Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bonus Snow Day Post!

We have been blessed with snow and that means glorious snow days!!! I, for one, NEVER grow tired of a snow day. I do not understand these "cabin fever" people that whine about being home. Do you not like your home??? Are you not prepared??? It's not like the weather is a surprise these days. I digress.

Snow day:

I've had a chance to read quite a bit over the last few days AND even wrote a new chapter in my own work-in-progress. I'm hoping to dive in to my writing again later as well.

In my last blog I left you with three books I was currently reading. All book premises come from the published "blurbs" provided by mass-market publishing and are not my own, just the ratings I claim:

Common Wealth by Ann Patchett 

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly - thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

She's a local writer with a funky, fun bookstore in Nashville. But alas, it was not for me. First two chapters weren’t bad...and then it tanks. Just very dull. By the end of chapter four I just could NOT keep reading. I was bored and looking for things to do other than read-a definite red flag. I gave it over 100 pgs. and that was more than enough. Disappointed. I’d heard great things about her.

A is for Alibi by the late Sue Grafton. 
She's been on my reading list for long time and her passing kicked me into gear. 

A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

That's why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she's out on parole and needs Kinsey's help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki's bad name won't be easy.

If there's one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it's playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer--and sharper--than she imagined.
I like Ms. Millhone - she was sharp and creative. I'll keep reading her series. ☕☕☕

The Inn at Ocean's Edge by Coleen Coble

In 1989, Claire Dellamare disappeared from her own fourth birthday party at the Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine. She showed up a year later at the same hotel, with a note pinned to her dress but no explanation. Nobody knows where Claire spent that year—and until now, Claire didn’t even know she had ever been missing. But when Claire returns to the Hotel Tourmaline for a business meeting with her CEO father, disturbing memories begin to surface . . . despite her parents’ best efforts to keep them forgotten.

Luke Rocco lost his mother under equally mysterious circumstances—at the same time Claire disappeared. After a chance encounter reveals the unlikely link between them, Claire and Luke set out together to uncover the truth about what happened that fateful year.

With flashbacks swimming just beneath her consciousness and a murderer threatening her safety, Claire’s very life depends on unscrambling her past . . . even if her family refuses to acknowledge it. Someone—maybe everyone—is hiding something from Claire Dellamare, and it will cost her everything to drag the truth out into the light.

Eh...the premise was strong but the execution failed for me. There were a lot of repetitive phrases and the writing was trite, even cheeky. Not that I don't enjoy cheeky writing but if the phrase "drop dead gorgeous" was used once, it was used a 100 times. Don't tell me he's good looking - tell me how his eyes remind you of the richness embedded in chocolate frosting. ☕☕


The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

 Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man.  is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

This. Premise. Lies.

DNFed this book 1/2 way through and that's a shame. The writing is excellent, and the characterization of Cyril Avery was flawless. BUT...it is just too foul. Vulgar - disrespectfully vulgar. And I'm not a prude - I swear, but c'mon. I found this book to be an absolute political tripe that was was offensive to Ireland, homosexuality, politics, and religion. It's as if Boyle took all of his personal agendas and crammed them into one story. I have so many questions:

Is it really so implausible that a gay man could find love and happiness? According to Boyle's narrative, it seems to be implausible, basically impossible, and that's just not a story line I'm willing to continue reading. 

Is it really plausible that EVERY Catholic priest you meet is a pedophile? According to Boyle's narrative, it seems to be and that's just not a story line I'm willing to continue reading.

Is it really plausible that ALL rich parents ignore their children and treat them as if they don't care? According to Boyle's narrative, it seems to be and that's just not a story line I'm willing to continue reading.

This is the same author as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - and the opening lines of this book were phenomenal. I was ready to make him a "to-read" author. But, I just can't. 

I see what all the fuss is about for the writing itself - he weaves solid sentences and grand plot structure, but the boorish and almost malicious approach to so many different aspects of society is hard to ignore. Was there an agenda here? It sure seems so and that is certainly every author's right - but as a reader, I don't have to punish myself as a result. ☕

Currently Reading:

Note: Paris by Edward Rutherfurd is phenomenal, but very dense! I read about a chapter a week - I'm counting it as one of my classics. I've made a list of classics I'm going to read, and I'm treating them like TV shows. A chapter a week until I've finished the book. It's how I pushed myself through Charles Dickens and now, I love him! There's something to savor in a literary, well-written novel. 

Happy Reading! 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Friday, January 12, 2018

Reading - 2018

I'd like to pretend I'm going to keep up with this. A random snow day hath descended upon me and I'm sitting at my computer ignoring my "in-progress" novel in favor of works already published. 

I did well with reading in 2017, but not so much with reviewing and sharing. Not that my choices impact the masses, but I like to share - see who is reading what and add to my ever-growing "to-be-read" pile. It's taller than me (ten times over) and likely to be what falls on my head and takes me out one day. And that's just the hardbacks I can't stop buying from The Book of the Month Club. (Seriously - a great deal on books...check it out! https://www.bookofthemonth.com/

And here we are - the start of 2018.

A quick look back at 2017:

I cannot recommend A Gentleman in Moscow enough - truly amazing!!!      

A full five! ☕☕☕☕☕

Quick synopsis (courtesy of the Goodreads book blurb):  A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. 

Kicking off 2018:

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo is a fun read. I will continue through this series. 

English professor Emma Grant has always done everything just the way her minister father told her she should - a respectable marriage, a teaching job at a good college, and plans for the requisite two children. Life was prodigiously good until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman.

Murder on Gramercy Park is the third book in the Gaslight Mystery Series by Victoria Thompson.

As a midwife in the turn-of-the-century tenements of New York City, Sarah Brandt has seen her share of suffering and joy, birth and death. Now, she learns that crime doesn’t discriminate, when the highest echelons of society are rocked by murder… A Gaslight Mystery At a summons from Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, Sarah arrives at the elegant home of famed magnetic healer Edmund Blackwell to find his wife in labor—and the good doctor dead from an apparent suicide. Only Malloy sees what no one else wants to: that Blackwell was murdered in his own home… After a successful delivery, the Blackwell baby falls mysteriously ill. Relying on her nurse’s training and woman’s intuition, Sarah discovers the source of the baby’s sickness—and discovers a scandal that leads Malloy’s investigation down a gilded path paved with greed, deception, and desire…

 Currently on the Reading Shelf:

Happy Reading! 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two for Tuesday: Into the Water (Hawkins) and Rare Objects (Tessaro)

I love it when I get to share TWO awesome books. My "two for Tuesday" has been a little hit or miss lately - usually one book was great and the other...bleh. But not today folks - not today!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

From her website (http://paulahawkinsbooks.com/):

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My review: I loved this book. I thought it was cutting edge and far more psychological than her debut novel Girl on the Train. If that book has put you off her sophomore debut, move past that. The multidimensional characters she write with Into the Water take a stab at your own dark secrets. I remember several times where she called the reader out, "you know you've thought about this..." and it was uncomfortable, because it was true. I plowed through this book quickly and did not want to put it down. Even got the hubs to read this one 😄

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

From her website (http://www.kathleentessaro.com/index.html):

In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret in this mesmerizing work of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfume Collector.

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

My review: I love Tessaro's writing style. She creates vivid detail that add to the setting and historical context of the novel. I fell in love with Meave, and even Diana Van Der Laar (which I don't know if you're supposed to love or not, but I did). Tessaro tackles some tough issues of even modern women in this novel with all the delicacy needed during the 1930s. I'm impressed by her subject matter and the way she politely affronts societal norms. Her portrayal of generational and cultural gaps bring an authenticity the book that many historical fiction works lack; she forces an understanding of the way it really was for a myriad of social classes during the Depression. She is a must-read author for me. 

Pick up either read - you'll be glad you did! Cheers, friends 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Faithful Place and Three Dark Crowns - Love and Loathe

So it's not Tuesday AND I missed a week of "Two for Tuesday" because last Tuesday was mega busy with work (yes...teachers DO work in the summers), helping my dearest elderly neighbor who took a fall last week that terrified us all, and taking CJ to cat and chicken "sit" (side note - CJ is scared of chickens, thought they were going to peck him to death. I have not raised a country boy, must correct) I didn't get to the computer to give my reviews. And I'm bummed because one of today's books is awesome!

I stumbled upon Tana French and the Dublin Murder Squad in The New Yorker. It might be the only useful article I've ever read in The New Yorker - side bar: The New Yorker is a pedantic disaster of writing in which the thesaurus is heavily used in obsequious effort to inflate the intelligence meter of the fussy authors attempting to make themselves out to be "serious" writers. And the comics suck. Side bar ended.

Tana French's murder mystery series is set in Dublin and each book tackles a new murder with a new focus character. That's what I love love love about the series. You can start from book one: In the Woods, but you don't have to. However, starting at the beginning (the very best place to start) allows you to understand the dynamics of the police force and how different teams interact with one another. Each book ends with a new focused protagonist for the next story. I'm on book three: Faithful Place, with book four Broken Harbor sitting mere feet from me.

From Tana French's website (no reason to reinvent a summary):

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was a nineteen-year-old kid with a dream of escaping his family’s cramped flat on Faithful Place and running away to London with his girl, Rosie Daly. But on the night they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again. Neither did Rosie. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank, now a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

My review: I really enjoyed this book. Seeing a copper find and lose footing in his home town with his own family was interesting. The dynamics of how he was raised and the additional tension this added while trying to do his job created a solid plot line. Of course, knowing and being so close to the victim forced an official/unofficial capacity in solving the case, but French writes with an expertise to the inside workings of how to get the job done, even when you aren't on the job. 

For more about Tana French and her novels, visit her website at: http://www.tanafrench.com/index.html

And now we're on to novel #2 - pay attention, because this is going to go quick...Don't. 

From Kendare's Blake's website (I couldn't do a summary if I wanted to):

Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends
Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

My review: Trite. Poorly written. Mind-numbingly boring. That's all. I do apologize. One day, when I do get around to ever writing a book, I'm so going to "get mine" back for some of the reviews I've given. But - I must find something nice to say - so I will say this: Kudos on this cover...it was fantastic!

However, if poorly written dystopian YA is your thing - check out more from this author at: http://kendareblake.com/books/  She has some other series and one stand alone that might be a stronger cup of tea. 

Happy reading friends! Cheers 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Savoring the Seasons by Traci Borum

Welcome back Chilton Crosse!

I'm so thrilled to do another review for author Traci Borum (a native and fellow Texan!). Her Chilton Crosse series is wonderful and just the escape I need to the cozy British countryside.

Savoring the Seasons is the fourth novel in the Chilton Crosse series.

Books in the series:

Painting the Moon
Finding the Rainbow
Seeking the Star

As I've noted in previous reviews (links included above) I'd like to move to this charming Costwold village #posthaste. This cozy series has everything you need to feel like the world has smiled and given you a hug. I think I've said that before in another book in the series, but I stand by it - it's absolutely true.

Now that doesn't mean that it's without conflict or tension - life has conflict and tension, and decisions are often bigger than ourselves...and that's just what Julia Bentley must decide as she navigates the choices she has made in her life.

Julia Bentley has just spent her fortieth birthday does what she always does - baking treats for the customers in her Cotswold bakery and taking care of her elderly father. She doesn't realize how stagnant her life has become until a younger man, Tristan Hannigan, arrives at the village and shows interest in her. As Julia grows closer to Tristan, he begin to season her mundane days and to challenge her insecurities about herself and how she views the world. 

But the relationship is threatened when Julia's doubts become too great, and the secret she's afraid to reveal creates a wedge between them. Will Julia choose the easy route, slipping back into her daily routine and living without love? Or will she find the courage to follow her heart and accept the love she deserves?

Ms. Borum has created an idyllic romance in the internal struggle of Julia Bentley. I appreciate the subtle nuances of her character and her battle with decisions that I think many women feel are apart of the feminine experience. Her relationship with Tristan grows organically and there is mystery there - mystery that keeps the reader turning the page. 

Now I feel I must also give the reader warning: I consumed more scones, baked goods, pie, bread, and sandwiches while reading this novel than my waistband appreciated. Seriously - if you weren't craving bakery fresh creations, you will be. Put your local bakery on speed dial. 

And that's the mark of a good book, I believe. For the subtleties of the characters, their lives, their day to day, to infiltrate the reader's life - my day to day. I regularly believed that the Publix scones were certainly not at good as Julia Bentley's, and maybe, just maybe, there's more to caring about others around you than effort previously given (particularly the elderly). I think Savoring the Seasons is part romance, part family, and part life lesson. 

Happy Reading my friends - this is one to savor.

Publication for this book is June 28th! Be sure to get your copy at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071G3XHBM/ for a pre-order. Additionally, the previous books in the series are on a flash sale if you'd like to catch up - I assumer you, one afternoon is all you need to read and fall in love with this cozy women's series. For more details about the previous books and where to go for a steal, visit http://www.traciborum.com/