Tuesday, November 13, 2018

FFTNFR (Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader) - XI

It's been 17 months since I posted my last Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader.  The time has come again.  This is edition #X1 (that's 11 for you Roman numeral-phobes).  Let me point out a few features of this list. First of all, every author is female.  There are quite a few titles that come under the genre literary or women's fiction (8).  There are 3 that are historical fiction.  And there is 1 that is #3 of a trilogy.  The final one is culinary fiction (is there such a genre?).  All of them are either 3.75 or 4.0 - except for 1.  it's actually a 4.0+!  You may have a tough time figuring out which one that is.  And let me, once again, give a shout-out to Melissa Amster, who has fed me most of these books. I think 11 of the 13 were recommended by her!  And there are a bunch not on this list that I still really liked (3.25s or 3.5s).  I would like to point out that I (among others) recommended The Alice Network to Melissa.  She liked it a whole lot.  In fact, I have not spoken to one person who hasn't loved TAN.  Read it, if you haven't already.

1.    The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel.  This is the 1st of 3 Harmels that I have read and placed on the list.  It's the story of a woman who lost her husband 10 years earlier, has found love with another man, and, due to some dreams, among other things, is questioning her decision.

2.    The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate.  You get cooking classes, recipes, and some great interactions.  It's not easy to combine all of these elements.  But Melissa does a great job of doing just that.

3.    The Secrets of Midwives - Sally Hepworth.  Of the 4 books that Sally has written (she has a 5th coming out in late Spring!), 3 have made my list.  And the 4th, The Family Next Door, just missed the cut.  It was a 3.625/4.  I know, I know.  Pretty nitpicky.  Secrets tells the story of 3 generations of midwives.  I learned a lot without the author presenting the info in historical fiction form.

4.    The Things We Keep - Sally Hepworth.  In this powerful novel, Anna, a 38-year old woman, is placed in a residential home by her family because she is in the beginning stages of Alzheimers.  While there, she falls in love with another resident, Luke, who is of a similar age.  Then there's Elizabeth, the single mother who works there in a culinary capacity and who becomes involved in the relationship between Anna and Luke.

5.    Close enough to Touch - Colleen Oakley.  Jubilee has a rare disease where she can't be touched.  Eric is a single father whose daughter won't talk to him.  They come together at the library where Jubilee works.  A very interesting concept done extremely well.

6.    The Alice Network - Kate Quinn.  TAN slides between WWI and 1947.  It's the true story of a female spy network in Germany-occupied France that steals secrets from under the noses of the Germans and gets that info to Alice, who sends it on to her handlers.  Great historical fiction that integrates a young girl looking for her cousin after WWII with a spy from WWI (and WWII).  Super interesting.

7.    The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel.  Here's another historical fiction about something that I absolutely knew nothing about.  This one concerns a channel of safe houses in France during WWII that help downed British flyers get back home.  This is way different than Kristin's other books.

8.    +The Sweetness of Forgetting+ - Kristin Harmel.  (Notice the asterisks?) This is some book.  All I will tell you is that while reading the synopsis in order to give you a hint of what it's about, I got chills.  Just read it please.

9.    Still Me - Jojo Moyes.  This is book 3 of the trilogy that started with Me Before You.  I loved #1, liked #2 (After You), and loved #3.  You may not remember, but her short story collection, Paris for One and Other Stories, is in FFTNFR, Volume X.

10.  Limelight - Amy Poeppel.  A family moves from Texas to New York City and, understandably, goes through some adjustments.  In a strange turn of events, Allison (wife and mother) ends up involved in the management of Carter Reid, a teenager who VERY CLOSELY reminds us of Justin Bieber.

11.  The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain.  Diane has written over 20 books.  And I have read my 1st 2 in just the last couple of months. The 1st one, The Stolen Marriage, was a solid 3.5.  This one is a 4.0.  I want to tell you up front that a lot of this book centers on time travel. And you will absolutely believe that it's real (11/22/63 anyone?).

12.  How to Walk Away - Katherine Center.  Margaret is living a storybook life and is about to marry the man of her dreams...until a small plane accident changes everything.  And I do mean everything.  But, mostly, this book shows us what courage is all about.

13.  Before We Were Yours - Linsa Wingate.  This is the story of Rill who, at 12, becomes responsible for her 4 younger siblings as a very unethical adoption agency gets a hold of them.  The year is 1939, and this is an adaptation of a true story set in Memphis, Tennessee.  You will do a lot of head-shaking.

That's it for now.  Stay tuned to FFTNFR, Volume X11...someday.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Camille Di Maio Scores Again!

It's been about a year since I read my 1st Di Maio.  It was Before the Rain Falls.  And I liked it a whole bunch (Another New Author for Me - and Another Big Hit).  For the last x amount of months, I've had 2 sitting vertically (that's an important distinction from the ones lying down!) on my makeshift bookshelf.  Well, I finally got to 1 of them.  The Way of Beauty is as good as BTRF.  And it won't be long before I hit #3, The Memory of Us.  In the meantime, here is the synopsis of The Way of Beauty:

Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman.  But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera's life to unexpected possibilities.  Angelo's new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family's expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement.  In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend...and a stirring new cause of her own.  But when Pearl's selfless work pulls her farther from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach - if her conscience will allow her to take it.
Her choice will define not only her future but also that of her daughter, Alice.
Vera and Alice - a generation and a world apart - are bound by the same passionate drive to fulfill their dreams.  As first mother and then daughter come of age in a city that is changing as rapidly as its skyline, they'll each discover that love is the only constant.

The book starts briefly in 1963, goes back to 1900-1917, and then, 200 pages in, jumps to 1942-1943.  We learn about the suffragette movement and a little bit about WWI and WWII.  But it's not really an historical fiction.  It's just a good piece of literary fiction.  I am a fan, though, of the back and forth in time, and Camille does it beautifully here.  In fact, on page 207 of 368, she moves 25 years forward, where the focus is on the daughter of the main characters in the prior section. And let me just say this:  I was absolutely caught up immediately with the new protagonist.  There was no gradual interest on my part.  It was BOOM, I was there.

I had my share of chills and tears.  But this one wasn't a bawler for me. And that's okay.  I was totally engrossed in the story and the characters all the way through.  I had a shocker on page 327 that I never saw coming (I know, this is no surprise to any of you).  And although this is a bit of a tell, Camille brings up a very important question:  Which love is preferable - one based on passion?  Or one based on comfort and ease? One is climbing the equivalent of Mt. Everest.  And the other is watching climbers on Mt. Everest sitting in matching lounge chairs in the TV room. I don't know the answer.  But it's interesting to consider, don't you think?

Stay tuned for #3.  But if you have liked my recommendations with Harmel and Hepworth, among others, then do yourselves a favor.  Pick up either The Way of Beauty or Before the Rain Falls (or both).  You will be happy you did.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Three Days Missing, my 3rd Kimberly Belle - it will NOT be my last

As you know (and I'm sure you all remember!), I have enjoyed the 2 other Kimberly Belle's that I have read - The Marriage Lie and The Last Breath.  Well, Three Days Missing does not take a back seat to those. And this one couldn't be more different from the other 2.  Here is the synopsis:

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.  When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized.  Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing - vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.
Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband.  She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past.  But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat.  As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

I know that this is a tough subject for everybody.  And some won't be able to do it at all.  But this is what makes reading so enjoyable.  Once upon a time I basically just read Child, Baldacci, Silva, Archer, Follett, et al.  But having discovered such good authors like Kimberly has greatly enhanced my reading pleasure.

But enough about me.  This is about Ethan and Sammy and Kat and Stef. Each character grabs a hold of you emotionally.  And I really like the way the chapters go back and forth between the two moms.  But even with that focus, we still get to meet Lucas, a Jack-Reacher like character, Mac, Andrew, and Josh.

You know that I have these "moments" where, perhaps, I might shed a tear or two.  That certainly didn't happen here...did it?  Uh, yep.  We're not talking a few drips.  We're talking about a real downpour.  So, yeah, I guess I did get caught up in these characters.  I think you might, too. And let me tell you about the ending.  Just kidding.  But it is a GREAT ending.

Final note:  Please read A Conversation with Kimberly Belle at the end of the book.  It's very interesting and enlightening.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Some More (very) Mini-Reviews

The best laid plans, etc., etc.  I was hoping I could start doing regular reviews.  But...nope.  So I'm going to use the same format I used 5 weeks ago.  I've got 8 books to rate and sort of review.

Boardwalk Summer - Meredith Jaeger - 3.0 - liked it - and Meredith is coming to the RBC on Sunday afternoon, December 9, at 4:30
Killers of the Flower Moon - David Grann - 3.0 - read it for the Books, Inc. 4th Thursday Night Book Club at The Pruneyard - non-fiction - story of the Osage Indians and oil and the fledgling FBI in the first 3 decades of the 20th century - interesting but dry
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain - 4.0 - my 1st Chamberlain was a very good 3.5 - this was even better - loved it
Laying Pipe - Kate Allure - 3.0 - this is a VERY sexy romance (get it?) - local author - always fun
Beautiful Exiles - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.0 - the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn - pretty illuminating and informative
How to Walk Away - Kathleen Center - 3.75 - I obviously liked this a whole lot - a tragic accident followed by self-discovery - maybe there's even some unexpected romance - you'll have to read it to find out
The Masterpiece - Fiona Davis - 3.25 - this is one that I saw had a lot of buzz - it was good - there's nothing wrong with a 3.25
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate - 3.75 - historical fiction about a very unethical adoption agency in Tennessee in the late 30s - very educational and a really strong story of family

My next post will definitely be something other than mini-mini-reviews. I just don't know what it will be yet.  Stay tuned.  We'll find out together!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Powell's Bookstore - Portland, Oregon

If you have not been to Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, PUT IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST!  I've got a bunch of pictures, but they don't do the store justice.  It covers an entire block, bordered by 4 streets!  There are about 10 different bookstores, all connected.  It's unbelievable.  As Joni said, it's The Book Louvre!

On 2 of the pictures, you will see 3 books behind glass.  These are all from the Rare Books Room.  And if you look close, you will see prices of $5,000, $5,000, and $8,000 (unfortunately, I cut off the $8,000 number). In addition, the employee in the room told me that they have a book from Lewis and Clark's expedition that is priced at $350,000!!! Unfortunately, they don't keep that one in the room.

Take a look and enjoy.

the front lobby of the store

25 books you must read - lobby

this speaks for itself - lobby

1 of the individual rooms

another one

and another...

and another

rare book in the Rare Book Room

and 2 more

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Next Thursday is 3 MONTHS SINCE MY LAST POST!  Have I lost interest? Nope.  Did I stop reading?  Nope.  Did I forget how to write?  Perhaps. So how do I catch up in one post?  I can't.  But here's what I can do.  I'm going to list the books I've read in the last 3 months along with my ratings.  I will probably even add a comment or 2 for each book.  And I probably will do full reviews on a couple of them down the road. Without any more palaver, here they are:

There, There - Tommy Orange - 2.5 - lots of buzz - didn't do it for me
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle - 3.5 - I like all of Kimberly's books
Paris Metro - Wendell Steavenson - 2.5 - this was given to me, and I felt I should read it -
     it was okay
Strained Relations - Marcia Stein - 2.5 - essays on how to deal with teenagers -
     RBC author on 11/28
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown - 3.5 - I've read all 4 of her very good books -
     3-3.5s & 1-3.75 - next one will be in 2020
Slave - Jabali Smith - 3.0 - given to me by RBC member - could be a possible RBC author -
     rough memoir
Things You Won't Say - Sarah Pekkanen - 3.25 - recommended by my East Coast guru,
     Melissa - didn't like it as much as she did - but still good
Everything We Give - Kerry Lonsdale - 3rd in a trilogy - liked the 1st 2 more -
     RBC author - coming back next August with a standalone
The Other Woman - Daniel Silva - 3.0 - 18 in the series - this is maybe my least favorite
The Exes Revenge - Jo Jakeman - 3.0 - got this as an ARC from the publisher - decent
Limelight - Amy Poeppel - 3.75 - another rec from Melissa - and a darn good one
Short Hair Detention - Channy Chhi Laux - 2.25 - tough life but book didn't grab me
     emotionally - her appearance at the RBC was very emotional
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh - 3.5 - Melissa again - and good again
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg - 3.5 - friend of mine asked why she
     always read my suggestions and I never read hers - so I did - liked it a whole lot
The Daisy Children - Sofia Grant - 3.25 - pseudonym of Sophia Littlefield - I'm hoping she will
     be an RBC author - I'm not optimistic
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain - 3.5 - not only recommended by Melissa - but she
     also sent me a copy - Chamberlain has written 24 books - this is my 1st - not my last
When the Lights Go Out - Mary Kubica - 3.0 - highly rated but was just decent

As you can see, my TBR pile has gotten out of control again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The 6-Month Report, Y'all + A Mini-Review

Hello, people.  Here's the mid-season report:

35 books read (4 DNF - did not finish):
4.0+ -   1 - yep - The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel
4.0 -     3 - 2 more by Harmel - The Room on Rue Amelie & The Life
                  Intended - she is crazy good
                  1 - I can't tell you about this one because it's in ARC form - it
                  will hopefully be published later this year
3.75 -   2
3.625 - 2 (feel free to make fun of this rating)
3.5 -     4
3.25 -   8
3.0 -   10
2.75 -   1
2.5 -     3
2.25 -   1

Local authors - 13
Fiction - 30
Non-Fiction - 5

Bardwell's Folly, a love story, by Sandra Hutchison:

Young Dori Bardwell's father was the white southern author who wrote THE book about slavery, built a replica of a plantation house in a small New England town, and then flew most of his large family into the sea. She's preoccupied with keeping food on the table, protecting her father's last, unfinished manuscript from a media baron, and figuring out whether her ex is messing with her or just trying to get her attention again.
But when her thoughtless racial joke goes viral, it launches her and a new African American friend on a journey into her Southern heritage that might just lead her right back to where she started.

I liked this a lot.  Of course it didn't hurt that a big part of the book is about books and manuscripts.  But aside from that, I got caught up in the story and made an emotional connection with Dori.  In fact, there is a scene that takes place at her work where I wrote "Not right!"  I obviously didn't like the way she was treated.  And there is another passage that lists quotes on a Twitter page that led me to comment "Ouch."  These are, of course, in addition to emotional reactions I had in several other places in the book.  So, all in all, I liked the story, the writing, and my connection to the protagonist.  I intend to get my hands (and eyes) on her other 2 books - The Awful Mess and the Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire.

One small note:  On page 50 Dori says:  "...she's always been one to stop and smell the flowers."  This brought a smile to my face because I couldn't help but think about the children's classic Ferdinand.  I can't explain, nor is there actually a medical explanation, for how my mind works sometimes.