Sunday, May 31, 2020

Goodbye May - Here Comes June

I'm actually happy to say goodbye to May. The only good thing about it was that I found a lot of time to read.  My right knee suddenly began hurting the beginning of May and I finally had to go to a specialist the middle of the month - X-rays showed moderate patellofemoral osteoarthritis. prescription arthritis drugs didn't work with swelling or pain so, I finally went back 2 weeks later for a cortisone shot (5 days ago).  Slight relief until I had a PT session on Friday and, I literally, could not walk out of the office without borrowing a cane afterwards. I was in so much pain.  I haven't done the at home exercises as knee is still painful.  I'm beginning to wonder whether I have another meniscus tear like I had in same knee about 15 years ago? On a positive note, as I got out of bed this morning, there was very little swelling so I'm hoping progress is being made. F/up Wednesday.

It's been kind of hot and humid this past week but, really nice today. 
I didn't watch much television last week, instead spending most of the week with my feet up reading or playing games on computer. We did watch Double Indemnity, a movie from 1944, after having finished the book. 
Exercise and other highlights…
No highlights/no exercise because of my knee pain.
Today’s To Do List…
Finishing up - If it Bleeds, Stephen King (it's pretty good).

Retail Therapy...

I actually ordered a cane to have on hand as I have to return the one I borrowed on Wednesday. I didn't need it yesterday but, just in case. Exciting huh? (peacock pattern).

May Reads-  (13) Books  (47-YTD) - (3) kids, (2) NF, (8) fiction. Of these (3) were 5 star reads for me.

                                                                  Fave Books of May

  1. Kaia and the Bees; M. Boelts - 5/5 (print/May)
  2. The Nest that Wren Built; Sosenshine - 5/5 (print/May)
  3. Hike; Oswald - 4.5/5 - (print/May) - 4.5/5 (print/May)
  4. The Dilemma; B.A. Paris - 2.5/5 (eGalley/May)
  5. Wild Game; Adrienne Brodeur - NF - 4/5 (eGalley/May)
  6. Brother and Sister; Diane Keaton - 2/5 -(NF/Audio/May)
  7. Olive Kitteridge; Elizabeth Strout - 5/5 (reread/audio/May)
  8. My Dark Vanessa; Kate Elizabeth Russell - 5/5 - (eGalley/May)
  9. Redhead By the Side of the Road; Anne Tyler - 3.5/5 (audio/May)
  10. The Sun Down Motel; Simone St. James - 5/5 - (eGalley/May)
  11. Double Indemnity; James M. Cain - 4.5/5 (print/May)
  12. All Adults Here; Emma Straub - 4/5 - (audio/May)
  13. If it Bleeds; Stephen King (audio - should finish today)
Reading Plans for June (so far)
How did your week go? Any favorite reads?

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Book Review - All Adults Here; Emma Straub

AUTHOR:  Emma Straub
PUBLISHER:  Penguin Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: Upstate NY
Format: audio
Rating - 4/5

Astrid Strick is a 68 year old mother and grandmother to 3 adult children, it's a family where everyone seems to have issues they are struggling with.  Astrid is a widow, very matter-of-fact, not at all warm and fuzzy. Now in her senior years she's been keeping a secret from her children, she's attracted to her female hairdresser, Birdie.

As the story opens, Astrid witnesses a woman she has long known killed by an empty speeding school bus. It is this incident that causes her to reflect on earlier days as a young woman and mother and how she could have been a better mother to her children.  The untimely death of this woman forces Astrid to look back, try to make amends and decide how she wants to live her life moving forward.

As the reader I felt like I got to know the quirky, yet well-crafted characters and messy lives quite well. Eldest son Elliot is parent to twins works in real estate development, middle child Porter, 37 decides to have a baby in a non traditional manner and youngest child Nicky is unfocused, sending his 13 y/old daughter, Cecelia, upstate to live with Astrid after an incident at her school back in Brooklyn. There were plenty of social issues that surfaced in this novel: sexual and gender identity, child-rearing, bullying and more. Although there definitely wasn't a strong story line in this novel,  I enjoyed the time I spent with these flawed characters and their life struggles.  

The audio book was read by Emily Rankin who did a great job.

(Audio download provided by by Penguin Audio in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review - Double Indemnity, James M Cain (Book and Movie)

AUTHOR:  James M. Cain
PUBLISHER:  Vintage Crime/Black Lizard/Random House
PUB. YEAR: (1936) reprint: (1992)
Setting: CA
Format: print
Rating - 4.5/5

Walter Huff is a decent enough guy, he's single and is an insurance salesmen in Beverly Hills, CA. He is lured into a murder plot by an attractive vixen who is looking to have her husband killed once he purchases and accidental death policy. He meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, the soon to be victim's wife, while making a house call on her husband who is out at the time. The two hit it off and them meet several times to come up with a plan.

The story is told as Walter looks back on how the met Phyllis, how the plot is carried out and how things quickly spiral out of control.

This was a well-craft, murder mystery and just 118 pages. Since it was first written in 1936 some aspects of the story certainly felt dated but, it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this page turner.

I first learned about this book when I recently read Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson and, I decided to purchase it. I'm glad I did.  I then watched the (1944) film version on TCM starring Fred MacMurray as Walter, Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis and Edward G. Robinson as Walter's boss.  The movie is slightly different from the book, (Walter's last name is different as was Phyllis's and the ending was different as well). The movie was very enjoyable but, I liked the book a bit better.

This is my first completed book from my Summer Reading List - 2020.

Editorial Reviews

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star in the gripping film noir classic, Double Indemnity, directed by Academy Award winner Billy Wilder. A calculating wife (Stanwyck) encourages her wealthy husband to sign a double indemnity policy proposed by smitten insurance agent Walter Neff (MacMurray). As the would-be lovers plot the unsuspecting husband’s murder, they are pursued by a suspicious claims manager (Edward G. Robinson). It’s a race against time to get away with the perfect crime in this suspenseful masterpiece that was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - If it Bleeds; Stephen King

Welcome to
 First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

If it Bleeds; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio-2020

Mr Harrigan's Phone

My home town was just a village of six hundred or so (and still is, although I moved away), but we had the Internet just like the big cities, so my father and I got less and less personal mail.  Usually all Mr. Nedeau brought was the weekly copy of Time, fliers addressed to Occupant or Our Friendly Neighbors, and the monthly bills.  But starting in 2004, the year I turned nine and began working for Mr. Harrigan up the hill, I could count on at least four envelopes hand-addressed to me each year.  There was a Valentine's Day card in February, a birthday card in September, a Thanksgiving Day card in November, and a Christmas card either just before or just after the holiday. Inside each card was a one-dollar scratch ticket from the Maine State Lottery, and the signature was always the same: Good Wishes from Mr. Harrigan. Simple and formal."

Just started the audio version and the readers are fantastic. (Will Patton, Danny Burstein and  Steven Weber).

What do you think - read more or pass?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Summer Reading List for 2020

I wasn't sure whether it would be wise to make a summer reading list for 2020 but, then figured, hey, I'm here, I'm  home and I'm still practicing social distancing so, yeah, I actually might be able to accomplish a goal like this.  

So here goes: a few murder mysteries, thrillers, lighter beach/pool reads and one non-fiction.  Have you read any of these? Double Indemnity (1931) and Malice Aforementioned (1936) are oldies but  goodies and were considered (2) of the top murder mysteries on the list created in Eight Perfect Murders; Peter Swanson.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Book Review - The Sun Down Motel; Simone St. James

AUTHOR:  Simone St. James
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: Fell, NY
Format: eGalley
Rating - 5/5

In 1982 Vivian Delaney was a young girl who hoped to make in big in New York City, but she ended up in small town Fell, NY taking a job on the night shift at The Sun Down Motel. Things never seemed right at the motel and on November 29, 1982, while working, Vivian seemed to vanish without a trace. 

Fast forward 35 years Carly Kirk's mother was Vivian's sister.  Carly's mother has died and would never talk about Vivian's disappearance. Carly is disillusioned with college and becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her aunt Vivian.  She leaves college in Illinois and moves to Fell, NY to try to find out more about what now seems to be a closed case. When she visits The Sun Down Motel, there is a night clerk vacancy, the same job Vivian held 35 years earlier. She gets the job and by day plays amateur detective. In the process she learns that small town Fells has had more than one unsolved cases. It's clear that bad things have happened at the Sun Down over the years and not too many people are anxious to talk about it. It's also clear, early on, that ghosts haunt the place.  Yes, the Sun Down Motel, built in the early 70s and now rundown, offers more than a cheap room. 

What will Carly uncover as she delves deeper?

The story alternates between Vivian in 1982 and Carly in 2017. Readers who enjoy atmospheric stories with a creepy Gothic feel, strong, gutsy female characters who support one another should read this book. This is an edge of your seat mystery. I loved that the motel seemed to come alive on the pages and that quite a lot of the action takes place there as well.  This story was so well crafted and had a satisfying ending as well.

Thanks go to Berkley Publishing and Edelweiss to allow me access to this eBook.

Book Review - Redhead By the Side of the Road; Anne Tyler

AUTHOR:  Anne Tyler
PUBLISHER:  Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: Maryland
Format: audio/download
Rating - 3.5/5

Micah Mortimer is in his early 40s and single. He lives a life that thrives on routines.  He was the unplanned baby in his family and the only child that went to college.  Now he lives in a basement apartment in a rather run down building in Baltimore. In exchange for free rent he does routine maintenance and handyman work there.  He also runs a one-man business known as "The Tech Hermit" making house calls for clients with technology/computer issues.  He's been involved long term with Cass, a woman in her 30s, the relationship allows for his life to remain orderly and still allowing him to stick to his routines. So when Cass is facing eviction, she's hoping Micah will suggest she move in. If that isn't enough to upset his orderly life, when a young man named Brink, appears at his door and claims to be his son, Micah is perplexed beyond belief. What's Micah to do?

Written in classic Anne Tyler style and a rather short novel, I enjoyed spending a few hours with quirky Micah, as he contemplates the effects of his life choices. I'm happy I tried this novella but, I didn't think this was one of Tyler's best effects.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book Review - My Dark Vanessa; Kate Elizabeth Russell

TITLE:  My Dark Vanessa
AUTHOR:  Kate Elizabeth Russell
PUBLISHER:  William Morrow
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: Maine
Format: eGalley
Rating - 5/5

Vanessa Wye is a lonely 15 y/old scholarship student at a boarding school in Maine.  She's never even had a boyfriend so when her English teacher, 42 y/old Jacob Strane begins to show interest in her, initially by complimenting her writing ability she's thrilled.  Little does she realize it's more than her writing ability that interests him. Drawing her in first with poetry and stories by Nabokov, she is soon lured into a sexual relationship that is about to ruin her life.

The story begins in 2017 in the midst of the #metoo movement when Vanessa, now 32, learns via social media that her former teacher has been accused of abuse by another student. Vanessa can't believe that this is true of her first love, a man she's been obsessed with for years.

Written from Vanessa's POV and alternating from her days as a student and the present where she's living an unfulfilled life without realizing she's been victimized. Vanessa comes across as a sympathetic character while at other times she seems confused or unreliable.  This story was unputdownable and tough to read at times but, it was also an amazing debut.  It was easy to see how a girl like Vanessa might fall victim to a pedophile by just wanting to believe that she was loved.  A wonderful character study, suspense-filled debut novel that is sure to be on my Top 10 list for 2020.  

Have you read it?  NOTE: Possible trigger warnings for anyone who may have been abused.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - All Adults Here; Emma Straub

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews. Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon.

All Adults Here; Emma Straub
Riverhead Books & Penguin Audio - 2020

The Quick Death

"Astrid Strick had never liked Barbara Baker, not for a single day in their forty-year acquaintance, but when Barbara was hit and killed by the empty, speeding school bus at the intersection of Main and Morrison streets on the eastern side of the town roundabout, Astrid knew that her life had changed, the shock of which was indistinguishable from relief.  It was a busy day--she'd spent the morning in the garden, she had a haircut appointment at 11:30, and then her granddaughter Cecelia, was arriving by train with two suitcases and zero parents (no school bus accidents there--just a needed escape hatch), and Astrid was to meet her at the Clapham station to bring her back to the Big House."

What do you think, pass or read more?
(I started the audio and am enjoying it so far.)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Book Review - Olive Kitteridge; Elizabeth Strout

TITLE:  Olive Kitteridge
AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Strout
PUBLISHER:  Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2008
Setting: Maine
Format: audio download
Rating - 5/5

I originally read this book in 2008 when it was first published but, I don't see that I ever reviewed it. After loving Olive, Again (2020 follow-up) so much, I decided to listen to Olive's debut novel once again. I wasn't disappointed.

This book is written as a series of (13) short stories which take place in and around small town Crosby, Maine.  The stories take place in the 1970s when Olive, once a math teacher is now retired.  Olive has a prickly personality but, I felt like I understood her. She is married to Henry, a pharmacist, and they have one son, Christopher, who she has a strained relationship with.

Each story in this collection gives a bit of insight into the quirky characters of this Maine town where everyone seems to know everyone's business.  Throughout most of the stories, Olive seems to reappear interacting with the central character of the story. Each story has the feel of a real life drama which shares both joys and heartbreaks. I love how this author writes, her characters felt real and complex with issues many have dealt with over the years: family, relationships, mental health issues etc.  All of the individuals come across as unpretentious, the kind of everyday people you might expect to meet in small town Maine.

I was so happy I revisited this book and think I even enjoyed it more the second time around, especially after watching the HBO miniseries and listening to Olive, Again. Olive is one of the characters, I'll never get enough of. Readers who enjoy stories about everyday people should read both books - such a treat.

Book review - The Dilemma; B.A. Paris

TITLE:  The Dilemma 
AUTHOR:  B.A. Paris
PUBLISHER:  St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: UK
Format: eGalley
Rating - 2.5/5

Livia and her husband Adam have never had a proper wedding celebration. Livia parents pretty much disowned her 20 years earlier when she became pregnant before marriage, in turn, they missed out getting to know their two adult grandchildren.  Now Livia is about to celebrate her 40th birthday and a huge celebration is in the works to make up for the wedding she never had .

Here's the "dilemma":  both Adam and Livia have a secret they've been keeping from each other. They don't want the secret to spoil the party as the guests are to arrive within 24 hours.

The story is told over a period of 24 hours in alternating chapters from Livia and Adam's POV.  Initially, I couldn't wait to find out the "big secrets" but, soon I became frustrated by how the story began to drag and by how annoying the key characters were acting.  I really looked forward to this suspense thriller.  I've read everything this author has written and had enjoyed both the writing style and the pace of her earlier novels. This latest offering seemed so unrealistic and, even though it got off to a good start, it ending up being a letdown for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Sun Down Motel; Simone St. James

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, now hosted by  Socrates Book ReviewsThanks to Yvonne for taking over FCFPTI. Each week readers post the first paragraph (sometimes 2) of a book they are reading or that they plan to read soon

The Sun Down Motel; Simone St. James
Berkley - 2020

Fell, New York
November 1982

"The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.

That was fine with her. She preferred it. It was something she'd discovered, working the night shift at this place in the middle of nowhere: Being with people was easy, being alone was hard.  Especially being alone in the dark.  The person who could truly be alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one's own thoughts--that person was stronger than anyone else.  More ready. More prepared."

What do you think, read more or pass?  This one's been on my radar for a bit - hope to begin it this week.

Monday, May 11, 2020

2 memoirs Book Reviews - - Wild Game; Adrienne Brodeur and Brother and Sister; Diane Keaton

TITLE:  Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me (a memoir)
AUTHOR:  Adrienne Brodeur
PUBLISHER:  Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
PUB. YEAR: 2019
Setting: Cape Cod, MA and NYC
Format: eGalley
Rating - 4/5

Adrienne Brodeur in many respects led a life of privilege but, she was raised by a mother who seemed not to understand the concept of "boundaries." When the author was just 14 years old, her mother, Malabar, woke her from a sound sleep to tell her that her husband's best friend, Ben had kissed her. She then asked her young daughter what she thought she should do about it. As her mother embarks on a long term affair with Ben, a neighbor, married man and friend of the family, whose wife is ill, Adrienne is expected to keep her mother's secret from her step-father who is also in declining health.

The author, now in her 50's looks back on her life and how guilt and betrayal she has dealt with by keeping these secrets over the years have affected her own relationships.

I thought this memoir was very well written and, although I didn't have a perfect childhood, I just had a difficult time relating to Adrienne's story. I am still glad I tried it.  I think it is worth trying if you enjoy a different kind of memoir.

  Brother and Sister (a memoir)
AUTHOR:  Diane Keaton
PUBLISHER:  Random House Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2020
Setting: CA
Format: Audio Download
Rating - 2/5

As very young children Diane (Hall) Keaton and her young brother Randy were very close and had even shared a bedroom. Randy was the youngest child and only boy in a family of four born to John and Dorothy Hall.  The children grew up comfortably in CA, their father was a civil engineer who owned his own company.  Randy was a timid child with very few friends and he had a difficult time finding his place in the world. As an adult he struggled with mental illness, violent fantasies about women and battled alcohol addiction.  The more Diane's career took off the less involved she was in her brother's life. Now Randy is 71, at the end of his life, is suffering from Parkinson's and dementia and is living in an Assisted Living facility.  

Diane Keaton, now 74, shares intimate moments about her family and her brother's struggles.  I struggled with the flow of this story; it didn't feel well-written. I listened to the audio (read by the author) and in some respects I was sorry I did. Honestly,  I'm not all that certain I would have liked the print version either.  It was not an easy story to listen to and, although I love Diane Keaton as an actress, parts of her story just bothered me.  It bothered me that a lot of money in the hands of the right people at the right time got Randy, someone who never intended to stop drinking, a liver transplant by moving him to the top of some list, while probably many more deserving people waited for a transplant and died.  I just can't recommend this memoir.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day - How was your week?

Happy Mother's Day, this is certainly one that is sure to be different for many mothers.  We just completed week #8 of social distancing. I lost a day last week as I was sure that Saturday was only Friday until I looked at my phone. Are your days just blending together lately?
Over the past nearly 20 years it seems I've either spent Mother's Day in Aruba or at a timeshare by the water - reading and relaxing. This Mother's Day Aruba, isn't open to tourists from other countries and as a result, they have had fewer than 100, COVID-19 cases in that country when I checked last week.  The timeshare here that we have spending the last several years at on Mother's Day isn't available either because of the virus.  So we are home, thinking of the mothers who are no longer with us and sending the other mothers we love, heartfelt wishes that one day soon we will hug each other and be together again.
It's been a partially cloudySunday with high 50's to 60 degree temps . I had to bring my mother's day plants in that last few evenings as it reached the lows 30s here.
Mother's Day Baskets

                                                                 Reviews this Week: 


                                                                     Reviews Needed

                                                    Currently Reading/or/listening to:
                                                         (quirky and enjoyable so far)
                                            ( dark, uncomfortable yet, hard to put down)
Honestly, I didn't watch much television (well I sat there while it was on but wasn't invested in what was on except for one movie - (1991) Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy. I had seen it before but forgot some of it and loved it; very well done...she's a young wife with an wealthy, abusive, controlling husband. She comes up with a plan to escape by fakig her own death. Have you seen it?
Exercise and other highlights…
Well I tried to walk three times this week but could only do 15 minutes each day. About 15 years ago I tore my meniscus but, fortunately it wasn't a bad tear that would have required surgery. Over the years it's actually been great but, started acting up last Sunday. Icing it has caused more pain and anti-inflammatories haven't helped all that much so I've been taking it easy and the next plan is trying to eat healthier, avoiding sugar and processed foods. We'll see if I can avoid seeing a doctor.
Today’s To Do List…
Well the healthy eating starts tomorrow as a Mother's Day Dairy Queen drive-through treat is in store with perhaps some take out later on.

Retail Therapy...

Think summer, cool, crisp linen - always hard to buy online but most everything I buy from J Jill fits me perfectly and their clothes are made to last. It arrived a few days ago and I love it.

How was your week?