Wednesday, June 30, 2021

102 - 2021 - Dream Girl; Laura Lippman

TITLE/AUTHOR:  Dream Girl; Laura Lippman

PUBLISHER:  William Morrow and Harper Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Psych Thriller

FORMAT:  eGalley and audio LENGTH: 320 pp - 8 hrs. and 54 min.

SOURCE:  Edelweiss and Library download

SETTING(s):  Baltimore, MD 

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A  suspenseful yet witty thriller about an author who lacks self-awareness.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Gerry Anderson is a 61 year old author who has experienced success. His book "Dream Girl" starring a woman named Aubrey McFate made him an instant success with his fans.  The fans felt Aubrey was based on a real person the way she seemed to come alive on the pages. Gerry does have three former wives and some 37 lovers but, who's counting?  He recently moved from New York City to high rise penthouse in Baltimore to be near his mother who had dementia but, she passed away soon after the move.  Now he's trying to write the memoir his publisher is looking for but, he's having trouble focusing.

Now he finds himself confined to a bed for 8-12 weeks after tripping over a rowing machine, slipping on the concrete floor and tumbling down a floating staircase where he lay until his assistant arrived the next morning.  With an assistant with him by day, a nurse by night and lots of pain meds, Gerry is dazed and confused and confined to bed with a brace.  When calls and emails from a woman claiming to be Aubrey begin and Gerry even claims to have seen Aubrey in his penthouse he begins to wonder whether someone is playing a trick on him or was there an Aubrey in the past that really inspired the woman in his book.

As the story progresses we get a little history into Gerry's past, his issues with his father and his relationship with his mother and his relationships with women in general. It becomes clear Gerry is a cad, a misogynist and making it likely that there must be plenty of women out there who would want to get even with him.

This story is both suspenseful and witty, I caught myself frequently smiling especially with the audio version which was read by Jason Culp. He did a great job with the Gerry character.  Gerry is unlikeable for sure but he was such a fun character in that he totally lacked self-awareness.  It was hard not to feel for him at times. Honestly, all of the characters were unlikeable and that usually spoils a book for me but, not this one. It wasn't perfect but in addition to the clever storyline, I liked that there were references to other books and movies and mostly that the story just put a smile on my face. Overall, a good read and maybe a better listen!

Thanks go to  William Morrow, Edelweiss and my public library for allowing me access to this delightful book in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING:  4/5

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

101 - 2021 - Mary Jane, Jessica Anya Blau

 


TITLE/AUTHORMary Jane, Jessica Anya Blau

PUBLISHER:  Custom House

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Coming-of-Age

FORMAT:  eGalleyLENGTH: 320 pp

SOURCE:  Edelweiss

SETTING(s):  Baltimore, MD suburb

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A wonderful coming-of-age story that exposes a teenage girl to a lifestyle so very different from her own.

BRIEF REVIEW:   It's the summer of 1975 when fourteen year old Mary Jane Dillard is hired as a nanny to care for Isabelle "Izzy" Cone, the five year old daughter of Dr. Richard Cone, a psychiatrist, and his stay at home wife Bonnie.  The Cone's and Dillard's are neighbors but little do the ultra conservative Dillard parents know, other than the fact that Cones have a lovely house, at least on the outside, and Mr. Cone has a "respectable" job as a doctor, the two families have absolutely nothing in common.  

The Dillard's are strict Presbyterians and, he and his wife are all about appearances and concerned what others think about them.  Mr. Dillard belongs to a country club that bans Jews and Blacks, unless of course they work at the country club waiting on the members.  Mr. Dillard also makes it a point to pray for President Ford at dinner each evening.  

The Cones, as May Jane learns from her first day inside their home,  are an unorganized disaster. The inside of their lovely home is pure disorder.  Mr. Cone can never find his keys because of all the stuff in places everywhere except where they belong. His wife Bonnie doesn't work but, she doesn't cook or clean either. Despite this, the family is relaxed, fun, in love and Izzy is a delightful, happy child.  The couple is free-spirited and demonstrative with affection which is so foreign to Mary Jane.  After her first few days on the job, Mary Jane knows that her parents would freak out if they knew the real Cones, especially the fact that their summer houseguests are rockstar Jimmy Bendinger, a recovering heroin addict who Mr. Cone is treating for addiction issues and his actress wife Sheba.  Mary Jane is enthralled by the uniqueness of this family and their guests and loves feeling a part of it all.  Mary Jane is also bright and knows her parents well, she quickly  realizes that in order to keep the nanny job she loves, she must tell her parents some half-truths and some down right lies.  Of course, the story couldn't end without the Dillards learning the truth and when they do - oh boy!

I loved this story and I was sad to have it end.  The 70s vibe was so much fun. The story never felt too heavy given the fact that drugs, sex, prejudice and racism are written into the storyline.  I loved Mary Jane, she seemed so wise, mature and self-aware.  I especially loved the unconventional characters, they felt so real, loving and genuine despite their flaws. This is one of those stories that is sure to stick with me a long while. I'm so happy I read it.

Thanks go to Custom House and Edelweiss for allowing me access to this delightful book in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING:  5/5

The Personal Librarian; Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray - First Chapter First paragraph Tuesday Intros


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews
Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read. This week's pick is part of a book tour. The book releases today!

The Personal Librarian; Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
Berkley (The Penguin Group) - June 29, 2021

Chapter 1
November 28. 1905
Princeton, New Jersey

"The Old North bell tolls the hour, and I realize that I'll be late.  I long to break into a sprint, my voluminous skirts lifted, my legs flying along the Princeton University pathways.  But just as I gather the heavy material, I hear Mama's voice: Belle, be a lady at all times.  I sigh; a lady would never run.

I release the fabric and slow down as I weave through Princeton'a leafy Gothic landscape, designed to look like Cambridge and Oxford.  I know I must do nothing to draw any kind of extra attention.  By the time I pass Blair Arch, my stride is quick but acceptable for a lady."

What do you think? Read more or pass on this one?  

Here's more from the book's description:

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator. A graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, she is the New York Times and USAToday bestselling author of The Only Woman in the RoomThe Mystery of Mrs. ChristieCarnegie's MaidThe Other Einstein, and Lady Clementine. All have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

 

Victoria Christopher Murray is an acclaimed author with more than one million books in print. She has written more than twenty novels, including Stand Your Ground, a NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction and a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.


The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

Monday, June 28, 2021

100 - 2021 - Palace of the Drowned; Christine Mangan

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  Palace of the Drowned; Christine Mangan

PUBLISHER:  Flatiron Books

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Literary/ Psychological

FORMAT:  print LENGTH: 309 pp

SOURCE:  Library

SETTING(s):  London and Venice (1960s)

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A slow-building, dark, suspenseful story about a now disgraced author.

BRIEF REVIEW:   This novel tells the story of Frances "Frankie" Croy,  a 40-something author who enjoyed much success with her first novel.  The years have passed and her latest novel hasn't resonated as well with her readers.  Frankie hasn't handled criticism of her work very well thus far and after a public breakdown in London, following a particularly critical review,  she knows she needs help and checks into a clinic for a short stay.  When her friend Jack (female) suggests that she take advantage of a family palazzo in Venice, known as "The Palace of the Drowned", Frankie agrees in hopes to regroup and refocus.

Shortly after Frankie's off-season arrival in Venice she meets Gilly at a market. Gilly claims to be a fan and reminds Frankie that they've met previously but, Frankie does not recall this. Before long the 26 year old Gilly is arranging a coffee date for the two of them and finding more and more reasons to spend time with Frankie.  What's her real agenda here?

This story was a slow build and took me a while to get invested. Frankie is a loner and also a drinker. She's unstable, unreliable and pretty unsympathetic too despite the fact that she survived a traumatic incident when she was younger during WWII. I found Frankie tough to connect with at times.  Gilly sent up red flags from the initial meeting and I was curious to find out what her real motive was for wanting to get close to Frankie.  The story itself is very atmospheric, deserted Venice, the fog and rains, eerie noises, everything just seems off, uncomfortable and tense. I liked the Venice, mid-60's setting and thought the ending was satisfying.

The story seemed to demonstrate just how very much a writer's success and reader following is dependent on readers and their reviews. A successful debut novel doesn't necessarily guarantee future high praise from fans.

I enjoyed this author's debut novel, Tangerine (2018) set in Morocco and although this wasn't quite as good IMO, I still was happy I tried it.

RATING:  3.5/5

Sunday, June 27, 2021

99- 2021 - Chair Yoga: Accessible Sequences to Build Strength, Flexibility and Inner Calm; Christina D'Arrigo

                                                                 Rockridge Press -2021 - 141 pages
 

I had attended regular yoga classes 3x a week pre-pandemic which I enjoyed very much - they will be starting again soon in August. However, over the past year my knees have been giving me problems so I thought this Chair Yoga book might be useful. I loved it.

There are a variety of chair poses with photos and clear instructions as well a ways to modify and time suggestions for each pose. These are perfect for keeping active and yet not having to get on the floor and do not involve weight bearing poses of my knees - a win-win.

Highly Recommended!


(source Amazon Vine program)

98 - 2021 - Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate


TITLE/AUTHOR:  Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate

PUBLISHER:  Ballantine 

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2017

GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  print LENGTH: 378 pp

SOURCE:  Library

SETTING(s):  TN and SC

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A fictionalized account of the Tennessee Children's Home scandal where poor children were rounded up and sold to wealthy families.

BRIEF REVIEW:   In 1939 Rill Foss and her four younger siblings lived a poor but happy life aboard  a Mississippi River shanty boat.  When their pregnant mother went into labor, the parents had to leave unexpectedly,  putting twelve year old Rill in charge.  Everything changes in the lives of these children when the authorities get involved and the children are found and taken to the children's home.  The children are told they will be reunited with their parents but, of course this does not happen.

In the present day,  Avery Stafford is a prosecutor in South Carolina and the daughter of a Senator. Born into a wealthy, prominent SC family, her family is helping her plan her wedding.  When her father is diagnosed with cancer, Avery comes back to help her father with business and personal matters. It is a chance encounter with May, a woman in a nursing home, a picture that May has in her possession and a bracelet that has Avery wondering if somehow May and her grandmother may have a connection.

The dual story lines alternate with Rill's POV (past) and Avery's story (present) and the possible link to the past as Avery begins her personal investigative work.  Rill's story was quite compelling and sad at times. It is through this narrative that we learn the deep dark secrets of the children's home and what children had to endure.   Avery's story was quite good as well but, there was an unexpected romantic development added to the story which seemed unnecessary and basically served as a needless filler.   There is a lot of abuse and neglect suffered by the children in this story which is hard to read about at times.  There were a few parts that left me confused; some people are mentioned and then seen to just disappear without explanation, leaving the reader to speculate what might have happened.

This book was selected for our June Book Group discussion and it lead to a good discussion.  Most of us were glad we had a chance to read this one but, that we would not have minded if the cheesy romance sub-plot had been eliminated.

There are lots of articles online about Georgia Tann, the Director of the Tennessee Children's Home, who  was responsible for the rounding up of these children and some 5,000 others around that time. Many of these children were adopted out to wealthy families in Hollywood and throughout the US.

RATING:  4/5

Thursday, June 24, 2021

97 - 2021 - William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream; retold by Georghia Ellinas

A Midsummer Night's Dream; retold by Georghia Ellinas 
(Illustrations: Jane Ray)
Candlewick Press - 2021
(Ages 4-8)

Oh my goodness, I fell in love with this magical, charming story that takes a comical look at love gone wrong in the fairy tale kingdom. Told from the POV of Robin Goodfellow, the one everyone calls Puck, the one who has the ability to make himself invisible and play tricks on both fairies and mortals.  

Even though the story is abbreviated and retold for kids, there are original quotes peppered throughout and the gorgeous illustrations on oversized quality pages that really seemed to make this story come alive and jump off the pages.  Personally,  I think the older children (ages 6-8) in the targeted range would be more enthralled by this one.

This is the second book in the retelling series. I missed The Tempest (2020) but, now have a need to check that one out as well.  A lovely book, be sure to check it out. 

Thanks go to Candlewick Press for sending this gem my way in exchange for my unbiased review.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Mary Jane; Jessica Anya Blau



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


Mary Jane; Jessica Anya Blau
Custom House - 2021
1

"Mrs. Cone showed me around the house.  I wanted to stop at every turn and examine the things that were stacked and heaped in places they didn't belong:  books teetering on a burner on the stove, a coffee cup on a shoebox in the entrance hall, a copper Buddha on the radiator, a pink blow up pool raft in the center of the living room.  I had just turned fourteen, it was 1975, and my ideas about homes, furniture, and cleanliness ran straight into me like an umbilical cord from my mother.  As Mrs. Cone used her bare foot (toenails painted a glittering red) to kick aside a stack of sweaters on the steps, I felt a jolt of wonder.  Did people really live like this?  I suppose I knew that they did somewhere in the world.  But I never expected to find a home like this in our neighborhood, Roland Park, which my mother claimed was the finest neighborhood in Baltimore."

What do you think - read more or pass?  I do like a good coming of age story and this seems to have potential.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

96 - 2021 - Blush; Jamie Brenner

 


TITLE/AUTHOR Blush; Jamie Brenner

PUBLISHER:  G.P.  Putnam

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Family /Contemporary

FORMAT:  eGalley LENGTH: 384

SOURCE:  NetGalley

SETTING(s):  NY

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A story about wine, trashy books and and three generations of strong women.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Hollander Estates and winery, located in the North Forks of Long Island in Cutchogue, NY,  has been a wonderful place for family, parties, day trips and destination events.  Leonard Hollander has spent a good part of his life developing the winery after gaining experience in CA.  He has provided his family with a beautiful home and lifestyle and has groomed his son Asher to learn the business.   Leonard now has a big announcement to make. The winery is in dire financial straights and must be sold otherwise Leonard and his wife Vivian may not have enough money for retirement.  For years Leonard has kept the business operations a "man thing" while his wife Vivian, entertained, looked beautiful and hosted her book club with her like-minded friends.  Leonard even kept daughter Leah in the dark about the operations.  Leah is married to Steven and she and her husband operate a popular cheese shop in Manhattan.  Their daughter Sadie, has had trouble focusing on her senior thesis and needs a break to refocus her priorities.  As these three strong women converge at the winery during the summer,  Sadie discovers some old journals stashed away in the library from years gone by, along with some trashy romance novels by 1980s feminist authors which inspire the women to come up with a plan to take charge and make their input count.  Smart women, good cheese, good wine and trashy books that inspire, do these women have what it takes to save the winery and change their lives in the process?

This is my third summer themed book by the author and unfortunately this one was my least favorite. The story moved very slowly for me ( it took me over a week to finish what should have been a quick read).  Although the story finally came around, I just never connected with the characters and family drama.  I'm guessing my love of good wine just wasn't enough to make this one work for me.  Disappointing.

RATING:  3/5

Thursday, June 17, 2021

95 - 2021 The Maidens; Alex Michaelides

 

TITLE/AUTHOR:   The Maidens;  Alex Michaelides

PUBLISHER:  Celadon Books and Macmillan Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Psychological Thriller

FORMAT:  audio LENGTH: 9 hours 19 min.

SOURCE:  NetGalley

SETTING(s):  Cambridge, England

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A dark engrossing psychological thriller with a surprising climax.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Mariana Andros is a group therapist in London who is still mourning the loss of her husband Sebastian the prior year. She also has a patient who has been stalking her.  One day she receives a panic call from her niece Zoe who attends the university in Cambridge.  Zoe's friend Tara has been brutally murdered .   Mariana is Zoe's guardian and wants to be with her so she drops everything and takes a train to be with her niece. 

The murder of Tara is reminiscent of a Greek tragedy  and Mariana learns that Tara was a member of a secret campus group called "The Maidens."  It's a select group of beautiful, confident young women led by the popular and handsome Professor of Mythology, Edward Fosca who  soon becomes a prime suspect.  Mariana begins to snoop around and then another girl is dead, murdered in the same brutal fashion.  Mariana is sure Professor Fosca is involved somehow.  The local police are getting annoyed by Mariana and tell her to stay out of their business but, she's not giving up that fast. Then one day she receives the same type of postcard with a Greek tragedy quote as the other dead girls had received and, things heat up from there leading up to a surprising and satisfying ending.

There were several things I loved about this book. It had several suspicious characters, and number of red herrings to throw the reader off track. It also had a couple of familiar characters from The Silent Patient as well, but, this could certainly be read as a stand alone novel.  The audio book was fantastic with dual narrators: a female for Mariana's third person POV and a male voice of a deeply disturbed, possibly psychotic (unknown) man with troublesome childhood memories.  Although this one took a bit to get going, a slow-burn,  it quickly escalated into high gear. I was blown away with the final reveal.

I loved this author's last novel The Silent Patient so I couldn't wait to try this one.  If it hadn't been for the graphic events involving sheep and then a family dog, this would have been a perfect read for me. Why do authors need to spoil a good book by introducing a shock factor involving animals? I felt I had to take off a star because of this.

Thanks go to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for allowing me to download this audiobook  at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.  

RATING:  4/5

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

3 new book delights for children - Annie Lumsden: Girl From the Sea; David Almond - Sweet Pea Summer; Hazel Mitchell and Atticus Caticus; Sarah Maizes

 
(Illustrations: Beatrice Alemagna )
Candlewick - 2021
(ages 7-10)



Annie Lumsden is 13 years old and she hasn't been to school for a while, she isn't like most other children at school. Her hair seems to float like seaweed as she move about, her thoughts seems to drift to the wonders of the sea.  Since she has trouble confusing her letters and her numbers, her artist mother teaches Annie from their little beach house by the sea.  Annie loves listening to all of her mother's stories about her artwork but, her favorite tales by far are ones about the sea.  One day, it's a stranger that is new to the area who helps Annie to understand how special she really is,

I loved that this story features a girl who is different from her peers but, she isn't overwhelmed by her differences and rather in a good place it seems.  I loved the relationship she had with her mother who was so supportive of her daughter's uniqueness and her creature-of-the-sea qualities.  A good store and positive message and lovely illustrations that add to the mystery within the story.




Sweet Pea Summer; Hazel Mitchell (author/illustrator)
Candlewick Press - 2021
(ages 4-8)

When a little girl's mother must be hospitalized, Grandma and Grandpa have her father bring her over to spend the summer with the them.  Hoping to take her mind off her mother, they try to get her interested in gardening, both flowers and vegetables.  The sweet peas were always a beautiful garden addition and they hoped to enter them in the flower show this year but sweet peas were not doing well. The buds were falling off, the girl tried everything she could think of to help them: umbrellas for shade, covering them at night for cooler temps and just the right amounts of water too.  Soon came the day of the flower show and the hard work had paid off - it was her bluest ever sweet peas that won the prize. They also served as a perfect welcome home gift for her mom.

Sweet story, lovely illustrations and an overall summer perfect story.




Atticus Caticus; Sarah Maizes 
Kara Kramer, Illustrator
Candlewick Press - 2021

Atticus Caticus features a day in the life of a quirky cat and her little human.  Yes, Atticus can be a tad annoying, it's just how some cats can be, but, above all else it is his quirks that make him the cool fun unique cat that is hard not to love.

The rhyme, fun verse is a delight but, may take some time getting used to. The illustrations were fun, (I can't call them adorable) but, the expressions on Atticus are just priceless.  I think most little ones who love cats will pick this one as a favorite.




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

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate



Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews
Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read. This week's pick is my book group's pick for June - we meet, in person, next week back at the library.


Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate
Ballantine Books - 2017

Prelude

Baltimore, Maryland
August 3, 1939

"My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon. The room takes life only in my imaginings.  It is large most days when I conjure it.  The walls are white and clean, the bed linens crisp as a fallen leaf. The private suite has the very finest of everything.  Outside, the breeze is weary, and the cicadas throb in the tall trees, their verdant hiding places just below the window frames. The screens sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved.

The scent of pine wafts in, and the woman's screams press out as the nurses hold her fast to the bed. Sweat pools on her skin and rushes down her face and arms and legs.  She's be horrified if she was aware of this."

What do you think, read more or pass? Have you read this one? I heard it was excellent so I'm looking forward to beginning it this week.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

91 - 2021 - Count the Ways; Joyce Maynard

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:   Count the Ways; Joyce Maynard

PUBLISHER:  William Morrow

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Family Life

FORMAT:  eGalley / LENGTH: 462

SOURCE:   Edelweiss

SETTING(s):  New Hampshire (and Massachusetts)

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A beautiful story of an imperfect life: love, marriage, home, children and forgiveness.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Eleanor had never known love, as the only child of alcoholic parents who were married twenty years when she was born.  Her parents were wrapped up in each other and never seemed to want her around. She was sent off to boarding school and it was while she was at school at the age of sixteen that she learns her parents were killed in a car crash returning from a ski weekend in Vermont.   For Eleanor art, as a form of expression, was a way out her loneliness, her early passion turned into a way to earn a living.

With a little money and income from her illustrations and later children's books, she falls in love with a farmhouse with lots of land and even a brook in New Hampshire. She purchased the house complete with furnishings, housewares and tools and so much - it was a house with a history.  She is immediately in love with her home.  A few years later she meets handsome Cam at a craft's fair in Vermont where he was selling his wooden wares, there is instant passion, and before long three children make them a family.  Their Bohemian lifestyle and family makes Eleanor one of the happiest of women in the world.  She even overlooks the fact Cam isn't exactly the most hardworking, helpful or responsible partner but, they have built a life together and the children seem happy and their life is everything she ever wanted.  So when something terrible happens, Eleanor is beside herself and soon life as the family has known it has changed.

Count the Ways is a story that spans decades. Eleanor is a wonderful, fully fleshed character that women who have experienced the trials and tribulations of motherhood and marriage will be able to relate to (at least I did.)  I felt her joys, her disappointments, and her sadness. She experiences possibly more than her share of life's disappointments and difficulties but, she finds a way to cope and keep going.  There are a lot of things that happen in this story and yet most everything is still vivid and etched in my mind. I don't want to say too much, I was happy I went into the memorable story without reading what the book was about beforehand. There was so much nostalgia in this story for me as I was raising my children during the same time period: the music, the movies, the news events and more. Everything about this story felt realistic and I don't think it could have been improved upon.  The author covered it all - life, family and all the detours along the way that sometimes make our lives turn out different than we imagined when we were young.  I felt like I was a close friend of Eleanor and of this family when I turned the final page. I didn't want this one to end. The book is sure to make my faves list for 2021. Highly Recommended.

Thanks go to Edelweiss and William Morrow for allowing me to download this eGalley at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.  This book releases on July 13, 2021.

RATING:  5/5


MEMORABLE QUOTES:

"This is my radical act, she had told the young Harvard woman. "Raising three human beings, who will go out and change the world."

"For me, being a feminist means manifesting the strength and confidence and tenacity to pursue whatever it is you most want to do with your life. In my case, the goal was having a family. I'm doing that. If I don't get to make art that much at the moment, I can live with it.  Nobody gets everything in life. You have to make compromises.

"Children had to know pain, or how would they ever know what to do when they encountered it?  Trouble would come, no matter what.   The best you could do was to raise your children in such a way that when trouble found them--as it would--they's be able to survive it." (Teach your children well)

"Standing at the kitchen counter, looking out the window, Eleanor could almost feel her heart expand in her chest. Two sensations came to her. Wild happiness at the sight of her three children, terror at the thought of what it would be to lose one of them. If it was possible to love someone any more than this, she could not imagine how."


EPIGRAPH (Ho'oponopono prayer, phrases spoken in any order, for reconciliation and forgiveness.)

I'm sorry.

   I love you.

   Thank you.

   Please forgive me.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

90 - 2021 Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton; Gail Crowther


 

TITLE/AUTHOR:  Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton; Gail Crowther

PUBLISHER Simon & Schuster Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Non Fiction / Biographies / Feminism

FORMAT:  audio download / LENGTH:  8 hours and 38 min.

SOURCE:  publisher download

SETTING(s):  n/a

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A fascinating story  two brilliant female poets both tormented by self-doubts and thoughts of suicide.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Having read The Bell Jar several times,  I thought this might be a good opportunity to learn more about Plath's brief life.

Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were brilliant and complex women.  The two poets met by chance at a writer's workshop lead by Robert Lowell at Boston University in 1959.  The two women formed a fast friendship meeting at Boston's Ritz Carlton for several martinis after each class.  Their discussions were not only about writing and poetry but ventured into bolder conversations like relationships, sex and even talk of suicide.  When the workshop had ended their friendship did not, although Plath remained in Massachusetts, Sexton moved to England yet they stayed in touch through correspondence.

Both women were progressive in a time when it was not acceptable. Neither woman was content to stay home, raise children, cook, keep up the house, entertain or to remain a silent partner.  Both were troubled with mental illness and thoughts of suicide.  While Plath committed suicide at 30, Sexton had several failed attempts before finally ending her life at 45.

Although I knew a lot about Plath's short life, Sexton's background was a mystery to me.  Each of the women had different parenting styles and upbringings and while Plath was organized and methodical Sexton was disorganized and had more of a fly by the seat of your pants outlook.   I thought the author did a good job comparing and yet, contrasting each woman in a way that never felt too heavy or too superficial.  The treatment methods for depression in years gone by were somewhat disturbing. The dual biographies on audio worked well  and was narrated by Imani Jade Powers .   I did missed out on the pictures which were included in the print edition. I thought the chapters flowed well and were well organized: Rebels, Early Days, Sex, Marriage, Mothering, Writing, Mental Illness, Suicide and an Epilogue.  Recommended for readers interested in a well-researched literary biography.

RATING:  4/5  


Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio for allowing me access to this audio book in exchange for my unbiased review.