Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 - #31 - We Begin at the End, Chris Whitaker

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  We Begin at the End, Chris Whitaker

PUBLISHERMacmillan Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2021

GENRE: Fiction / Crime Thriller

FORMAT:  audio download PP/LENGTH: 10 hours 30 min

SOURCE: Net Galley

SETTING(s):  Cape Haven, CA and Copper Falls, MT


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A well-plotted crime fiction thriller with characters that are hard to forget.


BRIEF REVIEW:  For me this isn't an easy book to review but the story is amazing. As the title seems to suggest, this story did not really "begin at the end."  It does involve an accident that killed Sissy Radley, just seven years old at the time. Sissy was killed 30 years earlier when Vincent King was just 15 years old. He spent three decades in prison and is scheduled to be released.  Vincent was the best friend of now Cape Haven Police Chief Walker (Walk), and Walk has never given up on his friend even though he testified against him.  The death of Sissy all those years ago deeply affected her older sister Star and messed her up for life.  Star was the girlfriend of Vincent at the time.  Now Star, mother of Dutchess Day thirteen, and Robin six, is unable to function due to her depression and addiction issues.  Dutchess "Outlaw" Radley becomes the protector and mother figure to her young brother Robin. She's also bent on revenge for all who have done her and her family wrong.

Dutchess and Police Chief Walk are the primary characters of the novel but, there are several others who play a role in the story.  Walk is a good man and loyal to many.  Dutchess, is tough, foul-mouthed and fearless on the outside yet soft and compassionate when it comes to her young brother Robin.  Sadly, she has been denied the opportunity to be a child herself.  SHE is clearly the strength of this story, an unforgettable character and, my heart went out to her and her situation.

A slow moving and intricate story, it is one where you really get a chance to know each character.  I loved the descriptiveness of the small town and the sense of community. Some of the characters are so caring and others frightening.  Most of the characters were broken in some way or seriously flawed but, they came across as genuine as well. Told in multiple POV, both in the past and present,  at times I wished that I had the print edition instead of the audio.  George Newbern, did a decent job as narrator but, a few times I wondered who was speaking.  This is a story that will stick with me for a long while, likely to make my 2021 tops list as well.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars 

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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

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

                                                           Quiet in Her Bones; Nalini Singh
                                                                         Berkley - 2021

1.

My mother vanished without a trace ten years ago.  

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

The police came.

The neighbors whispered that she was a thief.

My father called her a bitch.

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

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

He was right.

It took ten years, but she has turned up.

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

The night I heard her scream.


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

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 2021 in Review


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

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

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

(5) children's books

(14) Fiction

(2) Non Fiction

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

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

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

(13) female authors  (YTD) (25)

(3) male authors       (YTD) ( 6)

YTD Total (30)


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

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

                                             Some of Favorite Books Read in February


Complete List of February Reads

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

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


March Plans

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

Friday, February 26, 2021

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


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

PUBLISHER: NYRB Classics

YEAR PUBLISHED:  19802000 NYRB

GENRE: Fiction Classics

FORMAT:  print PP/LENGTH: 135 pp

SOURCE: my shelves

SETTING(s):  Oxgodby England


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


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

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

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

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

RATING: 5/5 stars (Don't Miss It)

MEMORABLE QUOTES: 

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

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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

2021 - #29 - The Stationery Shop; Marjan Kamali

 

TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

PUBLISHERSimon and Schuster Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2019

GENRE: Fiction 

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

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s):  Tehran and US (MA)


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


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

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

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

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

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

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


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



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2021 - #28 - Before She Disappeared; Lisa Gardner

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  Before She Disappeared; Lisa Gardner

PUBLISHER: Dutton

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2021

GENRE: Fiction Thriller

FORMAT:  eGalley PP/LENGTH: 395 pp.

SOURCE: NetGalley

SETTING(s):  Mattapan, MA


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


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

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

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

RATING: 4/5 stars

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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


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

                                                       The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

                                                          Simon and Schuster Audio - 2019

Chapter One

2013

The Center

"I made an appointment to see him."

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

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

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

Sunday, February 21, 2021

2021 - #27 - A Girl Returned, Donatella DiPietrantonio

 

TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Girl Returned, Donatella DiPietrantonio

PUBLISHER: Europa Editions

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2019

GENRE: Fiction 

FORMAT:  print PP/LENGTH: 170 pp.

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s):  Italy


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


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

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

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

RATING: 5/5 stars

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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

2021 - #26 - The Nature of Fragile Things, Susan Meissner

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Nature of Fragile Things, Susan Meissner

PUBLISHERBerkley

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2021

GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  eGalley PP/LENGTH: 384pp

SOURCE:  NetGalley download

SETTING(s):  San Francisco, CA


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A compelling story of marriage based on convenience and deceit and the great SF earthquake of 1906.


BRIEF REVIEW:  Sophie is a young woman who has immigrated from Ireland to New York City in 1906 in hopes of a better life.  Her living conditions in NY are deplorable and she is desperate to get out of her current situation.  She decides to respond to an ad for a "mail order bride," to a handsome widower with a five year old daughter who lives in San Francisco.  Traveling to San Francisco alone, she and Martin Hocking are quickly married.

Martin is polite and provides a nice place for the three of them to live but, her marriage isn't as she had imagined. They have separate bedrooms, he is very short with his answers about his family and work and he is frequently away from home. Despite this, Sophie loves being a mother to young Kat, a girl who rarely speaks and seems traumatized by what has happened in her short life.  Just as Sophie begins to piece together secrets about Martin's past, a stranger appears at Sophie's door and she soon realizes that her only option is to leave but, at the same time a massive earthquake hits the area.

Without giving out spoilers, and there are plenty out there if you read the reviews, this is a page-turning, character driven novel with a nice mystery element. Rich in historical detail of early 1900's, S.F., I rooted for Sophie all the way. She is a strong, determined, resilient young woman who has been through so much. She made a beautiful friend, neighbor and replacement mother for Kat.  I loved the writing and how the secrets were slowly revealed. Try this one, even if historical fiction really isn't your thing, it's a story that will stick with you

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

3 new Kids Books that I enjoyed - Ella's Night Lights, Lucy Fleming - No Buddy Like a Book, Allan Wolf and See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, David LaRochelle

                                             (3) Delightful new books from Candlewick Press


Ella's Night Lights, Lucy Fleming (2020)

(32 pp. ages 3-7)


Ella has a wish that she may see the sunrise but, because of her delicate wings she only goes out at night. It is a time when she gathers light for others who need it the most to travel at night like her friend Sable, the fox and, on another night she helps Luna, a frightened owl.  She and some of her animal friends play at night with the light that Ella provides but, as soon as the sun begins to rise she must return to her nook in the tree.

Her friends come up with a plan and for the first time Ella is able to see the sunrise and still protect her delicate wings.  Friends help friends - that's what friends do.

Lovely message and wonderful illustrations of the vivid woodlands and other critters. A charming story of friendship and hope, as sometimes dreams do come true.



No Buddy Like a Book, Alan Wolf (Ill. Brianne Farley)
Candlewick Press - 2021
(ages 4-8)


Now get ready for the Book Express which teaches young children the many important things that they can learn from books and, the places they can visit by reading as well if they only learn to use their imagination.  You can start your new adventure right now or any day, just grab a book buddy and let your imagination grow.

This book was written in a fun style that combines very short sentences with rhyme.  The illustrations are interesting,  bright and colorful and allow for for plenty of good discussion.  I loved that it encourages a love for books



See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog;David LaRochelle (Ill Mike Wohnoutka)
Candlewick (2021)
Winner of the 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
(Ages 4-8) 



Max isn't a cat, he's a dog and his name isn't Baby Cakes - thank you very much - it's Max., just Max and he wants to be noticed.  Young readers will be amused and quite proud of themselves as well as they begin to learn to read with this fun book. The story is not only fun with it's hilarious illustrations, there is large simple text and who can resist a story about an excitable dog who constantly assures readers he IS NOT A CAT!

There are (3) short stories in this book: #1, See the Cat - #2, See the Snake and #3, See the Dog. 

Very clever, kids will love this one. The style is fun and perfect for beginning readers. It reminded me of the Mo Wilhelm, Piggie and Pigeon and Elephant series which my grandchildren also loved as they learned to read. Highly Recommended.




Thanks go to Candlewick Press for sending me these lovely books in exchange for my unbiased reviews.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - A Girl Returned; Donatella DiPietrantonio

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

                                                      A Girl Returned; Donatella Di Pietrantonio
                                                                  Europa Editions - 2019 - 170 pp
                                                   (Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein)

1.

"I was thirteen, yet I didn't know my other mother.

I struggled up the stairs to her apartment with an unwieldy suitcase and a bag of jumbled shoes.  On the landing I was greeted by the smell of recent frying and a wait.  The door wouldn't open: someone was shaking it wordlessly on the inside and fussing with the lock.  I watched a spider wriggle in the empty space, hanging at the end of its thread.

There was a metallic click, and a girl with loose braids that hadn't been done for several days appeared.  She was my sister, but I had never seen her.  She opened the door wide so I could come in, keeping her sharp eyes on me.  We looked like each other then, more than we do as adults."

What do you think - read more or pass?

Monday, February 15, 2021

2021 - #22 - We Keep the Dead Close; Becky Cooper

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence; Becky Cooper

PUBLISHER:  Grand Central Publishing

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2020

GENRE: Non Fiction  - True Crime/Memoir

FORMAT:  hardcover  PP/LENGTH: 512

SOURCE:  hardcover sent by publisher

SETTING(s):  Cambridge, MA 


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A true crime memoir about a 1969 murder that rocked Harvard and, a case that remained unsolved for half a century.


BRIEF REVIEW:  Jane Britton was a grad student preparing for her doctorate in Anthropology at Harvard in 1969 when she was found brutally beaten and raped in her Cambridge, MA apartment.  Her murder was unsolved for 50 years although there were several suspects which included faculty.

The author Becky Cooper, became interested in Jane's unsolved case in 2009 when she was an undergrad at Harvard herself. She soon began to immerse herself in the details of Jane's life on campus as well as many of the rumors and speculation about her life leading up to her murder. Included in this was Jane's relationship with a married, tenured, faculty member, a few boyfriends and conversations with former classmates and friends. With each new interview the story grew more complex. Not only was this a story about Jane Britton, it was a story about a prestigious institution and the university's desire to make the speculation and investigations disappear in an effort to protect the school's reputation and that of its faculty members.

The story jumped back and forth in time from the late 1960s to the author's time on campus followed by nearly a decade of research and interviews.  I thought the author did a great job acclimating the reader to Harvard /Radcliffe culture and the way faculty were revered and coverups, at times,  seemed almost commonplace.   This book, 500 pages with sources and photographs, was very good but, I did think it could have been shortened. I didn't think that the author needed to insert so much of her personal story into this effort.  The Jane Britton murder was eventually solved a few years ago as the author was finishing this book.  (DO NOT Google this case, as I did,  if you plan to read this book -- even though I knew the outcome, I still thought the author's efforts were commendable. and I was happy I read this one.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for sending me a finished copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING: 4/5 stars

Friday, February 12, 2021

2021 - #21 - The Murder at the Vicarage; Agatha Christie



TITLE/AUTHOR:   The Murder at the Vicarage; Agatha Christie

PUBLISHER / YEAR PUBLISHED1930 (2011 - Harper Collins Ed)

GENREFiction Vintage Mystery

FORMAT:  PP/LENGTH: 256 pp.

SOURCE: Library

SETTING(s): England - Small village of St. Mary Mead

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  This was the first book in the Miss Marple mystery series, just who killed Colonel Protheroe?


BRIEF REVIEW: When I first read the intro paragraph to this book sometime back, I figured I'd be in for a fun ride, I liked the humor here:

"It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage.  The conversation, though in the main irrelevant to the matter in hand, yet contained one or two suggestive incidents which influenced later developments.

I had just finished carving some boiled beef (remarkably tough by the way) and on resuming my seat I remarked, in a spirit most unbecoming to my cloth, that anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world at large  a service."

Locals are shocked by the murder of Colonel Protheroe, a local magistrate whose body is found is the study of the Vicar.  The Colonel had many enemies and, he had a pretty, younger, second wife as well.  

The Vicar, Rev. Len Clement, narrates the story.  He is a fun, observant and a gentle soul and smart too (well maybe, he did marry wife Griselda after just knowing her for 24 hours.)  She's not the type of woman you would expect to be a vicar's wife.  When Miss Marple does eventually enter the picture,  she's not what I expected: she a nosy, next door neighbor of the vicarage, a spinster with binoculars in tow, she's quite clever in her process.  While I did like the humor in this mystery, I wished I liked it more .  There were at least seven potential suspects and the story seemed like an unlikely mess.  It got somewhat confusing as well with all the characters and everyone telling half-truths.

Unfortunately, bottom line, I think I'm just not an Agatha Christie fan. I've tried a few of her books over the years and they just don't seem to work well for me. While I liked the narrator, I just struggled with this one and set it aside several times to pick up other books.

Are you an Agatha Christie fan?


RATING: 3/5 stars

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

2021 - Book #20 - The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett; Annie Lyons


TITLE/AUTHORThe  Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett; Annie Lyons

PUBLISHER:  Harper Audio (narrator: Nicolette McKenzie - very good)

YEAR PUBLISHED:  2020

GENRE: Fiction 

FORMAT:  audio PP/LENGTH: 10 hours 39 min.

SOURCE:  audio download purchase

SETTING(s):  London


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A sweet story about an elderly woman who feels her life is over and, a few caring individuals who show her maybe it's not.


BRIEF REVIEW:  Eudora (Dora) Honeysett is an 85 year old single woman with no friends or family.  Her entire life she has sacrificed her own happiness by putting the needs of others first.  The oldest child, she was only around 10 when her father went off to fight in WWII, never to return.  Her younger sister Stella was born shortly after and mother Beatrice was never able to cope with raising another child.  Eudora, still a child herself,  stepped in to be her sister's protector from their mother's anger.  More sacrifices and disappointments soon followed for Dora whenever it seemed there was a slight glimmer of happiness for her as an adult.

Now an old woman Eudora decides she wants to end her life on her terms before she is unable to care for herself. She contacts a clinic in Switzerland to make arrangements. It is around the same time that Rose and her family move in next door. Rose is a sweet, smart 10 year old who realizes that she enjoys spending her free time with Rose instead of children her age.  She is quick to teach Eudora what living is all about. Then there is another neighbor Stanley, a recent widower who is lonely as well who enters the picture.

Even though it was easy to see where this story was headed, I really enjoyed the ride.  The characters in this story are memorable - Eudora, grouchy, set in her ways and strong willed.  I found her life story sad at times and felt badly that she gave up her earlier chances for happiness for others. Rose is insightful and wise beyond her years and brought so much life, fun and humor to the story, as did  Stanley, a lonely man who needed a friend.  The story in many ways reminded me of A Man Called Ove but, most of all it acted as a reminder to readers that showing a little attention and concern to a lonely person can make all the difference in the world.  I think this would make a good book club choice as well.

RATING: 4/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES:    “Life is precious and as long as we have a reason to continue, we should follow that path.” 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

2021 - Book #19 - Champ and Major First Dogs; Joy McCullough

 

Champ and Major: First Dogs, Joy McCullough (Ill.Sheyda Abvabi Best) 
Dial Books / Random House 2021

Champ and Major: First Dogs, has something import to tell readers -   their human dad has an important job as the new President of the United States.  Champ had visited the White House when dad was Vice President. At that time Champ used to play with Sunny and Bo, the Obama's dogs.  Major was adopted in 2018 after the Biden's fostered him and then adopted him from a Delaware shelter. Major is the only shelter dog to ever live in the White House.  As Champ teaches Major the ropes: greeting visitors and showing him the good places to sleep, when dad is done working they look forward to playing with him outdoors.  Presidents love animals it seems, did you know that only (2) former Presidents never had a pet living at the White House? 

This is a beautifully illustrated fun and informative book for young readers. My grandchildren love animals so when I heard about this book, I had to order it; I wasn't disappointed and neither were they - not just for kids. 



RATING - 5/5 stars