Wednesday, August 31, 2022

A couple catch up reviews - A History of Wild Places; Shea Ernshaw and Dark Matter; Blake Crouch


Simon & Schuster Audio - 2021
(5) different narrators including Cassadra Campbell - very good)
(11 hours - 59 minutes)

Travis Wren has a talent for helping the police find missing persons. Hanging out in places the missing have frequented, holding on to a piece of clothing or possession of the missing has been helpful in giving Travis a feel for what went on in the person's life when they went missing.  Unfortunately, Travis is still haunted by the fact that he was not able to prevent his own sister from taking her own life.

Travis was hired by the family of Maggie St. James, a children's author known for her darker stories. Maggie has been missing for (5) years. Travis travels to Pastoral, a commune community led by a man named Levi who isn't welcoming to outsiders. In addition to Levi, there is a married couple name Theo and Callie and Callie's blind sister, Bee, who is in love with Levi. Bee has a keen sense of observation as a blind person.  So when Travis appears to have gone missing as well, I was drawn into the cult-like mystery anxious to uncover the darker side of this commune.

This is book that my husband and I started out enjoying but, then the story turned in a darker fairy tale like storyline that left me puzzle and I didn't figure out.  I did find it difficult to connect with any of the character except perhaps Bee. This was definitely not the type of book I'm drawn to but thought it was well written, descriptive and atmospheric. I wasn't a fan of the paranormal aspects of the story.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

(Note: This audiobook download was made available by the publisher in exchange for my unbiasaed review.

Dark Matter; Blake Crouch
Penguin Random House Audio - 2016
Narrated by Jon Lindstrom- very good
(10 hours - 8 minutes)

Dark Matter is my book group's pick for September and, it's one of those books that I would have been  unlikely to have picked up on my own but, I am so happy that I tried it; a riveting story.

As the story opens we meet Jason Dessen, a devoted family man and college professor. His wife Daniela is the love of his life as is his teenaged son Charlie.  Thursday evenings are family night where the family gathers around the kitchen preparing a meal together while catching up on their week.   Since the meal would not be ready for a while, Daniela convinces Jason to run out to congratulate an accomplished former associate who has just been given a prestigious award.   When Jason fails to return home when expected, no one could have predicted how his life would be turned upside down.  Jason is abducted, drugged and wakes up in a life totally different from the one he knew having him question everything he knew to be true.

What follows is a foreboding SF thriller, but one that is not too heavy in effects for readers like me who generally shy away from that genre.  It is a fast paced, addictive story with a theme that explores ambition, past decisions, what constitutes happiness and the road not taken.  Told from Jason's POV,  his character is well-explored and one I found easy to feel for.  His wife and son's character could have been explored more deeply.  This was an easy story to get pulled into from the very beginning, I had to pace myself and I can't wait to discuss this one in a few weeks with my group. Highly recommended.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars (library download)

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Killers of a Certain Age; Deanna Raybourn

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.  

Killers of a Certain Age; Deanna Raybourn
Berkley - 9/5/2022

Chapter One
November 1979

"My mothers always says it's common as pig's tracks to go around with a run in your stockings."  Helen says, eyeing Billie's ripped hosiery critically.

Billie rolls her eyes. "Helen, it's murder, not cotillion."

"It's not murder," Helen corrects. "It's an assassination, and you can make an effort to look nice.  Besides, they're supposed to believe we're stewardesses and no stewardess would be caught dead with torn pantyhose."  Helen brandishes a familiar plastic egg. "I brought spares.  Please go change while you still have time.  I'll start the coffee."

What do you think --read more or pass?  I've been so looking forward to this one. Not only is is supposed to be funny, these women  are older as well - something we don't see that often in fiction.

This book releases next Tuesday.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Summer Reading Wrap Up and My Fall Picks

So in May I picked (20) books that I hoped to read this summer and, I was happy that as the summer progressed (13) of these books called my name.  As always tends to happen, I was distracted by several other new releases that seemed to appeal to me more and so (7) alternate books, that I really enjoyed completed my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

  1. The Shell Seekers; Rosamunde Pilcher 4.5/5 stars
  2. The Summer Place; Jennifer Weiner
  3. Tin Camp Road; Ellen Airgood - 2.5/5 stars
  4. Life Ceremony; Sayaka Murata - 3/5 stars
  5. The Club; Ellery Lloyd
  6. The Lobotomist's Wife; Samantha Green Woodruff
  7. Metropolis; B.A. Shapiro - 4.5/5 stars
  8. The Book Woman's Daughter; Kim Richardson - 4/5 stars
  9. Summer Love; Nancy Thayer - 2/5 stars
  10. Vacationland; Meg Mitchell Moore  4.5/5 stars
  11. The Lost Summers of Newport; Beatriz Williams
  12. The Hotel Nantucket; Elin Hilderbrand - 4/5 stars
  13. The House Across the Lake; Riley Sager - 3.5/5 stars
  14. It All Comes Down to This; Therese Anne Fowler - 3/5 stars
  15. Stay Awake; Megan Goldin
  16. A Sister's Story; Donatella DiPetrantonio - 3.5/5 sr=tars
  17. The Midcoast; Adam White - 4/5 stars
  18. Godspeed; Nickolas Butler - 4.5/5 stars
  19. Summer Guest; Justin Cronin
  20. The It Girl; Ruth Ware 

Alternate Summer Reads not on original list

  1. Love and Saffron; Kim Fay - 4.5/5
  2. Lucy By the Sea; Elizabeth Strout - 5/5 stars
  3. The Foundling; Ann Leary - 4/5 stars
  4. Take My Hand; Dolen Perkins-valdez - 5/5 stars
  5. Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders; Kathryn Miles - 4/5 stars
  6. The Family Remains; Lisa Jewell - 4/5 stars
  7. Happy-Go-Lucky; David Sedaris - 5/5 stars

Fall Reading Picks

There are several books which caught my eye as I looked forward to some new fall releases.  Here are my (5) top picks which release over the next few months that I hope to try. The first (2) appea;ed to me because they both feature senior protagonists, something we don't see that often in today's fiction.

We Spread; Iain Reid
Simon & Schuster - 2022

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made, unbeknownst to her, for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.”

Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny—with a growing sense of unrest and distrust—starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging, or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?

At once compassionate and uncanny, told in spare, hypnotic prose, Iain Reid’s genre-defying third novel explores questions of conformity, art, productivity, relationships, and what, ultimately, it means to grow old.
Killers of a Cerain Age; Deanna Raybourn
Penguin Random House - 2022

Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that's their secret weapon.

They've spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they're sixty years old, four women friends can't just retire - it's kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they've been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They're about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman--and a killer--of a certain age.

Demon Copperfield; Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Collins - 2022

"Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose."

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens' anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can't imagine leaving behind.
The Last Chairlift; John Irving
Simon & Schuster - 2022

In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.

Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.

John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time—among them, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. A visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, Irving is a bard of alternative families. In The Last Chairlift, readers will once more be in his thrall.

Three fathers collide far beyond the reach or safety of the aw in this breathtaking thriller from the beloved author of The Stolen Hours and The Life We Bury and "one of our best crime writers at the top of his game" (William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author).

Max Rupert has left his position as a Minneapolis homicide detective to live in solitude. Mourning the tragic death of his wife, he's also racked by guilt—he alone knows what happened to her killer. But then the former local sheriff, Lyle Voight, arrives with a desperate plea: Lyle’s daughter Sandy and his six-year-old grandson Pip have disappeared. Lyle’s certain Sandy's ex-husband Reed is behind it, but the new sheriff is refusing to investigate. 

When Max reluctantly looks into their disappearance, he too becomes convinced something has gone very wrong. But the closer Max and Lyle get to finding proof, the more slippery Reed becomes, until he makes a break for the beautiful but formidable Boundary Waters wilderness with vulnerable Pip in tow.

Racing after the most dangerous kind of criminal—a desperate father—and with the ghosts of their own pasts never far behind, Max and Lyle go on the hunt within a treacherous landscape, determined to bring an evil man to justice, and to bring a terrified child home alive. 

Hosted by Deb's Blog Reader Buzz HERE

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Book Review - Happy-Go-Lucky; David Sedaris


Happy-Go-Lucky; David Sedaris
Little Brown - 2022
(audio read by author - 7 hours 20 min.)
Library loan

David Sedaris has always been my go-to source of entertainment when I need a good laugh. I love his sardonic wit and how open and honest he seems when he speaks about his life and family. In his latest collection he writes of pandemic madness, hurricanes, family, relationships, bad teeth, illness, aging and even death. His father, Lou, who he had a strained relationship with passed away during the pandemic at the age of 98 after a prolonged period in which his health deteriorated. 

The author always seems to strike a good balance between dry humor, absurdity and even warmth at times although the warmth seems brief and somewhat detached. Familial relationships are always a large part of what Sedaris writes about but, his stories about his five siblings never feel repetitive or boring. His observations about daily life and interactions with others while sometimes a tad absurd make for some splendid entertainment. and, this collection had me chuckling so often that I listened to some of the essays several times.  

If I had one minor complaint about Sedaris is that he seems to flaunt his wealth a bit too much at times.  Just in this collection the reader will learn that he owns more than (6) homes in the US and internationally - including (2) side by side NC beach front houses on Emerald Isle.   Back in NYC He bought the unit above his place on the upper East side in NYC so that he could go upstairs when his husband Hugh played the piano. He also tells of how much he missed shopping during the pandemic, where he shops and how much some of his clothes cost. Despite this minor complaint, I remain a devout Sedaris fan having read most everything he has written. 

At 65 Sedaris has written some (18) books, which have been translated into 25 languages.  He routinely travels far and wide in the US and internationally for live performances.

Readers who need a bit of humor in their lives should give an audiobook, always read by the author, a try.  This collection as well as Calypso are (2) favorites of mine.

RATING - 5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Book Review - Life Ceremony: Stories; Sayaka Murata


Life Ceremony: Stories; Sayaka Murata
Grove Press - 2022

I became a fan of Sayaka Murata after reading and enjoying the author's darker fiction that, Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings had to offer.  Her latest offering, translated from the Japanese to English, features a series of (12) short stories, some only a few pages long others quite a bit longer. Each of the stories seem to feature characters who deviate from the norms of society and, the stories feature topics so odd or far out that at the very least come across as somewhat unsettling.

One story: First Rate Material - features a soon to be married couple who disagrees about what to wear and what kind of furniture to buy. Unlike his soon to be wife who loves wearing sweaters adorned with "human hair", wearables and furniture made from human teeth, bones and fingernails or the decreased, the soon to be groom opposes it.  In a stories a middle-aged man is kept in a shed as a pet for a young girl.  Hatchling, features a bride-to-be with five different personalities and a need to be liked by all.  The title story, Life Ceremony is totally bizarre and one of the longer stories. It focuses on the extinction of the human race with a goal to increase population through insemination.  Other stories deal with magical places and cannibalism. If the thought of reading about cannibalism isn't bad enough, there is a focus on the details of taste and texture while feasting.

Maybe because the pieces were so short, in many cases, and varied in topic, I felt like this collection focused more on shock value rather than to try to engage the reader in a meaningful way even if the stories were short.  Although the writing style felt familiar, I thought the stories for the most part were quite unsettling, not at all what I was expecting after really enjoying the author's first two full length novels. 

Rating - 3/5 stars

NOTE:  This eGalley was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review,

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Woman in the Library; Sulari Gentill

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.  

The Woman in the Library; Sulari Gentill
Poison Pen Press - 2022
Chapter One

Writing in the Boston Public Library had been a mistake.  It was too magnificent.  One could spend hours just staring at the ceiling in the Reading Room.  Very few books have been written with the writer's eyes cast upwards.  It judged you, that ceiling, looked down on you in every way. Mocked you with an architectural perfection that couldn't be achieved by simply placing one word after another until a structure took shape.  It made you want to start with grand arcs, to build a magnificent framework into which the artistic detail would be written--a thing of vision and symmetry and cohesion.  But, that sadly, isn't the way I write.

I've been patiently waiting for my library hold to become available and just picked this one up.  What do you think --read more or pass?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Book Review - The Ambush of Widows; Jeff Abbott


Grand Central Publishing - 2021

Henry North lives in New Orleans and works as a cyber security expert. Adam Zhang lives in Austin and is a very wealthy venture capitalist.  The men who have little in common and don't appear to know one another have been murdered in a warehouse in Texas.  Henry's wife Kirsten thinks her husband was in New York on business so when she receives a muffled call from her husband's cell phone saying that he is dead which the authorities later confirm, she heads to Austin to deal with the aftermath of her husband's death.  In Austin she meets Flora, the other widow, this one rich unlike Kirsten,  who stands to become an even wealthier woman now that her husband is dead. With both woman a bit under suspicion they find a way to work together in an attempt to find out what was going on, what the men in their lives were hiding and who was involved in their murders.

This was an extremely well-paced story, I liked all the intricate details that quickly drew me into the story. The characters were well explored and, I even found the sections about the hitman to be ones I enjoyed.  I liked Flora and Kirsten both strong women, each who had some interesting things they had been hiding as well.   There were a few chapters set in the past which were important into Henry, Kirsten and her foster brother's background, it felt slightly odd yet, the information was important to the overall story line.  So happy I read this one and will definitely consider some of the other twenty-plus books that have been written by this author.

This book arrived in 2021 from the publisher.  Ambush of Widows was an extremely well written mystery/ thriller. The story had well rounded characters and kept me guessing to the very end and it was one of the books that I found difficult to put down as well.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Friday, August 19, 2022

(2) Brief Review - The Messy Lives of Book People; Paedra Patrick and The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward; Daniel H. Pink

Park Row - 2022 - library loan

Olivia (Liv) Green is a married mom of two teenaged sons who works as a housekeeper for author Essie Starling.  Essie has written (19) books about her heroine Georgia Rory.  Liv has always dreamed of being a writer herself inspired by her father a literature professor. Liv even has (2) drafts of her efforts on her nightstand at home. One day Liv comes across Essie's manuscript of book #20, the majority of which has been completed but, she now Essie seems a bit stuck.  When Essie dies unexpectedly, her solicitor contacts Liv to let her know that Essie left instructions in her final will that she wants Liv to finish her book.  With more money coming her way and 6-month deadline to get the manuscript done, Liv is ready for the challenge. There is just one catch, no one must know Essie has died while the manuscript gets completed.

Liv was a great character, She was a good wife and mother and a loyal employee as well. She had secrets to keep and did so, even from her family.  This book started strong and it had references to other novels and authors which I enjoyed.  Overall, a light read, I thought the first half was stronger than the finish but, I was satisfied with the wrap up. I thought the title was a great and one and reminded me of how people often go about navigating the messiness that is life. 

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Riverhead Books - 2022 - library loan

Everybody at one time or another has heard the the expression "no regrets" but, is that even possible and is having regrets such a bad thing?  The author writes about how a little introspection and looking backward can actually make us move forward to a more positive place and frame of mind.  The author has conducted extensive research via The American Regret Project coupled with a worldwide survey that collected the regrets of some 20,000 respondents.   Some of the regrets that have troubled individuals were things like not spending enough time with their children while they were growing up and not spending more time with their parents before it was too late to do so.  Unfulfilled educational endeavors that went unmet and misdeeds and bad behavior toward others also were regrets that seemed troublesome and have more lasting e.

When people take the time to think about and to acknowledge things that they've regretted in the past, it seems to help them to make better decisions and act differently in the future.  I was surprised to read that moral regrets only seemed to amount to about 10% despite it often being so troublesome for those who felt guilty about it.

Overall, I found this an interesting and informative read.  Thanks go to Melody @ Melody's Reading Corner for bringing this book to my attention.

Rating - 4/5 stara

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Brief Book Review - The Custom of the Country; Edith Wharton

(Combo audio/eBook - library download)
Tantor Media (2011) - 16 hours 20 minutes - read by Lorna Raver - very good)

This was the first book I decided to read from the book bucket list I created a few weeks ago and, I was very glad I tried it.

This is a story about Undine Spragg, a beautiful midwestern girl who has dreams of climbing the social ladder. The thing is, Undine isn't all that high on the ladder to begin with.  She knows how to attract the men that she thinks will help her but, once she gets the man she "thinks" she wants, she is already wondering if there is someone or something better that she can set her sights on. She takes advantage of everyone she meets. From New York to Paris when she meets a millionaire that seems worthy of her, she stops at nothing to make him hers.  She doesn't realize when she tires of him, divorce will be considered a black mark on her going forward.   

A classic satire, the ending shows the reader that even in the end, not much has changed for Undine.  She is still every bit a user. She's vain, obsessed with clothes, jewels and social status.  Although this book is funny and entertaining at times, Although I enjoyed this classic, I found it impossible to root for Undine.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The It Girl; Ruth Ware


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 It Girl; Ruth Ware
Gallery/Scout Press - 2022
(20 Books of Summer List)


Afterwards, it was the door she would remember.  It was open, she kept saying to the police.  I should have known something was wrong.

She could have retraced every step of the walk back from the hall: the gravel crunching beneath her feet of the path across the Old Quad, under the Cherwell Arch, then the illegal shortcut through the darkness of Fellows' Garden, her feet light on the soaked forbidden lawn.  Oxford didn't need KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs; that lawn had been the preserve of dons and fellows for more than two hundred years without needing to remind undergraduates of the fact.

What do you think, read more or pass.  I've have pretty good luck with this author and, I do like a good mystery set in academia, so I'm hoping this will be a winner.

Monday, August 15, 2022

2 Brief Kids Book Reviews - The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Schilling World War II Engineer; Mara Rockliff and Haven: A Small Cat's Big Adventure; Megan Wagner Lloyd

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything:  : Beatrice Schilling World War II Engineer
Mara Rockliff (auth) Daniel Duncan (illustrator) - Candlewick Press - 2021
(ages 5-9 through grade 4))

This year I've read several children's books based on true stories of women who have done great things but, may have not gotten the recognition they deserved.

In this book Beatrice Schilling was a British woman whose mechanical expertise set her apart from her peers. She was able to convince the Royal Aircraft Establishment to let her prove her abilities by solving a fighter plane engine fuel issue during World War II.  Her early interest in anything mechanical and her quick ability to learn and try new things enabled her to attend and study engineering at the university and build confidence and hone her skills.  

As a grandmother to (3) young girls, I love books that encourage young girls to try new things and to foster an interest in technology and the sciences. Thins is the type of story that builds confidence and lets young girls see that they too can pursue their dreams if they just persist.  This book has terrific illustrations and a great story. It is the type of book that would make a great addition to school and public libraries or personal collections.

RATING - 5/5 stars

Thanks go to Candlewick Press for sending these books my way in exchange for my unbiased review.)

(ages 8-12 - grades 3-7) (Candlewick Press -  August 16, 2022

Haven was once an abandoned cat but Ma Millie took her in so she no longer had to forage for food and live outdoors. Hav is a small but brave house cat and, yes, she is still a bit timid but, she is quite content being an indoor cat with plenty of food to eat.  However, when Haven's owner becomes ill and her health eventually worsens, it's up to Haven to pay Ma Millie back even if that means venturing out into the scary forest to find help.  Can a brave, a bold fox and a timid cat find a way to send help for Ma Millie?

This is a good middle grade book that will appeal to cat lovers. It has short chapters and the story reinforces themes like bravery, friendship and the importance of helping others. A bittersweet story not easily forgotten.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Books, Books Books - Sunday Salon - Week in Review

Share your week by posting a link on Deb's Blog HERE

Hello Everyone - How was your week?  The best news of the week here was that the heat and humidity is gone and enjoying AC off and windows open; now a reason to be outside more.  Hope everyone had a great week. 

READING (finished this week) - I finished (4) books this week and loved them all. I've reviewed all except Stephen King's September release which I will review closer to release date in September. All (4) books were very different and I liked/loved them often does that happen? All highly recommended.

Small Things Like These; Claire Keegan - 5/5 stars

Godspeed; Nickolas Butler - 4.5/5 stars

The Family Remains; Lisa Jewell - 4/5 stars
(review coming soon - such talent what a story)
4.5/5 stars - very good

(3)  New book additions from Library Ongoing Book Sale (just 25 cents each!.
  1. The Tattooist of Auschwicz; Heather Morris
  2. The House of Whispers; Laura Purcell
  3. Manhattan Beach; Jennifer Egan
(New Book Arrivals from Publishers)

Wish You Were Gone; Kieran Scott
(thank you Gallery Books)

The 6:20 Man; David Baldacci
(Thank you Grand Central Publishing)

The Presidents Daughter; James Patterson & Bill Clinton 
(thank you Grand Central Publishing)

(Library Books - checked out)
  1. The Custom of the Country; Edith Wharton (audio download) (current read)
  2.  The Messy Lives of Book People; Phaedra Patrick (hardcover)
  3. The Ambush of Widows; Jeff Abbot (playaway audiobook)
  4. The Midnight Library; Matt Haig (reread for book group)
  5. The Disinvited Guest; Carol Goodman
  6. The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us forward; Daniel Pink (current read)
  7. The Reservoir; David Duchovny
Have a good week all!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Book Review - Small Things Like These; Claire Keegan


Grove Press - 2021
(library loan)

I borrow this book from the library before Christmas and although it's short, just a (114 pages), I returned it unread --Big Mistake as I  loved this book!

Set in the month approaching Christmas 1985, Bill Furlong a hardworking coal and wood merchant lives with his wife and (5) young, delightful daughters in New Ross, Ireland.

One day on a rare Sunday delivery at a local convent Bill witnesses something deeply troubling. The convent operates a laundry business (Magdalene Laundries - operated until 1996).  It was also a home for wayward girls.  Bill cannot stop thinking about this situation and, unfortunately, his wife doesn't seem as moved by the situation he describes to her.

Bill is a decent man who never knew who his father was. His mother gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and, she was lucky enough to be taken in by her kind employer, Mrs. Wilson and given a place to live with her infant son Bill.  I loved learning about Bill's early life and what a strong influence Mrs. Wilson seemed to play on his moral compass growing up. I thought his young daughters were delightful and bright as well.  I was less moved by his wife.

Small Things Like These is a powerful little gem with a strong message. It is beautifully written and although I loved the ending, I wanted the story to be longer, I just hated to see this one end.  I plan to now read other books by this author as well. READ IT!

Rating - 5/5 stars


  • “The next year, when he’d won first prize for spelling and was given a wooden pencil-case whose sliding top doubled as a ruler, Mrs Wilson had rubbed the top of his head and praised him, as though he was one of her own. ‘You’re a credit to yourself,’ she’d told him. And for a whole day or more, Furlong had gone around feeling a foot taller, believing, in his heart, that he mattered as much as any other child.” 
  • “He found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another?” 
  • “He thought of Mrs Wilson, of her daily kindnesses, of how she had corrected and encouraged him, of the small things she had said and done and had refused to do and say and what she must have known, the things which, when added up, amounted to a life. Had it not been for her, his mother might very well have wound up in that place.... 
  • “People could be good, Furlong reminded himself, as he drove back to town; it was a matter of learning how to manage and balance the give-and-take in a way that let you get on with others as well as your own. But as soon as the thought came to him, he knew the thought itself was privileged and wondered why he hadn’t given the sweets and other things he’d been gifted at some of the houses to the less well-off he had met in others. Always, Christmas brought out the best and the worst in people.”