July 31, 2021

Dear Edward


Fiction
2020 Penguin Random House Audio
Read by Cassandra Campbell
Finished on July 29, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

I used to be afraid of flying, but there were several years that I flew a lot and I ultimately overcame that fear. It's been close to five years since I was last on an airplane and, if I can help it, I have no desire to travel that way again. It's not so much the worry of crashing as much as all the time spent getting to and from the airports, the waiting around for flights (and luggage), and the general inconvenience and rude passengers. My husband feels the same, and now that we own a motorhome, there really isn't a reason to ever fly again. (Of course, there are always family situations that come up that may require us to be somewhere quickly, but given a choice, we'd rather take our time and go in the RV.) So, this story, which is centered around the events leading up to a plane crash, didn't scare me the way it once might have. I was able to listen to the panic in the pilots' voices and not feel anxious, perhaps because those passages take place at the end of the novel, so there were no big surprises.

Napolitano's novel alternates between the experience of the passengers on the flight (including the details leading up to the crash) and that of Edward and the years following the crash when he was taken in by his aunt and uncle. The characters are believable and I loved the developing friendship between Edward and Shay, who is wise beyond her years. 

Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite audiobook readers and, as always, her performance was outstanding. There was never any doubt as to which character was speaking, each were so perfectly depicted.

Recommend!

July 30, 2021

Looking Back - While I Was Gone

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 Ballantine
Finished in June 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Jo Becker has every reason to be content. She has three dynamic daughters, a loving marriage, and a rewarding career. But she feels a sense of unease. Then an old housemate reappears, sending Jo back to a distant past when she lived in a communal house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drawn deeper into her memories of that fateful summer in 1968, Jo begins to obsess about the person she once was. As she is pulled farther from her present life, her husband, and her world, Jo struggles against becoming enveloped by her past and its dark secret.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

I loved this book! It grabbed me from the very beginning and I couldn't put it down. I loved the descriptions of the house and neighborhood that Jo lived in and found I could relate to her feelings (to a certain degree) about her children and her husband.

My Current Thoughts:

I don't remember too much about this book and no longer own a copy, so I guess it wasn't one that I thought I'd reread. I think I've only read one other book by Sue Miller (Lost In the Forest), which I also enjoyed very well. I have a copy of her most recent novel (Monogamy) on my bookshelf and plan to read it later this summer. 

July 27, 2021

Still Me

 


Me Before You #3
Fiction
2018 Penguin Books
Finished on July 23, 2021
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, a new book featuring her iconic heroine of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark.

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you find the courage to follow your heart—wherever that may lead?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world.

Still Me is not great literature, but I loved every bit of it. I've read the previous books in this trilogy and enjoyed this installment just as much as the other two novels. Moyes creates believable characters and dialogue and Still Me is as heartwarming (without being sappy) as Me Before You and After You (click on the links for my reviews). I was entertained for two solid weeks, savoring the book rather than devouring it in one sitting, never once feeling that Louisa's story had run its course. Now I'm eager to read more of Moyes' most recent releases (The Giver of Stars and The Peacock Emporium). 

On Libraries:
"Books are what teach you about life. Books teach you empathy. But you can’t buy books if you barely got enough to make rent. So that library is a vital resource! You shut a library, Louisa, you don’t just shut down a building, you shut down hope.”

July 23, 2021

Looking Back - Angel Falls

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
2000 Crown Publishers
Finished on June 16, 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

When Mikaela Campbell, beloved wife and mother, falls into a coma, it is up to her husband, Liam, to hold the family together and care for their grieving, frightened children. Doctors tell him not to expect a recovery, but he believes that love can accomplish what medical science cannot. Daily he sits at her bedside, telling her stories of the precious life they have built together, hoping against hope that she will wake up. But then he discovers evidence of his wife’s secret past: a hidden first marriage to movie star Julian True.

Desperate to bring Mikaela back at any cost, Liam knows he must turn to Julian for help. But will that choice cost Liam his wife, his family, and everything he holds dear? One of Kristin Hannah’s most moving novels, Angel Falls is a poignant and unforgettable portrait of marriage and commitment, of an ordinary man who dares to risk everything in the name of love.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pure fluff! Reminded me of Danielle Steel's books. Overly sentimental and predictable. I asked myself several times why I was wasting my time. Blah. 

My Current Thoughts:

Why didn't I toss this across the room and stop reading?! You couldn't pay me to read it now.

July 18, 2021

Migrations


Fiction
2020 Macmillan Audio
Read by Barrie Kreinik  
Finished on July 15, 2021
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool—a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime—it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny's dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption?

Epic and intimate, heartbreaking and galvanizing, Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.

After reading several glowing reviews by fellow bloggers, I couldn't wait to read Migrations. I recommended it to my book group (based on those reviews) and we chose to read it in August. Given that I don't read a lot during the summer, I decided to get a jump start and began listening early last week. I was surprised that it was such a quick listen and I finished well ahead of the August meeting.

I enjoyed the book once I settled into the alternating time periods, but I didn't love it as many of my friends did. None of the characters were especially likeable, but the premise of the tale was intriguing and I was eager to find out more about Franny. The timeline shifts were abrupt and I grew weary of the teasing out of details pertaining to Franny's prison sentence, but I kept reading, determined to find the beauty in the narrative. The big reveal at the end (which I guessed early on) wasn't at all surprising, but it didn't spoil the story to know it in advance. 

Barrie Kreinik does a wonderful job with the narration of the audiobook. Her pacing and accents are spot on, which made for an enjoyable listening experience.

I'm looking forward to my book group discussion. Maybe then, after further consideration, I'll bump my rating up to 4-stars. At this point, while I can recommend the book, it's not going to hit my Top Ten list for the year. 

July 16, 2021

Looking Back - Where You Once Belonged

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
2000 Vintage (first published 1990)
Finished on June 14, 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The red Cadillac pulled down Main Street and sat by the tavern for hours, unnoticed. Then Ralph Bird of the Men's Store recognized the driver as Jack Burdette and bolted to the sheriff's office. The prodigal son of Holt, Colorado, had returned--and he was far from welcome.

In Where You Once Belonged, acclaimed novelist Kent Haruf tells of a small-town hero who is dealt an enviable hand--and cheats with all of the cards. In prose as lean and supple as a spring switch, Haruf describes a high school football star who wins the heart of the loveliest girl in the county and the admiration of men twice his age. Fun-loving, independent, Burdette engages in the occasional prank. But when he turns into a man, his high jinks turn into crimes--with unspeakable consequences. Now, eight years later, Burdette has returned to commit his greatest trespass of all. And the people of Holt may not be able to stop him. Deftly plotted, defiantly honest, Where You Once Belonged sings the song of a wounded prairie community in a narrative with the earmarks of a modern American classic.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Depressing book! Well-written, but dark & gloomy. I read it in one day. Only felt a connection to one character. Doesn't compare to Plainsong. No sense of place. Lacks character development. [And yet, I said it was well-written.]

My Current Thoughts:

I remember how disappointed I was after I finished this book. I had looked forward to reading it but it was nothing like Plainsong, which I loved.

July 14, 2021

Kissed a Sad Goodbye


Kissed a Sad Goodbye by Deborah Crombie
Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #6
Mystery
2001 Bantam Book (first published in 1999)
Finished on July 7, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Scotland Yard's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James face their most haunting case yet when the past devastatingly intersects with the present.... 

The call from Scotland Yard couldn't have come at a worse time for Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid. He has promised the weekend to Kit, the eleven-year-old son of his ex-wife. The son he never knew he fathered—who doesn't yet know Kincaid's true identity. But Duncan's best intentions are shattered by an investigation that draws him in and swiftly consumes him. It seems to begin with the discovery of the body of a beautiful young woman in an East London park. But Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James will discover that this case has long roots that reach far back into the past, and that resentments which should have been decades buried still have the power to hurt—and maybe even the capacity to kill.

Another entertaining installment to Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James series. Even though I spent over a month reading this mystery, (at times only a few pages every few days), I never lost track of the characters and their relationships to one another. That's rare for me with any book that's filled with numerous characters. I enjoyed the alternating time lines especially since the flashbacks were set during WWII. This was a much better mystery than in the previous book (Dreaming of the Bones), which I didn't care for very much at all. 

July 12, 2021

28 Summers


Fiction
2020 Hachette Audio
Read by Erin Bennett
Finished on July 7, 2021
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Summer of '69: Their secret love affair has lasted for decades -- but this could be the summer that changes everything.

When Mallory Blessing's son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he's not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It's the late spring of 2020 and Jake's wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother's bachelor party. Cooper's friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere -- through marriage, children, and Ursula's stratospheric political rise -- until Mallory learns she's dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.

I remember watching Same Time Next Year many, many years ago and while I don't usually care for books about infidelity, 28 Summers was very entertaining and kept my interest over the course of our 5-week road trip. I don't get a lot of time for audiobooks while we're on the road, especially when it's too hot to go for long walks, but in spite of the long gaps between listening time, I never lost the details of the plot. Erin Bennett does a very nice job with the narration, but I would have also liked to have the print edition so I could linger over the chapter intros ("What are We Talking About In [insert year]"), which brought back a lot of memories about what was going on in the 90s and early 2000s. A beach read? Yes, but with more depth than a mindless romance. Recommend.

July 9, 2021

Looking Back - Bee Season

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
2000 DoubleDay
Read in June 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam's secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos. 

Myla Goldberg's keen eye for detail brings Eliza's journey to three-dimensional life. As she rises from classroom obscurity to the blinding lights and outsized expectations of the National Bee, Eliza's small pains and large joys are finely wrought and deeply felt.

Not merely a coming-of-age story, Goldberg's first novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family. The outcome of this tale is as startling and unconventional as her prose, which wields its metaphors sharply and rings with maturity. The work of a lyrical and gifted storyteller, Bee Season marks the arrival of an extraordinarily talented new writer.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Interesting novel! Definitely engrossing. Eccentric family. Compelling. Strange ending. So much pain--almost unbearable. This is not just a story about a spelling bee.

My Current Thoughts:

I only have a vague recollection about this novel, but I remember that I read it with an online book group and really liked it. I might have watched the movie, but I honestly don't remember! I haven't read anything else by this author. Any recommendations?

July 6, 2021

Poem du Jour - Such Silence

Such Silence


As deep as I ever went into the forest

I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,

and around it a clearing, and beyond that

trees taller and older than I had ever seen.


Such silence!

It really wasn't so far from a town, but it seemed

all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.

So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.


Sometimes there's only a hint, a possibility.

What's magical, sometimes, has deeper roots

     than reason.

I hope everyone knows that.


I sat on the bench, waiting for something.

An angel, perhaps.

Or dancers with the legs of goats.


No, I didn't see either. But only, I think, because

     I didn't stay long enough.


~Mary Oliver

July 2, 2021

A Month in Summary - June 2021

Boulder Creek RV Park
Lone Pine, California
June 15, 2021


Well, this may be the first month in a very long time that I didn't finish a single book! I knew my numbers would be low, since we've been on a road trip for over four weeks, but I thought I'd at least finish the two books that I had started back in May. Vacations have never been my best time for reading.

As with other long road trips, I plan to blog about this vacation, both for your enjoyment as well my personal record (so I can refresh my memory for future trips). We traveled to a lot of familiar locations that we visited in the fall of 2019, but we also found a couple of new gems, which was nice. We spent time with friends and family, which was pretty much the highlight of this trip as everywhere outside of Oregon was too hot to do much in the way of exploring.


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

None!

Abandoned: 

The Overstory by Richard Powers - Gave up after reading 150 pages. I only read that far because it's a book club selection and I wanted to give it my best effort.

In Other Bookish News:


My ever-so-brilliant husband has signed a contract with his publisher for a new book!
"In the mid-1980s, Marv Creamer, a geography professor from a small-time college in New Jersey, did a crazy thing: He climbed aboard his 35' steel sailboat and sailed around the world. Without instruments. No compass, no radar, no charting programs, no sextant. Not even a wristwatch. Now, almost 40 years later, I'm about to do an equally crazy thing: I'm writing a book about Marv and his remarkable voyage. (Pix of contract and celebratory bourbon above.) The book is called Sailing by Starlight, and it will be published in the spring of 2022 by Sheridan House Publishers." (Rod Scher)

Looking Back - Circle of Three

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
2000 Harper Collins
Finished on June 8, 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Few authors can capture with such grace and power the spirit and strength of women and the complexities of their relationships as Patricia Gaffney. Her sensational national bestseller, The Saving Graces, won the hearts of readers everywhere and propelled her into the first ranks of contemporary women writers with its vivid characterizations and brilliant depiction of the delicate yet resilient bonds of female friendship.

Now this gifted writer turns inward to illuminate the silken bonds of family in Circle of Three. Through the interconnected lives of three generations of women in a small town in rural Virginia, this memorable novel explores the layers of tradition and responsibility, commitment and passion that bind them. After the sudden death of her husband, Carrie must come to terms not only with her grief, but with the guilt that their love had already died. Struggling to go on, to support her loving and vivacious daughter, Ruth, she slowly shakes off the sorrow that surrounds her and begins a new life.

Complicating matters is Carrie's mother, Dana, who believes she has always acted in her daughter's best interests. Having driven Carrie away from her first love, the soulful, unconventional Jess, Dana has no idea how to behave now that he has re-entered her daughter's life.

Skillfully weaving together the voices of Ruth, Dana and Carrie, Patricia Gaffney explores the dichotomies inherent in all female relationships in a spirited and wholly unsentimental way. Circle of Three is about believing in impossible things, like second chances - and maybe even happy endings.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Wonderful! I really like this author and enjoyed this novel just as much as The Saving Graces. Told from three points of view. Nice romance. Believable mother-daughter relationships. Perfect beach read!

My Current Thoughts:

I wonder if this will be as enjoyable as the first time I read it. I own a copy and may give it a try later this summer.