Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday intros - Agnes; Peter Stamm

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon. This pick is just 147 pages, but it's a translated work (German to English) so I'm just not sure how this will flow.)

Other Press - 2016


"Agnes is dead.  Killed by a story.  All that's left of her now is this story.  It begins on that day, nine months ago, when we first met in the Chicago Public Library.  It was cold when we first met.  It is generally cold in this city.  But it's colder now, and it's snowing. The snow is blowing across Lake Michigan, on the gale-force wind I can hear even through the soundproof glass in my picture windows.  It's snowing, but the snow won't settle, it gets picked up and whirled on its way, and only settles where the wind can't get at it.  I've switched off the light, and look out at the illuminated tips of the skyscrapers, at the American flag that gets tugged this way and that by the wind, in the beam of a searchlight, and at the empty streets far below, where, even now, in the middle of the night, the lights change from green to red and red to green, as though nothing had happened, or was happening."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Friday, February 17, 2017

RIP - Lily and the Week in Review - W/E - 2/18/2017

Week at a Glance

This week is a bit of a blur: 2 snow storms, Valentine's Day, yoga, lunch with former coworkers and then yesterday, the loss of my very best friend, Lily the Cat.

RIP - Lily
(2003 - 2017)

Lily had actually started eating a bit last weekend but then dislocated her kneecap jumping off our lap.  She was limping for a day and it managed to pop back in to her arthritic knees. Today, Friday 2/17) Lily was scheduled for an ultrasound and X-ray to find out why she is losing weight, not eating much, breathing louder and sleeping lots more than usual these days.  We learned that her lymph nodes were enlarged, she had a tumor on her lung and a solid mass on the base of her heart which was pressing on her trachea causing labored breathing at times.💔💔 We decided it was time to say goodbye to our best cat ever.

About Lily - We adopted Lily as a 10 week old kitten in Rhode Island. An indoor cat only in a multi-cat household, from her earliest days with us, Lily craved warmth. She could often be found burrowed under a scatter rug, under a quilt or often basking in a sun puddle.  A petite girl, the most she ever weighed was in the 7 lb range but her weight dropped to just 5 lbs recently.  I've owned many cats in my life, and loved them all, but, Lily was so special and unique. She was never afraid of strangers, but didn't like being held by anyone and was a bit squirmy (even for us) if you picked her up. Despite this, she was a genuine lap cat, 100%.  She was an equal opportunity lapper - my lap or the hubs, she would take turns.We had routines, coffee with me on my lap after breakfast and she loved to read with me everyday as well.  My girl had an automatic clock built in as well I swear.  When it was time for me to go to bed (generally, around the same time every night), she'd stare at me continuously while on my lap until I said, "okay Lily, you win, time for bed. " The minute I hopped in bed she would join me as well,  positioning herself around my knees and staying there until morning.  How will I ever be able to go to bed tonight, my first night without my girl?  I love you Lily and can only hope that our paths will cross again someday. You will be forever missed. 💔💔

Books Read 

Setting Free the Kites; Alex George (arc)
GP Putnam & Sons - 2017

(My Thoughts) - I was a huge fan of Alex Georges first novel, A Good American and couldn't wait to read his newest release, Setting Free the Kites.  The story takes place along the coast of Maine,  (I'm picturing Old Orchard Beach as there is an amusement park central to this story). It's 1976 and Robert Carter, is an eight grader who is bullied by a boy named Hollis on the first day of school. Nathan Tilly, a new classmate from Texas, comes to Robert's rescue and the two boys become close friends.  Nathan is obsessed with kite flying and daredevils activities while Robert is more shy and cautious. Nathan has lost his father and begins to spend lots of time at the Carter home while his mother rarely leaves their home. Nathan is a welcome addition to the household which is in turmoil as the family deals with the serious illness of Robert's older brother Liam. The two boys become inseparable even though Nathan the boys are quite different.

Setting Free the Kites was a quick read that held my interest. A story about growing up, love, loss, and imperfect parents.  This is another charming story that takes you back to the times before cellphones and video games when life was for teens was quite different from what it's like today. Another great story by Alex George: well-written, memorable characters, highly recommended. (4/5 stars)

Is This Tomorrow; Caroline Levitt (audio)
Algonquin Books & Highbridge Audio 
(Xe Sands, narrator) - 2013

(My Thoughts) - Set in the suburbs of Boston, MA, 1956, Ava Lark and her son Lewis have rented a run-down house in a nice, safe, family neighborhood.  The other families seem to look down on newcomers - Ava is divorced and the only Jewish person living in the neighborhood. Lewis finds it hard making new friends, except for Rose and Jimmy who also live in a fatherless home. Set in the midst of the Cold War and the paranoia which exists, Jimmy goes missing without a trace. His disappearance deeply affects Rose and Lewis who are certain Jimmy must be alive.  They are determined to get to the bottom of his disappearance, which is eventually revealed. Fast forward seven years Lewis is now living and working in Wisconsin and Rose is in PA but, the two are forever changed

I enjoyed this audio book but, at times the voices seemed a bit too depressing. I loved the setting and descriptions of what life was like back then, as it's always nice to read about a time period a baby boomer like me can relate to. The author's writing is very descriptive and, although the story of what happened to Jimmy seemed to fall into place too easily, I still enjoyed this one.  (4/5 stars)

Currently Reading
  • Being Mortal (reread for my book group)
  • Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Chapter first Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph, maybe two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon.

Everything Happens Today; Jesse Browner
Europa Editions - 2011

"When you've walked all the way from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village in the middle of the night, the first sight of home should be an occasion for joy. Wes felt anything but joyful as he climbed the stoop. He had hoped that a long walk through the dark and quiet city would give him some perspective, but it hadn't worked out that way.  In other circumstances, it might have been an adventure but it was nothing but a blur, thoughts as flimsy and disposable as plastic bags.  If he had been a character in a book--Prince Andre in War and Peace, say--he would have seized the opportunity for a round of rough, candid soul-searching that would inevitably have led to some brilliant new insight into human nature in general and his own moral frailty in particular.  But he wasn't Prince Andre--he was just Wes, idiot Wes, the guy who just ruined his life forever and forever, and he was as confused and miserable now as he's been when he'd just set out from Lucy's apartment two hours earlier.  He stood at the threshold and took a deep breath, but it didn't help: the sadness didn't go away.  In fact, he felt a tear welling, and he leaned forward to rest his forehead on the cold, damp lacquer of the front door."

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

Feel free to join in by posting your own First Chapter First Paragraph Intro and linking below.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Week in Review - W/E - 2/11/2017

This past week was one for birthday celebrations for the hub and our first major snowstorm of the winter (it was reported that we got 13") but, fortunately, just about everything was canceled the night before and we could just stay in and enjoy the view. More snow scheduled for this weekend and another day next week -- Welcome to New England.

As some of you know we have (3) cats  (all adopted as kittens and - all senior snow. (2) are 14 years old  and (1) is 15.  We noticed that our sweet, petite Lily seemed thinner than she was at her December checkup. She was also constantly at the water fountain and turned her nose up to various food offerings (including tuna) for a few days. Off to the Vet we went yesterday where we learned she had lost 2 lbs since her December visit (she's only 5lbs now).  Not sure what is wrong with our Lily but awaiting lab reports -- please send positive vibes -- she's my lap cat by day and leg warmer by night.

UPDATE -- I'm happy to report that Lily started eating again yesterday (a lot too) The Vet called to say that her labwork was all normal (no thyroid or diabetes issues), so while this is all good news we all remain puzzled. Next step would be an ultrasound to see what might be going on, but, since she has been eating for a full 24 hours now, we decided to just watch her and hope it wasn't anything serious.  Thanks so much for all of your concern.

(pic taken 2/10/2017)

I finished (2) books this week: Excellent Women; Barbara Pym and The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak (both different but liked each one).

 Excellent Women; Barbara Pym
(1952 - Penguin and Blackstone Audio) 

(My Thoughts) Excellent Women is one of those books that has been on my shelf for a while. I heard the audio, read by Jayne Entwistle, was fantastic so I borrowed the Playaway from the library -- what a terrific narration.  Excellent Woman was a wonderful comedy of manners set in 1950s England. Thirty-one year old Mildred Lathery is a sweet, likable and self described spinster.  She's a clergyman's daughter, her parents are deceased, she is smart but, one of those women "an excellent woman" that is respected but often passed over when it comes to romance. When a new couple moves into her building, she gets wrapped up in their lives and begins to realize there may be something more to life than church raffles and charity work.  

This novel is not action packed and doesn't require deep thought but, I loved the keen observations a wry humor. I highly recommend this one, a real treat. (4.5/5 stars)

The Impossible Fortress; Jason Rekulak
Simon & Schuster - 2017

(My Thoughts) - The Impossible Fortress was a fun coming of age story set in 1987. Billy Marvin and friends Alf and Clark are (3) typical 14 year-old boys who have just learned that Vanna White's nude photos are the highlight of the current issue of Playboy. The boys are determined to do whatever it takes to get copies of this magazine even though they are  too young to purchase it on their own. Sal Zelinsky owns the corner store that stocks this magazine. Sal's daughter Mary is a bright, young, overweight girl who loves computers and designing video games. Billy Marvin loves computers as well and thinks that if he begins to hang out with Mary he might somehow get closer to the coveted Vanna issue of Playboy as well. Unfortunately, Billy never anticipates what happens next. 

This is a well-written coming of age story. I enjoyed all the references to the 1980's - songs, the early Commodore 64 computer and all the crazy antics, boys being boys will do.  A story about moms, sons, teen friendship and raging hormones,  made for a fun read. (4/5 stars)

Next Up

Have a Great Weekend All