Sunday, February 28, 2016

Week in Review ~ New Books and Monthly Reading Update

How was your week everyone? We had a little scare this week as our middle granddaughter  (LEFT) had pneumonia. She and Grover were so good about taking their breathing treatments though and both made a nice recovery.  This 22 month old little peanut has been sick so often: ear infections, then tubes which popped out after 3-4 months, stomach bugs and lots of colds as well. She is not a good eater at all and her big sister is in preschool so perhaps she brings the germs home with her.

If you have a cat who loves to play try this fun cat dancing toy.
  Only $3.99 on Amazon.
It was an immediate hit with our cats and great exercise for them as well.

This Week in Books 

My book group met this week to discuss The Bell Jar; Sylvia Plath. II seems inappropriate to say most everyone "enjoyed" this book as the story is a dark one, but it sure provided for a lively discussion.  Surprisingly, almost everyone in the group of 12 knew someone who lost a loved one to suicide. This was a reread for me but, even more enjoyable this time around. Despite it being a dark read, I loved the humor as I read as well.  Next months read is Z: Zelda

Finished Reading (no review yet)

In Progress
New Books

(Monthly Reading Summary)

  1. When Breath Becomes Air; Paul Kalanithi (NF/memoir) - 4.5/5 (audio) (Jan)
  2. Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties; Joyce Maynard - 5/5 (NF/memoir) (library) (Feb)
  3. American Housewife: Stories; Helen Ellis - 2.5/5 (audio & eGalley) (Feb)
  4. The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell - 4/5 (eGalley) (Feb)
  5. French Leave; Gavalda - 4/5 (print-my shelves) (Feb)
  6. River Road; Carol Goodman - 4/5 (print-publisher) (Feb)
  7. Love in Lowercase; Francesc Miralles - 4/5 (print-publisher) (Feb)
  8. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl; Mona Awad - 3.5/5 (print-publisher) (Feb)
  9. The Bell Jar; Sylvia Plath - 5/5 (library-reread) (Feb)
  10. Good to a Fault; Marina Endicott - 4/5 stars (print-my shelves) (Feb)
  • Eleanor; Jason Gurley - Read but no review yet (very good - read it)
  •                Miller's Valley; Anna Quindlen  - Read but no review yet (very good - read it)
Books Read - 25
(3) NF - 22 (Fiction)
(3) translated works
(4) debut
(6) Library Books
(3) audio books
(4) ARCS
(6) eGalleys
(6) my shelf
(I'm most pleased that 24% on  the books that I read in 2016 were books from my shelves.  I also donated 126 books this month bringing my unread print books on my shelves down to - 299.  I hope to bring this down to 250 by the end of the year. How's your reading going in 2016?

This Week's Plans

Today I'm meeting a friend for coffee.  I haven't seen her since I retired in July and she is retiring in May so we will have plenty to talk about I'm sure.  Friday we'll be celebrating my DIL and SIL's birthdays. We have so many February through April birthdays in our family.  Hope you all have a great week.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Good to a Fault; Marina Endicott

Good to a Fault; Marina Endicott
Harper - 2010

Clara Purdy is a 43 year old woman whose life is stuck.  She never went to college,  has worked for the same insurance company for over 20 years, and although she married, her marriage ended after only 8 months.  People see Clara as sad and perhaps she has a reason to be that way. After her marriage ended she came home to care for her sick parents, who are now deceased. Her life now consists of work and then returning to the tiny bungalow that once belonged to her parents.

As the novel opens Clara is driving to the bank and thinking about the sorry state of her life. As she makes a left hand turn, her car is involved in a significant crash. The occupants of the other car are the Gages, a homeless family who have been living in their car: mother, father, grandmother and 3 young children, the youngest is just 10 months old.

Although no one is seriously injured, there is a lot to figure out for this family.  Clara feels guilty even though she is told by the mother that the accident was not her fault because her husband had sped through a yellow light.  However, Clara can't seem to shake the feeling that she can't just walk away, especially after she learns that Lorraine has late stage lymphoma and will need to begin chemo.
Clara decides to take a brief leave of absence from work and bring the family home to stay with her until they can get on their feet.

Initially Clara is thinking that the situation will be temporary but, after the father, Clayton, takes off during the first night, the difficult grandmother being of no help whatsoever, Clara isn't sure what to do.  She begins to get attached to the children as well and she doesn't want to have to get social services involved, so her situation begins to get much more complex than she ever imagined.

This book moved along slowly for me but, it gave me so much to think about. I couldn't imagine taking in a whole family of strangers like Clara did. Even though Lorraine's family and Claras help a bit, the burden for the most part belonged to her. I thought the characters, especially Clara, Lorraine, Clayton and Paul (a priest) gave readers plenty to discuss making this a good choice for book clubs.

4/5 stars
(my shelves)  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - 3 new titles that caught my eye

(3) coming soon titles that caught my eye.

William Morrow - March - 2016

(Amazon Description)
A chilling and spooky Gothic historical thriller reminiscent of Rebecca and The Turn of the Screw, dripping with the dark twists and eerie surprises that are the hallmarks of Edgar Allan Poe, from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Citadel.
In a remote village near the English coast, residents gather in a misty churchyard. More than a decade into the twentieth century, superstition still holds sway: It is St. Mark’s Eve, the night when the shimmering ghosts of those fated to die in the coming year are said to materialize and amble through the church doors.
Alone in the crowd is Constantia Gifford, the taxidermist’s daughter. Twenty-two and unmarried, she lives with her father on the fringes of town, in a decaying mansion cluttered with the remains of his once world-famous museum of taxidermy. No one speaks of why the museum was shuttered or how the Giffords fell so low. Connie herself has no recollection—a childhood accident has erased all memory of her earlier days. Even those who might have answers remain silent. The locals shun Blackthorn House, and the strange spinster who practices her father’s macabre art.
As the last peal of the midnight bell fades to silence, a woman is found dead—a stranger Connie noticed near the church. In the coming days, snippets of long lost memories will begin to tease through Connie’s mind, offering her glimpses of her vanished years. Who is the victim, and why has her death affected Connie so deeply? Why is she watched by a mysterious figure who has suddenly appeared on the marsh nearby? Is her father trying to protect her with his silence—or someone else? The answers are tied to a dark secret that lies at the heart of Blackthorn House, hidden among the bell jars of her father’s workshop—a mystery that draws Connie closer to danger . . . closer to madness . . . closer to the startling truth.

Miller's Valley; Anna QUindlen
April - 2016 - Random House

(Amazon Description)

In a small town on the verge of big change, a young woman unearths deep secrets about her family and unexpected truths about herself. Filled with insights that are the hallmark of Anna Quindlen’s bestsellers, Miller’s Valleyis an emotionally powerful story about a family you will never forget.
For generations the Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley. Mimi Miller tells about her life with intimacy and honesty. As Mimi eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship and the risks of passion, loyalty, and love. Home, as Mimi begins to realize, can be “a place where it’s just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel content.” 
Miller’s Valley is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery, of finding true identity and a new vision of home. As Mimi says, “No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go.” Miller’s Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever.

Fool Me Once; Harlen Coben
Dutton - March 2016

(Amazon Description)

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Bell Jar; Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar; Sylvia Plath
Harper Perennial Classics 25th Anniversary Ed 

I first read and enjoyed The Bell Jar many years ago, so when it was selected for our February book club read, I was looking forward to revisiting this classic.

Esther Greenwood is the 19 year old protagonist, a brilliant, beautiful and talented young woman who suffers from mental illness.  The story begins in 1953 with Esther and several other college students winning a writing contest and paid internship for a magazine (Ladies Day) in New York City. Her struggles with mental illness begin while in NYC but, her inner struggles began much earlier when her father dies when she was only nine.  Esther's dream was to become a poet but, she was not encouraged to pursue her dream by her mother. Her boyfriend Buddy, a Yale medical student was not supportive of her dreams either.  Instead her mother wants her to learn shorthand so that she'll have a job to support herself if she were ever to fall on hard times. [ her father left them financially strapped and the mother supports them with her own shorthand skills]

Esther's descent into the darker side intensifies by some bizarre behaviors while away in NYC. She's insecure, anxious and envious and,  gradually she begins to cut herself off from the people around her.  She tells the other girls she's with in NYC that she's engaged so that she can stay in and study or write and not have to be with people.  When she learns that she was not accepted into a summer writing program she falls into a deep depression and experiences a sense of hopelessness. Obsessed with suicide she tries several different methods and even undergoes shock treatments as a last resort.

The story is painful to read at times and very realistic.  Even though the ending seemed almost hopeful the truth is the author did commit suicide when she was only 30, the same year she wrote The Bell Jar.  Sylvia Plath had two young children; her husband left her in 1962 for another woman, the year before she died.  

I think I enjoyed this classic even more the second time around. Have you read this? If not, try it, it's so well done.

5/5 stars
(library book)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50; Annabelle Gurwitch

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.  I'm trying to read at least a couple of books from my own shelves each month of 2016. This book arrived from the publisher in 2014 and, it seem like just the kind of humor I need right now.


"On the day I turned forty-nine the first solicitation from AARP appeared in my email in-box.  At a glance, I thought it might be an ad for white-collar prison uniforms.  A couple is pictured dressed in matching cotton pastel sweaters and pleated Dockers.  The entire outfit screams, Here, take my libido and hold it for the rest of my life, which won't last much longer anyway.  The man has his arms encircling the woman's waist.  Is he propping her up because she's suffering from osteoporosis, or helpfully disguising her muffin top?  The expressions on their faces can only be described as resigned."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - (3) New Picks

(3) new soon to be released titles that caught my eye.

The Heart Stopped; Julie Myerson
Harper Perennial - March 29, 2016

(Amazon Description)

Internationally bestselling author Julie Myerson’s beautifully written, yet deeply chilling, novel of psychological suspense explores the tragedies—past and present—haunting a picturesque country cottage.
Mary Coles and her husband, Graham, have just moved to a cottage on the edge of a small village. The house hasn’t been lived in for years, but they are drawn to its original features and surprisingly large garden, which stretches down into a beautiful apple orchard. It’s idyllic, remote, picturesque: exactly what they need to put the horror of the past behind them.

One hundred and fifty years earlier, a huge oak tree was felled in front of the cottage during a raging storm. Beneath it lies a young man with a shock of red hair, presumed dead—surely no one could survive such an accident. But the red-haired man is alive, and after a brief convalescence is taken in by the family living in the cottage and put to work in the fields. The children all love him, but the eldest daughter, Eliza, has her reservations. There’s something about the red-haired man that sits ill with her. A presence. An evil.

Back in the present, weeks after moving to the cottage and still drowning beneath the weight of insurmountable grief, Mary Coles starts to sense there’s something in the house. Children’s whispers, footsteps from above, half-caught glimpses of figures in the garden. A young man with a shock of red hair wandering through the orchard.

Has Mary’s grief turned to madness? Or have the events that took place so long ago finally come back to haunt her…?

We Love You Charlie Freeman; Kaitlyn Greenidge
Algonquin - March 6, 2016

(Amazon Description)

The Freeman family--Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie--have been invited to the Toneybee Institute in rural Massachusetts to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected for the experiment because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family.

Isolated in their new, nearly all-white community not just by their race but by their strange living situation, the Freemans come undone. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about the Institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past begin to invade the present.

The power of this novel resides in Kaitlyn Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.

Crown - March 22, 2016
Amazon Description)

A singularly compelling debut novel, about a desert where people go to escape their past, and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.
Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-travelled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert’s inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn’t opened in years. 

Ben’s routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she’s fleeing something in her past—a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth—but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her. 

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who’ve laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire’s pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert’s greatest mystery—what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Good to a Fault; Marina Endicott

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.  I'm trying to read at least a couple of books from my own shelves each month of 2016 and this one that I had to buy in 2010 called out my name this week :)

Good to a Fault; Marina Endicott
2010 - Harper

1. Left Turn

"Thinking about herself and the state of her soul, Clara Purdy drove to the bank one hot Friday in July.  The other car came from nowhere, speeding through on the yellow, going so fast it was almost safely past when Clara's car caught it.  She was pushing on the brake, a ballot move, graceful--pulling back on the wheel with both arms as she rose, her foot standing on the brake--and then a terrible crash, a painful extended rending sound, when the metals met. The sound kept on longer than you'd expect, Clara thought, having time to think as the cars scrapped sides and changed each other's direction, as the metal ripped open and bent and assumed new shapes."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, February 15, 2016

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl; Mona Awad

Penguin - 2016

I rarely read chick lit these days but, when I received this book for review I decided to try it.  I do  love trying debut novels and, this one was only 214 pages.

Lizzie, AKA : Beth and Elizabeth, (her name changes as she slims down) was a heavy girl growing up through young adulthood. She has always been self conscience of her appearance. Even when she slims down and eventually becomes very, very thin her view of herself is always tainted. She is never satisfied with herself or her life for that matter.

The story is both funny and shocking at times. It felt like a realistic, yet painful portrayal of someone with a poor self image and how that can affect you your entire life. Readers who have struggled with weight or body image issues may be able to relate to this story in some way.

This was a quick read but, I wasn't a fan of the writing style overall. It's written like 13 short stories about the main character at various points in her life, but,  it was hard to determine the timeframes for each. I wish that had been better defined. For me the story felt a little choppy but, the cover was terrific -- that smudge over the word fat yet, still ever present in the mind of many who once were fat or dealt with body image issues.

3.5/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Week in Review and New Books

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's Valentine's Day and (-8 degrees) with the wind chill factor this morning. Needless to say, we won't be venturing outdoors this Sunday.  The good news is this is the last cold day and it might be 50 on Wednesday. Talk about crazy weather.  This week flew by and I am pleased to report my cold is pretty much gone (passed it on to my husband).

This week we went to the movies to see The Finest Hours which was very enjoyable.  It's based on a true story, a Coast Guard rescue movie, set on Cape Cod during a hurricane in 1951.

I stayed indoors most of the week and that resulted in a busy reading, reviewing and blogging week.  Here is a recap of books read and/or reviewed.

    I'm in the process of rereading, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath for my book group meeting at the end of the month. It's a great read and I am enjoying it since it's been over 15 years since I last read it.  I'm also reading, Eleanor by Jason Gurley and, I also finished reading a quick debut novel called, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (no review yet).

New Book Arrivals by Mail

    Nothing special for today except planning a shrimp dish for dinner and making some warm soup as well.  I also think I'll reorganize a closet that was bugging me a bit yesterday:)

Hope Your Day is Special!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Love in Lowercase; Francesc Miralles

Love in Lowercase; Francesc Miralles
Penguin - 2016

Samuel de Juan is a 37 year-old linguistics professor who lives what many would consider to be a very lonely life in Barcelona.  He's quirky, socially awkward and definitely a man set in his routines.  He loves his books and foreign films and tends to eat the same foods day after day.

On New Years Day he hears scratching at his door and opens it to find a tabby cat.  He intends to find the cat his home but, allows it in for a saucer of milk. Little does he know this cat has no intention of leaving and before long it becomes a sleeping companion and member of the household.

The cat, who he calls Mishima, moves Samuel out of his comfort zone, and gets him to meet new people and even sparking a little romance, even though that seems to come about a bit too conveniently. He reconnects with Gabriela, a childhood interest he hadn't seen since he was very young.

Love in Lowercase reminds readers that if we are looking for different results in our lives, sometimes we need to move out of our comfort zones and try different things.  This book is a very quick read and has a nice blend of literary references, classical music and of course, the magical power of a cat to transform one's life.  This is a perfect Valentine's Day story. This is a translated work from Spanish which was well done.

4/5 stars
(sent by publishers)

Friday, February 12, 2016

River Road; Carol Goodman

River Road; Carol Goodman
Touchdown - 2016

In this fast paced thriller Nan Lewis, is a creative writing instructor at a college in upstate New York who has had more than her share of bad days.   Years earlier Nan's young daughter Emma was killed by a hit and run drive on River Road. Although the woman at the wheel was eventually caught and prosecuted, Nan continues to by haunted by the incident and often drowns her sadness in alcohol.

Now on the evening of Nan's Christmas party with coworkers she learns that she has not been granted tenure. She's visibly upset and has had several glasses of wine as she heads home after dark in foggy weather.  As she rounds the corner on River Road at same location where her daughter was killed, Nan hits something herself and drives off the road.  She thinks she's hit a deer, but when she get out to check the area she doesn't see anything.  The following day the police are at her door asking questions as one of Nan's promising students, Leia Dawson, had been hit and killed by a hit and run driver on River Road around the same time and in the area where Nan thought she hit the deer.  When the police check out Nan's car she becomes a suspect.

In an effort to prove her innocence she sets out talking to various people to hopefully get clues to Leia's killer.  She gets herself into more hot water than she bargained for in the process.

Nan is her own worst enemy. Yes, she's had some rough patches in her life, but she drinks too much and doesn't listen to the police either. At times she really bugged me, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of this thriller.  There are lots of possible suspects, and I found myself changing my mind a few times as I read, and I was still wrong in the end.  Mystery lovers who enjoy well drawn characters, twists and turns along the way will enjoy this one. There were a few slow spots as I read but,  overall a very good story. I loved the cold, snowy environment the author created; this one chilled me to the bones at times.

4/5 stars
(finished copy sent by publisher)

French Leave; Anna Gavalda

French Leave; Anna Gavalda
Europa Editions - 2011

French Leave is a delightful quick read about sibling relationships. The story is just over 100 pages and takes place over a period of just over 24 hours.

The story begins with Simon Lariot and his wife Carine picking up Simon's younger sister for a road trip from Paris to the countryside for a family wedding which is expected to be rather dull. Garance and her SIL Carine are opposites - Garance is bold and a free spirit, while Carine is neurotic, prejudice, a chronic complainer and insecure around Simon's siblings.  Along the way Simon makes a second stop to pick up Lola, another sibling, which only angers Carine more.

The siblings are disappointed that their younger brother, Vincent is unable to attend the wedding so they decide to drop uptight Carine off at the church and take a "French Leave." The threesome heads to Tours in the french countryside where brother Vincent is a tour guide. For a few hours all (4) siblings forget their jobs, kids, spouses and exes and instead drink some wine and recall fond memories of earlier times spent together.  When their time together comes to an end, each feels a since of renewal and appreciation for each other are their current situations.

French Leave is an interesting character study on sibling relationships. The characters while each very different from one another, are well developed.  Although this was a translated work from (French), the translation was great and the conversations, wit and humor felt genuine, but never forced.  This was a great book to sit down with and read from cover to cover in just a little over an hour.  I'll be looking forward to more books by this author and, I already have several on my shelves to look forward to. 

4/5 stars
(my shelves)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - (3) New Books coming in March

(3) new books that I thought sounded great

Atria - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

Fans of Kate Morton will love this atmospheric and immersive debut novel of a woman who returns to her ancestral home in Scotland and discovers a century-old secret buried in the basement.

Following the deaths of her last living relatives, Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained marriage behind in London and returns to her ancestral home, a crumbling estate in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, with the intention of renovating and reselling it as a hotel, much to the dismay of the locals. As she dives headfirst into the repairs, she discovers human remains beneath a rotting floorboard in the basement, with few physical clues to identify the body. Who was this person? And why the makeshift grave?

Hungry for answers, Hetty sets out to unravel the estate’s secret—and those of its former inhabitants, including Beatrice Blake, a woman who moved there a century ago with her husband Theo, a famous painter who seemed to be more interested in Cameron, a young local man, than his own wife.

Following whispered rumors and a handful of leads, Hetty soon discovers that no one knows exactly what happened to Beatrice, only that her actions have reverberated throughout history, affecting Hetty’s present in startling ways.

The Passenger; Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

The Two-Family House; Lynn Cohen-Loigman
St. Martin's Press - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins.
From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, emotion, longing, love, and mystery.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell
Touchstone - 2016

Samantha Whipple, the last living descendent of the Bronte family,  arrives at Oxford where she plans to study English Literature like her father before her. Sam's father, a brilliant but eccentric man, died in a few year's earlier.  Before he passed away he told Sam that she would someday inherit part of the Bronte legacy, however, nothing ever surfaced prior to her heading off to Oxford.

Once Sam arrives at school she's told that there is a shortage of housing and is escorted to what will be her dorm room.  Her room is located in a cold, windowless tower which is reported to have a mysterious history of its own. Built in 1361, the room had at one time been used to quarantine victims of the plague.  Sam hates her room but, doesn't make waves by demanding a transfer. Before long clues, along with bits and pieces of her father's legacy begin to appear outside her room and inside the dorm,  including her father's annotated Bronte books which should have perished in the fire that took his life. Sam college days spin into a literary scavenger hunt of sorts helping her to learn more about her father and the man he really was.

This is a story that blends mystery, literature, history and even romance into a page-turning debut. The novel felt like a modern retelling of Jane Eyre and the lives of Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte. There was a lot of commentary about the sisters and, I wasn't sure what was fictionalized or accurate.  The story is written with a lot of wit and humor infused which I loved, even though I wasn't a fan of Sam herself.  Sam came across as someone who disliked literature yet that's what she went to Oxford to study. She also wasn't very assertive and came across as a bit of a ditz at times as well. I did like that there were many references to well known literary works throughout. I think that this is a book that will appeal to literary and mystery lovers alike, even if they are not huge Bronte fans.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - River Road; Carol Goodman

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. I'm on chapter 8 of this one and enjoying it.

River Road; Carol Goodman
Touchstone - 2016

Chapter ONE

"She came out of nowhere.

I was driving back from the faculty Christmas party. I'd had a couple glasses of wine but I wasn't drunk.  Distracted, sure, what with Cressida dropping that bombshell and the scene with Ross, but not drunk."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, February 8, 2016

American Housewife: Stories; Helen Ellis

American Housewife: Stories; Helen Ellis
Random House Audio & Doubleday - 2016

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this short collection of (12) stories.  Now that I'm done, I can tell you that there are no prim and proper housewives to be found.  In fact, in these stories one housewife seemed more outrageous than the next at times. 

I started this collection of twisted tales in the lives of some very insane housewives on audio and later switched to the eGalley, as the stories somehow felt less bizarre in print.  There's a seemingly perfect Manhattan housewife with a much darker side, a bra fitter whose spouse is having cancer treatments, and another housewife who talks to the dead in their own home, and a story with "Tampax" in its title as well.

Although some of the stories are sharp and funny can make you think about how absurd daily life can be at times I just didn't get what was supposed to be humor of some of the stories.  There was talk of dead husbands and the loss of a child that felt rather flippant and way over the top. Overall, I think I was expecting the humor to be more in the line of how David Seders writes, so it felt a little disappointing in the end.

2.5/5 stars
(audio & eGalley)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Week in Review and New Books

This was an exciting week here in New England as we experienced our first real snowfall on Friday - 4" of the heavy, wet snow that makes everything look like a winter wonderland outside.  (I love condo living - no shoveling, sanding etc.)  Here's a picture from of living room and a few of the little ones having fun.

I'm still fighting a miserable cold that has kept me at home all week except for a few quick errands. I did get some reading and reviews done so I don't feel like a total slacker.

This week's books read or reviewed were (2) books I really loved:When Breath Becomes Air; Paul Kalanithi (finished the end of January) and Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties; Joyce Maynard (finished Thursday).  I do love when a book moves you and these certainly left their marks. I also finished the audio version of American Housewife; Helen Ellis, no review yet, but, I was disappointed by this one.

I have a couple other books in progress or needing to be reviewed. They are, The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell - good - fun read.  I am in the process of reading River Road; Carol Goodman and French Leave; Anna Gavalda as well. Our bookclub selection for this month is, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (which will be a reread - think I read it about 15 years ago).

Lot's of New Books came in the mail last week - 

Weekend Plans

  • Husband's birthday is on Sunday -  we went to the theater to see a live performance and  Sunday family will be here for food and cake and then we'll lovingly get them out of the house before the Super Bowl begins and it'll be just the (2) of us for that. (Personally we don't care who wins as the NE Patriot's or Philadelphia Eagles are not in it this year.)
Hope you have a nice day and  great week

Friday, February 5, 2016

Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties; Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard - Doubleday - 1973

When a fellow blogger told me about this memoir by a favorite author, I couldn't wait to read it, as I also grew up "old" in the sixties. 

I expected the memoir to be somewhat shallow or maybe a bit frivolous given the fact that the author was a nineteen-year-old college student when she wrote this book.   I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't the case at all.  Her writing reflects personal experiences and observations that were written with depth and vision.  Maynard had me reflecting on my own life back then, a tumultuous time -- the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy's assassination, women's lib, the sexual revolution, birth control pills became available, marijuana and other drugs were being tried by some. It was also the end of the senseless Vietnam War and the age of Woodstock.  

Maynard also talks about the younger days growing up, when going back to school meant shopping for new lunch boxes, new barrettes, admiring pretty shoes but, having our mothers purchase the practical ones instead, after getting our feet measured in the metal foot measuring gadget at the store. When 4th grade meant boys still had "cooties" and  dolls were still tempting to girls. We recall that someone in our class was designated the "genius" or another classmate the "class jester", and by 5th grade all that changed, when the school nurse  showed the girls the "Now You're a Woman film", and we became obsessed with sex talk at recess and first bras.

The sixties were a generation where many of us didn't make plans, but rather, "let life happen", believing that everything would work out in the end.  It was a generation where many children of non college-educated parents were raised to believe that going to college wasn't for them. Many got married, took blue-collar or secretarial jobs or became housewives.

We grew up with the "first" televisions, watching and dancing to American Bandstand on television on Saturdays, Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy, The Flying Nun, Father Know's Best and Ozzie & Harriet. The Beatles exploded our music scene, cars were for parking as much as they were for driving, we went to drive-in movies, and pantyhose was a new invention.  And, gasp --- we weren't a generation of readers either-- we had the first televisions remember and that was new and exciting. We bought books, but many stayed on the shelves unread (much like they do today).

The author does a beautiful job capturing the hopes and fears of my generation.  I highly recommend this delightful book.

5/5 stars