May 18, 2022

Where Memories Lie

Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #12
Mystery
2008 William Morrow
Finished on May 9, 2022
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:
 
Erika Rosenthal has always been secretive with her friend and neighbor, Detective Inspector Gemma James, about her past, except for one telling detail: She and her long-dead husband, David, came to London as refugees from Nazi Germany. But now the elderly woman needs Gemma's help. A unique piece of jewelry stolen from her years ago has mysteriously turned up at a prestigious London auction house. Erika believes the theft may be tied to her husband's death, which had always been assumed a suicide.

Gemma has a tough challenge. She must navigate the shadowy and secretive world of London's monied society to discover the jewelry's connection to David's murderer. However, the cold case needs to be put back on the books and possibly into the hands of her partner, Duncan Kincaid. When a second, present-day murder kicks the investigation into high gear, Gemma becomes more determined to exact justice for Erika in a case that will have lasting repercussions.

I had high hopes for this twelfth installment in Deborah Crombie's mystery series, particularly with the World War II theme, but it failed to impress me. I got bogged down with the numerous characters and their relationships to one another, resorting to a cheat sheet for reference. Perhaps that frustration comes with reading in fits and spurts, which doesn't lend itself for one to becoming familiar with the cast of characters. My friend Nan (Letters From a Hill Farm) wrote a glowing review many years ago, which I encourage you to read. I agree with her comment about the chapter headings, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The following heading has piqued my curiosity and I'd love to find a copy of Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45
December 1940
Monday, 9th
Last night was very bad indeed. Began soon after 5:30 pm.... I had to run from my place to the Sanctuary as the barrage was working up. It never ceased until 2:30 am. Many bombs came down ... some in our district. On enquiry today I find it was around the Sion Convent, Chepstow Villas and Dawson Place... people buried.
Vere Hodgson, Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson, 1940-1945 by Vere Hodgson.
All in all, a decent read but not one of my favorites in the series. I'm so happy that I still have six installments to read before Crombie's next release in 2023. 

May 13, 2022

Looking Back - Keeping Faith

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.


Fiction
1999 William Morrow & Company
Finished on March 15, 2001
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

Publisher's Blurb:

For the second time in her marriage, Mariah White catches her husband with another woman, and Faith, their seven-year-old daughter, witnesses every painful minute. In the aftermath of a sudden divorce, Mariah struggles with depression and Faith begins to confide in an imaginary friend. At first, Mariah dismisses these exchanges as a child's imagination. But when Faith starts reciting passages from the Bible, develops stigmata, and begins to perform miraculous healings, Mariah wonders if her daughter--a girl with no religious background-might actually be seeing God. As word spreads and controversy flares, Mariah and Faith are besieged by believers and disbelievers alike, caught in a media circus that threatens what little stability they have left.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Excellent read! Engaging. Thought-provoking. I will definitely read more of Picoult's books. I loved this novel. Suspenseful. Would make a great movie. Highly recommend!

My Current Thoughts:

This was the first book I'd read by Jodi Picoult, but it's not one that I'd like to reread. I've read and loved nearly everything she's written, but this isn't one of my favorites, despite the high rating.

May 12, 2022

Lessons in Chemistry


Fiction
2022 Random House Audio
Read by Miranda Raison, Bonnie Garmus and Pandora Sykes
Finished on May 5, 2022
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A delight for readers of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with--of all things--her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

I suspect I'm an outlier in that I didn't love this debut novel nearly as much as my fellow bloggers. It took me several chapters to get interested and once Elizabeth's life took an unexpected turn, Six-Thirty (a stray dog named for the time he entered Calvin and Elizabeth's life) became a distraction with his internal monologue. I don't usually mind when a dog has a voice in a novel (The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog's Purpose are two of my favorite books featuring dogs), but Six-Thirty's grated on my nerves. I was also annoyed with the reader's mispronunciation of Jack LaLanne's name. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have always thought it was La-Lane, not La-lan. (I even watched a couple of old videos of his TV show and I'm pretty sure I'm correct.) Those quibbles aside, it wasn't until Elizabeth landed her job as the host of "Supper at Six" that I became fully engaged. I can appreciate the themes of women's inequality in the workplace, feminism, misogyny, and I liked the main female characters, but overall I was underwhelmed. 

May 3, 2022

A Month in Summary - April 2022

 
Highway 18
Oregon
April 2022

In preparation for this post, I scrolled through my photos in search of a local shot to use at the top and only found a couple of possibilities. We were either traveling or it was raining, so I didn't have very many to choose from. The above scene was taken as we were driving home from Washington. The Pacific Northwest had a spring snowstorm and our local mountains got more than just a dusting. I love that we live so close to the ocean, but still have the mountains just a few miles away from home.

As I mentioned, we were traveling in April, spending a week in Tennessee visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Franklin. We had a fabulous time catching up with them, as well as playing tourists in Franklin and Nashville. You can read about that vacation here

My reading didn't suffer as a result of our travels, but my numbers were down simply due the length of my final book of the month. I loved three of the four books and would be hard pressed to name a favorite. 


Books Read (click on the title for my review):

Monogamy by Sue Miller (4.5/5)

The Absolutist by John Boyne (5/5)

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (3/5)

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5)

Movies & TV Series:


Halifax Retribution
- An enjoyable series, which is a reboot of Halifax f.p.. Rebecca Gibney and Anthony LaPaglia make a great team.


Slow Horses - I loved this series, but relied heavily on the closed captioning. Looking forward to another season!

Puzzlemania:




In Case You Missed It:


I had fun creating this post, and I got a lot of good recommendations in the comments. I plan to do more of this sort of round-up in the coming months, so stay tuned!




May 2, 2022

Tennessee

Last month we flew to Nashville to visit our daughter and son-in-law, who live in Franklin, Tennessee. We hadn't been on an airplane since 2016, but everything went smoothly; no delayed or cancelled flights and the mask mandate was still in effect, and everyone behaved themselves. We flew nonstop from Seattle to Nashville and while it was nice to skip the additional landing and take-off, the four-plus hour flight felt long. Thankfully, I had good reading material. 

We had the best time catching up with Amy & Will, seeing their beautiful home, and playing tourists. We stayed at the Harpeth in downtown Franklin, a charming historical town south of Nashville. There is so much to see in Franklin and Nashville and we're already talking about a return visit.

A view from our room at the Harpeth.




Franklin Public Square


Beautiful day for a drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Our daily stop for coffee & breakfast
 at McGavock's (in the Harpeth).

Can't visit Tennessee and not tour a distillery!


No souvenir bottle to bring home. 
Sadly, they were sold out of their bourbon and we didn't love the whiskey. 




Found a couple of books that I couldn't live without.
Finished The Absolutist, so I had to get another by Boyne.
Patchett's is signed; need I say more? 

Another must on our list.








Kris' "Help Me Make It Through the Night"


John Prine's "Sam Stone"

It was fun to see all the exhibits, 
especially those featuring
 Kris, Johnny, and John Prine.

We had some wonderful meals, but I didn't take very many photos. We ate most of our morning meals at McGavock's, but I spotted Ruby Sunshine while I was exploring and decided we would go the following morning. It was so good, we went back one more time before we flew home. We also enjoyed meals at Franklin Bakehouse, 1799 (in the Harpeth), and Culaccino

Ruby Sunshine
Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict on a Biscuit






Our lovely room at the Harpeth.


We loved exploring Franklin and Tennessee, but the best part of the trip was finally seeing these two! It had been far too long. 


April 30, 2022

The Shell Seekers


Fiction
1987 Thomas Dunne Books
Finished on April 27, 2022 (first read in 1988)
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Publisher's Blurb:

An instant bestseller when it was first published, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic that has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. A novel of connection, it is the story of one family--mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers--and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. This magical novel--the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while--is the perfect read, whether you are returning to it again or opening the cover for the first time.

At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling's prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn that their grandfather's work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer... and it lies in her heart.

I was not yet thirty when I first discovered Rosamunde Pilcher's beloved classic, The Shell Seekers. Not my typical genre (my nightstand stack usually included John Grisham, Stephen King and Sidney Sheldon), I wonder what prompted me to read a novel centered around the life of a divorced woman, sixty-four years old, an elderly woman in my twenty-six-year-old's mind. (And now I'm a mere four years shy of Penelope's age...). But I found such a wonderful story that spoke to me more deeply than anything I'd ever read. Recently remarried and raising my young daughter, I found happiness in the simple pleasures of creating a comfortable home, appreciating the beauty and peace found in nature, all of which was inspired by Pilcher's lyrical prose; the sort of which I had yet to discover in my usual reading. The simple act of preparing a cup of tea, enjoying it as I read the daily mail, or tending to my rose garden in the quiet hours of a Saturday morning, brought me joy. 

The Shell Seekers made its way to my list of lifetime favorites and for over thirty years, I longed to read it again, but I was concerned it wouldn't live up to my first impressions. Last year, I decided to reread Winter Solstice (another wonderful novel by Pilcher) and enjoyed it immensely. I convinced myself that I would have a similar reaction with a reread of The Shell Seekers and I was right. It was a marvelous read and such a joy to revisit Penelope's story after all these years. 

One of the joys of rereading an old favorite, particularly after the passage of more than thirty years, is that the book feels both familiar and new at the same time. I was surprised that while I remembered Penelope Keeling, her cozy cottage called Podmore's Thatch (in Gloucestershire, a county in South West England) and the young gardener she hired after her heart attack, I had long forgotten most of the details of the book, giving it the feeling of a new book of which I'd only read a synopsis.  Another reason that I kept putting off a reread is due to the heft of the novel, which is over 600 pages (in paperback). It took me a little over two weeks to read, but it was time well spent. I enjoyed every page, never feeling impatient to finish, and eager to curl up with it each evening, anxious to learn more about Penelope's life in Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

The Shell Seekers has twice been adapted to film. A Hallmark Hall of Fame television production, starring Angela Lansbury, was nominated for an Emmy in 1989, and in 2006, a mini-series was developed starring Vanesa Redgrave. I have not watched either and don't think I will since books-to-movies are typically disappointments.

Readers of family sagas and historical fiction are sure to love this popular novel. I've returned it to a bookcase devoted to my favorites, and I look forward to revisiting it again when I'm in need of a comfort read. I love escaping into a big, fat book and I'm already looking forward to reading Coming Home, the only novel by Rosamunde Pilcher I've yet to read.


I have the trade paperback of The Shell Seekers, but I love the cover art for the original hardcover, which I used to own. I wonder whatever happened to that edition...

April 29, 2022

Looking Back - The Saving Graces

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.




The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney
Fiction
1999 HarperTorch
Finished in August 1999
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Meet The Saving Graces, Four Of The Best Friends A Woman Can Ever Have.

For ten years, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with the ebb and flow of expectations and disappointments common to us all. Calling themselves the Saving Graces, the quartet is united by understanding, honesty, and acceptance -- a connection that has grown stronger as the years go by...

Though these sisters of the heart and soul have seen it all, talked through it all, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel will not be prepared for a crisis of astounding proportions that will put their love and courage to the ultimate test.

My Original Thoughts (1999):

Wonderful! I love it. I tried to read it earlier this summer but couldn't get interested. I gave it another try and I'm so glad I did. I loved all four women. Each had strengths and weaknesses, but they were so good to each other. I love books about women's friendships. I could see myself in each of them. I'd like to read more by Gaffney.

Second Reading (2001):

Just as wonderful as the first time I read it! Wonderful story about four friends. Reminiscent of Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg.

My Current Thoughts (2020):

I still have a copy of this book, so maybe I'll give it another read. I wonder if I'll find it too fluffy at this point in my life. I sure was reading a lot of books about women's friendships back in the late 90s. 

Updated Thoughts (2022):

I tried to read this again (didn't realize it would be for the 3rd time), but I was bored after just a few pages and called it quits. It must have spoken to my younger self in 1999 & 2001.

"This ode to the friendships between women could easily become the northern version of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." ~ Booklist