Oct 31, 2017

First Chapter: Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato, March 7, 2017, St. Martin's Press
"...a stunning examination of family love and betrayal. 
Eight-year-old Edgar Fini remembers nothing of the accident people still whisper about. He only knows that his father is gone, his mother has a limp, and his grandmother believes in ghosts ."

First chapter:
Chanel No. 5

Having a life meant having a story. Even at eight, Edgar knew this.

What he didn't know was his own beginning. Newborn brains were mushy. If you wanted to know how your life had started, you had to get this information from other people. 

But what if these people were liars?  

"I kept falling asleep," said Lucy. She was speaking of Edgar's birth. The boy liked this particular story, and so he made sure to roll his head in feigned boredom....

Review: "Wonder-filled and magisterial...Lodato's skill as a poet manifests itself on every page, delighting with such elegant similes and incisive descriptions…His skill as a playwright shines in every piece of dialogue…And his skill as a fiction writer displays itself in his virtuoso command of point of view. The book pushes the boundaries of beauty." - Chicago Tribune

Based on the opening of the book and the book description, would you continue reading? 

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon

Oct 29, 2017

Sunday Salon: A Review and New Books

A review of City of Lies: Counterfeit Lady #1 by Victoria Thompson, November 7, 2017, courtesy of Berkley.
City of Lies is a new series by the author, with a most unusual main character, Elizabeth Miles, a con artist in a family of cons led by her father, whom she refers to as the Old Man. The book is set in Washington DC in the 1920s during the time that women, suffragists, were marching for the right to vote.

Elizabeth is pursued through the streets by a "mark," Oscar Thornton, an unscrupulous man who has just found out he has been conned by Elizabeth and her brother. She escapes the thugs by blending in with a group of marching suffragists, pretending to be one of them. She makes friends with well-to-do women in the movement, who want Elizabeth to stay with them in the city.  From the safety of her new friend Anna's home, Elizabeth hatches a plot to escape the scrutiny of Thornton, who is bent of vengeance.

The plot was unusual and also very informative about the history of the suffragist movement and the extent women went to in order to finally be heard. Elizabeth is a dare devil  heroine that I was willing to root for. The characters, setting, and history all make this an excellent new mystery.  My objective rating: 5.
My current read is a new arrival: The Paris Secret by Karen Swan, November 14, 2017, courtesy of William Morrow. The setting reminds me of another novel, The Paris Apartment. Fine arts expert, Flora, of London, travels to Paris to an apartment that has been closed since the war, over seventy years ago. She and her employer discover valuable paintings and artifacts. I have only just begun the book, but the art world has always been a fascinating subject.

Another new historical novel is on my list this week:
The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo, October 3, 2017, courtesy of William Morrow Paperbacks,
is a debut novel about two American nurses who served in different countries during WWII - France and the Pacific.

I have borrowed The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne, and hope to get to this new thriller as well.

What are you reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post  hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer,  It's Monday, What Are You Reading? by Book Date, and Mailbox Monday..

Oct 27, 2017

Book Beginning: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, September 12, 2017, galley courtesy of Soho Press. This book is a Man Booker Prize 2017 nominee. 
On All Souls Day, the late Marcus Conway returns home. Solar Bones captures in a single relentless sentence the life and death of this rural Irish engineer, and his place in the globally interconnected 21st century. (publisher)

Book beginning:

the bell
  the bell as
  hearing the bell as
        hearing the bell as standing here
        the bell being heard standing here
        hearing it ring through the grey light of this
        morning, noon or night
        god knows
        this gray day standing here and 
        listening to this bell in the middle of the day, the middle of
the day bell, the Angelus bell in the middle of the day, ringing out
through the gray light
         to here 
          standing in the kitchen 
          hearing this bell 

It will be very interesting reading this. I think I'd read it as a poem, one long sentence, a new experience. Other book awards for Solar Bones:

Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year
An Irish Times Book Club Choice

Meme: visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Oct 24, 2017

First Chapter: Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes

Just Killing Time: Clockshop Mystery #1 by Julianne Holmes, October 6, 2015, Berkley.
There are three books in the series, and I have #1. Yay to starting out with the first in the series.

First paragraph, first chapter:
The brochure lied. A week in the mountains of Vermont had not, in fact, helped me achieve a peaceful Zen that would pervade my life for the coming weeks, helping me approach old challenges with fresh energy. Instead, it had made me aware of two things. First, much as I hated to admit it,  I was addicted to technology. Not being allowed to have my cell phone for seven days was an interesting experiment at first, but an exercise in frustration at the end. Never mind that the battery was completely drained of power by the time I got it back. 
The second realization? Coffee and I couldn't break up....
Book description:
Ruth has been named heir to Grandpa Thom’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts. But there is a problem: her grandfather had been found murdered during a break-in at the shop, and Ruth has to solve the mystery and delve into the secrets before others are targeted. 

Based on the first paragraph and the book description, would you read on?

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Oct 22, 2017

Sunday Salon: Autumn and Winter Books

Autumn and Christmas cozies came in, setting the mood for the seasons, plus an historical literary thriller, set in post-WWII Europe. Here are the enchanting covers plus brief descriptions by the publishers.

A Late Frost by Sheila Connolly, November 7, 2017, courtesy of Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery
A story of orchard owner Meg and the search for a poisoner, in a small town in Massachusetts.

Not a Creature Was Purring (Paws and Claws Mystery #5)
Not a Creature Was Purring by Krista Davis, November 7, 2017, courtesy of Berkley
Inn owner Holly Miller finds it ruff staying cheerful over the holidays when the dead body of a beloved businessman turns up in the pet-friendly town of Wagtail, Virginia.

Just love the cover of this one:
Potions and Pastries by Bailey Cates, November 7, 2017, courtesy of Berkley
Magical baker Katie Lightfoot makes enchanted treats—and faces more than her fair share of toil and trouble.... 

And add a literary thriller,
Displaced by Stephan Abarbanell, November 7, 2017,  proof courtesy of Harper
British-occupied Palestine, 1946: Elderly writer Elias Lind isn’t convinced by reports that his scientist brother, Raphael, died in a concentration camp. Too frail to search for Raphael himself, Elias persuades a contact in the Jewish resistance to send someone in his place. The suspense begins. 

In other book news, I finished several ebooks and books last week:

Maman a Tort, a thriller in French by Michel Bussi, five enthusiastic stars!
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, a five star holiday read, contemporary fiction.
My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Books of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul, June 13, 2017, Henry Holt 
Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.

Click on the book titles to see what I said about the books on goodreads! My mini reviews!

I have just started

Rebellion by Molly Patterson, August 8, 2017, proof courtesy of Harper
The  cross-generational stories of four women who dare to challenge the boundaries of their circumscribed lives

What are you reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday..

Oct 20, 2017

Book Beginning: A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

A Tale of Two Kitties (A Magical Cats Mystery #9)
A tale of two kitties by Sofie Kelly
Publication: September 5, 2017, Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery

Two magical cats have powers of detection that prove indispensable to librarian and amateur sleuth Kathleen Paulson…

Book beginning:
You'd think by now it wouldn't bother me to step on a body in the middle of the kitchen floor, but I was in my sock feet and the body - missing its head, no surprise - was damp.

With cat slobber.

"Owen," I yelled, hopping on one foot while I rubbed the other against my pant leg.

The cat stuck its grey tabby head around the living room doorway and looked at me, face tipped quizzically to one side.

"Come and get this," I said, pointing to the headless yellow catnip chicken, aka Fred the Funky Chicken, I'd just stepped on.  

Page 56:
"You have to stay out of trouble at the library," I reminded him. "No going all Dr. Jack Griffin and roaming the building."

Definitely looks like a cat/mystery lover book!

Memes: The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Oct 17, 2017

First Chapter: Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura, May 2, 2017, Other Press
Genre: serialized novel, 2011-2012; translated from the Japanese
Source: library

First chapter:
The Long Telephone Call in Lieu of a Wake
"So how much do we get back from Golden?" 
Before answering, Mitsuki, on the phone with her sister Natsuki glanced once again at the numbers. At this late-fall night the window by the desk was closed, but instinctively she lowered her voice in reply. "Around seventeen million yen."  
"What?" said Natsuki. "You mean they keep a whole ten million even though she was there such a short time?""Looks like it." 
Golden was the private, exclusive nursing home where their mother had been living. Its full name was Golden Years, but everyone always called it Golden....
Book description:
Minae Mizumura demystifies the notion of the selfless Japanese mother and the adult daughter honor-bound to care for her. In addition to her husband’s infidelity, Mitsuki must deal with her ailing eighty-something mother, a demanding, self-absorbed woman who is far from the image of the patient, self-sacrificing Japanese matriarch.
Inheritance from Mother not only offers insight into a complex and paradoxical culture, but is also a profound work about mothers and daughters, marriage, old age, and the resilience of women. (publisher)

Based on the first chapter, first paragraph,  and the description, would you continue reading? 

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Oct 15, 2017

Devotions by Mary Oliver: The Selected Poems

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, October 10, 2017, Penguin Press
I browsed and looked at this collection of poems by Mary Oliver and then bought it after reading some of he poems! I love her emphasis and appreciation for all of nature, and her simple and meaningful way of expressing her thoughts and observations.

She chose the poems for this edition, so they must have special meaning for her. The collection is called Devotions, but they are not prayers as such. At least, I haven't seen any in the book as yet.

Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date 

Oct 13, 2017

Book Beginning: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of a Machine by Judith Newman, August 24, 2017, courtesy of Quercus
Genre: non-fiction

Book Beginning:

My kids and I are at the supermarket.
"We need turkey and ham!"
Gus tends to speak in exclamation points. "A half pound! And...what, Mommy?" I'm stage-whispering directions, trying to keep the conversation focused on deli meats. Behind the counter, Otto politely slices and listens, occasionally interjecting questions. We're on track here.
And then...we're not. 

Book description:
The author's 13-year-old autistic son, Gus, develops a friendship with Siri, Apple's 'intelligent personal assistant.' Siri always has the right answers to Gus's incessant stream of questions about the intricacies of national rail schedules, or box turtle varieties, and she never runs out of patience. The book chronicles one year in the life of the family. (publisher)

Page 56:

Berkner directs me to a blog called Autism Daddy, where the dad describes his nonverbal twelve-year-old sleeping with a framed photo of Laurie (singer on Nickelodeon) like it's a teddy bear.

Memes: The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Oct 10, 2017

First Chapter: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Psychological thriller: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, October 17, 2017, HarperLuxe
The Last Mrs. Parrish 
A debut psychological thriller full of twists about a coolly manipulative woman who worms her way into the lives of a wealthy “golden couple” from Connecticut to achieve the privileged life she wants. (publisher)

First chapter:
Amber Patterson was tired of being invisible. She'd been coming in this gym every day for three months - three long months of watching these women of leisure working at the only thing they cared about. They were all self-absorbed; she would have bet her last dollar that not one of them would recognize her on the street even though she was five feet away from them every single day. She was a fixture to them - unimportant, not worthy of being noticed. But she didn't care - not about any of them. There was one reason and one reason alone that she dragged herself there every day, to this machine, at the precise stroke of eight. 
Would you continue reading based on the first paragraph and the book description?

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Oct 7, 2017

Sunday Salon: Historical Novels and a Review

A new arrival this week, thanks to River Books Press is The Stairway Guide's Daughter by John Burgess, published September 25, 2017. The book is an historical novel set in the Angkor civilization of 12th century Cambodia. 

Description: "...a young woman called Jorani earns her living guiding pilgrims up a two thousand-step stairway to the magnificent cliff-top temple, Preah Vihear. One day, she accidentally witnesses the furtive burning of sacred palm-leaf documents, and is drawn into a succession struggle at the temple. She is forced to choose between loyalty to family and to the son of the abbot, with whom she forms an unlikely bond."

Another book I was excited about is by the new Nobel Prize winner in Literature this year, Kazuo Ishiguro.
I found my 2007 Goodreads review of When We Were OrphansI reread it recently and got a few more ideas. Here is the original review:

"A book I have wanted to look at again. Set in the 1930s, it's about a young English detective with a faulty memory who returns to wartime Shanghai in 1937 to find his parents who had disappeared there years ago when he was about nine years old. As he is an unreliable narrator, readers have to figure out the puzzle of his past and become detectives themselves to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Christopher meets a Japanese soldier in Shanghai who may or may not be his playmate from years ago, before the war. How Christopher reacts or doesn't react to him and how he ignores his surroundings in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion is part of his strange, delusional persona. This book intrigued me so much, I want to try again to get the hard facts of Christopher's journey, which may not be possible, given his inaccurate memory.

Ishiguro, born in Nagasaki, Japan and now living in London, is also author of The Remains of the Day, a Booker Prize-winning novel made into the award winning film with Anthony Hopkins."

I'll just add now that on reading it again the past two days, I found the narrator Christopher to be a kind of English/European version of the Ugly American, representing the tunnel vision that ignored the reality of what was going on in Shanghai before and during WWII.

If anyone has read  When We Were Orphans, I would love to discuss it and get your ideas here.

What have you been reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday..

Oct 6, 2017

Two Book Reviews: The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Mad by Chloe Esposito

Here are two brief reviews of books I finished this week. Both are controversial, I think, and a little
out of the ordinary.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Think Franz Kafka and his Metamorphosis. Yeong-Hye stops eating meat and soon imagines herself one with the plant world, needing only sunlight. But her body remains the same, a human body needing food, even if meat-free.

I am not sure if this is a psychological study of extreme delusion or a study of a woman reacting to the strictures of a patriarchal world and a society with strict laws, especially when it comes to women's status. It could be both.

The story is told from three points of view - that of Yeong-Hye, of her brother-in-law who becomes obsessed with her, and of her older sister, the supposedly responsible, sane sister in the family.

It's a bit disturbing, this story, but with lots to ponder.

Book beginning:
Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd had always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way. To be frank, the first time I met her I wasn't even attracted to her. Middling height, bobbed hair neither long nor short; jaundiced, sickly-looking skin, somewhat prominent cheekbones; her timid, sallow cheekbones told me all I needed to know. As she came up to the table where I was waiting, I couldn't help but notice her shoes - the plainest black shoes imaginable. And that walk of hers - neither fast nor slow, striding nor mincing.  
Mad: A Novel (Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Trilogy) by British author Chloe Esposito, June 13, 2017, Dutton
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars[ 3 of 5 stars ]4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars

I am, like some of the other reviewers, ambivalent about the direction the main character headed. Alvie was a scattered young woman asked by her identical twin sister to fly to Sicily to switch places with her for a few hours.

I was surprised at the turn in the character in the story in the second half of the book. Her sister Beth acts strangely about the identity swap, and things go awry quickly. This is the first in a trilogy, so I'm wondering where the story will go from here. Alvie/Beth is probably not going to be everyone's idea of a perfect protagonist, though she certainly is an interestingly"mad" one.

Book beginning:
Alvie darling, 
Please stop ignoring me. I know you received my last two emails because I put that recipient-tracker thing on, so you can stop pretending. Despite being at risk of repeating myself, I would like to invite you, yet again, to come and stay with us at our villa in Taormina. You would LOVE it here: 16th century, original features, the smell of frangipani in the air. The sun shines every single day. There is a pool to die for....
Meme: visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Oct 3, 2017

First Chapter: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin

Pupcakes: A Christmas Novel by Annie England Noblin, October 10, 2017, courtesy of William Morrow
Genre: romance, Christmas story
This is a novel of one woman starting over, who is adopted by an aging pug named Teddy Roosevelt, and continues when Brydie uses her baking skills to open a bakery named after its mascot - Pupcakes. 

First paragraph, first chapter:
The dog came with the house. Or maybe the house came with the dog. Either way, no matter how the sentence was constructed, the house and the dog came together.
Brydie Benson looked down at the at the fat wad of fur on the floor in front of her. Its tongue hung out of its mouth, fixed in what seemed to be a permanent pant. Bits of drool dripped from the protruding tongue and pooled onto the hardwood floor between them. 
Brydie took a step back. "Are you sure it can't go live with a relative or something?" she asked. "I'm not really a dog person." (from an uncorrected proof; final copy may differ)
Would you read on based on the beginning and the book description? 

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...