Tuesday, October 25, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Mad Honey; Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

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.

Mad Honey; Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Ballantine Books - 2022

December 7, 2018 ...the day of

From the moment I know I was having a baby, I wanted it to be a girl. I wandered the aisles of department stores, touching doll sized dresses and sequined shoes.  I pictured us with matching nail polish--me, who'd never had a manicure in my life. I imagined the day her fairy hair was long enough to capture in pigtails her nose pressed to the glass of a school bus window: I saw her first crush, prom dress, heartbreak. Each vision was a bead on a rosary of future memories. I prayed daily.

As it turned out, I was not a zealot...only a martyr.

What do you think...read more or pass?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

(2) Brief Book Reviews - Our Missing Hearts; Celeste Ng and Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life, A Memoir; Dwlia Ephron


 Our Missing Hearts; Celeste Ng
Penguin Audio - 2022
(library download) - 9 hours 51 min   
 Narrated by:  Lucy Liu, Celeste Ng

I've read and enjoyed everything Celeste Ng has written so I couldn't wait for my audio reserve of her latest book to become available.  This book is quite different - a bit of a mystery with with a dystopian theme.

Noah Gardner (his mother calls him Bird) is a twelve-year-old boy who lives with his father in a dormitory at the university where his father works at the library.  Their life is one of order and routine ever since the "Crisis" changed everything for their family and his mother, a Chinese American poet, disappeared from their lives. At school he is learning new things and around him things are happening which he is desperate to understand. For example, why Asian Americans like his family are looked down upon and viewed by others with a mistrustful eye. In school Noah hears the taunts that his mother is a traitor. The boy has no friends except for Sadie and, one day she mysteriously disappears. as well

This is a story though set in the near future seems frighteningly realistic as to what we've seen on television or read about happening here in some parts of the United States to targeted race groups including child parent separations.  The audio book was mostly riveting; although a somewhat sad story, it is one that will stick with most readers I suspect.

RATING - 4/5 stars
Length: 9 h
Little Brown and Company - 2022
Library Download - 7 hours 39 min
read by author - good

In her newly released memoir, Delia Ephron, successful novelist, screenwriter, playwrite and lover of all things that the Big Apple has to offer gives readers a glimpse at her second chance at life.  

After losing her husband Jerry to a cancer diagnosis, an op-ed essay that Delia wrote for the New York Times earned her a surprise contact by a man from her past and a second chance at love.  Her new relationship is tested when Delia, like her sister Nora, learns that she has (AML) a fast progressing form of leukemia and that her only chance at survival is a successful bone marrow transplant.   Instead of running away from the very ill 72 year-old-woman, Peter, her new found love, asks Delia to marry him.

This memoir is indeed a second chance at love and life. Told with humor and, yes, there is at times some sadness too, but the writing was wonderful. I love that the audio was read by the author.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

Current Reads 

90% completed

Book group read 
75% completed

Hope to Start Soon

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Brief Book Review - The Old Place; Bobby Finger


The Old Place; Bobby Finger
G.P. Putnam - 2022

The Old Place is a debut novel that takes place in a small Texas town.   From the very beginning of the novel we get the feeling that protagonist ,Mary Alice Roth, is a troubled woman with secrets.  She is a rather stern woman and a recently retired school teacher who has not made peace with being forced to retire. She isn't quite sure what she will do to fill in her free time without her job to go to.  Once a wife and mother, there is a mystery as to what happened to the men in her life.  Fortunately she is on good terms once again with her neighbor Elie now as they once had a falling out. Both women look forward to meeting for morning coffee and conversation. There is the planing of the annual neighborhood picnic and the delegation of tasks which is funny to read about.  Just as Mary Alice begins to find a find a kind of rhythm to her daily routine, she has an unexpected visit from her sister who has some rather shocking news which threatens to uproot some things that perhaps were best left buried.

This was a very good debut novel full of small town charm, pettiness and gossip and secrets around every corner.  Although a bit slow moving at times, I liked the slower place and the way the secrets gradually emerged,  In the end I was happy that I had a chance to read this one.

RATING - 4/5 stars

(NOTE: I received a copy of the eGalley from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros; Ghosts of Martha's Vineyard; Thomas Dresser

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.

Arcadia Publishing - 2020


Martha's Vineyard's history, along with its fair share of strange occurrences, make it a major hub for ghost hunters and local storytellers alike. Whether you're fully in touch with the spirit world or you're a little skeptical, the Vineyard is rife with amazing coincidences,  strange experiences and unknown mysteries.

That so many guests, employees, locals and visitors have experienced a visit from beyond  gives credence to the basic premise that we we don't really know or understand everything that is happening around us.

I thought this would be a fun read during the month of October. I love Martha's Vineyard and am looking forward to reading about local lore. What do you think, read more or pass?

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Good Sister; Sally Hepworth

Welcome to First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday 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 Good Sister; Sally Hepworth
St. Martin's Press - 2021


It's been three months since Owen left. Left. or left me--like so many things in the adult world, it's all a bit gray. e took a job in London; a work opportunity, ostensibly. It's not that I wasn't invited, but it was clear to both of us that I couldn't go. That's another thing about the adult world: responsibilities. In my case, one particular responsibility. Fern.

This is our book group read for October. What do you think -- read more or pass? I hope to start it over the weekend when I finish up something in progress.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

(2) Brief Book Reviews - Fellowship Point; Alice Elliott Dark and The Night She Disappeared; Lisa Jewell


Fellowship Point; Alice Elliott Dark
Scribner/Marysue Rucci Books / Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022

Fellowship Point is an expansive story (nearly 500 pages) about a lifelong friendship of two Quaker women who are now in the eighties.  The women are Agnes Lee, a writer of children's series books entitled ...WHEN NAN.......... which was first published in 1965.  She has also written another six adult novels under a pen name about individuals in her Philadelphia social circle. Agnes has never married and now in her twilight years has found out she has cancer. She is also being pressured by Maud Silver a publicist to write a memoir.

Polly Wister is a loyal wife and mother, her husband and adult son on the other hand are men who are best described as "difficult and self-centered." Agnes and Polly could not be more different but, their shared pasts and the fact that they have vacationed for years on Fellowship Point, a remote, coastal island in Maine.  Now after all these years there is a fear that once the two women are gone their interest in keeping the island and cottages the way it has been dating back to the 19th century, may die with them.  A developer has interest in purchasing the properties to develop a posh resort in place of the cottages and surrounding wildlife sanctuary.  The land was purchased by Agnes' grandfather a wealthy merchant.

Although the first half of this novel moved somewhat slow for me, I loved the writing and depth as well as the build up for what what followed . I loved the way I felt swept away by the trials and tribulations of these women as I read and listened to this well-written novel. The audiobook was narrated by Cassandra Campbell who did an excellent job.

I received an audio download as well as a hardcover copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

Atria - 2021

The story begins in 2017 with Tallulah, a young mother who also attends college and her boyfriend Zach needing a night out. Tallulah's mother Kim agrees to babysits.  In the morning when Kim realizes Tallulah has not come home, she begins making phone calls and the police become involved but, eventually the case is unsolved.  The only lead they have is that the couple was never seen after a night of partying at a remote country estate where Scarlett, a wealthy college friend lives.  Fast forward to 2019, a young mystery writer new to the town who lives on the edge of the woods notices a sign while out walking in the secluded area. The sign says "DIG HERE."  Is this significant in regards to the missing couple?

This is one of those stories that kept me quickly turning pages and trying to find out what happened,  I thought the dual time periods worked well and the story was well paced as well. 

I received an audio download as well as an advanced reader print copy of this book  from the publisher last year in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING - 4/5 stars

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

(2) Brief reviews - Quartet in Autumn; Barbara Pym and Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendship; Nina Totenberg


Quartet in Autumn; Barbara Pym
Plume - 1977

This is a book I had on my 2022 - 2023 Bucket list and, I am happy I had a chance to finally read it. 

Quartet in Autumn is the story of (4) older coworkers approaching retirement age: Edwin, Norman, Marcia and Letty.  Each is single, lives alone and except for work lives a mostly solitary life.  When the (2) women retire, the story takes a darker turn. Instead of the leisurely days one tends to associate with not having to get up ealy and go to work each day. the reader gets a glimpse at how sad and lonely a life without plans, dreams, hobbies  or friends can be.

I thought this story was very well written. Pym uses wry humor to which at times take away from what could have been a very depressing story.

Rating - 4/5 stars 

Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022

Nina Totenberg had a long career as a prize winning reporter for the National Observer and NPR. Her professional career also led to a remarkable fifty year friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

While I was expecting a book that would focus mostly on the author's friendship and professional relationship with RBG that is only a small part of the story. This book is a memoir about Nina T and it is fairly well written. but just not what I was expecting.  I admired how these women fought for a voice for advancing equality for women over the years.  There were some heavier, more personal insights as well: both women had to deal with the illness and subsequent deaths of their spouses.  While this memoir was interesting enough, I expect that readers who were looking forward to a focus on RBG will be somewhat disappointed. The audio is read by the author.

RATING - 3/5 stars

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Night She Disappeared; Lisa Jewell

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.

Atria Books - 2021

Part One
June 2017

The baby is starting to grumble.  Kim sits still in her chair and holds her breath. It's taken her all night to get him to sleep.  It's Friday, a sultry midsummer's night and normally she'd be out with friends at this time.  Eleven o'clock: she'd be at the bar getting in the last round for the road.  But tonight she's in joggers and a T-shirt, her dark hair tied up in a bun, contacts out, glasses on and a glass of lukewarm wine on the coffee table that she poured herself earlier and hasn't had a chance to drink.

I never got a chance to read this once last year when it was published but, it should be perfect this month for the RIP Challenge.  Have you read it?  Would you read more or pass?

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Goodbye September - October Reading Plans


September was not the best of months for me for a number of reasons and, although I managed to read or listen to (9) books, September was also my slowest reading month of 2022.  I did enjoy several of the books I read though so let's look at those.

                                                        Favorite Books of SEPTEMBER


Forsaken Country; Allen Eskens
Mulholland Books - Macmillan Audio - 2022
(audio purchase and NetGalley (eBook)
(11 hours 10 min - Brian Troxell - narrator - very good 

Allen Eskens is one of my favorite authors and, I've read everything he has written since his first book, The Life We Bury (2013).  Forsaken Country is his latest release and, the story held me captive even though at times I had wished for a different outcome.  I thought it was truly deserving of a 5 star rating.

Max Rupert is a former homicide detective in Minneapolis, MN. He is mourning the loss of his wife and, he is also haunted by an incident triggered by her loss.  Lyle Voight is the former sheriff who is desperate to find his daughter, Sandy, and his six year old grandson, Pip, who have gone missing. Lyle believes his former son-in-law, Reed, is responsible  for their disappearance and, he pleads with Max to help him investigate and locate them.  What follows is an intense thrill ride with both nail-biting and tender moments.  

Esken's characters have so much depth and, even some of the bad guys, men  who have done terrible things show us that they have a soft side in this story.  I love the way the author has a way of drawing you in and making you feel invested in the characters and their outcomes.  While reading this one, I quickly. forgot everything I had planned to do as I just had to keeping reading/listening.  

BTW - For readers new to Allen Eskens, Max Rupert is a character that has appeared in other novels yet this book can be easily read as a standalone.

Rating - 5/5 stars

We Spread; Iain Reid
Simon ^ Schuster Audio - 2022
(5 hours 58 minutes)
Narrator - Robin Miles - very good)
(audio download sent by publisher)

Penny is an elderly artist who has lived in the same apartment with her long term partner for years and years.  After her partner passed away, she felt comfort in the sameness of her days, surrounded by the things she loved and which brought her comfort. She felt happy and at peace despite the fact her partner had died.

After a few incidents at the apartment, she finds herself uprooted from her apartment and the things that she loves to a strange but beautiful home occupied by several elderly residents her age and some kind staff.  The group dines together, continues with hobbies and socializes. They are supervised by a caring staff who monitors their daily activities but, for Penny it is not the same as her apartment.

This was quick, well-written novel that I very much enjoyed.  It was one of those stories that as a senior myself, made me pause and reflect. It was hard to see many of Penny's prized possessions of her former life packed away as she was moved to her new residence.  Her new life was often clouded by confusion yet it felt quite realistic.

RATING - 4.5/5 stars

                                                            SEPTEMBER Reads

  1. The Left-Handed Twin; Thomas Perry - 4/5 stars -  (September)
  2. The Woman in the Library; Sulari Gentill - 2.5/5 stars
  3. Killers of a Certain Age; Deanna Raybourn - 3/5 stars
  4. Dark Tales: Stories; Shirley Jackson - 4/5 stars
  5. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook; Ellen Marie Wiseman - 4/5 stars
  6. We Spread; Iain Reid - 4.5/5 stars
  7. Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six; Lisa Unger  - 3.5/5 stars
  8. Forsaken Country; Allen Eskens - 5/5 stars
  9. Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir of Friendship  (NF) ; Nina Totenberg - 3/5 stars (no review yet)
 (YTD - 127)

September Book Group - I was able to make my book group lunch and meeting which was fun as always. We had several new members thia month who offered some interesting perspective on Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  You can read my review here. While more than half of us were non-SF fans, we enjoyed the story anyways.  Others, a few with a physics background enjoyed the SF aspects yet wanted more depth. 

Current Reads
  1. Fellowship Point;  Alice Elliot Dark - almost done
  2. Quartet in Autumn; Barbara Pym - almost done - Bucket List Book
October Reading Plans
  1. The Old Place; Bobby Finger
  2. The Maze; Nelson DeMille
  3. The Last Chairlift; John Irving
  4. The Good Sister; Sally Hepworth (book group read)
  5. Demon Copperfield; Barbara Kingsolver
  6. Because I Could Not Stop for Death; Amanda Flower
                                             How was your month? Any exciting plans for October?