Tuesday, February 28, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Behind Closed Doors; B.A. Paris

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon.  (I just started this and I am alternating between the eGalley and audio version).

Behind Closed Doors; B.A. Paris
St. Martins Press and Macmillan Audio- 2016


" The champagne bottle knocks against the marble kitchen counter, making me jump. I glance at Jack, hoping he won't have noticed how nervous I am.  He catches me looking and smiles. 'Perfect', he says softly.

Taking my hand, he leads me to where our guests are waiting.  As we go through the hall, I see the flowering lily Diane and Adam brought us for our garden.  It's such a beautiful pink that I hope Jack will plant it where I 'll be able to see it from the bedroom window.  Just thinking of the garden makes tears well up from deep inside me and I swallow them down quickly.  With so much at stake tonight, I need to concentrate on the here and now."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

How To Be a Bigger Bunny; Wendell and Florence Minor

How To Be a Bigger Bunny; Wendell & Florence Minor
Katherine Tegan Books - 2017

I was so excited to open a surprise package this week from a favorite author and illustrator team, Florence and Wendell Minor. It's the perfect new addition for that special little one of yours this Easter.

Tickles is the smallest bunny in her family. She also loves to read.  Unfortunately, her siblings often forget to include her in their outdoor, bunny adventures.  Tickles tries not to let it bother her and because she loves to read and keeps busy with her favorite books and new stories, Never Give Up, How to Be a Pirate  and How to Think Your Way Out of Tricky Places.  When her family does not return after some time on her own, she ventures out looking for them and she helps them out of a bit of a mess and saves the day.  From that day on her siblings always remembered to ask her to join them on their adventures. 

A very cute story about persistence which shows us how even the tiny ones among us can accomplish big things.  This lovely book should appeal to the toddler to age 6 range. The illustrations are marvelous.

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E - 2/25/2017

First of all,  I wanted to thank all of you who took the time to leave very personal and heartfelt comments about our cat Lily who we lost last Friday. I shared these messages with my husband and although many of them made me tear up, they also were very comforting. Thank you so much!

I tried to keep busy last week which helped keep the sad moments at bay. This week was more yoga,  lunch with high school friends, and time sorting through lots of old photos of family and cats which brought back happy memories.  Our most senior cat, Buddy, age 15, seemed to sense that we were sad and became my new constant companion and lap cat -- so sweet --


Our other cat, Freckles, age 14, was never a lap cat, but started bringing my husband toys to get him to play.  I think cats are much smarter than many people think.


Books Read

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End; Atul Gawande
Metropolitan Books - 2014
(book group read )

I actually listened to this book last year in audio and loved it so when it ended up being our book group read for February, I didn't mind reading it in print.  I still liked it a lot and felt that Dr. Gawande did a great job giving several case study examples of individuals in declining health and making the reader think about prolonging life versus quality of life in each case. Lots of good info about health, health care, statistics and later year options.  My book group, which is all women ages 60 and older really disliked the book. I was the minority here but, also one of the youngest in the group.  Several of the women are dealing with serious medical issues and currently live alone so they found the entire topic depressing which is understandable.  The book did generate lots of end of life conversation about housing options like co-housing versus assisted living and nursing homes which was interesting to talk about.

Next month's selection a light weight work of fiction by Adriana Trigiani.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family & Culture in Crisis; J.D. Vance
Harper Audio - 2016

A memoir about class differences written by a self-proclaimed hillbilly, and former Marine who ended up graduating from Ohio State with a double major and then continuing on to Yale Law.  The author grew up poor in Appalachia and was raised largely by his grandmother as his father had abandoned them at a young age. Although his mother had once been at the top of her class in school and worked in nursing, she then turned to drugs, was in and out of rehab, and was married and divorced 5 times.

I expected this book to be somewhat of a political hotbed but, that was not the case. Vance offers his take on the decline of white, working class America over the last forty odd years as he shares his life story.  I downloaded the audio version of this from the library after seeing many positive reviews online.  I enjoyed it, but I must say Vance's outcome is certainly not the norm for someone growing up like he did. He did have encouragement and obviously the personal drive to make a better life for himself. The audio book is read by the author and thought it was well done (no accent which made it an easy listen). (4/5 stars)

Every Fifteen Minutes; Lisa Scottoline
(audio - from library read by George Newbern)

This was a DNF after 10 chapters. It was a story that seemed to be going no where fast and I lost interest very quickly. Has anyone read this one? DNF

(Here's a description from Goodreads) -----

Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife, Caitlin, he is doing his best as a single dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric's entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can't turn off the rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a "person of interest". Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric's life? 

New Books from Publishers

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday intros - Agnes; Peter Stamm

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon. This pick is just 147 pages, but it's a translated work (German to English) so I'm just not sure how this will flow.)

Other Press - 2016


"Agnes is dead.  Killed by a story.  All that's left of her now is this story.  It begins on that day, nine months ago, when we first met in the Chicago Public Library.  It was cold when we first met.  It is generally cold in this city.  But it's colder now, and it's snowing. The snow is blowing across Lake Michigan, on the gale-force wind I can hear even through the soundproof glass in my picture windows.  It's snowing, but the snow won't settle, it gets picked up and whirled on its way, and only settles where the wind can't get at it.  I've switched off the light, and look out at the illuminated tips of the skyscrapers, at the American flag that gets tugged this way and that by the wind, in the beam of a searchlight, and at the empty streets far below, where, even now, in the middle of the night, the lights change from green to red and red to green, as though nothing had happened, or was happening."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Friday, February 17, 2017

RIP - Lily and the Week in Review - W/E - 2/18/2017

Week at a Glance

This week is a bit of a blur: 2 snow storms, Valentine's Day, yoga, lunch with former coworkers and then yesterday, the loss of my very best friend, Lily the Cat.

RIP - Lily
(2003 - 2017)

Lily had actually started eating a bit last weekend but then dislocated her kneecap jumping off our lap.  She was limping for a day and it managed to pop back in to her arthritic knees. Today, Friday 2/17) Lily was scheduled for an ultrasound and X-ray to find out why she is losing weight, not eating much, breathing louder and sleeping lots more than usual these days.  We learned that her lymph nodes were enlarged, she had a tumor on her lung and a solid mass on the base of her heart which was pressing on her trachea causing labored breathing at times.💔💔 We decided it was time to say goodbye to our best cat ever.

About Lily - We adopted Lily as a 10 week old kitten in Rhode Island. An indoor cat only in a multi-cat household, from her earliest days with us, Lily craved warmth. She could often be found burrowed under a scatter rug, under a quilt or often basking in a sun puddle.  A petite girl, the most she ever weighed was in the 7 lb range but her weight dropped to just 5 lbs recently.  I've owned many cats in my life, and loved them all, but, Lily was so special and unique. She was never afraid of strangers, but didn't like being held by anyone and was a bit squirmy (even for us) if you picked her up. Despite this, she was a genuine lap cat, 100%.  She was an equal opportunity lapper - my lap or the hubs, she would take turns.We had routines, coffee with me on my lap after breakfast and she loved to read with me everyday as well.  My girl had an automatic clock built in as well I swear.  When it was time for me to go to bed (generally, around the same time every night), she'd stare at me continuously while on my lap until I said, "okay Lily, you win, time for bed. " The minute I hopped in bed she would join me as well,  positioning herself around my knees and staying there until morning.  How will I ever be able to go to bed tonight, my first night without my girl?  I love you Lily and can only hope that our paths will cross again someday. You will be forever missed. 💔💔

Books Read 

Setting Free the Kites; Alex George (arc)
GP Putnam & Sons - 2017

(My Thoughts) - I was a huge fan of Alex Georges first novel, A Good American and couldn't wait to read his newest release, Setting Free the Kites.  The story takes place along the coast of Maine,  (I'm picturing Old Orchard Beach as there is an amusement park central to this story). It's 1976 and Robert Carter, is an eight grader who is bullied by a boy named Hollis on the first day of school. Nathan Tilly, a new classmate from Texas, comes to Robert's rescue and the two boys become close friends.  Nathan is obsessed with kite flying and daredevils activities while Robert is more shy and cautious. Nathan has lost his father and begins to spend lots of time at the Carter home while his mother rarely leaves their home. Nathan is a welcome addition to the household which is in turmoil as the family deals with the serious illness of Robert's older brother Liam. The two boys become inseparable even though Nathan the boys are quite different.

Setting Free the Kites was a quick read that held my interest. A story about growing up, love, loss, and imperfect parents.  This is another charming story that takes you back to the times before cellphones and video games when life was for teens was quite different from what it's like today. Another great story by Alex George: well-written, memorable characters, highly recommended. (4/5 stars)

Is This Tomorrow; Caroline Levitt (audio)
Algonquin Books & Highbridge Audio 
(Xe Sands, narrator) - 2013

(My Thoughts) - Set in the suburbs of Boston, MA, 1956, Ava Lark and her son Lewis have rented a run-down house in a nice, safe, family neighborhood.  The other families seem to look down on newcomers - Ava is divorced and the only Jewish person living in the neighborhood. Lewis finds it hard making new friends, except for Rose and Jimmy who also live in a fatherless home. Set in the midst of the Cold War and the paranoia which exists, Jimmy goes missing without a trace. His disappearance deeply affects Rose and Lewis who are certain Jimmy must be alive.  They are determined to get to the bottom of his disappearance, which is eventually revealed. Fast forward seven years Lewis is now living and working in Wisconsin and Rose is in PA but, the two are forever changed

I enjoyed this audio book but, at times the voices seemed a bit too depressing. I loved the setting and descriptions of what life was like back then, as it's always nice to read about a time period a baby boomer like me can relate to. The author's writing is very descriptive and, although the story of what happened to Jimmy seemed to fall into place too easily, I still enjoyed this one.  (4/5 stars)

Currently Reading
  • Being Mortal (reread for my book group)
  • Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Chapter first Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon.

Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner
Europa Editions - 2011

"When you've walked all the way from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village in the middle of the night, the first sight of home should be an occasion for joy. Wes felt anything but joyful as he climbed the stoop. He had hoped that a long walk through the dark and quiet city would give him some perspective, but it hadn't worked out that way.  In other circumstances, it might have been an adventure but it was nothing but a blur, thoughts as flimsy and disposable as plastic bags.  If he had been a character in a book--Prince Andre in War and Peace, say--he would have seized the opportunity for a round of rough, candid soul-searching that would inevitably have led to some brilliant new insight into human nature in general and his own moral frailty in particular.  But he wasn't Prince Andre--he was just Wes, idiot Wes, the guy who just ruined his life forever and forever, and he was as confused and miserable now as he's been when he'd just set out from Lucy's apartment two hours earlier.  He stood at the threshold and took a deep breath, but it didn't help: the sadness didn't go away.  In fact, he felt a tear welling, and he leaned forward to rest his forehead on the cold, damp lacquer of the front door."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E - 2/11/2017

This past week was one for birthday celebrations for the hub and our first major snowstorm of the winter (it was reported that we got 13") but, fortunately, just about everything was canceled the night before and we could just stay in and enjoy the view. More snow scheduled for this weekend and another day next week -- Welcome to New England.

As some of you know we have (3) cats  (all adopted as kittens and - all senior snow. (2) are 14 years old  and (1) is 15.  We noticed that our sweet, petite Lily seemed thinner than she was at her December checkup. She was also constantly at the water fountain and turned her nose up to various food offerings (including tuna) for a few days. Off to the Vet we went yesterday where we learned she had lost 2 lbs since her December visit (she's only 5lbs now).  Not sure what is wrong with our Lily but awaiting lab reports -- please send positive vibes -- she's my lap cat by day and leg warmer by night.

UPDATE -- I'm happy to report that Lily started eating again yesterday (a lot too) The Vet called to say that her labwork was all normal (no thyroid or diabetes issues), so while this is all good news we all remain puzzled. Next step would be an ultrasound to see what might be going on, but, since she has been eating for a full 24 hours now, we decided to just watch her and hope it wasn't anything serious.  Thanks so much for all of your concern.

(pic taken 2/10/2017)

I finished (2) books this week: Excellent Women; Barbara Pym and The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak (both different but liked each one).

 Excellent Women; Barbara Pym
(1952 - Penguin and Blackstone Audio) 

(My Thoughts) Excellent Women is one of those books that has been on my shelf for a while. I heard the audio, read by Jayne Entwistle, was fantastic so I borrowed the Playaway from the library -- what a terrific narration.  Excellent Woman was a wonderful comedy of manners set in 1950s England. Thirty-one year old Mildred Lathery is a sweet, likable and self described spinster.  She's a clergyman's daughter, her parents are deceased, she is smart but, one of those women "an excellent woman" that is respected but often passed over when it comes to romance. When a new couple moves into her building, she gets wrapped up in their lives and begins to realize there may be something more to life than church raffles and charity work.  

This novel is not action packed and doesn't require deep thought but, I loved the keen observations a wry humor. I highly recommend this one, a real treat. (4.5/5 stars)

The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak
Simon & Schuster - 2017

(My Thoughts) - The Impossible Fortress was a fun coming of age story set in 1987. Billy Marvin and friends Alf and Clark are (3) typical 14 year-old boys who have just learned that Vanna White's nude photos are the highlight of the current issue of Playboy. The boys are determined to do whatever it takes to get copies of this magazine even though they are  too young to purchase it on their own. Sal Zelinsky owns the corner store that stocks this magazine. Sal's daughter Mary is a bright, young, overweight girl who loves computers and designing video games. Billy Marvin loves computers as well and thinks that if he begins to hang out with Mary he might somehow get closer to the coveted Vanna issue of Playboy as well. Unfortunately, Billy never anticipates what happens next. 

This is a well-written coming of age story. I enjoyed all the references to the 1980's - songs, the early Commodore 64 computer and all the crazy antics, boys being boys will do.  A story about moms, sons, teen friendship and raging hormones,  made for a fun read. (4/5 stars)

Next Up

Have a Great Weekend All

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon.

The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak
Simon & Schuster - 2017

"MY MOTHER WAS CONVINCED I'd die young. In the spring of 1987, just a few weeks after my fourteenth birthday, she started working nights at the Food World because the late shift paid an extra dollar an hour.  I slept alone in an empty house while my mother rang up groceries and fretted over all the terrible things that might happen: What if I choked on a chicken nugget? What if I slipped in the shower? What if I forgot to turn off the stove and the house exploded in a fiery inferno? At ten o'clock every evening, she'd call to make sure I'd finished my homework and locked the front door, and sometimes she'd make me test the smoke alarms, just in case."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Books Read - Week in Review - W/E 2/4/2017

January passed in the blink of an eye and I am grateful to have escaped the flu thus far.  January was a month of recovery after the holidays and a slower pace.  The month included a lot of dining out, several fantastic movies on the Big Screen and catching up with friends.  My reading for January was way off from past years but, for the most part, I'm still pleased with the books I chose to read. The biggest change was the fact that I didn't listen to any audio books in January, but have one going for February already.

January Reads

(8) books - (3) from my shelves (4) eGalleys and (1) library book
  1. Chocky; John Wyndham - 4/5 (my shelves) - Jan/2017
  2. The Seventh Day; Yu Hua; 3.5/5 (eGalley) - Jan/2017
  3. On Turpentine Lane; Elinor Lipman - 4.5/5 (eGalley) Jan/2017
  4. The Leisure Seeker; Michael Zadoorian - 5/5 (my shelves) - Jan/2017
  5. The Marriage of Opposites; Alice Hoffman - 4/5 -(eGalley-BookGroup pick) -Jan/2017
  6. Second Hand; Michael Zadoorian - 3.5/5 - (my shelves) Jan/2017
  7. Hospital Hill; Katherine Anderson - 3.5/5 (library) -  Jan/2017
  8. The Beautiful Dead; Belinda Bauer - 3.5/5 - (eGalley) Jan/2017

Books Read Last Week

The Fifth Floor; Julie Oleszek 
Mockingbird Publishing (2015) 

Set in 1970's Chicago, The Fifth Floor was an amazing debut novel. It's a heartbreaking story about a young girl named Anna, who is one of ten children in her family. Anna's sister Liz (who she did everything with) dies unexpectedly. Although Anna is just ten years-old at the time and has nothing to do with the reason Liz died, she feels responsible.

For the next seven years, Anna keeps her guilt and grief internalized, her parents seem preoccupied and do not notice the changes in their daughter until at 17, she stops eating and her weight drops to just 85 pounds.  Hospitalized on The Fifth Floor of a locked psych unit, it is here that after much resistance, she starts to deal with feelings and begins her long journey of healing from the trauma of her sister's death.

Brutally honest, this book felt very realistic and seemed to serve as a wake-up call to parents about paying closer attention to what is going on with their children.  (READ IT - 4.5/5 stars)

The Beautiful Dead; Belinda Bauer 
(Atlantic Monthly Press - 2017)

The Beautiful Dead, is a crime thriller set in London around the Christmas season. The story starts out with a chilling scene of a young secretary running for her life, after hours, from an office complex....She is a serial killers victim # 1 of many as it turns out.

Eve Singer is a television crime reporter whose career track is at a standstill, when the serial-killer contacts her and involves her in a sort of cat and mouse chase before his next victim is killed. Eve can't resist the challenge but, could she be one of his victims? Eve also helps care for her father who suffers from dementia. 

I've read several thrillers by this author and although this one did not disappoint, it wasn't a favorite of mine either.  I found Eve to be one of those characters that I really didn't care about one way or the other. I did like the parts of the story that focused on the serial killer and why he did certain things but, the ending felt a bit less exciting for me. The story progressed at a decent pace but, I do think this is one of those stories that will appeal to some crime fiction lovers much more than others. ( 3.5/5 stars)

Current Read

 New Book Arrivals

I've pretty much stopped requesting physical books from publishers these days in my continuing efforts to declutter (eGalleys and eAudios (no problem though:) But (2) new books arrived by mail this week.

In "The Founder", Michael Keaton was terrific in his role as Ray Kroc,  salesman, who turned two brothers' innovative fast food eatery, McDonald's, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.  We really enjoyed this movie! (SEE IT)

Have a great weekend everyone!

(Our weekend plans include a HUGE milestone birthday party for the hub,  and, of course,  rooting for our Patriots on Sunday)