Saturday, September 25, 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Billy Summers by Stephen King

 


Billy Summers is going to go on my favorite-books-of-the-year list.  As I'd mentioned in previous posts I am definitely not a fan of the horror genre so I've never read anything except Pet Sematary by King in years past. Then he switched gears and wrote 11/22/63 which was amazing and I now look forward to his crime novels.

Totally engaged - Stephen King had me with the first chapter of this book about Billy Summers, a sniper/hit man who only kills bad guys.  He puts on the dumb act with the nefarious Nick Majarian as he accepts what is he says is his last job.  There is a huge payout and Joel Allen, the intended victim, is a very bad guy.

Nick sets Billy up in a suburban working class neighborhood in an unspecified southern state.  It's here King excels at writing about a typical blue collar neighborhood, playing monopoly with families, having a few beers and BBQ dinners with the neighbors.  He puts you right there, you are in that party, playing that game.  It's so real.

Anyway, Billy (aka struggling author David Lockridge) successfully blends in with the neighbors and  pretends he is an author.  As a writer he keeps erratic hours and rents office space in building across from the courthouse where Joel Allen will eventually be tried for murder.  Once he is brought out of the police van Billy will have his shot and disappear.   Sounds simple but the detailed complications and an obvious setup has Billy making his own plans for disappearing. Nick has a great plan to get Billy out of the area and sent to a safe house but something gets Billy's spidey sense activated.

Billy Summers is the "bad guy" you'll be rooting for, wanting to see him put one over on all the hooligans who decide his dumb act is real. He was a Marine and learned to take care of himself and his fellow Marines; that in itself is a story within a story in this novel. His background story has some heart breaking moments and you find yourself liking Billy from the first chapter.

A complication comes along in the form of one Alice Maxwell, a young woman who was assaulted by several men and dumped out of a van.  Billy intervenes in more than one way and Alice becomes a character you will like. Wish I could go on about the plot but it would be better to read the story and have your own surprises.  Here's hoping  a mini series is inspired from this story.  

For what it's worth, King expressed his desire to see Jake Gyllenhaal perform the role of Billy Summers and after reading that, Jake is who I pictured as I read.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Smile and Look Pretty by Amanda Pellegrino

 

If The Devil Wears Prada and Bridget Jones Diary had a baby it would be this book. I’m loving this book, the dialogue and most of the characters. Four friends in entry level positions in New York City work as assistants in various industries. All four women want to climb the ladder within their respective fields and have a successful career. 

Cate is an assistant to the head of a huge book publishing company.  He  requires her to do the administrative as well as personal jobs for him.  Keep his calender but also get cupcakes to his son's school for a party, pick up dry cleaning, open his home in Vermont for his vacation.

Max is an assistant at a news station with goals to be a journalist.  She is sexually harrassed by the lead news anchor and does all the running for coffee and other minor tasks.  Her male counterpart Charlie is never subjected to demeaning comments or asked to run out on errands.

Lauren dreams of being a script writer one day.  She is an assistant to Pete and gets harrassed by one of the writers on the show. Go get the coffee and keep your mouth shut.  Until she has enough of that treatment.

Olivia is an actor's assistant and has some of the same demeaning tasks as her friends.  Go to a smelly unairconditioned warehouse to search for a sofa he wants delivered;  try and take notes and keep his calendar while he is doing yoga naked. The B list actor Nate always dangles the idea of passing on a screen test of hers to someone who can help.

The ladies meet Thursdays to drink margaritas and unburden themselves to one another, the only people they can trust.  Then they take the napkins with the written out grievences and burn them at the end of the night.  One night they decide to start a website called Twentysomething and write out their stories anonymously.  Thanks to the NDA (non disclosure agreements) they must use names like The Bossy One, The Emotional One, etc.  Then it takes off.  More women are telling their stories and the website becomes a sensation. People start to wonder, who are these women behind Twentysomething as it becomes newsworthy.

This book has sexual references and the occasional F bomb.  This doesn't bother me but I know it does for some. The stories are believable as are the friendships and struggles.  This is a story about women being impowered by one another and getting tired of being passed over for promotion and treated differently than their male counterparts.

I will definitely be looking for more by Amanda Pelligrino  in the future.

Publication date December 21, 2021 by Harlequin.  Genre: General Fiction Adult and Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.




Monday, September 13, 2021

The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy

 

The story starts in 2010 immersing you in Morocco's severe heat  and exotic locale. Our narrator Zoe is just getting settled as her husband’s company posted him to Casablanca. She is a bit overwhelmed by the welcome wagon talk from one of the wives posted there.

Zoe is looking around her new home when she discovers a loose board in the floor causing her to investigate. She pulls  it up and discovers a dusty box and a diary from 1941. The diary is written by 13-year-old Josie. With such an exotic setting and the chance to read somebody’s diary, a glimpse of the past,  I just had to read this book.

In present day there are uncomfortable social situations for Zoe as well as some marital woes. She immerses herself into Josie’s life while trying to fit in with her life in Casablanca and misses England more every day.

Both timelines have some sad stories. I think I was expecting it to be sad in the 1941 narrative but was surprised at what Zoe was going through in present day. There is nothing objectionable in this book, no poor language, just a nice story that may put you in mind of Nicholas Sparks novels.

Fiona Valpy writes about strong female characters and obviously does detailed historical research.  If you like historical fiction you will enjoy this author.  This book has a genre tag for romance but I would not have classified it as such.  I do agree on it being women's fiction and historical fiction.

More about the author HERE. 

Publication date September 21, 2021 by Amazon Publishing UK.  Genre: General Fiction Romance, Women's Fiction and Historical Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction challenge and Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.





Friday, September 10, 2021

The Maid by Nita Prose

 

Molly Gray is a maid. Yes, the pun Molly Maid is mentioned a few times in this book.  She is a very competent maid and you'll realize she has some OCD going on, a socially awkward woman who doesn't understand how to connect with people. Molly sees everything situation in black and white and doesn't realize when she's being used or made fun of.

Molly makes her rounds cleaning at the Regency Grand hotel, enjoying her job and speaking to some of the guests. When she enters the suite of Mr and Mrs Black she discovers Mr. Black is dead

This was more of a cozy mystery, a completely PG 13 rated plot. As a reader you know which characters are bad and who is being used.  You will also discover Molly's resourcefulness discerning facts helps with the murder case.

Publication date January 4, 2022 by Random House Publishing - Ballentine.  Genre: Mystery, Thrillers and Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

2021 nonfiction Challenge Roundup

It's still early in the year to complete this reading challenge but I probably won't get to the other categories.  Not this year :-) 

I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site Book'd Out and went for the Nibbler category of six books. While I did read more than six books I didn't use all the categories.

Here's my round up.

  1. Biography
  2. Travel The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater and Clanlands
  3. Self-help
  4. Essay Collection Wine Reads - Wine Reads: A Literary Anthology of Wine Writing
  5. Disease Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Manheimer, M.D.
  6. Oceanography
  7. Hobbies Practical Houseplant Book
  8. Indigenous Cultures
  9. Food The Search for God and Guinness
  10. Wartime Experiences Dispatches
  11. Inventions
  12. Published in 2021

Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE.



The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Dr. Eric Manheimer

 

Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Dr Eric Manheimer was a very interesting book and I'm glad I checked it out of the library. We had started watching a series called New Amsterdam which I picked up at the library.  Every epsiode I would see it was based on this book so - I asked for the book after we'd watched two seasons.

In the beginning our author states that Bellevue is the oldest hospital in the country, 275 years old. It's probably the most famous public hospital in United States with many firsts.  It has the distinction of having the first maternity ward, the first pediatric ward, the first C-section - Bellevue's public sanitation program state back to the Civil War.

There are twelve stories about patients and some of them are real heartbreakers, in particular Four Generations and Trauma Detroit. Some of the chapters do go on a bit too long, in my opinion, and many of the stories focus on central American patients and their countries. The disparity of their treatment verses those who are well insured is brought to our attention.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book and loved reading about the dedication of the professionals and their various cases.

Sharing with Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.

Category: Disease/ Medicine


The Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. You can join in anytime!

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

 

Charlie, Tate, Dahlia and Andy Lighthouse are siblings, all named after murder victims. 
We learn that Dahlia is named after Black Dahlia an actress who was murdered.  Charlie was named after the Lindbergh baby.  Tate was named after Sharon Tate and Andy was named for Lizzie Borden's father. 

They grew up in isolation on Blackburn Island. In the first chapter you’ll read how screwed up their childhood was and wonder if any parent could be so horrible.  They weren't beaten or physically abused but the psychological damage is crazy. 

They thought it was normal to discuss crime cases, murders and made diaramas of the murder scenes. To them, that was normal as they were never exposed to a traditional childhood of riding bikes, going to school with others, plaing Candyland, etc.

We meet all the children (except Andy) as adults when they returned home after their father died. Andy is Dahlia’s twin and he disappeared years ago after stating the only way to change was to get out.   It gets better (not) when the father’s intended gravesite already has a body occupying the space. It’s Andy, his head cleaved with an ax. This is not a spoiler. 

I struggled through the first part of the book, then I started flipping ahead as this was a complimentary copy and I felt I had to give a review. It was my understanding this is a mystery but I would have added horror to the genre, just because of the psychological mind fuck these children endured. 

Based on this book I would not read any other novels by this author. Just not my cuppa tea.
Publication date August 17, 2021 by Atria Books.  Genre: Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book, all opinions are mine.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The French Gift by Kirsty Manning

 

This book is set in two time periods with three different women narrating their stories. They are tied together by secrets and a mystery.

Evie Black's story is set in present day. She is Australian, was married to Frenchman Raph and has a teen son named Hugo. Raph died 18 months previously and Evie is now in charge of Raph's Aunt Josephine's estate , Villa Sanary in the French Riviera.  

Margo Bissett was a maid for the wealthy couple at Villa Sanary during the 1940's.  She is accused of murdering a wealthy American guest during a party but she was most definitely set up.  You read this immediately as this is how the book starts. She is told to hide on the terrace and when the fireworks start, Margo is meant to fire a loaded gun into the air.  This is the start of "murder" as a party game and her employers insists it's all a prop to start the game. She is arrested and her employer suddenly knows nothing about this "game."

Josephine Murant is a wealthy Parisian and accomplished author of crime/mystery novels.  She was also involved dicreetly with the resistance movement during WW II.  When she is arrested and placed in Anrath Prison she meets Margo and takes her under her wing. The conditions described are quite awful and the big twist with these two women are revealed around the 90% mark. 

Evie Black eventually figures out the mystery of her Aunt Josephine and convicted killer Margo Bissett.

Publication date is November 2, 2021 by William Morrow and Custom House.  Genre: Mystery and General Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge.




Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry


"It's difficult to know how scared to be.  The threat level is severe but then has been for years." 

Bodies can still be found in bogs, searches are conducted to find informers the IRA had disappeared, at certain funerals, men in ski masks would suddenly appear in the cortage, chamber their handguns and fire shots over the coffin.  This is how many people lived in the Belfast area, wondering daily if there was a credible threat.

The story focuses on two sisters. Marian and Tessa.  Marian is not married and has been a paramedic for over six years. Her face is always so open and bemused while  her sister Tessa's expression tends to be more grave, her having to reassure people she's not worried about anything.

Tessa is divorced and mother of a 6 month old boy named Finn.  She works at the BBC in Belfast and is asked by some friends how she can work for the English. She went to university at Trinity College is a program reporter, working with political guests. 

We start with Tessa narrating and learn Marian is on a vacation to swim and explore caves in the north.  Neither Tessa or her mother can get ahold of Marian but they assume she's in cellular dead zone or simply having fun exploring.

Then a robbery and raid happen at a local gas station the news anchor asks for help identifying those responsible. Tessa stares at the images of the terrorists and suddenly sees her sister's face on screen, Marian pulling a black ski mask over her face.  Tessa's world dissolves.

The only negative in this narrative is the description of The Troubles as if it's a current situation.  Perhaps I missed the time frame in this book but it had the feel of being set in present time or a few years earlier.  The plot appears to be during the height of the violence and near the peace agreement which would put it around 1994, right?   That being said, I loved the book and couldn't put it down.

I see why this is a best seller with over 3,400 four star ratings.  I plan to read all of Flynn Berry's novels in the near future.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday. and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge. 







Sunday, August 22, 2021

Masterpiece: Amercia's 50-Year-Old Love Affair with British Television Drama

This book was an Amazon Deal and I wish I had gotten the hard cover instead of a Kindle version when it was on sale. There are too few photos in my opinion but the book is interesting all the same.



Fifty years of detail about the different series and programs put on by Masterpiece Theater over the years will have you scrolling through the pages.  There are some programs I didn't know about so I will request those through the library.

 Here we have Kenneth Branagh as Wallander.


 The photography is very good but as I said, far too few photos.


There is a map for the shows as well.



Overall, this book isn't what I expected but I do like reading it here and there.  Warning about the Kindle version - the photos do not line up with the descriptions and that was quite confusing at first.  If you can get this on a deal price it will be worth it if you are a fan of Masterpiece Theater but after seeing it, I wouldn't have paid the $30 they are asking now.





Be back soon...........

  I will be taking a short hiatus from both blogs but will return soon.