Thanks to the Purple Booker for this fun meme.

Today’s Tuesday Teaser is from a novel I finished last night . Anne Tyler is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I have read most of what she’s written over the years.

Definitely one of Tyler’s best novels yet. She just keeps on getting better as the years go by.

The teaser is from the two main characters, Mercy and Robin recalling their sweet, innocent wedding night. Robin says…

” ‘…And then you came out of the bathroom in your slinky white satin nightie.’

‘And you looked away,’ Mercy said. ‘You looked off toward the bedroom window.’

‘I was trying to get control of myself, ‘ he said.’ “

Tyler is at her best doing what she does best here–describing the lives of ordinary middle-aged people. The book has been described as a “journey into one family’s foibles from the 1950s up to our pandemic present.” It deals with family complexities and the “kindnesses and cruelties of our daily life.” Even in the smallest details, Tyler captures the dailyness of our lives. Take for example when Mercy and Robin’s grown kids would come to visit, the first thing Robin would ask was, “How was the traffic on the beltway?” It reminded me that each time we would go to visit our folks in Virginia after marrying and relocating in Texas, the first thing everyone would ask was, “How long are you here for?”

Mercy and Robin Garret and their children Allie, Lily, and David are the well-developed characters in this 2022 novel. Their development and changes in character are demonstrative of Tyler’s forte, characterization. Of any contemporary author, Tyler does this best. Personally, I choose characterization over plot any day to peak and hold my interest, and perhaps this is the reason I enjoy Anne Tyler’s novels so much.

I highly recommend this “darned good read.”

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Friday Firstliner for 4/28/22

I finished this Book about Books today.

First Line Fridays, hosted by Reading Is My Superpower asks participants to copy the first line or two of a book they want to read, are reading, or have read in order to tempt someone into reading the book also. Here are the first couple of lines from…

My copy from our local library looks a bit different because it is the large print version.

As the subtitle states, “A Bookshop Keeps Many Secrets.” Indeed, this is a book filled with secrets, and the unveiling and solving of them provides many twists and turns for the reader as the author tweaks the formula of the stand-offish, girl who works in the bookshop. This girl, Loveday Cardew mostly sorts and seeks book “finds” from the boxes of donated or purchased books for the bookshop she works at. The tattoos of the first lines of books which decorate her body brands her as a girl with secrets in her past. Into this murky background comes Nathan, poet and gentleman. Foiled against Rob, the discarded, surly previous lover, who seems bent on revenge, Nathan is every girl’s dream-come-true.

Three suspicious boxes are delivered for Loveday to sort through, which slam her back into her foster care past and the horrible act which alienated her from her mother. Secrets abound, are revealed, and misinterpreted, swirling around Loveday until the action-packed, hold-your-breath conclusion.

Here are the first lines:

“A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame.

Archie says books are our best lovers and our most provoking friends. He’s right, but I’m right too. Books can really hurt you.”

FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

THANKS TO CARRIE AT “REEADIN IS MY SUPER POWER” for the idea and the lovely meme.

Today’s First Line Friday offering comes from Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes:

” The Instrument

It was as if his eye were an ear and a crackle went through each time he shot a look at the accordion.”

Typical, beautiful prose from the pen of the author of The Shipping News, Annie Proulx.

Thanks, Evin for the great sign off meme.

SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES

A YA novel that has it all

Angela Boulley has a series-worthy hit that resonates in her YA thriller, The Fire Keeper’s Daughter. Eighteen-year-old-high school senior, half French, half Ojibwe, Daunis Fontaine, finds herself in the middle of a murder, and is recruited as an undercover operative for the FBI. An award-winning novel, this 2021 publication was also a recent pick for Reese Witherspoon’s YA Book Club.

The characters were handled beautifully, speaking and acting like realistic eighteen to twenty-year-olds.. This includes the language they use, their sexual feelings and activities and their feelings of hopelessnessg that life on the reservation (or in its nearby town) bring. Daunis dreams of the new start that going to college next year will provide. Levi, her all-star hockey player older brother; Jamie, the twenty-two-year-old love interest; and her best friend, whose boyfriend killed her in front of Daunis, are all drawn excellently. Memorable characterization is the main thing I look for in a novel, so I was very impressed with this author.

As advertised on the cover, this YA offering is “rare and mesmerizing.” It celebrates the Native American experience as Daunis builds relationships with her relatives, coaches, and other adults involved. She learns that some of the investigators she assists are more concerned with their case than in protecting the victims. A second murder heightens the suspense and confirms Daunis’s fears. The ending is action-packed and leaves the reader holding their breath as they follow the central characters into perilous situations.

I recommend it for older teens and young adults.

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh: A Review

My January/February 2022 selection is Brideshead Revisited

This 1944, WWII publication, has been described as a “memory drama.” Judging from the photos on the cover, it has been made into a good movie, which I wish I’d seen as well as read the novel. The narrative opens as Charles Ryder, a British officer, approaches the estate of Brideshead, to determine its suitability for billeting troops. He does not, at first, tell his fellow officers that he has been there before.

I wish I had seen the movie.

Waugh’s dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church, much like his dissatisfaction with the funeral industry in The Loved One, is expressed through satiric humor, which makes many somber philosophical points. Death, in general, is also satirized humorously as in the scene near the end of the old man’s death, presented in dark-humored detail. Waugh cleverly presents the conflict between the demands of religion and the narrator’s physical desires. The descriptions of the countryside, and especially, architecture, are stunning and provide pleasure to the reader. The love triangle between Charles Ryder, Sebastian, and his sister, Julia is a strange and complicated one. The characters, including the mother are complex and carefully developed. This “elegant, lyrical novel” demands the reader stay alert to the narrator’s “entanglement with an Anglo-Catholic family.”

It was a challenge to read for me because the pace was slow, and I was often impatient with the Brideshead family’s treatment of the protagonist, as well as with the protagonist himself, often wishing for Charles to cut the ties to this privileged family and get on with his life.

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS

FRIDAY FIRST LINERS ARE THE FIRST LINE OF A CURRENT READ YOU THINK OTHERS MAY LIKE.
It’s cold out today, too cold to go for a walk, just right for leaning back and reading.

Here is the first line of a book I’m reading now

The cover of an advance copy, from a Little Free Library of a friend
The final cover of the book which came out in 2018

Here are the book’s first lines:

“His wife had died in June and there was to be a memorial service for her in two weeks at the end of the summer…(The actual cover shows Gene, the widower, walking on the beach, seeking inspiration for his eulogy at the service.) He hadn’t been able to find his swim trunks that morning, so he was wearing a pair of pants Dary (his daughter) had chopped off at the knee.”

I am on page 155 of the novel, and so far, the reader has seen Gene grieve, muse over the memories of his wife, and endure the funeral service. Another character has been introduced, Adele, his housekeeper, and things are “moving fast.”

I hope to do a good deal of reading today after I finish grading the last of the Essay # 1’s from Wednesday’s class. I wish it were sunny and warm, so I could sit outside, put my feet up, and goof off. Very few places in the U.S. fit that description today.

ENJOY THE WEEKEND AND ATTACK THAT TBR PILE!

Rae

THE MONK DOWNSTAIRS by Tim Farrington: A Review

Another library book returned this month

Rebecca, a thirty-eight-year old single mom, trying to hold her life together and raise her six-year-old daughter, Mary Margaret, decides to rent her basement apartment (the “in-law apartment”) to earn some much needed cash. And, who should apply but a monk, who has left the monastery after twenty years of contemplation and solitude.

A delightfully light, but insightful at times, romance

The book intersperses among the chapters that carry the narrative, Mike Christopher’s (the monk’s) letters to a monk/friend still at the monastery, chronicling his new life in the “outside world.” Most interesting are his musings on his new-found relationship with his landlady. Their relationship has its ups and downs, which keeps things interesting, and is refreshing and unique to the reader.

Mike volunteers to grow pumpkins (in December!) for Mary Margaret in the back yard, which he miraculously pulls off. Completing the cast of characters is Rebecca’s mom, Phoebe, who precipitates a catastrophic event which turns all the character’s lives upside down. Dealing with life in general and hard times specifically brings out the characters’ inner selves in a way that endears each to the reader in an unforgettable way. One will be thinking about these people long after finishing the novel.

HAPPY READING THIS WEEK!

Rae

Thanks Carole for the loan of your meme.

” ‘Books from the Backlog’ is a fun way to feature some of the neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread.”

“This week’s neglected book…” is one I purchased after reading a review by a fellow blogger the year it was published, 2019. I promptly ordered it through Amazon, then just as promptly put it on my TBR shelf. I used it sometime in the recent past for my “First Line Fridays” post, but never got beyond that first line until this past week. In an effort to read 22 books from my TBR shelves in 2022, I started Life and am now on page 164. (Use the search box to see the First Line Friday post that grabbed my attention after reading only the first line)

The novel deals with a middle aged woman, Emma, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, who are told out of the blue that Emma’s mother, Genevieve, who threw Emma out of her house as a pregnant teenager. Genevieve announces that she has a brain tumor and is dying; she insists that Emma and Riley, her daughter come and spend the summer taking care of her in her “last days.” As the story unfolds, several subplots unfold, twisting and turning, and the reader is aware that Genevieve is “keeping secrets” and that Emma is still dealing with feelings for Riley’s father, who is married to a super-model and has two sons that Riley wishes to get to know.

Families are complicated things, and this one is very much so.

I have read Kristin Higgins before, and have enjoyed her light, breezy writing style. This book is definitely a calming, “comfort read.”

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you recommend it to me and to others?

HAVE A GOOD WEEK, AND KEEP ON READING!

TUESDAY TEASER

THIS MEME ASKS YOU TO COPY A COUPLE OF SENTENCES TO “TEASE” SOMEONE INTO READING THE SAME BOOK.

HERE is the choice for Tuesday, January 25th.

A philosophical romance (if there is such a thing!)

Rebecca is talking to her ex, about her new tenant in her “in-law apartment” off the garage,

” ‘Our new tenant downstairs, ‘ Rebecca said. ‘I finally got the in-law apartment in shape.’

‘He’s a monk’ , Mary Martha (Rebecca’s daughter) announced.

‘Wow, a monk, no kidding. Does he wear a robe and sandals?’

She (Mary Martha) giggled, ‘No, silly’…

‘He’s very nice,’ Rebecca said, before this got out of hand. ‘Very ordinary. Just a guy. Makes his own coffee, keeps to himself.”

And so the unusual relationship begins…

MY FAVORITE BOOK OF 2021

It was not hard choosing this year. This book is a masterpiece, a life’s accomplishment.

By far the best book I read in 2021

I have put off writing this review of my favorite book of 2021, not because it was so hard to choose (This novel is a hands-down winner for me.), but because I feel I can’t give this amazing book its due. It is hard to describe, but I’ll do my best.

Doerr’s third novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is the answer to critics who asked, “What in the world will you follow All the Light We Cannot See” with? Doerr has created many characters and many plots in this big, challenging novel and has connected them all masterfully in the end. Cloud has been described as “joyous,” “uplifting,” and “a triumph of imagination and compassion.” “Original” is definitely a word I would use to describe this novel. Like some of Shakespeare’s plays within a play, the novel is a book within a book. It deals with five protagonists, five plots, and five settings, all reading a fictional novel written by a real author of the ancient world, Diogenes. Reading Cloud is a challenge because it skips between Constantinople during the 15th century, a small town in present day Idaho, and a intergalaxtic space ship decades into the future when the earth is ruined. The characters: Anne, Omeir, Zeno, Seymore, and Konstance are not only formed well and develop into real personalities during their time on the novel’s pages, but ones you care about and will remember long after finishing Doerr’s book.

As I approached the ending, turning pages rapidly, hurtling towards the end–the ending of the novel was magnificent drawing together the different characters and different settings in a speedy way. It was enough of a “ride” to make the reader hold his/her breath. The conclusion did not seem rushed , but a methodical, logical, natural convergence similar to the ending of All the Light We Could Not See. Overall, one is left with the sense of the power and possibilities of reading and books. This book will surely become a modern classic that will “stand the test of time.”

It is a “full” book; full of troubles and blessings; full of sorrows and griefs, full of happiness and hope. Doerr’s novel has been declared a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award and several other honors. It definitely has won a place in my heart and the title of “Best Book I read in 2021.”

This novel is a definite challenge to read, but one that is definitely worth the effort.
Thanks, Evin.