Thursday, October 6, 2011


Love this cover version:

This is the one I bought on Amazon (used books):

Well written and compelling. We've spent a good bit of time in Central Europe as our daughter-in-law is from Bratislava, Slovak Republic. The Armistice did not mean the end of occupation in Czechoslvakia--just a changing of the guard. The deprivations and inhumanities continued until the Velvet Revolution. So, the ending of this book is not a happy one. Lovely story from an unusual perspective.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Manhattan, New York. May 8, 1940.
Claire Harris Stone breathed in the faint scent of roses from the courtyard garden below as her yielding body swayed to the strains of "In the Mood" drifting out the open French doors. The sounds of the orchestra inside her Manhattan brownstone blended with the late-night rumble of traffic along Fifth Avenue.

Buoyed by the Veuve Clicquot champagne, she felt as though she drifted above her partner as their gliding shoes whispered against the balcony floor. He held her tight, his hands warming her body through her thin silk dress. Her arms were draped around his shoulders.

He was tall. That was nice. And he knew how to dance; even better.

"You're dreaming, Claire," von Richter said.

"Of you." Claire opened her eyes.

The Last Time I Saw Paris
Lynn Sheene

I love, love, love this book. I procrastinated on finishing the last few pages of the book because I didn't want it to end. Ms. Sheene has written a superlative first novel. I eagerly await her second, Under Paris Skies.

I've been recommending this book right and left, have purchased a copy after obtaining it first from the library, and have ordered one for a friend. A very, very good read.

Friday, September 2, 2011


It was early on one of those powder-blue late-September mornings when middle-aged commuters stand on platforms, watching airplanes pass before the sun and hoping the apex of some great arc in their lives hasn't already been reached.

On the far side of the Hudson from the train station, the Rockland County palisades glinted as if they'd been freshly chopped by God's own cleaver. From the rustling trees along the shoreline came the same sound of money in the wind that the old Dutch trades must have heard when they first rounded this little bend in the river.

The water was brownish and turbulent, as if a low flame were on underneath it. Out by the narrowing of the channel, a forty-five-foot cabin cruiser skimmed across the surface, leaving a broad foamy cape. The ripples spread, pushing the cattails and the submerged bluish-gray mass closer to the crooked-in elbow of land beside Riverside Station.

"Hey, what is that thing?" said Barry Shulman, standing at the platform railing.
The Last Good Day
Peter Blauner

I ran onto Peter Blauner as one of the writers in Nelson DeMille's Mystery Writers of America Presents The Rich and the Dead. I made a list of most of the authors and this one by Peter Blauner is the first I've read from that list.

Excellent book. I was captivate from the first. More suspense than mystery, but that's only good. I'll read more from Blauner's backlist.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


This is the best book I've read in a very long time, and I've read some good books. I read a lot of books--one a day when I'm on a roll. I'll not quote from the first paragraph this time (Even the entire prologue is a bit off-putting, but hang on... It'll be worth it.), but from the opening paragraphs of the second-to-the-last chapter. Brilliant.

Our great romances and triumphs and conquests ultimately do nothing to bind us together, one to another. It is in defeat and tragedy that our souls show through, and we are known.

A person may tell you about a glorious achievement in business, about being promoted or being hired for a dream job, and be saying nothing at all about his core self. But have that person speak to the sinking feeling of once being laid off, the anxiety of scrounging for tuition money and coming up short, the terror of losing a business or a home, and you are on your way to having a real bond, a real friend.

A woman may speak glowingly about finishing a marathon, or building a dream home, or having a child admitted to college, and yet be telling you nothing. But have her tell you about her panic at getting older, about the slow erosion of her body, or the lingering grief of a miscarriage years ago, or her waning passion for the man she still loves, and you may realize that we are, truly, more alike than different in our needs and fears--and much more alone than we need to be.

But perhaps nowhere can we see each other more clearly than in an intensive care unit, under the cold fluorescent lights, exhausted by our vigils, surrounded by tubing running into and out of our bodies and those of loved ones, listening to the constant beeping of cardiac monitors. Because in an intensive care unit, your job doesn't matter, the new addition to your house doesn't matter, your religion and political party and even sexual orientation are irrelevant. The things that define you and those who love you are simply whether you will live or not.

There are no strangers and no enemies in the ICU.
The Architect
Keith Ablow
pg. 283

I'm going to read his backlist. When I finished this book, I didn't want to wait. I wanted to start reading another immediately. I tried to download his first Frank Clevenger book, Denial, but it's not available as an e-book. Back to the library.

Friday, August 19, 2011


It was only a part in a TV series, and only a one-bedroom apartment in New York. But parts of any kind, much less decent ones, were hard to come by, and even in Los Angeles, everyone knew the value of a pied-a-Terrence in Manhattan. And the script arrived on the same day as the final divorce papers.

If real life were a script, a movie executive would have stricken this fact as "too coincidental." but Schiffer Diamond loved coincidences and signs. Loved the childlike magic of believing all things happened for a reason. She was an actress and had lived on magic nearly all her life...


...It was Enid thought, simply the human condition. There were inherent questions in the very nature of being alive that couldn't be answered but only endured.

Usually Enid did not find these thoughts depressing but, rather, exhilarating. In her experience, she'd found that most people did not manage to grow up. Their bodies got older, but this did not necessarily mean the mind matured in the proper way. Enid did not find this particularly bothersome, either. Her days of being upset by the unfairness of life and the inherent unreliability oh human beings to do the right thing were over. Having reached old age, she considered herself endlessly lucky. If you had a little bit of money and most of your health, if you lived in a place with lots of people and interesting things going on all the time, it was very pleasant to be old. No one expected anything of you but to live. Indeed, they applauded you merely for getting out of bed in the morning.
One Fifth Avenue
Candace Bushnell

I was looking for a fun, quick read; an airplane book, a beach read. This one was great fun. Candace Bushnell is a fine writer and knows her subject matter--Manhattan and its inhabitants.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


For the first few days after Catherine's death, I find myself doing all the wrong things--though I'm not exactly sure what the right things are. I'm fairly certain you're not supposed to lie in a bath, listening to ABBA, when your girlfriend's just been killed in a car crash. But this morning, that's exactly what I find myself doing. Singing along with Fernando on the radio. Using Catherine's bubble bath. Mindlessly trying to churn up more bubbles with my hands.

Because what's just happened is so major, anything I do which is minor--and in my life, that's quite a lot--automatically seems wrong. Putting my feet up on the table this morning, reading the sports page, I caught myself thinking: Is this allowed? And making a triple-decker honey sandwich: Is this too frivolous?

I'm a Believer
Jessica Adams

Alright... I'm not ever a fan of mysticism, but still this book hooked me from the onset. This is a seriously fun read--clever, thoughtful, spiritual. Should seem frivolous on many levels but the underlying subject matter--death, grief, loss, love, relationship, friendship, religion, faith, reality... See! This story is chock-full of worthwhile thoughts and conversations.

I love it when a protagonist is self-aware, self-effacing, and intelligent. I love it when the main character does a lot of off-kilter sometimes irrelevant digressing. So much like real life, at least through my over-analytical perspective. Mark is complex, and whether you get him or not, he's an interestingly drawn, very human person. There's nothing shallow or self-deluding about him.

Ms. Adams is a fine wordsmith and I'm definitely going to check out her wittily titled first novel--Tom, Dick, and Debby Harry and also Single White E-mail.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Life has been complex and stressful of late, so I'm ready for a light and easy read when I head to the library. Not previously familiar with Elizabeth Adler's extensive backlist, I'm pleased to discover her through this book. I'm not a huge fan of romance because most authors have dumbed-down their dialogue, characters, plot lines, etc. to an insulting level. Either that, or the Romance genre employs some really bad authors.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sailing to Capri--of course you can't beat anything that's at least partially set in the south of France.

I especially love Ms. Adler's generous use of quotes prefacing each new section. Quotable quotes that I'm capturing on my Stories I Don't Remember blog.

It's snowing, great white starry flakes that cling to my red hair like a tiara on a princess for all of a minute, before melting and running in icy drops down the back of my neck. My mother, who was a stickler for proper behavior for young ladies, would have said it was my own fault, I should have worn a hat to the funeral out of respect for the dead. Of course she was right, but since I don't possess a hat, at least not one suitable for a funeral, I'd decided to do without.
Sailing to Capri
Elizabeth Adler

I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. Adler.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


He walked like a man recently returned to the world. Every step was careful, deliberate. Every step he relished. He was tall and clean shaven, a little thin perhaps. Dressed by Savile Row. Light woolen suit of herringbone weave, the jacket wide on the shoulders and narrow at the waist. His fawn gloves matched his Tribly. He looked like an Englishman, secure in his right to be on such a street, on such a pleasant afternoon in spring.
The Winter Ghosts
Kate Mosse

Great first paragraphs! Set in France just after WWI. This is a story of loss and renewal. Beautiful writing. I'm reading it too fast; sucked into the story. This is prose to be savored... Kate Mosse is co-founder and honorary director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. Visit the site. One could most assuredly find a fine reading list there.

Looking forward to reading through her backlist:

Crucifix Lane
Eskimo Kissing

Monday, March 28, 2011


Nowhere was the quiet more noticeable than in Meredith Whitson's own house. At twelve, she had already discovered the empty space that gathered between people. She longed for her family to be like those she saw on television, where everything looked perfect and everyone got along. No one, not even her beloved father, understood how alone she often felt within these four walls, how invisible.
Winter Garden
Kristin Hannah

From the author of acclaimed national bestseller Firefly Lane comes a haunting, heartbreakingly beautiful novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between past and present.

Sometimes when you open the door to your mother’s past, you find your own future…

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, these two estranged women will find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. On his deathbed, their father extracts one last promise from the women in his life.

It begins with a story that is unlike anything the sisters have heard before—a captivating, mysterious love story that spans sixty-five years and moves from frozen, war torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska. The vividly imagined tale brings these three women together in a way that none could have expected. Meredith and Nina will finally learn the secret of their mother’s past and uncover a truth so terrible it will shake the foundation of their family and change who they think they are.

Every once in a while a writer comes along who navigates the complex and layered landscape of the human heart. For this generation, it’s Kristin Hannah. Mesmerizing from the first page to the last, Winter Garden is an evocative, lyrically-written novel that will long be remembered.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Heather Gudenkauf

Gudenkauf's scintillating second suspense novel (after The Weight of Silence) opens with the release of 21-year-old Allison Glenn from prison, where she has served five years for an unspecified but particularly horrible crime. Allison is reluctant to enter a halfway house in her hometown of Linden Falls, Iowa, where "even a heroin-addicted prostitute arrested for armed robbery and murder would get more compassion than I ever will." Allison, her family's former golden girl, secures a job at a local bookstore, but her efforts to resume some sort of normal life are undermined by her well-to-do parents' indifference, her sister's hatred, and the stigma of her conviction. Meanwhile, one little boy holds the key to the tragedy that led to Allison's imprisonment. The author slowly and expertly reveals the truth in a tale so chillingly real, it could have come from the latest headlines.
Publisher's Weekly, Feb. 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Inspector Lynley series
by Elizabeth George
[Thanks movienut for compiling the list.]

D.I. Rebus series
by Ian Rankin
[Thanks to Themis-Athena for listmania]

Darina Lisle Mysteries
by Janet Laurence
[Thanks to acozylover]

Ian Rutledge series
by Charles Todd
[Thanks to]

Sue Miller

Anita Shreve

Susan Isaacs

Stephen White

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I love this book. It's one that I will definitely re-read. Rosecrans Baldwin is originally a Chicagoan.


The first night, obviously. Victor says it was love at first sight, but I was too tired that night to fall in love. It was after one of my little happenings. I remember I was exhausted. I wasn't out to impress anybody. Then he came up with a drink and I thought, Well, he's tall. The kind of guy who took himself seriously, straight out of Brooks Brothers, with pens in his breast pocket. Not at all my typical fan. But I could tell he wanted to kiss me. I made him want to kiss me. That was the whole idea.
You Lost Me There
Rosecrans Baldwin

Weird And Wonderful Books: 2010's Hidden Gems
by Rachel Syme

Rosecrans Baldwin is the editor of the charming online magazine The Morning News (another great place to read about hidden-gem books), and this year he published his debut novel. You Lost Me There tells the story of Victor, a neuroscientist studying Alzheimer's, who discovers a stash of note cards left behind by his late wife, Sara. On the cards are details about the major moments in the pair's marriage (leftovers from a couple's therapy session), and Victor is suddenly forced to confront the fact that his memories of the relationship are different from those of his wife — a fact that, for a memory specialist, is jarring indeed.

There is nothing bizarre about Baldwin's novel; it reads quickly and contains eloquent, simple turns of phrase. But it did not quite get the recognition it deserved when it emerged in August, and I hope it continues to be discovered. We all grapple with our memories and how they evade us over time, especially when it comes to love, and Baldwin captures all the joy and sorrow of minds bent by age and experience.

You Lost Me There by Rosecrans Baldwin
This is a smart book. Baldwin, co-editor of The Morning News, tells a love story, a loss story, a meditation on memory and marriage and the mind and science. It works. Plus, it helps our larger argument that this is a great year for first novels. Holiday shopping should be pretty easy this time around. Deliver it in a small baker's box, why not?

And another NPR review--by Michael Schaub.

Monday, February 21, 2011


[For whatever reason, I first posted this May 8, 2010 on my Stories I Don't Remember blog. Today I decided that I definitely want this as part of First Paragraphs.]

Loving the paperback cover:

Two striking and memorable passages, especially, resonate with me as I read Paula Butturini's book Keeping the Feast:

Violence, blood, depression, and death are, I know now, part of life. Today I recognize them, respect them, fight them, and try as much as I can to keep them at bay, but I no longer pretend that they are not as much a part of life as birth or joy or love or the laughter, comfort, and strength that grow out of a simple meal shared with family or close friends.
pg. 251

All of us cook, I think, in part to feed our daily hunger, but just as important, and perhaps more so, we cook and eat to feed our spirits, to keep us all in the same orbit of life. As the generations turn our family expands, the table and its simple pleasures--never just the food, but the food and the talk, the food and the laughter, the food and the tears, the jokes, the memories, the hopes--still hold us in place, well anchored in a safe harbor. There may very well be another depression or endless other troubles, big or small, lying in wait for us, but rather than freezing in fear about what may come, we try our best to live and enjoy the lives we've been served forth.
pg. 53-54
Keeping the Feast
Paula Butturini

I know that I grew up and lived much of my adult life with the knowledge (!) or hope (?) that being a child of God protects me from pain, trauma, violence, and sudden death. Huh! How does a rational human reconcile all the miseries and sufferings of life with that dumb belief? I'm here to tell you that one can, and one does.

Of course, life is so much more rational since I've adjusted my expectations to what God truly promises. Not that I am protected from life and others choices, but that he surrounds and protects and comforts and walks so very closely with me when life happens.

His perfect love casts out fear. Yet, daily I experience, wallow in, and chase away fears of the known and the unknown. The scars of childhood? My very human nature? The forces of darkness and evil?

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Psalms 53:6

Friday, February 18, 2011


Full-wrap photo compliments of Mark T. Mustian!

I awake in a whispering ambulance.

Attendants huddle, a gloved finger withdrawn.

Memory makes its way back: the crush of the headache, the darkness. I am cold now. My face is numb.

"Can you hear me?"


"What is your name?"

Speech half forms. In English? At length, "Em... Em... Emmett Conn."

"Where do you live?"

I think. "Twenty-three fifteen Wisteria Court. Wadesboro, Georgia." The words flow faster.

"When were you born?"

I pause, for I do not truly know. "The year 1898." This is what I have said, for many years now. "I am ninety-two years old."

* * *

Time. Time has moved on since the tumor's arrival, spring into summer, blooms into green. I view the drive home from the hospital with new eyes, noting the shapeliness of the trees gracing Miller Street, the shuck and dive of a pair of cardinals, the stare of a wrinkled old man. Roses, Wadesboro's pride, burst from planters and gardens, in reds and purples, oranges and pinks. The last of spent pollen yellow lips around puddles. A train murmurs in the distance, its whistle low like a wind. Life continues, with or without me. I touch my head where the metal frame had been fastened. I am still here. I am still a part of it.
p. 61
The Gendarme
Mark T. Mustian

A remembering, a reflection on the early 20th century--the Armenian genocide by the Turks. I'd known nothing about this sad history. Beautifully written; tragically recalled.

A review.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I just have to interject a non-review entry...

Sometimes I don't really get the full impact of a book until I begin posting it on this blog. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the talent and abilities of an author. I don't do much creative writing on this blog--mostly I copy direct quotes from the source or author's blogs or from an NPR interview or magazine-newspaper reviewer. But, I get a real rush anyway. I love marking a definitive read. A book that has interested or inspired me to a level that I feel it's worth noting here.

Sometimes I go for months without finding a notable read. I maybe read some okay or good books, but none that inspire me to commit them to this record. Those times I feel like I've read most of the good books in the world and no one's writing any more. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and quality of the books I'm discovering.

Reading is one of the greatest of God's gifts. Reading transports, interprets, encourages, shocks, instructs, frustrates, motivates, overwhelms... I love to read. I love to share my literary finds. Even if no one reads this blog, I benefit tremendously by committing my reading experiences to a record.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn't kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God. At a picnic on the beach, a storm front moved in. David and Alice collected their chairs, blankets, and booze, and when the lightning flashed, David imagined his wife lit up, her skeleton distinctly visible as in a children's cartoon, Alice then collapsing into a smoking pile of ash....

He dreamed unconsciously and he dreamed sporadically. His fantasies simply welled up. If she called from work, he asked, "Did something happen?" If she was late coming home, he began to worry too soon. He began to dream according to her schedule....

... There could be no violence. But occasionally David became a Walter Mitty of murder. He dreamed his own agency. He did it. He shot Alice, he bludgeoned her, he suffocated her with a pillow. But these fantasies were truncated: they flashed in his mind, then he cut them off before the terminal moment because he never surprised her in time. He saw her recognize him as he came round the corner with knife, bat, or gun, felt her hand grip the arm that held the pillow over her face--and it was all too terrible to contemplate.

"Whale!" he screamed at her, because she was enormous. "Goddamn blue whale!" (She'd struggled mightily with depression but was now back on meds.)
Mr. Peanut
Adam Ross

Do people still classify art as post-modern? I do. This definitely fits into my understanding of post-modern fiction. The story itself is intriguing as it moves forward and backward and interlinks with Sam Shepherd's story (The Fugitive). A very weird read; intriguing, a bit wordy, well written for the most part. As I read this book I constantly puzzled over how the mind works and how Adam Ross's mind works, and felt sympathy for what must be the state of Adam Ross's mind. He writes a good book.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Once, we sat with a small candle between us on the tablecloth, drinks for our hands. After the salad, he asked if I wanted children...

He had a nice manner. He said he didn't know musicians that well, women or men, but he counted on his fingers female writers who'd had children. He actually couldn't think of any...

He was not. I believed him, a trumpet promise. Some Bach came into my fingers. Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor. The haunting Prelude. I had to sit on my hand.

That evening, our first date, we had a conversation about who would do what.

"With a woman who worked, it'd have to be fifty-fifty," he said. "Of course."

We didn't talk about that again until after William was born.

In Paul's gaze, it seemed I couldn't fail, as if the terrors I'd known so looming they'd strapped me in bed a few days a month, had been products of an overly active imagination. So, this is how it works, I thought. It turned out to be easier than I'd expected. When I talked about my childhood, his face took on an expression of pity, which also looked like reverence. Then he'd twirl in a dance step, with a confident air. I marveled at these shuffles and turns, as one would at the performance of a child not yours: watching happiness.

I became accustomed to myself in this new atmosphere. My opinions grew emphatic, my gestures expansive, my stumbling attempts at jokes more frequent. Who was to say this wasn't love?

I burrowed into his chest at night. He lost his hands in my hair and I could sleep.

Children were a star-wish.
My Hollywood a novel
Mona Simpson

Mona Simpson’s latest novel, My Hollywood—a compelling tale told by alternating narrators; a new mother living in Los Angeles and a middle-aged nanny from the Philippines—skillfully explores the complex relationships between parents, children, and caregiver.
Vanity Fair interview with Mona Simpson, August 25, 2010

If asked to describe this novel, I'd say it's somewhere between The Nanny Diaries and The Help, but much more smartly written. I'll read Mona Simpson's backlist.

Monday, January 24, 2011


If you have come for a long stay, you must arrive at Grange House by water. The House sits at the farthest edge of the harbor from Middle Haven, the last habitation before the harbor gives way to the open sea, and though a road runs between town and Grange House, it is narrow and rocky--entirely unsuitable for the conveyance of large families with luggage. Rather, you must take the night steamer from Boston, which deposits you at the Grange House pier before teatime.

I like to stand in the prow of that boat, steaming farther and farther north and east, and be the first to feel the air sharpen and cool, leaving the damp heat of Boston, the shipyards of Portsmouth, and voyaging into the clear silence born in the chill of Maine...
first paragraphs

And, (a beautiful quote)

There is a quiet to the evenings that settles softly down now; no outside noises penetrate in summer's fashion when windows are thrown wide to catch the night seiners out in the harbor, someone's laugh entering in on the light salt breeze. Now all laughter is our own, muted by the heavy curtains and cast into our group as if Sound herself grew shy.
Grange House
Sarah Blake

This Victorian novel was published 10 years prior to The Postmistress. Lovely writing. A compelling storyline.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Darkness. Darkness for a long time. Open my eyes and close, open and close. The same. Darkness inside, darkness outside.

I'd been dreaming. Tossed around in a black dark sea. Staked out on a mountain in the night. An animal I couldn't see sniffed and snuffled around me. I felt a wet nose on my skin. When you know you're dreaming you wake up. Sometimes you wake into another dream. But when you wake and noting changes, that must be reality.
Land of the Living
Nicci French

From the website:
Abbie Devereaux wakes in the dark, hooded and bound...

She doesn't know where she is nor who it is feeding her, talking to her - threatening to kill her. Yet Abbie has courage and, above all, hope. She escapes her captor and runs back into the light. But the real world, the safe one, isn't as she remembers it. There are days missing before she disappeared - days when she quit her job and left her boyfriend, did things she can't explain to the police, her friends or even herself. Why won't anyone take her story seriously? Because if Abbie can't convince anybody that it really happened, then maybe he will come for her again. And she will wake in the dark, hooded and bound...

I've read this before. It was published in 2003, so that's when I probably read it. It's a compelling read and I'm enjoying it again. Will follow-up this one with her their newer books. Yep, I just discovered on their website that Nicci French = a married couple: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Didn't know that before.