Tuesday, November 30, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Matzah Ball; Jean Meltzer


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.  It's time to begin some holiday reads - I hope to read at least (4) this December.  Do you like to indulge in a few holiday reads every year?

The Matzah Ball; Jean Meltzer
Mira - 2021


She needed one more.

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt stared at the collection of miniature Christmas figurines spread across her desk.  She owned 236 of the smiling porcelain Santas from the world famous  Holiday Dreams Collection.  When her best friend, Mickey, arrived, she would complete that collection with the coveted Margaritaville Santa.

Oh, The Margaritaville Santa. How she dreamed of the day that a tiny porcelain Santa, in a Hawaiian shirt and wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses would sit atop her prized collection.

Rachel had scoured eBay for the tiny limited-edition figurine, set up price alerts and left frantic (somewhat drunken) posts at three in the morning on collectors blogs.  Now, after six years, five months and seven days of hunting, the Margaritaville Santa would finally be hers.  The anxiety was killing her.

What do you think, read more or pass?

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Book Reviews - Who is Maud Dixon? Alexandra Andrews - These Precious Days: Essays; Ann Patchett and Trust; Domenico Starnone


Well we made it through a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering with family and everyone was healthy (we hope).  A few COVID scares in the granddaughter's classrooms but, they have each received their first booster and remain healthy - thank goodness.  For those of you who were able to be with family and friends - wasn't it special? It felt so good to be together, even the turkey seemed like one of my best (LOL).  We celebrated my son's birthday which always falls around Thanksgiving.

This weeks - Reading

I finished (3) books over the past week - all worth reading IMO.

Who is Maud Dixon?; Alexandra Andrews
Little Brown & Co - 2021
(library download - 9 hours 11 min)

Maud Dixon is a pen name for an author whose first book was a success but, just who is this very private author? 

Florence Darrow wants to be a novelist but, that dream seems unlikely especially after being let go from her job at a New York publishing house.  Suddenly, Florence seems to get the opportunity of a lifetime. She is hired as a writing assistant to "the Maud Dixon"...A.K.A.  Helen Wilcox.  Florence sees this as a chance to learn from real talent and Maud/Helen is only a few years older than Florence as well.

When Florence learns that the two of them will be traveling to Morocco she goes along with the idea, after all she is single and this seems like a dream opportunity.  From this point on the story that started out slow picks up speed and takes on a darker and sometimes even a comical turn. This was a wild read, both women were unlikeable characters but, I liked the unexpected twists and enjoyed the ride, even if I had to suspend belief from time to time. The audio read by Therese Plummer was excellent.

Rating - 4/5 stars

These Precious Days; Ann Patchett
Harper and Harper Audio - 11/2021

Ann Patchett is an author I automatically read. This recent release is a series of personal essays made me feel like the author was a close friend by the time I fished the final offering. 

My favorite essays in the collection were: Three Fathers: this was a touching story ~ her father who wanted her to be a dental hygienist and a step father who supported her writing aspirations.  I also enjoyed: How Knitting Saved My Life, Twice - A story about how this knitting helped her to kick a smoking habit as it's pretty hard to knit and smoke at the same time. (Knitting - was also key to my own daughter quitting smoking about 10 years ago). My Year of No Shopping was another essay that resonated with me because I tried this and failed miserably after a month. Don't we all have much too much stuff and don't we buy things that we already know we have but sometimes can't find? There is also an essay about moving from Montana to MA for a writing fellowship at Ratcliffe.  In There Are No Children Here - we learn about her decision to remain childless.  For me the most powerful essay is the title essay: These Precious Days. In this story she and her husband Karl invite Tom Hank's publicist, Sooki, into their home just pre-COVID as she was undergoing pancreatic cancer treatments in TN.  This story tells so much about the type of person the author is.

I really enjoyed this collection.  One or two of the essays felt slightly familiar to me like I may have read them before - perhaps in magazine. The author comes across as a caring partner and friend, the kind of individual that finds the good in all people and, don't we all know we need more people like this around? The take away for me after finishing this collection was: make sure you make good use of the time we have left as we never know what time we have left.

I had both the audio and eGalley. The audio is read by the author and although it was fine, I switched to the eGalley which, for me, was preferable.  

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

The eGalley was provided to me free of charge by Harper Publishing and Edelweiss and the audio was downloaded from by public library system.

Trust; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions - 3.5/5

I enjoyed (2) previous books by this author: Ties (2017) and Trick (2018) so I was so looking forward to the latest release.  Pietro Vella and Teresa Quadraro are a couple who met when he was a teacher and she a former student.  They were in one of those love/hate relationships; one day they are hot for one another, then they fight, they break up and they get together again.  One day to help solidify their commitment to one another they agree to share a deep, dark secret about themselves that neither has shared with anyone else.  This turns out to be a huge mistake since as soon as they do this they break up for a final time.  

Each moves on in life - Pietro marries Nadia and fathers a daughter, Emma. He feels dissatisfied in his marriage and in his career as a literature teacher while Teresa becomes a success as a scientist and professor at prestigious MIT.  Despite the time that has passed Pietro remains haunted by the secret he confessed years earlier but, is it really the secret that leaves him distressed?  Surprisingly, Teresa holds a kind of power over Pietro despite the fact that their paths have only crossed a few times in decades.

The story is divided into three parts - Pietro's story is the most telling, we also hear from his adult daughter Emma and finally Teresa's voice.  The story was expertly translated from Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri and although I enjoyed this one, I was left wanting just a bit more.

The eGalley was provided to me by Edelweiss and Europa Books at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Friday, November 26, 2021

Book Review - WIsh You Were Here; Jodi Picoult


Wish You Were Here; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books and Penguin Random House Audio - 11/30/2021

Wish You Were Here is a story that begins just before COVID has shut down the world.  Diane and Finn are a young couple living in NYC. Diana hasn't had the best childhood but, her life feels near perfect now. At 29 she works for Sothebys and Finn is a surgical resident at a New York hospital.  The two have planned a romantic getaway to the Galapagos islands and, Diana is pretty sure the Finn is planning on asking her to marry him.  Right before the couple is planning to leave, Finn gets word that all hands on deck are needed at the hospital and no one can take time off.  He encourages Diana to take the trip alone since the trip is already paid for and non refundable.  She decides to go alone (Big Mistake) and it isn't long before things go from bag to worse.  I can't say too much more about this novel without spoiling it for perspective readers but, this just may be my favorite Picoult novel yet and, I've read all of her books except for her previous one. 

I went into this one without reading reviews -- do yourself a favor and just go into this one blind - you will be glad you did.  The story is told from Diana's POV with later input from Finn. The story is well-written, a perfect story set in COVID times that did not feel too depressing.  It's a story about relationships, reassessing priorities and figuring out what is really important in life. I loved this book.  The audio version was read by Marin Ireland who, as always, did a fabulous job.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Wishes to All Who Celebrate

I love celebrating Thanksgiving, it is my favorite holiday. No gifts to buy, and just a wonderful time to be with loved ones.  I am thankful for each precious day, a wonderful husband, an awesome son and daughter, special daughter-in-law and great son-in-law, and (3) delightful granddaughters. We have a nice warm home, plenty of food and everything we need to be happy and feel secure.  

I am also thankful to those you who find my blog interesting enough to stop by now and then to share their love of books.  Be Well!

2 books that left me a bit disappointed - The Hotel; Pamela Kelley and Still Life; Sarah Winman


The Hotel; Pamela Kelley
Piping Plover Books - 2021

The Hotel is a novel that takes place in Nantucket, a place and setting that is hard to beat.   In this story The Whitley Hotel is the most famous and luxurious hotel on the island and, it has been in the family for years. Set on white pristine beaches, the hotel and surrounding cottages are about to undergo a management change.  Cousin Andrea is out as general manager due to her abrasive personality and granddaughter Paula who had less of a presence because of her accounting role is now moving to the general manager position. In addition, grandfather Whitley has hired David as a consultant to aid in the transition.  There is also Nick, a chef and brother to Paula as well as Bella, a Hollywood superstar who is staying at the hotel somewhat discreetly.

The chapters alternate between the characters and what started out promising and had a picture perfect setting, the one-dimensional characters and under developed yet predicable story left me disappointing.  I found lots of irritating details like what an Etsy store is and what Lyme disease unnecessary and, I wished the author devote more time in plot line and character development.  The audio book was read by Leslie Howard who did a fine job but, overall this story itself was disappointing.

Rating - 2/5 stars

Still Life; Sarah Winman

G.P Putnam - 2021

Still Life was another book that had so much promise and although many readers seemed to love it, it just was a struggle for me. 

Still Life begins in Florence and spans the years 1944 - 1979.  At the heart of the story is a young British soldier and globe maker named Ulysses Temper and 64 year old Evelyn Skinner, an art teacher and historian and possible spy.  The two meet in the midst of war as Ulysses hides out in a wine cellar. He is a kind and gentle man who is easy to like and one people are quickly drawn to.  As the war ends and Ulysses returns home, we meet wife Peg, a marriage of convenience, as well as a quirky cast of characters including an Amazonian parrot name Claude who quotes Shakespeare. 

 I started with the audiobook which is read by the author, but, I found it very difficult given the author's heavy British accent and multiple characters (8+) to follow. I switched to the hardcover and although this was easier, the hefty novel overall still wasn't a great fit for me and I found myself skimming sections.  I felt some of the characters were very well written but, I think my biggest pet peeve was that there was quite a bit of dialogue and the author did not use quotation marks. Unfortunately, I guess I haven't had the best luck with this author as I see her novel Tin Man was not a winner for me either - review HERE.

Rating - 3/5 stars

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

These Precious Days: Essays - Ann Patchett - First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.  Today's selection is another book by a favorite author of mine, Ann Patchett. I decided to include the first paragraph from the introduction, as well as, the first paragraph from the first essay.

Harper - 11/23/2021 - release day


Essays Don't Die

The first time I remember seriously thinking about my own death, I was twenty-six years old and working on my first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars.  No matter where I went, I carried the entire cast of characters with me--the heroines and heroes and supporting players, as well as the towns they lived in, their houses and cars, all the streets and all the trees and the color of the light.  Every day a little bit more of their story was committed to paper, but everything that was still to come existed only in my head.  Remembering things is how I work. I didn't have outlines or notes, and because of that, I was hounded by the thought of stepping off a curb at the wrong moment, or drowning in the ocean (this second scenario was more likely, as I was living in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where I swam in the freezing water and was prone to cramps).

Three Fathers

Marriage has always proven irresistible in my family.  We try and fail and try again, somehow maintaining our belief in an institution that has made fools of us all.  I married twice; so has my sister.  Our mother married three times.  None of us set out for this.  We meant to stick our landing on the first try, but we stumbled.  My parents divorced when I was five. My mother and stepfather Mike had their final parting when I was twenty-four.  She married Darrell when I was twenty-seven, and they stayed together until he died in 2018, when I was fifty-four.

I can't wait to dive in an earlier book of essays: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (2013) was a favorite read of mine.  What do you think of the intros?

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Book Review - The Family; Naomi Krupitsky

The Family; Naomi Krupitsky
G.P. Putnam and Penguin Audio - 11/2021 - (9 hrs. 53 min.)
Narrator - Marin Ireland

Set in the late 1920s in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook,  The Family, tells the story of two best friends whose fathers, Joey and Carlos, were part of the Italian Mafia.  Sofia Colicchico and Antonia Russo were best friends from a very young age, their families even had Sunday dinners together. The girls knew their fathers worked together but what they did was a mystery.  When Antonia's father Carlos goes out one night and never returns, it is Joey who steps up and takes care of the fatherless Russo family.  As the girls grow, marry and become mothers their lives take a much different turn and fissures in their relationship begin to show but, they remain friends.  

What happens when someone wants out of the "family?"

I wasn't sure this book was going to be for me but, I found it to be a rather powerful coming of age story.  The husbands of Sofia and Antonia added much interest to the story as well (Antonia marries a Jew). I liked the time period: prohibition, the Great Depression and WWII.  I also enjoyed the background on how the Mafia and the protection aspect first came into play.  I  found some parts of the book to be a bit repetitive and I knew the ending would be somewhat shocking or surprising at the very least. I wasn't disappointed.  This book seems to have sequel potential as well.  The audio book was read by Marin Ireland who did an excellent job.  I think this debut is worth reading and was happy I tried it.

Rating - 4/5 stars

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Wish You Were Here; Jodi Picoult

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

 Wish You Were Here; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books - November/2021


March 13, 2020

When I was six years old, I painted a corner of the sky.  My father was working as a conservator, one of a handful restoring the zodiac ceiling on the main hall of Grand Central Terminal --an aqua sky strung with shimmering constellations.  It was late, way past my bedtime, but my father took me to work because my mother--as usual--was not home.

I started this one yesterday and I am finding it hard to put down.  Hope you enjoy the intro. The book releases in (2) weeks on November 30th.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

3 brief Book Reviews - The Invisible Husband of Frick Island; Colleen Oakley - The Last Guests; J.P. Pomare and The Writer's Cats; Muriel Barbery

 (2) quick catch up reviews

Berkley - 2021

I was hoping to read this one in the first half of the year but, I decided to save it for when I was in the the mood for lighter feel good read - this was it.

In this story we meet twenty-something Piper Parrish who lives on a tiny island with fewer than 100 people on Chesapeake Bay.  Her life had been nearly perfect and the her husband Tom went out one morning on his crab boat and never returned home.  His boat had capsized and his body never found.  How does one move on from such a tragic event? Well, maybe you just don't.  Piper unable to accept the idea that Tom is dead continues to go on with life as if he is right by her side. Before long much of the townspeople are right there with Piper pretending that nothing has happened when she is around.

When Anders Caldwell a columnist and podcaster arrives on the island to cover a story, what was to be a short stay turns into something else entirely.  (There is a funny scene where Piper is at a table for two at a restaurant and Anders notices Piper her. He thinks she is beautiful and gets the courage to ask if he can join her.  She says, "can't you see I am having dinner with my husband?" 

This story wasn't perfect but I liked that it had some fun scenes and had a bit of mystery to it. If you are in the mood for a feel good story with quirky characters add this to your list.

(eGalley received from Edelweiss)

The Last Guests; J.P. Pomare
Mulholland Books - 2021
(eGalley - NetGalley)

Auckland, New Zealand is the setting for this creepy thriller where we meet Lina and Caine, they are a newlywed couple with secrets.  Lina is an overworked paramedic and Cain, a former SAS officer who was stationed in Afghanistan has dark past.  Lina has inherited a vacation home that had been in her family and since they don't get a chance to use it very often, Cain gets Lina to agree to rent it out on weekends for extra income.  The rental process used is similar to AirbNb and, it turns out their rental becomes quite popular.  So what seemed like a good idea turns into a nightmare when it's clear hidden spy cameras are in place and someone is interested in watching someone.

An extremely creepy page turner with a terrific setting as well.  This turned out to be one of those books that was hard to put down despite some implausible moments and a bit too much going on at times, I found creepy thriller totally engrossing.

The Writer's Cats; Muriel Barbery
Europa - November - 2021

I'm a reader not a writer but have always been curious by what inspires an author and what makes their creative juices flow. For French writer, Muriel Barbery, it appears to be all things Japanese, flowers, and her (4) Chartreux cats (gray fur with amber eyes). There is Kirin, graceful and charming, brothers Petrus and Ocha and sister Mizu.  The story narrated by Kirin with humor and a cat's insight gives us a look at the author's day to day life and her writing process.  How does the author know when something needs to be revised?  A clue is when a particular page gets swished to floor by a cats tail or, maybe it's when a cat sits on a page way too long that tips her off.

Cat lovers will recognize the things cats do to get our attention both to annoy us and endear us - often.  at the very same time. Quirky, fun and peppered with charming illustrations, this 80 page book is easy to read in one sitting and would be a fun gift for the cat lover in your life.

Friday, November 12, 2021

3 children's books worth considering: The Secret Starling; Judith Eagle - Judy Moody in a Monday Mood; Megan McDonald and Welcome Back Maple Mehta-Cohen; Kate McGovern


The Secret Starling; Judith Eagle (Ill. Jo Rioux)
Walker Books - US - Ages 10-14

Set in a time before technology, twelve year old Clara Starling lived a boring and lonely life in a crumbling old British mansion with her strict uncle Edward.  Her mother died when Clara was born and Clara never knew her father.  One day her uncle disappears leaving her with a pocketful of money.  Clara is unsure what to do having been sheltered from the outside world with no friends and now no uncle. Things change when Peter, an orphan boy her age arrives with his cat.  He is expecting to be staying with Edward after his grandma has become ill but, soon the two abandoned children need to work together and solve a the mystery of the past and what has brought them together. Can they piece together the past with some clues found in the present?

A charming mystery story with an old-fashion feel that both children and adults can enjoy; I loved the illustrations as well.

Judy Moody in a Monday Mood; Megan McDonald (Ill. Peter H. Reynolds)
Candlewick Press - 2021 - (Ages 6-9)

Who hasn't had the Sunday night blues? Young Judy Moody is no exception so when feeling rather down at school, hr teacher Mr. Todd comes up with an idea that cheers her up - he declares a reason to celebrate "Bubble Wrap Day."  It is indeed a strange day to celebrate but it opens the door to new types of celebrations for Judy, her brother and her friends.  Their ideas are wild and crazy as "bubble wrap day" but, open up the opportunity to do good things and celebrate differences and isn't that a wonderful thing?

Judy Moody is a kid pleaser; children in Grades 1-3 will enjoy this fun story and well done illustrations.

Candlewick Press - 2021 (ages 9-12)

Maple is a half-Indian - half-Jewish girl who is has an amazing vocabulary, she writes stories but, she is struggling. She is in the fifth grade (again) and trying to keep a secret from her friends.  She has difficulty reading, it does not come easy to her - she mixes up the words.  Her anxiety increases as she worries what the other kids will think and say about her and, she feels like she is disappointing her family as well.

This was such a well written, realistic story and such an important one as well.  I liked that not only is Maple of mixed heritage, the story was also about children with real learning issues like dyslexia.  I thought the perfect target age for this story would be 10-11 year old children.

My thanks go to Walker Books US and Candlewick Press for sending these books my way in exchange for my unbiased reviews.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

2 brief audiobook reviews - Red Roulette: An Insiders Story of Power, Corruption and Vengeance in Today's China; Desmond Shum and A Little Hope: Ethan Joella

Red Roulette; Desmond Shum
Simon & Schuster Audio - September - 2021
(9 hours 21 min - Tim Chiou - narrator)

In this biography, Desmond Shum tells a couple of stories.  First there is his own story about his rise from rags to riches. He was born into a poor family in China and moved to Hong Kong when he was young, excelled in swimming and was able to attend college in the US.  Later moving back to China, he was driven to succeed in the business world even if it meant partnering with the upper echelon of China's communist party under former Premiere Wen Jiabao.  Shum then also tells of his marriage and subsequent divorce to an equally power driven woman named Whitney Duan and their struggle to finally have a child.  Finally, he tells the story of Wendy, his now ex-wife and her disappearance in Beijing, along with three of her coworkers in September of 2017.  In addition, Shum also gives us an insider's look at the couples involvement with the red aristocracy.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I loved the story of both Desmond and Whitneys early humble beginnings and the couples entrepreneurial spirit.  I loved learning what drove each of them to become so power hungry and prove their success even if it meant taking such risks by getting so involved with the powers that be.  It was fascinating learning about the power and corruption and the dynamics between the political factions in China from a former insider. I also liked learning about the rise of the current ruler for life Xi Jinping. On the other hand, what I found annoying was the constant emphasis on possessions the author and his ex-wife acquired.  There was incessant label branding along and mentions of expensive homes, private jets, fast cars, clothing, jewelry or even wine.  At times the author came across simply as power hungry and greedy.  Overall, I was still happy I listened to this one even though I had some issues with the overall story. The audio was read by Tim Chiou who did a very good job.

A Little Hope: Ethan Joella
Simon & Schuster Audio - November -2021
(7 hrs. 21 min. - Shaun Taylor-Corbett - narrator)

In this debut novel which takes place in the small town of Wharton, CT we meet ordinary people who are dealing with a variety of life challenges and disappointments.  

The novel begins with Greg Tyler,  husband of Freddie and father of a young daughter Addie.  Greg is also a businessman and a man who is battling multiple myeloma. His diagnosis has been devastating but he isn't planning on giving up this fight of his life.  

The above story moves into other interconnected stories about other townspeople who are facing or have faced other setbacks and difficulties such as loss of loved ones, betrayals, infidelities and addiction issues.  Despite the difficulties and somewhat depressing themes in these stories, we also witness some small joys and bright spots along the way. These stories remind us of the importance of having people in our lives who can make all the difference when we are faced with a crisis.  

This is the type of story that could have taken place in any small town USA. It is told from a third person POV which made it a bit more difficult for me to connect with some of the characters but, I liked that when I turned the final page I was left with a somewhat hopeful feeling. The audio book was read by: Shaun Taylor-Corbett who did a very good job. Overall - an impressive debut.

Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio for allowing me access to these audiobooks in exchange for my unbiased reviews.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

New Book Releases - The Way We Weren't; Phoebe Fox - First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros and The Writer's Cats; Muriel Barbery

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon. This week I selected (2) books I will be reading - both release today.

The Way We Weren't; Phoebe Fox
Berkley - November 9, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph(s) Intro


It's his hands that let her know everything is going to be okay after all.

Sitting close beside her on the stands, bare but for the two of them with practice having ended almost two hours ago, his empty glove forgotten at his feet, he cradles her hand in his, one hand wrapped firmly around her fingers as if anchoring her to the metal surface currently freezing her butt, the other cupped over it like a baby bird he shelters from the cold bite of the March air.

Today is release day for this book: An unlikely friendship between a septuagenarian and a younger woman becomes a story of broken trust, lost love, and the unexpected blooming of hope against the longest odds.

What do you think? Isn't the cover art lovely?  I hope to begin reading it later this week.  I loved the author's previous book: A Little Bit of Grace

The Writer's Cats; Muriel Barbery (Ill. Maria Guitart)
Europa Editions - 11/9/2021

First of all, let me make one thing clear: we like our writer.  She's kind. She never forgets when it's time for our meal. She doesn't scream when she sees a dead mouse.  She tosses bottle corks to us (our favorite game at aperitif time) while she's drinking wine (which is not infrequent).  She take us to the vet the minute we fart out of tune.  We really do like her. But enough is enough.

I'll tell you straight: without us, our writer would not be the writer she is.  I don't know if she'd be worse or better, but she'd be different, that's all.  Why? Because even if we can't speak, we are peerless literary advisors.

"How can a cat claim to be a literary advisor?" you might wonder (and rightfully so). I shall explain.

(This book is just 80 pages with lots of cat wisdom to ponder and some cute illustrations to boot.)

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Book Review - Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen

Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux - 10/2021

Crossroads, is the story of a mid-western family from New Prospect, Illinois.  As Christmas 1971 approaches we meet The Hilderbrant family: Russ is 47 and is the associate pastor of The First Reform Church, a liberal suburban church who is at odds with the Crossroads youth group minister, the younger and more popular, Rick Ambrose.  Russ also finds himself attracted to an attractive woman who is a recent widow. Marion feels the cracks in their marriage as well and has her own secrets.  Clem is the eldest son of the Hilderbrants, he is in college but the war in Vietnam is always on his mind. Becky is popular in high school and has a crush on Tanner Evans, a boy active in the Crossroads youth movement.  Perry Hilderbrant is 15 and probably the smartest of the siblings but he is involved in drugs.  The youngest child is nine year old Judson.

As the Vietnam war is still going on each of the characters seems to struggle with religion, morality issues and/or the concept of goodness.  I can't say I loved any of the characters but, I did feel invested in each and every one enough to care about what happened to them.

Crossroads, the 1st of a planned trilogy, was everything I love in a well written novel. It's a story about family with flawed, well-explored characters who grapple with real life dilemmas.  What was really satisfying for me was the dialogue. I also loved feeling like I knew these characters better than they seemed to know each other. 

The hardcover (which I purchased) was nearly 600 pages and the audio (downloaded from the library) was nearly 25 hours. The combo read/listen worked beautifully for me and the audio narration by David Pittu was excellent as well. Highly recommended.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Burntcoat; Sarah Hall

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

Burntcoat; Sarah Hall
Custom House - 11/2/2021

Begin Reading

Those who tell stories survive.

My mother said this to me when I was a child. after she'd gone missing for several hours.  I was convinced she was dead and that I'd been left alone in the cottage on the moors.  When she arrived home, soaked and coatless in the dark, she didn't understand why I was crying.  She'd been out walking and had lost track of time.

What would I do alone, I shouted at her.  I can't look after myself.

It wasn't true, of course--I could make a fire and use the oven; by the age of ten I could drive her car.  I was ready for her to disappear.

What do you think - read more of pass?  This intro is based on my eGalley copy which I received via Edelweiss and Custom House.

Monday, November 1, 2021

RIP XVI - Wrap Up Post

I ended up reading (12) books for the RIP Challenge - (9) were pretty good or very good and (3) were mostly disappointing.

                                                                    Favorite RIP Reads

Complete List
  1. Billy Summers; Stephen King  - 4.5/5 stars
  2. Getaway; Zoje Stage - 3.5/5 stars
  3. Where I Left Her; Amber Garza  - 4/5
  4. The Long Call; Ann Cleeves - 4/5 stars
  5. Stolen Hours; Allen Eskens - 5/5
  6. An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed; Helene Thurston - 4/5
  7. The Last House on Needless Street; Catriona Ward - 4.5/5 (utterly creepy)
  8. Nothing But Blackened Teeth; Cassandra Khaw - 2/5
  9. The Stowaway; Murray and Wearmouth - 4/5
  10. The Guide; Peter Heller - 2/5
  11. The Heron's Cry; Ann Cleeves - 4.5/5
  12. The Family Plot; Megan Collins - 3.5/5
The only RIP movie I watched was one I hadn't seen in nearly 50 years and it was just as disturbing as I remember.