February 27, 2022

Moira's Crossing

Moira's Crossing by Christina Shea
2001 Pocket Books (first published in 2000)
Finished on February 24, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:
An exquisitely wrought debut novel about sisterhood through three generations in Ireland and America.

It is 1921 in Ireland. When their mother dies in childbirth, Moira and Julia O'Leary are left to rear their infant sister, Ann, while their father, a sheep farmer, despairs. After Ann dies, Moira and Julia depart Cork for Boston, but the painful secret behind Ann's death haunts their new lives and presages the confusion that will come to trouble the next generation.

Moira and Julia have always been strikingly different, but theirs is a mercilessly dependable relationship-Moira's boldness is fortified by Julia's quiet inner purpose, while Julia lives vicariously through her sister's impulsive actions. Moira's Crossing charts their shared journey through marriage, children, and lobstering off the coast of Maine. 

At once an examination of the troubled intimacy of sisterhood and an inquiry into the meaning of faith, Moira's Crossing is also a story of what we leave behind and who we become because of it.

I've been pulling a lot of books from the shelves of my TBR bookcase, sampling a few pages at a time to see what clicks. My mom must have given me her copy of Moira's Crossing since I've never heard of the author or the novel. Glancing at Goodreads, it doesn't look like anyone I know has read it, either. So, let me introduce you to a wonderful story about three sisters. Raised by their father in Ireland, Moira and Julia eventually emigrate to America in the 1920s where they discover their individual passions on the coast of Maine. Devoid of cliche and stereotypes, Moira's Crossing was an unexpected pleasure. Easily read in a couple of days, I was eager to see what the future held for both young women. Theirs is a moving story of the challenges of a fractured family, perseverance in times of troubles, guilt, loyalty, and unrequited love. I was entranced by this debut novel. Highly recommend.

February 25, 2022

Looking Back - All the Pretty Horses

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.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Border Trilogy #1
1992 Vintage International
Read in February 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Wonderful story! Engrossing. Beautiful passages. I never thought I'd enjoy a western so much, but I did and now I want to read the other books in this trilogy. The only negative comment I have is my frustration with the large amount of untranslated dialogue. I relied on my Spanish dictionary throughout the entire novel. 

A story filled with horses, cowboys, gunplay and romance. 

My Current Thoughts:

I remember how surprised I was that I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. I never did get around to reading the other books in the trilogy, but I still have my copy of this book so maybe I'll read all three back-to-back. The only other western that I've read is Whiskey When We're Dry, which I also loved. And, yes, I still have Lonesome Dove on my TBR list... 

February 24, 2022

The Fortunate Ones

2021 Workman Audio
Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
Finished on February 21, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

When Charlie Boykin was young, he’d thought his life with his single mother was really just fine. But when his mother’s connections get Charlie into boarding school and give them access to the upper echelons of Nashville society, Charlie falls under the spell of all that a life among the wealthy can mean. Increasingly attached to another boy, Arch Creigh, Charlie learns how morality has little to do with life in Belle Meade. On into college and after, Charlie aids Arch in his pursuit of a Senate seat, only to be pulled into a growing web of deceit. The novel examines the questions: Why do the poor love the rich? Why do we envy and worship a class of people that so often exhibits the worst excesses and the lowest morals?

For fans of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth and Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here, The Fortunate Ones is an engrossing story of class, love, and loyalty.

Every January as I look back on my yearly stats, I notice that I read books written primarily by women. And yet, many of my favorite novels (A Gentleman in Moscow, All the Light We Cannot See, The Story of Edgar SawtelleThe Heart's Invisible Furies, and The Stand, to name just a few) were written by men. So when JoAnn (Gulfside Musings) wrote about The Fortunate Ones, I was curious and added it to my TBR list. I was not disappointed! The audio is captivating and MacLeod Andrews' performance is well done, although his voice for one of the young female characters was completely wrong. (She sounded more like a six-year-old instead of a child in 5th grade.) I agree with JoAnn's comparison to Pat Conroy's novels; this Southern family saga is filled with secrets, loyalties, class and privilege (not to mention flawed characters), which bring to mind Conroy's Beach Music (although Tarkington's prose lacks Conroy's exquisite lyricism). I love the sense of place depicted in Southern fiction and Tarkington's novel doesn't disappoint. I enjoyed the Nashville setting, and many of the surrounding communities mentioned are near my daughter and son-in-law's home in Franklin, Tennessee. 

By the way, I thought it interesting that there are at least four books with this exact title. Ellen Umansky wrote a historical novel about the Holocaust, which I read in 2017.

Thanks for the recommendation, JoAnn! Now on to get a copy of Tarkington's earlier novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, another coming-of-age story which has garnered high praise.  

I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

February 22, 2022

The Stars Are Fire

2017 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on February 20, 2022
Rating: 4.5/5 (Great!)

Doubt thou the stars are fire; 
Doubt thou the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar; 
But never doubt I love.
~ Hamlet

Publisher's Blurb:

From The New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife: an irresistible, ferociously suspenseful new novel about a young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath--based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history.

In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast, racing out of control from town to village. Twenty-four-year-old Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two young toddlers. After an unimaginable night in which the fire forces them to huddle together in the sea, they emerge at dawn to find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists, Grace must learn to drive and find a job, a place to live, and a way to care for her family. In the midst of shattering loss, she discovers the power of her own resilience, along with exquisite new freedoms and joys. Tragedy has given her a chance to remake her own life.

Great book! 

I received the ARC of this book in early 2017, shelved it and promptly forgot I owned it. I've been trying to read some of my older books and was happy to find Shreve's final novel (she passed away in 2018) on the bottom shelf of my TBR bookcase. As usual, I went into the book cold and was quickly pulled into the story. I love an author who can transport me into a character's world as early as the first page and it's been a long time since I've read anything that has held my attention so firmly that I read until 3 am. 

My heart went out to Grace and I was rooting for her as she found her way in her new life after the tragic fire, which destroyed not only her home, but the entire town. The Stars Are Fire is not a thriller per se, but the tension is so gripping that I literally could not put the book down. Not only did the linear timeline added to the tension, but I found it refreshing to read a novel that didn't rely on dual narratives with alternating time periods.

It's a shame that this is Shreve's last book. She was a wonderful storyteller and I enjoyed (and plan to reread) The Pilot's Wife, Fortune's Rocks, Body Surfing and Testimony. I didn't care for Sea Glass, Light on Snow, A Wedding in December or The Weight of Water, but I'm eager to try the remaining half dozen titles that I have yet to read.

The Stars Are Fire is a thought-provoking and richly satisfying historical novel with plenty of material to discuss with a book group. Highly recommend!

February 18, 2022

Looking Back - West With the Night

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.

1983 North Point Press (first published in 1942)
Finished on February 21, 2001
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The classic memoir of Africa, aviation, and adventure—the inspiration for Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun and “a bloody wonderful book” (Ernest Hemingway).

Beryl Markham’s life story is a true epic. Not only did she set records and break barriers as a pilot, she shattered societal expectations, threw herself into torrid love affairs, survived desperate crash landings—and chronicled everything. A contemporary of Karen Blixen (better known as Isak Dinesen, the author of Out of Africa), Markham left an enduring memoir that soars with astounding candor and shimmering insights.

A rebel from a young age, the British-born Markham was raised in Kenya’s unforgiving farmlands. She trained as a bush pilot at a time when most Africans had never seen a plane. In 1936, she accepted the ultimate challenge: to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, a feat that fellow female aviator Amelia Earhart had completed in reverse just a few years before. Markham’s successes and her failures—and her deep, lifelong love of the “soul of Africa”—are all told here with wrenching honesty and agile wit.

Hailed as “one of the greatest adventure books of all time” by Newsweek and “the sort of book that makes you think human beings can do anything” by the New York Times, West with the Night remains a powerful testament to one of the iconic lives of the twentieth century.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

I read this for my book group, and while I'm glad I did, I didn't really enjoy it. I thought a lot of the chapters were dull and wished it had been more about her flight across the Atlantic, rather than so much of her childhood. Some chapters were interesting (hunting, training horses, etc.), but definitely not a page-turner. Could it have really been written by one of her husbands?

My Current Thoughts:

I was not aware that Paula McLain had written a historical novel about Markham. I'll have to give Circling the Sun a try. Maybe I'll enjoy it more than Markham's memoir.

February 17, 2022

People of the Book

2008 Penguin Books
Finished on February 15, 2022
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

People of the Book has languished on my shelf for over a decade, and I was finally inspired to give it a read after recently finishing Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. I enjoy historical fiction and O'Farrell's novel brought to mind another novel about the Plague (Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks), which in turn motivated me to finally pick up Brooks' novel about the famed Sarajevo Haggadah. I was quickly drawn into the story and was fascinated by the history of the illuminated text, but about two-thirds into the novel it lost its momentum. I have mixed feelings about dual narratives and this one was especially frustrating. I struggled with the reverse chronology of the historical thread, annoyed that the characters I was just getting to know were replaced with a new set of individuals living not only in a different country, but also in a different century. People of the Book is educational and obviously well-researched, but it failed to hold my interest and I struggled to finish the final chapters. Perhaps my expectations were set too high.

February 14, 2022

Leave the World Behind

2020 HarperAudio
Narrated by Marin Ireland
Finished on 2/10/22
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.

Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.

Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?

Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.

I listened to the audiobook of Leave the World Behind, which was probably the best way to go with this dystopic thriller. Marin Ireland's narration is excellent, bringing each characters' anxiety about the blackout and the unknown global situation to life. The reader is given clues about what is taking place, but the characters are left in the dark (literally and figuratively), even up to the very last page. I have a feeling that had I instead read the print edition, I would have grown bored and given up, but Ireland's performance maintained just enough tension to keep me listening. Even listening to the countless lists (what Amanda bought at the grocery store, what they packed to take to the beach, what they ate for dinner) was entertaining, the cadence of each almost melodic to the ear, but eventually grew tiresome. In spite of the narration and apocalyptic nature of the novel (which I usually enjoy), I was underwhelmed. I would have liked a less ambiguous ending. Netflix plans to produce an adaptation of the book starring Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha'la Herrold and Julia Roberts. This may be the rare case in which the movie is better than the book.

I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

February 12, 2022

In a Dark House

Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #10
2004 William Morrow
Finished on February 8, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James return in a chilling and suspenseful tale of murder, kidnapping, madness, and the frightening ordeal of a helpless child, the latest masterwork of crime fiction from New York Times Notable Book of the Year author Deborah Crombie...

An abandoned warehouse burns next door to a women's shelter for victims of spousal abuse, an apparent case of arson. But it is the charred corpse within -- a female body burned beyond all recognition -- combined with the political sensitivity of the case, that entangles Superintendent Duncan Kincaid in its twisted skein.

At the same time, Kincaid's lover and former partner, Gemma James, is coping with twin crises of her own, one personal and the other professional. Gemma must put her private concerns aside to investigate the disappearance of a hospital administrator, a beautiful, emotionally fragile young woman who vanished without a trace. Yet neither Gemma nor Kincaid realizes how closely their cases are connected -- or how important the resolutions will be for a young child who was a victim of parental abduction.

In a Dark House may be my favorite installment in Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James mystery series. I was pulled in from the opening pages and couldn't read fast enough. In her typical fashion, Crombie introduces a lot of characters, but their connections are made clear early on. There are multiple threads to the mystery, and I enjoyed sorting out the details and trying to solve the case. I was kept guessing until the big reveal, happy that I didn't figure it too quickly. 

Duncan and Gemma continue to grow as a couple and family life remains a challenge for the two detectives and their young sons. While I enjoy this subplot in the books, it would be nice to see some resolution to Kitt's custody issue in the next installment or two; it's becoming somewhat tiresome.

February 11, 2022

Looking Back - Julie and Romeo

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 Harmony Books
Finished on January 27, 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A deliciously funny and wickedly sexy novel of love found (finally!) and love threatened (inevitably) by the families who claim to love us best. Romeo Cacciamani and Julie Roseman are rival florists in Boston, whose families have hated each other for as long as anyone can remember (what they can't remember is why). When these two vital, lonely people see each other across a crowded lobby at a small business owners' seminar, an intense attraction blooms that neither tries to squelch. They're not sure what fate has in store for them, but they're not about to let something as silly as a generations-long feud stand in the way of finding out. That is, not until Romeo's octogenarian mother, Julie's meddling ex-husband, and a cast of grown Cacciamani and Roseman children begin to intervene with a passionate hatred that matches their newly found love, stroke for stroke. Think Montagues and Capulets, think wise and witty and thoroughly modern. Julie and Romeo is a love story for the ages.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

A cute, sweet story about love between two 60-year-olds. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with a modern twist. Rival florists and feuding families. Refreshing. A page-turner. Read it in two days.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember how much I enjoyed this novel, which I've read a couple of times. I went on to read a few others books by Jeanne Ray (mother of Anne Patchett, btw) and may go back and reread all of them. They're quick, light, and as I remember pretty funny, too.

February 10, 2022

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

2014 Algonquin Books
Finished on February 3, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

This was my second reading of Gabrielle Zevin's delightful novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. My book group is discussing it later this month and I decided to reread it in order to refresh my memory of the details. It's amazing how much I'd forgotten! Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as great as the first time I read it. I thought my disappointment was due to the fact that I'm no longer working in a bookstore and all the nods to bookselling and publishing might be less meaningful, but I love books about books, especially when the author includes conversations about specific titles that I've read and loved. I think the real reason I wasn't as crazy about the book as I was in 2015 is because I just finished reading Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, which is a very lyrical and lush novel. Zevin's book is an endearing story, which I enjoyed, but it felt somewhat simplistic in comparison to O'Farrell's. It will be interesting to hear what others in my book group have to say about the writing. There may not be a lot to discuss.

Click here to read my previous review, which includes a couple of favorite passages.

February 8, 2022


Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
2021 Vintage Books (first published in 2020)
Finished on February 1, 2022
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Publisher's Blurb:

A thrilling departure: A short, piercing, deeply moving new novel from the acclaimed author of I Am, I Am, I Am, about the death of Shakespeare's eleven-year-old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in fifteenth-century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play.

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ominous threat infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The of days is near, but life always goes on. A young Latin tutor--penniless and bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family's land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.

A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing and seductive, an impossible-to-put-down novel from one of our most gifted writers.

Hamnet is the first book I've read by Maggie O'Farrell and it won't be the last. I was somewhat concerned that this popular novel had been overhyped, but it lived up to all of the accolades and then some. I wasn't discouraged by the slow start and the fact that I continue to reflect on the story and O'Farrell's lyrical writing is reason enough for my 5-star rating. I am disappointed that I missed my book group's discussion of this remarkable book, which has inspired me to seek out more information about Hamnet's mother. I'm also planning to reread Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks' historical novel about the 1666 bubonic plague. I agree with Brooks' praise for O'Farrell's writing:
[O'Farrell] has a melodic relationship to language. There is a poetic cadence to her writing and a lushness in her descriptions of the natural world... We can smell the tang of the various new leathers in the glover's workshop, the fragrance of the apples racked a finger-width apart in the winter storage shed.... As the book unfolds, it brings its story to a tender and ultimately hopeful conclusion: that even the greatest grief, the most damaged marriage, and the most shattered heart might find some solace, some healing. 
In addition to learning about Shakespeare's family, I enjoyed the chapter devoted to an imagined path in which the plague travels from the island of Murano to Warwickshire, England during the summer of 1596. Each encounter and turn of events involving fleas, rats, a monkey, the crew of a ship, a cabin boy and a box of Venetian glass beads makes for a page-turning read. 

While this is Agnes' story, each of O'Farrell's main characters is fully realized and plays important roles in this rewarding novel. My heart broke for Hamnet's parents, but I felt even more sadness for his twin sister, Judith. Her grief is palpable and heart-rending; to lose a sibling, let alone a twin, has to be one life's greatest cruelties.

I'm looking forward to reading more by Maggie O'Farrell and will undoubtedly read this one a second time. What a gem!

February 5, 2022

A Month in Summary - January 2022

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
January 2022

Has anyone else noticed that the days are getting longer? The sun is now setting closer to 5:30; almost 45 minutes later than this time last month. Yay!

January came and went in a flash. I spent the first week or so on jury duty, but still managed to do a lot of reading, puzzling, blogging, yardwork and walking. For fun, I also tallied up how many days we traveled in our RV and was a little surprised that we were gone for 77 days. Quite a difference from 2020! 

I had a great month of reading with several winners and only a couple that were just okay. Two of my choices were rereads (one for pleasure and one for book club) and I was happy that the one for pleasure stood the test of time and was just as enjoyable the second time around. 

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

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5)

One Two Three by Laurie Frankel (3/5)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (3/5)

Now May You Weep by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (5/5)

The Outsider by Stephen King (4/5)

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (4/5)

Gave Up On:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Movies & TV Series:

Blue Murder (Season 2) - Good, but not great. Light detective series.

Jim Gaffigan: Comedy Monster - Pretty funny! I laughed out loud several times.

Bodyguard - Gave up after a couple of episodes.

Being the Ricardos - I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. 

The Tender Bar - Very good! Daniel Ranieri is outstanding as young JR. 

The Two Faces of January - Entertaining, but not as good as The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Munich: The Edge of War - I probably won't remember a thing about this in a month.

The Lost Daughter - I love Olivia Coleman, but this was such a sad, bleak story. I wound up watching it over the course of several days.

MI-5 (Season One) - It took a few episodes, but now I'm hooked. 


Other News:

We had quite a windstorm at the beginning of the month, but thankfully, no trees fell in our yard. These type of storms are always intense since we are surrounded by huge trees.

We also experienced a tsunami watch (second one we've had since moving here in 2017), but we're far enough from (and high enough above) the coastline and weren't too concerned. I did see some big swells later that day, though. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I had jury duty this month and I was selected for a criminal case. Without going into any details, let's just say it was pretty disturbing. I was one of the alternates (a fact that is not revealed until after closing statements), so I was not part of the deliberations, which was disappointing after spending so much time (and emotional energy) listening to testimonies and taking copious notes. I heard from one of the other jurors after they had reached their verdict and the case had concluded. I agreed with their decision and learned earlier this week that the defendant was sentenced to 171 years. I feel justice was served.

On a more cheerful note, I have to mention how proud I am of my daughter. She is a fashion influencer (Fashion Jackson) and launched her fourth Amazon "The Drop" collection a few weeks ago. She has a great sense of style and I couldn't be more proud.

Thanks for reading!

February 4, 2022

Looking Back - A Good House

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.

A Good House by Bonnie Burnard
1999 Henry Holt
Finished on January 25, 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In Canadian short-story writer Bonnie Burnard's deeply moving novel, we meet the Chambers family: Bill and Sylvia and their three children, an ordinary family from Ontario. Beginning in 1949, we follow the Chambers for the next fifty years through the many joys and disappointments of their lives: a childhood accident, a tragic illness ending in death, and a remarriage for Bill. Some of the children choose a traditional route, marrying and having children of their own. One forges her own very new path. The clan expands and changes; marriages fail and careers bloom. But despite the heart-aches and difficulties each member of the family faces, there is never a lack of love to be found. With writing so clear and crisp it rings with honesty and grace, Burnard's characters work their way under your skin and into your heart. An auspicious debut. 

This extraordinarily moving and beautifully crafted first novel was a number one bestseller in Canada where it won one of the country's most prestigious literary awards, the Giller Prize, in 1999.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Post WWII saga spanning almost 50 years. The first few chapters reminded me of the TV show "Father Knows Best" or the movie "Pleasantville," yet as the story progressed, pain and suffering surface in all of the characters' lives. Realistic family dramas. Many events shocked me - not a predictable novel by any means. Very matter-of-fact writing style. 3rd person POV, which kept me at a distance as a reader. Page turner, yet not action-packed. Lots of characters coming and going.

My Current Thoughts:

I have no memory of this book.

February 2, 2022

If It Bleeds

2020 Simon & Schuster
Narrated by Danny Burstein, Steven Weber & Will Patton
Finished on January 29, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Readers adore Stephen King’s novels, and his novellas are their own dark treat, briefer but just as impactful and enduring as his longer fiction. Many of his novellas have been made into iconic films, including “The Body” (Stand By Me) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (Shawshank Redemption).

Four brilliant new tales in If It Bleeds are sure to prove as iconic as their predecessors. Once again, King’s remarkable range is on full display. In the title story, reader favorite Holly Gibney (from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider) must face her fears, and possibly another outsider—this time on her own. In “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” an intergenerational friendship has a disturbing afterlife. “The Life of Chuck” explores, beautifully, how each of us contains multitudes. And in “Rat,” a struggling writer must contend with the darker side of ambition.

If these novellas show King’s range, they also prove that certain themes endure. One of King’s great concerns is evil, and in If It Bleeds, there’s plenty of it. There is also evil’s opposite, which in King’s fiction often manifests as friendship. Holly is reminded that friendship is not only life-affirming but can be life-saving. Young Craig befriends Mr. Harrigan, and the sweetness of this late-in-life connection is its own reward.

When I downloaded this audiobook, I didn't realize that it is made up of four novellas and I was initially disappointed since I was enjoying the first story so well and didn't want it to end. I needn't have worried. "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" was perfect in length and the conclusion came at the right moment. Any longer and it would have lost its magic. I loved it and know it will stay with me for a long time. Stephen King is such an great storyteller. As I listened, I found myself reminiscing about other stories and books of his that I've read over the years. His young characters are so well drawn and their youthful innocence stirs up memories of my own childhood and the freedom we had as kids. 

"The Life of Chuck" starts off as a disturbing look at where we might wind up if we don't take climate change more seriously, but after the first part of the story, the narrative takes a surprising turn. This novella is comprised of three "acts" and the chronology is reversed, which makes for an interesting read.

Just as I was about to begin the third story ("If It Bleeds"), I discovered that the main character also plays an important role in another Stephen King book. Anyone who reads King knows about these type of cross-overs, but I wasn't familiar with Holly Gibney until I added this book to my Goodreads list. I spotted the Holly Gibney #2 notation and realized I was about to begin this story out of order. I quickly paused the book and downloaded The Outsider, which I reviewed here. Once I finished listening to that book, I returned to "If It Bleeds." I'm glad I didn't read the books out of order, as I would have learned several spoilers about The Outsider. (I've since learned that Holly also makes an appearance in Mr. Mercedes, but I'll just have to live with those spoilers.) "If It Bleeds" is an entertaining, albeit, creepy story and I enjoyed learning more about Holly, who has quickly become a favorite character. 

"Rat," which is the final story in this collection, was my least favorite and had I not been listening to the audio edition, I might have just skipped it. Do we really need another story about a struggling writer?

All in all this was an entertaining book and I'm eager to read more by King. He never fails to entertain!

I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm. All thoughts and opinions are my own.