Friday, December 31, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
|Prospect House in London|
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”― Ursula K. LeGuin
I tend to not do well with a list of books to read, but rather just like to read what I am in the mood for. I found that to be very true in 2021. I like to walk through the library and grab what catches my eye... But sometimes, when I get to the library, I seem to have stage fright and can't think of a thing I would like to read. In order to remedy this, I keep TBR lists in the notes app on my phone. I view these lists as suggestions for what to read when I can't think of anything to read because if I decide I am going to read everything on these lists, I want to read nothing on these lists.
“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.” ― John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous
“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn't exist.” ― Berkeley Breathed
“I’ve always thought that a good book should be either the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or a door outward, to open you up to new worlds.” –Taylor Jenkins Reid
A Palette for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain had me looking up the Hamptons.
“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.”― Cornelia Funke, Inkspell
“What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”–Oprah
A few of my favorite, new to me author's -
What about you? How was your reading in 2021? Did anything stand out to you?
Monday, December 27, 2021
First Line: "We are four generations under one roof this summer, from infant Charlotte to almost-ninety Great-grandmother."
Summary: These writings are taken from the author's journals about the early days of her marriage when her children were little. She and her family lived year round at Crosswicks, a big old New England farmhouse. It is about daily life, the author's struggle to fit in time to write, trying to balance the work of a mother and homemaker with attempting to get a book published, and the people who make up the community. It includes reflections on motherhood, writing, the state of the world, and God.
My thoughts: This was my second attempt at reading this book. The first time I tried to read it, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind and couldn't get into it. I decided to give it another try and am so glad I did. It has become one of my favorites reads of 2021.
In these pages we meet the author, who is best know for her book A Wrinkle in Time. We also meet her husband, Hugh Franklin, an actor and their children. Things are not told in a linear fashion like a story would be, rather we get glimpses into their lives combined with reflections on various things. Sometimes quotidian details are included, other times lofty thoughts.
Although this was published in the early 1970's, the actual journals were written in the 1960's. Many of the things she was concerned about are still concerns today and have become even more prevalent. I found it really interesting to get inside a mind living during the 1960's and to see what her concerns were, what she thought about. Of course, I always love all the details of daily life, so journals appeal to me.
There are three more books in the Crosswicks Journals series and I am eager to read them.
"'But what about the mystery writers? They don't make any response to the problems of the world in their stories.' And I cried, 'Oh, but they do!' and cited some of my favorite writers, Josephine Tey, John Dickson Carr, Dorothy Sayers - I could go on and on - and said, 'Think about them. Their mysteries may be nothing but exciting stories on the surface, but there's a definite moral response to the world in every single one of the really good ones."
"The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. Try to comprehend an abstract idea without words: we may be able to imagine a turkey dinner. But try something more complicated; try to ask questions, to look for meaning: without words we don't get very far. If we limit and distort language, we limit and distort personality."
Saturday, December 25, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
First Lines: "A bank robbery. A hostage drama. A stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea."
Summary: On the day before New Year's Eve, eight people attend an apartment viewing. That same morning, a person who has reached a place of desperation, decides to rob a bank. When that doesn't quite go as expected, the bank robber flees to the first available building which happens to be the apartment building holding the viewing. Since the apartment holding the viewing is the only one that is easily accessible, the bank robber bursts in waving a pistol. The situation has gone from being a robbery to a hostage crisis.
My thoughts: This is the second book by Fredrik Backman that I have read. His books leave me with mixed feelings. So I'm going to start by telling you what I liked about this book:
*Backman is a talented writer.
*This is a unique story told in a unique way.
*Humor - there was one point near the beginning of the story when I was laughing so hard, it was a few minutes before I could keep reading.
*Bringing many of the ills of society or difficulties of the modern age to light in a humorous way.
*Quirky characters - Backman excels in seeing the quirkiness in all of us and extracting that into interesting characters.
*Themes of love, friendship, grief, mistakes, forgiveness, second chances and hope.
*The story ends on a positive note.
Things that cause me to have mixed feelings:
*The dark tone of the book, especially in the early part. It gave me a feeling similar to the movie Fargo. Dark and quirky, unsettled. This did lift as the story went on.
*Many references to suicide and suicidal thoughts.
*The obnoxiousness and choices made by some of the characters - the author does mention several times, "This is a story about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.". I had to keep that in mind when I was getting annoyed by some of the characters.
This is not a story for everyone. But, if you like quirky characters in a unique setting you might want to give this one a try.
"Because that was a parent's job: to provide shoulders. Shoulders for your children to sit on when they're little so they can see the world, then stand on when they get older so they can reach the clouds, and sometimes lean against whenever they stumble and feel unsure. They trust us, which is a crushing responsibility, because they haven't yet realized that we don't actually know what we're doing."
"The fact that she didn't phrase her questions as 'Is this some kind of joke' but went straight for 'Are you a joke?' perhaps says a lot about the younger generation's lack of respect for older bank robbers."
"She told herself that way why you should always be nice to other people, even idiots, because you never know how heavy their burden is."
"The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn't spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who's having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves."
Monday, December 20, 2021
First Lines: "'Why does it matter?' 'It matters because good writing always matters,' I said, allowing an involuntary sigh of frustration to escape my lips. "
Summary: After a difficult struggle with her latest manuscript and the challenge of teaching a class for young aspiring writers, Jessica is ready for a vacation. Her publisher, Vaughan Buckley, and his wife have invited her to spend time with them in the Hamptons. Jessica plans to spend the time reading, relaxing, enjoy the views and taking an art class. The Hamptons is filled with artists and art galleries, so it seems like the perfect place to take an art class. Jessica is a little embarrassed about her abilities as an artist and doesn't want anyone to notice her, so she dresses in a disguise when she attends the class. The instruction includes drawing the naked human form of both a male and a female. Unfortunately, the female model collapses while posing for the class. She seems to have had a heart attack. This seems odd to Jessica considering she is a young woman. Word gets out quickly that the famous mystery writer was attending the class where the model died. And to top it off, someone stole her drawing of the nude male model and has sold it to the local newspaper. Since she was in the room when the model died, she wants to find out more about her. Who was she? Why was she modeling? Where is her family? As she begins to ask questions, she finds that not many people are willing to answer. There seems to be more to the story of this model's death. Did she die of natural causes or is something more sinister going on?
My thoughts: It is always fun to accompany Jessica on her travels. This time they take her to the Hamptons, the playground of the rich and famous in the summer months. I have heard of this area, but know very little about it. Here is what Google says:
The Hamptons, on eastern Long Island's South Fork, is a string of seaside communities known as a summer destination for affluent New York City residents. It’s marked by long stretches of beach and an interior of farmland, towns and villages with 18th-century shingle buildings and estates hidden behind tall boxwood hedges. East Hampton is home to high-end restaurants, bars and designer boutiques.
It sounds like a beautiful place. Unfortunately for Jessica, her vacation doesn't end up being a relaxing time. However, Vaughn and his wife, Olga keep her busy with dinners at many of the restaurants in the area. One of the things I always appreciate about Jessica is her ability to mingle with people from every walk of life. She is not overly impressed with fame or fortune, but can carry on an interesting conversation with anyone. Also, she is not afraid to say no when she needs some time to herself.
The mystery contained an interesting look at the art world, including the difficulty of becoming known in the field, fraud, greed and manipulation. This was a case where the death seemed straight forward. The coroner confirmed that the model died of a heart attack. That should be the end of the story. However, something just seemed off to Jessica, so she started to ask questions. She also got in touch with the Chief of Police and worked with him on the case. And in the end, it was the police who solved the mystery with Jessica not far behind.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and a great addition to the series.
Thursday, December 16, 2021
First Line: "The wail of sirens blared."
Summary: Daisy Swanson is serving tea and treats at a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter. Not everyone in town is as supportive of the new homeless shelter as Daisy is. There have been some heated discussions. So it is not a big surprise when a group of protesters show up to the fundraiser. What is surprising is the anger and forcefulness of the group.
While serving tea at the fundraiser, Daisy met Piper, a young woman who had used the services of a fertility clinic. Several couples' hopes were dashed when the clinic had a mechanical problem that caused the loss of many frozen eggs and embryos. Piper and her husband were one of those couples. Hiram Herschberger, a local lawyer, is defending the clinic. It just so happens that Hiram also represented a young Amish man named Eli, who is in the crowd of protesters. When Hiram is found dead a few days later, there are plenty of suspects to investigate.
My thoughts: The author is not afraid to include some controversial topics in these mysteries. This time Daisy is right in the middle of a fundraiser for a homeless shelter. The shelter has divided the residents of the town. There are some who are strongly against it. In addition to that is the situation at the fertility clinic. Daisy can often see both sides of an issue which makes her a good protagonist. The setting of this series is in Willow Creek, Pa in the Susquehanna Valley which is a region populated by many Amish. The characters often cross paths with the Amish community, which adds another layer of interest.
All of the secondary characters in this series are well developed. This time, the focus was mostly on Daisy and Jonas. Their relationship continues to grow at just the right pace, which is very slowly. We also see a lot of Daisy's daughter, Jazzi. This is her last year of high school and she is looking into colleges. Daisy is already anticipating how much she will miss her next year.
Hiram Herschberger is a lawyer who is willing to take cases others wouldn't touch. This often means putting morals aside in order to make a buck. He has clearly made some enemies. A detective on the case has finally realized that Daisy is in a good position to hear people talk and asks her to let him know if she hears anything. As Daisy talks to people, she learns more about the types of cases Hiram took on. She does pick up a clue here and there, but it didn't feel like there were many solid clues. But, it all makes sense in the end.
I continue to enjoy catching up with Daisy and her friends and family in Willow Creek. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Monday, December 13, 2021
First Line: "John Davis turned up the collar of his jacket as he swiftly walked away from the shrill voices bleeding through from the hotel banquet hall behind him."
Summary: The FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit is called in to investigate one of the strangest cases they have ever dealt with. The case involves the death of one of the cofounders of the BAU. What makes it so strange is that his body was found in a locked room with no signs of forced entry. As the unit begins its investigation, they find it difficult to create a profile of the killer. Before long, another murder is committed. Now that they know they are dealing with a serial killer it should be easier to create a profile. Except they keep running into roadblocks. When they realize members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are being targeted, the pressure is on to stop the killer before one of their own becomes a victim.
My thoughts: This is a thrilling, fast-paced story that kept me guessing until the end. As in the first book in the Quantico Files series, Alex (Alexandra) Donovon is our main character. She is joined by Logan Hart and the famous Kaely Quinn from another series. The suspect they are trying to profile is diabolical and crafty and has devised an intricate plan to achieve his goal.
When reading a book like this I often think about those men and woman who do these jobs every day. I imagine it would be difficult to have to face such evil on a daily basis. So, I really appreciated the author showing us that side of things in one of the characters.
"Those in law enforcement pay a heavy price when they constantly look into the dark minds of evil."
"As a Christian, he knew where true evil came from, but that knowledge didn't banish the images that burned in his mind. The ones that showed up in his nightmares."
Several of the characters deal with the effects of their jobs and that feels realistic. I enjoyed the friendship that blossomed between Alex and Kaely. As the two of them work together, they realize they have a lot in common. Kaely's difficult past offers her special insight into Alex's struggles and Alex appreciates the encouragement and support.
As this series takes place at Quantico, it was interesting to learn more about the training base there, including the dormitories and Hogan's Alley.
While you could read this as a stand-alone, you would miss out on a lot of character development. I recommend starting with the first book in the Kaely Quinn, Profiler series, Mind Games. I am looking forward to the third book in this page-turning series.
Saturday, December 11, 2021
First Line: Orlando: "As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion: bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou sayest, charged my brother, on his blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my sadness."
Summary: Duke Senior has been banished by his younger brother, Frederick. Duke Senior's daughter, Rosalind, stayed with her cousin at her uncle's court. Duke Frederick hosts a wrestling match between his wrestler, who never loses, and a young man named Orlando. Rosalind and Celia are there to witness the match. This time the Duke's wrestler doesn't win, but is bested by Orlando. Rosalind becomes favorably disposed towards Orlando, which angers her uncle to the point that he banishes her from his court.
Rosalind and Celia take to the forest in disguise. Rosalind as a man and Celia as his brother. They soon learn that Orlando has also taken to the forest after escaping the evil designs of his brother, Oliver. As Rosalind and Celia encounter Orlando, Rosalind uses her disguise to test Orlando's affections for her.
My thoughts: This was a fun read! I found this easier to read and understand than some of the other Shakespeare I have read. It was easy to keep the characters straight - even when one was dressed as someone else. I think this would be a good place to start if you are new to Shakespeare.
"Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak."
"I could find in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat."
"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages."
Jacques: "By my troth. I was seeking for a fool when I found you."
Orlando: "He is drowned in the brook: look but in, and you shall see him."
Jacques: "There I shall see mine own figure."
Orlando: "Which I take to be either a fool or a cipher."
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
First Lines: "One Saturday morning, my cell phone rang at 7:00 a.m. Only one person in the world dares call me at that hour."
Summary: The book begins with an introduction to the Enneagram as well as some advice on discovering your type. Next, is a chapter for each Enneagram type. The authors combine general information about each type with stories of people they know. Each chapter begins with twenty statements people of that particular number might say. Next are examples of how that number might act in different contexts such as childhood, work or relationships. Following this is some information on the Enneagram specifics of wings, stress and security. Finally is a section on transformation.
My thoughts: I did a read/listen combination for this book that worked really well. The audiobook was read by Ian Morgan Cron. The book is written from his point of view and he has a great sense of humor that made this entertaining as well as informative.
Conversational in tone, the book is very easy to read but packed with information. If you go into the book knowing nothing about the Enneagram, you will come out at the end with a thorough understanding. If you are already familiar with the Enneagram, this book is still worth reading as it offers unique stories and descriptions of the types. I had a basic understanding of the Enneagram, but the stories and descriptions in this book helped me understand each type better. Learning about the Enneagram has given me more compassion for myself and for others. If you are interested in learning more about this personality type system, I recommend this book.
Monday, December 6, 2021
First Line: "The distant howl of the siren atop the mairie broke the stillness of the French summer night."
Summary: Bruno is called to the scene of a fire at a research station for genetically modified crops on the outskirts of town. The fire chief smells gasoline, which tells him the fire was no accident. Bruno is aware of a group of fervent environmentalists in the area and immediately suspects them. However, things get more complicated when an American businessman is looking to buy property in the area. He is a winemaker who sees opportunity in St. Denis. Would he have reason to set the fire? Then there is the young woman who works at the wine shop who is newly arrived from Canada. She seems to know a lot about grapes and winemaking. Bruno has many things to sort through before he gets to the bottom of this mystery.
My thoughts: The best part of this series is the location. The beauty of the French countryside comes across on every page. Not to mention the delicious food that is described in enough detail to make your mouth water. One of the highlights is when Bruno invites a small group of friends to his home for dinner. Each course is described in mouth-watering detail along with some information for those of us who aren't French and need a bit of explanation about the more obscure items on the menu.
The reader also gets a look into a vendange - a grape picking party. The owner of the vineyard invites the entire town to come and help pick grapes and then feeds them a delicious lunch. I learned quite a bit about this process.
There is a lot to like about Bruno, too. He is an excellent police officer, but more importantly, he cares deeply about the people in his little commune of St. Denis. He is always a friend first, even when he is dealing with a criminal. That is not to say that he lets anyone get away with anything, he just treats them with kindness and respect. This often causes confusion in some of his colleagues. They can't understand why he would go to the trouble. That is just the kind of guy Bruno is.
The mystery is complicated and gets more complicated before it is all sorted out. The mayor and the Police Nationale get involved and each is looking out for their own interests. Bruno likes to do things by the book, so he is a good mediator when things get out of control.
This was an enjoyable read, with interesting characters set in a beautiful location.
"Bruno would love to be as calm and self-confident as he had taught himself to seem, and to be even a fraction as wise and patient as he sought to appear."
"'If we were in California I would not be working in a vineyard,' Bruno said. 'Unless a friend asked me to help. And then I would follow his rules, or hers, for cutting the grapes. Here, I follow Joe's rules. So should we all.'"
Friday, December 3, 2021
|Lilac by Stephen Darbishire|
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
I hope all of you that celebrate had a good Thanksgiving! I sure did. I was even able to get a little bit of reading done. In the month of November I read 10 books. Here's the breakdown:
Cozy Mystery: 2
Romantic Suspense: 2
Middle Grade Fiction: 1
Historical Fiction: 1
Death at Greenway by Lori Rader Day - A historical mystery taking place at the country home of Agatha M. C. Christie Mallowan and her husband. A good mystery with memorable characters.
The Dark Vineyard (Bruno, Chief of Police #2) by Martin Walker
Bruno investigates a fire at a research station for genetically modified crops. Review coming soon.