October 30, 2021

And Justice There is None


Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #8
2003 Bantam (first published in 2002)
Finished on October 26, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Gemma James is adjusting to professional and personal changes that include her eagerly sought promotion to the rank of inspector--and a future now intricately entwined with Duncan Kincaid. But her new responsibilities are put to the test when she is placed in charge of a particularly brutal homicide: The lovely young wife of a wealthy antiques dealer has been found murdered on fashionable Notting Hill.

Dawn Arrowood was six weeks pregnant. Her lover, Alex Dunn, a porcelain dealer in London’s bustling Portobello Market, appears absolutely devastated by her death, but Gemma’s the main focus of investigation is soon Karl Arrowood, who had the most powerful motive for killing his unfaithful wife. But this case sets off warning bells for Duncan: it’s far too similar to an unsolved murder in which an antiques dealer was killed in precisely the same way and when the escalating violence claims yet another victim, he and Gemma find themselves at increasing odds with each other--as two separate investigations become linked in the most startling of ways. Their hunt for a killer will traverse the teeming stalls of the city’s antiques markets to a decades-in-the-making vendetta of history and hatred that has been honed to a flawless, deadly point. To solve this case, Gemma and Duncan must walk a merciless razor’s edge through a place where true justice will be a long time coming.

After reading a disappointing installment in this series in September, I am so pleased that I didn't choose to stop reading any more books by Crombie as I thoroughly enjoyed And Justice There is None. As with most of her mysteries, Deborah Crombie has a fairly large cast of characters in this book, but I never felt overwhelmed and managed to keep track of everyone quite easily. I was also happy that Gemma and Duncan played front and center in the story and that readers are offered more information about the developments of their relationship. I also enjoyed the setting, which takes place at Portobello Market and Notting Hill. I spent two weeks in London back in the 1990s, wandering all of the city by Tube and on foot, so it was fun to picture the various locations in the narrative. The mysteries were not at all convoluted and yet I was unable to guess the murderer's identity before it was revealed. All in all a very good read. I do hope the next will be just as entertaining!

October 29, 2021

Looking Back - Amy & Isabelle

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.

1998 Random House
Read in October 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout’s bestselling and award winning debut, Amy and Isabelle—adapted for television by Oprah Winfrey— evokes a teenager's alienation from her distant mother—and a parent's rage at the discovery of her daughter's sexual secrets.

In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. That they eat, sleep, and work side by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls—a location fans of Strout will recognize from her critically acclaimed novel, The Burgess Boys—only increases the tension. And just when it appears things can't get any worse, Amy's sexuality begins to unfold, causing a vast and icy rift between mother and daughter that will remain unbridgeable unless Isabelle examines her own secretive and shameful past.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Not bad, but not great. Mother-daughter story. Daughter gets involved with one of her teachers and her mother finds out. Somewhat depressing. Fairly predictable, too, yet it held my attention.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember a little bit about this novel, but no longer own a copy and probably wouldn't read it a second time, based on my average rating. I've read two other books by Strout (Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton ) and tried to read The Burgess Boys, but couldn't get interested. Strout has quite a following, but other than Olive Kitteridge (which I loved), I haven't been too impressed. With that said, I am looking forward to reading Olive, Again and I'll give Oh William! a try.

October 24, 2021

Nonfiction November 2021


It's that time of year for one of my favorite reading challenges! I enjoy nonfiction, but don't read enough of it throughout the year, so it's especially nice to spend an entire month focusing on memoirs, biographies, travel essays and history. My involvement is pretty low key, as I don't usually participate in the weekly events, but for those interested, you can find all the details on Katie's blog (Doing Dewey).

My stack of books is overly optimistic since I rarely read more than 4-6 books a month (and one of those is usually a book group selection), not to mention that Thanksgiving will be a bit more hectic than it was last year. But it will be fun to see how many of these books I finish before December. Wish me luck!

Have you read any of these? I should probably start with the ones that have been on my shelves for the longest time, right? 

October 22, 2021

Looking Back - Animal Farm

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.

Classic Fiction
1946 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Finished in November 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned—a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Boring! Took forever to work my way through it.

My Current Thoughts:

I read this over the course of two months, after deciding to read some of the classics that I read in high school. I didn't care for this one at all.

October 17, 2021

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley


2017 The Dial Press (Random House)
Finished on October 13, 2021
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)

Publisher's Blurb:

A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past and the truth about her mother's death in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

I was not at all familiar with Hannah Tinti's debut novel (The Good Thief), but something caught my attention when I saw an ARC of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley on the promo shelf in my Barnes & Noble employee breakroom in late 2016. I took it home only to pack it up, move it across country, unpack it and place it on my TBR shelf where it has lingered for the past five years. While searching for books to read for this year's RIP challenge, I spotted "thriller" on the back cover blurb and decided to add it to my stack. Hooray for reading challenges to nudge me to pick up long-forgotten books! 

Classified as a literary thriller, it wasn't until the final chapters that I felt that breathless, edge-of-your-seat tension that is so common with other thrillers. This beautifully written story is peopled with characters you initially dislike, but whom you grow to love and care about long before the last page. 
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade, and twelve parts wild innovation. Hannah Tinti proves herself to be an old-fashioned storyteller of the highest order. (Ann Patchett)

After reading Patchett's blurb, I couldn't help but imagine Tinti's novel on the big screen. With twelve bullet wounds, it's obviously a violent tale and yet it's a tender love story--a love between father and daughter, husband and wife, and two life-long friends. 

I've grown tired of dual timelines, but the structure of this novel flowed seamlessly and I'm glad I resisted the temptation to read Hawley's chapters first. I remained patient and let the details unfold as the author intended.

I could have easily finished the book much more quickly than the two weeks it took to complete, but I wanted to savor the writing and didn't want to rush to the unpredictable finale. I spent all two weeks gushing about the novel to my husband, hoping he would not only read it but love it as much as I did. It's one that I can't wait to discuss, especially after reading the exclusive conversation between Hannah Tinti and Karen Russell, which is included at the end of the book. In some ways, I wish I had read that extra material first, as it reveals some insight to certain themes and connections, many of which I did not notice until they were pointed out! For instance, 

I took the structure of Hercules's myth and used it as a framework for Hawley. The number twelve also became important, not only because of its connection to clocks and the recording of time, but also because it set a challenge for me as a writer. How could I make a man get shot twelve times, and the reader know that he is going to get shot, and still make each episode feel unique and surprising, even though the reader knows what is coming? I spent six years working that out. And over those years I fell for Samuel Hawley, who, despite all of his flaws and violent tendencies, is driven by the need to cure his own loneliness. He is on a desperate search for love. (Hannah Tinti)

This literary work is not one I've heard much about in the blogosphere, which is a shame because I think it's one of the best books I've read in years. I'm very stingy with my 5-star ratings, but I didn't hesitate when it came time to make that determination. I know this is one I will read a second time, but I'm also excited to order a copy of The Good Thief. If it's half as good as The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, it's sure to be winner. 

Highly recommend! I only regret that I didn't read it while I was still working at B&N. This is one I could have easily hand-sold over a hundred copies!

October 15, 2021

Looking Back - The Man Who Ate the 747

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.

2000 Bantam
Reading in September 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Piece by piece, a farmer is eating a Boeing 747 to prove his love for a woman... Written with tenderness, originality, and insight, filled with old-fashioned warmth and newfangled humor, it is an extraordinary novel, a found treasure that marks the emergence of a major storytelling talent.

This is a story of the greatest love, ever. An outlandish claim, outrageous perhaps, but trust me--

And so begin the enchanting, unforgettable tale of J. J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records, an ordinary man searching for the extraordinary. J.J. has clocked the world's longest continuous kiss, 30 hours and 45 minutes. He has verified the lengthiest single unbroken apple peel, 172 feet and 4 inches. He has measured the farthest flight of a champagne cork from an untreated, unheated bottle 177 feet 9 inches. He has tasted the world's largest menu item, whole-roasted Bedouin camel.

But in all his adventure from Australia to Zanzibar, J.J. has never witnessed great love until he comes upon a tiny windswept town in the heartland of America, where folks still talk about family, faith, and crops. Here, where he last expects it, J.J. discovers a world record attempt like no other: Piece by piece, a farmer is eating a Boeing 747 to prove his love for a woman.

In this vast landscape of cornfields and lightning storms, J.J. is doubly astounded to be struck by love from the same woman, Willa Wyatt of the honey eyes and wild blond hair. It is a feeling beyond measure, throwing J.J.'s carefully ordered world upside down, proving that hearts, like world records, can be broken, and the greatest wonders in life can not be qualified.

Richly romantic, whimsical, and uplifting, The Man Who Ate the 747 is a flight of fancy from start to finish. It stretches imagination, bends physics and biology, but believe it just a little and you may find yourself reaching for your own records, the kind that really count. Written with tenderness, originality, and insight, filled with old-fashioned warmth and newfangled humor, it is an extraordinary novel, a found treasure that marks the emergence of a major storytelling tale.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pretty good, but not great. I met the author at a book signing. Very personable and funny. I don't know if I would have read the book if I hadn't gotten one signed. 

Quirky characters.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember that this was a very odd, quirky novel. I was working in an independent bookstore in Lincoln and Sherwood gave a reading and signed copies of his book. I doubt I would have bought the book, had I not met the author, but I wound up reading his second book (Charlie St. Cloud), which was very good.

October 8, 2021

Looking Back - Rumors of Peace

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.

1979 Harper & Row
Read in September 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Though radio broadcasts grow more harrowing every day, and soon, swastika-marked envelopes begin to arrive from cousins overseas, but the fighting in Europe still seems far away from the idyllic California home of ten-year-old tomboy Suse Hansen. But after Pearl Harbor, everything changes. In Ella Leffland’s beautifully wrought story of a young girl’s coming of age during WWII, the fighting in Europe looms behind the tranquility of family, friends, and neighbors—until the darkness of the war becomes suddenly, irrevocably real.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Read this for an online book group. I enjoyed it, but didn't think it was great. Didn't captivate me. Coming of age story. Young girl growing up in Mendoza, California during WWII. Great description - reminded me of Steinbeck. Probably longer than necessary.

My Current Thoughts:

I vaguely remember reading this for one of my online book groups, but the details are pretty much lost after over 20 years. 

October 7, 2021


2021 Simon & Schuster Audio
Narrated by Steven Weber
Finished on October 2, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much from this popular thriller, in spite of several rave reviews by fellow bloggers. I listened to another airline drama (Before the Fall by Noah Hawley) in 2017, which was anticlimactic and disappointing. So, going into this new release, I was prepared for another mediocre story about a possible plane crash. I was wrong. Newman is a former flight attendant (and indie bookseller) and her experience shines through as she gives her readers a glimpse into the professional side of air travel. She does have a problem with stereotypes and the outcome is predictable, but I was fully engaged and enjoyed this exciting ride, nonetheless. 

Steven Weber's audio performance is well done and I've added him to my list of favorite narrators. His smooth voice and accurate pacing reminds me of Scott Brick (the excellent narrator of Justin Cronin's The Passage trilogy). I was surprised and pleased to discover that Weber is one of three readers in my current audiobook, If It Bleeds by Stephen King.

October 2, 2021

A Month in Summary - September 2021

Blue Heron Cheese French Cheese Company
September 2021
Tillamook, Oregon

Is anyone as surprised as I am that it's already October?? In last month's summary, I mentioned that I was still waiting for the arrival of summer. We finally got a few days of very warm weather while camping at Nehalem State Park, just up the coast from us, but once we got home, the rain and cooler temps returned. We're on the road again, heading south, so maybe I won't have to put away my shorts and flip flops just yet. 

I had a decent month with regard to my reading, finishing five books for the RIP challenge and one extra that I had started listening to in August. Three of the books were very good, but the others were somewhat mediocre. 

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

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (4.5/5)

A Finer End by Deborah Crombie (2/5)

In the Market for Murder by T.E. Kinsey (3/5)

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon (4/5)

The Survivors by Jane Harper (2/5)

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny (4/5)

Movies & TV Series:

Wild Bill - We finished the series and thought it was pretty goofy. Fans of Death in Paradise will probably enjoy it more than I did.

Whitstable Pearl - Entertaining, but not as good as I'd hoped.

Worth - Very good. We watched it right around the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which made it even more moving.

McDonald & Dodds - Much better than I'd anticipated! I hope a third season is in the works.

Supernova - Great cast & acting, but somehow this fell short for me. 

Guilt -Very good. Loved the way it kept me guessing.  Definitely need to turn on the subtitles for this one!


Road Trip:

As I mentioned, we took a short trip up the coast to one of our favorite state parks in Oregon. We've been seven times in the past three years! There were very few empty campsites (thanks to Covid, everyone wants to own an RV!) and we typically prefer to go in the off-season, but it was still nice to have some time to do nothing but read, walk on the beach and make new friends. We even discovered a new-to-us Mexican restaurant in Manzanita that has great margaritas, in addition to pretty good food. We went twice in three days. ;) 

Only 85 days until Christmas. Have you started shopping for gifts?

October 1, 2021

Looking Back - Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind

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.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
1990 Perennial
Read in September 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Miss Julia, a recently bereaved and newly wealthy widow, is only slightly bemused when one Hazel Marie Puckett appears at her door with a youngster in tow and unceremoniously announces that the child is the bastard son of Miss Julia's late husband. Suddenly, this longtime church member and pillar of her small Southern community finds herself in the center of an unseemly scandal--and the guardian of a wan nine-year-old whose mere presence turns her life upside down.

With razor-sharp wit and perfect "Steel Magnolia" poise, Miss Julia speaks her mind indeed--about a robbery, a kidnapping, and the other disgraceful events precipitated by her husband's death. Fast-paced and charming, with a sure sense of comic drama, a cast of crazy characters, and a strong Southern cadence, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind will delight listeners from start to end.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

What a charming book! Simply delightful. I couldn't put it down. A Southern tale about a widow, a fortune, an illegitimate child, a kidnapping, a nymphomaniac and a televangelical minister. Laugh out loud humor. Engrossing. A cast of crazy characters you'll fall in love with!

My Current Thoughts:

What a shame that I don't still own my copy of this book. It would be nice to read something light and humorous. I'll add it to my reread list and either get a copy from the library or listen to it on audio.