Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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My thoughts:  This is the fourth Ruth Ware novel I've read.  There are definitely some similarities between books, but somehow the settings and the issues the characters encounter are varied enough to still be interesting.  This one may just be my favorite of the four or else it is just my most recent.

Hal is lost, her mother died a few years before.  She has no friends, still lives in the flat she shared with her mother and runs her Tarot Card reading table at a local pier.  Right after her mother's death she borrowed some money from a loan shark who is now demanding a repayment of 6 times what she borrowed, which she doesn't have.  Then, she receives a notice saying she has an inheritance from a grandmother.  Except the name of her grandmother is wrong, last name is good, but the names her mother told her were different.  But, she is broke and hopes that maybe she will get enough to pay back the loan and maybe take a small vacation or get ahead, so she boards a train to go to the funeral and will reading.

She meets her three uncles, but not uncles as she doesn't believe she is the daughter of their sister as they think, and finds herself in a drafty, huge country house relegated to an attic room with no heat and locks on the outside of the door and bars on the window even though it is on the top floor of the house.  A crusty old housekeeper who hates everyone and some odd events.

When the will is read and she has inherited the whole estate there are issues, guilt on her part and disbelief on the part of the uncles.  Then odd things happen, her light bulb and that in the hallway to her room are smashed.  The housekeeper warns her away.  Her uncle gives her an old  photo that contains the uncles as well as their sister and a distant cousin and her mother is in the picture!  Her mother was there, but it doesn't make sense.

Pieces keep getting put together and it is like you can almost feel her reaching an aha moment as calamities occur and you wonder exactly who is working against her and why. 

I enjoyed the suspense and found myself wanting to keep listing to see what she discovered next!  I owned a copy of this book and had in on my shelf for about a year,  but ended up borrowing the audio version from the library and finishing it in just a few days!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Chances Are by Richard Russo


My thoughts: I read this book for an upcoming book club and when I checked it out of the library I wasn't sure I was looking forward to reading it.  I would read a bit before bed each night, but never felt like it was hard to put down and even mixed up the three main characters a bit.  The beginning was a lot more telling than showing and letting you get to know the characters in their own time, but then I got into it.  I know a lot of people wouldn't have pushed past the beginning, but I am glad I did.  Three men in their sixties meet on Martha's Vineyard for the weekend at the end of the summer in 2015, which is how they ended their time at college at the beginning of the summer in 1971, except that time the woman they were all in love with was there with them.  The college friend who was a part of their group of Musketeers, but also the one they all hoped to be with.

After that weekend she disappeared and no one knew what had become of her and her memory haunts the men more than it has in years because it feels like her ghost is there, maybe actually there if some theories are to be believed.

Going into this I did not realize  it was going to be a mystery that they were going to be unraveling.  Each of them had crystal clear memories of some things and had forgotten others, but together they worked to put the pieces together.  Each of the chapters is written from one of the men's pov, so you get to see how they think and what their inner life is like.

I had a lot of questions about how the women of their mother's generations had lived their lives and if it was by choice or due to the habits and attitudes of the time they were born and grew into. 

I went from easily putting this book down to reading the second half over the course of a day because I wanted to find out what really happened and put all the pieces together.  I've never read one of Russo's books before and I see in other reviews that some readers feel like this is different than his other books,  but I may give another one a try.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Happy New Year!

You know how we all set goals for the new year and then you hear that most people stop attempting to meet them by the fourth day of the year?  I must miss that memo every year, because I keep working all the way to the end of the year.  I don't always make the goal, there are times I fall short or have set backs, maybe I make it half way and then somehow turn the other direction, but I am still working towards the goal even with the back sliding.  This year I set a goal to read 75 books and to also keep better track of my reading.  In 2019 I read at least 55, but I think it was more and my tracking methods were off.  I have a new way of tracking on paper and two apps so we'll see if I am able to keep up this year!  As of this morning I reached 10 books finished in 2020.  10 out of 75!  So, right now it is looking to be an achieveable goal.  Who knows, maybe I will get busy and barely have time to read or maybe I will read so much I will exceed my goal.  So along with that goal, I also want to actually make the time to share what I've read and what I think about it.  This is a goal I've set and fallen short of quite a few times, but again, maybe this time is the time it will stick!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

From the authors website:
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A #1 New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

My thoughts:
This family really tugged at my heart and made me wonder if this was based on real events.  This family is fictional, but the Tennessee Children's Home Society was real and really did procure children through all sorts of methods to adopt out for a fee.  Some were kidnapped, some coerced from poor families, some taken when parents signed papers they didn't understand.

I like how the story unfolded, while part of me just wanted them to spill who was who and what had happened to them,  it unfolded in just the fight way.  

What kind of mark does it leave on children to be treated as they were in that home and to wonder for years what had happened to siblings?  Why did they feel the need to hide the truth from even their families?  Did the stigma still linger?

This book and this family were so real I wanted to find out more about the real survivors of the TCHS.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Praise for #1 New York Times best-selling author Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal:
"All runners wonder, at some point or another, why we do what we do. Mr. Inman's explanation is the best I've ever seen. And the funniest. Because he is clinically insane."
-Mark Remy, editor at large, Runner's World, author of The Runner's Rule Book

"He runs. He sweats. He heaves. He hates it. He loves it. He runs so hard his toenails fall off. He asks himself, why? Why do I do this? Here, gorgeously, bravely, hilariously, is Matt's deeply honest answer."
-Robert Krulwich, NPR

"Finally! A voice that sings with the Blerches of angels!"
-Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run

This is not just a book about running. It's a book about cupcakes. It's a book about suffering.
It's a book about gluttony, vanity, bliss, electrical storms, ranch dressing, and Godzilla. It's a book about all the terrible and wonderful reasons we wake up each day and propel our bodies through rain, shine, heaven, and hell.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author, Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, comes this hilarious, beautiful, poignant collection of comics and stories about running, eating, and one cartoonist's reasons for jogging across mountains until his toenails fall off.
Containing over 70 pages of never-before-seen material, including "A Lazy Cartoonist's Guide to Becoming a Runner" and "The Blerch's Guide to Dieting," this book also comes with Blerch race stickers.

My thoughts:

I found this saved in my drafts from 2015 when I got this book as a Christmas present.  I recall it being a fun read showing how sometimes long distances are fun and sometimes they suck.  I started running again this summer, but my longest run lately was 5 miles.  I hope to feel the urge to run further, but for the moment I'm fine with my 2 to 5 mile runs a few times a week.  I've moved into more HIIT and weight training, but I still enjoy running as well.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449459956
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/30/2014
  • Pages: 148

Meet the Author

TheOatmeal.com is an entertainment Web site full of comics, quizzes, and stories. The site gets more than 7 million unique visitors and 30 million page views a month; 250,000 blogs and Web sites have linked to it. TheOatmeal.com is written, drawn, and coded by Matthew Inman, a king of all trades when it comes to the Web. Matthew lives in Seattle, Washington. He subsists on a steady diet of crickets and whiskey. He enjoys long walks on the beach, gravity, and breathing heavily through his mouth. His dislikes include scurvy, typhoons, and tapeworm medication.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel (Green Angel, #1)

From Goodreads:
"The startling, universally acclaimed breakthrough YA novel from master bestselling author Alice Hoffman, now in paperback.

Left on her own when her family dies in a terrible disaster, fifteen-year-old Green is haunted by loss and by the past. Struggling to survive physically and emotionally in a place where nothing seems to grow and ashes are everywhere, Green retreats into the ruined realm of her garden. But in destroying her feelings, she also begins to destroy herself, erasing the girl she'd once been as she inks darkness into her skin. It is only through a series of mysterious encounters that Green can relearn the lessons of love and begin to heal enough to tell her story."

My thoughts:
I didn't realize that Hoffman had written YA fiction until I picked this book up from my shelf.  I have really enjoyed some of her other books and this seemed like a perfect size to read in a day on a not so busy weekend.  It seemed like it came to an ending, but on Goodreads I see that there is a sequel.  Now to wonder if I want to find a copy to read.  For the moment I think I am okay with where this one ended.  I also have to wonder why this was not just written as one book since it was only a bit over 100 pages.

Please don't take that to mean I didn't like this one, I did, but it came to a satisfactory conclusion in my mind and I finished it a week or two ago not left wondering what would happen next.  I love how Hoffman weaves magic into her stories.  

I found myself wondering if the terrible disaster was a parallel to the attack on 9-11,  maybe because it is almost that date again.  At the same time  it seemed like a simpler time so I wasn't sure.  How do we go about protecting ourselves from  danger and how much of that protection changes who we are and how we see ourselves?  How fast does the illusion of society fade in times of crisis?

It seemed similar to my last review because something terrible had happened, many people had died and we saw the disaster from the point of view of a teenager.  I am used to encountering a lot of either romance or end of the world topics in YA, I may need to explore some more and see what other genres are encompassed by YA.

Monday, September 9, 2019

the shade of the moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Shade of the Moon (Last Survivors, #4)

From Goodreads: 
"The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with the New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It, in which a meteor knocks the moon off its orbit and the world changes forever.

It's been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?"

My thoughts:
I read the first three books in this YA series right in a row.  I listened to the first one on audio and then borrowed the next two from the library.  This one I found at the Dollar Store so I grabbed it to have on hand, and then took almost a year to get to.  Once I got going I read it in a weekend.  I'm not sure what was stopping me from reading it.  Sometimes it feels like it needs to be the just the right time for a book.

Since it had been a little bit of time since the first three it wasn't all right at the top of my memory, but the author did a good job with adding in reminders without saying her is what happened which I appreciated.

In book one we met Miranda and her family and learned about the chaos that happened when a meteor hits the moon and moves it closer to earth.  In book two we meet Alex and his family in NYC and see what the events were like in a city versus a more rural area.  In book three the two groups meet and end up working to survive together.  Now we are at an enclave with an us versus them feel.  Those living in the enclave have purified air, schools, homes and servants, and plentiful food.  Those who live outside the enclave are the ones who work in the greenhouses and mines, they drive the buses and work as the domestic help to clean the homes, cook the food and take care of young children.  Jon, his stepmother Lisa and step brother Gabe are able to live within the enclave with the passes Alex and his sisters were given by a family friend.  Alex, ,Miranda and Laura (Miranda and Alex's mother) live in an unlocked apartment in town and work to earn their way.

A lot of parallels can be drawn about the way the clavers, those who have ids that allow them to live within the enclave walls and have fresh food and clean air, and the grub who are bussed in to do the menial work for the clavers.  The attitudes and treatment are something Jon hasn't really thought about much until a new doctor and his daughter Sarah move to the enclave.  Then he starts to see things with a fresh perspective that he isn't fully comfortable with.

When his sister Miranda has a baby even more questions are raised leading to some big decisions for all of the characters.  The authors note at the end had me wondering if there was a 5th book in the series, but her blog says she retired from writing in 2014 with this being the last book that she wrote, so I think it will be up to the reader to imagine how things will go for the characters who are part of the conclusion.

Here is the link to the author's blog about this being her final book:  http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/