Sunday, November 10, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


So, another Monday. And another reading update. I've been in a bit of a reading slump for the last couple of weeks — hoping that changes soon. But I did pretty well last month. In October, I finished three recent books:


And one not-so-recent one:

My favorite of all those was Becky Masterman's We Were Killers Once, the 4th book in her Brigid Quinn series, and definitely worth the read. I thought both The Body in the Wake and The Shape of Night were disappointing, or at least not as entertaining as I expected. Hoping to post reviews of all them, sometime this week. Hmmm. Yes. We'll see how that goes.

And here's what I've got on my list for this month, if all goes well:


Sorry for the Dead, latest entry in the series of Josephine Tey Mysteries by Nicola Upson. I'm about midway through this one now, and liking it pretty well. I have a few complaints, but I'll save those for my review (if I ever manage to finish it).





The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves. This is the first book in Cleeves's new Two River series of mysteries. I know her Shetland series is very popular, but this will be the first time I've read anything by her. This one has gotten some glowing early reviews, so I have high hopes for it.





Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout — a follow-up to Strout's hugely successful Olive Kitteridge. That earlier novel won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and is well on its way to becoming a modern classic. And it's another book I've never read, I'm afraid; but I probably should read it before I launch into the sequel. So, that's something to think about.




Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith. I really loved Smith's earlier memoir, Just Kids. And this new book comes highly recommended by several readers I trust, so I've put it on my TBR list and hope to get to it before the end of the year. (Which is coming up really fast, ya'll.)




Well, that's definitely enough to keep me busy. Now all I need to do is go curl up with some good books. Nice assignment, right?

Happy reading this week, everyone!



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Book Beginnings: Sorry for the Dead


Sorry for the Dead, by Nicola Upson (Faber & Faber, November 2019). These are the book's first sentences:
She waited on the step until Josephine was out of sight, then closed the front door behind her. The house seemed unnaturally quiet, and it took her a few moments to accept that she was finally alone.

About the Book:
In the summer of 1915, the sudden death of a young girl brings grief and notoriety to Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs. 
Years later, Josephine Tey returns to the same house—now much changed—and remembers the two women with whom she once lodged as a young teacher during the Great War. As past and present collide, with murders decades apart, Josephine is forced to face the possibility that the scandal which threatened to destroy those women's lives hid a much darker secret.

Initial Thoughts:

There's a sense of foreboding about that beginning, isn't there? And I'm wondering who "she" is and what she has to do with Josephine. I like it. I also like that the book is set (at least partially) during that between-the-World-Wars period I find so fascinating.

This is the latest entry in Nicola Upson's series of mysteries featuring a fictionalized version of another famous mystery writer, Josephine Tey (a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh). It's the 8th book in the series, and I was a little afraid the fact that I haven't read any of the earlier books might be a problem. But, happily, that hasn't been the case — I haven't really had any trouble getting into the story, although it's turning out to be not exactly what I was expecting. Don't want to say too much more, in case I might give away a little too much about the plot. I'll just say I'm enjoying it quite a lot — enough so that I'm thinking I might want to read some of the earlier books. All good, so far.

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.



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.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Reading Report: The Last Romantics

The Last Romantics: A Novel
Written by Tara Conklin
William Morrow, 2019
354 pages

Publisher's Description:
A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. 
When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time. 
It begins in a big yellow house, with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden-boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and to ask what, exactly, they are willing to do for love. 
[Note: I received my copy of this book free of charge from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.]


I don't want to say a great deal about the plot of The Last Romantics because it would be very easy to give too much away and spoil the reading experience for others. But I will just say a word about that "Pause" mentioned in the synopsis. The Skinner children have their world disrupted after their father dies young and leaves their mother to cope with taking care of the family on her own. It's a task she can't handle, and she simply withdraws from the real world for a while, pretty much leaving the children to fend for themselves. By using incredible amounts of resourcefulness and relying heavily on one another, they manage to take care of themselves and their mother during that frightening time.

For the most part, I enjoyed The Last Romantics. I liked the atmosphere and the author's attention to detail. And I particularly empathized with her description of the children's lives during the "Pause," as I experienced something of the sort myself after my father died when I was ten years old.

However, there were a few things that bothered me as I read the book. I never was able to completely warm to any of the characters. The time setting wandered all over the place. Also, the feminism theme came and went, as though the author couldn't really make up her mind about it.

And I had problems with the voice and perspective of the book. Most of the time we're seeing things through the eyes and memory of Fiona, the main narrator. But then without warning, we're getting thoughts or situations or conversations that she wouldn't have been part of. I think I would have been more comfortable if there'd just been the ordinary omniscient narrator all the way through. Picky, I know — but it kept taking me out of the story.

Still, it's definitely a book I'd recommend and I'm grateful to the publisher and Library Thing for giving me the opportunity to discover an intriguing, new-to-me author.

Rating: ★★★½

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Qualifies for the following reading challenges:

2019 GoodReads Challenge.
2019 Print Only Challenge.


Reading Report: Educated

Educated: A Memoir
Written by Tara Westover
First published February 2018
336 pages, Kindle edition

This is another book I read back in January, and it was certainly a powerful reading experience to start the year with.

Tara Westover's Mormon fundamentalist father was opposed to public education, so she never attended school. She spent her childhood and early adolescence working (and very nearly getting killed) in the family's junkyard, or learning herbal lore and midwifery from her mother, a self-taught healer. She had no birth certificate because her family didn't believe in registering with the state, and no medical records because they didn't believe in doctors or hospitals. What little education she got came from so-called home schooling, and she first set foot in a real classroom when she was seventeen. But after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade — eventually attending both Harvard and Cambridge.

This amazing memoir about growing up in an Idaho family preparing for the "end of days" is so fascinating and well-written, it actually reads like a novel. Some parts are hard to get through — child abuse is always ugly, even when (or maybe especially when) it's cloaked in religious nonsense. That she survived to tell the tale — and tell it so eloquently — is gratifying. That she can be so forgiving to her abusers is truly astonishing.

Rating: ★★★★

Note: I received my copy of Educated free of charge from the publisher, through the NetGalley website, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

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Qualifies for the following reading challenges:

2019 GoodReads Reading Challenge.

Reading Report: The Janus Stone

The Janus Stone
Written by Elly Griffiths
First published 2010
337 pages, Kindle edition

Lately I really haven't been very faithful about posting reviews or reading reports here on the blog. I've posted reviews in other places, but not here — for some reason. And I regret that. I like to use my book blog as a record of what I've read and what I thought about it. So I'm going to try to play a bit of catch-up over the next week or so, and write a few words about some of the books I've read during this past year. Probably won't try to keep to chronological order, but I'm starting with one I did read back in January — The Janus Stone, by Elly Griffiths.

In the book, archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a forensics expert in Norfolk (England), gets called in to investigate when builders uncover the bones of a child in an area they're excavating for a new development. The headless skeleton has been buried beneath a doorway, in a fashion that suggests it could have been a ritual sacrifice. DCI Harry Nelson — someone Ruth has worked with in the past — must find out if this was indeed some sort of religious ritual, or straightforward murder. And he asks Ruth to help with the case.

The Janus Stone is the second book in Elly Griffiths' series of Ruth Galloway mysteries, and I should say right away that (as usual) I haven't read the first book of the series. Still, overall I enjoyed The Janus Stone quite a lot, although I definitely would have benefited from having read book number one first. There was a lot of to-do in this book about the goings-on in that earlier book and occasionally I felt a little lost. Not the author's fault, of course — it's always best to start reading a series at the beginning. My bad.

As I said, it was reasonably enjoyable, with a decent amount of suspense and atmosphere. And I liked the fact that Ruth is an adult with some life experiences behind her, and isn't portrayed as a raving beauty. She's quirky and enjoys her relatively solitary existence in a remote cottage with only her cats for company.

The one thing that really turned me off (and kept this from being a 4-star read) was the way Ruth's pregnancy and who the father might be becomes the main emphasis of the book about midway through. (**Sorry, but that's really not a spoiler: her "condition" is announced very early in the narrative.**) Well, that's the trouble with most books about expectant mothers: How can the coming event NOT be the most important thing in their lives? Which would have been OK if this hadn't been a whodunnit. In a thriller you really want the focus on the crime and its investigation. Baby bumps just get in the way.

Rating: ★★★

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Qualifies for the following reading challenges:

2019 Calendar of Crime Challenge.
2019 Cloak and Dagger Challenge.
2019 Good Reads Challenge.


Friday, October 04, 2019

Book Beginnings: The Long Call


The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves (Minotaur Books, September 2019). This is the book's first sentence:
The day they found the body on the shore, Matthew Venn was already haunted by thoughts of death and dying.

About the Book:
Detective Matthew Venn has returned to the North Devon evangelical community he left years ago, to take charge of a complex murder case. A body has been found on the beach near Matthew's new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death. And as Venn and his team start their investigations, will he be drawn back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there? And how will that affect the detective and the case?

Initial Thoughts:

That's what I like — a mystery novel that just gets down to the main theme right from the top. Well, I guess if you're a police inspector who spends his time investigating murders, you'd naturally have it on your mind, right?

This is the first book in a new series of mysteries by Ann Cleeves. I know she's written several other long-running series, but this will be my first time reading anything of hers. From that opening, I'd say she definitely knows how to set a mood. Hoping the rest of the book lives up to it.

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.



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.

Monday, September 23, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



Wow, it's been a while since my last reading update. September has been sort of a blur for me. Had some medical tests to get through early in the month — fortunately, everything turned out OK, but it was slightly traumatic. Then had to have oral surgery a couple of weeks ago and that's meant a lot of pain medication that's kept me sort of zonked for a while. And then I was attacked by a really mean migraine that knocked me out for another couple of days.

Tales of woe, hmmmm? Or maybe more like whoa!?

Soooo.... anyway, even though I have been doing some reading, I haven't had much energy for blogging or writing reviews. Hope I can get back to that pretty soon. But for now, I'll just make a little list.

Recently, I've managed to finish these three....




Three very different books. Enjoyed all of them, especially those last two.

This week I'm finishing up another ARC that I really should have gotten to back in June (shame on me)...


After that, I'll probably be starting this one...


Or possibly one of these...





Or maybe something I haven't even thought of yet. I'll just be happy if I can stay awake for a while and keep reading!

Hope your summer has been fun and filled with lots of great reads! And happy reading this week, everyone.



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XIV

I've been so out of it lately, I almost missed one of my favorite annual events!


The RIP (for Readers Imbibing Peril) reading event/challenge began September 1st and will run through the month of October. This is (sort of amazingly) the 14th year for RIP, and I believe I've participated (at least a little) in all but the first two editions.

RIP was the brainchild of Carl Anderson, over at his Stainless Steel Droppings blog (now dormant, I think), but was handed over to new hosts a couple of years back. This year it has its very own website, where you can read all about it and join up.

The purpose of the event is to read books that fall into any of the RIP categories:

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

And the main goals are to HAVE FUN, and to share that fun with others. Pretty simple.

Actually, it's not that much of a challenge for me — those are the genres I read most of the time. But RIP always manages to renew my reading spirits after they've started sagging during the summer. And after the summer I've had, I really need some major renewing this year!

It also helps me find new books I might be interested in. I love reading all those lists and reviews.

Even though I'm getting a really late start, I'm still signing up at the Peril the First level (read four books), and I'll be combining that with Peril on the Screen (and possibly Peril of the Short Story, too). To find out about the various Peril levels, and to sign up, visit the challenge announcement page HERE.

I haven't really decided which books I intend to try to read, but I've got quite a few likely candidates. These are some new books that I'm eager to get to:
Imaginary Friend, by Stephen Chbosky
The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves
Old Bones, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Possession, by Michael Rutger
Pursuit, by Joyce Carol Oates 
And during the challenge, I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE). Happy reading, everyone!


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Book Beginnings: Curtains for Romeo


Curtains for Romeo, by Jessa Archer (Archer Mysteries, July 2019). This is the book's first paragraph:
I'm not the type of person who is habitually late. In fact, I truly loathe being late. I'll get up an hour before I really need to in order to be sure I'm on time. Maybe even early. 
About the Book:
"Acting jobs are scarce now for former TV teen detective Antigone Alden. So when a teaching position opens up at Southern Coastal University, Tig packs up her teenage daughter and heads home to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The house she inherited from her mother isn't entirely empty, however. Her mom seems stuck between this life and the next, and now Tig is a local reporter's prime suspect in the murder of the former theater professor. Given his reputation as a ladies' man, there are plenty of people with a motive. Tig isn't a detective. She just played one on TV. Will that be enough to help her find the killer?"

Initial Thoughts:

When I read that opening passage, my first thought was that it sounds just like me! I always think I'm going to need much more time to get ready to go somewhere than I really do. So things tend to get really frantic around here when I have any sort of early errands or appointments.

Anyhoo... I received this one as the result of a GoodReads giveaway, and I'm a little late starting it. Sounds like a fun read, so I'm eager to get going. It's the first book in a new cozy series — the Coastal Playhouse Mysteries, by Jessa Archer who is also the author of the Hand Lettering Mystery series which sound very intriguing.

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.



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.

Monday, August 19, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



Since my last update, I've finished exactly NO books. Summer stagnation has got me. Also, a few minor medical surprises have been taking up a lot more time than I'd expected.

So this post will be nice and short: no books finished, no reviews posted. Several books started, though — this week I'm hoping to finish at least these two:



The Patience of a Dead Man, by Michael Clark


After that, I have a few more ARCs I should get to as soon as possible:

What Rose Forgot, by Nevada Barr


Pursuit, by Joyce Carol Oates


The Shape of Night, by Tess Gerritsen

That's definitely enough to keep me busy for the rest of August — and at the rate I read, probably into September as well. That's if I can stay AWAY from the doctor's office for a while. (Fingers crossed.) So, now it's back to the books....

Happy reading, everyone! And have a lovely week.



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.


Friday, August 02, 2019

Book Beginnings: The Potted Gardener


The Potted Gardener: An Agatha Raisin Mystery, by M.C. Beaton (first published 1994). This is the book's first sentence:
A mild, damp winter was edging towards spring when Agatha Raisin motored slowly homeward to the village of Carsely after a long holiday.

About the Book:
Agatha Raisin has a crush on her neighbor, handsome ex-military officer James Lacey. In order to endear herself to him, she takes up one of his interests — gardening, hoping to participate with him in the prestigious Carsely Horticultural Contest. But as the contest approaches, villagers' gardens are being mysteriously uprooted, plants poisoned and burned. When the prime suspect in these malicious acts turns up dead, Agatha must turn amateur sleuth once more to solve the murder mystery. 

Initial Thoughts:

Not a really scintillating beginning, is it? That's OK, though, because these Agatha Raisin cozies (this is number three in the long-running series) tend to move really fast. So I know something interesting — and probably hilarious — is coming very soon. Just what I need right now.

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.



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.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reading Update: Almost August



Not sure how this happened, but July is nearly outta here! I had about a dozen books I was hoping to read this summer, and so far I'm a little off track. (As usual!) But even though this month has been really busy, I have managed to get a few books read in the last couple of weeks.

Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner
(which I actually started in June, so I guess it's not technically a July read) 


Recursion, by Blake Crouch (a very fast read)


Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman
(another quick read, although I still have a teensy bit to finish up tonight)

This week I'll be finishing up that last one, and trying to get some reviews posted on the blog — I've really been neglecting reviews this year. Then I hope to start a couple of others on my summer list:


We Were Killers Once, by Becky Masterman
(the fourth book in her Brigid Quinn mystery series)


Fake Like Me, by Barbara Bourland
(by another new-to-me author, creating a lot of buzz)


Anyway, that is the plan. So... back to the books.

Happy reading, everyone! And have a lovely week.



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Book Beginnings: Lady in the Lake


Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, July 2019). This is the book's first sentence:
I saw you once.

About the Book:
Lady in the Lake is "a novel set in 1960s Baltimore that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir, about a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman."

Initial Thoughts:

Well, that's short and sweet, right? Peek-a-boo! Right away I'm wondering who saw who, especially since this opening section is printed in italics. Who's talking here? And who's getting looked at?

Actually, my first thought about this book was that it might have something to do with Raymond Chandler's classic Philip Marlowe novel with the same title (The Lady in the Lake, first published 1943). Since I'm just starting this new one, I haven't answered that question yet.

This will be my first Laura Lippman book, but I've got several of her earlier works on my "want to read" list. So far, this one is definitely holding my interest, and as soon as I get back from the super market run today, I'll get stuck back into it.

Happy Friday and happy reading, everyone! And have a lovely weekend.



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.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Midsummer Reading Update



Well, maybe not officially midsummer, but suddenly it's the middle of July! Can you believe that? Generally, my reading slows down a bit during the summer, but this year I seem to be slower than ever. And what with all the Wimbledon tennis to watch the last couple of weeks, I find I'm still reading the same couple of books I was reading at the end of June....

Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner

and...

Recursion, by Blake Crouch

I'm enjoying both of those, but for some reason I can't seem to keep reading either one long enough to finish. Hoping to get through them this week so I can start this one (a "win" from a GoodReads giveaway):

Curtains for Romeo, by Jessa Archer

That's the plan, anyway. So...back to the books.

Happy reading, everyone! And have a lovely week.



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.