Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

 

What is your favorite thriller novel?

I’ve been hearing a lot about The Silent Patient and I was very excited to win it through a giveaway on Instagram from @booknerdwatercolor.  I finally read it last week and I couldn’t put this book down!

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter married to her beloved husband, photographer Gabriel.  One night when Gabriel returns late from work, Alicia shoots him five times in the face.  She never speaks a word again but does paint a haunting self-portrait.  Psychotherapist, Theo Faber, is obsessed by Alicia’s story and jumps at a chance at a new job at the facility where she is staying.  He wants to work with her and get her to talk again.  Will Alicia finally reveal what made her snap?

I loved the short chapters that kept the plot moving through this novel.  I found the mystery to be very intriguing.  I really wanted to know why Alicia wouldn’t talk and what caused her to murder her husband.  Unfortunately, I did figure most of this one out.  I had read an Agatha Christie novel in the last few months with a similar reveal.  If I wouldn’t have read that book, I don’t think I would have figured it out.

Favorite Quotes:

“Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.” – Great First Line!

“We’re all crazy I believe, just in different ways.”

“Love that doesn’t include honesty doesn’t deserve to be called love.”

Overall, The Silent Patient was a riveting thriller.

Book Source:  Won from @booknerdwatercolor on Instagram.  Thank-you!


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


 

Title:  Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Read by:  Alison Larkin

Publisher: British Classic Audio and BMA

Length: Approximately 13 hours and 29 minutes

Source: Purchased from Audible.

 Pride and Prejudice is my go-to book for a relaxing read.  It’s a book I’ve read many times and enjoyed and will continue to enjoy into the future.

I’ve reviewed this novel several times on this blog, so I won’t go into a detailed review here.  I do love listening to it as an audiobook.  Austen was meant to be read out loud as it was in her original time to her family.  Every time I reread Austen; I always get different points out of it. My random thoughts this time were as follows:

  •         I just love Elizabeth Bennet. Her personality just shines off of the page.  I love that she has her own opinion and doesn’t just follow others.  I also love her wit.
  •          Mr. Darcy’s change is so wonderful.  He is certainly dismayed by Elizabeth probably being the first person in his life to tell him that he wasn’t always behaving properly.  I like that he reflected on it and worked to rectify the situation.
  •          I felt so bad for Jane.  When Bingley came back, she wasn’t sure what to do.  Were things going to pick up again?
  •         I get so used to watching the movies, that I forget just how long the ending is in Pride and Prejudice.  There is so much good detail that I enjoy that the movies all cut out.
  •         I always loved Mr. Bennet in my teenage years, but I get more annoyed by him with every read of this book.  He is funny, but he certainly is indifferent to the problems in this family.

 Alison Larkin is a wonderful narrator.  I enjoy her light British accent and soothing tones.  Her mannerisms and voices for the characters are wonderful.  I always look for her as a narrator now when I’m searching for audiobooks.

There are also Regency songs sung by Alison Larkin at the end of this audiobook that I enjoyed.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a wonderful book to treasure and the audiobook by Alison Larkin is excellent.

Monday, June 7, 2021

White Ivy by Susie Yang

 

Title:  White Ivy

Author: Susie Yang

Read by:  Emily Woo Zeller

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 12 hours and 51 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you! 

 White Ivy is an epic American story of one woman’s quest to live the American dream.  Ivy Lin appears to be a sweet and quiet young Chinese girl.  She has a special something that draws people to her.  Her grandmother uses her as a cover to steal things at yard sales and thrift stores.  Ivy learns from her how to become a great thief herself.  She has one best friend, Roux Roman, who has a complicated home life as well.  In middle school, she develops a crush on Gideon Speyer.  Gideon is the son of a senator and lives a gilded blue-blooded life that Ivy envies. After she lies to her parents to attend a party at Gideon’s, they send her to visit relatives in China for the summer.  When she returns, she discovers her parents have bought a house in another state.  Her relationship with both Gideon and Roux is gone.

 As an adult, Ivy returns to Boston as a teacher.  She runs into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, and soon is dating Gideon.  As their relationship progresses, Ivy wonders, what does she want out of life?  Can she achieve her American dream?  What lengths will she take to ensure this?

 Ivy is a complicated anti-hero that reminded me strongly of Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind or Becky Sharpe from Vanity Fair.  I wanted to like her as she is the heroine and root for her story, but she is an unlikeable person.  I did admire her determination. 

 I really liked the overall story and was surprised by how things went in the story.  It really drew me in.  It reminded me of a modern day An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser or The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  These are two of my favorite novels.  I really like the story of a person going to any length to achieve the American Dream and pull themselves up into a higher class.  I will be reading more works by author Susie Yang.

 Besides Ivy’s social climbing, this book was a great coming of age novel.  Ivy’s relationship with her mother and her grandmother is complicated.  I really enjoyed the growth of these relationships throughout the novel.

 SPOILER ALERT

For any that read this book – what did you think about this ending?   I thought it was interesting that Ivy had her “happy” ending unlike the endings for Clyde Griffiths of An American Tragedy or Lily Bart of The House of Mirth.  Is Ivy’s ending really happy though?

SPOILER END

 I read this book in May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with the #diversiteareadingchallenge hosted by @booksnparchment on Instagram.   White Ivy was also a Read with Jenna selection.

 Emily Woo Zellner was a wonderful narrator and I thought of her as the voice of Ivy.  It was a compelling audiobook to listen to and I couldn’t stop listening to it!

 Favorite Quote:

"All her life, she had sought something she couldn't name. Love? Wealth? Beauty? But none of those things were exactly right. What she sought was peace. The peace of having something no one could take away from you."

 “That was the thing about getting too much happiness at once. Without time to adjust, the pain of not having it suddenly became unbearable.”

 “In the same way water trickles into even the tiniest cracks between boulders, her personality had formed into crooked shapes around the hard structure of her Chinese upbringing.”

 Overall, White Ivy is a compelling story with a complicated heroine trying to live the American Dream. 


Friday, June 4, 2021

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie


I read a Pocket Full of Rye as the May selection for the Read Christie 2021 challenge.  The theme for May was a story featuring tea.

Rex Fortescue has just drunk a new cup of tea when he has a violent reaction and dies at a nearby hospital.  Mysteriously his pockets are found full of rye.  What caused his death?  Inspector Neele is immediately on the scene.  He discovers there are many who would wish Rex’s death, including his own family.  When Miss Marple arrives on the scene, she helps him to realize that the death is part of a story rhyme. “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye. . .“  Who is the killer and where will they strike next?

I thought I had this one figured out – but Agatha Christie got me again.  I love her twists, turns, and surprises at the end.  This was my first Miss Marple mystery and what surprised me is that she wasn’t present until about one hundred pages into this novel.  I was surprised that she didn’t appear for so long and was a secondary character to the main inspector.  I’m interested to learn whether this is true for all of her novels or not.  Nemesis, another Miss Marple mystery, is the selection for this month.

Favorite Quotes:

“Confronted by the unexpected, her poise was shaken.”

“Human nature is much the same everywhere, is it not?”

Overall, A Pocket Full of Rye is an another great Agatha Christie mystery.  I can’t get enough of them!

Book Source:  Purchased from Amazon.com

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Pride and Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledge) by Carrie Bebris

Pride and Prescience is the first novel in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series.  I read this book when it first came out in 2004, but just read it again as one of the May selections for the JASNA Northwoods Book Club.  I was glad to read it over again as with the passing of time, I had forgotten much of the story!

Pride and Prescience starts immediately after Pride and Prejudice.  Miss Elizabeth Bennet has just wed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and is displeased that Miss Caroline Bingley has used their wedding breakfast to announce her own engagement to the mysterious Mr. Frederick Parrish.  Miss Bingley and Mr. Parrish’s relationship has proceeded quickly, and they are soon married with an elaborate celebration.  Soon after strange occurrences threaten Miss Bingley, as well as Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and brother-in-law Charles Bingley.  Will Darcy and Elizabeth be able to find out who is causing their loved ones harm?

Author Carrie Bebris captures the personality of Austen’s characters and their actions very well. This felt like a true continuation of their story.  The mystery was very interesting, and I was hooked into this story quickly.

I read this book for the May JASNA Northwoods Book Club meeting.  The club enjoyed this book, although they didn’t like that it delved into the supernatural at the end.  That being said, they still would like to read the second book in the future.  I had read a few of these in the past, but I haven’t finished the series yet!  I love supernatural elements myself.

Favorite Quotes:

“Darcy, sometimes your manner lends the air of a personal attack to an observation on the weather.  You can be very intimidating, you know, especially to strangers.”

“It was Darcy’s experience that while many men might bluster out dire warnings, especially in the heat of an argument, most of them possessed enough conscience to stay on the decent side of the line between threat and action.”

Overall, Pride and Prescience is a fun mystery involving one of literature’s favorite couples as the sleuths.

Book Source:  Purchased from Amazon.com

The Heiress by Molly Greeley

 

The Heiress is subtitled “The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh.”  The Heiress gives a long overdue story to poor Anne de Bourgh.  Anne is a minor character in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and is Mr. Darcy’s cousin.  Lady Catherine de Bourgh is overbearing and insists that Anne and Darcy were meant for each other.  Anne barely speaks and seemingly has no personality.  She is discussed as being too sick to participate in life.  Why is she sick?

In The Heiress, Anne de Bourgh is given laudanum as a baby and grows up addicted.  Whenever she goes off the medicine she is “too sick” to continue as she goes through withdrawal and is put back on the medication.  Although her father and a governess try to help, Anne grows up in a haze.  Her only happiness is driving her ponies in the morning before her first dose of the day.  After her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam visits with his new bride and invites her to London, Anne takes a chance and travels to London while her mother is out of town.  Will Anne be able to break her addiction? Will she be able to become her own person?

I LOVED Anne’s journey. SPOILER ALERT:  This explanation of laudanum addiction fit with the character from the original novel.  I enjoyed Anne’s journey as she realized what she wanted out of life.  I also greatly enjoyed when Anne was able to finally put Lady Catherine in her place and kick her out to the dower house.  Anne gains a great love for another woman, Eliza, in this book and their romance is the focus of the last part of this novel.  I thought this was fascinating.  I thought it was interesting how Mr. Watters offered for Anne to have a marriage of convenience understanding that they would live their separate love lives.  I wonder how many of those marriages existed during Regency times?  I loved how Anne realized that she wanted to control her own fortune and future and that any marriage would take that away from her.  SPOILER END.

I read this for the JASNA Northwoods Book Club that was in May.  We had a great discussion about this book.  I think everyone enjoyed Anne getting her own story and happy ending.  The only negatives were that some felt the beginning was too slow and depressing.  I didn’t have a problem with that as it set up the story well for Anne making a change.

This would make a great read for Pride month.

Favorite Quotes:

“Ladies are sometimes seen as idle creatures, are we not?  But women do work, and our work is important – vital, even.  It just happens to be quieter than the work done by men.”

“But . . . I have been made small – have allowed myself to made small – for the entirety of my life.”

Overall, The Heiress is a wonderful literary story that finally gives Anne de Bourgh her due.  I highly recommend this for all lovers of Pride and Prejudice.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town was the May Book Club selection for the Kewaunee Library Book Club.  I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this novel, but I quickly was absorbed into the story and couldn’t put it down!

2018

Morgan Christopher’s dream of becoming an artist is derailed when she is jailed for a drunk driving accident.  She is released from jail under special circumstances that include that she must restore an old post office mural from the 1930s.  An artist that she had idolized has somehow selected her for this project to rehabilitate herself.  He left very specific instructions in his will.  Why was she selected for this project?  As she works on the mural, she uncovers all sorts of mysteries painted into the mural.  What happened to the original artist?

1940 

Anna Dale is an artist from new Jersey.  She is very excited to win a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Denton, North Carolina.  Anna’s mother has recently died, and she needs to make her way alone in the world.  As she gets to know people in Denton and begins on her project, she discovers prejudices and secrets hidden in the town.  Why does her work get erratic?  What happened to her after she finished?  Why was her work never displayed in the post office?

This book was fascinating!  I didn’t really know much about the painting of post office murals and I enjoyed the history of it.  We have a mural here in the City of Kewaunee that I enjoy looking at in the post office.  I really enjoyed the mystery.  Both timelines were equally engaging.  My other book club members enjoyed this book as well.

I also liked the look into racial issues of the time.  In particular there is a great scene where Anna visits an African American student, Jesse, who is helping her with the mural.  “As soon as she pulled into the long driveway of the white, two-story farmhouse, she knew her expectations had been wrong.”  I like how she got to know people and learned not to make assumptions based on race.

Favorite Quotes:

“The children knew it was finally spring, so although the air still held the nip of winter and the grass and weeds crunched beneath their feet, they ran through the field and woods, yipping with the anticipation of warmer weather.”  Great first line and it gets even better!

“You have to make peace with the past or you can never move into the future.”

Overall, Big Lies in a Small Town is an engaging novel with a great dual time narrative.

Book Source:  Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Cosmic Queries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson with James Trefil (TLC Book Tour)

 Cosmic Queries has the subtitle “StarTalk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going.”  I’ve listened to and enjoyed StarTalk a couple of times and have enjoyed Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s interviews on various programs.  I love science, but I don’t know that much about astrophysics.  I thought it was a good time to learn more.

Cosmic Queries is written in an interesting and humorous manner and I read through it quickly.  It is written for someone like me who likes science but is not an expert in astrophysics.  It goes through the history of the study of astrophysics, what makes up the universe, life in the universe, and the beginning and end of the universe. 

Sections of the book are short and interesting, and the pictures are beautiful.  Interspersed throughout are funny tweets from Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  There were also interesting side bars often with biographies of important people in astrophysics, such as a tidbit about Henrietta Leavitt.  She worked as a human computer at Harvard in the late 1800s and made a major breakthrough in astrophysics.  Of course, the work was published under a man’s name and she did not get credit until after her death.  I also loved reading about Galileo.  His story fascinates me.

Favorite Quote:

“Just because you can’t figure out how ancient civilizations-built stuff, doesn’t mean they got help from Aliens.”  - Don’t tell this to my Dad!!

Overall, Cosmic Queries is a fascinating and often humorous book about the history and future of astrophysics. I greatly enjoyed it!

Book Source:  Review Copy from Hachette Books as part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

About Cosmic Queries

• Publisher: National Geographic (March 2, 2021)
  • Hardcover: 312 Pages 

  In this thought-provoking follow-up to his acclaimed StarTalk book, uber astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tackles the world's most important philosophical questions about the universe with wit, wisdom, and cutting-edge science. 

 For science geeks, space and physics nerds, and all who want to understand their place in the universe, this enlightening new book from Neil deGrasse Tyson offers a unique take on the mysteries and curiosities of the cosmos, building on rich material from his beloved StarTalk podcast. 

 In these illuminating pages, illustrated with dazzling photos and revealing graphics, Tyson and co-author James Trefil, a renowned physicist and science popularizer, take on the big questions that humanity has been posing for millennia--How did life begin? What is our place in the universe? Are we alone?--and provide answers based on the most current data, observations, and theories. 

  Populated with paradigm-shifting discoveries that help explain the building blocks of astrophysics, this relatable and entertaining book will engage and inspire readers of all ages, bring sophisticated concepts within reach, and offer a window into the complexities of the cosmos. 

For all who loved National Geographic's StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, and Space Atlas, this new book will take them on more journeys into the wonders of the universe and beyond.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Legendary astrophysicist NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON is the host of the popular podcast StarTalk Radio and Emmy award-winning National Geographic Channel shows StarTalk and Cosmos. He earned his BA in physics from Harvard and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia. The author of more than a dozen books, including the best-selling Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Tyson is the first Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

 


What do you like about mysteries?  Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie mystery? 

 I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie in April as part of the Read Christie 2021 Challenge.  It is a mystery set before World War II, which meets the prompt for the month.  I knew nothing about this novel going in. I loved it and was completely surprised by the ending.  How does Christie do this to me every time?

 Hercule Poirot has retired to the countryside.  Even in retirement, excitement finds him when a local wealthy man, Roger Ackroyd, is found murdered.  This novel is narrated by the local Dr. Shepard who writes a narrative of the investigation like a Dr. Watson figure to Poirot.  He is single and has a delightful sister Caroline who is in tune with all of the gossip in town.  Who is the killer?  Is it his stepson?  The mysterious maid?  His niece?  The man servant?  Poirot uses his little grey cells to solve the mystery.

 I enjoyed this mystery and the small-town setting.  The characters were great, and I loved the ending.  I really want to talk about the ending, but don’t want to ruin it for others!  Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss the ending.  I think Christie really turned the genre on its head when she wrote this mystery in 1926.

 Favorite Quote:

“Our hobbies and recreations can be summed up in the one word, ‘gossip.’”

 Overall, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another superb mystery by Agatha Christie.

 Book Source:  Purchased from Amazon.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 


Title:  Daisy Jones and the Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Read by:  Sara Arrington, Jennifer Beals, Arthur Bishop, Fred Berman, Benjamin Bratt, Jonathan Davis, Ari Fliakos, Holter Graham, Judy Greer, January Lavoy, Robinne Lee, Peter Larkin, Henry Leyva, P.J. Ochlan, Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Random House Audio

Length: Approximately 9 hours and 3 minutes

Source: Checked out on Overdrive from the Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you! 

Daisy Jones and the Six was the May pick for the Rogue (aka FLICKS) Book Club.  I feel like I’ve heard about this book for so long, it was great to finally be able to read and discuss it.

Daisy Jones and the Six is told in a documentary style to discuss the band, how it got it together, and why it broke apart. The Six was a band that was started by brothers Billy and Graham Dunne in their suburban Pittsburgh garage.  They start to gain fame but explode into another level of fame when Daisy Jones joins them for an album and tour.  Daisy was a wonderful singer but is very much into the drug and alcohol scene.  She is just drifting through life before she joins the Six.  The band is volatile and hanging on by a thread.  Will they be able to make it through their tour?  What caused them to break up in the end?

I listened to Daisy Jones and the Six on audiobook and it was fantastic.  I don’t know how this would read as a physical book, but I love that they had a full cast of actors for all of the different characters.  There were a lot of characters.  I followed the main character storylines, but I would mix up some of the minor characters.  I thought it was hilarious on how one of them completely didn’t know what was going on the entire time and read all situations incorrectly.

Those that read or listened to this in book club seemed to like the story as well.  The one complaint was that it actually seemed like a real band and the book made you want to listen to the music, but when you went to look for it, you found out it was all fiction.  I would love to hear the songs.  I read that this was loosely based on Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac.  I don’t know much about them, so this was all new to me.  I was overall amazed that these people could have survived the 70’s with their drug and alcohol use.  I really loved how the ending tied it all together.

Overall, Daisy Jones and the Six is a fantastic audiobook about the highs and lows of a seventies rock band.  The story will draw you in and keep you enthralled until the end.