March 31, 2023

Looking Back - The World Below

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.

2001 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on October 20, 2023
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of While I Was Gone, a stunning new novel that showcases Sue Miller's singular gift for exposing the nerves that lie hidden in marriages and families, and the hopes and regrets that lie buried in the hearts of women.

Maine, 1919. Georgia Rice, who has cared for her father and two siblings since her mother's death, is diagnosed, at nineteen, with tuberculosis and sent away to a sanitarium. Freed from the burdens of caretaking, she discovers a nearly lost world of youth and possibility, and meets the doomed young man who will become her lover.

Vermont, the present. On the heels of a divorce, Catherine Hubbard, Georgia's granddaughter, takes up residence in Georgia's old house. Sorting through her own affairs, Cath stumbles upon the true story of Georgia's life and marriage, and of the misunderstanding upon which she built a lasting love.

With the tales of these two women--one a country doctor's wife with a haunting past, the other a twice-divorced San Francisco schoolteacher casting about at midlife for answers to her future--Miller offers us a novel of astonishing richness and emotional depth. Linked by bitter disappointments, compromise, and powerful grace, the lives of Georgia and Cath begin to seem remarkably similar, despite their distinctly different times: two young girls, generations apart, motherless at nearly the same age, thrust into early adulthood, struggling with confusing bonds of attachment and guilt; both of them in marriages that are not what they seem, forced to make choices that call into question the very nature of intimacy, faithfulness, betrayal, and love. Marvelously written, expertly told, The World Below captures the shadowy half-truths of the visible world, and the beauty and sorrow submerged beneath the surfaces of our lives--the lost world of the past, our lost hopes for the future. A tour de force from one of our most beloved storytellers.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Not as good as While I Was Gone, but much better than The Distinguished Guest. Jumps around a bit without smooth transitions between time periods. "Vivid details of day-to-day life."

My Current Thoughts:

I don't remember anything about this novel. I've since read Monogamy (just one year ago), and until I read my review for that book, I couldn't remember what it was about either! I wonder what it is about Miller's novels that lack staying power?

March 30, 2023

Cutting for Stone


2009 Random House Audio
Narrated by Sunil Malhotra
Finished on March 29, 2023
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel - an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics - their passion for the same woman - that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him - nearly destroying him - Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.

It's been a dozen years since I first read Cutting for Stone, and not surprisingly, I had very little recollection of the book other than that I loved it. My current book group chose to read the novel, so I happily downloaded the audio and spent the past six weeks listening whenever I got a chance. Sadly, Verghese's debut failed to wow me this second time around. I liked the sweeping epic tale, but I can't say that it's one of the best books I've read this year. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to reading the author's upcoming release, The Covenant of Water, which is due out on May 2nd. Clocking in at 20 hours on audio, it's not quite as long as Cutting for Stone

You can read my original review here.

March 29, 2023

The Lost Man


2018 Flatiron Books
Finished on March 27, 2023
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet.

In an isolated belt of Queensland, Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another's nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun.

Nathan, Bub, and Nathan's son return to Cameron's ranch and to those left behind by his passing: his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers. While they grieve Cameron's loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.

A powerful and brutal story of suspense, set against a formidable landscape, The Lost Man confirms that Jane Harper is one of the best new voices writing today.

Photo Credit: Author's Website

If you're a faithful follower here, you know how much I love a good mystery series. I've spent the past two years reading all of Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James mysteries, as well as getting caught up on Louise Penny's Three Pines series. I was trying to remember when I last read a stand-alone mystery and as I scrolled down my sidebar, I realized that it was a year and a half ago when I read The Survivors by Jane Harper. What a coincidence! I loved her debut mystery, The Dry, and thought Force of Nature was also very good, but The Survivors was a disappointment. With Harper's latest release (The Exiles) landing in my TBR stack, I was determined to read The Lost Man first and found a copy at the library. 

For some reason, I thought Aaron Falk (a Special Agent with the Financial Intelligence Unit in Melbourne, featured in both The Dry and Force of Nature) would make an appearance in this book, and I spent the first fifty or so pages waiting for him to show up, until I finally realized that The Lost Man is a stand-alone. While I missed Falk, his absence was quickly dismissed as the story progressed. And what a story! I was swept up in the Bright brothers' lives, enjoying each layer of the tale as it was slowly revealed. Jane Harper expertly transports her readers to the Queensland outback, where the sun's unrelenting heat had me reaching for a cool glass of water. 

I have never had a desire to visit the Australian outback (not that it's even remotely anywhere near our backyard) and after reading The Lost Man, I feel even more content living in my soggy Oregon rainforest. The fear of suffocating dust storms, power outages with the loss of life-sustaining air conditioning, the mind-numbing isolation, not to mention snakes, have no appeal to me. 

But back to the mystery. 

Harper cleverly feeds her readers little clues, reveals family secrets, inserts red herrings like a trail of breadcrumbs, and before the big reveal, had me convinced that everyone was guilty. Not really, but the list was long! I did catch one clue right away, which is always fun, but the guilty party was a complete surprise. Oh, and did I mention that I stayed up until almost 2 a.m. to finish this book? Yep. Definitely a compulsive page-turner. Well done, Jane Harper! 

March 25, 2023

The Various Haunts of Men


Simon Serrailler #1
2004 Henry N. Abrams
Finished on March 22, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Having transferred to the small cathedral town of Lafferton from London's "Met," police detective Freya Graffham explores her new community and becomes fascinated by Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler, her enigmatic superior. Though she fits well within the local police force, she finds herself unable to let go what seems like a routine missing persons report on a middle-aged spinster. When yet more townspeople turn up missing, her hunch is verified and a serious police search begins, bringing her into closer proximity with Serrailler at the same time it exposes her to danger. Susan Hill writes with compassion, humour and a unique understanding of the details of daily life. In The Various Haunts of Men, she has created a small cathedral town (within the orbit of a large urban city) and filled it with recognizable characters.

Now that I've finished reading all of Deborah Crombie's books in her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, I have begun this series of Susan Hill's. The Various Haunts of Men is a second reading for me; I listened to the audiobook in 2015 and gave it a 4.5/5 rating. I enjoyed it quite well this second time, but I think the audio production enhanced my initial experience; the book is 438 pages and it felt a little sluggish here and there. Rather than link up to my previous review, I've included it below since I don't have much to add.

This is a marvelous book! I accidentally read The Shadows in the Street, which is the fifth installment in the Simon Serrailler series, a couple of years ago and enjoyed it immensely. After reading a friend's review for another book in the series, I remembered that I wanted to get back to this author’s books and decided to see if I could borrow The Various Haunts of Men from my library. I was able to get it on audio and it was a top-notch listening experience. I got so caught up in the narration, I found myself holding my breath, anxious to hear what was about to happen next. One of the nice things about listening to an audiobook is that I am never really sure where I am or how much further it is to the last chapter. I find that this intensifies the suspense more than when I’m reading a print edition of a mystery or thriller. On the negative side, I missed out on a two-page detailed map of Lafferton, which is presented at the beginning of the book and which I only happened to stumble upon while looking up a couple of passages to share.

I don’t remember too much about the mystery in the other book I read, but I do remember that I liked the characters, so it was nice to start at the beginning of the series and get some background history on the main cast. Hill’s characters are fleshed out and the dialogue rings true, although I had to laugh at one point when one of the characters was referred to as middle aged. She is 53. Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself middle aged! [Now at 61, I probably should!]

I love a good mystery and Hill kept me guessing up until the end of the book, but I also enjoyed the domestic details (reminiscent of Rosamunde Pilcher’s) of the narrative.

On simple comforts of home:
Simon went into the kitchen but Cat did not follow, not yet, she wanted to luxuriate in this room. It ran the length of the house and had long windows. From the kitchen there was a glimpse of the Hill.

The white-painted wooden shutters were folded back. The polished old elm floorboards had two large good rugs. Light poured in, on to Simon’s pictures and his few carefully chosen pieces of furniture which mixed antiques and contemporary classics with confident success. Beyond this one huge room, he had a small bedroom and a bathroom tucked out of the way, and then the galley kitchen. Everything centred here, in this one calm room, where Cat came, she thought, for almost the same reasons she went to church—peace, quiet, beauty and spiritual and visual recharging of her batteries. Nothing about her brother’s flat bore any relation to her own hugger-mugger farmhouse, always noisy and untidy, spilling over with children, dogs, wellington boots, bridles and medical journals. She loved it, that was where her heart was, where she had deep roots. But a small, vital nugget of herself belonged here, in this sanctuary of light and tranquility. She thought it was probably what kept Simon sane and able to do his often stressful and distressing job as well as he did.
On house calls and death:
She prayed that her phone would not ring. Spending some time now with a dying patient—doing something so ordinary as making tea in this kitchen, helping an ordinary couple through the most momentous and distressing parting of all—put the hassle and increasing administrative burden of general practice in its place. Medicine was changing, or being changed, by the grey men who managed but did not understand it. A lot of Cat and Chris Deerborn’s colleagues were becoming cynical, burned out and demoralized. It would be easy to give in, to process people through the surgery like cans on a conveyor belt and palm the out-of-hours stuff on to locums. That way you got a good night’s sleep—and precious little job satisfaction. Cat was having none of it. What she was doing now was not cost-effective and no one could put a price on it. Helping Harry Chater through his dying, and looking after his wife as well as she could, were the jobs that mattered and as important to her as to them.
Excellent British series! I can’t wait to return to the cathedral town of Lafferton to see what’s in store for DC Simon Serrailler. Next up The Pure in Heart. British actor Steven Pacey is a wonderful reader and it appears that he is the reader for all the audiobooks in this series.

March 24, 2023

Looking Back - Still Waters

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.

2001 Atria Books
Finished on October 7, 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Anger is a poison ivy in the heart and if it grows unchecked, it covers all the soft spaces where you love and understand and feel joy. There's power in anger, sure, a power that can help you survive. But true wisdom is in knowing when to let it go. In Still Waters, Jennifer Lauck continues the riveting true story begun in her critically acclaimed memoir Blackbird.

Clutching her pink trunk filled with secret treasures, the last relics of a lost childhood, twelve-year-old Jenny steps off a bus in Reno and straight into the wide-open future, where no path is certain except that of her own heart.... Separated from her brother, Bryan, and passed from caretaker to caretaker, Jenny endures as she always has: by following the inner compass of the survivor. But when Bryan chooses a shocking, tragic destiny, Jenny must at last confront the secrets, lies, and loneliness that have held her prisoner for years. Embarking on a search for answers, the adult Jenny discovers that the past cannot be locked away forever -- even when unraveling one's own anger and pain seems an impossible feat. Now, in the warmth and understanding of her marriage, in the eyes of her child, and in powerful conversations with a dynamic young priest, Jennifer finds her own miracles. A hardened heart learns to love. A damaged soul finds peace. And life, once merely a matter of survival, becomes rich with the joys of truly living.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Just as with Blackbird, I quickly became engrossed in Jennifer Lauck's continuation of her memoir. Extremely readable. Not quite as emotional as Blackbird. Could it be that the disappointments and cruel realities of a young girl (eight or nine years of age), might be less difficult for a teenager? Or maybe life got a little easier once she became a teenager. I couldn't put the book down. I'd like to read a novel by Lauck someday, but so far she's only written nonfiction.

My Current Thoughts:

I have a strong memory of reading this book, but it's not one I'd read again, in spite of the high rating.

March 17, 2023

Looking Back - Good Harbor

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.

2001 Scribner
Finished on October 3, 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Anita Diamant, whose rich portrayal of the biblical world of women illuminated her acclaimed international bestseller The Red Tent, now crafts a moving novel of contemporary female friendship.

Good Harbor is the long stretch of Cape Ann beach where two women friends walk and talk, sharing their personal histories and learning life's lessons from each other. Kathleen Levine, a longtime resident of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is maternal and steady, a devoted children's librarian, a convert to Judaism, and mother to two grown sons. When her serene life is thrown into turmoil by a diagnosis of breast cancer at fifty-nine, painful past secrets emerge and she desperately needs a friend. Forty-two-year-old Joyce Tabachnik is a sharp-witted freelance writer who is also at a fragile point in her life. She's come to Gloucester to follow her literary aspirations, but realizes that her husband and young daughter are becoming increasingly distant. Together, Kathleen and Joyce forge a once-in-a-lifetime bond and help each other to confront scars left by old emotional wounds.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Not terribly deep (one dimensional male characters), but entertaining. Read it in two days. Fluff.

My Current Thoughts:

I still have a copy of this book, so I must have thought it worthy of someday re-reading. I was close to the young woman's age when I read the book in 2001, and I'm now a couple of years older than the other woman. I wonder if I'll relate more closely to Kathleen now that I'm in my early 60s. 

March 14, 2023

Signal Fires


2022 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on March 12, 2023
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent)

Publisher's Blurb:

Signal Fires opens on a summer night in 1985. Three teenagers have been drinking. One of them gets behind the wheel of a car, and, in an instant, everything on Division Street changes. Each of their lives, and that of Ben Wilf, a young doctor who arrives on the scene, is shattered. For the Wilf family, the circumstances of that fatal accident will become the deepest kind of secret, one so dangerous it can never be spoken.

On Division Street, time has moved on. When the Shenkmans arrive—a young couple expecting a baby boy—it is as if the accident never happened. But when Waldo, the Shenkmans’ brilliant, lonely son who marvels at the beauty of the world and has a native ability to find connections in everything, befriends Dr. Wilf, now retired and struggling with his wife’s decline, past events come hurtling back in ways no one could ever have foreseen.

In Dani Shapiro’s first work of fiction in fifteen years, she returns to the form that launched her career, with a riveting, deeply felt novel that examines the ties that bind families together—and the secrets that can break them apart. Signal Fires is a work of haunting beauty by a masterly storyteller.

Signal Fires is the second novel of Dani Shapiro's that I've read, and I hope it won't be my last. In my pre-blogging days, I read Family History, and as best as I can remember, I enjoyed it quite well. I've also recently read and enjoyed a couple of Shapiro's memoirs (Devotion and Inheritance), so I was excited to learn that she had written another novel after more than a dozen years. I spotted a copy of the book on the new release shelf at my library and decided to ignore my huge TBR stack and give it a try. 

What a fantastic book! I fell into it from the opening lines and couldn't put it down. At the heart of the story are two families whose lives are intertwined by multiple events over the course of twenty years. Shapiro's effortless attention to detail quickly pulled me into the lives of the Wilf and Shenkman households.
These folks leave first thing in the morning, the father in a brand-new Lexus hybrid, the mother in a Prius--cars that don't make a sound--and as dusk falls they return, gliding silently into the garage, the automatic doors closing behind them. The boy doesn't play on the street the way Sarah and Theo used to. None of the neighborhood kids are ever out in their yards. They're carted around by their parents or nannies, lugging violins or cellos in their cases, dragging backpacks that weigh more than they do. They wear soccer uniforms or spanking white getups, their tiny waists wrapped in colorful karate or jujitsu belts.
The characters and setting are vivid; I could imagine not only their homes and their neighborhood in Avalon, New York, but the bitter cold of a winter snowstorm had me reaching for a warm blanket. With the exception of one character, I came to care about the entire cast, privy to their innermost thoughts thanks to alternating points of view of each family member. The way in which the lives of these two families collide held me in thrall, in spite of the nonlinear chronology. (This is not one for audio listeners, as it would be far too confusing to keep track of the characters and the fluctuating time periods.) In addition to the main plot, I enjoyed the author's imaginings of alternate scenarios for her characters' lives. I also relished the details centered around Theo's restaurants and his role as a chef.
The first of tonight's two desserts is a dense gateau au chocolat, served with a small glass of a house-made black walnut digestif, to be followed by a bite-size donut hole drizzled with caramel sauce. With a wooden spoon, he stirs the caramel. Tastes it, then adds a pinch of sea salt. These are some of his favorite moments. The low buzz of the evening winding down on the other side of the curtain. The perfection of the meal. The loneliness that he will feel in an hour, when the last of the diners has departed, when Carolos has washed the final dish, when there is nothing to do but go home--that loneliness is still far off.
Finally, I thought Shapiro did a fine job with her handling of the Covid pandemic, which could easily have been heavy-handed.
It's the start of a holiday weekend, but this year there are no holiday weekends. Instead of the explosion of July Fourth fireworks, each evening at exactly seven there is a symphony of banging pots and people leaning out from open windows to cheer in support of essential workers. This is happening not only in the five boroughs of New York City but in cities and small towns across the globe. As people line up, standing six feet apart on Malcolm X Boulevard to pick up their dinner, they are accompanied by the elemental sound of spoons banging against pots. He listens for it as he moves through the kitchen packing orders. A predictable thing in an unpredictable world. A way to measure the passage of time.
His daily menu lists two different prices for each dish. In both cases, he's almost giving it away. One price is for people who still have jobs. And the other is for everyone else. All day he talks with old customers and new ones, a raw quality in their voices he recognizes as gratitude. But Theo doesn't want or need anyone's gratitude. These hours in the kitchen are saving him. Somewhere along the way he had lost sight of how he began, with the simple desire to be in the kitchen with his mother, working side by side, a stained cookbook--Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin--open on the counter. He would line up all the ingredients before they began, along with measuring cups and spoons, pans, dutch oven, whatever was called for. He preferred stews with complex flavors that would simmer on the stovetop for hours. Mimi would switch on the radio as they worked, and sometimes if a song came on that she liked, she would sing along and he'd catch a glimpse of what she must have been like as a girl.
Signal Fires is a compulsive and satisfying read and one I won't quickly forget. This is one to discuss with a book group! It's a moving and thoughtful story that would be marvelous on the big screen. Highly recommend.

March 10, 2023

Looking Back - The Yokota Officers Club

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.

2001 Knopf
Finished on October 1, 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

After a year away at college, military brat Bernadette Root has come “home” to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, to spend the summer with her bizarre yet comforting clan. Ruled by a strict, regimented Air Force Major father, but grounded in their mother’s particular brand of humor, Bernie’s family was destined for military greatness during the glory days of the mid-’50s. But in Base life, where an unkempt lawn is cause for reassignment, one fateful misstep changed the Roots’ world forever. Yet the family’s silence cannot keep the wounds of the past from reemerging . . . nor can the memory fade of beloved Fumiko, the family’s former maid, whose name is now verboten. And the secrets long ago covered up in classic military style–through elimination and denial–are now forcing their way to the surface for a return engagement.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Reminiscent of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Funny and touching. Got a little slow partway through, but still very enjoyable. 

My Current Thoughts:

I haven't read anything else by Sarah Bird, but I do remember enjoying this one. She has written several novels, as well as a couple of nonfiction works. Her most recent release, Last Dance on the Starlight Pier sounds like it has possibilities. 

March 9, 2023

A Quiet Life


2022 Scribner
Finished on March 8, 2023
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Set in a close-knit suburb in the grip of winter, A Quiet Life follows three people grappling with loss and finding a tender wisdom in their grief.

Chuck Ayers used to look forward to nothing so much as his annual trip to Hilton Head with his wife, Cat—that yearly taste of relaxation they’d become accustomed to after a lifetime of working and raising two children. Now, just months after Cat’s death, Chuck finds that he can’t let go of her belongings—her favorite towel, the sketchbooks in her desk drawer—as he struggles to pack for a trip he can’t imagine taking without her.

Ella Burke delivers morning newspapers and works at a bridal shop to fill her days while she anxiously awaits news—any piece of information—about her missing daughter. Ella adjusts to life in a new apartment and answers every call on her phone, hoping her daughter will reach out.

After the sudden death of her father, Kirsten Bonato set aside her veterinary school aspirations, finding comfort in the steady routine of working at an animal shelter. But as time passes, old dreams and new romantic interests begin to surface—and Kirsten finds herself at another crossroads.

A Quiet Life is a quiet read. It was too quiet for my taste, though. The characters are flat and their excessive ruminations border on annoying and repetitive. There isn't much action until the final chapters and I have a feeling this is one of those books that will fade quickly from my memory. It's a shame, as I tend to gravitate toward books dealing with grief. Like Kirsten, I'm familiar with the loss of a parent, and like Ella, I've experienced divorce and custody battles, so those two scenarios should have helped me feel an affinity toward the two women. Instead, it was as if I were hearing about their struggles as told by a friend of a friend of a relative. Chuck's constant guilt for not being a better husband was tiresome, although I appreciated the glimpse into the life of a widower and how he learns to live with his grief while moving forward in his own life. A Quiet Life is a tender story, one which brings to mind Elizabeth Berg's The Story of Arthur Truluv, and one that fans of Hallmark movies might enjoy, predictable with a happy ending. I would have liked a little more substance, myself. The cover art is beautiful, though!

March 7, 2023

The Lincoln Highway


2021 Viking
Finished on March 5, 2023
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Unlike some lengthy books, I did want this one to end. The Lincoln Highway isn't a boring novel, but the slow pace and the retelling of events from multiple perspectives had me calculating how many of the 576 pages remained as I read. Towles's digressions (from the recounting of Shakespeare plays, mythological adventures, and Homeric epics to philosophical paradoxes, vaudeville acts and magic tricks) are initially inventive, but as the story progresses, I grew weary of those asides, eager to return to the adventure at hand. The tension in the final pages had me wavering when it came time to rate the novel, but in all honesty, I didn't love it. It's a good (albeit melodramatic) tale, but it's not the outstanding read, like A Gentleman in Moscow. Having said that, Towles is a wordsmith, and I especially enjoyed the imagery in this passage:
In the months of summer, there were nights marked by the roll of thunder or the whistle of an arid wind on which Emmett could hear his father stirring in the next room, unable to sleep--and not without reason. Because a farmer with a mortgage was like a man walking on the railing of a bridge with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed. It was a way of life in which the difference between abundance and ruin could be measured by a few inches of rain or a few nights of frost. [Emphasis is mine]
The Lincoln Highway is peopled with memorable characters (the wise-beyond-his-years Billy, and the childlike Woolly, both of whom stole my heart), but this folksy tale is my least favorite of Towles's novels. I understand he's working on his fourth, which I look forward to, as I remain a fan in spite of this mildly disappointing read.

Photo Credit: Author's Website

March 1, 2023

A Month in Summary - February 2023

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
February 2023

We got snow! While it's unusual to get any sort of accumulation here on the coast, it's not impossible. (Facebook reminded me this morning that we had a similar snowfall four years ago). We didn't see quite as much as in the communities to the north and south of us, but it sure was pretty as it was falling. Here's a lovely shot from Newport:

Photo Credit: Local Oceans

I had another good month of reading, finishing five books, but giving up on one. Two popular novels fell short for me, but I reread Ann Patchett's book for book club, and it was just as good as the first time I read it. I'm all caught up on Deborah Crombie's mystery series, and now look forward to starting Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler series. 

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

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (5/5)

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt (3/5)

The Measure by Nikki Erlick (3.5/5)

A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie (4/5)


Flight by Lynn Steger Strong - Read 60 pages (of 230). Couldn't keep the three couples and their children straight, as they were introduced all at once, and none of whom were fully fleshed out. It was very confusing, so I made a small cheat sheet, which still didn't help. I'm sure I would have eventually gotten a handle on the relationships, but the plot was dull and I wasn't interested.

Movies & TV Series:

Modus (Season 2) - We enjoyed this second season, which kept me guessing. I wonder if another season is in the works.

Elvis - This biographical film surprised me. I've never been a fan of Elvis, nor did I know anything about Colonel Tom Parker, but both Austin Butler and Tom Hanks were very good in their portrayals.

The Crown (Season 5) - We have one episode remaining of this series. I don't care for Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, but Imelda Staunton does a fine job as the Queen. This season has been my least favorite and I can't imagine that season six will be an improvement. 

New Amsterdam (Season 1) - Soooo good! If you enjoy medical shows such as E.R., Gray's Anatomy, or House, this is one to watch. Yes, each episode tugs at your heartstrings, but I'm hooked.

Strike - Troubled Blood - I think we missed the second season of this series, but we're still enjoying this one, even if we have to wait for each episode to drop on Monday nights.

The Brokenwood Mysteries (Season 2) - We've grown weary of this series, which is similar in tone to Murder in Paradise. I doubt we'll watch any more episodes.

Jurrasic World: Dominion - I've seen the first two (three?) installments in this film series, but wasn't really interested in watching this most recent movie until my husband suggested it. With the return of Laura Dern, Jeff Goldbloom, and Sam Neill, how bad could it be? Pretty bad, but I would like to watch the very first movie again.

Vera (Season 1) - Finally getting into this series. I love Vera!

London Kills (Season 1) - Not bad, but somewhat predictable. We like that each mystery is solved by the end of each episode, although there is a larger mystery spanning the entire series. 




Del Mar in 1980?

I'm back at it after taking a long break (almost three years!) during the pandemic. It's been fun to get back together with my friends, playing 2-3 times a week. I came across the above photo from my teenage years. I used to enjoy playing paddle ball on the beach, so it's no wonder I fell in love with Pickleball. :)

Less than two weeks until Daylight Saving Time begins. I can't wait!