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Friday, January 18, 2019

Nine Perfect Strangers - Liane Moriarty

I finished listening to Caroline Lee's great narration of Nine Perfect Strangers this morning and decided to share a few of my thoughts.  It was the book I featured on Tuesday in my First Chapter First Paragraph post, so I won't repeat the blurb or the beginning - you can read that here if you like.

I mentioned that I've had Liane Moriarty on a 'favorite author' list since I read The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies several years ago.  I was not as pleased with the last book, Truly Madly Guilty.  I think Moriarty was propelled into 'even more famous' status after the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies and the actors that played the main parts.  Many people 'discovered' her books.  And had expectations.  So, what did I think?

Well, I wasn't sure I was going to be so pleased with the book.  It contains a lot of characters and the viewpoint shifts from person to person, though more of the book is told through a subset of 4 or 5 people.  A lot of the more negative reviews mentioned the many characters and viewpoint shifts.  It begins with a woman who is suffering a heart attack and seems to have died.  We then move 10 years down the road and meet 9 people who are arriving at a health resort way out in the Australian countryside.  They are there to 'transform' their lives through various means - many of the current trends, fads, whatever you want to call behaviors that improve your body and spirit.  It turns out not at all like what they thought.  It gets completely wacky or 'bonkers' as Cleo mentioned in her review here last fall.

As I listened and thought, this is too weird, but kept going, I decided that I did like the book.  Parts of the way the characters interacted and related reminded me of this author's treatment of people in other books - books I loved.  I didn't mind lots of characters or viewpoints.  There was humor and poignant stories too.  In the end, as the characters changed and 'transformed' (maybe not how we anticipated), I liked most of them a lot better too.  And that's all I'll say because I don't want to give away too much.

Even though I don't think this book will top my two favorites by Liane Moriarty, I liked it a lot.  I'll keep reading her books and I'd also like to go back and try her backlist.  Have you read this one or others that I didn't mention here?  Ones you would recommend?  Let me know.  And would you go to a health retreat for a vacation?  I don't think I see that in my future - certainly not one like this!  Ha!   

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

First Paragraph(s):

Armand Gamache slowed his car to a crawl, then stopped on the snow-covered secondary road.
     This was it, he supposed.  Pulling in, he drove between the tall pine trees until he reached the clearing.
     There he parked the car and sat in the warm vehicle looking out at the cold day.  Snow flurries were hitting the windshield and dissolving.  They were coming down with more force now, slightly obscuring what he saw outside.  Turning away, he stared at the letter he'd received the day before, lying open on the passenger seat.
     Putting on his reading glasses, he rubbed his face.  And read it again.  It was an invitation of sorts, to this desolate place.

My Thoughts:

I never exactly know what to say when I've finished a book by Louise Penny.  I tend to want to hoard them and save my first reading for a 'just the right moment' situation.  Sometimes I can't wait.  Sometimes I do.  I always enjoy my reading and savor the story, the characters, the themes.  Honestly, I wasn't sure that we'd get a book from Louise this year and she herself has said she didn't intend to write one.  Here's a bit from her acknowledgments:

A funny thing happened on my way to not writing this book.
     I started writing.
     The truth is, I've known since I began writing Still Life that if Michael died, I couldn't continue with the series.  Not simply because he was the inspiration for Gamache, and it would be too painful, but because he's imbued every aspect of the books....

She tells that one day she sat at her computer and wrote two words - Armand Gamache.  The next day she wrote 5 more...and so on.  And she says that she realized that the books are more than her Michael and more than Gamache - they are about kindness, acceptance, gratitude, about life, and about consequences of the choices we make. 

I feel that Louise Penny has a rare gift of not only writing a compelling mystery series, but a recitation of important themes and behaviors to strive for.  She writes of the human condition and frailties of humanity and the strengths.  I feel these books are quite deep and very thought-provoking.  They may not strike everyone that way, but that's what I get from them.

As to this particular book, the reader gets to reconnect with many characters that we know and love.  Some of the stories from the previous book, Glass Houses, are continued or even wrapped up.  New bonds are formed.  Certain endings are hinted at.  I was happy to see that Myrna, the bookseller and former psychologist from Three Pines, has a very prominent part in the story.  And in the end, I was satisfied.  Some readers have wondered whether the series will go on in the future.  In her last newsletter, Louise said that it indeed will go on and she's working on the next book.  That makes me very happy and the wait begins again. 

Blurb:

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

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This book will qualify for the Canadian Book Challenge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Vanishing Stair



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

One of my favorite books last year was the YA mystery, Truly Devious.  I knew it was part of a proposed trilogy and now it's time for the next book to be published.  This week, I can't wait for:




by Maureen Johnson
Publication Date:  January 22nd

The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy. But then her classmate was murdered, and her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they say. She must move past this obsession with crime.

Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be back with her friends, and solve the Truly Devious case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, and the guy who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son.

But larger issues are at play. Where did the murderer hide? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair? The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - Nine Perfect Strangers



I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

The book I'm sharing this week is by an author that I've read before.  In fact, a couple of her books are among my favorites in the last decade, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies.  Her last book, Truly Madly Guilty, was not as much of a winner with me.  I've heard mixed reactions to this new one, but I'm hopeful.  It's narrated again by Caroline Lee and though several have criticized her voice and pace in this book, I'm finding it just as pleasing as those I've heard her narrate before.  Here's the beginning of:



First Paragraph(s):

'I'm fine,' said the woman.  'There's nothing wrong with me.'
     She didn't look fine to Yao.
     It was his first day as a trainee paramedic.  His third call-out.  Yao wasn't nervous, but he was in a hypervigilant state because he couldn't bear to make even an inconsequential mistake.  When he was a child, mistakes had made him wail inconsolably, and they still made his stomach cramp.
     A single bead of perspiration rolled down the woman's face, leaving a snail's trail through her makeup.  Yao wondered why women painted their faces orange, but that was not relevant.

Blurb:

 Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

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Have you read Nine Perfect Strangers or other books by Liane Moriarty?  What's your opinion if you have?  Would you continue?

Friday, January 11, 2019

A new pursuit...and a new journey...



I wanted to do a little 'show and tell' about my Christmas gift from my lovely husband.  This is the digital piano that he gave me.  It's not as expensive as a traditional piano, but the sound is very good.  And the keys feel like the ones on a regular piano.  We had been talking about getting a piano for long time and I'm glad we decided to go ahead with the purchase.  I had a perfect corner for it, though that is the corner where the Christmas tree resides during the 'season'.  We'll see what happens next year.

Here's a little background on my music life and journey over the years.  When I was 7 years old, there was a big suitcase-looking thing under my grandmother's Christmas tree that had a tag on it with my name.  I was so excited about it.  What could it be?  It was big (or so it seemed to me).  On Christmas morning I eagerly snapped open that 'suitcase' and there was....what was it?  An odd looking thing with some piano keys on one side and some round button things on the other.  I was very disappointed.  Ha!  It didn't look fun and it was not something I had asked for or wished for.

It was a child-sized accordion.  I've placed a link in case you don't know what that is.  Anyway, my mother (who apparently always wanted accordion or organ lessons - who knew?) thought it was a perfect gift.  Well, I took accordion lessons until I was 12 and my Mom 'made me' share my music with all kinds of people.  Mom was a dear woman and we visited a lot of older relatives in nursing homes and things like that.  She always brought my accordion and I had to play.  It was pretty much a horror for this book lover who liked hiding in the corner reading.  Ha!

Happily, I outgrew the instrument (literally) and when I was 12, I asked for a piano.  My parents purchased an organ.  My sister and I had to take lessons for a few years.  The happy part was we didn't have to transport the organ around with us playing for random people that we really didn't know.  The thing is that when you play the accordion or the organ, you learn the right hand or treble clef notes.  Your left hand doesn't learn the bass clef as well - you play with chords.  So, I can play up a storm with my right hand (even still), but not my left.

One of my quests this year is to teach myself to play the piano - with both hands - and no chords.  I could take lessons, but I'm going to try to do this with music books and possibly a few lessons on YouTube if I need to.  I think it will be fun and no pressure involved.  I've been a bit behind in starting because I have had a cyst on my left index finger that had to be 'frozen' by my dermatologist just before Christmas.  This cyst is caused by a bone spur (probably) that comes from the arthritis in my fingers, plus I am left-handed and so this is my dominant hand.  I've been healing and hoping it won't come back.  If it becomes bothersome again, I'll probably have to have hand surgery, but we won't borrow trouble in that regard.

Playing the piano will be good for my hands and fingers, just like typing on a keyboard is good for them.  My arthritis is not awful, but it's progressing and I've been looking for ways to keep my joints a little more supple.  I think that making some music will do just that.  Thanks for listening to my long story.  So, do you play the piano (or even the accordion or organ)?  Do tell - I'm curious how many of us took music lessons and how many have kept up with it over the years. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Huntress



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I'm going to resume participating in this meme after my break at the end of 2018.  I had thought that with a fresh focus away from 'new and shiny' books, my interest might wane, but I still have some books that I'd like to highlight.  I have gone ahead and switched over to Tressa's name of 'Can't Wait Wednesday' for the new year.

Our mystery group read and discussed Kate Quinn's The Alice Network last week.  I really enjoyed reading that story, set in World War I and also just after World War II.  I thought that the author did a good job with the dual timeline.  Her next book will soon be published.  This week, I can't wait for:


 

Publication Date:  February 26th

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - Norse Mythology



Today I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

I have been away from this meme for a long time, probably before Vicki took it over from Diane.  I've missed it and since I won't be necessarily doing reviews of each and every book I read this year, I decided to join in again.

The book I'm sharing this week is one that is a book group selection for January.  This is a group that I wasn't able to attend much in 2018, but I'm hoping to join in more this year.  Their first book is Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology.  I've not yet read any books by Neil Gaiman and, actually, I'm amazed that I haven't.  The author does the narration of the audio.  I'll probably be trying a read/listen.  Here's the first couple of paragraphs to be followed by the blurb.




First Paragraph(s):

It's a hard to have a favorite sequence of myths as it is to have a favorite style of cooking (some nights you might want Thai food, some nights sushi, other nights you crave the plain home cooking you grew up on).  But if I had to declare a favorite, it would probably be for the Norse myths.
     My first encounter with Asgard and its inhabitants was as a small boy, no more than seven, reading the adventures of the Mighty Thor as depicted by American comics artist Jack Kirby, in stories plotted by Kirby and Stan Lee and dialogued by Stan Lee's brother, Larry Lieber.  Kirby's Thor was powerful and good-looking, his Asgard a towering science fictional city of imposing buildings and dangerous edifices, his Odin wise and noble, his Loki a sardonic horn-helmeted creature of pure mischief.  I loved Kirby's blond hammer-wielding Thor, and I wanted to learn more about him.

Blurb:

Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

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Have you read this book or would you continue?  Have you read a Neil Gaiman book that I shouldn't miss?  Please tell!

Monday, January 7, 2019

In which the mystery book group discusses The Alice Network...

I was going to write a recap of our mystery group's discussion of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  However, one of our mystery group members, Gayle, has a blog too, It's a Mystery!  She wrote a great post about it, so, I'm going to send you there.  Here's the link to her thoughts on this book and our meeting.

Gayle is such a great member of our group.  She always makes a list and spreadsheet when we have our 'best of the year' meeting and also when we read for a theme or 'award winning/nominated' books.  Plus, she subs for me when I have to be out if she can.  She's practically perfect!!  Take a look at her blog and what she shares.  She loves the new mystery movies that have been made from successful cozies and writes about them.  She also is in contact with several authors that might not be familiar to you.  It's a Mystery! is a blog that I can recommend!

As to what I thought about The Alice Network, I enjoyed it very much.  I want to read more books this year with these 'unknown' stories about women's contributions to war efforts.  And, yes, this one is based on real people and real situations.  Kate Quinn has new book coming out soon and I'll be talking about that on Wednesday. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

A look back at 2018....my 10 favorite reads...




As I'm trying to get myself back into the habit of sharing a few blog posts here, I hope you guys will be patient with me.  Because I've been doing exactly what you see above.  Well, maybe if you put a Kindle in her hands or some wireless headphones in her ears.  Ha!

I guess what I'm saying is that this one will be short and sweet.  Not too much detail, but some links if you'd like to find out more about the books that appear on my 'favorites of 2018' list.

I didn't keep detailed statistics about my reading for 2018.  Just my reading journal.  I did take time to note title, author, date finished, and the first and last sentence.  The first and last was something I tried this year and I like it.  Helps me remember more about the book. 

I read a few less books this year - 138.  Still, that was a decent number.  I remember the years when 40 or so were amazing.  Many of the 138 were audiobooks or read/listen combos.  I'm liking that at times.  I suspect that close to 50% of my reading is in audio format.  I know that it's tough for some to concentrate or whatever, but I really like listening while walking or driving or folding clothes.  It might take practice, but if you haven't gotten into audiobooks, you might consider them.

OK, let's get to the list of 'favorites'.  These are in no particular order and the link included is to my thoughts on the book in another post.   



by Anne Bogel
If I had to pick a most favorite, this would be it.




 by Ann Hood



by Eowyn Ivey



by Gail Honeyman
This is the only book that's not linked to a review by me.  I didn't write one as this was a book I read much later in the year.  It was for a book group discussion that I ended up not getting to attend.  I loved this book.  So quirky and different.  Funny, sad, emotional.  It was especially interesting for me as the guy who 'taught' Eleanor how to relate to others was a IT guy.  I'm married to a IT guy and though he is not as 'typical' as many of his staff over the years have been, these individuals are often just not as good at relating to people.  They are great with software.  If you get a chance to 'meet' Eleanor and Raymond, take it!



by A.J. Pearce



by Kate Morton



by Maureen Johnson



by Lori Rader-Day



by Robert Galbraith



by Nicci French


That's my 'top 10' - have you read any of them or do you think you might?  If you do, hope you enjoy them.  I've had a good time seeing what others have put on their lists.  Now, it's 2019 and it's time to get back to reading...where did I put my Kindle?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!! Welcome to 2019!


Wishing everyone a very happy, peaceful, 'just breathe'-type 2019!  I've decided that my word of 2019 will be...PERSEVERE.  As in 'never quitting again' - in my life journeys of all types - reading, health, movement, and, most importantly, in my quest to be kind, loving, sensitive, and spiritual.




I love looking at pictures of mountains and love contemplating mountain vistas.  In every mountain range, there is up and there is down.  There are hard roads that test your strength and there are easier ones where one can coast.  Life is like that in many ways.  Endurance and perseverance are needed for both the ups and the downs.

So this year, my aim is to PERSEVERE through the good and the not so good and keep my goals in mind for all aspects of my life.  And definitely enjoy the journey.  Thanks so much for stopping by and may you have a very Happy New Year!