Monday, April 30, 2018

Rainbirds; Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds;  Clarissa Goenawan
Ecco - 2018

Japan, 1994, Ren Ishida is finishing up his graduate studies in Tokyo when he learns that his older sister, Keiko has been murdered and that there are no suspects.  Since Keiko was estranged from their parents, Ren heads to the fictional town of Akakawa to claim his sister's remains and personal effects.  He soon finds himself, desperate to find out more information about his sister's personal life in the years since she left home.  Ren takes a room, the very room, where his sister had stayed and even gets a teaching job, her vacated teaching job, at the university where she worked.

A thought provoking, compulsively readable, debut novel with style reminiscent of Haruki Murakami. The writing is beautiful, part mystery with bits of magical realism, but never too far over the top for my taste.  The imagery created by this talented new author was an unexpected treat.

Rating - 5/5 - loved it

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Week in Review and a mini book review - Let Me Lie; Clare Mackintosh

I'm always a bit hesitant to say this but, I think spring might just be here. The birds are nesting and singing and although there aren't any flowers blooming this week, they will be, very soon. I'm also out there walking more and more as well. Our cat is enjoying having the windows open for a few hours each day as well.  Last week was 3 days of yoga, book group meeting, lunches out and time with my daughter. We also took a ride to the casino (something we do about twice a year) and, I won $387.00, so I picked out some spring clothes which was fun. I also managed to find some reading time and some min review catch up time, and finally...

It's been a while since I posted my new book acquisitions, sent to me thanks to various publishers. So many sound good that I haven't yet decided where I shall begin.

Let Me Lie; Clare Mackintosh
Penguin Audio and Berkley - 2018

I finished Let Me Lie this week, a combination of audio download and eGalley and thought it was fairly well done. Here's a mini review:

Annie is a young woman and mother who has struggled to get on with her life after both of her parents committed suicide seven months apart.  Both deaths occurred in a similar manner, falling to their deaths off a cliff into the waters deep.  When a suspicious note arrives on the anniversary of her mother's death, Anna has reason to question whether murder versus suicide might have been the cause of death.  Murray, a semi-retired police officer agrees to help Anna piece together the mystery behind her parents deaths.

This is a twisty, psychological thriller, told from several POVs that held my interest both in audio and in print.  The story wasn't perfect, but enjoyable all the same.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Hope everyone has a beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2 reviews - The Ninth Hour; Alice McDermott and The Nest; Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Ninth Hour; Alice McDermott
Macmillan Audio - 2017

After reading a book by this author for my book group last year and enjoying it, I wanted to try another one of her novels.  The Ninth Hour is her most recent release (2017) and, although it was a beautifully told story, it was also quite depressing.

After Tim, a young Irish immigrant is fired from his job in Brooklyn, it's more than he can endure. Already unhappy with his marriage, he recently learned that his young wife is expecting their first child.  On a bleak, February day, he sends his wife to the store, opens the gas valve on the stove and takes his own life.

To comfort and asset his grieving wife, Sister St. Savior, of a local Catholic order of the sick and poor, enters the picture to help the widow, Annie. The Sister gives Annie a job in the convent laundry where her young daughter Sally is born and will grow up.

Set in the 20th century, I enjoyed reading about the roles these nuns played within a needy community at this time.  If you don't mind a sometimes downer of a story, try this one as it is beautifully rendered.  This would make a good discussion book.

Rating - 4.5/5

The Nest; Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Ecco - 2016

I actually read this book when it was first released and thought it was okay. So when my book group read it in the month of April, I just skimmed my notes and decided to reposted my review. (below)
The majority of my group, all senior aged women, really enjoyed this story and the in flawed characters behaving badly.

(may - 2016 review)

Grown siblings behaving badly is the central theme upon which, The Nest, has been built.

The four Plumb siblings, Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody have long thought about "the nest" they would inherit when Melody, the youngest, turned 40 and, that day is just months away. The watched the stock market soar and made plenty of plans for the money. They'd pay off mortgages, fund college tuitions and enjoy life more. However, as the saying goes, "don't count your chickens before they hatch."

Truth is Leo, the oldest and perhaps most irresponsible of the Plumb clan has chipped away at their inheritance, with the permission of their mother, Leo loves women, booze and drugs perhaps a bit too much. As the story begins he crashes his Porshe causing his young nineteen year old companion to lose a foot. This accident costs him plenty including money from "the nest" that the others were expecting. Now they expect Leo, the irresponsible, golden boy to pay up.

The characters are both quirky and unique and come alive on the pages as we learn about their drama and baggage. Their issues: parenting, relationships, finances, substance abuse etc. make some of them more likable than others. Some of their situations were funny, others seemed unrealistic. Perhaps I just don't have a clue about rich people who live beyond their means and then expect to be handed a golden spoon really behave.

I thought the set up for this story was great but, I found most of the characters either shallow or annoying. Family dysfunction is a topic I generally love to read about and I was enjoying the Plumb clan but, I felt a huge disappointment by the way this novel wrapped up. 

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Rainbirds; Clarissa Goenawan

On Tuesdays First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vickie/ I’d Rather Be at the Beach.  Readers are asked to share the first paragraph of a book they are reading or plans to read soon.  This week's selection hooked me right away (I'm on Chapter 4). Tell me how you like the intro.

Rainbirds;  Clarissa Goenawan
ECCO - 2018


"At first, nothing was unusual.

I was on the phone with my sister. She sat by her desk by the window in her rented room in Akakawa. The sun shone through the curtain, casting brown highlights on her long dark hair.  She asked me question after question, but I just mumbled one-word answers, impatient for the conversation to be over.  But then, before my eyes, she crumbled and turned to ashes."

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Recent Movies and Books - Tangerine; Christine Mangan and Girl in Snow; Danya Kukafka

Our birthday sisters turned 4 and 6 this week. It's been such a joy to watch them grow. Our kindergartener even lost 2 teeth recently.


  • (2017) Thoroughbreds (odd movie)
  • (2017) Chappaquiddick - (very good)
  • (1996) Fargo (loved it)
  • (1981) Mommie Dearest (another one I loved)

  • Books

    Tangerine; Christine Mangan
    Ecco and Harper Audio - 2018

    Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason were once college roommates in Bennington, Vermont, but after an incident there, the two parted ways. Now Alice is married and living in Morocco, her marriage and life in general is anything but, blissful. She is uncomfortable in her new surroundings.  One day Lucy Mason, the fearless, gutsy friend from her past, arrives in Tangiers unannounced.  However, the visit, unbeknownst to Alice, is anything but altruistic.  

    Set in 1956, this tension filled psychological thriller reminded me in some ways of the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley.  The character development and setting was excellent and I enjoyed how the story played out even though certain aspects seemed a bit contrived.

    Rating - 4.5/5 (audio and eGalley)

    Girl in Snow; Danya Kukafka
    Simon & Schuster - 2018

    Set in a small Colorado town where nothing much happens, a high school girl named Lucinda Hayes, who seemed to have everything going for her is found murdered.  As the investigation unfolds, so does a snapshot of three individuals connected to her in some way.  There's Cameron, a socially awkward voyeur who had a crush on Lucinda and had become somewhat of a secret stalker.  Then Jade, a classmate who both envied and despised Lucinda and finally,  Detective Russ Fletcher, the shady character who happens to be investigating the murder.

    This was a decent debut novel but, I do think it had a YA audience feel to it.  I liked the way that my opinion as to who the murder might be had changed as I read.  I do wish that the story was a bit more plot driven but, overall, the author did a good job.

    Rating - 3.5/5 stars

    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - A Noise Downstairs; Linwood Barclay

    Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.  (Started this yesterday, very addictive story.)

    A Noise Downstairs; Linwood Barclay
    William Morrow - 2018


    "Driving along the Post Road late that early October night, Paul Davis was pretty sure the car driving erratically in front of him belonged to his colleague Kenneth Hoffman.  The ancient, dark blue Volvo station wagon was a fixture around West Haven College, a cliche on wheels of what a stereotypical professor drove."

    Would you read more?

    Sunday, April 15, 2018

    Everything Here is Beautiful; Mira Lee and I Am, I Am, I Am; Maggie O'Farrell

    Pamela Dorman Books/Viking - 2018

    Everything Here is Beautiful was an impressive debut novel about sisters and mental illness.

    Miranda and Lucia are sisters, Miranda is seven years old and has always been the cautious one, watching out for her ofter unpredictable younger sister Lucia.  After their mother dies of cancer, Lucia begins to hear voices and as her mental illness becomes more intense, she does some outlandish things including marrying someone she hardly knew and later even moving to a different continent.

    Can Lucia ever lead a normal life, often refusing to take her meds?  Can her sister or Lucia's husband influence her and keep her safe?

    Told in alternating POVs, this is a beautifully written, compelling story about mental illness and family. I will definitely be looking for future offerings from this promising new author.

    Rating - 4.5/5 stars

    Maggie O'Farrell
    Knopf - 2018

    This is a different kind of memoir in which the author describes in very short stories her, seventeen near death experiences.  The stories cover an array of experiences beginning when she was just a toddler through adulthood and follow no particular chronological order. It's not a memoir that feels like all doom and gloom and it never felt morbid or depressing. Instead, this was a book that helped me to reflect on my own life and the things that are most precious.

    A few of the stories were quite intense and even felt jarring at times while a few others seemed far from threatening to me.  Overall, this book was great reading experience, I loved the quality of the writing.

    Rating - 4/5 stars

    Friday, April 13, 2018

    2 short reviews - Trick; Domenico Starnone and Sunburn; Laura Lippman

    Trick; Domenico Starnone
    Europa Editions - 2018

    Since I absolutely loved, Ties, by D. Starnone, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, another terrific read.

    When seventy-five year old Daniele Mallarico is asked to babysit for his 4 year old grandson Mario, he is more than a little reluctant to do so. His daughter Betta and her husband need to attend a 3-day academic conference.  Not only is Daniele recovering from a recent hospital stay but, the babysitting commitment also means returning to his childhood home in Naples, the place of unhappy memories.  
    Daniele is a man who enjoys his solitude and his quiet life in Milan. A one time famous illustrator, he is now working on meeting a deadline to illustrate a ghost story by Henry James, however, not wanting to disappoint his daughter, he agrees to stay with little Mario.

    The 3-day visit proves to have both comical and touching moments. Mario finds ways to distract Daniele from his work, and sometimes these distractions are welcome taking the grandfather's mind off his childhood and other depressing thoughts.

    This was a sweet and moving story about life, ambition, choices made and later life regrets. 

    Rating - 4.5/5 stars

    Sunburn; Laura Lippman
    Harper Collins - William Morrow - 2018

    Polly Costello (not her real name, she has many), is an attractive, bright woman with a somewhat wild and dark past.  She's also a woman on the run.  She's just abandoned her loveless marriage and young daughter Jani, while the family was on a beach vacation in Delaware.  Believe it or not, this is not the worst thing that Polly has ever done.  So, who is Polly and why has she spent much of her adult life on the run?

    Much of the story is told through the POV of Adam Bosk, a stranger Polly hooks up with in a bar/diner in Bellevue, DE. (population, 2,000) while on the run. But, Adam, has his secrets as well, yet an intense relationship begins. Who is Adam and was his meeting Polly more than just coincidence?

    A stand alone novel, tense and dark, had me quickly turning the pages. I loved the strong, cunning, Polly character and, when bad things happened it was hard not to suspect anyone but Polly was involved.  Best categorized as dark noir, this was a very quick, satisfying read.

    Rating - 5/5 stars

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    2 quick book reviews - Mercury; Margot LIvesey and The Other Girl; Erica Spindler

    Mercury; Margot Livesey
    Harper - 2016

    I started this book over a year ago and finally decided to give it another go. It's a somewhat familiar story.

    Donald and Viv Stevenson are a married couple who have drifted apart. Don is an Ophthalmologist, originally from Scotland. Now married to Viv, an American and a  former mutual funds manager, the couple lives in a Boston suburb with their two children.

    Viv has given up her job to pursue her real love of horses and, she now manages a stable with her childhood friend.  When a new horse, Mercury, is boarded at the stables, Viv becomes almost obsessed with the majestic beauty, Mercury, sometimes at the financial and emotional expense of her family.  Yet, Viv can't be totally faulted for the couples separateness as Donald has become more and more distant with the recent death of his father.

    Mercury, is the story of a marriage and how easy it sometimes is to do one's "own thing" often losing sight of the things that are most important.  There was an air of mystery to this story which kept me interested, yet at times I felt somewhat bored.  I am happy I finally read it.

    Rating - 3.5/stars

    The Other Girl; Erica Spindler
    Macmillan Audio
    (library audiobook)

    Miranda Radar is a small town police officer in a town where not too much happens.  One day she and her partner are called to investigate the murder of a well liked English professor. The murder appears to be a crime of passion given the gruesome details.

    When another man, this time a cop,  is also murdered, a common link seems to be Miranda.  She was involved in incident in her teens, 15 years earlier, which she hoped was long buried and, the dead cop was the individual involved in her case.

    The Other Girl is a  story which flashes back from present to Miranda Wilder's teen days, with a few twists along the way.  I thought that this was an okay story and audio, interesting enough to hold my interest on my walks but, it's probably a story that won't stay with me for very long.

    Rating 3/5 stars

    Tuesday, April 10, 2018

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Tangerine; Christine Mangan

    Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. 

    Tangerine; Christine Mangan
    (ECCO) - Harper Collins - 2018



    "It takes three men to pull the body from the water.

    It's a man--that much they can tell, but little else.  The birds have been at him by then, perhaps attracted b the glinting piece of silver that adorns his tie.  But that's only the magpies, they remind themselves.  He must have seen three, one of the men says to the others--a crude attempt at humor.  They life him, startled by the weight. Do dead men weigh more, another wonders aloud. Together they wait for the police to arrive, doing their best not to look down, to avoid the empty sockets where once the dead man's eyes rested.  They are strangers to each other, these three, but they are bonded now by something deeper than kinship."

    What do you think - read more or pass?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2018

    First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death; Maggie O'Farrell

    Every Tuesday Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon. 

    I've read wonderful things about this memoir, so I'm really looking forward to starting it.

     Maggie O'Farrell
    Knopf - 2018


    "On the path ahead, stepping out from behind a boulder, a man appears.

    We are, he and I, on the far side of the tarn that lies hidden in the bowl-curved summit of this mountain.  The sky os a milky blue above us; no vegetation grows this far up so it is just me and him, the stones and the still black water.  He straddles the narrow track with both booted feet and he smiles.

    I realize several things. That I passed him earlier, father down the glen. We greeted each other, in the amiable yet brief manner of those on a country walk.  That, on this remote stretch of path, there is no one near enough to hear me call.  That he has been waiting for me: he has planned the whole thing, carefully, meticulously, and I have walked into his trap. 

     I see all this in an instant."

    This intro hooked me, what do you think? Read more or pass?

    Monday, April 2, 2018

    A few quick book reviews - Best Day Ever; Kaira Rouda and Lucky Us; Amy Bloom

    Best Day Ever; Kaira Rouda
    Graydon House - 2017

    Best Day Ever is a novel that takes place in a single day. On the surface, Paul Strom seems to have the perfect life. His wife Mia is lovely, the couple has two young sons, a beautiful home, and a lake house as well.  Paul's planned what he hopes will be the "Best Day Ever" as he whisks Mia away for some alone time at the lake retreat while the boys are left with a babysitter.

    As the couple travels by car to their destination, the tension builds and the reader begins to realize that lies and other secrets within this marriage are certain to ruin any other plans Paul had for the weekend.  

    The story is narrated by Paul, who is really a self-absorbed liar.  The tension builds as you turn each page, making for a quick, absorbing read. There were a few twists along the read and a surprise ending as well which made me happy I decided to try this one.

    Rating - 4.5/5 stars

    Lucky Us; Amy Bloom
    Random House - 2015

    Lucky Us was our book group selection for March and while the most of the group liked this book to some degree, we really got to appreciate it more after our open, lively discussion.  Some of the members then wanted to reread it after our discussion.

    The opening quote, hooked me and made me chuckle as well - “My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”

    A coming of age story with half-sisters Eva and Iris at the heart of the novel. These half-siblings have been disappointed by their family and the two couldn't be more different. The story takes around WWII and many of the characters have been dealt some bad breaks in life, but despite their struggles, I wanted to know them better. Many of the characters are quite eccentric which made for some humorous moments. There were quite a few characters introduced along the way, most were well drawn, some so memorable, and others I despised. A story about luck and about what constitutes a family.

    Rating - 4/5 stars