Thursday, January 20, 2022

Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


What book captured your fancy this week? Please share the opening sentence (or so) with us here on Book Beginnings on Fridays!


My Book Beginning this week is from a new book by an Oregon author I enjoy a lot, Dede Montgomery:

What happened in that last moment before the moment after? Paul's hands had shot up to cover his ears, their trembling fingers adorned by nails chewed down to the quick.

-- from Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery, out now from Bedazzled Ink. I wanted to give two sentences of that opening because the first sentence alone is too much of a brain twister!

Humanity's Grace is a collection of 15 linked short stories that reads like a novel. The stories are linked by characters that cross paths and their shared setting in contemporary Astoria, Oregon. They are also linked by their connection to a murder in the small, coastal community. 


Please link to your Book Beginning post, not your blog home page or social media profile page. If you post on or share to social media, please sue the hashtag #bookbeginnings so we can find each other. 

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Humanity's Grace

Anne hadn't been paying attention to all that he said. Her mind was preoccupied still with the struggle of reading job descriptions she was over qualified for but knew she could never land.

You can read my review of Humanity's Grace here

Salty air, low lying clouds, and crooning of seagulls near the towering Astoria Column and the flowing Columbia River set the scene for Humanity's Grace, a collection of linked short stories. Frank, Anne, Monica, and Sarah all reappear from the pages of Montgomery's novel, Beyond the Ripples. New characters: An elderly mother and her son, a police office and spouse, a childhood friend, a counselor, a bystander appear, are all uniquely connected to a murder in downtown Astoria, Oregon.

Frank's untimely death creates a spectrum of consequences for his loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers. The ensuing murder accusation throws a trio of characters into darkness, as they reassess earlier beliefs, past decisions and actions. Other characters are impacted in unique and unexpected ways. A police officer is haunted by his past. A young woman awakens from a vivid dream of a friend from before. A mother wonders what she did wrong. A son aches for others to be kind. A daughter questions her father's past, while her mother remembers parts of the man she had forgotten. A stranger ponders the significance of a message she's received.

The characters in Humanity's Grace intertwine as they laugh, scream, and cry, do good or create evil. Most of all, they meander through sorrow and sadness, joy and regret, as they remind the reader of the startling and collective beauty of life's connections.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle -- BOOK REVIEW


Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle (2021, Pegasus Books)

Shoot the Moonlight Out, the new neo noir thriller by William Boyle, starts in 1996 with two friends being stupid kids. Bobby and his friend Zeke think throwing rocks at cars on the Parkway is just a silly game until the inevitable tragedy brings an end to the fun. Fast forward to the summer of 2001. Bobby is now out of high school, dragging this soul-poisoning secret around with him, and working for a second-rate con man running a Ponzi scheme.

Destined to cross Bobby’s path is Jack, a seemingly mild-mannered widow raising his teen-aged daughter. But Jack also has a secret. He is a vigilante on the side, avenging neighborhood wrongs, and he is out to get Bobby’s boss.

There’s a locker stuffed with cash, Bobby is in love and wants out of his life of two-bit crime, Jack’s taking a writing class from Bobby’s former stepsister, and a lot more is going on. Multiple characters orbit and crisscross. While Boyle gives them individual personalities, they all are shady, shabby, or broken in some way. The book is dense with plot and characters.

The setting is as much a character as any of the people in the book. It’s south Brooklyn the day before yesterday, so there is a grey haze of gritty nostalgia over the whole thing. It’s clear that Boyle knows south Brooklyn down to the last crack in the sidewalk and he brings it to life for the reader.

All in all, Shoot the Moonlight Out is a gripping, character-driven crime novel, perfect for fans of urban noir. 


Here is an excerpt from another review I thought summed up Boyle's book quite well:
William Boyle knows how to craft a tight quilt of a plot while at the same time grounding that plot in a setting of wonderful richness. His Brooklyn is specific and clear and alive, a place he knows cold. He’s able to capture the messiness of life with the acuity of a dedicated realist, but he shapes that messiness in such a way that he keeps everything moving forward and toward a definitive resolution. Controlled and yet loose is how I would describe Shoot the Moonlight Out, and for my money, that’s a blend of two traits that’s no small achievement. [Shoot the Moonlight Out] is a novel that rings true down to the tiniest detail.
Criminal Element

Monday, January 17, 2022

James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction -- LIST



The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction is one of the oldest and most prestigious book prizes. It has been awarded since 1919 for literature written in the English language. The award is based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The winner is chosen by two academic scholars in the English Department, with the assistance of PhD students.

So far, I have read only 17 of the 108 winners. The prize may offer literary prestige and £10,000, but it doesn't guarantee popular success or that your book will stay in print! Some of these are hard to find. Here is the list, with notes about whether I've finished a book or if it is on my TBR shelf:

2020 Lote by Shola von Reinhold

2019 Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

2018 Crudo by Olivia Lang

2017 Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams

2016 The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride FINISHED

2015 You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits

2014 In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman

2013 Harvest by Jim Crace

2012 The Deadman's Pedal by Alan Warner
2010 The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli 

2009 The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt

2008 The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (reviewed hereFINISHED

2007 Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben

2006 The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2005 Saturday by Ian McEwan FINISHED

2004 GB84 by David Peace

2003 Personality by Andrew O'Hagan

2002 The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen FINISHED

2001 Something Like a House by Sid Smith

2000 White Teeth by Zadie Smith TBR SHELF

1999 Renegade or Halo2 by Timothy Mo

1998 Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge

1997 Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller TBR SHELF

1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift (FINISHED) and Justine by Alice Thompson

1995 The Prestige by Christopher Priest (reviewed hereFINISHED

1994 The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst TBR SHELF

1993 Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

1992 Sacred Country by Rose Tremain

1991 Downriver by Iain Sinclair

1990 Brazzeville Beach by William Boyd (reviewed hereFINISHED

1989 A Disaffection by James Kelman

1988 A Season in the West by Piers Paul Read

1987 The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories by George Mackay Brown

1986 Persephone by Jenny Joseph

1985 Winter Garden by Robert Edric

1984 Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter TBR SHELF BOTH

1983 Allegro Postillions by Jonathan Keates

1982 On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin TBR SHELF

1981 Midnight's Children (reviewed here) and The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux FINISHED BOTH

1980 Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

1979 Darkness Visible by William Golding

1978 Plumb by Maurice Gee

1977 The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carre TBR SHELF

1976 Doctor Copernicus by John Banville TBR SHELF

1975 The Great Victorian Collection by Brian Moore

1974 Monsieur, or The Prince Of Darkness by Lawrence Durrell TBR SHELF

1973 The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch TBR SHELF

1972 G by John Berger (reviewed hereFINISHED

1971 A Guest of Honour by Nadine Gordimer

1970 The Bird of Paradise by Lily Powell

1969 Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen TBR SHELF

1968 The Gasteropod by Maggie Ross

1967 Jerusalem the Golden by Margaret Drabble TBR SHELF

1966 Such by Christine Brooke-Rose and Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins

1965 The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed hereFINISHED

1964 The Ice Saints by Frank Tuohy TBR SHELF

1963 A Slanting Light by Gerda Charles

1962 Act of Destruction by Ronald Hardy

1961 The Ha-Ha by Jennifer Dawson

1960 Imperial Caesar by Rex Warner

1959 The Devil's Advocate by Morris West TBR SHELF

1958 The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot by Angus Wilson

1957 At Lady Molly's by Anthony Powell FINISHED

1956 The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley FINISHED

1955 Mother and Son by Ivy Compton-Burnett

1954 The New Men and The Masters (in sequence) by C. P. Snow TBR SHELF BOTH

1953 Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

1952 Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh TBR SHELF

1951 Father Goose by W. C. Chapman-Mortimer

1950 Along the Valley by Robert Henriquez

1949 The Far Cry by Emma Smith

1948 The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene FINISHED

1947 Eustace and Hilda by L. P. Hartley TBR SHELF

1946 Poor Man's Tapestry by G. Oliver Onions

1945 Travellers by L. A. G. Strong

1944 Young Tom by Forrest Reid

1943 Tales From Bective Bridge by Mary Lavin

1942 Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en (translation by Arthur Whaley)

1941 A House of Children by Joyce Cary

1940 The Voyage by Charles Morgan

1939 After Many a Summer Dies the Swan by Aldous Huxley TBR SHELF

1938 A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours by C. S. Forester

1937 Highland River by Neil M. Gunn

1936 South Riding by Winifred Holtby

1935 The Root and the Flower by L. H. Myers

1934 I, Claudius (FINISHED) and Claudius the God by Robert Graves

1933 England, Their England by A. G. Macdonell TBR SHELF

1932 Boomerang by Helen Simpson

1931 Without My Cloak by Kate O'Brien TBR SHELF

1930 Miss Mole by E. H. Young

1929 The Good Companions by J. B. Priestley

1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon

1927 Portrait of Clare by Francis Brett Young

1926 Adam's Breed by Radclyffe Hall

1925 The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty

1924 A Passage to India by E. M. Forster FINISHED

1923 Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett

1922 Lady Into Fox by David Garnett FINISHED

1921 Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare

1920 The Lost Girl by D. H. Lawrence

1919 The Secret City by Hugh Walpole TBR SHELF


This is a redo of the list I originally posted in 2009. 

If you have read and posted about any of the book on this list, let me know what you thought of them! If you want, leave comments with links to your reviews or other related posts and I will list them here.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The 2022 European Reading Challenge is up and running - sign up now!



It's time to sign up for the 2022 European Reading Challenge! Many of you have already signed up, but there is still time for those of you looking for a fun 2022 reading challenge. 

I put up the main challenge page last month but just realized I never posted about it. Sign up for the 2022 ERC challenge on the main challenge page HERE or click the challenge button above. 

2022 is the 10th anniversary of the European Reading Challenge. Join us to make the Grand Tour of Europe in books. The idea is to read books by different European authors or set in different European countries. 

Read the books of your choice, at the level you choose. You can sign up for the challenge to read 1 to 5 books. Want more of a challenge? Go for the Jet Setter Prize! The person who reads and reviews the most books -- each from a different country -- wins a prize.

The most books you can read for the challenge is 50 because there are 50 commonly recognized sovereign states of Europe:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.
2021 was the first year anyone managed to read books for all 50 countries. In prior years, no one came close. In 2021, at least three people made that impressive trek! Let's see who can make the journey in 2022.

CHANGE: One change in 2022 is that the challenge will run only until December 31, 2022. In years past, we always went an extra month and people could finish their books on January 31 of the following year. But that got too confusing! So starting with 2022 and the 10th anniversary, the deadline for reading all the challenge books is now December 31. Participants still have until January 31, 2023 to complete all their reviews and wrap up posts. I will announce the winner of the Jet Setter Prize in early February.


In 2022, I'm making another big push for readers to participate in the European Reading Challenge through social media, like Instagram, goodreads, Facebook, whatever works. We did this in 2021 for the first time and it was a lot of fun! 

Posts on IG, goodreads, Facebook, and other platforms generate URLs that work fine with Mr. Linky. If you need help finding the URL link, message me through the platform or leave a comment and I'll walk you through it.

If you participate on social media or share your blog posts on social media, please use the hashtag #europeanreadingchallenge. That makes it easier to find each other.

Please sign up on the main challenge page HERE, or click the button above. Please also encourage other people to sign up, through their blogs or social media. Even if they don't blog or socialize, they can join in with comments on the challenge pages.

Bon voyage!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Last Professional by Ed Davis -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



I hope your week is treating you well! Reading anything good this month?

What book are you sharing with us on Book Beginnings on Fridays? Please share the first sentence (or so). You can also share from a book you want to highlight, not a book you are reading. 


I got a copy of a new book by Ed Davis from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. Because the world is very small, I'm friends with Ed on Facebook. That's why the book caught my eye when I saw it on LibraryThing. Ed went to high school in Sonoma County with my husband. I've never met him IRL, but we chit chat on Facebook sometimes. 

Here are the opening sentences from Ed's new book:

Until the rails arrived virtually at their doorsteps, most people lived a day's walk of where they were born. America was smaller.

-- from The Last Professional by Ed Davis, which launches January 25 from Artemesia Publishing and is available for pre-order.

That is a terrific opening for a story about the last days of jumping trains and and living on the road. It is a novel about a young man fleeing his past who teams up with an old loner. An old enemy pursues them, things turn deadly, and the story rolls out against an American landscape bounded by railroad tracks. It looks like an old-fashioned page turner. 


Please link to the Book Beginnings post on your blog or social media. If you post on or link to social media, please use the #bookbeginnigns hashtag.

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From The Last Professional:
Men moved from the barracks to the tower, clean men with freshly scraped faces and slicked-back hair. From the yard came other men, smudged and tired, who climbed the barracks steps with lead feet, waved to friends with lead hands.
I think I'm going to enjoy this one. What do you think from these teasers?

An American story! The Duke, near the end of his days, sees his way of life and the code he follows disappearing. Lynden is on the brink of a new beginning but cannot embrace it without confronting the traumas of his past. And a maniac is intent on destroying them both. Bonds are formed, secrets exposed, sacrifices made all against an American landscape of promise and peril. Three unforgettable characters, hurtling toward a climax where pasts and futures collide, and lives hang in the balance.

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