Jennifer's 2020 Reading (japaul22)

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Jennifer's 2020 Reading (japaul22)

joulukuu 29, 2019, 11:16am

Hi everyone! I'm back again to share my reading and get inspired by all of your reading threads. My name is Jennifer and I live outside of Washington D.C. I have two kids, boys ages 10 and 7. I play the french horn in the U.S. Marine Band.

I've settled into a great groove of reading over the past decade. I like the classics and use the 1001 books list to push my reading out of my comfort zone. I also read new fiction where I tend towards "literary fiction" by women authors. I also usually have a nonfiction book on the go, usually historical biography or cultural studies. To lighten things up, I read the occasional mystery or historical fiction.

Thanks for visiting my thread! I look forward to all of the book discussion to come!

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 28, 2020, 5:01pm

First up in the new year will be the January group reads I've committed to below. I also have my eye on Nana by Zola. I don't have any year-long projects. I read Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson in 2019, and In Search of Lost Time by Proust in 2018 so I think I need a break from year-long reads!

August Plans: Lincoln book, finish Wanderlust, bookspin book, Passing, library books - The Grammarians, The Shadow King

Group Read Plans for 2020:
January - The Diviners group read, The Bertrams group read, A House and Its Head group litsy read
February - Wolf Hall reread
March - Bring up the Bodies reread, Ducks, Newburyport
April - The Mirror and the Light, Lady Audley's Secret
April-June The Golden Notebook group read
May - La Reine Margot group read
June/July - Castle Richmond
August - The Yellow Wallpaper, Passing
September - The Magic Mountain group read
October - Murder Must Advertise group read
November - The Nine Tailors group read

joulukuu 29, 2019, 11:17am

These lists are to help me pick books when I don't have a "next book" in mind. They will also give you an idea of the kinds of books I enjoy.

Contemporary Authors that I follow (i.e. I'll probably read any new novel they put out and am reading any backlog I haven't gotten to yet):
Hilary Mantel
Kate Atkinson
Eleanor Catton
Eowyn Ivey
Amor Towles
Tana French
Marilynne Robinson
Hannah Tinti
Barbara Kingsolver
Ann Patchett
Kamila Shamsie
Chimamanda Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Madeline Miller

Series/Mysteries that I follow:
Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike mysteries
Tana French
Jane Harper
C.J. Sansom
Sharon Kay Penman

Classic authors I love (reading novels I haven't read yet or rereads):
Jane Austen
the Brontes
Virginia Woolf
George Eliot
Thomas Mann
Haldor Laxness
Sigrid Undset
Scandinavian classics

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2020, 11:54am

Books Read in 2020

1. Nana by Emile Zola
2. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
3. The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope
4. A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett

5. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
6. The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas
7. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
8. The Anarchy by William Dalrymple
9. Akin by Emma Donoghue
10. To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski
11. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
12. Furious Hours by Casey Cep
13. Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

14. The Lost Man by Jane Harper
15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
16. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
17. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

18. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
19. The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
20. Lady Audley's Secret by M.E. Braddon
21. THe Priory by Dorothy Whipple

22. Loving by Henry Green
23. The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson
24. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
25. Inland by Tea Obreht
26. Pioneers by David McCullough

27. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
28. The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman
29. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
30. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
31. Visionary Women by Andrea Barnet
32. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
33. I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
34. Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer
35. Long Bright River by Liz Moore

36. Expiation by Elizabeth von Arnim
37. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
38. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
39. A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet
40. Call Them by their True Names by Rebecca Solnit
41. Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
42. The Woman in the Photograph by Stephanie Butland

43. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
44. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and John Mensch
45. Passing by Nella Larsen
46. Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit
47. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
48. Persuasion by Jane Austen
49. Stranger in the Shogun's City by Amy Stanley
50. The Grammarians by Catherine Schine
51. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
52. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

53. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
54. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
55. Messenger by Lois Lowry
56. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
57. Free to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Teri Kanefield

58. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
59. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
60. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
61. Leaving Home by Anita Brookner
62. Searchers by Tana French

63. The Commandant by Jessica Anderson
64. Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
65. Presidential Elections and Majority Rule by Edward B. Foley
66. The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson
67. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
68. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

69. American Lion by Jon Meacham
70. Camilla by Fanny Burney
71. Writers and Lovers by Lily King
72. Chespeake Requiem by Earl Swift
73. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
74. La Bete Humaine by Emile Zola
75. The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike
76. The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff

joulukuu 29, 2019, 11:18am

Welcome everyone! I will continue on my 2019 club read thread til the new year. I'm hoping to finish two more books that I'll review there.

joulukuu 29, 2019, 2:09pm

>2 japaul22: Now I'm curious -- what group(s) have their reads planned for the year? I'm particularly interested in September's read of The Magic Mountain!

joulukuu 29, 2019, 2:39pm

>6 ELiz_M: the 2020 category challenge is where most of those take place. There is a link to the group read planning thread on the group home page. I suggested The Magic Mountain so I’ll start up the thread. You should join us!

joulukuu 29, 2019, 3:31pm

Hi Jennifer-my life is settling down and I’m back on LT and hoping to participate more. I will be following your reading. I was going to ask about the interesting list of group reads, but I see you responded to Liz. I’m especially interested in the Hilary Mantel trilogy, which would all be new to me, and also interested in rereading The Magic Mountain and The golden Notebook.
What is your name over on Litsy? Would love to follow you there. I’m Arubabookwoman over there too.

joulukuu 29, 2019, 4:20pm

>8 arubabookwoman: Yes, the Category Challenge group often has good group reads. Here is a link to our discussion thread for planning the group reads. Whoever suggested the group read will set up the discussion thread for the month. All are welcome to join - you don't need to be a category challenge member.

My Litsy name is JenniferP. I believe I followed you over there, recognizing your name from LT, but I'll check again. My activity on Litsy has been hit or miss, but I'm getting more into it.

joulukuu 29, 2019, 6:16pm

>2 japaul22: Some good choices for the group reads imo. Two of my favourites there - The Golden Notebook and The Magic Mountain. Enjoy

joulukuu 29, 2019, 7:56pm

I love that you’re rereading Mantel’s other books in the Cromwell series before The Mirror and the Light comes out. I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to do that but... ohhhh man I’m stoked for that third one!

joulukuu 31, 2019, 1:31pm

Hi. Wishing you a happy new year a bit early. Love your plans. The Golden Notebooks appeals. Maybe I’ll check out the group in the spring (I’ve already overbooked January...)

tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:07am

Happy New Year, Jennifer. I look forward to following your reading again this year.

tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:29am

Happy New Year, Jennifer! I’ll be following along. I’m looking forward to The Mirror and the Light. I hadn’t thought about rereading the first two books. I’ll have to consider it.

**touchstones don’t seem to be working this morning.

tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:44am

Happy New Year, Jennifer! I pre-ordered The Mirror and the Light and can't wait to read it. It looks like I'm not the only one!

tammikuu 1, 2020, 12:30pm

Dropping off my star - Happy New Year Jennifer!

tammikuu 3, 2020, 11:52am

Hi Jennifer, Wishing you all the best for 2020 and love to follow your reading again, on LT and Litsy!

tammikuu 3, 2020, 4:41pm

Hi, Jennifer - Happy New Reading Year!

I'm delighted you'll be joining us for The Bertrams. At the moment I'm planning on setting up the thread over the weekend of the 11th / 12th (so that some of the new year craziness has had a chance to recede); I hope that suits you?

tammikuu 3, 2020, 4:58pm

>18 lyzard: That sounds perfect, thanks!

tammikuu 4, 2020, 6:55am

Hoping to keep an eye again on your reading this year!

tammikuu 4, 2020, 1:32pm

Happy New Year, Jennifer! I also plan to read The Mirror and the Light in April.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 7:08pm

Hi, Jennifer, I starred your thread so I can lurk, as usual:)

tammikuu 7, 2020, 4:05pm

#1 Nana by Émile Zola

Wow. That was quite the way to start the year. Nana is Zola's exploration of the world of prostitution and decadence. Nana is a young girl when the book opens, making her debut in the theater. There is tons of buzz about her - everyone knows she'll be a flop in terms of acting and singing, but nevertheless she is a sensation. Why? Because she's beautiful and sensual. Men go mad for her.

Nana is the little girl that we meet in L'Assomoir, daughter to a drunken father and growing up in poverty, who ends up on the streets as a common prostitute. She is "discovered" by the upper class and ends up attracting and destroying the lives and fortunes of every wealthy man in her circle. They cannot resist her and Zola doesn't mince words describing why. He details their sex lives and her attractions and willingness with surprising candor and detail for a 19th century novel.

The writing here is fantastic. The opening party scenes are fabulous and struck me as having influenced Proust's famous drawing room scenes. And the detail about Nana and her escapades and the gruesome endings are unforgettable. I will say, though, that I didn't think this was up to the level of Germinal or L'Assomoir, the other two Zola books I've read. I think it was the topic - it just didn't have the gravitas of those other works. And I got a little tired of reading about these wealthy men who just let Nana run all over them and waste away their fortunes, health, and happiness.

I will try to get to one more Zola book this year, probably La Bête Humaine which is on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

Original publication date: 1880
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 427 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

tammikuu 7, 2020, 4:45pm

Nice review of Nana, Jennifer. I see that my late "book sister", rebeccanyc, loved it as well, so I'll read it soon.

tammikuu 7, 2020, 5:02pm

>24 kidzdoc: Yes, I'm sure I was turned on to Zola from rebeccanyc's reviews. I always think of her when I read Zola. Have you read any Zola yet? If you're going to read one, Germinal is really the best.

tammikuu 7, 2020, 5:08pm

>25 japaul22: I haven't read anything by Zola, and, like you, Rebecca was the person who encouraged me to read him. I purchased a copy of Germinal because of her, so I'll start with that book first; thanks for the reminder!

tammikuu 9, 2020, 12:36am

I’m hoping to finish my Zola journey this year, which I started even before rebeccanyc, but which I stalled on more than 5 years ago. I’m on The Masterpiece.
If you liked Nana I highly recommend Cousin Bette by Balzac. It’s themes and subject matter are similar to Nana, and overall I think I liked it slightly more.
>25 japaul22: >26 kidzdoc: I agree the best place to start with Zola is Germinal. You will then know if you want to read more. I feel that if the first Zola I read had been the first volume of the Rougon Macquart series I wouldn’t have read any more Zola. It is my least favorite Zola.

tammikuu 11, 2020, 7:30pm

I suspect Zola is the most read author here in CR these last five years (would be interesting to find out). R-nyc affect. Enjoyed your review. I haven't read Zola despite all the inspiration, but then I'm still working my way back through the 20th century. I have one Zola copy in the house, a old edition of Nana, probably printed in 1937 (book doesn't say)...and probably bowdlerized...

tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:48am

I also need to get into Zola. I don't ever see his work in the secondhand bookshop, but if nothing appears soon I'll order Germinal from the library.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 12:06pm

#2 The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett's latest book follows the lives of a brother and sister, Danny and Maeve Conroy, who grow up outside Philadelphia in a unique, old house called the Dutch House. The VanHoebeeks, the original owners, still hang on the wall and the house is full of glass windows and old-school charm. What happens in the house is not so lovely. Danny and Maeve's father has built a quick fortune and his wife is not ready to live a life of luxury. Maeve and Danny grow up basically parent-less. This creates a strong bond between the two that is the crux of the book.

I liked this book a lot. I don't think it's quite as memorable or unique as my favorite Ann Patchett books (State of Wonder and Bel Canto), but I enjoyed reading this. I love a book that has a house as a character and Patchett gets really close to achieving this, though it could have been done a little more thoroughly for my liking.

Recommended if you already like Patchett's books, but I'd start with one of my favorites if it's your first.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 337 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: new book from an author I like

tammikuu 13, 2020, 1:36pm

>30 japaul22: Caroline gave this one high praise on her thread, so I've had it on my radar. Mind you, I've not read any Ann Patchett books yet. I'll see what turns up first in the secondhand book store!

tammikuu 13, 2020, 1:52pm

Just dropping in to offer a belated Happy New Year. Looking forward to how you get on with Zola and your other authors this year. Cheers!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:04pm

>30 japaul22: This is on the Tournament of Books and so other reason I might follow that. I like Patchett, but have only read two novels, Bel Canto being one. She’s just a nice writer, whatever she writes about. (Her essay collection is terrific)

tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:47pm

>30 japaul22: I have this one on my wishlist, and can’t remember who put it there. I’ll have to get to it eventually. I loved Bel Canto.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 4:00pm

Nice review of The Dutch House, Jennifer. Do you know if it's based on an actual house, and if so, what town it's in? My parents live just north of Philadelphia, so I would be curious where it is.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 4:54pm

>35 kidzdoc: the house is in Elkins Park and Jenkintown figures in as well. I don’t think it’s a real house but I’m not positive.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2020, 5:05pm

>36 japaul22: Thanks, Jennifer. The SEPTA commuter train I take from Center City to my parents' house in Langhorne whenever I visit them passes through Elkins Park and stops in Jenkintown, so that is close to where they live. I'll have to investigate this further.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 5:39pm

I'm glad to see you enjoyed The Dutch House, Jennifer. I did too, and like you I'm a Patchett fan and will read pretty much anything she writes.

I don't think the house is real either, I'd say it's more symbolic than historical. Although there are certainly lots of old mansions around Philly that could have been models or inspiration for it.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:13pm

>38 lauralkeet: Darryl's question gave me pause because there are so many old, beautiful houses there, but I looked further and found an interview where she says it's not based on any one house.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:25pm

>30 japaul22: I'm still waiting for my turn with this one, Jennifer. I think I'm now # 8 on the list. I am also a Patchett fan. I loved both State of Wonder and Bel Canto, but Run was also good.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:49pm

>39 japaul22: I also read an interview with Ann Patchett in The Philadelphia Inquirer which implied that the Dutch House wasn't real. She did spend a lot of time in Elkins Park and Jenkintown visiting a college friend, and that's why she chose to set her novel there.

tammikuu 28, 2020, 2:41pm

#3 The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope

I always love reading Trollope, and even more so when lyzard leads a group read. I was particularly grateful that I read this one with the group read, because, being one of Trollope's earlier and more obscure novels, I needed some help to get the most out of it.

Like many of Trollope's books, this centers around money and marriage and what is deemed a success when it comes to the two. There are two would-be couples, George and Caroline and Arthur and Adela and there are plenty of obstacles (real and perceived) to them getting together. This book also includes some travel and the remote settings of Cairo and Jerusalem. There is, of course, a rich old man and everyone is waiting to see when he will die and what his will contains.

Overall I enjoyed this. It shows the germination of some themes that Trollope will later develop. It's certainly not his best work, but I'm glad I read it.

Original publication date: 1859
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: group read

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 30, 2020, 6:58pm

#4 A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett

This 1930s book explores the troubled family life of the Edgeworths, headed by Duncan, a controlling and rude father. There are two grown girls, Nance and Sybil, who live at home and an orphaned cousin who will inherit the family property through an entailment. But then the mother dies, and Duncan remarries. The mother's death seems to set off a spiral downward of behavior in the family and drama ensues. It's pretty dark and no one comes out particularly well.

This book consists almost entirely of dialogue, a choice I found fatiguing. Though the characters certainly do reveal themselves through their conversations, I found myself wanting some descriptive passages. Overall, this book didn't really work for me.

Original publication date: 1935
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 287 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb
Why I read this: group read on litsy

tammikuu 30, 2020, 8:11pm

>30 japaul22: State of Wonder and Bel Canto are my two favourite Patchetts too! Commonwealth is also excellent.

helmikuu 9, 2020, 1:21pm

#5 Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Despite not liking her memoir Oranges are not the only fruit, something about the description of this new novel by Winterson drew my attention. I'm so glad I read it. This is a smart, timely novel that is a great balance of progressive ideas, humor, and history.

Winterson parallels the story of Mary Shelley's creation of the novel, Frankenstein, and the friends vacationing together in Switzerland with a modern-day setting exploring robots (more specifically sexbots!), artificial intelligence, and a transgender character. The parallels are subtly drawn but also gave me a lot to think about. I loved that there wasn't any preachiness to her ideas about the current state of human affairs or where we might be headed. It seemed more like an exploration of what could be - or not.

I also loved the transgender character whose feelings were explored but again not preached about. It was nice to see novel include a transgender character where that topic didn't have to be the whole motive of the novel.

Anyway, I really liked this and it was just what I was in the mood for. Well thought out and great connections, but not at all overwrought.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 343 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: LT reviews

helmikuu 11, 2020, 9:55am

For some reason, I only just now found your 2020 thread. Looking forward to it as usual.

>23 japaul22: What a way to start your reading year! I am a big fan of Nana, and differ slightly from you in feeling that beneath the sensationalism, there was a real condemnation of the men in her life for exactly the reasons you suggest make them so tiresome. I also thought that bringing out Nana's relationships with other women with such clarity was unusual for the time. Have you read La Dame aux Camélias, another author's take on the mistress? Looking forward to your reading of La Bête Humaine.

>2 japaul22: I see you're reading Lady Audley's Secret with the Virago Chronological Read project. Looking forward to it.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2020, 1:30pm

>45 japaul22: oh, enjoyed your review. This book is such great fun. I put it down and forgot all the philosophical bits right away and thought maybe the book would just disappear. But it still puts me in a good me just to think about (and also to read a review on it). Glad you enjoyed.

(ETA - “put it down” actually means, the audiobook finished.)

helmikuu 11, 2020, 2:21pm

>45 japaul22:: Thanks for reminding me of this one. I missed it over the holidays, so I'm going to get a copy of the audiobook.

helmikuu 12, 2020, 1:16pm

#6 The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan
This is Norwegian author Tarjei Vessas's last work and he has created a book in poetic prose that explores nature and life experience. The book is a series of vignettes or short stories (not sure what to call them) and there is not much plot or characters to ground the reader. The language is beautiful and some of the scenes are very memorable. I particularly enjoyed the scene with a young girl being buried in snow while waiting for a young man and the scene where a man is swept away in a river and almost drowned. In all of the vignettes, nature and landscape is prevalent and humans fit into the scenery.

This is a slim book, but is dense and takes some concentration to read. I appreciated it, but can't say it was as enjoyable for me as his other books that I've read - The Birds and The Ice Palace, both of which I loved.

Original publication date: 1969
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 275 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased archipelago edition
Why I read this: love the author and this is a newly reissued publication that caught my eye

helmikuu 13, 2020, 4:24am

>49 japaul22: I enjoyed The Birds. I must keep an eye out for The Ice Palace as well.

helmikuu 13, 2020, 5:31pm

#7 Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This was my third time reading this and I love it every time. I read it in preparation for The Mirror and the Light, the third and final book of this trilogy, which comes out in March. I'm going to read Bring up the Bodies sometime next month.

If you like historical fiction and Tudors, do give these books a try!

Original publication date: 2010
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 604 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle edition
Why I read this: reread

helmikuu 13, 2020, 6:55pm

>51 japaul22: I loved Wolf Hall and am very much looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy, but I'm just going to admire your rereading of the book instead of doing so myself.

helmikuu 13, 2020, 6:58pm

>51 japaul22: >52 RidgewayGirl:

I considered rereading it and even pulled it on my kindle - and then realized that I still remember it quite well - and not just because I know the story. For a book I read in 2009, that is surprising... :)

helmikuu 13, 2020, 7:25pm

>51 japaul22: I re-read Wolf Hall before reading Bring Up the Bodies and was surprised by how different the experience was the second time around. I enjoyed it just as much, but I noticed completely different elements of the story (eg Cromwell's relationship with his son, which I didn't remember at all from the first read). I'm curious what your experience was reading it for the third time.

helmikuu 13, 2020, 7:56pm

I'm glad you enjoyed Frankissstein, Jennifer. It was one of my favorites last year. Winterson is such a smart writer - there's always so much to think about in her books.

I am determined to get to Wolf Hall this year. I don't know why I've waited so long. Well, I do, too many books, but really I want to read it.

The Hills Reply also sounds very good.

Great comments.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 13, 2020, 8:02pm

>54 wandering_star: I read Wolf Hall in 2010 right around when it came out and I knew I liked it, but I had a newborn baby who was not sleeping at all, and I knew I missed a lot. So I reread it in 2012 when Bring up the Bodies came up. This time, I did remember a lot so there weren't any surprises, and I even remembered scenes and conversations in a lot of detail. That is honestly, pretty rare for me - I have a horrible memory for books.

I noticed a lot of things this time. I love the humor and the contrast she set up between what she reveals of Cromwell's interior thoughts and how the other characters see him. I LOVE how she writes the women in the book. Her portrait of Mary Boleyn is wonderful. I also enjoy the small details about life in the era - the food, the housing, etc. I also caught a lot of subtle foreshadowing about Cromwell's trajectory. Everyone knows what happens, but I'm not sure I caught her setting it up as clearly as I did this time. Even while he's at the height of his power.

I really love Mantel's writing and I love that she was confident enough to make Cromwell and more well-known figures like More, Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII her own.

helmikuu 13, 2020, 9:37pm

Wow... now I'm thinking I ought to reread it and Bring Up the Bodies again. I don't reread much but I loved those two so well, and of course am so hot for the third one—that would certainly be a way of doing it justice.

helmikuu 14, 2020, 3:50am

I've not read any of this series (in fact I've only read one Mantel novel). I think I need to get to it. For some reason I keep avoiding it.

helmikuu 14, 2020, 11:55am

Oh, that is a big push for me to reread Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. I really loved them, but had no intention of rereading them before the new book. These comments have me thinking I might change my mind if I can find the time.

helmikuu 14, 2020, 12:21pm

>59 NanaCC: I was surprised when I looked back at how long it's been. Bring up the Bodies came out in 2012! So it's been 8 years - no wonder it has felt like a long wait for the final book - it was!

helmikuu 15, 2020, 7:56am

#8 The Anarchy by William Dalrymple
I think I'm calling it on this one and stopping about 2/3 through. This is a dense nonfiction account of the British East India Company and its takeover of India. As an example of a corporate takeover (rather than a country/government/military taking over and colonizing a country), its interesting, important, and relevant. However, the long and confusing chapters on the in-fighting between the various factions native to the region on top of the fighting with the East India Company has left me hopelessly confused.

I was hoping for more of a social history, detailing how the corporation changed India and the ethics of a corporation driving this takeover. While I think this might still be coming, after reading about 350 pages about warring factions and not finding any sort of human connection yet to the participants, I just have to call it a day.

I'm still counting this since I did spend a ton of time on it and read over 300 pages. I don't want to put everyone off of it - it gets great reviews and was on Barack Obama's list of favorites from 2019 - but I just can't.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 576 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle edition
Why I read this: interested in the topic

helmikuu 15, 2020, 3:10pm

>61 japaul22: Jennifer, have you read Dalrymple's White Mughals? I read it ages ago and remember liking it, but not enough to be tempted by another book in a similar vein. It was much more about the society though, so if you haven't read it you might want to consider it.

helmikuu 15, 2020, 4:15pm

>62 lauralkeet: I haven't read that. I'll keep it in mind though not quite ready to attempt it right now!

helmikuu 15, 2020, 7:49pm

#9 Akin by Emma Donoghue

This latest novel by Emma Donoghue follows the life of a 79 year old man, Noah, who is planning a trip to Nice, France to explore his past when he is contacted by child services as the nearest relative to his great-nephew, Michael. Michael's father, Noah's nephew, died of a drug overdose, his mother was in jail accused of selling drugs, and his grandmother (mom's mom) who had been caring for him had just died. Noah is also alone - his wife died years ago, his sister (Michael's grandmother) is dead, and he doesn't seem to have many other close connections.

He is reluctant to take on an 11 year old boy, but duty calls and he takes Michael with him to Nice. Their relationship slowly develops and at the same time they try to discover what Noah's mother did during WWII. Noah has recently found a packet of photographs in his deceased sister's belongings that his mother took during the war. They use the seemingly banal photos to piece together a story of the role his mother played in rescuing Jewish children during WWII.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There are several plot points that were a bit of a stretch, but I liked it anyway. The relationship between Noah and Michael is unusual but moving, and I really cared what happened to them.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: like the author

helmikuu 16, 2020, 4:24am

>61 japaul22: shame. It always feels hard to abandon a book when you've invested in a lot of page reading, but I'm with you - life's too short, and there are too many other books out there.

helmikuu 17, 2020, 3:56pm

#10 To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski
Oh my. This 1946 novel turns the image of the dutiful wife waiting patiently for her husband to come home on its head. When Deborah's husband goes off to war leaving her in the countryside with their 2 year old son, Deborah finds herself hopelessly bored. She finds a housekeeper/nanny for her son and takes a job and flat in London, coming home only on the weekends. While in London, she finds man after man to sleep with and buy her things, hiding her new lifestyle from her husband and son.

I'm no prude, but I was pretty shocked by her behavior. She sleeps with A LOT of different men and accepts a lot of money and gifts. And basically abandons her son. There's conjecture that of course the men who are off at war are sleeping around so why shouldn't she? I get that, but I still wasn't sure what to make of this book.

I liked it from the standpoint of being unexpected and making you think about reality for some women rather than just the conventional notions of what happened to wartime marriages. But it was rather sordid.

Original publication date: 1946
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 197 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: persephone subscription
Why I read this: off the shelf

helmikuu 17, 2020, 4:32pm

I'm glad you enjoyed Akin. I was charmed by it.

helmikuu 17, 2020, 5:54pm

>49 japaul22:. I had pretty much the same reaction to The Hills Reply, and that story of the man who decides to drown himself has really sick with me. But his two novels are the best, that's for sure, especially The Birds. I'll be following your reading this year.

helmikuu 22, 2020, 9:31am

>64 japaul22: I was also charmed by Akin, my first novel by Donoghue!

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 24, 2020, 3:05pm

#11 The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

The Diviners is the story of Margaret Gunn who grows up in a small town on the Canada prairie, raised by friends of her father after her parents die when she is five. The people who raise her are Christie and Prin. Christie is the town scavenger, i.e. garbage man, and is looked down upon. He is also deeply scarred from his WWI experience. Prin is eating herself into an early grave. The town is small in thinking and backwards until you get to know the characters. Morag, though, must escape and finds her way through the world as a writer. Before she leaves, she meets Jules Tonnerre, a mixed race boy, who she falls in love with. He will come and go in her life throughout the novel. Morag later has a child, Pique, and their travels and relationship form another portion of the book.

This book isn't linear. It's told through a series of brief flashbacks labeled "memorybank movies" in the text. It's an exploration of memory as well as life through Morag's experience. Somehow it all flows together perfectly, though, and you barely realize the different shifts in time - they just work. I really, really loved this book. The characters were so alive to me and I did not want the book to end. I read another of Laurence's books, The Stone Angel, recently and it was also excellent. This, though, was more complex and I felt a bit more maturely written. I highly recommend reading some Margaret Laurence.

Original publication date: 1974
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 388 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

helmikuu 24, 2020, 3:34am

>70 japaul22: Sounds fabulous - just my kind of read. Onto the wishlist....

helmikuu 24, 2020, 6:50am

>70 japaul22: Jennifer, I absolutely loved The Diviners. In case you are not aware, it's part of her 4-book Manawaka Cycle which includes The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, and The Fire Dwellers. There are connections between the books but they don't need to be read in any order. You've read half the cycle already so if you're looking for more Laurence, you might consider the other two.

helmikuu 24, 2020, 10:32am

>70 japaul22:, >71 AlisonY:, >72 lauralkeet: The diviners sounds fabulous! Going on my Mt. TBR. And that the flashbacks are so well integrated us a sign of good writing.

helmikuu 24, 2020, 2:35pm

>70 japaul22: Lovely review! You have reminded me that I have to get back to Margaret Laurence, one of my favourite writers. I've read most of her novels years ago but plan to re-read them. My print copies are quite old and have small print, which I now find hard to read so I will have to borrow the e-versions from the library.

helmikuu 26, 2020, 3:09pm

#12 Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

So the title makes this book sound a lot more interesting than it is. What Casey Cep has done is write a mini-book about a subject that Harper Lee might have written a book about and then talk about how Lee did or didn't write it.

Ok, it's a little more interesting than that and it does flow along nicely, so don't write it off quite yet, but I'd like you to know what you're getting if you do read it. The first section of this book is not about Harper Lee at all. Instead, it is about a man named Willie Maxwell who commits a series of murders for insurance money. He is tried for several of the murders and his small community all "know" that he did it, but he is acquitted of everything for lack of evidence. But then he gets murdered at the funeral of one of his victims and there is a trial for that man who pleads insanity. So it's an interesting look at insurance practices, the insanity plea, and a small Alabama community in the 1960s/70s. I liked this part a lot.

Then the author starts bringing Harper Lee into it. She backtracks to do a brief biography of Lee, but finally gets to the connection, that Lee intended to use her experience researching In Cold Blood with Truman Capote to create a true crime novel of her own based on Willie Maxwell. Lee does a lot of research, but seems to have never written the book (or any other after publishing To Kill a Mockingbird).

Everyone wishes that Harper Lee had written more books after the wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird and this book is another attempt to pretend that she really did write another book that maybe we just haven't see yet and to delve into the reasons that she might not have written it. Really, though, it's all just speculation. So while this book is easy to read and interesting in it's own way, I think it was sort of looking for something more than was really there to find.

Fans of Harper Lee will probably still enjoy this on some level, but I think I would have been fine if I hadn't read it at all. It did get on a lot of "best of 2019" lists, though, so I think I'm in the minority.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: interested in the subject

helmikuu 26, 2020, 6:05pm

>75 japaul22: Interesting. I read a long article by Cep about Willie Maxwell and his murder and I was thinking that I'd read enough to skip this book. You've certainly reinforced that impression.

helmikuu 26, 2020, 8:17pm

>76 RidgewayGirl: a long article sounds perfect - I’d check the book off as done!

helmikuu 29, 2020, 8:49pm

#13 Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

I went back and forth with this book, but in the end I found it both interesting and moving. I loved all the history and culture that I got from this book. It takes place on the island of Jeju, part of Korea. The focus are the women called haenyeo, who do deep sea diving to harvest food to sell and to feed their families. The ability of these women to provide for their families creates a matriarchal society where the men stay home and watch and children and cook. Of course, the political upheavals of the time interfere with the island's culture. First Japan takes over Korea, then WWII happens, and then America occupies the island during the Korean war. During this time there is mass slaughter of the islanders as the communists and capitalists fight (I'm way over-simplifying here).

Through it all the friendship of Young-sook and Mi-ja is central. It's all told from Young-sook's point of view. The two become friends in childhood and seem inseparable. But marriage starts to drive a wedge between them, culminating in Mi-ja's betrayal of Young-sook during one of the worst mass killings on Jeju.

This book spans about 80 years and it's so interesting to see the island and the culture change. I felt that the characters were a little lost in all the history sometimes, but the author brings the focus back to the characters at the end. I really enjoyed this and it was interesting to read about an area of the world I know almost nothing about.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 385 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: sounded good

helmikuu 29, 2020, 9:28pm

I've never read Lisa See, but this sounds like a nice history lesson.

>75 japaul22: The story of Willie Maxwell does sound fascinating, but I'll happily pass on this.

>70 japaul22: hmm. Interesting about Margaret Laurence.

>66 japaul22: hmm, no.

>61 japaul22: The Anarchy sounds terrific. I wonder if I could follow on audio. I'm interesting because that whole history of that company is so strange and curious. It came up a lot in A History of London (of course, it comes up about everywhere where colonial history plays role)

Obviously, I'm catching up. A lot of history in your recent reading.

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 8:33am

#14 The Lost Man by Jane Harper

This mystery set in the Australian outback kept me up late last night because I couldn't stop reading it at my normal bedtime. I really liked it - better than Harper's last book. This one deals with the ramifications of domestic abuse. The ending is a little too neat, but I find most mysteries suffer from this. Either there are too many loose ends or everything is tied up nicely, but not necessarily realistically.

I like how Jane Harper unfolds the mystery of the murder and the family's secrets at the same time - well-paced. I think I was in the mood for a good, fast-paced novel and this fit the bill.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle book on sale
Why I read this: like her mysteries

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 8:55am

>45 japaul22: I'm glad to see you enjoyed Frankisstein. I, too, liked the character of Ry Shelley for the reasons you stated.

>70 japaul22: You remind me that I have occasionally thought I would like to read some Margaret Laurence, and it seems I might have one or two of her books here. But then, I have said similar things about so many other authors....

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 3:15pm

I have a couple of books by Margaret Laurence on my shelves. From your comments, it sounds like I would love them.

>75 japaul22: I've been wondering about this one, Jennifer. I think I can live without reading it.

>80 japaul22: I read the first Harper and thought it was well done. Good to know I have a go-to mystery when I'm in the mood.

I've never read anything by Lisa See, but this does sound good. I think we have similar tastes, Jennifer.

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 3:41pm

>82 BLBera: I agree that we seem to have similar tastes - I'm so glad we discovered each other's threads!

I liked this standalone mystery by Harper better than the follow up to The Dry.

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:50pm

Ditto, Jennifer.

I didn't know the Harper was a standalone. I will definitely look for it, then. It seems like often the first of a series is the best one, and the author should have left it and moved on to another subject.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 8:27am

#15 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This was an audiobook reread (for the I-have-no-idea-what-number time). I'm really enjoying listening to Austen as audiobooks. I think I listened to Pride and Prejudice already once before. This time the reader was Rosamund Pike. I liked everything about her reading except her voice for Mrs. Bennet. But, it wasn't bad enough to ruin it or anything.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 1:38pm

>85 japaul22: I really think Austen is meant to read aloud.

maaliskuu 7, 2020, 7:46am

>86 kac522: I can totally envision Jane reading her books to Cassandra and family.

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 12:32pm

I've never listened to Austen. I will try it. P&P is one of my favorites as well, but it has been a while since I last read it.

maaliskuu 19, 2020, 9:02pm

#16 City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book fit the bill for me right now in that it's entertaining and mindless, but it's pretty forgettable. A woman looks back on her life, writing a letter (yeah, the entire book is one "letter") to a woman named Angela. She tells the story of her life growing up in a privileged and sheltered family and then moving to New York City in 1940 and "awakening". She moves in with her Aunt Peg who runs a small showgirl theater. Her wild behavior unsurprisingly gets her in trouble.

The narrator is funny and the setting kind of fun. I liked a few of the characters. But overall, it just wasn't that interesting. A good way to pass the time, but not special.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 480 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: sounded fun

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 10:27am

#17 Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

This morning I finished this 1000 page book. I'm so grateful to the Club Read group read that prompted me to read this. I've read many long books, but most are classics, and it was interesting to read a very long modern book with current events at it's heart.

The narrator is a middle-aged woman living in the middle of Ohio. She has 4 kids (ages 2-15) and bakes pies for a living. She is on her second marriage and deeply in love with her husband, Leo. She has had cancer and her mother died from cancer - this "broke her". She repeatedly thinks "the fact that when Mommy died it broke me, I'm broken". She has a typically troubled mother/daughter relationship with her teenage daughter, Stacey.

All of the things you learn about her life come from her interior monologue which runs beneath her daily activity. Only certain real life events make it into this monologue. Instead most of it is stretches of childhood memory, thinking about movies or other cultural references, and chains of related words. She also thinks about current events - mainly pollution, gun violence, and politics (not a Trump fan!). I found it easy to identify with her thoughts and many made me laugh. We had similar upbringings in the midwest - similar foods, movies, and cultural experiences to reminisce about.

Interposed with her rambling thoughts, there is the story of an American mountain lioness. I was struck by the contrast between the human mother and the lioness mother. The first is constantly worrying with mental chatter but is physically comfortable and the other is experiencing the dangers of nature but has a relatively calm interior life. However, as the book goes on these two experiences converge as the lioness has harmful human interaction and the woman's physical life is endangered.

There were several things that bothered me about this book. I never could figure out the timeline and there were times that I was very annoyed by the narrator's mental chatter. However, I loved the inventiveness of the format and I really thought the intersection of the lioness and the mother narrator was unique and moving.

Despite the length and "newness" of this book, I didn't think it was all that challenging to read or understand. And I didn't think it needed to be shorter - I thought the length was right for the topic and form. Overall, I would recommend it. I love that a book so long and different found a publisher!

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 1020 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: group read, intrigued

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 12:50pm

>90 japaul22: Well done on sprinting to the end! 4.5 stars is praise indeed - I'm not clear how many stars it has in my head yet, as I've fallen in and out of love with it at various points. Great review.

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 1:13pm

>90 japaul22: I will get to this book eventually. Your review is a good push to pick it up.

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 5:27pm

>90 japaul22: Well done, Jennifer. I have shied away from that book because of its length. It's interesting to read your thoughts on it.

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 5:38pm

>90 japaul22: Timing right now isn’t good for a book like this. I’m already in the middle of The Sunne in Splendor, which is taking far longer than it should. But you’ve definitely put this book on my list. Nice review!

maaliskuu 29, 2020, 2:33am

Congratulations on finishing Ducks, Newburyport, Jennifer! I hope to catch up with the group read (8 week plan) starting next week.

maaliskuu 29, 2020, 8:13am

>91 AlisonY: Alison, I also was in and out of liking it toward the middle, but in the end I felt I connected to it (which is what I was waiting for) and I thought that even with issues, the form was interesting and inventive. 4.5 stars might be a little generous, but I bumped it up from 4 because I think it will really stick with me.

>92 RidgewayGirl:, >93 lauralkeet:, >94 NanaCC: I hope you'll all try it at some point. Even just giving the first 200 pages a try will tell you a lot about what the author was trying to do. But making it to the end is when you get the big picture.

>95 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I will keep all of the group read threads starred so I can discuss as people finish. I really enjoyed it, but I'm interested to see if people less like the narrator connect to it like I did. I had so much in common with the narrator that it was easy for me to understand her thought patterns.

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 7:15pm

Well, one good thing that has come of all this staying at home is that my 10 year old son who is a good reader but almost never chooses to read, has been devouring books! He's loving the Spy Camp series by Stuart Gibbs and has been reading 100+ pages a day.

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 7:21pm

>97 japaul22: Oh, that's a wonderful side effect!

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 11:38pm

Great comments on Ducks Newburyport, Jennifer although I admit I skimmed them. I plan to read it when school is out. I have dipped into it, and it seems pretty accessible.

If we are home for much longer, I may look at the tomes on my shelves and plan to read them this year!

Stay well.

Great news about your son.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 7:59pm

#18 The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

I thoroughly enjoyed this last novel in Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. She brings the 1500s to life in a way that feels both historically true and modern at the same time. In this novel, she subtly shows cracks begin to appear in Cromwell's dominance. But even so, his downfall feels like a surprise.

This novel has the breadth of Wolf Hall but also manages to keep a tight focus on Cromwell as Bring up the Bodies does. I grew to love many of the characters besides just Cromwell, and I will miss them now that this trilogy is done.

I feel like I should say more, but I'll just leave it with a big recommendation for the whole series.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 764 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased kindle edition
Why I read this: love the series

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 4:35am

I'm glad that The Mirror and the Light lived up to its lofty expectations. I absolutely loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and I was one of those who anxiously awaited the release of the final volume in the trilogy. I preordered the UK hardback edition, to match the books I purchased in London, and I'll plan to read it in June.

Two questions: Could Hilary Mantel win a third Booker Prize, after Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies were chosen? And, what will she do as an encore to this unbelievably successful and historic trilogy?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 6, 2020, 9:33am

>100 japaul22: I haven't read any of this trilogy. Its subject matter has never overly appealed as I remember covering this aspect of history in school and it wasn't my favourite era, but everyone on CR is lauding this so much I feel I have to give Wolf Hall a try at least.

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 7:28am

>102 AlisonY: I think the style is not for everybody—I have some friends who are great readers who just can't get with it—but it's worth a try. I think you either love her or you don't. I'm in the middle of a Wolf Hall reread, in preparation for the third (which means I'll also read the second before that), and just loving it... can't wait to get back to it every evening.

>101 kidzdoc: Maybe? And: Whatever she wants to!

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 7:53am

>101 kidzdoc: I think anyone who loved the first two in the series will love this as well. I will warn that there are many flashbacks - some of which retell incidents in a similar way as the first time and some of which enhance the initial event or memory. This really worked for me because it felt natural for someone of Cromwell's advancing age to be spending time thinking about his past. But I wonder if some people will be annoyed by it.

I definitely expect to see this on the booker short list and I would not be surprised if it wins, though I suppose it depends on the competition!

As an encore? Well, since reading Wolf Hall I've read several of Mantel's other books and they are all so different that i think she'll be fine. I would expect her to go back to a genre other than historical fiction so that the work won't suffer comparison. Her writing is so beautiful and smart that I can't imagine she will stumble.

>102 AlisonY: there were two things working in my favor, Alison, I do love historical fiction and I've always been interested in the Tudors. As an American, I would say it's one of the British historical periods that is most familiar to us.

>103 lisapeet: I'm glad you love it too! I also reread both before reading The Mirror and the Light and I was glad I did.

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 8:13am

>104 japaul22: the flashbacks worked for me, too, Jennifer. It's been a long time since I read the first two books and because my memories had faded, the ones that might have been repetitive also seemed to enhance the initial event.

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 10:07am

>90 japaul22: just reading your review and really happy to see your response to Ducks. It’s interesting, and telling if the book, that your review and Alison’s have very limited overlap. Your connection to the Mom and Ohio is, well, it’s kind of amazing what books can do. Also - really glad you enjoyed it so much.

>100 japaul22: good to know. I read Wolf Hall ages ago, but never Bring Up the Bodies. Hopefully within the next year I’ll put in some time to read the whole trilogy, beginning with rereading WH. Mantel is a terrific author.

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 12:04pm

I’ve been so busy, Jennifer, that I haven’t planned on reading the new Mantel until after we move. I’ve been toying with rereading the first two books, and I think I’m leaning that way, but they will also need to wait.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 8:45am

#19 The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

I really appreciated this nonfiction account of the women killed by Jack the Ripper in the 1880s. What was moving about this book is that the killer and the murders themselves are not discussed at all. This book is exclusively about the women that were killed and their lives leading up to their murders. As such, it's a fascinating look a the very limited options for women on the lowest rung of the economic ladder in Victorian England. I learned a lot about workhouses, casual wards, and sleeping rough. I also learned about the limited work options and way women's lives absolutely revolved around having a man to provide for them.

These victims are usually portrayed as prostitutes but actually except for one, they were not. Rubenhold tells us about the reality of their lives. She does an amazing job of teasing out the details of these faceless women and giving them back some dignity that was stripped from them in coverage of these murders at the time and over the century since the murders.

I really enjoyed this and highly recommend it.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 359 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: interested in the topic

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 8:58am

>108 japaul22: This book sounds interesting, Jennifer. Your 4.5 stars are an incentive to pop it onto my wishlist.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 11:33am

I agree, that does sound really interesting. I love that she focuses only on the women, not the killer or the murders. My library has the book in both print and Kindle editions, so I've added it to the "read someday" list that I maintain on my library account.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 9:21am

#20 Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I greatly enjoyed this Victorian era detective/mystery type novel. I'm not going to do much of a review, because it would give away too much of the plot. What I will say is that Braddon creates great characters and a plot that may not fool you, but will keep you interested as Robert Audley, the main detective-type character, tries to unveil Lady Audley's secrets and decide how to act on them.

I really liked this novel and it perfectly suited my reading mood for something that didn't take a ton of brain power, but still gave me some things to think about. Recommended if you enjoy Victorian era novels.

Original publication date: 1862
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle book, penguin edition
Why I read this: group read with lyzard in the virago group

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 4:51pm

#21 The Priory by Dorothy Whipple

This is another of my recent Persephone book acquisitions and I loved it. The Priory is a 1939 British novel about a decaying home and family, the Marwoods of Saunby. Major Marwood is broke but insists upon hosting an expensive cricket tournament every summer. The house is falling apart. He has two beautiful daughters, Christine and Penelope, who have completed isolated themselves and become a fixture of the house. And there's an odd Aunt Victoria who cares only about her painting and neglects any duty toward house or the girls. When Major Marwood makes the decision to marry a local woman, Anthea, life at the house is upended. Christine, the older daughter, falls in love with a man who comes to the cricket tournament which further disrupts the quiet life at Saunby. At the same time that the Marwood family is developed, the lives of the servants are explored. In that way it's a familiar upstairs/downstairs story.

This is a plot-driven book that focuses on character and relationship development and I loved it. It was easy and fun to read but provided plenty to think about. It was published in 1939, and has a now unrealistic happy ending as the threat of war diminishes through diplomacy at the end of the book.

This is the first book by Dorothy Whipple that I've read and I'd definitely like to read more.

Original publication date: 1939
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 528 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: persephone subscription
Why I read this: on my shelf

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 8:00am

>112 japaul22: Nice review, Jennifer. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 9:57am

>112 japaul22: I'm noting that one. I read Someone at a Distance a few years ago by Dorothy Whipple and also want to read more by her.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 11:58am

>112 japaul22: >114 AlisonY: Sounds good! I've got Someone at a distance on the TBR, and was eyeing it up as another fat book to deal with whilst the opportunity is there — your review of The priory gives me another motivation!

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 1:40pm

>115 thorold: it didn't feel like a fat book at all, Mark - I zipped through it.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 3:34pm

I've also made a note of Someone at a Distance. I'd like to read more by Dorothy Whipple. The Priory was over 500 pages but reads very quickly.

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 11:14am

I've never read Dorothy Whipple either, Jennifer, but The Priory sounds good.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 8:06am

#22 Loving by Henry Green
Loving could be a traditional English (well, Irish) countryside estate family novel. But this 1945 book by Henry Green treats the familiar story in an unfamiliar way. The servants are the focus, the book is written in almost all dialogue, and there's quite a lot of sexual tension for this type of novel.

Most of the plot involves the death of the long-time butler and the assumption of the role by Charley Raunce. He struggles to navigate this new role. WWII is going on and the family goes to England to see the son who is on a brief leave. The servants take full advantage of this departure and things get a little crazy.

The magic of this brief novel is the writing style. Because it's virtually all dialogue, there is a lot taking place behind the words that the reader needs to extrapolate. The scattered thoughts of the characters lead to verbal misunderstandings and some of the exchanges are pretty confusing. Green also doesn't use punctuation in a traditional manner. At first all of this annoyed me, but in the end I am surprised at how close I got to the characters and how memorable they are.

Though this was published in 1945, it still feels like a modern take on the Victorian novel and I recommend it.

Original publication date: 1945
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 206 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb, off the shelf
Why I read this: on my shelf, 1001 books group challenge

toukokuu 3, 2020, 12:59pm

#23 The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson
This is the first in a new three part history of the Revolutionary War. I believe Atkinson won the Pulitzer for this first installment and it's easy to see why. It's well-researched and thorough but still fun to read.

That being said, I think I'm finally ready to admit that reading about war, especially history that focuses on battles and troop movements, just is not for me. I like reading about this era in biography form (I've read and loved biographies about John and Abigail Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc.) because I find delving into a life and exploring personality and motivations interesting, but a focus on the actual strategy of fighting a war just does not interest me. So even though this is well done and does balance the war details with society and some more personal stories, it just wasn't my favorite. I don't think I'll continue with this series, but I still would recommend it for anyone interested in the time period.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 787 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: interested in the topic (I thought!)

toukokuu 4, 2020, 6:01am

>121 AlisonY: I'm much the same. I enjoy the social aspects of history far more than a lot of the political / military detail. I think I discovered that too late when I chose history as one of my three subjects for A level at school....

toukokuu 4, 2020, 4:52pm

>100 japaul22: I'm one of those who was worried about a third and final novel about Cromwell, especially as we all know how it ends for him, but she brought it off beautifully. Agreeing with your recommendation.

Here is an interview from yesterday on CBC radio with Hilary Mantel. Eleanor Wachtel, the interviewer, has a weekly programme and speaks to the most interesting authors.

toukokuu 11, 2020, 7:20pm

#24 La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
La Reine Margot is historical fiction written by a mid-19th century French author about the 1500s French King Charles IX and the fight between Catholics and Huguenots. Charles has 2 brothers vying to be next on the throne. He marries his Catholic sister Marguerite (the Queen Margot of the title) to Henry of Navarre, the Protestant King of Navarre. Marguerite and Henry create an unlikely political partnership but both have active love-lifes on the side. Also, the family matriarch is Catherine de Medici who does a lot of political maneuvering and plotting.

I really liked this. It has the typical Dumas swashbuckling scenes, poisonings, and intrigues. It's certainly not as good as The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was good fun. I will say that I read a lot of historical fiction and it sort of bothered me that Dumas takes A LOT of license with the facts to create a better novel. The explanatory notes were detailed and pointed out all the ways Dumas changed the facts. I'm used to historical fiction that really tries to stick to good research, so this was a departure for me. But in the end I was able to let that go and enjoy the ride.

Original publication date: 1844-45, published serially
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 524 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

toukokuu 21, 2020, 7:53pm

#25 Inland by Tea Obreht

I loved this new novel by Tea Obreht. Inland follows two separate storylines in late 1800s America, largely in the arid Arizona territory. The first is of Lurie, an orphan boy who joins up with a group of men journeying across the west with a herd of camels (yes, camels). His story spans the decades of his life and his relationship with his camel, Burke. The other story is Nora's and happens over the course of one day (of course with some memories included). Nora is awaiting the arrival of her husband who is three days late returning with much-needed water. Her two grown sons have also gone missing.

The stories are very different but have some things in common - certainly the setting, but also a communion with the dead which seems natural, not supernatural, in Obreht's talented hands. As often is the case with books with dual plotlines, I preferred one - Nora's - at first, but I grew to love both and understand how the seemingly disparate stories really did connect.

I didn't have any interest in reading Obreht's first book, The Tiger's Wife, but this description appealed to me and I'm so glad I read it. Obreht is a very skilled author and I loved this book.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: new release that sounded good

toukokuu 26, 2020, 4:51pm

>124 japaul22: I read The Tiger's Wife several years ago and loved it. It had a fairy tale like feeling to parts of it but more in an unreliable narrator way rather than literal.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 8:28am

#26 The Pioneers by David McCullough
I always enjoy McCullough's writing, and this book had a pretty interesting topic to me, the settlement of the Ohio region in the late 1700s. I learned some good things and about some new people. The Northwest Ordinance, which was signed before the Constitution and outlawed slavery in the about-to-be-settled lands, was something I knew about but was good to review. It was amazing to see how quickly these lands went from complete wilderness to the western idea of cities. Being so close to the developed East Coast and the development of early steamboats and easy access to waterways aided this quick development.

There are a few key people that the book focuses on. Manasseh Cutler, who was instrumental in getting the Northwest Ordinance passed; General Putnam, a Revolutionary war leader who became a leader in the new territory; Ephraim Cutler, Manasseh's son, who settled in Marietta, Ohio and was a huge supporter of continuing the ban on slavery and providing education opportunities; and a doctor named Hildreth, famous for his expertise in helping the region through several epidemics.

Somehow, though, this book felt sort of light on the history. It never pulled together in a cohesive narrative and I wondered a few times what the overarching point really was. Then at the end, McCullough reveals that the impetus for this book was giving a commencement address at a local college. Then it all made sense - the research he did for this speech was subsequently flushed out into a book.

Overall I enjoyed this and if you're looking for some light American history, I'd recommend it.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: hadn't read a book by McCullough in a while

kesäkuu 3, 2020, 10:21am

#27 Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I overall enjoyed this collection of essays by Roxane Gay, a young, black, American woman. Her essays are at their best, in my opinion, when she gets personal. I was not as interested in the section that explores media and gender/race. That's just because I haven't seen or listened to a lot of what she comments on. But I loved her essays on friendship between women and about the politics of gender.

My favorite essay was the brief list entitled "How to be Friends with Another Woman". It's easily searchable if you want to check it out.

I really like the trend in feminism right now of being honest about having a wide possibility of what feminism can look like in practice. I think it has potential to get a wider base of support for the things women desperately need available to make progress.

Original publication date: 2014
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 319 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: it's been on the shelf a while

kesäkuu 3, 2020, 1:20pm

Lots of history since I last visited.

>120 japaul22: too bad about The British Are Coming and its 800-ish pages. I don’t know if I’d like a book on military tactics, but it usually seems the context around any actual military action (social, economic, geographic, historical, etc) is more significant than the military action itself.

>126 japaul22: I’m glad I did not choose this as my audio. Sounds too limited, especially after everything implied in Ducks.

>124 japaul22: intrigued by your reaction. I was only mildly interested in Obreht before. More so now.

>127 japaul22: A while back i came across a lot of reviews of this, all from women readers, always positive. Interesting.

kesäkuu 3, 2020, 3:35pm

>127 japaul22: It was powerful when she talked about her own life and I loved that she is unapologetic about liking things that might not be considered ok for feminists to like, like rap and Sweet Valley High.

kesäkuu 3, 2020, 6:49pm

I loved Bad Feminist as well, Jennifer. The essays that resonated with me were the ones about teaching. I loved the ones about the Sweet Valley High series.

I will have to give Inland a try. I was one of the few who didn't love The Tiger's Wife, so I didn't rush to get her new one.

kesäkuu 6, 2020, 12:36pm

#28 The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman's latest historical fiction tome is set in 1100s Middle East, specifically the European-ruled City of Jerusalem. It is, however, the end of their reign as Salah al-Din (known to the English as Saladin) is a smart and just Muslim ruler determined to regain this city. The Franks, as they are known in the region, are rife with in-fighting as a power struggle begins to see who will reign after Baldwin IV, who finds he's a leper as a child, knows he won't leave an heir. This leaves them vulnerable to Saladin's strength and intelligence.

Penman is amazing at crafting characters you care about and at meticulous research. She's presented a balanced account that doesn't favor the Crusading English over their Muslim foes. If you've read Penman's other books, this is sort of a prequel to King's Ransom, where Richard Lionheart leads a Crusade to try to win back Jerusalem.

I really liked this and fans of Penman will also love to read more by her. I will say that it didn't quite sweep me away as well as some of her novels though. I think she wasn't quite as successful at creating multiple storylines with interesting characters. The couple she focused on were great, but in some of her books she manages many more storylines. I loved it though. I'll read anything she writes; I find her books a great escape.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 688 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased kindle edition
Why I read this: desperately waiting for her complete another book!

kesäkuu 11, 2020, 3:01pm

#29 The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Sadly, this text is still completely pertinent to racism in America today. I found listening to this (it's brief, about 2 hours) to be a very effective way to experience the writing.

A definite must to read or listen to. It's succinct and important even though it was written 1963. Actually, because it's still relevant almost 60 years later, I found it even more moving.

Original publication date: 1963
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 128 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audible audiobook credit
Why I read this: current events

kesäkuu 11, 2020, 3:21pm

>132 japaul22: timely. I nodded to all that.
>131 japaul22: sounds fun. Dante put Saladin in Limbo, along Aristotle, Virgil and all the non-Christian heroes.

kesäkuu 11, 2020, 7:32pm

>132 japaul22: Yes, Baldwin is astounding. I haven't read any of his novels, but I've been reading essays and also his interviews online lately, and I just read his play, Blues for Mr. Charlie, which is heartbreaking in the same way that you describe The Fire Next Time. If you have a moment, check out this clip of Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show back in the day:

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 2:16pm

#30 Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich has been on my list of authors to read for some time. This, her first novel, was my also my first time reading her. She writes beautifully and I connected to her style right away. However, I wasn't a huge fan of the technique she used of linking short stories in this book. While in some ways I liked how the chapters/stories cycled through time and revealed different perspectives with each, I also thought it made it a little choppy. Being somewhere between short stories and a novel and not being able to define it for myself bothered me. I expect for some people that will be the charm of the book, but for me it was a little distracting. I suspect I'll like her novels that are in a more traditional format better.

Still, this is beautiful writing and an important look at life on an American Indian reservation in the 1940s-80s.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: American, Native American
Original language: English
Length: 367 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 2:25pm

#31 Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed our World by Andrea Barnet

I loved this nonfiction about four women whose work in the 1960s truly changed the trajectory of how we interact with our environments. The book has an opening section that lays the groundwork for how the four, who didn't know each other, are connected. The gist is that they all were outsiders in their respective fields (mainly because they were women and not allowed in through traditional means) and all saw the beauty of the natural world or natural order of human interaction in contrast to the more widely held beliefs of technology running roughshod over nature to "improve" it.

Each woman has a section that is a biography to highlight her contributions and there are references made to how their approaches were similar to each other. There is an end section that ties it all up neatly.

I really loved this book. It was readable and interesting and had some new ideas, at least to me. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 514 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: can't remember where, but saw a review that interested me

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 7:02pm

>135 japaul22: I just posted a review today for Erdrich's The Round House, a later work that I really enjoyed. Erdrich is a fairly recent discovery for me and the three books I've read have all been novels. I'd like to read Love Medicine but will keep its format in mind.

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 7:05pm

>137 lauralkeet: I have The Round House on my shelf already, so it's probably the next one I will read. I really liked her writing, I just tend to not prefer short stories. These were so entwined that it still sort of feels like a novel, but not quite.

kesäkuu 15, 2020, 10:03am

Erdrich is one of my favorites, Jennifer, and while the style of Love Medicine doesn't bother me, I know there has been a lot of discussion about whether it is really a novel. The Round House is in a much more traditional format, and I think it's the best of her later work. I like her earlier work better.

Visionary Women sounds really interesting. I'll look for that one.

kesäkuu 17, 2020, 4:21pm

#32 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I absolutely loved this family drama about an Indian couple who move to Boston after their arranged marriage. They have children who grow up American and have to navigate their Indian roots but American upbringing. The immigrant experience is a part of the novel and gives it an "otherness" but it's also just a "normal" family experience with secrets, arguments, love, death, and divorce.

Lahiri's writing is just beautiful - simple and profound, not a bit of pretentiousness. I'm sad that I let this sit on my shelf for so many years. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2003
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 291 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased at library sale
Why I read this: litsy #bookspin, 1001 books

kesäkuu 17, 2020, 6:58pm

>140 japaul22: I loved this book. The movie is pretty good, too. It was made in 2007. The star, Irrfan Kahn, passed away recently but I really enjoyed him in the movie.

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 7:34am

#33 I Remember You by Yrsa Sigardardóttir

If you are looking for a legitimately scary ghost story, here you go. I loved this creepy tale of a a group of friends that go to an island in winter to begin renovations on a house they've recently purchased. Their story alternates chapters with one of a doctor whose son went missing three years previously while he was playing a game of hide and seek.

I won't give away any plot and, honestly, if you summarize it sounds kind of silly anyway, but this really worked for me. Probably scary books aren't universally scary - I think a lot depends on your mood at the time - but I loved this.

Original publication date: 2014
Author’s nationality: Icelandic
Original language: English
Length: 370 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: caught my eye

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 4:45pm

#34 Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

I loved this weird book based on a true event in the 1700s where a woman gave birth to 17 rabbits to the astonishment of her male doctors. Palmer takes this story and turns it into a dive into fiction vs. reality, weirdness vs. normality, and male voices silencing women.

I highly recommend it. I didn't know what to expect and was thrilled with what I got.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 310 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: someone's review around here

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 9:36pm

>143 japaul22: Years ago I read another book based on the same story. Have just spent the last little while trying to find out what it was called. Turns out to be (straightforwardly) The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits. (In fact it was just a short story, called "The Last Rabbit"). Would be interesting to see how the approach differs. Your summary makes it sound really good.

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 6:28pm

>144 wandering_star: Interesting to know there are other books based on the story. It certainly leaves lots of room to explore for a writer.

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 6:41pm

#35 Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Set in the rough neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia, Long Bright River is about two sisters, addiction, police corruption, and young, vulnerable women getting murdered. It felt very prescient with the current criticism of police forces. A quote from a character who is a policeman deciding to retire early:

It's easy to forget that the system isn't right. I'm not just talking about these particular homicides. I'm talking about the whole thing. The whole system. Too much power in the wrong hands. Everything out of order. . . . People dying. Not just the women. Innocent people. Unarmed people. I can't sleep."

This is a page turner of a mystery, but what I loved about it is that, though the main character is a police officer, this is more a story about family and addiction than it is about the mystery. Mickey doesn't really act like a police officer for most of the book; she's acting as a sister. That may not work for everyone, but it's what I prefer in a mystery - the human element.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: someone's review around here

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 7:17pm

>146 japaul22: was I the someone around here? I think we chatted about this book on my thread, because IIRC you lived in Philly for a while, so you were familiar with the setting.

I'm glad you loved the book as much as I did.

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 8:05pm

>147 lauralkeet: yes, you were the first! I think I saw it on a few other threads now too. I just left that copied from the previous book I read bc I’m lazy with reviews! So glad you tipped me off to the book. It was really enjoyable! Even with the topic.

kesäkuu 28, 2020, 5:31pm

>127 japaul22: Nice review of the Roxanne Gay book. I agree with many of your thoughts.

>142 japaul22: I think I managed four of her books before I stopped. I felt she had slipped into a obvious formula. However, at the time her early books came out there wasn't much for crime novels from Iceland except Indridason's works (which I preferred) but for awhile I enjoyed the different viewpoint you offered (I was in Iceland in 2010).

kesäkuu 29, 2020, 9:51pm

I'm with you in preferring mysteries with a "human element," Jennifer. I can't wait to get my hands on Long Bright River.

kesäkuu 30, 2020, 7:35am

Whoaaa - too many book bullets there! You've had a great run of highly rated books recently. A few of these are on my wish list already, and you've reminded me to push them up.

I'm in a funny reading place at the moment - a few of my most recent reads haven't grabbed. I'm not sure if it's the book or my reading attention.

heinäkuu 5, 2020, 1:34pm

#36 Expiation by Elizabeth von Arnim

This is another book from my Persephone subscription. I really enjoyed von Arnim's Enchanted April so I was excited about this one. In the end, I found it a little uneven.

This is the story of recently-widowed Milly who has married into a family that is the cornerstone of their community (in their minds, at least). They pride themselves on their family's lack of scandals so Milly gets a strike against her immediately when her sister elopes with a Swiss man back at the beginning of Milly's marriage. When Milly's husband dies unexpectedly, his will leaves almost everything to a charity instead of to her and strongly implies that she's been having an affair. Milly's story and the family's reaction to the will make up the crux of the book.

I enjoyed Milly's journey, but when the focused shifted more towards the rest of the family, I felt like it lost some of the intimacy of Milly's single point of view. While the book was pleasant to read, I think it was pretty forgettable.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 362 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: persephone subscription
Why I read this: off the shelf

heinäkuu 6, 2020, 7:37am

>152 japaul22: shame - I've not read anything else by von Arnim either.

A Persephone subscription sounds like an utter delight!

heinäkuu 12, 2020, 7:28am

#37 Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep is about one midwestern girl's high school experience at an East Coast boarding school. Lee is "on scholarship", which she hides carefully, and utterly terrified of being noticed but depressed that she's not noticed. A typical teenage dilemma.

The book is about teenage friendships and perceptions of the world which are obviously narrow. Lee is casually racist and sexist, without realizing she is either. She both resists the wealthy East Coast ideals, and desperately wants to be a part of them.

I liked this book, but I felt like it went on a little too long. The main character, who narrates the books, is not likable, but I still could identify in small ways with her teenage experiences. This was Sittenfeld's debut novel - it is full of great writing and insight, but is just a little clunkier than her subsequent novels.

Original publication date: 2005
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 406 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library paperback sale
Why I read this: off the shelf, litsy #bookspin

heinäkuu 12, 2020, 7:48am

#38 Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book takes place in the 1930s and is an exploration of Black lives as the first generations experience "freedom" and the possibility of movement. John is a teenager trying to find his way to adulthood in New York. His family is complex and their experience forms the bulk of the novel, showing how much family life and complexities influence the path of children.

John's father Gabriel (well, stepfather) is a troubled Pentecostal minister and the book is almost overwhelmed with his ideas of sin and hell and being born again. Despite his strong views (or maybe because of!) he sins again and again with women, blaming them for his sins and leaving fatherless children along the way. John's mother, Elizabeth, had been involved with a man who ended up falsely accused of robbery and who is beaten badly by the police and commits suicide. Because John is born out of wedlock, Gabriel considers Elizabeth a fallen women and treats her as such, though he does marry her and raise John. Gabriel's sister, Florence, has also escaped the South and is living in New York. Her sad, troubling story is revealed as well.

This book was a mixed bag for me. The character's stories were powerful and real. That part of the book was very meaningful to me. And Baldwin's writing is lyrical and confident and memorable. The religious diatribes, though, really put me off. Even knowing that Baldwin himself was making commentary on the damaging nature of this sort of extreme Christianity didn't help. It was painful and annoying to read. I'm glad I persevered though, because in the end this is an important and powerful book that is sadly still relevant today. I'm looking forward to reading more of Baldwin's writing.

Original publication date: 1953
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: off the shelf, 1001 books

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 7:29pm

#39 A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

This was a strange novel that I think I really liked. It starts out with a group of families that do a reunion vacation together in a large beach house. The parents are all wealthy and detached from their kids. They mainly drink. The story is told from the children's point of view, who range in age from about 9-18. The children are left on their own, to the extent that they begin a contest to see which kid can last the longest with out the others identifying which parents belong to him/her.

I loved the first half of the book. Then a massive storm/hurricane occurs and things get weird. The power is off and there is a lot of damage. That's not so strange. But it begins to appear that nothing will be going back to normal. Apparently this wasn't just a local storm, but climate change has hit in full force and the globe is suddenly devastated. How these wealthy people with no "street smarts" will survive forms the second half of the novel.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a little too strange for me to give a blanket recommendation to read it. However, it was good enough that I want to read more by this author - it was an intriguing book.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 240 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: LT review

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 7:38pm

#40 Call Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

I always love Rebecca Solnit's essays, and this collection was particularly good. The uniting focus is that words and labels matter and that small actions can add up to big change. Though times are dark, this collection is surprisingly hopeful. The essays sparked my anger but also made me proud of the way many in our country are standing up and making their dissatisfaction public.

I bought a bunch of Solnit's collected essays and I think I'll pick up another right away. Solnit's writing is always points out the uncomfortable and always challenges me to reassess my biases. Plus her skill in the use of the English language is remarkable.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 188 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 7:33am

>156 japaul22: Hmm, I can understand your conflicted feelings about A Children's Bible. I think I'm okay to let this one pass.

>157 japaul22: I like Solnit as well, although I've only read single essays (i.e., published online) and haven't yet acquired a collection. I like the way she thinks, and yes her writing is incredible.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 8:18am

>158 lauralkeet: It was also interesting to read this essay collection of essays that were published between 2016-2018. There are several about police violence and BLM, and also one about tearing down monuments that glorify the Confederacy and the westward expansion. It's hopeful to see how far we've come since then in getting much larger swaths of the public caring about these issues.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 10:26am

That is indeed interesting, Jennifer. 2016-2018 wasn't all that long ago, so if progress is visible that's saying something.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:14am

I am a huge Millet fan, so I skimmed over your comments, Jennifer. I am waiting for my library copy to become available. I'll return to them after I read it.

I also love Solnit's essays. This sounds like a good collection.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:35am

>161 BLBera: Millet is certainly a provocative writer and I'm interested in reading more of her work. Do you have any favorites?

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:34pm

I really liked Millet's linked short story collection Fight No More, and want to read more by her. I have A Children's Bible up toward the top of the pile.

One of my favorite essay collections of Rebecca Solnit's is The Faraway Nearby, which is not a topical collection but rather a weaving together of personal experience, cultural musings, and family history. It's sort of dreamy and also very smart, and a great escape.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 6:26pm

I loved Fight No More, Jennifer. I also loved Mermaids in Paradise, but I know that one won't appeal to everyone. Millet is an original thinker, and I love most of her work, but she isn't one who will appeal to everyone.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 7:08pm

>163 lisapeet: >164 BLBera: thanks to both for the suggestions! I will add them to my wish list.

heinäkuu 21, 2020, 8:35pm

I like Lydia Millet's writing - I really liked Sweet Lamb of Heaven, about a woman trying to keep herself and her son hidden from her abusive husband.

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 2:17pm

#41 Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

One of Trollope's earlier novels, this one will not rank as a favorite for me. It is set in Ireland during the beginning of the potato famine. On top of that is a more typical Trollope story line which a young woman has to decide between two men whose fortunes are shifting and manage interference from her mother.

I had two issues with this book. One is that the potato famine is there, but it wasn't the focus and is sort of a side story. Though it's more prevalent than that at the same time. And Trollope's attitude to the famine was pretty confusing to me - I couldn't tell if he thought it was God's intent that all these people die, that it was God's will, or how much responsibility the wealthy had to help the situation. Whatever he meant, it wasn't good and was definitely off-putting.

And the the love triangle also, just wasn't up to Trollope's normally excellent look into the human psyche. I didn't feel like I really understood all of the motivations of the characters.

I definitely wouldn't start here if you want to read Trollope! The man was prolific - there are literally dozens of other novels by him that I enjoyed more!

Original publication date: 1860
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: group read, 1001 books

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 6:55pm

>167 japaul22: Hmm, okay I think I can skip this one! I enjoyed the Barchester & Palliser novels, and my husband recently became a Trollope fan via Barchester also.

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 7:39pm

There are several stand alone I really liked, including He Knew He Was Right and The Way We Live Now.

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 7:53pm

#42 The Woman in the Photograph by Stephanie Butland

This is one of those books that grew on me as I read. It is unapologetically feminist, following two women in the UK in the 1960s-70s. Leonie is strongly feminist, hard on men and women alike who don't follow her brand of feminism. Vee is living a traditional life, about to be married and just starting photography. Leonie's influence is immediate and Vee's life changes trajectory quickly. She ends up not getting married and pursuing a successful career in photography. Leonie and Vee have a special bond of friendship but also have their share of miscommunication and fighting. A good portion of the book takes place in 2018, when Leonie's niece, Erica, puts together a retrospective of Vee's photography work with Vee's help. It's an effective look at where the feminism of the 1970s has ended up in the present.

At first, I was sort of annoyed by this book because it is SO obviously throwing in all of the "greatest hits" of feminist topics. Seriously, both for the 70s and the 2000s, all the common thoughts about feminism are addressed. This felt a little contrived and came at the expense of character development. But then, by the end of the book, I found myself really caring about the women in this book so the author did do this better than I thought at the beginning.

I'm not really sure whether or not I'd widely recommend this book, but I'm glad I read it.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: read a review somewhere, LT?

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 8:59pm

>170 japaul22: Hmm, I'm intrigued as someone one the (not as much as I'd like but) newer side of feminism. I also find fiction always easier to relate to somehow than histories or manifestos so could be a nice dive into the 70s history for me.

heinäkuu 29, 2020, 5:49am

>170 japaul22: I'm probably guilty of being the reason you read this - I read it earlier in the year. For me it was a totally random library find which I came to knowing nothing about either the book or the author, and I was beguiled by it (I went on to read something else by Butland, which I also enjoyed but off-hand can't remember anything about). You're right about it being a kind of feminist greatest hits, but that didn't bother me because as per >171 janemarieprice:, I find that fiction often works for me in a way that non-fiction doesn't necessarily (that depends, though).

heinäkuu 29, 2020, 7:37am

>172 rachbxl: Well, then thank you for the review! I certainly wouldn't have come upon this book otherwise. I don't think I loved it as much as you, but I'm glad I read it and, like I said, I grew to really like the characters.

elokuu 4, 2020, 6:46pm

#43 Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This was a wonderful find. Dangarembga is an author on the current Booker longlist and her book, The Mournable Body caught my eye. On further research I found it's the third in a series of novels focusing on a 13 year old girl, Tambu, growing up in 1960s Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). So I started at the beginning with Nervous Conditions.

Tambu is growing up in poverty, but in an obviously beautiful setting, loving the river by her homestead. Her father can't afford to send her to the local school (her brother gets to go instead), and she begins to realize before she's even a teenager that her life as a girl will be different than a boy's. Tambu decides to earn her own money to pay her way at school. Then her brother dies while he's away at school at a nearby mission. Tambu's educated and relatively wealthy Uncle, who is headmaster at a mission school, takes Tambu in and she gets the opportunity to go to school.

There are many themes explored in this book, but I'd say the focus is Tambu's path as a woman and her relationships with other women - her mother who is living a traditional and stifling role as an African mother, her aunt who has a Masters from her time in England but in Africa is no more than her husband's wife and caregiver, and her cousin Nyasha who was raised in England and is now deeply confused about who she is. Through these relationships we see different but similar challenges that women face in Africa, but also see that many are similar to sexism in other cultures as well.

Dangarembga's writing is excellent. The novel has an autobiographical feel and tons of detail about life in Rhodesia. There are local foods, customs, naming systems, and descriptions of the land that are not described for American readers, but you can figure out from context or a quick google search. I liked that it wasn't dumbed down or written specifically for non-African readers. It was different to reading someone like, say, Adichie (though I love her writing as well!). I saw in a bio of Dangarembga that she was the first Black woman in Zimbabwe to publish a novel in English.

I highly recommend this book. I've already bought the second book, The Book of Not, and will read This Mournable Body as well.

Original publication date: 1989
Author’s nationality: Zimbabwean
Original language: English
Length: 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased kindle edition
Why I read this: from the booker list, 1001 books

elokuu 4, 2020, 7:17pm

>174 japaul22: Excellent review, Jennifer. I didn't realize the Booker nominee was part of a series. Given your positive comments on Nervous Conditions, I am now inclined to start with that book as well. My library has it in a print edition, so hopefully I will be able to request a copy soon.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 2020, 8:26pm

Great review, and it sounds like a terrific book. Noted, and thanks!

elokuu 5, 2020, 9:51am

Lovely review of Nervous Conditions, which I loved when I read it years ago. Thanks for the reminder to read The Book of Not soon...

elokuu 5, 2020, 12:24pm

Nervous Conditions sounds well worth reading. I'll look for a copy -- my library only has her newest book, so maybe I'll read out of order.

elokuu 5, 2020, 2:27pm

I can only echo what others say, Jennifer. Nervous Conditions sounds great.

elokuu 5, 2020, 4:29pm

Glad to have sparked some interest in Tsitsi Dangarembga!

#44 The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

My mom is a huge Lincoln fan and gave me this new book to read. It also has a connection to my hometown of Dundee, IL in that one of the main focuses is Allan Pinkerton, credited with being one of the first private detectives in America.

Basically, the plot revolves around a conspiracy hatched in pro-slavery Baltimore to assassinate the newly-elected Lincoln on his way to his Inauguration. This is what i would describe as "history lite". It reads fast and is engaging, has some research behind it but isn't going to be anything new to most history buffs. Annoyingly, large chunks are written in the present tense, i.e. "A man in his late forties sits at a desk in western New York". Ugh.

I also spent way too much time trying to figure out how and and why these two men wrote this book together. It seems that they are both authors in their own right, so why collaborate? And apparently this is their second book together. They don't reveal their process in the afterward. Did they trade off chapters? Did one mainly research? Is it a ghost writer situation? I wish I knew. That seemed a more interesting mystery than the actual conspiracy theory . . .

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: borrowed from mom
Why I read this: mom told me too :-)

elokuu 8, 2020, 8:48am

#45 Passing by Nella Larsen

This novella was written in 1929 by Black author Nella Larsen, who was part of the Harlem Renaissance. It is a complex look at racial identity in the 1920s. The title refers to the idea of Black women "passing" in society as white women. First off, we need to realize that at this time in America, any amount of black heritage made you Black, or Negro, which was the common term at the time.

The novella focuses on two women who both could pass for white. One is Irene, who identifies as Black, is married to a Black man, and part of her Black community. She does, however, "take advantage" of her appearance sometimes. In the opening scene, she is visiting her hometown Chicago on a hot summer day. She feels faint and a taxi driver, presumably white, rescues her and takes her to a restaurant to get a glass of tea. We can also presume that she would not be allowed in this restaurant if she wasn't "passing" for white. There she meets a childhood friend, Clare, who is passing as white as well. Clare, however, has married a white man without telling him of her heritage. Clare misses her Black community though, and pushes Irene to reintroduce her to this society with disastrous consequences.

This brief novel is an interesting look at race in the 1920s. It was uncomfortable for me to read. Much has changed in the past 100 years, but obviously not enough. I've certainly never read a book that so honestly addressed this single issue. I would say that I enjoyed Larsen's Quicksand more than this, but this is an important book about race in the U.S. and I definitely recommend it.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 94 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

elokuu 12, 2020, 12:49pm

#46 Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

In Wanderlust; a History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit creates a series of essay-like chapters that explore walking and what it has meant in human history. Everything from walking for pleasure, exercise, to conquer, as a form of protest, who has the right and luxury to walk, and walking in literature is represented. As might be expected with a book of this nature, I loved parts of this and was bored by other parts. I even skipped a chapter here or there if it wasn't grabbing me. But Solnit's writing is always excellent and overall I found a lot here to think about and enjoy.

Original publication date: 2001
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 324 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: like the author and the topic grabbed my interest

elokuu 12, 2020, 7:50pm

>182 japaul22: I'm a big fan of walking and already had this on my wishlist. It might be just the thing for my current mood.

elokuu 12, 2020, 8:18pm

I apologize for lurking for a while. But I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your thread, and how much you have contributed to my Wishlist.

elokuu 12, 2020, 8:41pm

>183 janemarieprice: I liked sort of dipping in and out of it. It was calming to read.

>184 sallypursell: thanks for checking in! I’m the queen of lurking and not commenting so no worries!

elokuu 13, 2020, 9:38am

>182 japaul22: I love walking, Jennifer, and I'm a fan of Solnit, so this sounds like one I should look for.

elokuu 13, 2020, 9:50am

Ditto—I really like books on wandering and walking, and I like Solnit a lot, and in fact I have this one so I'm bumping it up a bit. Thanks!

elokuu 13, 2020, 1:19pm

#47 The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Mengiste's latest novel, The Shadow King, is one that I found on the recently released long list for the Booker Prize. It caught my eye as a novel written by an African woman about the unsung women warriors that fought for Ethiopia against the Italian invasion in the 1930s.

Mengiste is a masterful writer. She develops strong, complex, flawed characters on both sides, the Ethiopians and the Italians. And her Ethiopian female characters are complex as well - they are certainly not perfect role models or heroines. But they are real and strong and human. They have complex relationships with each other, that are realistic instead of glorifying.

I appreciated this book and learning a little bit about this time period, but, as expected, reading about war is brutal and violent. A lot of this book was very uncomfortable to read and I wouldn't describe as pleasant. This book is very deserving of the critical claim it is receiving, but also is a challenging read. However, as the author states, it's so important to give these women a voice and acknowledge their contributions.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Ethiopian
Original language: English
Length: 428 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: booker list, description grabbed my attention

elokuu 13, 2020, 3:34pm

Jennifer - I also liked The Shadow King, but I would have liked more focus on the women, and could have done without the Haile Selassie sections and I thought the Italian story took from the women.

elokuu 13, 2020, 4:11pm

I liked the Haile Selassie sections and the shadow king story with Aster and Hirut as guards, but I agree that the Italian story took away from the women. I admit to not close-reading the sections focused on Carlo, especially. What a nasty human - not something I wanted to dwell on.

Despite these comments, I still thought the writing was really wonderful and it brought light to a historical story I knew nothing about.

elokuu 13, 2020, 7:09pm

I loved her description and the history as well, Jennifer.

elokuu 15, 2020, 12:37am

I’ve spent an hour catching up on your thread - and adding to my TBR. Great reviews as usual and I love your eclectic reading choices.

elokuu 15, 2020, 8:59pm

>193 japaul22: Thanks for checking in! I've been having a good reading year, despite the odd world events that threw me off for a little bit. I noticed I've read a lot of new books this year. A lot fewer "classics" than normal, though I'm still slipping some in.

elokuu 21, 2020, 7:24pm

speaking of classics . . .

#48 Persuasion by Jane Austen

An umpteenth reread. I haven't read Austen in print in a while because I listened to all of her books on audio on my last go-through. I love this one - I think it's one of the most romantic scenes when Wentworth writes the letter to Anne while she's in the same room. Anne is also the most mature and self-aware of Austen's heroines. I do think, though, that this book is just a bit less developed than some of her others. I love it though.

Original publication date: 1817
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 149 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: owned
Why I read this: due for a reread

elokuu 22, 2020, 8:27am

I'm very excited to see that Tana French has a new mystery coming out in October! And a little less excited, but still excited, to see that JK Rowling's Cormoran Strike series also has a new one out in mid-September!

I love the fall - so many new books.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 22, 2020, 6:52pm

#49 Stranger in the Shogun's City by Amy Stanley

In this nonfiction work, Amy Stanley traces the life of one ordinary woman, Tsuneno, through her letters, in order to explore what is what like to live in Edo (later Tokyo) in the 1800s. I like books like these, that give a voice to someone who would normally not be remembered. Tsuneno was an ordinary woman in a lot of ways: not wealthy, member of a large supportive family, married off to a man in a faraway province. But she was also different. After divorcing from her first husband, she submits to being married off by her family once more. After that marriage doesn't work either, she takes off to Edo from her countryside home. In Edo, she struggles. The man she travels with demands that she marry him and she is not interested. So she strikes out on her own. She has no money, no job, no clothes, no connections. She continues to write to her family, which is how her story is known, but they are disappointed in her choices.

Tsuneno goes through many ups and downs and another troubled marriage, but ultimately achieves what I'm sure we should consider a successful life that included more independence than the average woman had. Through the book, the reader finds out what life was like in Edo in the period before Japan opens to the world.

I enjoyed this. I don't know much about Japan, so this was an interesting look at a different culture. And I always love books that reveal the lives of ordinary women. I'm not positive this will work for everyone, but I'm glad I read it.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: topic interested me

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:24am

#50 The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine

I'm not sure where I found this book, probably in the Washington Post's book section, but I knew that a book about twin girls who grow up with their own language and an obsession with words would work for me.

Daphne and Laurel are identical twins whose interest in words is cemented when their father brings home an enormous, old, dictionary, and places it on a pedestal in their home. They are completely reliant on each other through young adulthood, when their love of words begins to drive them apart. Daphne ends up writing a weekly column about grammar and word usage, and Laurel becomes a kindergarten teacher. They both marry. When Laurel starts to question the elitism of Daphne's column, things begin to fall apart.

What people call 'standard' English is really just the dialect of the elite.

I loved this novel. It was, in some ways, an easy, light read, but it also ended up giving me quite a bit to think about in the end.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 258 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: a review grabbed my attention

elokuu 25, 2020, 1:56pm

>197 japaul22: I've seen this book mentioned and it always caught my eye because of the title and cover but for some reason, I thought it was a memoir. Thanks for the review, it sounds right up my alley and I'm adding it to the books I want to read.

elokuu 26, 2020, 11:57am

#51 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This book is a charming (there's really no other word for it!) Cinderella-style novel about a middle-aged woman stumbling into the best day of her life. Miss Pettigrew is jobless and about to be homeless when she answers an ad for a governess at the home of Miss LaFosse. The glamorous Miss LaFosse sweeps Miss Pettigrew into her circle when Miss Pettigrew helps her rid herself of a few unwanted male admirers. Miss LaFosse transforms Miss Pettigrew from a dowdy spinster to a glamorous woman and they go out on the town.

This was a cute book, but not much more, to me. And these 1930s British books always seem to take a dig at Jewish people, don't they? "He had too much the look of a Jew . . . " and such.

I know a lot of people love this one, and it is fun, but it won't be a favorite for me.

Original publication date: 1938
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 234 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Persephone subscription
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

elokuu 26, 2020, 1:23pm

>199 japaul22: I felt the same about this one, Jennifer: charming, cute, and just a bit cringe-inducing.

elokuu 27, 2020, 6:49am

>182 japaul22: I've been tempted to pick up this Solnit, as I love her writing, but so many books to know? I still have her latest in the pile.

elokuu 27, 2020, 5:59pm

>199 japaul22: Charming is a perfect description of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Jennifer. I agree, it's not one I would reread.

I will have to check out The Grammarians; I've heard mixed reviews about it, so I wasn't sure about it.

elokuu 28, 2020, 3:44am

>199 japaul22: I thought I'd really liked Miss Pettigrew, but I checked back and I only gave it 3 stars too. Ah well!

elokuu 29, 2020, 1:47pm

I often find that my memory of a book and the review I gave it as I finished don't match at all. Very interesting.

elokuu 31, 2020, 7:21pm

#52 Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Wow, this was an excellent book. It takes place in Mississippi, where, amidst extreme racial tension, Leonie, who is Black, and Micheal, who is White, have fallen in love and had two children. Michael has been in jail and is about to be released, so Leonie brings the kids, JoJo and Michaela, to pick him up. Leonie is a careless young mother, addicted to opioids and prioritizing herself. Jojo and Michaela are, in essence, being raised by their grandparents.

There is a lot going on in this book, told from shifting points of view by Leonie and Jojo and the ghost of a young boy who was incarcerated with Jojo's grandfather decades ago. It all holds together very well, though. It's a complex look at family secrets, racism through a period of decades, and addiction. For me, I really struggle reading books that include drug use. For whatever reason, that is the topic that makes me most uncomfortable and upset (that and violence towards animals) - more than reading about violence, murder, abuse, poverty, etc. So reading this book was not easy for me, but I'm glad I stuck with it because it was very well done. I read in other reviews that some readers didn't like the ghost element, but I thought that was what really made the book special.

Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: been on my mental TBR and was on sale

syyskuu 1, 2020, 7:26am

>205 japaul22: Jennifer, I loved Sing, Unburied, Sing. I agree there's a lot going on but I really admire Jesmyn Ward as an author. With this book she landed on my "I'll read anything this author writes" list.

syyskuu 1, 2020, 7:32am

>206 lauralkeet: have you read Salvage the Bones? Katie said it's one of her top 10 ever - curious if you loved it too! I have not read it, but now have it on my list to get to soon.

syyskuu 1, 2020, 7:47am

>207 japaul22: yes, I've read Salvage the Bones, and highly recommend it. For me, it was my introduction to Jesmyn Ward so I was experiencing her writing / narrative style for the first time which, as you've found, requires some attention. CW: includes scenes of dog fighting. For me, those scenes were part of understanding the characters' culture.

syyskuu 2, 2020, 7:54am

I will also read anything that Ward writes. I love Sing, Unburied, Sing. I love how she complicates her characters. By using Leonie as a narrator, we feel her pain; if Ward had only written from Jojo's point of view, we would hate Leonie. I love that. I also recommend her memoir Men We Reaped; it's heartbreaking but so good. I also loved Salvage the Bones but, like Laura, it was the first one by Ward that I read.

syyskuu 2, 2020, 11:56am

Jennifer, I posted this on my thread but since we were talking about Jesmyn Ward I thought I'd post here, too. I didn't realize she lost her husband in January. He was only 33 years old. She writes about her loss and grief in the midst of the pandemic, and other recent events, here:

syyskuu 2, 2020, 1:08pm

>210 lauralkeet: That was a gutting piece—and so effective. She has my respect 100% (even if she did already).

syyskuu 2, 2020, 1:08pm

Hi. Catching up and noticing all the new books (which I really enjoyed reading about). Curious if you’re pursuing the Booker Long List or if it’s just a couple books that caught your attention.

syyskuu 2, 2020, 1:19pm

>210 lauralkeet: thanks for highlighting that.

syyskuu 2, 2020, 2:54pm

>210 lauralkeet: I was coming here to post that piece. I read it yesterday and it's been sitting with me ever since.

syyskuu 4, 2020, 8:27am

>210 lauralkeet: Thank you for sharing this. I can't read it right now - I've been so emotional about virtual "school" starting up for my young kids and seeing them try to adapt - I don't think I could read anything about grief and loss right now. But I will read it in a couple weeks when I hopefully feel more stable!

syyskuu 4, 2020, 9:05am

Wow - that piece really cuts to the soul. Sing, Unburied, Sing is another book that's been on my short-list for ages. I must move it up.

syyskuu 4, 2020, 10:30am

>215 japaul22: awww Jennifer, that must be really difficult. There's no rush, and in fact, no requirement whatsoever to read it. Just take care of yourself, okay?

syyskuu 4, 2020, 10:51am

Take care, Jennifer. Good luck with the start of school. How old are your kids? I feel for all the young ones who have to cope with the immense changes in their world.

My seven-year-old granddaughter just started; and she said, "It's hard to remember not to hug people." :(

syyskuu 4, 2020, 11:39am

Thanks everyone. My boys are 10 and 7. They start school virtually on Tuesday and this week they had class meet and greets over the computer. In essence, they will be in zoom meetings from 9 - 3:15 Tuesday through Friday. They have wonderful teachers and that makes me even sadder because I know how awesome their years would be in person. It's hard to conceive of how my 7 year old is going to learn all the things they learn in 2nd grade through a screen.

I know it will end up fine and my kids have a lot of support and resources (though that makes me sad too, because so many don't - our elementary school alone has 37 different languages spoken at home!!!) but I'm just going through a sad few days thinking about all this.

I will get back to a positive space, I'm sure! I know many are going through much worse than this!

syyskuu 4, 2020, 5:04pm

>219 japaul22: Jennifer, you never know - there could be decision changes and a return to school earlier than anticipated. My two went back to school this week (although it's far from normal), but it was after a lot of changes of mind over the past few weeks at government level about how it would work and how many days they'd be there (first it was part time, but at the last minute it changed to full time)l. I agree that a screen is no substitute for being in school and amongst their peers, and it's hugely draining on parents as well.

I expect my two will be in and out of school like yo-yos every time there's a positive COVID case or they get the sniffles. My eldest is due to sit her exams for grammar school entry this year. It would normally be held in November / December, and a while back they pushed them all into December (they're sat over 3 Saturdays in 'big' school - it's close to child abuse). Two parents took the education authority to court saying it was unlawful to expect 10 and 11 year olds to sit these exams when they've not been at school for 6 months, so now they've pushed them out to January instead. Great - now they can be pressured to the hilt all over the Christmas holidays too. Sometimes I think common sense has gone right out the window lately.

syyskuu 4, 2020, 5:14pm

Jennifer - It is a tough time. Here, in my daughter's school, the elementary aged kids, K-4, are in face-to-face classes, although families can opt for online learning. All the other kids are online.

Still face to face is a challenge. The kids stay in one room all day, eat lunch there, keep distance from one another and, of course, have to wear masks.

syyskuu 5, 2020, 8:43am

Thanks for all of the responses, everyone! I'm sure I'm just going through the normal ups and downs of still being quarantined after almost 6 months. I know everyone else is going through it too.

Also, I just finished Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (review to follow) which was excellent and eye-opening but extremely hard to read - certainly no escapism there!

syyskuu 5, 2020, 2:13pm

>222 japaul22: Jennifer, I seem to be on a similar reading wavelength. I've been reading Caste, too, about 2/3 of the way through. But I just posted on my thread yesterday that I need to take a break. It's difficult stuff. But, yes, excellent and eye-opening. I'm looking forward to your review.

syyskuu 5, 2020, 2:22pm

#53 Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

In Caste, Wilkerson presents a description of America as a caste society, where caste position is determined by race. As such, she nests the problem of racism inside of the larger problem of a caste society that few in power have incentive to change. I thought a lot about Rebecca Solnit's series of essays "Call them by their true names" that I read recently. Naming this deep-seated problem is a step in the right direction.

American society was set up before it even existed in name as a caste society by the first European settlers that showed up in what is now Virginia. These early laws were shocking to me. I didn't realize how purposefully and intentionally Black people were put at the bottom from the very beginning. Wilkerson explores American society, laws, and culture from the beginning all the way to the very present day (even discussing COVID-19). She compares America's caste society to two others, India and the Nazi regime.

This is an extremely uncomfortable book to read. It focuses on the negative aspects of American society all the way through. There are many personal accounts of casteism that individuals have faced and that Wikerson has faced herself. I found it moving, upsetting, eye-opening, and Important (yes, with a capital I).

While I highly recommend reading this book, it will not be for everyone - even those who agree with Wilkerson - and I sadly do not think it will change many minds. The book is less of a researched history book and more of an essay or treatise or philosophy. That was my impression anyway. That's not to say there isn't a ton of research that went into this book and it's much more than "just" Wilkerson's opinion, but it's personal and I worry that too many people could dismiss it with an "oh, that's just her opinion, there's no evidence of that".

I'm hoping lots of you read this so we can discuss. For me personally, it was eye-opening and immediately shifted the way I think about what is happening in our country today. It was a monumental book for me, in that way. The book unfortunately, doesn't leave me with many ideas of how to fix all this. In fact, thinking of casteism as ruling more than racism makes me even more scared. It's a more deeply entrenched system and more wrapped up in power than racism alone.

Scary stuff.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: new release and interested in the topic

syyskuu 5, 2020, 2:40pm

>224 japaul22: yes to all of this.

syyskuu 5, 2020, 8:14pm

>224 japaul22: thanks. Need to get here. Excellent review and a good kind of prompt to prep myself before i start.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 7:42am

>224 japaul22: I have this on the pile. I've heard her discuss the book and I'm really interested in her framing of systemic racism in the U.S. as a caste system—I have a feeling her shift in reframing that particular worldview will be eye-opening. Her The Warmth of Other Suns is a terrific piece of journalism, so I have a lot of faith in her as a writer framing her thesis well.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 9:45am

>205 japaul22: Wanted just to mention that Ward's first book, Where the Line Bleeds is also quite good. She hadn't hit her stride yet, of course, but still powerful. It was published in 2008 by Agate press which is where I got it from, but I see now Simon & Schuster has reprinted it.

>215 japaul22: I know kind of what you are going through, we are going through similar. Remote learning for our grandson begins on Wednesday, 8:30- to 2:30 and my daughter came over yesterday with all the details and started going through them all with me, which was—I'll admit it—overwhelming. At some point I stopped her and told her that I would let her and my husband sort it out (we have Oliver 3 of the 4 school days) and once its routine, I'll accept training. She is going to work-from-our-home for a week or two to make sure it's all going okay. Meanwhile, I told her someone still has to mow the lawn and make meals...etc. and that will clearly be me (never mind that I'm dealing with some medical issues). Oliver has a little desk in the corner of the family room. He is both excited and nervous. Our kids/grandkids will be fine; they are smart and resilient; they'll adapt easier than we will. Be good to yourself during this time, ok? (I'm amazed you get any reading done).

syyskuu 6, 2020, 10:39am

>224 japaul22: I'm right now almost halfway through the 566-page history Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, an extremely detailed history of the Civil War Years and Reconstruction. Although Leon Litwack, the author of this excellent, detailed book, doesn't use the term, the concept of racism as a caste system corresponds almost entirely with what Litwack lays out, here.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 11:57am

>225 lauralkeet: I saw you were reading this, Laura. I'll be very interested to hear your thoughts.

>226 dchaikin: This book will make for great discussion around here, Dan. Hope you read it soon.

>227 lisapeet: I also loved The Warmth of Other Suns and it was one of the reasons I picked up Caste so quickly. It is a different book because it feels so current. She also used the Great Migration to comment on the current state of things, but it's even more true in Caste and that makes it harder to read.

>228 avaland: I hadn't heard of Ward's first book, so thanks for pointing it out. Virtual school for little ones is going to be a ton of work for the caregiver. Your daughter is very lucky to have you! We'll all just be doing our best and I think everyone knows that this can't replace school. I'm going to try very hard not to put too much pressure on myself to make it something it isn't.

>229 rocketjk: Thanks for this recommendation. I read a very detailed (and a little boring to be honest) book about Reconstruction by Eric Foner several years ago. I will check this one out as well.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 12:58pm

#54 Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

One of the benefits of being home during COVID is that my kids have been reading more. My 10 year old son is often reluctant to choose reading, but when he finds the right book he will devour it. This happened with The Giver. He read it in one morning and loved it! When he found out there were 4 books in a loose series, I bought him the rest of the set. He really liked all of them and wanted me to read them so we can discuss.

Gathering Blue is the second book in this quartet. It doesn't have anything much to do with The Giver except that it's a community where there is obviously something going on below the surface. This book follows Kira, who is discovered as a gifted sewer, and chosen to repair and later sew new material on a robe that tells their community's history. When one of her friends travels outside of their community to find plants that she can use to create blue thread, secrets are revealed.

I liked this, but it isn't as complete, either in the world building or in the plot, as The Giver is. My son says that if I read the next two books, things start to make more sense. So next up for me will be The Messenger, the next in the quartet.

Original publication date: 2000
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: to discuss with my son

syyskuu 6, 2020, 3:31pm

>230 japaul22: I'm going to try very hard not to put too much pressure on myself to make it something it isn't.

For what it's worth, I would not be surprised if the teachers felt the same way. My daughter's partner is a first grade teacher, and they were staying with us in April & May when his class first went virtual. We've chatted with him about it a few times since, and he admitted the staff rather quickly adjusted their expectations about what they could accomplish and how much progress their students could make in that environment.

I hope your teachers are realistic and understanding, and not pressured to reach arbitrary measures of achievement.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 5:29pm

Maybe there will end up being some great takeaway in education studies from all this, about alternate ways of doing school or accommodating different learning styles or... Oh, I don't know. It would be great if there's even the tiniest silver lining to all this uncertainty.

syyskuu 12, 2020, 12:24pm

#55 Messenger by Lois Lowry

The third book in Lowry's Giver quartet continues the story from Gathering Blue and starts to add in elements from The Giver. As in all of these books, Lowry leaves a lot to the individual reader's imagination. I like this - especially in a YA novel. By leaving a lot unsaid, the reader thinks a little more deeply and is forced to do some analyzing in order to really appreciate the book.

I'm looking forward to reading the last in the series.

Original publication date: 2004
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 192 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: to discuss with my son

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 14, 2020, 8:14am

I'm a bit late with this, but I wanted to say that I've been a big fan of Jesmyn Ward ever since I reviewed her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds for Belletrista in 2009 (how can it be that long ago already?) As avaland notes, her subsequent novels are even better, but I thought Where the Line Bleeds was excellent, and I've read everything she's written since. I've been thinking about her recently, reminded of her by Rene Denfeld; both the product of difficult childhoods, they both have the ability to write breathtakingly beautifulyl about awful things. The article linked in >210 lauralkeet: is a case in point (thanks for the link).

Jennifer, I feel for you regarding your sons' schooling. My daughter is only slightly younger than your younger one (she's 6.5), and she went back to school on 1st September (started a new school, in fact). I didn't dare believe it would happen until it actually did, but she's there, and she's blooming. What's more, everything is being done to make it as normal as possible (it helps that it's a new school, of course, as she doesn't know what it was like pre-Covid). Particularly given just how much she is thriving on it, I feel quite emotional about the fact that not all children are getting that opportunity, and I feel for parents like you who still have to cope with having their children at home. I don't think I could have gone on doing it. Oh, sure, I may yet have to do it again, but at least we'll have had the break provided by this time back in school.

syyskuu 14, 2020, 7:56am

>235 rachbxl: Good to know that even Ward's early books are worth a read.

Thanks for the support about school. I'm really sad for my kids to be missing the in person experience of school and it's extremely stressful for our family. However, I am trying to focus on the positive. My kids have a spacious home, brand new laptops (the one we were issued for my 7 year old was not working well so we were able to purchase him one on our own), support from their parents to supplement their learning, and a small group of neighborhood friends to play with - they even all take their lunch break together and picnic outside each day. So we are making it work the best we can and I'm trying not to stress about when my work schedule gets busier and they are still home.

I'm so sad for the kids that don't have this support at home though. I think that whenever we do go back to full, in person school there will be a huge disparity in what was learned over this year and I worry it will permanently put some kids even farther behind.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 18, 2020, 2:33pm

#56 Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
This book deserves all the hype it has received. O'Farrell explores the family life of the most famous 16th century playwright without ever naming him. The novel is a devastating look at the grief that comes with the loss of a child. It also delves into family dynamics, the plague, and 16th century life.

The heart of this novel is the character building. It's brilliant. And I know it sounds terrible to read a book full of grief right now, but this book is worth it. It's beautifully constructed and will suck you right in to a different world, which is not a bad thing currently!

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Northern Ireland/UK
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: the buzz

syyskuu 25, 2020, 10:09am

>237 japaul22: yes! I'm glad you lived this one as much as I did.

syyskuu 27, 2020, 7:49am

#57 Free to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Teri Kanefield

This biography provides all the "greatest hits" info about RBG's life that you need in simple, easy-to-read language. It did not strike me as an in depth, scholarly biography, but certainly explores her life from beginning to almost the end. The author does lots of writing for children and young adults, and I felt like I could tell. There's nothing wrong with her writing for adults, but it is very straight-forward - simple syntax and somewhat limited vocabulary.

This is a perfect biography if you're looking for something comprehensive but quick to read.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 333 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle book
Why I read this: it was a biography that was available for kindle - I also purchased several books either by or about RBG, but they are trickling in as demand is high

syyskuu 28, 2020, 5:09pm

>237 japaul22: Going to have to move this one nearer to the top of the to-be-purchased pile. Everyone's loving it!

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 3, 2020, 7:01pm

#58 Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

In Transcendent Kingdom, Gyasi explores many deep topics in a relatively brief novel. Gifty is a PhD student studying neuroscience, specifically addiction and whether there are ways to rewire the brain of a mouse to stop it from seeking pleasure in spite of pain. Throughout the book she reveals her upbringing that brought her here. Her mother was an immigrant from Ghana. She had moved to Alabama with her toddler son, Nana, and her husband joins her later. They struggle to find employment and her husband ends up going back to Ghana. Nana is a gifted athlete, but a sports injury gets him addicted to opioids. Gifty is also raised in an Evangelical church and her mother's deep belief in God influences and complicates her scientific research.

All of this definitely left me wondering whether coming to America was the best decision for this family. Would the family have been happier and more successful in Ghana? Should the whole family have gone back to Ghana when the father did? Gifty ends up successful, but would Nana have become an addict if he hadn't been prescribed pain killers by an American doctor?

I loved Gyasi's first novel, Homegoing so I had high expectations for this. Overall, I thought it was a good novel, but maybe not a great one. It felt a little unfocused. I'd still recommend it, but I'd read Homegoing first if you've not read something from Gyasi. I think it's the superior work.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American/Ghanaian
Original language: English
Length: 288 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: loved her first book

lokakuu 4, 2020, 3:33pm

Hi Jennifer - I am so glad to see Hamnet has another fan! I am ignoring your comments on Transcendent Kingdom right now because I am currently reading it. I'll stop by after I've finished.

lokakuu 11, 2020, 7:58am

#59 Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This is an easy, modern novel that has some deep themes of racism and casteism. The juxtaposition of the page-turner feel of the book and the deeper dive into the racism of "nice people" actually worked pretty well for me.

Emira is a 25 year old Black woman who, like many others her age, is trying to find her way in the world. She's done with college, but doesn't have a chosen career path and ends ups babysitting for a wealthy white family. Alix, the mother, is going through her own crisis, trying to develop her career, having two small children, and recently leaving her beloved NYC for Philadelphia. The other main character is Kelley, a white man who begins dating Emira and who we later find out dated Alix in high school.

Right at the beginning, racism is highlighted when Emira takes her 3 year old babysitting charge to a fancy grocery store late at night (this is at Alix's behest for reasons I won't get in to). She gets accused by a white woman shopper of possibly kidnapping this white 3 year old child. It's caught on video by Kelley, who she doesn't yet know.

So this event is obvious racism, but more insidious is the underlying racism of Alix as she gets to know Emira. This was a hard look at how wealthy, white, "woke", women sometimes still harbor deep-seated racist attitudes without realizing it and even while thinking they are being "un-racist".

Also present is a look at female friendships. Alix has her group of 4 "best friends" as does Emira. The contrast and similarities between how these friend groups work was also interesting to me.

Overall, I think this is a good "book club discussion" book. It would appeal to a wide variety of readers because it is a page turner, is easy to read, and can be read on the surface, but there is also plenty to think about underneath the main plot line. I found it annoyingly modern at times, and a little unfocused, but I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to keep up with talked about books.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 310 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: the buzz

lokakuu 11, 2020, 5:46pm

>241 japaul22: Good to know. And maybe I can take it off my wait list at the library to make room for something else? I liked Homecoming but didn't love it as much as some people did.

lokakuu 11, 2020, 6:28pm

>243 japaul22: I felt much the same way about this book. It was more complex than expected at first glance, and was a really good book club choice.

lokakuu 17, 2020, 3:15pm

#60 The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

This is the sort of book that needs two readings, at least, to comprehend. Hans Castorp is a young man about to start a boring family job who goes to visit his cousin who is in a tuberculosis sanatorium up in the mountains. He goes planning to stay for 3 weeks and ends up being diagnosed with TB and staying for 7 years. The closed society in the sanatorium is wonderful to read about - great characters, funny scenes, sadness, and plenty of drama. On a deeper level, I loved the musings on time that run throughout the entire book.

On yet another deeper level, I started to gather that a lot of the characters represent different countries/factions leading up to WWI. There are also quite a few long philosophical discussions that went over my head and made my eyes glaze over. The ending, when Hans Castorp finally leaves the sanatorium and descends from the mountain into WWI, was dramatic and felt like an abrupt return to reality.

I really enjoyed this. I read it slowly, and definitely lost my way a few times, but overall the characters have so much life and there are so many amusing scenes, that it did keep my interest. I'd like to reread this some day to see if I can catch a little more of the deeper levels of writing that Mann has achieved.

Original publication date: 1924
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German (my edition translated by John E. Woods)
Length: 894 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: group read, 1001 books

lokakuu 17, 2020, 3:34pm

>246 japaul22: Glad you enjoyed it. It is a great book

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 17, 2020, 4:07pm

>237 japaul22:
I believe Maggie O'Farrell is from Northern Ireland, so technically British. I'm looking forward to Hamnet. And congrats on finishing The Magic Mountain. I'll have to save that one for when I retire, which won't be anytime soon.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 18, 2020, 12:35pm

>248 Nickelini: It's complicated. You're right - she's probably technically British as she was born in NI, but her parents were Irish so I suspect she considers herself to be Irish. It's never a straightforward thing in NI - half of my office consider themselves to be Irish, the other half British, despite the fact that we were all born within 8 miles of each other in the same city. You can also choose to have either Irish or British citizenship or both if you live in Northern Ireland. I best you wish you hadn't asked, Jennifer...!

lokakuu 18, 2020, 1:48pm

>249 AlisonY: Yes, complicated! I always keep track of the nationality of authors I read, and when I record Maggie O'Farrell, my hand balks at writing UK. It feels wrong, but I don't know how she identifies, so that's what I've gone with.

You can also choose to have either Irish or British citizenship or both if you live in Northern Ireland. I did forget that detail.

We have a lot of Irish immigrants in Vancouver, and in my experience they are almost all from Northern Ireland. The only person I know from Ireland has actually moved back. I have no idea what that all means, but I just find it interesting.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 18, 2020, 2:37pm

>249 AlisonY: >250 Nickelini: Interesting, thanks for the insight. Nationality is certainly tough to decipher sometimes. Where an author lives and has citizenship might not always match with how they identify themselves. I think this could be often true of American authors who are recent immigrants or are part of a strongly held culture. For instance, for Yaa Gyasi's recent book, I listed her as American/Ghanaian. She was born in Ghana, but her family moved to the US when she was two. Her writing really highlights both Ghanaian and American culture. Of course, I don't know if she thinks of herself as American, Ghanaian, or a Ghanaian American. Or if she doesn't think about it at all.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:02pm

Nice review of Such a Fun Age, Jennifer; I hope to get to it before the end of the year.

I've been meaning to read The Magic Mountain for over a decade. One of these days...

lokakuu 23, 2020, 7:04pm

>252 kidzdoc: I'd be curious to hear what you think of Such a Fun Age when you get to it. I expect it to get mixed reviews.

lokakuu 23, 2020, 7:11pm

#61 Leaving Home by Anita Brookner
I always enjoy reading Anita Brookner. Her books are generally smart, concise, and a little sad. Leaving Home was all of those. Emma is in her early 20s on the brink of adulthood. She leaves her mother in England to live in Paris and work on a book about gardens. Emma is a quiet, solitary person. She makes only a few friends throughout the book and tries to strike out on her own. Nothing much happens, but Brookner writes beautiful sentences and I love to dwell in her writing.

This is not an exciting or particularly memorable book, but it's the kind of book that reminds me how much I love the act of reading.

Original publication date: 2005
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 212 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: paperback from a library sale (pre-COVID, of course!)
Why I read this: off the shelf

lokakuu 24, 2020, 3:18am

I enjoy Brooker for the same reasons. Haven't read this one yet.

lokakuu 24, 2020, 7:31am

Another Brookner fan here. Her books are so quiet and understated, and you're right Jennifer, they are almost always a bit melancholy. I really enjoy reading her books.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 7:43am

#62 The Searcher by Tana French
I'm a huge Tana French fan and I loved this new book. It is significantly shorter and more compact than her last book, The Wych Elm which was a bit longer than it needed to be. This book is also more focused on the characters and relationships than it is on the mystery.

The book centers around a retired police officer from Chicago who moves to a small town in Ireland after an unwanted divorce. The relationships he creates in this village lead him to investigate the disappearance of a young man.

Like I said, the mystery itself wasn't very exciting, but the book as a whole was great.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 464 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: love the author, new release

marraskuu 7, 2020, 7:57am

#63 The Commandant by Jessica Anderson

I found this book on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It is Australian historical fiction that explores prison settlements in 1800s Australian. Idealistic Frances goes to a work camp to live with her sister who is married to the officer in charge of the prison, the Commandant.

The premise was really interesting, but this book just didn't work for me. The trajectory of character development wasn't even and I felt like the plot kept shifting focus. At first Frances and her struggle to understand the different political ideologies in Australia was the focus. But then it sort of shifts more to the Commandant and his job security. And then there are a few moments where it seems like it might be heading to a romance novel feel.

If this is a confused review, it's because I really lost interest and lost the train of thought in this book. Maybe I needed a better background in 1800s Australia to really get into this book.

Original publication date: 1975
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 339 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books

marraskuu 7, 2020, 10:52am

>257 japaul22: I really enjoyed this one, too, Jennifer and agree it was much better than The Wych Elm. I laughed at your comment, "the mystery itself wasn't very exciting, but the book as a whole was great." I hadn't thought about the excitement level, but you are absolutely right about that, and yet I still loved the book.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 12:06pm

>259 lauralkeet: I wouldn't want a true mystery lover to start with this book as a "Tana French mystery". But I loved it too - I didn't say this is my review, but the atmosphere is great too.

marraskuu 17, 2020, 9:07am

#64 Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
The latest in JK Rowling's mystery series was just to my taste. A slower paced, less violent cold case suited my mood perfectly. Not to say this wasn't violent, and there were some really disturbing scenes, but it was less so than some of the previous installments. I was also happy to see Robin awakening to the everyday, small (but pernicious) sexist events that women deal with. I love reading this series - it's just so entertaining.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 994 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: like the series

marraskuu 17, 2020, 9:58am

#65 Presidential Elections and Majority Rule by Edward B. Foley
During the recent election, I felt compelled to do some detailed reading about our Electoral College system, which I've been increasingly dissatisfied with. In looking for a book, I found that it is very difficult to find a book on the electoral college that is not blatantly partisan. This seemed like a best option, and I think it was. Foley keeps his biases largely to himself and seems to rely on the historical record and the Constitution.

The crux of his book is explaining the Jeffersonian electoral college which was amended to the Constitution in 1803 through the 12th amendment and relied on the idea of electing a President with a compound majority of majorities. In simple terms, because the founders had a two party system and had no indication that more than two parties would be involved, they relied on each state to produce a candidate that had majority support and to give it's electoral votes to that majority candidate. In that way, the national winner of the presidential election should have a majority of voters in each state and therefore a compound majority of majorities.

He then goes through every Presidential election, showing the times that this compound majority of majorities has failed. The instances when it has failed have been when there has been a third party candidate that garnered votes making the winner actually a plurality vote winner instead of a majority. There are six times this has happened where it has obviously changed who would have won the majority vote if a third party candidate was not involved. It has been an increasing problem since the 1990s. In addition to those six elections, there have been several more times where a president has won without a majority of majorities but it is unclear if the candidate would have won anyway, even if the third party candidate was eliminated.

Foley does not advocate for removing third party candidates, but instead believes that each state should commit to producing a majority winner who receives its electoral votes. This could be achieved in many ways - the most obvious being an instant runoff. Each state is constitutionally allowed to assign its electoral votes in whatever method it wants, so this doesn't shouldn't face any prohibitive legal/constitutional issues. It also, historically, would benefit both parties as both have faced the opposite party winning with only a plurality of the vote, so it doesn't need to be a partisan issue. Runoff votes actually also give third party candidates a more powerful voice than our current system, but then ensure that in the final count, a winner will have a majority vote from the people of the state.

I personally have been a fan of the national movement of a compact of states agreeing to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Reading this book has give me pause, or at least food for thought. Foley points out that this system has no assurance that the votes will go to a majority preferred candidate. In fact, the winner of the national popular vote is often a plurality vote winner and this could mean a person with 30-some % of the vote could end up winning the Presidency. Consider this from either perspective: for me, I imagine if Trump had his legions of support and the Democrat party had a split vote one year - say a moderate national candidate and then a Bernie Sanders-style candidate who pulled a vote with 35% of the vote and 20% of the vote and Trump won with 45% of the vote. But if we had a run off system, most of those voters who voted for Bernie actually preferred the moderate Democrat to Trump. We would end up with a President who the majority did NOT prefer under our current system. But if each state insisted on awarding electoral votes to a majority candidate, this would not happen.

Amending the Constitution to get a Presidential election based on a national vote requiring a majority winner is basically a pipe dream. There is no shot of it happening any time in the near future, but a state movement to require electoral votes go to a majority winner is not a long shot. It would benefit both parties and work with our current Constitutional requirements - in fact it would match the founders' intent more closely than what is happening now.

This book gave me so much to think about. I don't know that it really presents the ultimate answer and I would like to read some alternate views, but I highly recommend it as one piece of the puzzle to thinking about how we can make our Electoral College system work in the way it was intended - to produce a President who wins with a compound majority of majorities.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: interested in the topic

marraskuu 17, 2020, 11:49am

Really interesting and informative review. It's a very complex system, for sure, but you're right - it somehow doesn't always feel fair. No simple answers, I guess.

marraskuu 17, 2020, 5:06pm

Excellent review and good example with the split Democratic vote.

Did Foley address split states (Michigan, Nebraska) or so called 'faithless electors'? Something else I mull over is that the winner take all version for electoral college votes allows a few huge states to determine the outcome, making the decisions made in small vote states seem almost meaningless.

marraskuu 17, 2020, 6:33pm

>264 SassyLassy: He did not address faithless electors - another topic I'd like to read about. It's true that the voice of the small states sometimes feels overlooked, something that a national popular vote would rectify. When the electoral college was created, it was important to citizens that each state retain their unique identity, something that I think is less important now, though still certainly exists. Foley is not opposed to a national popular vote if it requires a majority winner, but just can't see a way that it could work considering how hard it is to amend the Constitution. With that an unrealistic possibility, he advocates ensuring a majority of majorities and not letting states get away with giving electoral votes to a candidate that has only received a plurality of votes.

marraskuu 18, 2020, 9:51am

>265 japaul22: Thanks. Interesting about the retention of a unique identity, which is understandable at the time (and is still a huge consideration in Canadian politics). I guess back then the population differences among states, although they existed, were not as gargantuan as they are now.

Somewhat nerdy, but I love reading about the American political system.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 9:11am

Thanks for your great and very timely review of and comments about Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, Jennifer. I'll add it to my wish list, as I would like to learn more about the Electoral College, and what can be done to reform it, knowing that the current crop of Republicans would never agree to abolish it. My (limited) understanding is that it was created as a compromise to appease the slave owning states, as it counted slaves as three-fifths of a person and provided those states with large numbers of slaves greater representation in Congress and access to more federal funds without giving slaves the right to vote or live as free men and women.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 26, 2020, 8:46pm

>267 kidzdoc: My understanding of the advent of the electoral college is more or less the same as yours, Darryl. As you also probably know, this is the argument that the blacks made to the Federal government after the Civil War. Due to Emancipation, blacks were now to be counted as full persons rather than three-fifths. That meant that the Southern states gained a sudden jump in population, which was going to give them more representatives in the House and more electoral votes. Hence: much greater influence over the affairs of the country as a whole. Black leaders told the northern lawmakers, "You'd better make sure we get the vote down here so you'll have some legislative allies." So with Reconstruction came voting rights for blacks in the south. That only lasted for a relatively few years, however, until the southern states came up with vicious work-arounds like literacy tests for voting, and when southern whites realized that the Federal government wasn't going to do anything about it when blacks were murdered for trying to register to vote, and the full weight of Jim Crow/White Supremacy came crashing back down. Again, I realize I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

marraskuu 26, 2020, 7:05pm

>267 kidzdoc: >268 rocketjk: Yes, I believe you are both correct. This book, however, doesn't address much about why the electoral college was set up. Instead, it keeps a narrow focus on the priority of electing someone who was a majority winner in each state. I suspect the reason for this narrow but detailed focus is that it's something that most Americans can probably agree, whether Democrat or Republican, and Foley is trying to convince the majority of Americans that his solution is a good one.

marraskuu 26, 2020, 7:18pm

#66 The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson

I randomly stumbled upon a biography of Shirley Jackson while I was picking up a hold from the library and it immediately reminded me that I should get back to reading her work. I ordered the last 3 novels of hers that I hadn't read and started with The Bird's Nest.

This book is about Elizabeth, a young woman who is disturbed to find a large hole in her museum office when the building is being remodeled. The destruction of her work space seems to set off, or at least parallel, a mental breakdown. In fact, Elizabeth is also Beth, Betsy, and Bess - her alternate personalities. She lives with her Aunt Morgen - there is some mystery as to what happened to her mother - and Aunt Morgen gets her set up with a psychiatrist, Dr. Wright.

As with all of the Jackson novels I've read, the writing is just perfect. Subtle and clear and precise. And the creepy factor is always there, below the surface of what could appear normal. I was a little annoyed that the (male) doctor's voice becomes prevalent for a while in the middle of the book, and I felt like (female) Elizabeth was being overshadowed, but Jackson brings things back around to her women characters satisfactorily.

Original publication date: 1954
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: a favorite author

marraskuu 26, 2020, 7:37pm

#67 Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
I picked up this biography on a whim at my library and it has reinspired my interest in Shirley Jackson. This is a solid biography of Jackson. It spans her whole life and focuses on her troubled relationships with her mother and her philandering husband. The first third of the book focused a bit too much on her husband for my taste, but then the author brings it solidly back to Jackson herself.

Franklin looks deeply at Shirley Jackson's writing - both her process and her overarching themes. She also spends a lot of time trying to decipher her mental health, which was something Jackson struggled with throughout her life. I also was interested to know that Jackson was a mother of four and did all of her writing while raising her children and supporting the family with her income. Her husband never brought in enough money for them to live on and her income was their primary source of money.

All in all, this is a decent biography of a fascinating person and writer. I'm excited to read the two remaining novels that I've not yet read in Jackson's oeuvre.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 499 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: on a whim

marraskuu 27, 2020, 5:36pm

>270 japaul22: Enjoyed reading your review of The Birds Nest and the biography of Shirley Jackson. I have just discovered Shirley Jackson this year and I am encouraged to read more.

marraskuu 28, 2020, 7:55am

Question about the LT talk changes:
Does anyone know if there's a way to change the settings so that if I click on a thread with no unread messages, I stay at the top of the thread? It always automatically jumps me to the bottom which is annoying. I like to visit my thread and update some of my top posts where I keep lists of books I have read or intend to read. And there is a "jump to the bottom" feature at the top so I don't understand why it autodirects to the bottom when there aren't unread posts!

marraskuu 28, 2020, 9:14am

>273 japaul22: Hi Jennifer ... when new Talk was released, they said something about user feedback (or maybe site traffic data, not sure) that most people go directly to first unread so they made that a default. I guess I can see how, from a programming standpoint, that also means it would jump to the bottom if there were no unread messages, but agree that would be annoying. Unfortunately I'm not aware of any user settings that allow you to customize Talk.

marraskuu 28, 2020, 4:07pm

No - but there is a jump to top on every message bar (the arrow pointing up into a line, farthest right). So it's only two clicks to get to where you want to edit.

It used to be that there were several links per message line in the thread lists; I thought that worked, but apparently it was giving them problems, so they made it in LT 2.0 so the whole line is one link. It originally went to the top of the thread, but since most people want the first unread most of the time, they switched it. It's fewer clicks that way.

marraskuu 28, 2020, 4:26pm

>275 jjmcgaffey: thanks for pointing out that arrow up button! That makes the new system much more tolerable.

marraskuu 28, 2020, 5:38pm

>275 jjmcgaffey:, >276 japaul22: oh yeah, that little button. I use it all the time and yet forgot to mention it!

marraskuu 29, 2020, 11:07am

>262 japaul22: Excellent review, much to think about there. Thanks!

marraskuu 29, 2020, 7:16pm

Great comments on Shirley Jackson. I've not read much by her, but it sounds like I would like her work. Onto the list -- maybe 2021?

marraskuu 29, 2020, 8:03pm

>279 BLBera: I definitely think Shirley Jackson is worth your reading time! I've read 4 of her 6 novels and liked We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Hangsaman best.

marraskuu 29, 2020, 9:57pm

Thanks for the recommendations, Jennifer. I think I have We Have Always Lived in the Castle on my shelves.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 10:00am

#68 The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

I loved this sad book about a 40 something spinster in 1950s Ireland trying desperately to find a place in the world. Judith Hearne was tied to an ill, controlling aunt through her 20s and missed her chance at marriage. Her lack of money and plain looks don't help either. What begins as a Barbara Pym-type story about a nice, lonely, poor, Catholic woman deteriorates to more desperate events as the reader learns more about what all this loneliness has led Judy to.

The author doesn't sugar coat anything and leaves the ending as it realistically would be. I thought this was a brilliant look at the limited options for a middle aged woman without family or funds in this time period. Despite the sadness, I loved this book and rooted for Judy Hearne with all of her faults.

A great find and highly recommended.

Original publication date: 1955
Author’s nationality: British/Northern Ireland (another one of these, correct me if I'm wrong!!)
Original language: English
Length: 223 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased nyrb
Why I read this: bought for a litsy group read ages ago and finally getting to it

marraskuu 30, 2020, 1:13pm

>282 japaul22: interesting

>271 japaul22: A good biography a Shirley Jackson has a lot of appeal. Noting and enjoyed your review of this and the Jackson novel.

Catching up a bit. Lots of good conversations here.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 2:11pm

I've not read anything by Shirley Jackson. You have me sorely tempted now.

joulukuu 8, 2020, 2:48pm

#69 American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

Reading about the electoral college made me want to revisit Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. I actually read this book back in 2010, close to when it came out, but I had just had my first son and was getting no sleep with a newborn. So though this is technically a reread, I remembered almost none of it.

Jackson is a controversial president. He greatly expanded presidential power and viewed himself as a direct representative of the people. He believed this was in contrast to Congress, which until then was viewed as having the most power of the three branches. He used his veto power in a much more expansive way, vetoing bills he didn't agree with whether because of a firm-held belief or simply for a political statement. While in some ways, Jackson felt that because he was the direct representative of the people he should have expanded power as President, in other instances he believed in States' rights. These inconsistencies are a bit hard to understand from a modern point of view.

Three major issues are explored in this book: South Carolina's desire to nullify a federal tariff (a state's rights issue) that could have led to greater state power (and the ability to keep slavery), the removal of the Native Americans from huge swaths of land previously granted to them in treaties, and the break up of the federal bank which dispersed federal money to state banks instead of the centralized federal bank. Jackson is credited with preserving the Union by compromising the tariff in a way that allowed SC to accept it. On the Native American issue, posterity has judged him more and more harshly - rightly so in my mind. And on the bank issue? Well, I'm still a bit confused. He was supposedly combatting corruption and did balance the budget, but the country also entered a depression shortly after this move. I'd need to read more.

Jackson was a President who spoke to the average American and viewed himself as their voice in a Capitol filled with wealthy, out of touch, elitist congressmen. I'm still not sure what I think of him. This biography admits to being less of a scholarly work, and more of a look at broad topics and Jackson's relationships during his Presidency. In this way, I really liked this as an introduction to Jackson. Some day I'll tackle a more scholarly biography that gets into more detail.

Original publication date: 2008
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 369 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: reread, interested in Jackson

joulukuu 8, 2020, 3:32pm

>285 japaul22: Last year, I read a much older Jackson biography, The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1938. Quite interesting, though horrifying in James' attitudes about slavery and race. Jackson was, of course, a slave holder. James went out of his way to describe Jackson as compassionate to his slaves, but the writer also offers, on his own behalf, the typical Southerner's Jim Crow defense of the institution of slavery.

On the Native American issue, also last year I read a 100-year-old history of the Colony and then State of Georgia which made the point that Indian Affairs were considered, in the early decades of the U.S., to be another states' rights issue. Georgia wanted to expel all of their native tribes, but Jackson, as president, initially made a treaty with them that allowed them to stay. Georgia didn't think it was the Federal government's business at all to tell them what to do about their Indian population one way or the other. I had never considered that side of the sordid tale before. I can't recall, though, how all of that entered into the Trail of Tears tragedy.

The bank issue seemed relatively clear when I was reading about it in that biography, but it's all a muddle to me now, I'm afraid.

joulukuu 8, 2020, 9:05pm

I don't have it all straight in my head either. In Georgia, where I live, there was a gold rush that precipitated expelling the Cherokee (Also two US Supreme court rulings in 1831 & 1832, one against the Cherokee and one for.) I think Jackson ordered federal military to enforce the walk to Indian territory (what we know today as Oklahoma.) And a Supreme Court ruling recently upended the status of many court cases in Oklahoma when parts of the state were declared on Muskogee land & some cases under the jurisdiction of Muskogee courts.

joulukuu 9, 2020, 10:31am

I would like to read more about the Trail of Tears. I read a very well done book about the Northern Plains tribes called Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn. It wasn't a perfect book (I thought the author inserted herself into the book too much) but it had a lot of good info. I might look for some books to read in 2021. I have Braiding Sweetgrass on my Christmas list, though it's not historical as much as a collection of essays on how the author learned to interact with nature.

joulukuu 12, 2020, 7:56am

#70 Camilla by Fanny Burney

I loved Evelina, liked Cecilia, and just couldn't connect with Camilla, the three books I've read by 18th century author, Fanny Burney. This novel centers around a young woman named Camilla who is a favorite of a rich Uncle who moves to their community. His fortune ends up shifting from Camilla to her younger sister when Eugenia contracts smallpox on the Uncle's watch. However, this uncle still wants to play matchmaker for the girls and his ward, Indiana.

In this very long novel, many dramatic scenes unfold - crossed lines of communication, debt, kidnapping, elopement, and finally marriage. It was all a little too much for me. I loved the more tightly constructed Evelina, but this was too over-dramatic for me to truly enjoy.

Original publication date: 1796
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 369 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books, liked other books by the author

joulukuu 12, 2020, 9:17am

#71 Writers and Lovers by Lily King

I loved this new novel about Casey, a 31 year old writer who is going through a rough time. Well, I loved it until the end - but more on that later.

Casey is writing a novel. Her mother just unexpectedly died while on vacation and Casey is grieving. She also has tons of student loan debt, only a waitressing job for income, and is living in a tiny garage converted to almost apartment. She has not had health insurance for years so hasn't seen a doctor in years. And she has a troubled love life. Don't all people who are struggling that much have trouble beginning relationships?

I loved Casey and was strongly rooting for her. Creating an income in any of the arts is stressful and difficult and demands discipline and perseverance. Even in a time of personal turmoil and doubt, she continues her pursuit.

However, I had a big problem with the relationships and outcomes. Throughout the book, Casey is dating two very different men and awakening (as many women in their 30s do) to the systemic sexism present in our culture. I was absolutely disheartened that she ends up choosing one of these men at all. I felt very strongly that the character was at a point where she should have chosen to leave both and focus on herself before beginning a new relationship. The issue I've hid under the spoiler really ruined the ending of the book for me and takes this from a 4.5 star read to more like a 3 for me. I felt like the ending was the cowardly and appeasing way of ending the book. Sorry to be harsh about a book I was otherwise very impressed with and connected with. Maybe my disappointment in the ending will soften over time considering how much I loved the rest of the book.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: buzz, available at the library

joulukuu 12, 2020, 4:35pm

I know quite of few of you on this site are experts in researching your family genealogy. My mom has done a ton of research in years past and my husband's family also has quite a bit. My mom's is all hand-written in a beautiful book with cut outs that lead to further trees. But, it is pretty full and stems from my sister and me, and I'd like to gather her info plus my husband's info for my kids. I'm wondering what the best platform for this is? I'd like it to be digital since I already have hand written family trees. Is there a software that is good and that you trust will last? I'm not sure I want to use a web-based service because I want family to have access to it without having to pay to see it. Plus I worry that I might do a lot of work and then the service will go bankrupt and disappear in a decade or something.

Thanks for any advice on this!

joulukuu 12, 2020, 7:26pm

>291 japaul22: Jennifer, not long ago I found myself in a somewhat similar situation. My dad did a lot of genealogical research back in the 1980s/90s, using PC software which, knowing my dad, was probably the "best" product at the time but no longer exists. Thankfully he kept printouts of the database records. After he passed away I decided it would be a shame to lose the results of his work. I have since entered all of it into along with my husband's tree.

Why Ancestry? To be honest, I didn't do much research. I knew it to be hugely popular, it seems to be the de facto leader in this space. I think they are well positioned to last as much as any technology platform can in a world where tech evolves rapidly. And Ancestry allows you to give others access to your tree, and they do not need a paid subscription. What I like most about Ancestry is that you can see member trees that include your ancestors and benefit from research others have done to help you further build out your tree. And with a paid subscription you can access public records (e.g., birth, marriage, death, census) which is a great way to verify the information you have, and can lead to some interesting discoveries.

I am far from an expert, but would be happy to answer questions!

joulukuu 12, 2020, 8:51pm

>291 japaul22: is wonderful for doing research, finding records, other member trees, etc., but it does require for you to have a subscription. I don't have a tree in Ancestry, but I do use it (available for use in most libraries) to do research.

I personally use RootsMagic software, which is very easy to use and can be uploaded to Ancestry (if you wish). There is a paid full version (about $40 I think to download) and there is a "basic" free version (no charts or reports). You can create CDs with your database to give to family members, and they can download the free version and have access to your basic family tree information. You can check it out at They are coming out with a new version (RM8) within the next year. They also have a software program called Personal Historian, which takes your RootsMagic database and helps you create a full written family history.

I know of two genealogists on LT: Lori (thornton37814) and Meg (FamilyHistorian) who you might want to message for their recommendations. There is also a very quiet group, Genealogy@LT: and there are a couple of older threads about software.

joulukuu 13, 2020, 7:37am

>292 lauralkeet: Thank you! I was hoping you'd chime in :-)
>293 kac522: Thank you! I've been looking at RootsMagic or Family Tree Maker, so it's good to know you use RootsMagic and like it.

I'm considering those two because they do both upload easily to Ancestry and then I could have it both on software and on the web. I also know that I have a great aunt who has done a ton of work on my dad's side of the family and she has it on Ancestry. So I assume there would be a way for me to connect her work to mine on Ancestry.

There's a lot to consider and it will be a ton of work, especially since the info on my husband's side isn't very well organized, but I think if I think of it as a very long term project, it will be fun instead of stressful.

joulukuu 13, 2020, 7:48am

>294 japaul22: think of it as a very long term project, it will be fun instead of stressful.
Yeah, that has worked for me. The initial data entry is time consuming but what's the hurry, right? And I expect once that's completed you will find new avenues to explore. Some of my rabbit holes have led me to further build out my tree and my husband's (where we had much less information, and some loose ends). I've also been inspired to read more about the history of a period or a place, to better understand what was happening at the time, or what daily living was like. It's definitely fun.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 16, 2020, 2:56pm

#72 Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift

Tangier Island is a tiny island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay (between Virginia and Maryland on the East coast of the US) that is getting tinier by the moment. This is true for both the physical shoreline of the island and for the aging population.

The island is visibly sinking into the bay, losing feet of shoreline yearly due to rising sea levels from global warming. However, the islanders firmly believe that it's what they call "erosion", not climate change, that is changing the island and altering their way of life. While the island shrinks, so does the population. This is partially due to the crabbing industry, the main - really only - source of income for the island, falling apart. Maryland Blue Crabs are well known for their deliciousness and are a regional delicacy. But over-fishing and changing environment are making the crab population dwindle. Local regulations have brought back the blue crabs fairly successfully, but they are not as easily found around Tangier Island anymore, so the island's main industry is no longer sustaining families. More and more of the younger generations are choosing to go to college and stay on the mainland.

The author of this book stays on the island for a year, getting to know the people and presenting a detailed history of the island. He discusses the science of what is happening to the island and the cultural significance of physical changes of the island. The author frames this as a larger discussion of what we're going to do as a nation as populated areas of our country are made uninhabitable by climate change. How big does a community need to be for the federal government to save it? Does cultural significance play a role in the decision? Tangier Island is a unique, isolated society with an important local industry, an accent so thick they sound like they are speaking another language, and their own brand of government plus christianity. Do they deserve millions/billions of federal dollars to save their historic island for a population that amounts to about 400 people currently? Is the wildlife and unique habitat reason enough to save the island? Or do we let nature, or at least the trajectory on which humans have set nature, take its course?

I really loved this book. It's a fascinating look at an area and people that live within a few hours of my home, but whose beliefs, customs, and ways of life are totally foreign to mine. It is not at all "preachy" about climate change, it is actually a well-balanced look at the people, the island, and the politics.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 382 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: borrowed from my mom who was reading it for her bookclub
Why I read this: sounded interesting - also because my mom told me several women in her bookclub sat out this month because they wouldn't read a book about climate change since they don't believe in it. :-0

joulukuu 16, 2020, 2:55pm

>296 japaul22: That sounds fascinating, Jennifer. I've never heard of that island before. Shame those ladies in your mum's bookclub sat out a book on climate deniers given that they're climate deniers!

joulukuu 16, 2020, 2:59pm

>297 AlisonY: Agreed! I mean, after reading it, I have to say that the author didn't try very hard to persuade about climate change. I think anyone could read this and see a little about both sides of belief without feeling threaten. The crux of the book is more about the unique population and unique situation of the island and (in a way regardless of why it's sinking into the bay) what we should do about it as a society. And what decisions about Tangier Island will mean about national decisions on our changing landscape in the future. The islanders don't dispute that they are losing their island to the bay and they do want the government to help them save it.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 3:03pm

>296 japaul22:

That sounds fascinating. The "save at all costs" vs "it is better to use the money to relocate" question will keep coming up in the next decades - there are way too many islands and water-adjacent areas where the decision will need be made (and sooner or later, probably areas that simply do not have any water and no feasible way to get it there)...

joulukuu 16, 2020, 6:14pm

>290 japaul22: I agree with you about both men in Writers & Lovers being terrible, but after all that Casey went through, the outrageous wish fulfillment of the final pages felt very satisfying indeed.

joulukuu 17, 2020, 4:38pm

>296 japaul22: I bought this book earlier in the year as the problems in Chesapeake Bay aren't dissimilar to those where I live. Unfortunately I haven't read it yet, but your review at least makes me glad I have it to read (if that makes any sense).

joulukuu 17, 2020, 5:30pm

>301 SassyLassy: It's nice when the book bullet is a confirmation rather than sending you searching...

joulukuu 24, 2020, 7:47am

#73 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I read this classic out loud with my 10 year old son, William, this year. He was familiar with the story from Mickey's A Christmas Carol, but I was still really proud of him for understanding the old fashioned vocabulary and syntax. It was fun to read a classic with him.

Original publication date: 1843
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 112 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: a pretty Christmas edition
Why I read this: wanted to try a classic with my son

joulukuu 24, 2020, 8:11am

#74 La Bête Humaine by Emile Zola
La Bête Humaine is Zola's attempt at a detective mystery. In typical Zola fashion, this book is brutal and insightful and brilliant. Zola really is a master writer. This book has memorable, complex characters and also focuses on the trains and railroads. The trains themselves are personified and become an integral part of the book.

There is still societal commentary, but this book focuses a bit more on the character and motivations of the people in the book. There is a lot of violence, I guess as always in a Zola novel. Somehow, though, the way Zola makes the violence feel true to life and integral to the point of each book, I can accept reading about the violence.

This is my second Zola book this year and every time I read one I want to read more. Luckily, he wrote a lot of novels!

Original publication date: 1890
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 372 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

joulukuu 28, 2020, 4:00pm

#75 The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike

The Forgotten Kingdom is the second book of a trilogy set in Wales in 500 AD. It imagines the lives of Lailoken and Languoreth. Lailoken will later be better known as Merlin of Arthurian legend, but his twin sister, Languoreth, who was a powerful queen in her own right, has been largely lost to history. This book is a wonderful mix of ancient culture and history, the mixing of Christianity and the Old Ways, and a touch of fantasy and romance. I love it and can't wait for the third book to come out.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 474 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: second book in a series that I'm loving

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:30am

#76 The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff

Another Persephone title, and much in the same style as others I've read. Having read about 8 now, I'm seeing that they tend to publish quiet, family-centered novels that often have drama simmering quietly under the surface.

This novel is about a middle class family who vacations to the British seaside town of Bognor every September. This year feels a little different because the children are older - the oldest two basically adults - and things seem to be shifting. They all realize that the boarding house they always stay in is looking more and more run down. We get a glimpse into each family member's internal thoughts; this isn't the sort of family that would share these thoughts out loud.

I liked this quiet book. But at the same time, I was waiting all the way through for things to come to a head or for some real conversations to happen and they didn't. I suppose that is true to life, but it didn't make for a particularly interesting book. Still, at this time of year, with all the bustle of the holidays, I enjoy a quiet book. This fit the bill.

Original publication date: 1931
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 326 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: persephone subscription
Why I read this: off the shelf

joulukuu 30, 2020, 3:58pm

I'm pretty sure that wraps up my 2020 reading. I read 76 books in this strange year of 2020. That’s a pretty standard number for me, so despite a worldwide pandemic and huge lifestyle changes because of it, I’m interested to note that my reading stayed pretty consistent.

More stats:
29,938 pages read
388 average book length
55 were by women authors
15 books published in 2020
5 rereads
15 books from the 1001 books to read before you die list (I’m up to 334)

Best Overall:
1. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
2. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman
3. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
4. The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
5. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
7. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
8. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
9. La Bête Humaine by Emile Zola

Pure Enjoyment
1. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
2. The Priory by Dorothy Whipple
3. The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman
4. I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
5. The Grammarians by Catherine Schine
6. The Searchers by Tana French
7. Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
8. The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike

Books That Broadened my Understanding
1. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
2. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
3. Call Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit
4. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Visionary Women by Andrea Barnet
6. Presidential Elections and Majority Rule by Edward B. Foley
7. Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift

Good Books With Wide Appeal
1. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
2. Akin by Emma Donoghue
3. Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See
4. Long Bright River by Liz Moore
5. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
6. Writers and Lovers by Lily King

Weird but Great
1. Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer
2. A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet
3. The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson

Challenging to read but glad I did
1. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
2. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
3. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
4. Loving by Henry Green

Books I remember liking but now remember nothing about:
1. Lady Audley’s Secret by M.E. Braddon (I even did an awesome group read and still can barely remember the plot!)
2. Inland by Tea Obreht
3. Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
4. Leaving Home by Anita Brookner

Bottom of the bunch:
1. The Anarchy by William Dalrymple – I had high hopes for this nonfiction about India and British interference, but it ended up being too focused on war and not enough on culture/society for my taste
2. The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas – I’ve loved other books by this author, but this was so poetic that I couldn’t grasp the point
3. The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson – another one that, for me, was too focused on war and troop movements to grab my interest
4. The Commandant by Jessica Anderson – this sounded appealing (woman-centered historical fiction set in Australian penal colonies) but it had too much of a 1970s vibe for me
5. Camilla by Fanny Burney – just too long and melodramatic, read Evelina instead!

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:34pm

Great wrap-up of your reading year, Jennifer. I hope to "see" you again in 2021; I've picked up some great ideas for my WL here. Happy New Year.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 7:57am

>308 BLBera: Thank you! I'll look for your 2021 thread in the 75 books club as well!

joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:02am

Please join me in Club Read 2021
or the 2021 Category Challenge

joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:06am

Hi Jennifer! I've starred your new Club Read thread but it currently says one must join to post, which I don't recall doing in the past. Is that an intentional decision within the group, or an admin thing that can be modified?

joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:35am

Hm. I think we ran into that last year and it was a setting that needed to be changed. Let me ask!