Hetty and her mother Charlotte were determined, resilient women who became top notch seamstresses, depite the fact neither were allowed to go to school.  The one thing that bothered me a bit was, what I felt, was the over use of the word "slave" -- just seemed so degrading.

I can see why this book has been a top pick for book groups everywhere as well as an Oprah pick. So many issues to discuss: women's issues, slavery, friendship, sisters, freedom and more.  It's a story that truly demostrates the plight of women at that time -- white women, as well as slave women at this point in history.  I thought about the title as well, and, it seems just so perfect "the invention of wings" to rise above what once was. Happy I had a chance to finally read this one.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Girl in the Moonlight; Charles Dubow

Girl in the Moonlight; Charles Dubow
William Morrow - May 2015


The author of Indiscretion returns with a scorching tale of love, passion, and obsession, about one man’s all-consuming desire for a beautiful, bewitching, and beguiling woman.
Since childhood, Wylie Rose has been drawn to the charming, close-knit Bonet siblings. But none affected him more than the enchanting Cesca, a girl blessed with incandescent beauty and a wild, irrepressible spirit.
Growing up, Wylie’s friendship with her brother, Aurelio, a budding painter of singular talent, brings him near Cesca’s circle. A young woman confident in her charms, Cesca is amused by Wylie’s youthful sensuality and trusting innocence. Toying with his devotion, she draws him closer to her fire—ultimately ruining him for any other woman.
Spanning several decades, moving through the worlds of high society, finance, and art, and peopled with poignant characters, Girl in the Moonlight takes us on a whirlwind tour, from the wooded cottages of old East Hampton to the dining rooms of Upper East Side Manhattan to the bohemian art studios of Paris and Barcelona. As he vividly brings to life Wylie and Cesca’s tempestuous, heart-wrenching affair, Charles Dubow probes the devastating depths of human passion and the nature of true love.

I loved the last book written by Charles Dubow, Indiscretion . Have you read it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Us, David Nicholls

Us, David Nicholls
Harper - 2014

Us, is a entertaining story about marital disharmony.

The narrator of the story is 54 year old Douglas Peterson who lives with his wife Connie and their 17 year old son Albie in the suburbs of London.  Albie is about to head off to college to study photography much to his father's displeasure about his area of interest. Douglas is a Bio Chemist. He;s practical, grounded and yes, sometimes pretty boring, and he just don't understand his son and his desire to study something like photography.

The family has planned a grand tour of all Europe before Albie ventures off. One last family celebration together. The night before the trip Connie tells Douglas that although she still loves him, she thinks she wants a divorce and that she will be leaving him after their family trip. She just isn't happy with their life together after 20 plus years together. She wants to experience more in life. Connie, an artist, and more of a free spirit is sontaneous and passionate about life and her husband is anything but.

On their trip traveling through Europe, the couple finds they have more and nore alone time especially after Albie takes off with a girl he has met.  Douglas now sees this as an opportunity to win back his wife.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks by Douglas over the couse of the couple's marriage. While Douglas was by no means the perfect father or husband, he had many endearing qualities that made me hope that things would turn out the way he wanted.  Although, I have to admit, if I were Douglas, I would have let both Connie and Albie leave home, as these two individuals irked me for a variety of reasons.  Douglas was the only character I ever cared about.

I think the author did a good job with this story. The family vacation throughout Europe provided the reader with some laugh-out-loud moments, but then some more serious moments when my heart went out to Douglas for the emotional pain he was dealing with.  Us, is not a perfect story, but one that I still enjoyed.  I think many readers who have been married 20 or more years will be able to relate to some of the marital disharmony experienced by this couple.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - The Door; Magda Szabo

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

The Door; Magda Szabo
NYRB Classics - 2015

(intro by Ali Smith)

The Door - 

"I seldom dream.  When I do, I wake with a start, bathed in sweat. Then I lie back, waiting for my frantic heart to slow, and reflect on the overwhelming power of night's spell.  As a child and young woman,  I had no dreams, either good or bad, but in old age I am confronted repeatedly with horrors from my past, all the more dismaying because compressed and compacted, and more terrible than anything I have lived through.  In fact nothing has ever happened to me of the kind that now drags me screaming from my sleep."

What do you think?
(Feel free to join us by linking your INTRO below)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Finding Spring; Carin Berger

 Finding Spring; Carin Berger
Greenwillow Books - 2015

After a rough winter, I was happy to find this new for 2015 title on my library book shelf. 

In this story a mother bear tires to convince her little cub, Maurice, that it's time to hibernate and sleep the winter away. Maurice has other ideas though, and while mama bear sleeps, Maurice ventures off to explore alone. [yikes wrong message here IMO]

While little Maurice is off on his own he meets other critters along the way and some mysterious white flakes falling from the sky as well.  He's convinced he has found spring. He finds his way back home to his mother bringing a snowball with him.  Once home he dozes off to sleep, and when he wakes he finds that his snowball has melted -- can spring be far away?

My favorite part of this book was the fantastic illustrations and handcut art work that details the forest and the change of seasons.  The story was cute enough, but honestly, to me it seemed to send the wrong message -- a little one sneaking out to explore while his mother slept.

the illustrations are even more beautiful up close

3.5/5 stars
(library book)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fetch; Jorey Hurley

 Fetch, Jorey Hurley
Simon & Schuster Kids - Pamela Wiserman Books

If a cat, like my lap friend Buddy, likes Fetch, you just know it's a terrific book.

Chidlren's author/illustrator Jorey Hurley knows how to create beautiful children's books. Her concept of less being more results in the perfect combination -- minimal words and gorgeous illustrations that creates a learning opportunity for little ones. Small pre-school children will not only learn to enjoy books but, will also learn about words at the same time.

In this simple story about a happy day at the beach, one dog spends his time playing in the sand and surf with his red ball.  Each turn of the page will show two lovely illustrations and one new word  to match the action on the page.  Little readers will learn the following words: search, splash, swim, dive, seek crash, meet, catch, run, play, float, find, give and again.

A beautiful book to add to the the collection and to pass down for others to enjoy.  The author's first book, Nest, was one that I loved and purchased. Fetch, is a "must buy" as well.

5/5 stars

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You ~ Inside the O'Briens; Lisa Genova

Inside the O'Briens; Lisa Genova
Gallery Books - April 2015


From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Do you plan to read this one?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Where Women Are Kings; Christie Watson

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

Where Women Are Kings; Christie Watson
Other Press - April 2015


"Being dead is like living inside a dream: only some things are real, but you don't know which ones.  It is so dark when I wake up that i feel dead again.  I have to move my fingers and toes to know I am still alive.  I died once, the first night I'd been away from Mama.  I was so dead then that I couldn't move anything.  Not even one toe."

Would you keep reading?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Blatherings - New Books and a Recipe

Good Morning Readers! How was your week?  I'm happy to report that we didn't have ANY snow in the last 8 days, so I'm hoping that means that Spring really is around the corner. With 3 days of mid 50's temps we saw lots of snow melting, and although there is still plenty of dirty snow to be found, patches of grass can be found here and there.

This week I finished the audio verion of Andy Weir's, The Martian. It's a book I never imagined I would enjoy, but it was terrific. If you like audiobooks, try this one.  I am deeply engrossed in, A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara, which is one of the best written works of literary fiction that I've read in a long while. It is a story about male college friendships, but focuses heavily on one of the indivivuals who had a horrific childhood. An extremely dark story, a hefty tome (700+), that I read in small doses ---it's so so good, but hard not to dwell on afterward. This book is sure to my my tops list this year -- so powerful and such a talented author.

A few new books arrived by mail last week. Have you read any of these?

Finally, I thought I would share this recipe. I made these healthier version of oatmeal cookies yesterday, adding dried cranberries to the recipe and they were delicious.  I used qiuck-steel cut oats.

Healthy Honey Oatmeal Cookies

Photo by Daffachoolapip
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Serves: 10, Yield: 30 cookies

About This Recipe

"These are easy to make! and healthy for you too (small amount of butter & sugar), but still so very sweet and wholesome. The cookies are chewy and go great with any other add-ins (raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips, etc.) Courtesy of FoodNetwork.com"


    • 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour ( all-purpose is good too)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats ( aka oatmeal)
    • chopped dates (optional) or figs (optional) or raisins (optional) or currants (optional) or chocolate chips (optional) or chopped nuts, etc (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray (just for convenience :]).
  2. Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, brown sugar, honey, egg and water thoroughly.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients then stir in the oats. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix. Add any additional ingredients you've chosen.
  4. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Martian; Andy Weir

The Martian; Andy Weir
Brillance Audio and Random House

When readers started raving about The Martian, my immediate reaction was "no way this one could be for me, I NEVER read science fiction"  I gave in though when the library audiobook became available, and boy was that a good decision. This is not a book about aliens or anything like I imagined SF to be,

The main character is Mark Watney, a mechanical engineer and now astronaut who was one of first men to walk on Mars. However, something goes horribly wrong on this last mission. When a dust storm hits and something punctures his spacesuit, he finds himself left alone on Mars.  His crew members assume he is dead, and they decide to abort their mission return to Earth on their mother ship, Hermes.

The rest of the story focuses on Mark's quest to stay alive until the next Ares mission returns. He calculates the shelter, water and food situation and figures that he has 400 days of food if he starts rationing.  He needs to work on a way to establish communication with NASA and let him know that he is still alive. Fortunately, he has a few tools and devices left behind like a generator, oxygenator and water reclaimer that helps him keep a positive outlook and his of humor as well. He even decides to grow potatoes since they'll be fast to produce and, will provide plenty of need calories as well. If he gets bored he has that covered as well, for entertainment he has a few mystery novels, old disco music and TV shows from years gone by.

Told generally in the first person and through a series of log entries, The Martian, is an entertaining read.  It would be difficult not to root for such a smart, determined, resourceful and witty individual like Mark, who keeps his spirits high despite his dire circumstances.  There is a lot of technical jargon in this book that could have gotten boring, but it never did. The story is very engaging, and the audiobook reader, R.C. Bray was the best of the best for this particular story. I highly recommend this book (especially the audio) for all those readers who've said, "SF is not for me." Read it, you'll be glad you did; creative and entertaining, and you'll be even able to see this story on the big screen in the near future.

5/5 stars

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fiercombe Manor; Kate Riordan

Fiercombe Manor; Kate Riordan
Harper - 2015

A story with an isolated Gothic manor as the setting is enough to make me want to read a book.  In Fiercombe Manor the story begins with a young woman named Alice Eveleigh who becomes pregnant by a married man. It's 1933 London,  so as not to disgrace her family she is sent by her mother to Fiercombe Manor, to wait out her days and have her baby without shaming the family.

The housekeeper at Fiercombe, Mrs. Jelphs, is someone Alice's mother feels she can trust to keep Alice's secret. When Alice arrives things seem unusually quiet around the manor. The owners the Stantons are rarely around, so except for the housekeeper and caretaker, Ruck, and an occasional visit by Tom Stanton, the place is quiet. It leaves Alice plenty of time to wonder about the history of the manor. She tries to get Mrs. Jelphs to talk about the history of Fiercombe and about the people who have lived there past and present. As the former maid to Lady Elizabeth, Mrs. J is reluctant to say too much at first, but gradually Lady Elizabeth's story is revealed through old letters and journal entries, and the reader learns of the manor's tragic past.  What Alice learns makes her fearful as there are certain similarities between the two women.

The story is told in alternating chapters in the first person POVs by Alice (1930s) and then Elizabeth (1890s). The author did a nice job describing surroundings and giving the characters some depth. However, for a Gothic novel, this one wasn't as atmospheric as others I have read.  There was one ghost aspect which really felt disappointing.  The story was rolled out in a slow and deliberate way, but I have to admit that this book took me over three weeks to complete this one. It's over 400 pages and, once I put it down for a few days, it became harder to pick up.  Overall, I think this book is still worth trying for fans of historical fiction.

3/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - The Children's Crusade; Ann Packer

Scribner - April 2015

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family's future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story-Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn't settled down-their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

Reviewers have praised Ann Packer's brilliant ear for character (The New York Times Book Review), her naturalist's vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented (The New Yorker), and the utterly lifelike quality of her book's everyday detail (The New York Times). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children's Crusade, an extraordinary study in character, a rare and wise examination of the legacy of early life on adult children attempting to create successful families and identities of their own. This is Ann Packer's most deeply affecting book yet.