Thursday, July 02, 2020

Book Beginnings: The Jane Austen Society


The Jane Austen Society
by Natalie Jenner
St. Martin's Press, May 2020


Opening Lines
Clawton, Hampshire
June 1932
He lay back on the low stone wall, knees pulled up, and stretched out his spine against the rock. The birdsong pierced the early-morning air in little shrieks that hammered at his very skull. Lying there, still, face turned flat upwards to the sky, he could feel death all around him in the small church graveyard. 

About the Book
A heartbreaking and uplifting novel of hope, loss and love.

It’s only a few months since the war ended but the little village of Chawton is about to be hit by another devastating blow. The heart of the community and site of Jane Austen’s cherished former home, Chawton estate is in danger of being sold to the highest bidder.

Eight villagers are brought together by their love for the famous author’s novels, to create The Jane Austen Society. As new friendships form and the pain of the past begins to heal, surely they can find a way to preserve Austen’s legacy before it is too late?

Initial Thoughts

I guess my first thought is that we've got a really depressing opening there. But the book is supposed to be "uplifting," so I'm assuming (and hoping) it gets some uplift pretty quick.

I received an advance copy of Natalie Jenner's debut novel several months ago, but had to put it on hold in order to finish up a few other books. So I'm getting to it a little late. (Yeah, like that never happens around here!)

This one's a little out of my comfort zone — lately, I've been reading mysteries and suspense novels almost exclusively. But variety is a good thing, right? Not sure how long I'll stick with it, but I'm eager to make a start.

Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WWW Wednesdays: 17 June 2020


It's Wednesday and that means it's time for WWW Wednesdays! This meme was originally hosted by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm, and then revived by Sam Stevens of Taking on a World of Words. Just three questions, once a week:

1. What are you currently reading?

First of all — it's sort of hard to believe June is half over already, isn't it? It seemed like May dragged on forever, but this month has just sort of buzzed right along.

I've had a lot of trouble settling into any books lately. I've sampled quite a few — kept putting one aside to start another. I guess the unsettled nature of life in general right now is affecting my reading habits, but I frequently have problems sticking with anything during the summer, for some reason. This week, I'm concentrating on reading one of the books I've received from Library Thing's Early Reviewer program:

The King's Justice, by Susan Elia MacNeal

I've had it for a while now and really need to get it finished and reviewed in a hurry.


2. What did you recently finish reading?

In the last couple of weeks, I've finished these two:

Access Point, by Tom Gabbay

by Rebecca Stead

Enjoyed both of those, and hope to get some reviews up soon. (Yeah, I always hope to do that, don't I?)


3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As usual, I have a few ARCs that I need to get to ASAP. These two are at the top of the pile....

 Or What You Will, by Jo Walton
(Coming out in July, from Tor Books)

 Knot of This World, by Mary Marks
(A Quilting Mystery, from Kensington Publishing, also due in July) 


Friday, June 05, 2020

Book Beginnings: Pilgrims



Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, by Garrison Keillor
(First published 2009)

Opening Lines
The first of the pilgrims through the International Arrivals portal at Leonardo da Vinci was Margie Krebsbach, face scrubbed, fresh, grinning, towing her husband Carl who looked stunned as if struck by a ball-peen hammer, and then the others came slouching and shuffling along, jet-lagged, brain-dead, and right away she spotted the thin, spiky-haired man in the blue blazer holding up a sign — LAKE WOBEGON — in one hand, high and she let out a whoop and let go of Carl.

About the Book
Margie Krebsbach dreams up the idea of a trip to Rome, hoping to renew her husband's romantic interest. She also finds a patriotic purpose for the journey: A Lake Wobegon boy, Gussy Norlander, died in the liberation of Rome, 1944, and his grave, according to his elderly brother Norbert, is in a neglected weed patch near the Colosseum. So it's decided they will go to clean Gussy's final resting place.

But Margie is unprepared for the enthusiastic response —fifty people want to go with her, including her nemesis, the mayor of Lake Wobegon, Carl's bossy sister Eloise, Mr. Berge the town drunk, and her treacherous mother-in-law. Margie gets the motley crew to the airport and aboard the plane, and then discovers one of the secret pleasures of travel — safely away from Lake Wobegon, the pilgrims' memories are quickened and they recall long-forgotten incidents. In this alien territory, they tell stories of astonishing frankness and self-revelation all delivered with Keillor's trademark humor. 

Initial Thoughts

Okay, my FIRST thought was that that is one very LONG opening sentence. But it does sound a lot like Garrison Keillor.

I've been looking for something to read for the 2020 European Reading Challenge. It's always one of my favorite challenges, but I haven't been doing very well with it this year. Pilgrims takes place (at least most of it) in Italy, and it's been on my TBR list ever since it came out back in 2009. And I already own a copy, so that makes it even more attractive.

Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Beginnings: A Fatal Grace


A Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (first published 2006)
Second book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series

Opening Lines
Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift.

About the Book
The falling snow brings a hush to Three Pines – until a scream pierces the air. A spectator at the annual Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted. Heading the investigation, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache unravels the dead woman's past and discovers a history of secrets and enemies. But Gamache has enemies of his own. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is sneaking up behind him. (GoodReads)

Initial Thoughts

Hmmm?  So now I'm wondering why she didn't buy the poor guy a Christmas gift. Even though she didn't know about her impending demise.

I just finished the first book in this series (Still Life, 2005) last week, and liked it so much that I just had to go ahead and read the second book right away. Actually, that doesn't happen very often for me – I usually allow some time between books in a series. But Chief Inspector Gamache is such an attractive character, I felt like I wanted to spend a little more time with him. From the reviews of this one, it seems to be just as good as the first book (it won the Agatha Award for Best Novel), so I have (as usual) high hopes.

Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Book Beginnings: The King's Justice


The King's Justice, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam, February 2020).
Ninth book in the Maggie Hope series of historical mystery novels.


Opening Lines
Prologue
March 1, 1943
Each incoming tide of the Thames brought another layer of debris, and, when the waters receded, mysteries could be found buried in the silt.

About the Book
Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill's secretary, but now she's a secret agent–and the only one who can figure out how a missing violin ties into a series of horrifying murders. 
Traumatized by her past, Maggie finds herself living dangerously–taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime. But when she's called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can't resist.  
Meanwhile, there's a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does she know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil–and old enemies.

Initial Thoughts

This will be a new series for me, and as usual I'm jumping in at the end without having read any of the earlier books. But the premise is intriguing, and I'm always interested in that World War II period as a setting. So I have high hopes for this one.

I'm actually still reading the same book I've been reading for a couple of weeks now (Still Life, by Louise Penny), but I'm expecting to start this new one in a day or two...if I don't get distracted by one of those other books in one of those many piles of TBR books around here.


Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Book Beginnings: Still Life, by Louise Penny


Still Life, by Louise Penny (first published 2005).
First book in her series of Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries.


Opening Lines
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round.


About the Book
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter. 
Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny. (—GoodReads)

Initial Thoughts

This is a series I've been meaning to sample for years now. My husband recommended it, which is a little odd since he doesn't read many mystery novels. And I'm doing something that's quite unusual for me, too — starting with the very first book! Instead of starting near the end of the series and working my way back. It's definitely a new experience — but so far, a happy one.


Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.


Friday, May 01, 2020

Book Beginnings: Miss Austen


Miss Austen, by Gill Hornby (Flatiron Books, April 2020). 

Opening lines
"Let us take that path." 
He closed the garden door behind her and gestured toward the Elm Walk. She pulled her shawl close and drank a deep draft of the new, green air. The year was 1795, and the day seemed to assume itself to be the first of that spring. Birds high in the oak tree sang out their relief; a new stickiness shone from the twigs. Together they walked up the slope at the back of the rectory, through the gap in the hedgerow and there — out of sight of her family — he stopped and took her hand.

About the Book
England, 1840. For the two decades following the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen has lived alone, spending her days visiting friends and relations and quietly, purposefully working to preserve her sister’s reputation. Now in her sixties and increasingly frail, Cassandra goes to stay with the Fowles of Kintbury, family of her long-dead fiancé, in search of a trove of Jane’s letters. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames? (Publisher's description)

Initial Thoughts

There seem to be several books out right now with Jane Austen as a character or theme. I'm usually a bit wary of that sort of historical fiction, but this one sounds more interesting than most. Got my copy from GoodReads in one of their giveaways, and I really should have read it by now. Running slow (as usual), but I'm eager to get started on it.

Have a good weekend, everyone.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.