Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Limelight - Amy Poeppel

On an earlier post, I gave some very short reviews.  Some of these books deserve more attention.  Limelight, by Amy Poeppel, is one of them. Here is what it's about:

Allison Brinkley - wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist - discovers that a carefully weighed decision to pack up and move her family from suburban Dallas to the glittery chaos of Manhattan may have been more complicated than she and her husband initially thought.
Allison's romantic view of New York quickly crumbles:  the Brinkleys' apartment is neither pre-war elegant nor penthouse chic; the schools they carefully selected for their kids are low on charm and high on price; and her husband's gorgeous colleague seems to be spending more time with him than Allison.
And then, just when she thinks there is light at the end of the tunnel, things get worse; an embarrassing fender bender leads to an unlikely role for her as a spoiled teen idol's personal assistant, a job that's one part wrangler, one part mother.  But the thankless tasks and outlandish duties may just end up bringing her into the heart of the city itself.

I liked Limelight a whole lot.  I have to admit, though, that what got to me initially was a bunch of references that I could relate to personally. Even though you didn't ask for this list, I'm giving it to you anyway.

1.  We learn that a neighbor in Dallas brings Allison a plate of homemade snickerdoodles.  When our 13 (almost 14)-year old granddaughter, Haley, was very young, Joni used to watch her on Fridays.  And they always stopped off at our local bakery, Icing on the Cake, so that Haley could get her snickerdoodle.  That was fine until Haley could talk.  One day Joni was walking with Haley and the parents. When they passed Icing, Haley yelled "snickerdoodle!"  Busted.
2.  On page 158, Glenn Close is mentioned.  I read that page the exact same day that Joni and I saw Close in The Wife!
3.  Allison's husband is tasked one morning with waking up the kids for school.  He did it the exact same way I did it when our kids were growing up:  "He never woke them up in a sunny, silly way, like dads do in the movies.  No singing songs or tickling anyone.  He would knock on the first door, crack it open, and say, 'Hey, time to get up, let's go, let's go.' and on down the line."  Yep.
4.  If you've had kids go away to college, you will definitely understand this quote.  And if you haven't, pay close attention:  "She's getting ready to fly the coop and probably wants to assert her independence."  Again I say, yep.
5.  There is a reference to James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.  I read this right around the time I watched Corden's CK with Paul McCartney.

What does any of this have to do with the book?  Probably not much. But they were fun references for me.  What really matters, though, is how much I enjoyed Limelight.  Howso, you ask?  Let me count the ways:

1.  Each and every character is interesting, whether he/she be major or minor.
2.  There is a scene that takes place around a theater rehearsal that felt so real.
3.  I really like the relationship between Allison's daughter, Charlotte, and our teen rebel, Carter.
4.  The last part of the book felt like a bona fide mystery to me.  That's how connected I was to the story and characters.
5.  Not every close relationship between co-workers of the opposite gender has to lead to an affair.  I'm not saying that's the case here...but it could be...but maybe it's not...but...oh just read it.

I highly recommend Limelight.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Last Post for 2018 - Number of Books Read for Each Genre

This is the last post about 2018.  I am just giving you the different genres I read this past year and how many of each.  If you have any interest in which books I read for which genre, let me know.  Otherwise, I don't want to boor you with any more of my insufferable lists.

Literature & Fiction - 44

Historical Fiction - 8

Memoir - 6

Non-Fiction/Self-Help - 2

Non-Fiction/True Crime - 3

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense - 3

Romance - 3

Total - 69

What's interesting(?) is that last year I read 15 different genres.  And this year?  Only 7.  I guess a major part of that is what books we read for the RBC.  There should be a few more in 2019.  We already have 5 genres (romance, YA, poetry - a 1st - literature & fiction, and mystery/thriller/suspense) lined up out of the 6 authors that are scheduled so far.  I guess you will just have to wait (with baited breath, I would imagine) to see what my total is this year.  See you around January 5, 2020!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Authors (for me) in 2018

I'm always curious as to how many new authors I read in a year.  In 2017 it was 43.  And in 2016 it was 40.  This year it's 44.  As usual, I am listing them below with the number of books I read (if more than 1). And, also as usual, they are listed in the order I read them.  Here goes:

Michael Goorjian
Amy Ettinger
Jessica Shattuck
Chloe Benjamin
Angie Thomas
Kristin Harmel (3)
Melissa Senate
Martha Conway
Matt Haig
Lexie Elliott
Stephen M. Gray
Maria Semple
Matt Taibi
Ann Parker
Chandra Lee Ingram
Tobin Gilman
Rene Denfield
A.J. Finn
Hope Jahren
Sandra Hutchinson
Laurel Grossman
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Lori Hodgson
Susan Wolfe
Tommy Orange
Wendell Steavenson
Marcia Stein
Jabali Smith
Sarah Pekkanen
Jo Jakeman
Amy Proeppel
Channy Chhi Laux
Rosie Walsh
Fannie Flagg
Diane Chamberlain (2)
Mary Kubica
Meredith Jaeger
David Grann
Katherine Center
Fiona Davis
Lisa Wingate
Delia Owens
Jessica Fechtor
Kate Morton

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Books of 2018

Here is the complete list of books read for 2018.  As always, they are in the order I read them with ratings attached.

What Lies Beyond the Stars - Michael Goorjian - 3.5
Before I Go - Colleen Oakley - 3.5
Sweet Spot - Amy Ettinger - 3.0
The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck - 3.5
The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin - 3.0
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas - 3.625
The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel - 4.0
The Night Trade - Barry Eisler - 3.25
The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate - 3.75
The Underground River - Martha Conway - 3.0
How to Stop Time - Matt Haig - 3.25
The French Girl - Lexie Elliott - 3.25
The Ramadan Drummer - Randy Splitter - 2.5
The Mark of Wu, Hidden Paths - Stephen M. Gray - 2.75
Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple - 3.0
The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth - 3.625
Serve and Protect - Sheldon Siegel - 3.0
I Can't Breathe - Matt Taibi - 3.25
Silver Lies - Ann Parker - 3.0
Freedom Child - Chandra Lee Ingram - 3.25
The McGlincey Killings - Tobin Gilman - 3.0
The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel - 4.0
The Child Finder - Rene Denfield - 2.5
The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel - 4.0+
The Woman in the Window - A. J. Finn - 3.25
Everything She Lost - Alessandra Harris - 2.5
Wild in Love - Jennifer Skully & Bella Andre - 3.25
The Hush - John Hart - 2.25
Still Me - JoJo Moyes - 3.75
Bardwell's Folly - Sandra Hutchinson - 3.25
The Golden Peacock - Lauren B. Grossman - 3.0
The Recipe Box - Maggie Shipman - 3.5
Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - 3.0
A Mother's Heartbreak - Lori Hodgson - 3.0
Escape Velocity - Susan Wolfe - 2.5
There There - Tommy Orange - 2.5
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle - 3.5
Paris Metro - Wendell Steavenson - 2.5
Strained Relations - Marcia Stein - 2.5
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown - 3.5
Slave - Jabali Smith - 3.0
Things You Won't Say - Sarah Pekkanen - 3.25
Everything We Give - Kerry Lonsdale - 2.875
The Other Woman - Daniel Silva - 3.0
The Exes Revenge - Jo Jakeman - 3.0
Limelight - Amy Poeppel - 3.75
Short Hair Detention - Channy Laux - 2.25
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh - 3.5
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg - 3.5
The Daisy Children - Sofia Grant - 3.25
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain - 3.5
When the Lights Go Out - Mary Kubica - 3.0
Boardwalk Summer - Meredith Jaeger - 3.0
Killers of the Flower Moon - David Grann - 3.0
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain - 4.0
Laying Pipe - Kate Allure - 3.0
Beautiful Exiles - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.0
How to Walk Away - Katherine Center - 3.75
The Masterpiece - Fiona Davis - 3.25
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate - 3.75
The Way of Beauty - Camille Di Maio - 3.5
The Mother-in-Law - Sally Hepworth - 3.25
A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult - 3.25
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens - 3.75
Promise Me You - Marina Adair - 3.5
My Broken Brain - Jessica Fechtor - 3.5
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton - 3.5
unpublished - 4.0
unpublished - 3.5

69 books
22,934 pages

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Books Read in 2018, with Titles for 3.5 and Up (pretty exciting heading, don't you think?)

I finished a total of 69 books this year.  27 of those are 3.5 or higher.  I have my East Coast guru, Melissa, to thank for a bunch of them.  But others have recommended some very good books to me, too.  And some I actually found on my own (go figure)!  Obviously, if you haven't read Harmel, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

In my next post, I will list all books read in 2018, including ratings.

4+ - 1
The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel

4 - 4
The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel
The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain
(1 unpublished)

3.75 - 6
The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate
Still Me - JoJo Moyes
Limelight - Amy Poeppel
How to Walk Away - Kathleen Center
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

3.625 - 2
The Hate We Give - Angie Thomas
The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

3.5 - 14
What Lies Beyond the Stars - Michael Goorjian
Before I Go - Colleen Oakley
The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck
The Recipe Box - Maggie Shipman
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain
The Way of  Beauty - Camille de Maio
Promise Me You - Marina Adair
My Broken Brain - Jessica Fechtor
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
(1 unpublished)

3.25 - 13

3.0 - 18

2.875 - 1

2.75 - 1

2.5 - 7

2.25 - 2

DNF (did not finish) - 5

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I've got a memoir for you...and my 1st Takeaway in a very long time

Stir, MY BROKEN BRAIN AND THE MEALS THAT BROUGHT ME HOME is a very powerful memoir by Jessica Fechtor.  It's interesting because I was sailing along for 62.5 pages, caught up in it but not emotionally connected.  And then BOOM!  Here's what happened to me in the next 14 pages:

BOOM - page  63 -       Jessica and Eli make a mutual commitment
BOOM - page  70 -       the surgeon makes an unexpected comment to Jessica
BOOM - page  75 -       Eli gives Jessica her 1st kiss
BOOM - pages 75-76 - Eli talks to his old girlfriend
BOOM - page  76 -       Sarah, Jessica's mom, reacts to Jessica's announcement about Eli

Now, keep in mind that I read this entire section while walking on the treadmill in a VERY public gym.  Here's this 6' tall guy, walking (relatively) fast, and flat-out crying.  The only good news is that I wasn't crying audibly!  Phew.  Let me point out here that this 14-page section is NOT the only place where I was crying.  It happened a bunch, along with other shows of emotion.  In fact, 2 pages from the end, I may have been heard exclaiming quite loudly "YES!"  That may have happened.

Aside from truly connecting with Jessica, I also was taken with her writing.  It's really, really good and very thought-provoking.  Here are just a couple of examples:

"Baking is an act of generosity, and thereby an act of freedom, since to be generous is to be free from the smallness of thinking only of yourself."  Hmmm...

"...when I went in for the hug, he just barely laid his hands on my back, as if I were a mannequin whose limbs might fall out of their sockets." You can see that, right?

"I checked out of rehab in late September.  I'd missed the season between summer and fall that feels like neither and both.  Just skipped right over it, like an arm on a record player that lifts up from its groove, travels a few rings toward the center, and touches silently back down." We baby boomers can relate to this.

Jessica has a very interesting few pages on the difference between "host" and "guest."  Pay attention to pages 174-177.  We use two completely separate words in the English language.  But, interestingly, that is not the case in other languages.  Take a look.

I told you that I had my first takeaway in a long time.  It's probably been 1-2 years since my last one.  So what did I get out of this book that I want to take with me?  It's about friendship.  Jessica's friend support is extremely inspiring.  I am making the commitment to be a better friend. I look forward to being the friend to my friends like Jessica's friends are to her.  Way cool.

Do I need to tell you to read this?  I don't think so.  I believe that you have gotten the message.

P.S.  There are 27 great recipes in this book that all had a hand in helping Jessica through her ordeal.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Searching for a good romance author? - Look no further than Marina Adair!

Let's start with the synopsis:

Mackenzie Hart has made a career out of writing about eternal love, so when she finds her perfect match in Hunter Kane, she decides to put it all on the line.  Irresistibly charming and drenched in alpha-male swagger, Hunter isn't just the catch of the town - he's Mackenzie's best friend.  Only someone beats her to the altar.  After a fresh start and three years to recover, the last thing Mackenzie expects is for her old life to come knocking...
Recently divorced, musician Hunter Kane wants to reconnect with the woman he left behind.  Admitting his biggest mistake comes first.  What comes next is up to Mackenzie.  He hopes she'll give him a second chance.  He may have been the one to break her heart, but he knows he can also be the one to mend it.
As a tenuous friendship turns into something more, Hunter's life on the road beckons once again.  Will love be enough to keep them together, or will their wildly different worlds be too much for them to overcome?

Not only did I enjoy the heck out of Promise Me You, but Marina (with PMY) is also our RBC author for January.  She's already been to the RBC once before.  And it is truly the book club's pleasure to welcome her back.  But what did I like about this book you ask?  Lots of stuff:

1.  (uh, oh, here he goes...) I had an emotional connection with these characters.
2.  Marina always injects humor into her books.  This one is no exception.
3.  She's a very good writer.  Here are a couple of examples:
"And that kind of magnetic confidence was rare.  The industry term for it was X Factor.
Mackenzie called it swagger.  And Hunter had enough swagger to convince Garth Brooks to sing back-up."
"He was confident...that skipping straight to the chemistry would be like pulling the pin on a grenade:  A few seconds of excitement before everything blew to hell."
4.  I enjoyed that it was based in Nashville.  Local authors more often than not write about local spots.
5.  This is a bit of a spoiler alert, so I will state this gently.  Mackenzie has a physical condition that you don't often see in a romance novel.  I applaud Marina for this plot point.  I thought it ramped up the story line considerably.

People, we all know that a romance novel is, in all likelihood, going to end up with a match.  I'm not giving the ending away.  But, c'mon.  If that's your complaint, GET OVER IT!  Because we also know that just about every mystery novel has a mystery-solving ending.  And just about every legal drama ends up with the accused protagonist being found innocent.  You get my point. Bottom line?  Promise Me You is a very good read.  And if you want to see Marina in person, come to Recycle Bookstore on Wednesday night, January 23, at 7:00.  I guarantee you will enjoy your evening.