Arubabookwoman Is Back For 2020

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Arubabookwoman Is Back For 2020

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 2020, 4:27pm

I’m Deborah, a retired tax attorney/fiber artist. I’ve been a member of Club Read for I think 10 years or so, but was largely absent last year due to my husband’s health issues and bone marrow transplant. We have 5 grown kids, 3 in NYC, 1 in Houston, and 1 in Tampa. We have lived in Seattle for more than 30 years, and fully intended to stay, untill one day all our kids ended up basically on the east coast and took our 5 grandchildren with them.
We were in the process of preparing our house for sale to move to Delaware (at that time our Tampa son was also in NYC), when my husband’s cancer returned, and he was told that his only chance for survival was the transplant. We decided to go ahead with the sale of our house and move to an apartment in downtown Seattle for the transplant process, which began in March 2019. The next months were very rough, but we were finally released from the Hutch in October, he is cancer-free, and the transplant is considered a success. He now has the blood and immune system of a 20 year old European woman. (If his blood DNA is tested he reads female; skin/hair/saliva DNA is still male). There are, and will be, lingering health issues, but things are fairly smooth for now. We have changed the focus of our move to Florida, alligators and all, and hope to be in Florida, somewhere between Tampa and Sarasota by May 2020.
I read pretty much everything except maybe Romance and Horror (and I don’t particularly care for YA). I read about 1/3 NF and 2/3 Fiction. I try not to be too Us/Canada/Great Britain-centric by reading as much world literature as I can. I keep track of my reading in the first few entries of this thread, and will try very hard to say at least a few words about everything I read. I love to hear your comments, suggestions, opinions about the books I read, as well as what you are reading, so please visit often, and I will try to reciprocate.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 5:11pm

Quarter 1


1. Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton (2013) 288 pp
2. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (2019) 561 pp
3. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013) 240 pp
4. The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks by Jeffrey Lewis (2018) 304 pp
5. The Masterpiece by Emile Zola
6. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
7. The Body in Question by Jill Ciment
8. Flight or Fright by Stephen King, editor
DNF The Evidence Against Her by Robb Forman Dew
DNF The Editor by Steven Rowley
9. Rituals by Cees Nooteboom (1980) 145 pp
10. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (2015) 305 pp
11. Lost Connections by Johann Hari (2018) 417 pp
12. Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy Hughes (1949) 248 pp


13. 48 Hours by William R. Forstchen (2018) 336 pp
14. The Professor's House by Willa Cather (1925) 258 pp
15. Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth (2016) 330 pp
16. After the Fire by Henning Mankell (2015) 401 pp
17. More Joy in Heaven by Morely Callaghan (1937) 159 pp
18. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (2019)
19. Cherry by Nico Walker (2019) 313 pp
20. A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin (2003) 406 pp
21. A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig (2019)
DNF Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
22. The Whispering Wall by Patricia Carlon (1969) 205pp
23. Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood (2018) 344 pp
24. Kushner, Inc. by Vicky Ward (2019) 296 pp


25. Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (2019) 318 pp
26. Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris (2006) 352 pp
27. Diary of a Dead Man on Leave by David Downing (2019) 295 pp
28. The Deadliest Plague by Brian Clark)
29. Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter
30. Malice by Keigo Higashino (1996) 326 pp
31. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
32. Old in Art School by Nell Painter

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2020, 11:39am


33. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (2016) 432 pp
34. Weather A Novel by Jenny Offill (2020) 224 pp
35. Akin by Emma Donohue (2019) 352 pp
36. Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (2020) 305 pp
37. Best State Ever by Dave Barry
38. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
39. Foe by Iain Reid
40. Abigail by Magda Szabo
41. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (2020) 370 pp
42. Front Row At The Trump Show by Jonathan Karl (2020) 368 pp


43. Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar (2019) 217 pp
44. The Promise by Silvina Ocampo (2010) 121 pp
45. Untrumping America by Dan Pfeiffer (2020) 305 pp
46. This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
47. Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927) 234 pp
48. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (2019) 288 pP
49. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
50. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider (2017) 286 pp
51. Chasing My Cure by David Fajgenbaum (2019) 234 pp
52. Influx by Daniel Suarez
53. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (2017) 189 pp
54. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
55. The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina (2019) 513 pp


56. The Bear by Andrew Krivak (2020) 224 pp
57. Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
58. Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese (2009) 376 pp
59. Aftermath by Donovan Webster (1996) 288 pp
60. Scrublands by Chris Hammer (2019) 385 pp
61. Death in Spring by Merce Rododera
62. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
63. One Day by Gene Weingarten (2019) 383 pp
64. Dark Towers by David Enrich (2019) 416 pp
65. Hiding in Plain Sight by Sarah Kendzior (2020) 288 pp
66. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim (2018) 321 pp
67. 100 Places You will Never See by Daniel Smith

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2020, 11:54am




68. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) 288 pp
69. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)
70. The Law of Lines by Pyun Hye-young (20200 216 pp
71. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (2018) 463 pp
72. The Last Astronaut by David Wellington (2019) 401 pp
73. Peace by Gary Disher (2019) 277 pp
74. Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 442 pp
75. Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell(2013) 338 pp
76. Shade by Pete Souza (2018)
77. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004) 418
78. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (1931) 240 pp


79. The Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth About America's Deep State by David Rohde (2020) 352 pp
80. Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (2020)
81. The First Cell by Azra Raza (2019)
82. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
83. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
84. Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson (2018)
85. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (2020) 321 pp
86. The Chain by Adrian McKinty (2019) 389 pp
87. Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts
88. Fever by Deon Meyer (2018) 744 pp
89. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015) 378 pp
90. The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (2019) 301 pp


91. The Year of Dangerous Days by Nicholas Griffin (2020) 330 pp
92. The Informer by Akimitsu Takagi (1965)
93. Trump on Trial by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan (2020)
94. True Crimes and Misdemeanors by Jeffrey Toobin (2020) 496 pp
95. Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti
96. Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter
97. The Innocents by Michael Crummey (2019) 293 pp
98. The Vanished by Lotte Hammer (2016) 448 pp

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 2020, 5:59pm

Best of 2019

In 2019, I read 113 books, 76 fiction and 37 nonfiction, with 58 male authors and 57 female authors. In addition to the US/Canada/Great Britain, I read books from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Malaysia, Taiwan, Somalia, Italy, Austria, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Israel, Argentina, and Iceland.

My favorites were:


The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Labyrinths by Borges
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado
Territory of Light by Yukio Tsushima
The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin
Trustee From the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
The Need by Helen Phillips
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


Juniper, the Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Thomas French and Kelly French
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
The Apprentice by Greg Miller
The Art of Dying Well by Katey Butler
Beaufort by Ron Leshem
Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff
The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs
Deep State by James Sewart
The Hill to Die On by Jake Sherman

Unfortunately, it looks like the touchstones are not working.

Of note, I also finished Mick Herron's Slow Horses series, which I highly recommend. I also finished the Poldark series. I liked the earlier books focusing on Ross and Demelza in Cornwall better than the later books featuring their children and other locales, but I do recommend the series. I also finished Gary Disher's Hal Challis series, read a good stand-alone by him (Under the Cold Bright Lights), and hope to continue on to his Wyatt series.

A few duds (surprising given that I like these authors):
The Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Conviction by Denise Mina

And a couple of highly anticipated new books that I found ok, but just ok:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

joulukuu 29, 2019, 1:53pm

2020 plans

tammikuu 1, 2020, 3:57pm

I’m happy to see you here Deborah. You’ve passed along some great suggestions in the past.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2020, 12:29pm

Happy New Year! I am glad life seems to be settling down and you are finding more time for reading and the Bookternet. I hope this trend continues. And good luck with the pending move to Florida.

tammikuu 3, 2020, 11:51am

Dear Deborah, wishing you all the best for 2020. I’ll follow your reading, here and on Litsy!

tammikuu 3, 2020, 2:04pm

Happy New Year. It’s really nice to read your intro and sense some optimism. I will try to follow you here and, of course, look forward to it. Fair chance I’ll pick something up here to add to my own reading.

tammikuu 3, 2020, 7:12pm

Looking forward to following along with your reading this year. I'm interested to see the Carmen Machado collection in your favourites of last year, since I'm reading her In the Dream House memoir at the moment and finding it very good. Hope you have a good year ahead!

tammikuu 4, 2020, 11:16am

Happy New Year, Deborah!

tammikuu 5, 2020, 9:43am

I'm really glad to hear your and your husband's good news. A little hope for the new year is a good thing. Looking forward to following your thread.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 7:14pm

Thank you to all my lovely visitors.

So I very carefully planned my potential reads for January. Overall goal, read books I own, finish Rougon Macquart, read Europe for a Litsy group, read more Classics. Possible January reads:

The Masterpiece-Rougon Macquart
The Professor’s House-Classics
My Struggle (vol.5)-Europe
Midnight in Chernobyl-NF
East West Street-NF

But of course, my first read of 2020, turned out to be one not on any list of mine. I was browsing the virtual stacks of my library, came across a book about earthquakes in the Northwest, it was available, and I hadn’t reached my limit so I checked it out. When I read the first few paragraphs, I had to keep reading.

I was at work on the 24th floor of the Columbia Tower (tallest building in Seattle) during the 2001 quake here, and I remember the building swaying back and forth like a clock pendulum as I hid under my desk and counted the seconds.
According to the earthquake book, that was a “deep quake” of which there have been 18 since 1900 in the Northwest. Since the 1980’s, the time we’ve lived here, scientists have discovered definitive evidence of the two other types of quakes that have occurred here, and could occur again: a Cascadia mega quake in the subduction zone or a quake along one of the dozens of fault lines that have been discovered running under Seattle and environs since the 1990’s.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 7:15pm

1. Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton (2013) 288 pp

Subtitle: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest

"No one in the past three hundred years has witnessed a Cascadia megaquake, Not a single soul in the past millennium has weathered a rupture on the Seattle Fault. But hundreds of thousands of people across the Northwest have stories to tell about the third type of earthquake that strikes the region: deep quakes like the one that struck between Olympia and Seattle in 2001"

Now that we're leaving Seattle I am letting to the forefront my earthquake fears, which have been bubbling subconsciously during the 30+ years we have lived here. This book will set no one's fears to rest. It is a history of the geologic and scientific discoveries of the last 30-40 years which have deepened our knowledge of past and potential earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, otherwise known as the Cascadia subduction zone. There are explanations as to why future earthquakes in this area are likely to be much more powerful and have more dire consequences than quakes in any other part of the continental United States. While no one knows for sure, the consensus belief is that the Pacific Northwest is due or overdue for either a subduction quake or a fault quake, either of which would be devastating, rather than the more run of the mill deep quakes, which are the only kind that have occurred in recorded history here. There's also lots of information about tsunamis, and a discussion about the building code requirements that have been put into place for earthquake protection and whether they will in fact be effective should (or when) a megaquake occurs.

This book probably would appeal to a limited readership, but I found it informative and chilling.

3 stars

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 5, 2020, 10:39pm

Ooh. I’m fascinated. There’s really no place safe along the Pacific Rim. Got me googling Cascadia megaquakes.

>15 arubabookwoman: if you want to join the group on Litsy on The Professor’s House, let me know and I’ll tag you there. First discussion is Jan 18.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 9:38pm

>16 arubabookwoman: and >17 dchaikin: Megaquakes the catnip of geologists. One day we are going to have to stop using the due dates and long overdue though, timescales just don't match the anxiety caused by such loose language.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 10:57pm

Kevin- I went through that kind of thought process too, and was trying to think about how to express it. I think you put it well.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 11:33pm

>16 arubabookwoman: One of my favorite (?) New Yorker articles was on this topic -- the overdue, very bad earthquake in the pacific northwest. It might have been a contributing factor in the death of my dream of moving to Portland.

tammikuu 5, 2020, 11:56pm

>18 stretch: >19 dchaikin: On the other hand, the book mentioned a recent criminal trial in Italy in which some geologists were convicted of manslaughter because they had opined that a cluster of small quakes did not mean that a larger quake was coming. A fair number of people died when a larger quake did occur. (Seems a bit far-fetched to me for criminal liability). So I guess geologists are "damned if they do; damned if they don't."

>20 ELiz_M: We moved to Seattle in 1986, and most of what is now known about the Cascadia subduction zone has been discovered since then. The book was written by a Seattle Times reporter, and focuses mostly on the Seattle area, although there's quite a lot about the Oregon coast in terms of tsunamis, and there's a lot about the Fukushima quake. Seattle seems to be a lot more vulnerable than Portland, partly because it sits on a basin of "mush" (not the correct geological term) which will make it shake longer and harder in an earthquake than areas not located on a basin. I think Portland is pretty safe from tsunamis, although the Oregon coast (ie.Cannon Beach, one of the most beautiful places in the world) is extremely vulnerable.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 2020, 12:06am

Deborah, I know we've had a few glancing blows, but this is the first time we have really "met". How nice to meet you. I have experienced several moderately strong earthquakes from the New Madrid Fault where I live here in St. Louis. We are overdue for a "big one", too. I wish not to experience that next "big one", but then my kids and grandkids are in the crossfire. We love St. Louis, and have family here since about 1830. That's pretty early for this part of the country.

I expect to follow you this year, and I am looking forward to your non-fiction reads. I like non-fiction when I find some that interests me, but there is so much fiction to read that I don't usually get to that. Geology and Tectonics, including Vulcanism and Earthquakes are definitely interesting to me, so I'll be looking for Full Rip.

But wait! Aren't you worried about Hurricanes and the rising of sea levels in Florida? I think you are more likely to be hurt from those, and they are much more frequent than megaquakes.

tammikuu 7, 2020, 6:45pm

>16 arubabookwoman: I don't know if US media report these, but did you know that there were seven quakes off Vancouver Island in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve? They ranged from 4.3 to 6.2 (6.3 according to the US Geological Survey).

Interesting sounding book.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 8, 2020, 6:37am

So glad to hear that your husband's transplant was successful! That must have been a very difficult time, but what a relief. And Florida now...perhaps you will end up near janeajones and the two of you can spend hot days poolside showing off grandkid photos and talking about books. btw, you have taken up 2nd spot on my profile page weighted list of "members with your books" (the 1st spot belongs to the hubby).

tammikuu 11, 2020, 8:09pm

Glad to hear of your husband's good health news, and to see you back here. Look forward to your reading this year.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 2:47pm

>22 sallypursell: Thanks for visiting Sally. Yes I do worry about hurricanes. We lived in New Orleans for 18 years, but left in 1986 well before Katrina. Every hurricane season there were dire predictions for a big hurricane hitting New Orleans in just the right way to wreak havoc. We also left town whenever a hurricane was on the way--and that's how hurricanes are different from earthquakes: you have plenty of advance warning and time to evacuate from harm's way with hurricanes.

>23 SassyLassy: I did not know that Sassy. The Nisqually Quake, which is the only major quake that occurred while we have lived in Seattle, was 6.8, and I experienced it on the 24th floor of the tallest building in downtown Seattle. Not fun.

>24 avaland: Thanks Lois. The transplant is a success, but, as we've learned even success is accompanied by ongoing health issues. Right now, husband is dealing with a touch of graft vs host disease, in which his "alien" immune system (originating in his donor's immune system) attacks some original organ system of the his body--in this case his skin in the form of a rash, so not so serious. And bone marrow transplants for leukemia or other blood cancers rely on the graft vs host disease phenomena to prevent the recurrence of cancer--the new immune system attacks any cancer arising from the old system. It's really fascinating all the various factors in interplay.
It would be great to connect with janeajones. I will give her a PM to see if she is interested. There is someone in the 75 group I talk to in the area who I also hope to meet when we get there. We are currently on schedule to leave Seattle in mid-April, but will be stopping on the way to Florida in Houston to visit our daughter, with a sidetrip up to Austin to visit my mother.

>25 markon: Thanks for visiting Ardon.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 2:50pm

I did include this next book in my January plans as one of my nonfiction reads, and it's one I own (although on Kindle), so Yay for me for following through on my reading plans!

2. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (2018)

This is a fairly complete history of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, including a consideration of the aftereffects of the accident up to the present day. The book opens years before the accident with an exposition of the development of the nuclear power industry, in particular as it took place in the Soviet Union, since, as the book details, the particularities of the Soviet system, in which workers are given impossible deadlines, resulting in corners being cut, and lies about results, played no small part in the causes and the aftereffects of the accident. As the book states, from the start, Soviet nuclear projects were governed by "ruthless expediency and paranoid secrecy."

We also learn something about how a nuclear reactor works, which is crucial to understanding the causes of the accident. Most of the reactors in the Soviet Union were RMBK reactors, and there is a lengthy discussion of the serious design flaws of RMBK reactors. Prior to the Chernobyl accident, Soviet experts were well-aware of these flaws, and the flaws had in fact played a part in several prior, less serious nuclear reactor accidents. However, because of the primacy of state secrecy, no one at the operator level in the various nuclear power plants, including Chernobyl, was advised of or otherwise aware of these flaws.

The initial investigations of the accident determined that it was caused by operator error, and several of the Chernobyl operators were found criminally liable and went to jail. Only years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, were the design faults of the RMBK reactor acknowledged as the primary cause of the accident.

After this initial very helpful background and history, the book commences an almost minute by minute account of the events of the accident, which took place in the overnight hours of April 25/26, 1986. Dozens of people were involved. Orders were given, followed, defied, countermanded. Chaos reigned. As you might expect, this part was somewhat difficult to follow, but I think it gave a real feel for what was being experienced by those involved.

After the accident, it took several days for Moscow to even admit to the world that an accident had occurred, even though relatively soon after the accident excessive radiation had been detected in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. Even after admitting the accident, Soviet officials downplayed its seriousness, stating it was under control, even while Soviet scientists believed a core meltdown was underway and were scrambling to come up with a plan to prevent such a catastrophe, which could have made much of Europe uninhabitable for hundreds of years. Soviet officials also delayed in ordering evacuations, first from Pripyat, the city where workers at the plant lived, then from the 30 km "Exclusion Zone" around the plant, as well as the ultimate evacuation of all children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women from the city of Kiev.

In a section entitled "The Liquidation of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident," (the name Soviet officials gave to clean-up efforts) we learn that hundreds of thousands of young men were called up for military duty in the Chernobyl Zone. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in many ways, these recruits were viewed as a type of cannon fodder, or more accurately "radiation fodder." Many jobs had to be done in relays of minutes, sometimes even seconds, before dangerous radiation exposure would occur, and officials weren't always too careful about measuring the radiation exposure or even enforcing the limits. (And the book "treats" us to some very graphic descriptions of the effects and the treatments for acute radiation sickeness). For me, this section can be summed up by the following quote:

"This was a task on a scale unprecedented in human history, and for which no one in the USSR--or, indeed, anywhere else on earth--had ever bothered to prepare. Yet now it was also subject to the routinely absurd expectations of the Soviet administrative-command system

Over the weeks and months after the accident, engineers designed and constructed a "sarcophagus" to enclose the shattered reactor, even as scientists continued to try to track down the missing uranium fuel from the core, which they feared was still undergoing a nuclear reaction somewhere within the debris.

The book continues with the history up to the present day, and concludes that Chernobyl was an important factor in the fall of the Soviet Union. Surprisingly, despite everything we have learned about how unprepared we really are to deal with nuclear accidents, and how little we know or have imagined about what can go wrong, there currently is a renaissance in the nuclear power industry with some supposedly safer reactor types being proposed.

As a side note, last year I read another excellent book which analyzed the after-effects of the Chernobyl accident 30 years later which I highly recommend, Manual for Survival by Kate Brown

4 star

tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:39pm

And my 2020 reading seems to be following a theme of "catastrophes."

3. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013) 240 pp

This book takes the unimaginable death and destruction of the tsunamis which followed the Indonesia earthquake in 2004 and brings down to a concrete and personal level of one woman who lost her everything. The author and her family were on vacation in Sri Lanka over the Christmas holidays when they were swept away by the tsunami which struck without warning. She lost her husband, parents, and two young sons. In language brutal, poetic, and honest she documents her emotional state, immediately after the crisis and for several years afterwards, as she remembers their lives together, and tries to come to terms with her loss. This is a powerful and moving book, and I'm glad I read it, but I can understand why someone would choose not to.

3 1/2 stars

tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:43pm

>27 arubabookwoman: Great review. I wondered did you see the Chernobyl miniseries? I think it was on HBO. My husband watched it and said it was very good. I believe it won some Emmys.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:49pm

Great review of Midnight in Chernobyl, Deborah. Do you own or have you read Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich? I hope to get to it in the next year or two.

I thought I had a copy of Wave, but my LT library says otherwise.

I hope that your husband's GVHD symptoms improve soon.

tammikuu 13, 2020, 9:15pm

>29 NanaCC: Just to added a bit to what Colleen said: the Chernobyl limited series is indeed on HBO; and in Michael & my opinions it was excellent, riveting and perhaps the best thing we saw last year. There was something about seeing it....

tammikuu 14, 2020, 12:08am

Great review about Midnight and Chernobyl and, well, wow. I'll second Darryl's recommendation of of Voices from Chernobyl (to Darryl too, 🙂) if you're up for more. It's excellent. All interviews, without questions. She captures a very powerful sense of the human impact.

tammikuu 14, 2020, 5:45pm

>29 NanaCC: >32 dchaikin: I did see the Chernobyl miniseries on HBO and agree it was excellent. It is fairly true to this book, with the one difference that not everyone was so eager and willing to sacrifice themselves for the cleanup. A lot of “volunteers” had to be strongly “persuaded”.

>30 kidzdoc: >32 dchaikin: I read Voices From Chernobyl shortly after it was published (well before she was awarded the Nobel), and agree that it is an excellent book. Now that I’m more familiar with what went on and some of the people involved, I’d like to reread it, but it’s packed away and in storage, so I may not have access to it for many months (until we pick a town in Florida, buy a house, and move in).

tammikuu 14, 2020, 10:44pm

>28 arubabookwoman: I haven't read Wave, but have read reviews on and off on LT and was aware of the tragedy. I was super happy a month or two ago to learn that Deraniyagala married the actress Fiona Shaw in 2018.

tammikuu 18, 2020, 1:18pm

>34 nancyewhite: I am glad to hear that she has married. By the end of her book, she was still grappling with extreme grief, and clearly not in a place for a relationship. I hope this means she has healed.

tammikuu 18, 2020, 1:19pm

I think the following will be my final catastrophe book for a while.

4. The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States by Jeffrey Lewis (2018)

When I was much younger, reading books about nuclear war and about survival after such a war was my guilty reading pleasure. I devoured them all. But as we moved away from the Cold War, such novels began to appear last often, and I now read very little post-apocalyptic fiction. I came across this book several weeks ago when I was browsing the library, and never having heard anything about it, checked it out on a whim. For context, I checked it out before the US went to the brink of war with Iran, but read it after that little boondoggle.

This book is a fictional, but plausible, account of how the US (and Japan, South Korea, and Guam) could end up under nuclear attack by North Korea. It is written in the form of a Commission Report several years after the attack to attempt to explain what went wrong. As such, its focus is geopolitical, rather than an examination of the devastating effects of such a war, or any efforts to rebuild after such a war. (The author is some sort of Think Tank expert, and I think this is his only fiction.)

The book is a study on how our political leaders and various countries play games of brinksmanship with each other, and how each side frequently misreads the intentions of the other side, leading to escalation after escalation. In this book, real characters in the drama include Trump as president, Mattis as Secretary of Defense, and Kim Jung Il. The fictional Trump behaves much as I expect the real Trump would behave. I found the book to be chilling, especially as I was reading it almost contemporaneously with the Iran crisis.

Several of the Amazon reviewers were disappointed with the book because its focus was not the effects of the war and its aftermath and victims. As I said, the intent of the book seems to have been to consider the political circumstances which could lead to such a war, and I think it did a good job. It is more cerebral than graphic. Some other critics were dismayed that Trump was portrayed as a clownish figure more interested in golf, but to me that's his reality.

3 stars

tammikuu 19, 2020, 12:55pm

>36 arubabookwoman: Great comments, Deborah. This sounds like an interesting book.

tammikuu 20, 2020, 3:53am

Catching up. The Chernobyl book sounds great - I'm really interested in reading about that in more depth at some stage, so perhaps this is the book to go with.

I'm delighted that all has gone so well with your husband's transplant. That sounds like truly pioneering medicine. My father has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in his bone marrow, and I wish this kind of option was available to him.

tammikuu 21, 2020, 7:01pm

>36 arubabookwoman: you’re reading is getting darker. Scary.

tammikuu 24, 2020, 1:56pm

>36 arubabookwoman: Great review. Kind of fascinating but not enough to read it, I think :-)

tammikuu 24, 2020, 3:04pm

>37 BLBera: It was interesting Beth, because in most of the fiction I've read about nuclear war, the reasons aren't explored. This book focused on the politics of how it could happen

>38 AlisonY: Midnight in Chernobyl is very complete, well-organized and well-written, so I think it is a logical choice if you only read one book.
Thanks for the good wishes about my husband's transplant. I know there are several other blood cancers for which bone marrow transplants (also called stem cell transplants) are done, but I don't know if non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of them. My husband was at the Fred Hutch center here in Seattle, which was a pioneer in developing these transplants back in the 1980's I think (maybe even earlier). I know that Carl Sagan came to the Hutch for his transplant. Back then, a transplant patient had to basically live in an isolation bubble for months because of the compromised immune system. Now, transplants are done on an outpatient basis, with hospitalization only for infections, illnesses, or other complications (of which we had many, unfortunately). They are also doing car T Cell treatments (known popularly as "killer" T Cells) at the Hutch, and that was one of the options considered for my husband, but it was more experimental, and not yet proven effective for his type of cancer. I hope that they can find something to help with your father's cancer.
>39 dchaikin: Yeah, my reading so far has been pretty dark (as I watch the impeachment trial, fully expecting Trump is going to be acquitted and get away with it all, thus extending the time we have to worry about him doing something stupid like getting us into a nuclear war). But I think my next reading will be more normal.
>40 avaland: It's not a necessary read, but it's there if you ever want to read a plausible example of how political posturing and grandstanding could lead to nuclear war.

tammikuu 24, 2020, 3:05pm

Finally getting to some of my planned reading for January, and getting on with my Rougon Macquart reading.

5. The Masterpiece by Emile Zola 367 pp

In this novel, Zola explores the art world of 19th century Paris, focusing on struggling (and failing) painter Claude Lantier, Christine, the woman who loves him, and a group of his friends, painters, sculptors, musicians, and a writer, Sandoz, who seems to be a stand-in for Zola himself. This was not my favorite Rougon Macquart, and at times I struggled with it, which surprised me since I love art and art history. I sometimes found the discussions of Claude's struggles in conveying his vision repetitive and boring, and I enjoyed the parts about his relationship with Christine much more.

3 star

tammikuu 24, 2020, 3:31pm

6. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (2019) 533 pp

This is a lovely family saga about Marilyn and David and their four daughters, Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Gracie. As the novel opens, the daughters are grown (Wendy, the problem child, is a wealthy widow; Violet, the conscientious one is a non-practicing attorney staying home with two young children; Liza, the middle child is in a relationship with a depressed partner she's not sure she should stay with when she becomes pregnant; and Gracie, the "baby," 15 years younger than Wendy, is living a lie half-way across the country from the rest of the family.)
Things are put into motion when the son Violet gave up for adoption at birth 15 years before shows up. Thereafter, all variations of familial relations are explored--parent/child; husband/wife; sister/sister; grandparent/grandchild; and on and on. Chapters alternate between those set in present after Jonah shows up and those exploring the family history, starting with Marilyn and David's courtship and marriage, continuing with the birth and childhood of each of the girls, and finally catching up to the present-day narrative. The story is told through multiple points of view, with each of the characters taking forefront at various times. I am amazed by how real, and how individual, the author was able to make each of these characters.

If you like the quirky families of Anne Tyler, or novels like Terms of Endearment or movies like Parenthood, I think you would like this book. One think I will note is that in this particular family, the daughters at least, amply use the F word in their conversations, and this seemed to offend some of the reviewers on Amazon. And some thought it was overlong. But I wouldn't cut a word.

4 star

tammikuu 24, 2020, 3:43pm

I read this next one because it is set in Florida, where we are moving, and it's described as about a trial.

7. The Body in Question by Jill Ciment (2019) 192 pp

Two jurors on a murder trial, C-2 and F-17, begin a flirtation, which turns into a sexual affair during their sequestration for a murder trial. They seem to be drawn together by their (self-perceived) superiority to the other (less-educated?) jurors. She is a successful and well-known photo-journalist transplanted from New York, married to a much older well-known prize-winning journalist, and he is a professor of anatomy at a medical school. Their actions during the trial will have consequences for them personally and may also affect the outcome of the trial.

I enjoyed this quick read. While there are details about the crime (a possibly autistic teenager is charged with murdering her infant brother) and trial and an inside look at jury deliberations, these are really just serve as a device to bring C-2, aka Hannah, and F-17, Graham, together, so there is no need to read this book if you're seeking a crime novel. It's mostly a book about the affair, and in particular the motivations and psychology of C-2. I liked it.

3 stars

tammikuu 24, 2020, 3:53pm

8. Flight or Fright by Stephen King, editor (2018) 330

This is a collection of short stories thematically related by a variety of (usually frightening) experiences while flying. I'm not a fan of horror, or the supernatural, or zombies, and the majority of the stories in this collection relied on one or more of these elements, and so, unfortunately, did not work for me. There were, however, a few stories I enjoyed, including one in which terror advocate John Yoo gets what's coming to him at 35,000 feet, the "fifth category" of torture (his torture memos only described four categories of "enhanced interrogation.)

2 1/2 stars

tammikuu 24, 2020, 4:17pm

When we moved from our house to this apartment last year for the transplant before moving to Florida, I packed away most of my books (those I didn't give away) for storage. I kept out and have in the apartment one bookcase of books. Most of these were chosen as I was packing, and were books that as I held them in my hand I felt like I needed to read immediately. But I also kept out to take to the apartment with us some books in another category. These were books I wasn't sure whether I wanted to read anymore, and I decided to take them with us to the apartment, and if they were still unread at the end of the year in the apartment I would give away.
So since moving to the apartment last March, I've read very few of my own books, including those I'd given myself a deadline for. But now, as we've arranged with movers to take our stuff to Florida in mid-April, I decided to try to start reading some of these. And I now have 2 DNF books.
I read about 150 pp (about half) of The Evidence Against Her by Robb Forman Dew. Years ago I read Dale Loves Sophie to Death, and loved it, so I bought The Evidence Against Her about 20 years ago. My copy is a hardcover edition, I paid full price for it, and now the pages are yellowing. Anyway, I don't have anything bad to say about it; it just no longer appeals to me, and I was resisting picking it up. So onto the give-away pile it goes.
Last January ) (2019) LT provided tickets to the ALA convention here, and I went intending not to get any of the free books. I failed, and ended up with somewhere between 15 and 20 free ARC's. I read one fairly quickly, Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif. The rest have been sitting on the shelf, so I tried another one, and it too became another DNF. The Editor by Steven Rowley was one that sounded a bit cutesy to me, but the author was very nice and earnest so I took a copy. The premise of the book is that the narrator has just sold his first book, and it turns out that the editor he will be working with is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I read about 40 pages. It was okay, but I kind of felt like I was wasting my time, and felt guilty about it. So another one for the give-away pile.
So that's 2 fewer books going to Florida.

tammikuu 24, 2020, 10:48pm

>41 arubabookwoman: re impeachment - outside a miracle, it's a foregone conclusion. I keep waiting for a change of winds, but nothing.

Enjoyed these reviews and your story of DNFs (appreciating your decisions). The Most Fun We Ever Had sounds terrific. Florida is a weird place. Wish you well finding literature there, and I'm curious where that will take you.

tammikuu 25, 2020, 12:27pm

>43 arubabookwoman: Immediately put The Most Fun We Ever Had on hold at the library

tammikuu 25, 2020, 3:58pm

>41 arubabookwoman: I'm pretty sure my dad read somewhere about stem cell transplants for NHL sadly only being an option in the States for him. Perhaps if he was younger someone in the UK would be discussing them with him, although his age seems to be working to his advantage for now in terms of the speed of disease progression.

>42 arubabookwoman: I was interested in your Zola review, as today at long last I picked up my first Zola (Germinal). Hopefully the one I plumped for was a good starting place. Sorry this one didn't work out for you so well compared to others that you've read.

tammikuu 25, 2020, 11:28pm

>42 arubabookwoman: I do love art history, too, Deborah, so I might give Masterpiece a try.

I actually picked up The Most Fun We Ever Had from the library shelf, but I put it back. I'm sorry now, that I did. I'll add it to my list.

It sounds like you are getting rid of books to pack. When we moved to our new offices, I got rid of some, but I still have too many books around here. My shelves are full, and I honestly don't know where I would fit more shelves. So, I need to start reading from them and passing the books on to new homes.

Do you know where you'll be living yet?

helmikuu 2, 2020, 3:31pm

>47 dchaikin: Thanks Dan. I've pulled a pile of books I know I wouldn't want to keep after I've read them (mysteries, SF, and other lighter fare), and I intend to read them or DNF them over the next couple of months. Either way, they aren't coming to Florida.

>48 nancyewhite: I hope you like it. It's long, but it reads fast.

>49 AlisonY: I checked on the Fred Hutch web site, and they do offer a stem cell transplant as a treatment for your father's type of cancer, but only after other treatments, including chemo and targeted therapies (kinase inhibitors) have failed (same as for my husband's type of cancer). My husband's cancer was in remission for more than 5 years with a targeted therapy (kinase inhibitor) drug called ibrutinib or imbruvica. The web site said this drug is also one of the treatments for your father's type of cancer. Has that been considered?
I hope you are enjoying Germinal. It's the Zola I always recommend people read first, and it hasn't failed to please yet. My first Zola was Nana, which is rather racy, and which I enjoyed for that reason.

>50 BLBera: Hi Beth. Even though you like art history, I wouldn't necessarily recommend The Masterpiece. It's probably one of my least favorite of the series so far, and I often found I had to force myself to pick it up.
We don't know where we will end up yet. Our oldest son lives in Tampa, but is about 45 minutes to an hour away from the beach. We want to live closer to the beach, somewhere between Tampa and Sarasota. Our plan is to rent airbnbs in several towns/areas to try to decide where we want to live before looking for a place to purchase. One of my sisters also lives in St. Petersburg during the winter months (Chicago during the summer).

Speaking of our oldest son he is currently in Las Vegas (ugh) with friends to watch the SuperBowl (ugh), and since he's almost to Seattle will be here tomorrow through Thursday to help us with some packing. Both of us are still a bit physically incapacitated, me with the knee replacement, and my husband with the spinal fractures caused by the prednisone he had to take last fall, so we can't do much heavy lifting. He will pick up our packing boxes from the storage unit from when we moved into the apartment last March. We hope to pack most nonessentials while he's here, and have the packers do the rest when we actually move in April.

helmikuu 2, 2020, 3:42pm

Rest of January reading:

9. Rituals by Cees Nooteboom (1980)

I didn't find this 1001 book an easy read, though it is short, and there were many phrases and observations that were original and well-put. The first part introduces the main character, Inni, in 1963, contemplating suicide as his wife Zita leaves him. In the second part, set in 1953, Inni meets Arnold Taads, an older man who is obsessed with time and keeping to schedules, and who will play an important part in his life, at least for a short while. There is much discussion of Catholicism, and you might even call this part "Losing My Religion." In the final part, set in 1973, Inni meets Phillip Taads, the estranged half-Indonesian son of Arnold. Phillip covets, but cannot afford antique Japanes roku pottery. There is a lot of discussion of art collecting, which I found interesting, as well as discussion of Eastern religions and other beliefs and "rituals," including yoga and the tea ceremony (also interesting).

I'm glad I read this, but it was not a book that called to me when I wasn't reading it.

3 stars

helmikuu 2, 2020, 3:49pm

>51 arubabookwoman: thanks for that. Dad is still on 'watch and wait', i.e. they wait until his condition becomes unmanageable before they proceed with chemo, etc. I'll let him know about this.

I haven't got to Germinal yet - it will probably be later in the year, as I think I've lots planned to read for Feb and March.

helmikuu 2, 2020, 3:54pm

This is a book I read because I knew I would not take it to Florida.

10. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (2015) 305 pp

83 year old Etta has never seen the ocean, and early one morning she takes off on foot from her farm in Saskatchewan to journey across Canada to the sea, leaving a note for her husband Otto that she will try to remember to come back. This is the story of her odyssey, as well as the story of the journey Otto undergoes while he stays on the farm waiting for Etta. It is also the story of the changes that their life-long friend Russell undergoes as the result of Etta's journey. There are flashbacks of their earlier lives, and of Otto's World War II experiences. And along the way, Etta meets James, an enchanting new friend, and my favorite character.

This was a charming read, although also a very realistic depiction of the hazards of aging, and I recommend it if this description appeals to you.

3 1/2 stars

helmikuu 2, 2020, 4:00pm

>53 AlisonY: I'm glad your father is in a watch and wait position. That is also the case for many who have my husband's type of cancer. My husband, however, had a genetic complication called the P57 deletion, which made his cancer extremely aggressive, and also made the chemotherapy treatments ineffective. We were very fortunate that this miracle drug, ibrutinib, had just been approved by the FDA, and very fortunate that it stalled the cancer for 5 years.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 3, 2020, 1:50am

This was a library book that after I read it I discovered I also owned on Kindle.

11. Lost Connections by Johann Hari (2018) 417 pp

Subtitle: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression--and the Unexpected Solutions

First let me say that the author of this book is not a scientist, but rather a journalist who suffered from depression for most of his life, starting from early youth. There are, however, many, many scientific studies cited in the book, so I can't say the theories he expounds in this book are unsupported and off-the-wall. If you are suffering from depression, read this book, but do more research/consultation with doctors before taking action.
Hari basically concludes that contrary to what the popular wisdom of the past several decades has told us, depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain: that it is not the lack of serotonin causing depression, and that all the new anti-depressants based on that theory are actually little better, if even that, than a placebo. Rather, he concludes that in most cases the causes of depression are circumstantial, grief being a form of depression (in fact the only form on which a chemical imbalance was not blamed) caused by circumstances. He calls the circumstances causing depression "disconnections," and lists the following causes: 1. Disconnection from meaningful work; 2. Disconnection from other people; 3. Disconnection from Meaningful values; 4. Disconnection from childhood trauma; 5. Disconnection from status and respect; 6. Disconnection from the natural world; and, 7. Disconnection from a hopeful future.
After describing these causes, he then discusses various ways to "reconnect." There are some interesting ideas here; read it and decide or yourself.

3 stars

helmikuu 2, 2020, 4:31pm

Hope I'm not too soon, but enjoyed these reviews. Etta etc. does sound intriguing. And Hari (>56 arubabookwoman:) curious. Is he right? Would he know?

helmikuu 2, 2020, 4:35pm

Final read of January, another book read to avoid taking to Florida.
(Aside: I read this as our glorious senate voted against witnesses. The senator in this book was a total sleazeball, and I couldn't help feeling he would fit right in with the Repubs we have now.)

12. Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy Hughes (1949) 248 pp

I've read 2 other books by Dorothy Hughes, master of mid-century classic noir, and liked them, so I was not surprised to like this one as well.
When the book opens, Sailor has just stepped off the bus from Chicago to a sleepy southwestern town (modeled on Santa Fe). He is searching for the Sen, a sleazy former Senator who was his former employer and who "owes" him. Sailor carries a gun, and has a criminal background, so we know his intentions are not pure. As he walks to the plaza, he is surprised to see Mac, a Chicago policeman, and he knows that Mac can only be in town to track down the Sen as well.
Over the next three days, as the festival swirls around the three main characters, and events become more frenzied and hallucinatory, Sailor tries to force the Sen to give him his due, and Mac tries to keep Sailor out of trouble while making a case for murder against the Sen. The background of festival, with the comparisons between how it was enjoyed by the wealthy, the Hispanics, and the Native Americans, was fascinating, as Sailor must spend most of the festival on the streets, there being no hotel rooms available. As he wanders the streets he befriends the itinerant merry-go-round operator, and also a 14 year old Indian girl Pila. What made the book especially interesting to me was the constant tug-of-war within Sailor between the forces of good and decency and the forces for evil. We must wait until almost the very last page to see which will prevail.


4 stars

helmikuu 2, 2020, 4:43pm

> 57 Dan I don't know it he's right, but there does seem to be a fair amount of scientific evidence to support his theory that chemical imbalance is not the cause (or at least the major cause) of depression. Some of the reasons he poses as possible causes seem to be logical events that might cause psychic discomfort. He says that working to remedy those causes has worked for him (and others) to alleviate depression. I don't want to call this book just another "self-help" book, because there's a lot there, but I don't think I'm ready to accept it whole hog.

helmikuu 2, 2020, 4:44pm

I enjoy your comments, Deborah.

Kids are great for heavy lifting, aren't they?

I also enjoyed Etta and Otto and Russell and James. My book club read it a couple of years ago.

I haven't read any Hughes, but it sounds like I would like her.

You are doing great at getting through books -- less to pack!

helmikuu 10, 2020, 3:43am

I bought a copy of Rituals several years ago, when it seemed that Cees Nooteboom was a strong candidate to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but I haven't read it yet.

Lost Connections sounds interesting; I'll keep it in mind.

helmikuu 10, 2020, 12:27pm

Putting The Most Fun We Ever Had, Lost Connections, and Dorothy Hughes on my to-read list. I do think there's a difference between circumstantial depressions and chemical depressions, but as someone who has been dealing with circumstantial depression for years it sounds like an interesting read.

helmikuu 16, 2020, 5:27pm

>60 BLBera: Hi Beth-I think you would like Dorothy Hughes. She was an important 50's noir crime writer with a feminist slant, although that doesn't play part in this book.

>61 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. Thanks for stopping by.

>62 mabith: I think this book was ambivalent about whether there may or may not be chemical depressions. It just took the position that the vast majority of depressions we see nowadays can probably be attributed to circumstances.

So, for February reading, I want to continue to read books on my shelf that I know I won't want to keep after I have read them, so I can get rid of them before we move to Florida, and also to try to read very old TBRs I'm not sure I even want to read any more. I've also begun a group read of Proust, starting with Swann's Way. Last time I tried this, about 8 or 9 years ago, I got up to volume 5 before quitting. Hope to do better this time.

I may not get to it in February, but I've decided on 2 ways to begin to work on clearing my TBR. I have such an immense backlog, I become overwhelmed in trying to choose what to read next. A couple of years ago, I began a project to read my TBR by choosing books published for each year of my life. I got through books on my TBR that were published in 1950, 1951, and 1952 before that project petered out. I decided to pick that up again, starting with books published in1953. And although many (most) of my physical books are packed into storage already, I found the following books published in 1953 still available on my shelf: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe and In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming. On my Kindle from 1953, I have The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey. On my shelf, already read, but I might want to reread is And Never Said a Word by Heinrich Boll. Not on my shelf, already read, but I might want to reread if it's available from the library is Go Tell It On the Mountain. So these 1953 books should keep me busy over the next few months in addition to reading my "disposables."

I also decided to do something about my Kindle backlog. I have something like 1300 unread books on Kindle, and I have the same problem of being overwhelmed when trying to decide what to read next. So I decided to periodically pick a letter of the alphabet, and read at least 4, and maybe lots more if they appeal, books on Kindle whose titles start with that letter. I will keep on the same letter for as many months as it takes me to get tired of books starting with that letter, but always reading at least 4. So the first letter I picked is "O", and although you might think there might not be many books starting with O, here are some of the titles on my Kindle that appeal Right Now (and I have many more):

Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout
Our Man in Iraq by Robert Perisic
On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee
Outposts by Simon Winchester
Old in Art School by Nell Painter
On Radji Beach by Ian W. Shaw
On the Run by Alice Goffman
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre
Old People and the Things that Pass by Louis Couperus
and many, many more

And now I have some comments on my reading so far in February.

helmikuu 16, 2020, 5:38pm

Enjoying your reviews. I think I'd enjoy Dorothy Hughes - I must look out for some of her novels next time I'm book trawling.

Also interested in the Hari book. Is he perhaps over-simplifying depression? I'm definitely not a scientist, but my understanding was that there are different types of depression. The triggers he cites (via your review) all sound very plausible for cause-and-effect depression, but I thought clinical depression was something that certain people are biologically predisposed to. Certainly Ruby Wax talks in her books on depression about how she can now recognise when a manic depressive episode is coming her way which has helped her mitigate its longevity and the devastation it has on her life. To me that felt like it was something uncontrollable which could strike even when life is good, but now I'm doubting myself - perhaps that is still depression as an effect of a certain triggering cause. I don't know - interesting nonetheless.

helmikuu 16, 2020, 5:56pm

It looks like I didn't get my fill of catastrophes in January, so my first book in February involved a fictional apocalyptic event of a sort I've never thought about: a powerful solar flare that will in the circumstances depicted in the book get through the earth's magnetic shield and kill most life on earth with its powerful radiation. I had to google this a bit; I didn't delve too deeply, but as far as I went the science seemed sound. There are things called "coronal mass ejections" ("CMEs") which occur fairly regularly in 11 year solar cycles. The stronger ones of these affect radio waves, etc. on earth. These are connected with solar storms, and were first discovered in the 1850's by a British scientist Richard Carrington. Those significant enough to affect us on earth are called "Carrington level" events. (One of the main characters in the novel is an alleged descendant of this real Richard Carrington.) The second type of solar event is called a coronal proton explosion or CPE. These are commonly known as solar flares. These emit lethal levels of radiation. However, earth is usually protected from these by its magnetic field. In the novel, the theory is that a CME has occurred, and CMEs apparently cause a brief opening in the magnetic field, and it is to be followed by a CPE, which because of the breach in the magnetic field caused by the CME, will result in mass extinction of life on earth.

13. 48 Hours by William R. Forstchen (2018) 336 pp

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." Neil Postman

This is a fictional account of what will happen when it is learned that earth will be struck in 2 days by a massive solar flare whose radiation will kill almost all life. The only survivors will be those sheltered deep underground. The question is, who is to be allowed into those shelters. There are numerous shelters scattered around the country which were built to house those that the powers which be deemed important for "continuity of government." Our hero, who happens to be in charge of security for one such facility in the Ozarks, decides that sheltering those who provide continuity of government is not the best option for humanity. Instead, he decides that the primary occupants of the shelter should be children, along with teachers and caretakers, as well as some medical professionals. A conflict ensues when government officials and the military disagree.
I enjoyed most of this. The characters seem to be a bit more well-developed than most books of this ilk, and the science is interesting. The book did devolve into a bit of a shoot-em-up at the end which I didn't care for. And the book ended just as the flare hit, so obviously this is the set-up book for a series.

3 stars

helmikuu 16, 2020, 6:29pm

I participated in a group read of this next book on Litsy, led by CR's own Dan Chaikin:

14. The Professor's House by Willa Cather (1925) 258 pp

The simplest description I can give of this book is that it is about one man's mid-life crisis. Certainly in the 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond, I read a lot of books that fit this description, and frankly I got a bit tired of the sometimes whininess of these characters. But this is Willa Cather, and her prose is beautiful and honest, and though in general I didn't always sympathize with the professor's plight, I never got tired of the book.
The book is in three parts. The first and last concern the professor and his family. The middle part consists of an interlude in the life of Tom, a former student of the professor's, who had also been the fiancé of one of his daughters before being killed in the war. This middle portion had been written separately from the parts about the professor and his family, and I personally did not find that it added significantly to the overall story of the professor. I thought it would have done better as a separate novel, and it was, in fact, the part of the book I liked best. It involves Tom's life as a cattle handler, during which time he discovered an ancient Indian pueblo which he excavated. This was a fascinating story, including Tom's attempts to interest the Smithsonian in the Indian artifacts, and it is in this part, in Cather's descriptions of the landscape in particular, that Cather's strength's shine through.
In the family parts, the professor's 8 volume history of Spanish explorers has finally brought him financial success, and, largely through his wife's efforts, a new house has been built. As the family moves, the professor decides he wants to retain his study in the attic of the old house, and begins to spend more and more time there. His two daughters are at odds with each other. The older, Rosamund, who had been engaged to Tom, is now married to Louie and is extremely wealthy, largely due to an invention of Tom's which his will left her. The younger daughter Kathleen and her husband Scott are struggling and seem envious. The professor becomes more and more isolated from his family, and ultimately refuses to travel with the family to Europe for the summer. Instead he spends his time daydreaming in his old study, with the faulty stove (mentioned in the first part, so we know it will play an important role), finding himself less and less interested in engaging in life.
This is the fourth novel by Cather I have read, the others being My Antonia, O Pioneers and Sapphira and the Slave Girl. She is one of the female writers of the last century who were undeservedly overlooked in considering Nobel Prizes for Literature. I don't know where this one is ranked by her literary critics, but I think it is a worthy entry in Cather's body of work. And I do know that I want to read more of her work.

3 1/2 stars

helmikuu 16, 2020, 6:44pm

I read this for a Reading Europe challenge on Litsy, and also as a book I knew I probably wouldn't want to keep after I read it:

15. Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth (2016) 330 pp

Bergljot has been estranged from her family for more than 20 years, despite repeated attempts by her narcissistic mother and complicit younger sister Astrid to bring her back into the family fold. She apparently has good reason for her decision, but often seems ambivalent, revisiting her decision for the break with her friends, boyfriend and children over and over again. She frequently withdraws, drinks too much, is a bit of a drama queen, and I personally found her tiresome at times. Her older brother Bard has also withdrawn from the family, though his reasons seem a bit more tenuous than Bergljot's.
Things come to a head when Bergljot and Bard learn that their parents, who had always said all 4 of their children would inherit equally, have transferred ownership of their two vacation cabins to the two younger daughters. When Bergljot and Bard protest, there follows a lot of family bickering and arguments and counterarguments. While there were some interesting insights into family dynamics, for the most part I found all the characters unsympathetic and didn't like spending time with them. I know a lot of people have liked this novel, and there were occasional bits and pieces that reminded me of Knausgaard (maybe even just the fact that it's Norwegian), this is not one I would recommend.

2 stars

helmikuu 16, 2020, 6:56pm

Another Scandinavian novel, this one from Sweden, one of Henning Mankell's non-crime books, and one I thoroughly enjoyed:

16. After the Fire by Henning Mankell (2015) 401 pp

This is Mankell's last novel, and it's full of lovely meditations on aging and death. Frederik, an elderly doctor, lives alone on an island in the Swedish archipelago with very little human contact other than the postman Jonasson. Late one autumn night, he awakens to find his house engulfed in flames. He barely escapes with his life, his possessions reduced to the clothes he was wearing, including two left boots. In short order, it is discovered that the fire was deliberately set, and when Frederik is suspected of being the arsonist, his life begins to change in ways big and small.
However, this is not a crime novel, and the discovery of who set the fire is only the background to the more important story. This is an exploration of aging and loneliness and how we meet the end of our days, with hope or not. It's an absolutely lovely book.

4 stars

(During the course of reading this, I learned that the main character Frederik was the subject of ab earlier Mankell book, Italian Shoes, and I gather it's a sequel of sorts. I've checked Italian Shoes out of the library and should get to it soon.

helmikuu 16, 2020, 7:07pm

Another "give away" book"

17. More Joy in Heaven by Morley Callaghan (1937) 159 pp

I've seen this here and there on lists of Canadian Literature one should read, so I tracked it down, and it's been on the TBR shelf a while. It's fiction, but based on a true crime event that took place in the 1930's.
Bank robber Kip Caley while serving time in prison apparently undergoes a sincere reformation and with the help of a priest and a senator is released early on parole. He is given a job as a sort of greeter/mingler at a hotel-club, where people are drawn to meet him because of his celebrity. He wants to do more, and dreams of being a sort of liasson between criminals and the establishment, perhaps even serving on the parole board. His dreams are shattered, though, and soon criminal elements are overpowering his better instincts.
The book is well-written, in a very terse style, without an extra word, which makes it very powerful indeed. It is also very, very dated, and very much of its time in the characters it portrays, their dialogue, and the way it is written. I was therefore never fully engulfed in the world Callaghan was creating.

2 1/2 stars

helmikuu 16, 2020, 10:04pm

>63 arubabookwoman: Are you reading Proust with the Litsy group? I do wish I could convince myself to join, but it just doesn't feel like the right for me to read it...maybe because I've got other books in mind. Enjoy those O's, wondering where they will lead.

>65 arubabookwoman: interest about 48 hours, and the bit of research you put into the subject

>66 arubabookwoman: Enjoyed your take on The Professor's House. It was a nice book to read and discuss, but I found that it's not so easy capture in a review. There are so many different interesting, living elements to it.

>68 arubabookwoman: wondering if this is a Mankell I would like.

helmikuu 17, 2020, 2:18pm

I have read three or four by Cather as well, Deborah. I loved both My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop, and the other two were pre LT days and I don't remember them very well. I think one may have been The Professor's House, as your comments sound familiar. I think my next one will be O Pioneers!. That is on my shelf and I've heard great things about it.

I've reserved a copy of 48 Hours from my library. I need to order my books for the dystopian lit class that I teach and I'd like to read a couple of more recent ones before I do.

I will look for some by Hughes as well.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 17, 2020, 2:34pm

>63 arubabookwoman:
Interesting approach, the alphabet on the Kindle and the years of your life. I recently looked up books published in the year I was born for a book bingo card I'm working on, and out of 8-10 items that appealed to me, I've selected The curve of time by M. Wyllie Blanchet as my read for that square.

>66 arubabookwoman: I'm also a Cather fan, but haven't read The professor's house. I enjoyed both the My Antonia and O, Pioneers, and think I would benefit from a reread of Death comes for the Archbishop with some history research behind it.

>68 arubabookwoman: After the fire sounds interesting, especially as I can see retirement rising out on my horizon. Can't remember who, but I think I read another reveiw from somone in this group that was favorable recently.

helmikuu 17, 2020, 2:34pm

>64 AlisonY: There is definitely a bias in what I've read about depression that there is a predispostion that may be genetic. This is why, for me at least, medication is not a one size fits all solution. There are habits to unlearn and new ones to try to learn.

helmikuu 18, 2020, 7:32am

I'm guessing there are a couple of different kinds of depression, and that genetic, neurological/wiring, and situational can have overlaps but are also completely different things. I also think there's probably a genetic predisposition in the opposite direction—your "glass half full" people but more hardwired than that—that hasn't been looked at much. My armchair analysis being worth what you just paid for it, since I actually know very little about the mental health field other than what I've read over the years.

I love the idea of pulling out ebooks alphabetically. I just looked in my O's and I have some really good stuff there... but other things at the top of the pile for now, including a bunch of library holds I placed probably as my version of retail therapy.

helmikuu 18, 2020, 2:19pm

Hi Deborah! I'm sorry I wasn't in touch more last year. I wasn't on LT much. I'm glad the transplant was a success; hopefully the residual health issues will remain manageable.

You've been reading along at an impressive clip. I tried to catch up on your thread and have a smattering of belated comments:

>15 arubabookwoman: I had only moved to Seattle the month before, when the 2001 earthquake hit Seattle. I was at work on the UW campus; unlike you I was in the basement and in a very old building. I had no working knowledge of what to do in an earthquake, so when the director ran past my office yelling "get out," I did. The ground outside the building was undulating. Very odd feeling. Later the building manager told me that he keeps a crowbar under his desk, "Just in case." Not particularly reassuring.

>42 arubabookwoman: How far did your study group get in your study of art history? When you told me about it, I was so impressed by the longevity of the group and the depth of your research.

Every time I hear about CR readers who are reading the Zola cycle, I am both tempted to try and completely overwhelmed at the thought. I've only read Germinal and Nana, the two easier inroads.

>46 arubabookwoman: When I moved from Seattle to Florida almost two years ago, the majority of my books went into storage too. I kept out promising TBR reads, but also some favorites that I couldn't bear to be parted from. As I pack once again for a final move to New England, I need to winnow down the "immediate needs" to a single box. What will make the cut??

Interestingly, when we were packing in Seattle, my daughter kept me from giving away many books. She said she would inherit them, and she wanted them all! Tween thinking...

>56 arubabookwoman: Perhaps I'm being indecisive, but I don't see depression as having an either/or cause (chemical or situational). Can't both co-exist, sometimes in the same person? Not to downplay the importance of dealing with the situational (which from his categories are not always readily apparent) and disconnection, but I wonder what he thinks of studies measuring the uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in depressed individuals. And there are actually tests now to determine whether a person has major depressive order or bipolar depression, and they have isolated a couple of genes that contribute to bipolar. Not to play devil's advocate with you, and I agree with him that situational depression is chronic in our society, but I worry that people who truly have a chemical imbalance could be dissuaded from taking the medications that might save their lives. (please don't feel you need to respond to this as I don't want you to feel your thread has been hijacked. I think it's a topic with lots of opinions, both scientific and anecdotal.)

>63 arubabookwoman: I love the ways you are deciding how to read down your TBRs, both paper and digital. I went online and read through a list of some popular books published the year I was born and was surprised at some of the titles, which I thought had been published much earlier or much later. Guess I wasn't paying attention that year! As for O books, I am delighted to see Operation Mincemeat on your list of possible reads. I finished reading it last month and loved it. I found the process of how they created a fully developed fictional person, and melded it with an actual body, utterly fascinating. I have 85 books beginning with O, who knew?

And I'm caught up!

helmikuu 18, 2020, 5:28pm

P.S. I think your idea of staying in airbnbs for a bit to check out the lay of the land is a great one. I moved to Panama City Beach nearly sight unseen. Although the apartment turned out to be a good choice for me, it could have gone much differently. I'm glad you are not considering the panhandle. It was not a good area for me, even short term, never mind bearing the brunt of Hurricane Michael. My mom retired to Wesley Chapel (north of Tampa) and liked it there, but moved back to Maine a couple of years ago to be back with family. My dad had a house in Punta Gorda (south of Sarasota, but north of Fort Myers). It was a little warmer there, but without the cultural advantages of the Tampa/St. Pete area. Have you spent much time in the area before now?

helmikuu 23, 2020, 4:19pm

>70 dchaikin: Dan I am reading Proust with the Litsy group, but it is not very active or organized--no regular chats or anything, and when someone posts there are only sometimes tags at the whim of the poster. So I really am reading it more or less on my own, but I've gone back to the archives of the web site I first read Proust with many years ago, The Cork Lined Room, which has a lot of valuable information.
I like Mankell's non-Wallender/non-crime books quite a bit. I seem to be attracted to Scandanavian angst. I really liked this one and the other Mankell I read several years ago called Depths, also largely set in the islands of the Swedish archipelago.

>71 BLBera: Beth I mentioned on my 75 thread that I don't think 48 Hours is really a dystopian novel--more apocalyptic. A newer good dystopian I read is Excess Male by Maggie Shen King set in a near future China dealing with the effects of China's one child policy, which has led to there being multiples of males more than females. Females become a type of commodity, warranting a large "bride price" for their parents, and frequently females would be in polygamous relationships with more than one husband.

>72 markon: Thanks for visiting Ardene. I do highly recommend After the Fire. I'm retired, but as I get older I find myself drawn more and more to books exploring issues of aging, both fictional and nonficitional.

>73 markon: Definitely agree that there is a genetic factor in at least some types of depression. And I think that even when anti-depressant medications are described, most reputable practitioners would recommend talk therapy as well, to try to change some of the negative thought patterns that frequently accompany depression.

>74 lisapeet: Hi LIsa. I agree that some people seem to be hardwired to be "happy/positive" and some "unhappy/negative." My husband is a glass half-full person; I am a glass half-empty person. (We call each other Winnie-the-Pooh and Eyeore.) In some strange way we complement each other, and have made some pretty good decisions over the years.

One thing I will say about the depression book, I don't recall it discussing bipolar disorder, which may be a different thing entirely.

helmikuu 23, 2020, 4:39pm

>75 labfs39: So glad to see you Lisa. I was really surprised when I learned you had moved to Florida, but here we are doing the same thing.
Our art group is still meeting, though we only have 3 diehards still left, and since I am one of the diehards we only met a few times last year since I was otherwise occupied. We are planning to continue even after I move to Florida, meeting once a week via Skype. The year before last we took a trip to London and Paris to visit museums together, which we all loved, and we are now in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Italy (and maybe Spain) for a couple of years from now.
I'm glad your daughter wants you to keep your books. My kids are all minimalists, and even though several of them are readers, they don't like to keep a lot of books, or other possessions on hand.
Re the depression book, I think he raised some interesting issues, and I think many people, doctors included were extremely ready to accept the chemical imbalance theory and prescribe pills. However, the author is not a scientist/doctor, and although he cites many studies, I reiterate that anyone should proceed with caution before making treatment changes, investigate thoroughly with a trusted health professional. And as I said above, which I had just thought of, I don't think there was anything I can remember in the book about bipolar.

>76 labfs39: We actually haven't spent much time in Florida (does a 3 day honeymoon to Destin 50 years ago count?), other than a week last year just before the transplant visiting our oldest son in Tampa. His location there is the reason we are moving there. 2 of the 3 kids in NYC have indicated that NYC is not in their long-term plans, so we decided not to move to the northeast as had been the original plan. Our daughter in Houston seems to be there pretty permanently, but I don't like Houston. So Florida it is. We don't intend to move right on top of our son as he is in inland Tampa area (Lutz), and I definitely want to be near the beach. Being near the beach is one of the major compensations for having to move somewhere hot with bugs, snakes and crocodiles. We have never been anywhere near Sarasota, but our son told us it was nice, and it seems to have a big art community. And, one of my sisters has a winter home in St. Petersburg, so we are looking for someplace near the beach between Tampa and Sarasota. For now, we have rented an Airbnb condo in Indian Rocks Beach (which was the town I liked most when we visited last year) for the month of May.

Are you moving back north to be near your mother, or was Florida just horrible? (You don't have to answer if you don't want to)

helmikuu 23, 2020, 4:52pm

A few more books:

18. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (2019)

Two young sisters disappear, apparently kidnapped, one hot summer's day from a park in downtown Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Thereafter in chapters each covering a month we meet various characters whose lives are touched by the disappearance, peripherally and not so peripherally. If you've read Reservoir 13, this book reminded me very much of the techniques and story involved in that book. The story is not so much about the crime, whether it will be solved, who the perpetrator is, but rather about the place where it occurred, and the people it affected. I liked it very much.
I will say, that all the controversy here on LT about American Dirt and its authenticity made me aware that I was reading a book set in a remote, relatively unknown and foreign location, with several different and competing ethnic populations, all experiencing the effects of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. I knew nothing about the author, who is apparently American, but the end note states she spent a year on the Kamchatka Peninsula as a Fulbright Scholar. The book felt real and true to me, but I have no idea what perspective someone native to the region would have.

3 1/2 stars

helmikuu 23, 2020, 5:20pm

Here's one I read as a possible giveaway:

19. Cherry by Nico Walker

This is a book about addiction. It's also a book about war. It's gruesome, graphic, and raw, and I was reading, I thought, "Why do I want to read about these awful people?" I nearly abandoned the book, but I kept reading, and days later I'm still thinking about the book and its characters.

The unnamed narrator parties heavily with drugs and alcohol in college, where he meets Emily who is in and out of his life over the ensuing years. He drops out of college and enlists in the army (a few years post-9/11). He marries Emily before heading for Iraq.

Iraq is like Vietnam, but with sand instead of jungle, haji instead of gooks. There's boredom and drugs, war crimes and atrocities. The narrator survives Iraq, but succumbs to PTSD and heroin on his return stateside. He and Emily divorce for a while, get back together, now both hooked on heroin, and their lives become a daily quest in search of a fix--to get the necessary drugs that make them "well"; when they don't have the drugs they are "sick." At first their student loan money keeps them supplied, but soon that is not enough. He takes to robbing banks to obtain the cash to pay for their habit. The book ends abruptly, but you know there can be only one of two fates for our narrator--death by overdose or jail as a convicted bank robber. Then you think back to the prologue, in which the narrator has just robbed a bank and is hurrying to his getaway car, dreaming of his fix, but hearing police sirens heading his way.

This book felt so real to me, about characters I have never known in real life, but who are so desperate and true. The author's note at the beginning of the book said: "This book is a work of fiction.
"These things didn't ever happen.
"These people didn't ever exist."

And then you turn the last page of the novel and in the acknowledgements you immediately read that the author wrote the book while in jail serving 11 years for a bank robbery conviction. He will be released in November 2020.

Recommended if you can stomach things like this.
4 stars

As I said, this was one I didn't think I would keep to take to Florida. I've decided to keep it, although I don't think it's one I will ever reread. Lots of Amazon reviews compared this to a 21st century Catcher in the Rye/Holden Caulfield. If so, Wow, have we come a long way baby (downhill). Holden and his experiences are so innocent compared to what this book chronicles.

helmikuu 23, 2020, 5:28pm

This one was good, but it will stay in Seattle:

20. A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin (2003) 406 pp

A former special ops soldier has walked into a school, shot and killed 2 students, and wounded a third student before turning the gun on himself. The question for Inspector Rebus is why--were the students targeted or were they random victims? Was there a motive, or did the soldier just have a psychological breakdown? And Rebus must work the case all the while being under suspicion of murder himself.

I'm not a completist when it comes to Inspector Rebus, though I've read several in no particular order. I enjoyed this one--it's well-plotted, and I liked Rebus's sidekick Siobhan, who I'm not sure is a new character or a regular.

3 stars

helmikuu 24, 2020, 3:50am

>80 arubabookwoman: You've caught my attention with this one. I think I'll add it to my list. Great review.

helmikuu 24, 2020, 7:35pm

>65 arubabookwoman: Re: solar flares/storms I heard the craziest thing on NPR today. Scientists are studying why whales sometimes seem to go off course and end up stranded on shore. It seems that there is a correlation between these strandings and solar storms. Apparently a whale’s navigation system relies on the magnetic pull of the earth, and since solar storms mess with earth’s magnetic field, some scientists think the solar storms are causing the whales to lose their way and end up grounded.

>82 AlisonY: Thanks Alison.

helmikuu 24, 2020, 8:50pm

Catching up on all of your great reading.

>63 arubabookwoman: I admire your creative efforts to attack TBR pile!

I miss Wallander! And while I enjoyed the latest Rebus, at this point I might rather read more of Siobhan or Malcolm Fox. It’s tough having one’s favorite detectives aging along with the reader.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:31pm

Life Update

As most of you know, we've been planning a move to the east coast (at first to Delaware, then for the past year to Florida), for a few years. When my husband's cancer returned in the fall of 2018, we decided to go ahead with the sale of our house, and moved to an apartment in downtown Seattle in March 2019 to go through the bone marrow transplant process. Our plan was to complete the process and have the one-year post transplant checkup before completing the move. My husband had the checkup during the week of April 6, and all was well. We had the movers scheduled for 4/13 and plane tickets to Florida for 4/15. This was the plan all the way through 4/6, despite the fact that several of our kids were urging that we stay in Washington. The doctors at the Hutch also urged that we stay in Washington if at all possible. What finally changed our minds about leaving on 4/15 was seeing the contrast between the way the state of WA has been handling the pandemic, and the way Florida is handling it (particularly its idiot governor, uber-Trumpy Desantis). They just don't seem to be taking it seriously. So we ultimately decided to stay here in Washington until we feel Florida is safe for us. We did, however, go ahead with the movers on the 13th, and right now all our stuff is in a moving van on its way to Florida. We are snug and cozy in a Residence Inn. We think we will be here at least one month, maybe more, but hopefully not too much more. I don't expect the pandemic to be over by then, but hopefully we will feel that things are more under control in Florida.

Now a few books.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:35pm

I read these next two books in February, but not right after each other, so the numbers will look odd. But I'm commenting on them together since they are related. And as an additional comment, despite how bad and incompetent these books make Trump et al seem, some of the things seem almost quaint when we see how horribly he and his people are mishandling this crisis.

21. A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

This is a catalogue of the corrupt, incompetent, dishonest, evil and unprecedented actions and statements of Trump since his election. The volume and extent of his misdeeds, here set forth chronologically, is stunning. Each time, there is protest, pushback, uproar--big or small--but then it all seems forgotten when DJT does the next unprecedented thing. And overtime, as we forget or become involved with his latest foul acts, his earlier actions move toward normalcy. So, it was good to read this book, even though I knew most of it already, and to see how far this presidency has moved from what used to be the limits of acceptability, what used to be norms, and what was decent, even if you didn't agree with the politics. It's all here and black and white.

Not related to this book, but I recently and observed Trump's meltdown when NBC reporter Peter Alexander merely asked Trump what message he had for Americans who are frightened. Trump went off on a tirade against the press and in particular how dishonest it, and Alexander in particular, are. And he continues almost daily to berate the Press, as well as Democratic governors who are doing their best, while he spends his time watching Fox news and talking to his billionaire friends. Disgusting. And here's a relevant quote from the book:

"From the moment Trump swore an oath to defend the Constitution and commit to serve the nation, he governed largely to protect and promote himself. Yet while he lived day to day, struggling to survive, surfing news cycles to stay afloat, there was a pattern and meaning to the disorder. Trump's North Star was the perpetuation of his own power, even when it meant imperiling our shaky democracy."

4 stars

24. Kushner, Inc. by Vicky Ward

In terms of corruption and dishonesty, they're as bad as Trump. This book includes information about Jared's father Charlie, how and why he ended up in jail, his Holocaust survivor grandparents, and his siblings, but the focus is on Jared and Ivanka, in particular from 2016 on. It was interesting to look at the events of the Trump presidency through the lens of Jared and Ivanka: the same horrors, slightly different perspective. They are both as corrupt, immoral, entitled, and incompetent as Trump himself, just, perhaps, slightly more clueless.
The book ended as of the end of 2018, so not as complete as A Very Stable Genius.
And here's a very scary thought:

"Ivanka Trump has made no secret of the fact that she wants to be the most powerful woman in the world. Her father's reign in Washington, D.C. is, she believes, the beginning of a great American dynasty. 'She thinks she's going to be president of the United States,' Gary Cohn told people after leaving the White House. 'She thinks this is like the Kennedys, the Bushes, and now the Trumps.'"

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:39pm

22. The Whispering Wall by Patricia Carlon

Sarah has suffered a stroke, and is unable to move, speak, or otherwise communicate. Her doctor and her caregiver Nurse Bragg don't know whether she understands what is going on or is a vegetable. In fact, she is very aware of what is going on, and extremely frustrated by her inability to communicate. When she overhears a plot to murder someone, which may also result in her own death, she struggles to find a way to expose the criminals before it is too late.

This book had a good premise, but I must admit to being dismayed by the stupidity of most of the characters (except for Rose, the little girl). I found this aspect of the book to be unrealistic, and it destroyed my enjoyment of the book.

2 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:41pm

23. Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

This is a fictional account of the 1949 kidnapping case on which Nabokov based his novel Lolita. 11 year old Sally Horner, longing to be part of a clique of girls at school, was challenged to shoplift something as part of an initiation to the group. As she was leaving the store, she was confronted by a middle-aged man who told her he was an FBI agent, and that he was going to arrest her and take her before a judge. For the next two years, he held her captive as they travelled across the country. Several times, Sally came near to seeking help for a neighbor, or a neighbor became suspicious (the case was well-publicized), but each time her captor was able to elude authorities, and keep on the run with Sally.

This was an interesting read. There is apparently a nonfiction account of the same subject, which if you are interested in just the facts might be a better read. I haven't read it, so I am not even sure how closely this fictional account tracks the real facts.

3 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:43pm

That concludes my reading through the end of February. Now on to March.

25. Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

In the early 1990's Ava, a young black teenager, was shot in the back of the head by a Korean shopkeeper who thought she was shoplifting. While the Korean woman was charged with manslaughter, she served no jail time. Twenty years later, Ava's younger brother Shawn, after a brief flirtation with the wrong side of the law, has his life together, and is in a loving relationship and has a stable job. Their cousin Ray, has just been released from jail, and is also trying to get his life on the right track.
We are then introduced to sisters Miriam and Grace, two young Korean women. Miriam is estranged from her from their parents, while Grace is a pharmacist working in the drug store her parents own. Their lives are upended when their mother is shot in an apparent drive-by shooting. Their lives begin to converge with the lives of Ray and Shawn.
The novel is loosely based on an actual event that occurred in LA in the 90's, the murder of teenager Latash Harlins. I thought the book did a good job of exploring the racial prejudices that led to the tragedies that occurred 20 years apart. The end is ambiguous, but on the whole seemed to indicate some hope for future understanding.

3 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:46pm

26. Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris

Bob Harris is an undefeated Jeopardy champion who has competed in and won several tournaments of champions. I somehow had the idea that Jeopardy champions were geniuses with total recall for all sorts of trivia. Not so. There's apparently lots of preparation and memorization involved, at least for Harris and several of the other Jeopardy champions whom he comes to know and befriend. I really enjoyed learning about his methods of preparation, his memorization techniques, and all the tricks he had that allowed him to pull esoteric answers seemingly out of the air. He also explains some of his techniques for winning. For example, even if you don't know the answer, the Jeopardy clue frequently contain a hint that will lead to the correct answer. And then there's the whole issue of buzzing in. I had heard this is an important factor for Jeopardy success, and apparently many contestants, Harris included, feel that the most important factor in being a winner is to have the ability and some sort of internal rhythm to be the first to buzz in.

Thoroughly enjoyable read if you're a Jeopardy fan.

3 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:48pm

27. Diary of a Dead Man on Leave by David Downing

Josef is a German Communist agent who has worked on assignments around the world for Moscow. In 1938 he returns to Germany to work in a railway yard and scope out whether there are any workers (or undercover communists) who are willing to rise up against Hitler. He lives in a rooming house run by the widowed Anna, and becomes close to her 12 year old son Walter, who has never known his father and who is frequently in trouble at school for questioning some of Hitler's positions.

This is billed as a novel of "historical espionage," not a genre I am familiar with. (I picked this up for free at the ALA convention last year). I found the first 250-60 pages as merely setting the stage, and for an espionage novel, rather slow-moving. Most of it consisted of letting us see exactly what life was like in Hitler's pre-war Germany, with informers everywhere and the Gestapo eagerly awaiting the opportunity to swoop down on some unfortunate victim. It was also a touching story of Josef's relationship with the fatherless Walter. Josef begins to question his life to date--constantly on the move with the inability to form permanent relationships. He comes to care deeply for Walter, and also forms a close, but non-romantic relationship with Anna.

The action/espionage part of the novel takes place over only the last 40 or so pages of the book, and felt extremely rushed to me, and somewhat sketchy. So if a good spy thriller is what you're looking for, I don't think you'll find it in this book. But as a look at pre-war Germany, and an examination of a man second-guessing his life choices, this was an okay read. Not great, but okay.

3 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:51pm

Well I'm ashamed to include the following book, which I read just about the time this corona virus thing was amping up here in Seattle. This must have been a "cheapie" Kindle book I acquired somewhere along the way. I'm not going to review it. It is extremely poorly written, absolutely sexist, and even going through what we're going through, pretty unbelievable. Nevertheless, it was very scarey, and kept me turning the pages sufficiently rapidly that I finished it in a day. It begins when an airline pilot picks up avian flu virus in Asia, gives it to his fiancée, a veterinarian in whose blood it mixes with a swine flu virus, which then because of an xray malfunction becomes irradiated into the "Deadliest Plague," which causes people to drop dead about 15 minutes after first showing symptoms.

28. The Deadliest Plague by Brian Clark

I am not sure how to rate this, because it is so bad, but I read it compulsively.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 8:39pm

29. Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter

A short novella, narrated in a fable-like manner, about two children, Conrad and Sanna, who get lost in the mountains on their way home from their grandparents'. I expected something of the magic of The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas, which I loved, but this book did not achieve that for me. I will say it has been highly praised by the likes of Thomas Mann.

3 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 8:49pm

30. Malice by Keigo Higashino (1996) 326 pp

Nonoguchi, a children's book author, is summoned by his friend Hidaka, an author who is about to move to Canada with his new wife Rie. When he arrives, he discovers that Hidaka has been murdered. The first chapter of this book is purportedly Nonoguchi's account of how he came to discover Hidaka's body, which he states he decided to write since it was an "interesting" thing that happened in his life. Inspector Kaga, reading Nonoguch's account, immediately suspects that Nonoguchi is the murderer. The second chapter of the book is entitled "Suspicion" and is Kaga's account of why he suspects Nonoguchi. And this is why I like Higashino's mysteries so much. (I think I've now read three or four, and I would definitely consider him a new favorite). The mysteries themselves are not exotic--perhaps they are even run-of-the-mill--but each, including this one is written using inventive and unique narrative techniques. Inspector Kaga has told us almost from the outset that he considers Nonoguchi guilty, despite Nonoguchi's account having established an alibi and proclaimed his innocence. Will Kaga be able to prove his case?

4 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 8:57pm

I'm trying to read Proust again this year. Last time I got up through volume 5. Will I make it this time??

31. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

Wouldn't you love to walk the Mesiglisse Way, see and smell the blooming hawthornes in Swann's alley, watch the street scene in Combray with Aunt Leonie, eat a meal prepared by Francoise, and meet Swann, poor Swann with his tragic obsession with Odette. "To think that I have wasted years of my life, that I have longed for death, that the greatest love I have ever known has been a woman who did not please me, who was not in my style." And to experience young Marcel's first love, an obsession almost parallel to Swann's, his yearning for Swann's daughter Gilberte.

I liked this much more the second time around. There's everything to love about the lush language of course, but I made a lot more connections on this reading, and picked up on many details I don't remember, or maybe didn't grasp the first time I read it.

Highly recommended.
5 stars

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 9:47pm

This is the first "O" book which I'm reading to reduce my Kindle backlog.

32. Old in Art School by Nell Painter (2018)

"I was such an old fuddy-duddy among the frolicking youth, a twentieth-century relic, a repository of useless knowledge, of experience no longer interesting, a fogey wanting art to be artful."

"It took me years in art school to recognize my twentieth-century eyes as my major handicap as an artist....My lying twentieth-century eyes favored craft, clarity, skill, narrative, and meaning. My twenty-first-century classmates and teachers preferred everyday subject matter, the do-it-yourself (DIY) aesthetic, appropriation, and the visible marks of failure: drips, smudges, and what in the twentieth century would have been considered mistakes needing to be cleaned up."

Nell Painter was an esteemed historian, author of several best-selling books, and a tenured professor of history at Princeton when in her mid-60's she decided to give up her historian career and go to art school. When she entered the freshman class at Rutgers art college she noticed that, unlike during her historian career when her defining characteristics to her peers were that she is Black, and a woman, now, her art school colleagues defined her by her age: she was Old!

This engaging memoir follows her over the next several years as she earns an undergraduate art degree and then her MFA at Rhode Island School of Design. I loved her discussions of how she conceived her art and her artistic processes. There are discussions of art theory, and the book contains many illustrations of her work. I enjoyed learning (mostly by googling after her brief references to them) about dozens of contemporary artists, including many overlooked female artists and artists of color. I did sometimes find the discussions of what constitutes a capital "A" Artist, which is what she (and other art school students) yearned to be, a bit pretentious, but I think she herself ultimately came to the conclusion that being a capital "A" Artist is not where it's at.

The memoir is not just about art. Along the way she must balance her other life obligations, something her younger cohorts did not have to contend with along the way to becoming capital "A" Artists. ("'An Artist' finds her identity in art, does nothing but make art and does it all the time, making work of unimaginable creativity.") During her time in art school, she had to contend with the care and ultimate deaths of her elderly parents. She also had to complete and edit a major history book, as well as to fulfill her duties as president of an important association of historians.

This book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for autobiography. It's also on sale for Kindle right now for only $3.99.

3 1/2 stars

One personally discouraging quote from the book:

"The combination of gender plus money plus age plays into the stereotype of amateurism, even of inability, as in the impossibility of an old woman with money making good art."

I think of my mother-in-law, a well-regarded sculptor. She taught at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, had a gallery in Palm Beach, and every summer for many years until she was well into her 80's accompanied students to Italy to work on sculpture at a marble quarrying center in Pietrosanta.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 9:49pm

That brings me through my March reading. Now that the hustle-bustle of completing all our packing is over, and we are settled in the hotel with few distractions, I will hopefully be back soon to report on April.

huhtikuu 21, 2020, 6:04am

That's a lot of very decent reading! (Thanks for the warning on the Brian Clark plague book).

>86 arubabookwoman: I don't know how you are able to read those books. My blood pressure would likely rise to beyond where my meds can handle.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 21, 2020, 7:42am

Great reviews as always, Deborah. Your 5 star rating of Swann's Way is added encouragement for me to read In Search of Lost Time, but I'll do so after I retire later this decade.

I'm glad that you and your husband have decided to wait before moving to Florida. As an article in, I think, the Miami Herald said, Governor De Santis is putting the "duh" back into Floriduh. Our governor in Georgia isn't much better, though.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 10:05am

>85 arubabookwoman: Thank you for the life update. I've been wondering how things were going with the move. At least with your belongings on the way, you must feel as though some progress is being made, even if you wait a little longer in Seattle.

>87 arubabookwoman: After watching the movie version of Oliver Sacks' memoir Awakenings (starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams), I became terrified at the idea of being completely aware, yet unable to communicate in any way.

>91 arubabookwoman: Have you read Joseph Kanon's The Good German? Like Diary of a Dead Man on Leave, it is historical espionage, but I thought it also asked some interesting philosophical/moral questions in a slightly different way. I have read four of David Downing's "station books" but wasn't overly impressed. The one I liked the most was Zoo Station.

>95 arubabookwoman: Add Proust's name to Balzac's as authors I want to read, but don't have the umph.

>98 avaland: Adding my voice to Lois's that I don't think I could handle reading books about Trump now

Great reviews as always!

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 11:34am

Thanks for the update, Deborah.

Gook luck with the Proust! I've been looking at Ulysses again, thinking I might give it another go this summer.

Old in Art School sounds good as well; someone else recommended it to me. I'll wait until my library reopens to pick it up.

Thanks for the warning about the plague book - we've all been there, torn through books that are terrible!

Stay well, my friend. Good luck with the move! I hope you find your spot soon.

huhtikuu 29, 2020, 8:20pm

I'm catching up. Some very interesting works here. Thanks for your great reviews.

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:33pm

>98 avaland: Hi Lois. I'm afraid I'm becoming somewhat of a completist where these Trump books are concerned. I'm just not checking my blood pressure.

>99 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl--I'm finding reading In Search of Lost Time in 10-20 page chunks at a time is the way to go--so you don't need to wait until you retire before reading it.
Yeah, DeSantis is pretty bad. But now we've been living in a hotel for over 2 months, so we are on our way to Florida June 10.

>100 labfs39: Hi Lisa. I hope by now you are better and fully recovered (and Katie too)
I haven't read anything by Joseph Kanon. I will look for The Good German and also check out Zoo Story.
Re Proust--As I told Darryl above I can only read 10-20 pp a day, and I'm liking it.

>101 BLBera: Thanks Beth. I'd like to read Ulysses again too someday. I read it first in a college class, and I wonder if I could read it without guidance of some sort.

>102 sallypursell: Thanks for visiting Sally.

Life Update:

We have now passed our second month of hotel living (without killing each other), but the end is now in sight. We have plane tickets to Tampa for June 10. We have a few boxes of stuff to pack up and mail first, and our car will be picked up for transport to Florida on June 9. My husband's employer wants him to keep working for them from Florida, so he will have something to keep him busy. (He is a workaholic, and would be totally lost, not to mention bugging me 24 hours a day, if he was not working). His employer has been great over the past year, as he was able to work only intermittently during the transplant process, but they have kept him on, continuing to pay health insurance and other benefits. He is now working in a consultant role, on special projects, so he will be working just a bit more than about half time. Which is good, since it will be that much longer before we have to start drawing on our retirement accounts.

The bad news is that he has developed a serious form of graft v host disease, which right now is affecting only his ankle joints, freezing them up. If if spreads, it could affect his breathing, or he could wind up in a wheelchair. So he was put back on a high dose of prednisone, an immunosuppressive drug, which makes him more susceptible to catching things. The FDA just approved ibrutinib, the drug that controlled his cancer for 4 1/2 years (without side effects) for graft v host disease, so he is starting that drug as well, and we are hopeful it will work and he can come off the prednisone. Prednisone has lots of extreme side effects. When he was on it last summer, he developed diabetes and had to have insulin shots 4 times a day, high blood pressure, which required 3 medications to control, and bone fractures in his spine. Sorry if this is TMI. Fortunately, we already have a highly recommended doctor lined up in Tampa at the Moffitt Center, who specializes in graft v. host disease.

Well, I see am already far behind in commenting on the books I've read, so let me get to my April reading before June hits us.

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:35pm

33. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (2016) 432 pp

Clementine and Erika have been best friends since childhood. Clementine, her husband Sam, and their two children, Ruby and Holly, attend a backyard BBQ at the home of Erika and her husband Oliver's next door neighbors, Vid and Tiffany. Something happens at that BBQ that changes everyone's life forever. The book is written in such a way as to conceal exactly what happened at the BBQ until nearly three-quarters through the book. The narrative alternates between the present day and "the day of the BBQ", and is told from alternating povs of the various characters.

I read this in early April, when I was extremely distracted by the covid virus, and it was just the sort of book I needed. Something major has happened which has affected all the characters, everyone knew what it was except me, the reader, and I needed to find out what it was. This was the perfect tease to keep someone like me tearing through the pages. If you've ever read anything by Liane Moriarty (I've only read one other, Big Little Lies), her books seem to be well-plotted, easy to read, and with well-drawn characters.

3 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:41pm

34. Weather A Novel by Jenny Offil (2020) 224 pp

This short novel is narrated by Lizzie, a librarian married to Ben, mother of Eli and sister to Henry. There's an on-going crisis, a sort of slow-apocalypse, and it's constantly on Lizzie's mind (along with her brother Henry, a recovering addict). This was not a comfortable book to read during the covid pandemic. Dread is everywhere in this book, understated and subtle, usually, but sometimes in your face and unavoidable, constantly reminding us that humanity may be facing the end of the world as we know it. It is written in a fragmentary style, more a series of vignettes than a novel. I didn't care for this style in Offill's previous novel, Department of Speculation, but it found it quite effective here.

3 1/2 star

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:46pm

35. Akin by Emma Donohue (2019) 352 pp

Noah, an elderly man, is returning to the city of his birth, Nice, which he left as a four year old during World War II. His mother remained behind for the war's duration to help her father, a famous photographer. Noah is taking with him a group of mysterious photographs, which he hopes will help him understand his mother's role during the war. At the last minute, circumstances require that he be accompanied by his 11 year old grand-nephew Michael, who he has never met and who has been raised in vastly different circumstances than Noah's life situation. The book explores the developing relationship between Noah and Michael, and is also a bit of a travelogue on Nice. It was an okay read, nothing defective about it, but it did not sparkle or compel me to pick it up, and it definitely will not stick with me like the other book by Donohue I have read, Room.

3 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:50pm

36. Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (2020) 305 pp

The novel opens as a small plane crashes in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. Seventy-something Cloris is the only survivor, her husband of many years and the pilot perishing in the crash. The book describes her weeks of wandering in the wilderness.

The author is a young man, and I guess you could say he captured the voice of an older woman, if only in a folksy, TV sit-com kind of way. She's from West Texas (I couldn't help wondering if he was thinking of Cloris Leachman in the wonderful movie The Last Picture Show), and she has lots of thoughts about church, gossipy neighbors etc. I was surprised by how little grief she felt about the death of her husband, but......

Anyway, the parts about Cloris wandering in the wilderness were the best parts of the book, and they only constitute about half the book. The other half, in chapters alternating with Cloris's story, is the story of Ranger Lewis (Debra) who is fixated on finding Cloris. Unfortunately, Ranger Lewis is also fixated on merlot, and she is a stumbling drunk. Every other paragraph refers to her sipping merlot from the thermos she always carries with her. And every few pages, she opens the door to her trunk and leans over to vomit. GROSS! And no one ever seems to notice or care that she's wandering around on the job stumbling drunk. She even empties her gun into her fellow ranger Claude's beloved pet dog. I couldn't stand these parts, and Cloris's sections couldn't compensate. Please don't read this book.

1 1/2 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:55pm

37. Best.State.Ever. by Dave Barry (2016) 230 pp

Subtitle: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland

I read this to get an idea of some of the weird things I can expect to find in Florida, and of course for Dave Barry's humor. Here is a sampling of the things he covers: sponge divers in Tarpon Springs (one of the towns we are considering; the Weeki Watchi mermaid show; Cassadaga, where you can learn how to be a psychic; The Villages, massive retirement development; the Ape Skunk of the Everglades; the Key West Machine Gun Shooting Range; the Liv Dance Club at the Fountainbleau in Miami Beach; and maybe more that I've now forgotten.

A quick read, and believe it or not, we will be exploring some of those things, just not the Machine Gun Shooting Gallery or The Villages.

3 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:58pm

38. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell (2016) 400 pp

This was an easy, but enjoyable read. Daniel lives with his wife, reclusive former actress Claudette, and their 2 small children Marithe and Calvin, (and sometimes Ari, Claudette's older son from a previous relationship) on an isolated estate in Ireland. Their life is idyllic until one day Daniel is confronted with some unresolved issues from his past, which he takes off to try to resolve. Not surprisingly this leads to difficulties between him and Claudette. Daniel also has to deal with his two children from his first marriage who he rarely saw during their growing up years, but with whom he now wants to develop a relationship.

There is nothing profound about this book, but the characters are lovely and beautifully portrayed, and the story is engaging. A lot of the book involves parent/child relationships, and I generally enjoy books where those relationships are realistically and sympathetically portrayed, from the child's earliest years until the time a parent must accept the child as an adult.

3 1/2 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:04pm

39. Foe by Iain Reid (2018) 273 pp

Junior and Hen live in an isolated farm house surrounded by canola fields. Aside from coworkers, they rarely see other people, until one evening a stranger, Terrance, arrives. He tells Junior that Junior has been chosen to take part in a very important project, and must go away for a very long time. But while he is away, Hen will not be lonely, because he will be replaced with an absolute double.
The book has been described as an eerie psychological puzzle, which sounds good, but I was extremely disappointed by it. Why would Junior be so accepting and passive about Terrance's proposal? And why would Hen, who Junior adores, be so distant and enigmatic? Of course, there is ultimately a "big reveal" (not particularly hard to guess), but by the time it comes it is anticlimactic and I just didn't care any more. I'm not sure what Reid was attempting--a psychological study of a marriage?; a SciFi thriller?; a dystopian warning?
In any event, none of it worked for me. One reviewer said the cover is the best thing about the book. I agree (in fact the cover is the reason I bought the book), but this is the proof of the rule not to judge a book by its cover.

2 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:07pm

40. Abigail by Magda Szabo (1970) 273 pp

This is a lovely coming of age novel set in World War II Hungary. Gina, the beloved and slightly spoiled daughter of a General is upset when her father abruptly sends her to an authoritarian and religious boarding school far across the country from Budapest. She finds it difficult to make friends and fit in after her sophisticated life in the city. All the while, the war rumbles on in the background, rarely intruding on the constricted lives of the girls, at least at first. And only over time do we come to understand the General's reasons for sending Gina so far from home.
I usually don't read YA, and although this book has sometimes been described as YA, I think it far transcends the genre. It is an engaging and moving story of a young woman coming to womanhood and maturity in very difficult times.

3 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:11pm

41. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (2020) 370 pp

Don and Mimi Galvin married at the tail-end of World War II and over the next 20 years had 12 children, the first 10 of them boys. Life was chaotic, and as they grew the boys often fought and were violent with each other, and sometimes their mother. By the mid-1970's it was apparent that 6 of the boys were mentally ill; all were ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia.
This book tells the story of the Galvin family over the years to the present date, all against a backdrop of a medical history of schizophrenia, its diagnosis and treatment, how those have changed over the years, as well as various avenues of research that have been pursued and are still ongoing.
I appreciated reading this book, but found it at times repetitive, and frequently going into too much minute detail about meaningless family episodes. Overall, it was also somewhat disorganized. And, while usually interesting, large portions were not particularly enlightening in the context of the book's themes, or in terms of providing a better understanding of schizophrenia. I think it would have been a much better book in the hands of a better writer or stronger editor. Nevertheless, the subject is fascinating and I would still recommend the book.

2 1/2 star

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:16pm

Sorry--another Trump book:

42. Front Row at the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl (2020) 368 pp

"I call it the Trump Show because that is the way President Trump sees it. He tracks the ratings and the crowds. He follows the reviews. He slams the critics but craves their approval. And when he can't get their approval, he sets out to prove them wrong by pointing to his adoring fans and showing that he can command the world's attention by changing the story line anytime he wants to change it."

The author is ABC's chief White House correspondent, and this book is more about his relationship with Trump over the years than a comprehensive look at Trump's presidency. Karl first met Trump in the early 1990's when as a cub reporter he interviewed Trump on why the world's most famous newlyweds, Lisa Presley and Michael Jackson, chose to stay at the Trump Hotel. Even then, Trump made the story more about him personally than about Lisa and Michael.
As noted, this is not a complete catalogue of Trump's misdeeds, and it primarily considers Trump in the context of what may be called his war on the Press, or as he refers to it, "the enemy of the people." Through it all, the author miraculously maintains a rigid objectivity, and in fact, I think lets Trump off fairly easily. There's some new material, mainly about behind the scenes press goings on, and I found that interesting. But this is not the Trump book to read if you want the full picture, which to be fair, it was not intended to provide. But as somewhat of a completist where this subject is concerned, I'm glad I read this.

3 stars

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:38pm

That completes my April reading. Maybe I'll be back within a short while to report on May. Past experience indicates that it will be longer, but one can always hope.

toukokuu 25, 2020, 5:54pm

Hi Deborah - Thanks for the update. Progress. I hope the new drug works for your husband's graft v. host disease. Fingers crossed. And finally the move! Good luck with that. I hope you find your spot soon.

Great comments. I've read several. I loved This Must Be the Place, Weather and Abigail as well. I think I liked Akin more than you did -- it was my first Donoghue.

And thanks for the reminder about Dave Barry. It's been years since I have read anything by him, but I think he is hilarious.

Take care.

toukokuu 25, 2020, 10:42pm

>103 arubabookwoman: I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's health problems. Thank goodness for the doctor referral. Graft vs. Host disease is scary, isn't it?

toukokuu 27, 2020, 8:46am

I hope the drugs work for your husband's graft vs. host disease.

I read Weather recently too and also found it tough reading during a pandemic, though I liked it slightly less than you did. The fragmentary writing made me have to work harder than I like to try to figure out what was going on.

toukokuu 27, 2020, 11:08am

Glad you are doing well, despite the uncertainty. Your reading is so similar to mine. O'Farrell has become a favorite of mine - she writes easy books that are also intelligent. Her memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am is very good. I really enjoyed Foe (and his previous book, I'm Thinking of Ending Things), but I can see how it would fall flat.

Not sure that having one's first months of experiencing Florida be the hottest, most humid ones, but air conditioning exists and you'll enjoy the winter.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 10:53am

Thanks for the update, Deborah. I'm so glad you found a well-recommended expert at the Moffitt Center. Good luck on the long-delayed move. Have you settled on a place yet, or are you staying with your son? Thanks for reminding me of the authors Magda Szabo and Maggie O'Farrell. I want to read more by each.

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 6:21pm

As June winds down, I figure it is time to do a monthly check in and list my May books. But first, a Life Update:

Today marks two weeks after our plane flight leaving Seattle (after 34 years there--a few tears were shed) for Florida. No signs of covid, so I guess we were successful in escaping infection during our journey, though we had quite a bit more exposure than we wished for. We have TSA-Pre, which usually allows us to avoid long lines, but when we checked in at the airport, we learned that TSA randomly selects 10% of TSA-Pre passengers each day to bump from that status and go through regular screening. I did argue a bit--I mean really, 2 70 year olds with barely a parking ticking between them, and 1 of them severely immunocompromised, but you know bureaucracy. There were a few other snafus and discomforts (i.e. no food, very limited drink on the long plane flight), but we made it.

Florida is hot as expected. A few days after getting here, my husband broke out in a severe graft versus host disease (gvhd) rash. We think it might have been partially caused by the heat; the doc thinks it might be a rebound from the prednisone taper he was on, so that was halted.. Prednisone is miracle drug for gvhd, but it also has satanic side effects. Last summer when he was on prednisone, my husband developed diabetes requiring insulin injections, high blood pressure, requiring 3 medications, and spinal bone fractures. He has also lost 2 inches in height. So we really wanted to get him off the prednisone. At least so far he's only had to deal with a blood pressure spike, which is being controlled by one pill. Sorry to be so boring about all this medical stuff. I think we had assumed (hoped) that after the transplant things would calm down, but it looks like the complications continue. We feel like we are becoming professional patients, since all this medical stuff takes up a lot of time. My husband also says he sometimes feels like a science experiment. But, as we keep reminding ourselves, he does not have cancer, he is alive, and most of the time feels very good and normal.

We are currently staying in a Residence Inn, but on July 1 we are moving to a condo on the beach where we will stay until 9/30 while we look for a place to buy. I am really bummed that now that we are in Florida near 2 of our grandkids we can't really see them in person because of covid. Other than a very brief hug session the day after we got here we have been self-isolating. Our son and family are out and about more than we are comfortable with, even though they where masks. As it turns out we learned this week that the older grandson (7) was exposed to covid at the golf camp he was attending, so they are now in a 2 week quarantine. And Saturday was the day our youngest son was to have gotten married in Central Park in NYC with the whole family there, so we are all sad about the delay. And in Houston, Texas Childrens, the hospital my daughter is a doctor at, announced yesterday they are now taking adult patients, both covid and non-covid. Fortunately, she can do most of her patient visits over computer. So far we are very fortunate that our whole family remains healthy and employed.

Let me now talk of more pleasant things, like books. But first to my visitors:

>115 BLBera: Hi Beth. I think I heard about Abigail on your thread. I liked Akin, just liked Room a whole lot more.

>116 sallypursell: Thanks for visiting Sally. Yes, gvhd is scary--it seems to never end!

>117 bell7: Thanks Mary. I also read her first book, Department of Speculation, which was written in this same fragmentary style, and I did not like it at all. But the fragments seemed to work for me in this later book.

>118 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay. I read I Am I Am I Am last year, my first book by O'Farrell I think, and I liked it a lot. Since we lived in New Orleans for 18 years, I went into Florida weather with eyes wide open, though I actually love our misty grey Seattle weather.

>Hi Lisa. We've been staying in a Residence Inn in my my son's town. He and his family are out and about much more than we are comfortable with, even though they wear masks. And this week, we learned their oldest child, age 7, was exposed to covid through a camp he was attending. On 7/1, we have rented a furnished condo in Indian Rocks Beach through 9/30 while we look for a permanent place.

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 6:27pm

3. Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar (20??) 217 pp

"The day the dead visited the surgeon, the air in his clinic was laced with formaldehyde."

A doctor works in an isolated and decrepit village clinic in India, assisted by a young woman known as the Pharmacist. One evening, a man, his very pregnant wife, and their young son arrive at the clinic. The doctor sees that they have been brutally wounded, the wife beneath the scarf around her neck has been nearly decapitated, yet there is no blood. The tell the doctor a strange tale of their having been murdered, and miraculously in the afterlife having been given a second chance. They have been returned to the world, and if the doctor can repair their wounds before dawn they will be allowed to live again. As the doctor works through the night, we learn the stories of the doctor and of the family he is trying to save.

Despite its somewhat mystical premise, this is a realistic and powerful novel. Told in a simple, straight-forward, even scientific manner, it nevertheless raises philosophical and moral issues, and moves us to an ambiguous ending. I loved it.

4 stars

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 6:33pm

44. The Promise by Silvina Ocampo (2010) 121 pp (I hate it when I have to scroll down dozens and dozens of books to get the right one to turn blue)

Silvina Ocampo was an Argentine writer who died in 1993 and was admired by Borges and Calvino. Known primarily for short stories, this short novella is her longest work, and according to the forward she worked on it obsessively for 25 years until her death. It was published post-humously.

In it, the unnamed narrator has fallen overboard in the middle of the Atlantic. As she watches the ship sail "calmly" away, she promises St. Rita ("arbiter of the impossible") that if she were saved, she would write a book about her life. She calls this book a "dictionary of memories,: but she says, "I don't have a life of my own; I have only feelings. My experiences were never important--not during the course of my life, nor even on the threshold of death. Instead, the lives of others have become mine."

And so the narrator begins to tell us about the people of her life, mostly in short scenes. Some, like Irene and her lover Leandro and daughter Gabriela appear more than once, their stories being told in intermittent vignettes. Others, like Zulma the ballerina next door, Rodolfa, Norah, and Ceferina, the neighborhood seamstresses, and Gusano the Worm, Gabriela's childhood friend, appear only once, often only briefly.

Through it all, I was puzzled about where the narrator fit in with the various characters. Where was the intersection of her life with theirs? Or was she perhaps actually one of these characters she describes as third parties? The narrator seemed to have first hand knowledge of everything. In the end, I decided she was not one of the characters described, but I'm still really not sure. I enjoyed this book, even though I am puzzled by it.

3 1/2 stars

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 6:39pm

I could say this is another trump book, but it really isn't, in that it doesn't catalogue trump's crimes/history etc. Rather it views trump as the logical outcome of what the republican party has evolved into over the years, and provides a blueprint of some actions, each more or less feasible, that can be taken to make the country "democratic" again.

45. Untrumping America by Dan Pfeiffer (2020) 305 pp

"Play the game against people who will do anything to win while you adhere to the rules is a losing proposition,"

I nearly abandoned this book, as I found the beginning of the book to be more geared toward a professional political operative than I am or want to be. But I'm glad I persevered, as I found some reasons for hope in the book. The thesis of the book is that the biggest divide in the Democratic Party is not between the center (moderate) and left (progressive), but between those who believe that trump is an accident or aberration and that when he is gone we will return to normal, and those who have come to terms with what the Republican Party actually is.

Very briefly, here are a few of the suggestions for actions the country can take so that a "trump" doesn't happen again. As noted, some are more feasible than others, and the author does make the point that though democrats need to play "tougher" they cannot become as "bad" as some of the republican tactics are.

1. Expand the vote: automatic voter registration; same day registration; vote by mail; expand early voting; consider making voting mandatory, as in Australia; consider allowing 16 year olds to vote; hammer the message to people that "the republican party is trying to stop you from voting!"

2. Fix the Senate-by 2040, 70% of the population will reside in just 16 states, but the remaining 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate seats. Ways to remedy this lopsided control include: eliminate the filibuster; create more states--make D.C. a state; make Puerto Rico a state; divide California into 2 or more states (why do we need 2 Dakotas?)

3. Eliminate the Electoral College, so that the person who wins the majority popular vote wins. Since this would require a constitutional amendment (very difficult) work for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which so far 15 states and D.C. have joined--requires the state to give its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

4. Build a nationwide liberal infrastructure similar to that developed by the Koch Brothers et. al. over the years.

5. Get rid of Citizens United--difficult because it will require either the Supreme Court to overturn the case or a constitutional amendment.

6. Strengthen the FEC to give teeth to penalties for election law violations.

7. Require nonprofits to disclose their political fundraising and spending (no more dark money). Possibly go to public financing for all campaigns.

8. Judicial Reform--Add Justices to the Supreme Court. Nine Justices is not required by the Constitution, and changing the number of justices is not unprecedented. It only got a bad reputation (as court packing) when FDR floated the idea. After Bush v. Gore, and the Merrick Garland fiasco, it can no longer be said that the Supreme Court is not a political entity. Another possibility might be to place term limits on the Justices--the Constitution doesn't specifically require that the appointments be for life, only that they can only be removed for cause.

8. Strengthen unions. Also if corporations are "people," make them act decently.

9. Put some restrictions on presidential power--Repeal the authorization for use of military force and allow no more wars without congressional authorization; repeal National Emergencies Act, which allowed trump to divert funds to his wall, for example

10. Since trump has shown us we cannot depend on an intrinsic morality or sense of shame in our presidents, we must turn some of our prior norms into law. For example, require presidential candidates to release tax returns; require a president to divest himself of his private businesses; strengthen the Hatch Act; no more get out of jail for free card, since the only basis for the rule that a president can't be prosecuted is a DOJ opinion from the Watergate era, and as we have seen impeachment as a remedy for a rogue president is not viable when one party has lost its mind.

Overall, I found a lot of interesting ideas in this book.

3 stars

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 7:00pm

I read the following as a group read on Litsy led by Club Read's graywhacke:

48. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927) 234 pp

Like The Professor's House which I read earlier this year, this book almost seemed to be two distinct books. Most of the book was the story of Father Jean Latour and his friend and fellow priest Joseph Vaillant. They leave France to become missionaries in the New World in the early 19th century, and sometime around 1850 Latour is named Bishop of New Mexico. Readers are treated to lots of southwest history and culture, including clashes among Mexicans, various Native American tribes, Europeans, and Americans. Even Kit Carson plays a major role. And the beautiful southwest landscape is lovingly evoked by Cather's perfect prose. Together and separately, Latour and Vaillant have many "adventures" over the years.

The final two chapters find Latour as an old man. He became Archbishop, but is now retired. Vaillant, before his death, had moved on to the wilds of the Colorado gold rush. This part of the book was what I had been expecting the whole book to be like: an older man looking back on life choices and contemplating death.

I'm finding Cather is not an easy writer to categorize. Sometimes while reading it seems like not much has happened, and then you realize she's created a whole world. What is sometimes missing is a narrative arc, and I sometimes find that there are lots of stories and characters only tenuously connected. Nevertheless, I want to read more by her.

I learned after reading the book that it is based on true characters, and is based on William Howlett's account of the life of Father Macheboeuf. One of the reviews on Amazon described this book as not a story, but a "mural" of a time, place, and the relationship between two very different characters. I agree.

4 stars

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 7:02pm

49. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (2019) 288 pp

This is the story of a family and the impact of racism on the family over generations, set in 3 time periods. In present day New Orleans, single mother Ava has lost her job, and she and her son King move in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy New Orleans society matron. Ava has a dual role, a relative, but also a paid caregiver. As Martha's dementia worsens, her racism becomes overt, and soon Ava finds herself in an untenable position.
In a parallel story set in 1924, Josephine, an elderly former slave, Ava's great-great-grandmother, now owns her own farm and acts as a spiritual advisor to her community. A white family has moved to the adjacent farm, and the young wife Charlotte seeks friendship and guidance from Josephine. Unfortunately Charlotte and her husband are involved with the KKK, which will have devastating consequences for Josephine and her family.
We also get the story of Josephine's childhood as a plantation slave. Her mother was also a spiritual advisor, and was involved with a group of slaves known as the Revisioners, who frequently met to plan escapes.
I enjoyed this book, but did not find it as well-written as her first novel, A Kind of Freedom. I found huge inconsistencies in the characterizations. For example, when the book opens, Ava is estranged from her mother, a doula. Not much explanation is given as to why. Yet when she leaves her grandmother, she goes to her mother, and becomes a doula too. This just didn't ring true for me, and there were other examples too. Maybe the author was trying to fit too much in, but this was just an ok read. If you only want to read one book by her, I'd read her first book.

2 1/2 stars

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 7:06pm

I think I'm going to have to sign off for now, even though I'm only half way through May. Will try to be back tomorrow to finish up with May.

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 3:58pm

Back to finish May:

50. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider (2017) 286 pp

Subtitle: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

I was looking forward to this book, and really wanted to like it. It's the memoir of a woman who with her husband and 3 children (allotted a backpack each) took off a year to travel around the world. But instead of a book in which we got the feel and atmosphere and culture and ethos of lots of countries (or even a few), we mostly heard about how arduous travel was, how tired they were when they got there, and then a few facts that looked like they were randomly pulled from a google search or a wiki article. A lot of the book involved her personal issues. For example, one of the first places they visited (after China) was a town in Thailand known for medical tourism. It was a town she had had an extended stay in several years before at a time she was severely depressed and needed therapy. She chose to visit the town again, seeking a spiritual advisor for her psychic ennui.

There were a few interesting parts, like visiting the source of the Nile. But for the most part it was very mundane, and most of the episodes lacked an authentic sense of place. Here's Singapore. Arrive at the airport. Let the kids play on the playground at the airport while she and her husband drink a cup of coffee. Go to their hostel which is white and clean. The next morning go to a park and let the kids play. After lunch, she's tired, so her husband takes the kids somewhere for the afternoon and she naps. The next day they leave for Australia. I mention Singapore because I was there for 9 months (many years ago), and it's multicultural, exciting and there's lots to see and do and experience. I know on a year long trip you have down days, but why even include them in the book?

And several of the Amazon reviews mention glaring errors. One I noted is that when they were going to Sri Lanka in her lackluster description she mentions it is known for growing spices like "vanilla, nutmeg, curry and cinnamon." That jarred. As far as I know "curry" is not a spice in and of itself but a combination of several spices.

So, although the book had a great premise, it fails in execution, and is very superficial and rather boring. Not recommended.

1 1/2 stars

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 4:06pm

51. Chasing My Cure by David Fajgenbaum (2019) 234 pp

Subtitle: A Doctor's Race to Turn Hope into Action

The author was a medical student when he first suffered a bout of a mysterious illness that brought him to the brink of death. Over the next several months he suffered repeated near-death episodes of the same illness. When he finally received a diagnosis, his situation did not improve much because very little was known about his disease, and there was no known cure. So he decided to do what he could to ramp up research and search for a cure.

This was a good medical memoir about a mystery illness and one fascinating person's attempts to solve the mystery.

3 stars

As an aside, the author's father is a doctor, and when the author first became ill, one of the doctors his father called upon for help was Dr. Anthony Fauci of covid fame.

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 4:10pm

52. Influx by Daniel Suarez (2014) 417 pp

I'll start this review by quoting a lengthy section of the first chapter:

"Grady shrugged. 'The surrounding non-superconducting ionic lattice is localized and so executes geodesic motion, moving along with space-time, while the Cooper pairs execute non-geodesic motion--thereby accelerating relative to space-time. The different motions lead to a separation of charge. That charge separation causes the graphene to become electrically polarized, generating a restoring Coulomb force. The back action of the Coulomb force on the Cooper pairs magnifies the mass super-currents generated by the wave--producing a reflection.'
"Kulkarni grimaced. 'Mr. Grady, if this was so, why do Bose-Einstein condensates follow geodesics? I can drop them in a vacuum chamber, and they fall just like Galileo's rock.'
"Grady grabbed a piece of paper from a table and started making intricate folds as he talked. 'Yes, but the deBroglie (sic) wavelength of the BEC is on the order of a millimeter, whereas the gravity field wavelength is effectively infinite--which means gravity can move it around. If the de Broglie (sic) wavelength can be made longer than the gravity wavelength, we can in principle isolate the BEC from the gravity wave.'"
etc. etc. etc.

Much of Chapter 1 reads like this. I understood nothing. I was ready to abandon the book and leave it to be enjoyed by astrophysicists and their ilk. But I read on, because I knew it was a bestseller, and there aren't enough astrophysicists around to make it a bestseller. And ultimately the only thing you need to get out of Chapter 1 is that something Very Important has been invented by an eccentric scientist named Jon Grady, the hero of this book.

It turns out that there is an obscure government agency tracking eccentric scientists, and when a scientist makes an important discovery, the agency makes sure it never sees the light of day, ostensibly because "humanity is not ready for it," but actually because the agency has an evil, power-mad head who is using the discoveries for his own purposes.

This was one of the science-fiction page-turner thrillers. As such it is occasionally groan-worthy, the villains are pure evil, the good guys pure as snow, the love-interest the most beautiful, most intelligent woman in the world, who happens to be genetically engineered. She happens also to be one of the bad guys (duped and hoodwinked by them despite her genetically engineered intelligence) until she makes an inexplicable switch over to the good guys. Unfortunately, she is also named Alexa, so I kept picturing Alexa the Amazon slave. It turns out that all she wanted anyway was to get married and have a baby, so SPOILER ALERT, we are going to have a happy ending in the fairy tale sense.

I read the whole thing, so I guess it wasn't all bad. I really wanted to find out what happened, so the plotting was adequate, and overall it provided some hours of escapism. But maybe I'm getting too old to waste my time on throw-aways like this. If it sounds interesting to you, I don't urge you not to read it. Just be aware of its faults.

2 stars

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 4:19pm

53. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (2017) 189 pp

While lying in a rural clinic dying, Amanda has a long conversation with a young boy David who is sitting with her seeking answers to certain questions he has. Amanda is seeking answers to as to where her daughter is. David is the son of Amanda's neighbor Carla, and is a few years older than Amanda
s daughter.

The book is surreal, and really did have the feel of a dream story, or at least the narrative conveyed the thoughts of a person thrashing with a fever, not entirely logical or rational, but seeming so as they are being experienced. Unlike many surreal works, which I usually don't like, I found this very easy to read (if not necessarily to understand) and the characters and their situations were very relatable. One thing that really spoke to me was the "rescue distance," which is the distance a mother feels she can let her young child roam--the furthest safe distance for the child. I foundnd this to be a very original, yet highly readable novella.

4 stars

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 4:26pm

54. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller (2013) 271 pp

This was the engaging memoir of a young woman who grew up as the only daughter of hoarders. What shines through in this book is how much her parents love her, and how much she loves them, despite the pain their mental illness caused her both during her childhood and as an adult, and despite the PTSD she still suffers. The focus of the book is their personal story, rather than an attempt to explain causes (though some are touched upon). The descriptions of life with a hoarder are visceral and eye-opening. Recommended.

3 stars

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 4:29pm

55. The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina (2019) 513 pp

Subtitle: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

"For all its breathtaking beauty, the ocean is also a dystopian place, home to dark inhumanities."

The author, a NY Times reporter, describes this book as a "compendium of narratives about this unruly frontier," with each chapter covering a distinct issue surrounding the ocean and the vessels upon it. He spent 4 years, going from vessel to vessel, incident to incident, to compile the reporting contained within this book. A brief description of the contents:

1. The story of Sea Shepherd (formerly Greenpeace) and the 110 day pursuit of a notorious poacher.
2. The story of the Pacific island nation of Palau and its attempts to control its waters from illegal fishing.
3. An offshore platform in the North Sea which has declared its independence as a country, "Sealand."
4. Sea slavery. The notorious human trafficking for workers on fishing vessels, whose crews are sometimes kept offshore for years.
5. A doctor whose ship travels along the Mexican coast taking women to international waters to provide abortions.
6. "Rafted"--what happens to stowaways. Also, the use of the high seas by governments, including the US to interrogate terrorists, thus avoiding laws that apply on land.
7. A maritime repo man, and how to "steal" a ship from port.
8. The middlemen--"Manning Agencies" which provide ships with crews, thus allowing shipping companies to have plausible deniability for many abuses.
9. Offshore drilling in Brazil.
10. Sea Slavery--Thai sailors on Chinese vessels.
11. Dumping waste at sea.
12. Borders. Lots of disagreement as to where a country's borders end and international waters begin. This chapter involved a "shoot-out" and sinking between Indonesia and Vietnam over whose waters they were in.
13. "Armed and dangerous." Murder at sea. Floating armories at sea.
14. The Somali 7. How ships are licensed. Piracy.
15. Hunting Hunters. Sea Shepherd and its attempts to curtail Japanese whalers.

This was both an adventures story and an eye-opening expose of the legal and humanitarian issues arising at sea. Currently, there is no one country or entity to regulate these issues. Corruption is rampant, and there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis.


3 1/2 stars

kesäkuu 25, 2020, 9:16pm

>130 arubabookwoman: Fever Dream was originally called Rescue Distance in Spanish. It really does suit the book more.

I'm sorry you've had continuing challenges with your husband's health, but I am glad that you both managed the journey to Florida and and that you'll soon be in a condo on the beach.

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 11:58am

Good to see you and hoping your husband's medications can get well balanced!

>124 arubabookwoman: I love Cather and think few write landscape as well as she does. She's able to capture so much about the natural world while including the human element instead of pretending it's totally separate.

>129 arubabookwoman: Alexa almost made me spit out my coffee. :)

>132 arubabookwoman: This sounds really interesting. The other half is a lawyer so he might find this particularly compelling.

kesäkuu 29, 2020, 8:35am

Finally got a chance to catch up on your reading and on your move to Florida. You are brave. I would not what to be anywhere near Florida during this pandemic. And you are just a day or two from your move to the condo! Hope your hubby has stabilized and things are moving ahead. As always, your reading is interesting (even the reviews of the Trump books....). Thinking of you are you settle in down there.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 6:56pm

>132 arubabookwoman: "Rescue Distance" is a term that should be in general usage, I think. I needed a term like that when I was a mom of young kids.

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:38pm

Time to update some reading. It's been a while. First:

>133 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. Rescue Distance is a much more resonant title, isn't it?
>134 janemarieprice: Hi Jane. I agree that Cather writes magnificently of the landscape. The group on Litsy just finished Shadows on the Rock set in Quebec, and now I really want to go there. Interesting that your husband is an attorney, and you're an architect, right. We're the opposite--I'm an attorney and my husband is an architect.
>135 avaland: Hi Lois. Thankfully the pandemic seems to be settling a tiny bit in Florida, as well as elsewhere, but we will be continuing to isolate for the foreseeable future. All our grandkids are now heading back to school, although some of them only virtually for the time being, but I'm worried what that's going to do to the pandemic spread.
>136 sallypursell: Hi Sally. "Rescue Distance" is something I felt in my gut, but didn't identify when I was taking care of my kids when they were young. I agree it's a great descriptive term for what I'm sure many parents feel.

Life Update:

Well, we are plugging along surviving the Florida heat after so many years in the cool misty greyness of Seattle (which I loved). We have been living in a condo on the beach since July 1, and our most exciting times are when our son visits with our two grandsons (7 and 4) and they go to the beach and we watch them from our second floor balcony. After the beach, they come to the beachside pool for our condo, right beneath our balcony, and we order pizza, and they eat by the pool and we eat on our balcony. Then I throw down popsicles for them. It is so strange to have moved 2000+ miles to be near them, but be unable to snuggle.

My husband's transplant continues to be successful. Though there seems to be a continuing and varied succession of transplant related medical issues and side effects, they are mostly manageable. We are very pleased with his new doctors at the Moffit Center in Tampa, and are receiving excellent care.

Biggest news is that we have purchased a condo and closed this past week. It is on the beach, about ten blocks from where we are currently renting. It was purchased fully furnished. (It even comes with a wine refrigerator, a telescope and a treadmill). Even though I got rid of a lot of our stuff, including furniture before we moved, we will have to go through our storage unit here to get rid of duplications, and to decide which of our furniture from Seattle we will substitute for the furniture already in the condo or try to fit somewhere, and which we will get rid of. Most of the furniture I kept are things I dearly love, so it will be hard to get rid of anything, although it was already planned that one or another of the kids is going to take some of the things. Since the condo also came with complete sets of dishes, glassware, linens, towels etc. a lot of duplicate stuff will also be shipped to kids in NYC. It also came with 3 TVS (which I generally don't watch), but NO bookcases, a defect I will have to remedy. After "camping out" for nearly 2 years, I will be so happy to get my books and other stuff (mainly fiber art and other art supplies) out of storage. Since we have the rented condo until October 31, we can take our time to move in. We have already gone over there a couple of times for a few hours to measure and plan, but frequently found ourselves distracted by the beautiful view. The condo is on the 11th floor, and it seems to be the height at which a lot of the sea birds fly, sometimes just a few feet from our window. We are finding it so peaceful to look out at the Gulf of Mexico, and to watch the birds.

And finally, our youngest son who was supposed to have gotten married in June, had decided to have a "Zoom" wedding. They will get the license 9/3, and need to have the ceremony within 30 days. Very excited about this, but sad not to be able to be there in person.

Now I need to catch up with what I've been reading since May..

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:40pm

56. The Bear by Andrew Krivak (2020) 224 pp

A young girl and her father are the only two surviving humans. They live on the edge of a lake at the foot of a mountain, foraging, hunting and fishing for food, the father always teaching the young girl skills she will need to survive after he is gone. Each year in the summer solstice, they climb the mountain to visit the grave of the girl's mother. When the girl is about 11, her father tells her they must travel to the sea many miles away to replenish their store of salt.

This was a beautiful and moving fable, a story about our place in nature. Although it is about the last two humans and how they survive, I don't think it really fits into the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre. Rather, it is a lyrical meditation on how we are all interconnected with all other forms of life on Earth.

Recommended. 3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:42pm

57. Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle (2019)

I loved these comics, which show how absurd, when you stop to think about it, some of our practices and customs are. It does this mostly by giving things names which are perhaps more descriptive of their reality. Some examples: "tanning"= star damage; "sunglasses"= personal star dimmers; "coffee"=jitter liquid; "cut flowers"=dying plants; "vase"=death cylinder for dying plants; "necktie"=seriousness cloth.
And so on. Lots of sorely needed chuckles here.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:45pm

58. Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese (2009) 376 pp

Digger, Timber, Double Dick, and One For the Dead, live on the city streets, each fighting their own demons, but forming a sort of family over the years, watching out for each other and sharing. One particularly cold winter day, they decide to go to the movies to stay warm, and there they meet Granite, a "square John" who befriends them. They meet off and on with Granite as they form a movie-going habit. Their lives change dramatically when Digger finds a winning Lotto ticket--they have won more than $13 million, which they have decided to share, and they need Granite's help to collect it. The book is told in chapters narrated alternately by each of the 5 main characters. Over the course of the book, we learn of their past lives, and what brought each of them to life on the streets, as well as what they each choose to do to make that life worthwhile after winning the lottery.

I enjoyed this mostly, but occasionally found it a bit simplistic or fairy-tale-ish. Sometimes the characters seemed a bit too naive or childish to have survived so long on the streets, and the "square Johns" who took care of them (or at least their money) after the lottery win seemed a bit like adult minders for the feeble-minded. Still, overall I think this was a good look at the unique world of society's marginalized.

The author was an Ojibway from the Wabassee First Nation in Ontario and has first-hand knowledge of this life. Several of the characters have Native American heritage, and their traditions and beliefs permeate the book. Some of their experiences were heart-breaking. I'm glad I read this book.

Recommended. 3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:51pm

59. Aftermath: The Remnants of War by Donovan Webster (1996) 288 pp

Although somewhat dated, this was an interesting look at what is left on the battlefield--sometimes years, decades, or centuries--after war subsides. The first chapter considers the battlefields of World War I in France--Verdun, the Somme, the Marne--through the work of the demineurs who in the areas designated as the Red Zone seek to disarm unexploded shells and ordnance, of which there remained vast quantities at the time this book was written 90 years after the war's end. It was estimated that after the war nearly 12 million unexploded shells remained near Verdun, with more near the Somme and the Marne, and millions more on the beaches of Normandy and Brittany. It was not until 1946, after World War II, that France began systematic efforts to clear the explosives. Between 1946 and 1996 when this book was written more than 630 demineurs had died in the line of duty. And even at the time the book was written innocent civilians were still losing their lives to encounters with the unexploded detritus of war; for example, 36 farmers died in 1991 in France when their machinery hit unexploded shells.

The second chapter considers World War II, and the battlefields around Stalingrad, where many died of starvation or froze to death, in addition to battlefield casualties. As of the time the book was written, the bones of many dead (primarily) Germans littered the fields around Stalingrad.

I found the third chapter less interesting. It involved a visit to the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear weapons were exploded above-ground from 1951-1963. What's left behind is invisible: radiation and the cancers it causes. I've read several more recent books on the subject of nuclear waste and radiation, so while the descriptions of the eeriness of the site was impressive, the chapter did not offer me new information.

The fourth chapter involved a visit to Vietnam, where the war had ended only 20 years before this book was published. I lived through this war vicariously on the Nightly News with Walter Cronkite so the names were familiar. One of the most horrifying "aftermaths" the author describes in this chapter was, surprisingly, a visit to a maternity hospital, where in a room full of fetuses preserved in formaldehyde the effects of the Agent Orange the US rained down on Vietnam's jungles and fields are in full view.

The next chapter involved a visit to Kuwait by the author just a few years after the end of the First Gulf War. It was estimated that 7 million land mines were sown in the sands of Kuwait by both sides. Just a few years after the end of this war in 1991, more than 2000 civilians had been killed by the mines that had been left behind, and "nearly as many coalition-nation citizens have perished clearing Kuwait's desert of mines and bombs (83) as Americans died in the fighting itself (103)." Today, land mines crowd the soil in more than 60 countries.

The final chapter was a visit to a storage depot for nerve gas weapons. As he leaves, the author thinks, "Behind me, the alarm sounds once more."

I found this a fascinating and riveting read. We all know the horrors of war, especially never-ending wars. But my eyes were opened by the horrors left behind. While mostly anecdotal, the author has a fine eye for detail, and his observations clear and on point. Only 2 complaints: I think the book would have been enhanced with a few pictures. And, I would like some updates.

Highly Recommended. 4 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 4:58pm

60. Scrublands by Chris Hammer (2019) 385 pp

This is a crime novel set in a small town in the Australian outback. Reporter Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend to do a human interest story one year after the town priest, Byron Swift, shot and killed 5 of his parishioners as they waited on the church steps for Sunday services to begin. Martin decides to dig into the "whys" behind the tragedy, and in so doing opens a can of worms.

For me the best part of this book is the evocation of the dust and heat of the outback, as well as the characters who inhabit such environs. This is the author's first mystery novel (he is a journalist), and it shows. He throws in everything, including the kitchen sink, and it all ultimately borders on the ridiculous. The names he chooses for some of his characters grate, as well. The beautiful love interest is named Mandalay Blonde (really--to me it sounds like the name of a hair dye dreamed up on Madison Avenue), and the town drunk, (and possible bad guy) is named Harley Snouch. Items, events, themes touched on in the book include, PTSD, Brush Fires, Building Fires, Animal Torture, Kidnapping, Human Torture, Drugs, Organized Crime, Bikers, Rape, Police Murder, Australian CIA, Afghan War, the Middle East, and much more. The basic idea was good, but the book lacked focus, and in the end I don't think we got a satisfactory answer to why the priest murdered 5 people.

2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:04pm

61. Death in Spring by Merce Rodoreda (1986) 150 pp

I'm glad I read this short Catalan classic written over 20 years in exile and published after the author's death. It's short, brutal and somewhat surrealistic (or maybe it's more slightly magical realism). It's also poetic and lyrical, as it describes, through the eyes of a young boy who becomes a man over the course of the book, life in an isolated small town with unusual and sometimes violent customs and practices. Each spring a young man must swim the river running under the town, which often results in the death or mutilation of the swimmer. Other strange customs include a forest of the dead, where the dead of the town are buried inside trees after first filling their mouths with cement to seal in their souls. Each spring the villagers must paint their houses pink, and pregnant women are blindfolded. A prisoner in a cage near the town neighs like a horse. Overall the book is dark and fable-like, and the writing is original and superb. I can't say I was emotionally moved by the book, but it is one I recommend.

3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:09pm

Hi Deborah, good to hear that all has gone well with your move, and best wishes for continued good health for your husband. I'm sure you're looking forward to moving into your own condo and getting those books unpacked again! A place on the beach sounds hard to beat.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 23, 2020, 5:25pm

>144 AlisonY: Hi Alison, and thanks! The beach is very nice, although at the moment, I'm watching a spectacular thunderstorm. Thankfully the hurricane that spawned it is far from here, looking like it's unfortunately headed for Louisiana, maybe New Orleans.

ETA--I just was posting my review of One Day (see >147) on the book's page and saw that you read and reviewed it earlier this year Alison.

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:12pm

62. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I'm participating in a reread of Jane Austen's books in order of publication over on Litsy, and this is the first one we read. I haven't visited Jane Austen since my late 20's/early 30's, when I very much loved her book. I have to say that from the vantage point of nearly 70 I was not so enthralled with this book. Jane definitely had some zingers in there, but for the most part I didn't really connect with the problems of finding a suitable husband with a sufficient income. I will continue with the project, however, and see if my mind changes.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:17pm

63. One Day by Gene Weingarten (2019) 383 pp

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand,
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an Hour."

As an exercise, the author decided to randomly choose a single day, December 28, 1986, and then investigate and write about all the things that happened during the course of that one day--to report it deeply, hour by hour. He began shortly after midnight, when the violent death of a stalker has resulted in the availability of a heart for transplant into the body of a very ill young woman. It continues through a variety of trivial and important incidents all occurring that day, filling in details of what came before and after: a student prank at a university; a death in a housefire; a young girl whose strict parents won't let her play video games plays and wins Mario Brothers at a sleepover (and grows up to become a well-known blogger); a young woman kidnapped and murdered; a man long married to a woman comes to the realization that he was meant to be a woman; a football game ending in a racial incident; a young man electrocuted in a booby trap as he attempts to burgle a store; the death of an openly gay graphic artist from AIDS as well as the death of a closeted Republican operative from AIDS; an upside down helicopter crash; the marriage of the parents of a famous hockey player whose father went to jail for nearly murdering his mother; Russian emigrants returning to Russia after failing to thrive in the US. These stories and many others are fleshed out and each, to a greater or lesser extent, engages and intrigues us. I really enjoyed this book.

Here's the summary he ended the book with:

"Eva Baisey had gotten her new heart and Todd Thrane had lost his life trying to save babies, and baby Michael Green had been burned beyond recognition, and Cara Knott had been pulled, dead, from a culvert, and Ed Koch had been booed by his loyal constituents, and the Confederate flag was marched home, and someone had stolen the weather vane, and Terry Dolan and Joe Resnicoff had died of AIDS, and Brad Wilson had somehow survived his helicopter crash, and the football replay had gone on and on and on and little Heather Hamilton had saved the princess.
"Everything moves on."

If it sounds like something you'd like, go for it.

3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:25pm

64. Dark Towers by David Enrich (2019) 419 pp

This book by the finance reporter for the New York Times tells the story of Deutsche Bank, from its origins as a sleepy provincial European bank to a power player on the world stage, as one of the most aggressive banks in the financial markets. The book opens with the 2014 suicide of bank executive Bill Broeksmith, and the implication is there that there will be a big reveal about the cause of the suicide as it relates to Deutsche Bank. The big reveal never comes, although it is clear that Broeksmith was troubled about his possible culpability for some of the bank's malfeasance.

Much of the book details the efforts of Broeksmith's stepson Val over the four years following the suicide to instigate official investigations into the suicide. At the time of the suicide, Val, who was in his late 30's, a drug addict who had never held a job and was being supported by his parents, downloaded some Deutsche Bank information from Broeksmith's computer. Over the next several years, we follow Val in and out of rehab, through various scams (and outright thefts from his mother) as he tries to peddle information to the likes of Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS and Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee. I'm really sorry that the book focused so much on Val and his shenanigans, as I think it detracted from the seriousness of the topic.

Of course, some of the present interest in Deutsche Bank is generated by the fact that it has made extensive loans to Donald Trump, as well as to the Kushner family, and also has extensive dealings with many Russian oligarchs. I don't think I learned much from this book on these topics that I have not already seen in the newspaper. So, although Trump's name appears in the book's subtitle, there isn't a lot of new information here.

The author writes well, but this just isn't the book I wanted to read.

2 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:33pm

Here's another Trump book:

64. Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump by Sarah Kendzior (2020) 288 pp

The author of this book is a scholar of authoritarian regimes who lives in Middle America (St. Louis). In this book, she details the changes that have occurred in America over her lifetime, from the 1980's to the present day, which led to the election of Trump. Her primary thesis is that the Russian Mafia has taken over and that American democracy has been severely eroded. She details the corruption and abuses of power that occur daily with no consequences (and have been occurring for years). In the author's view, Trump's admiration of Russia is not mere circumstantial behavior, but hides a long dark money trail of reliance on oligarchs and mobsters. She views Trump as part of an illicit network of individuals from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the UK who are loyal to no country, only to themselves and their money. She states: "It would be bad enough had Trump merely emerged as a bigoted demagogue, but add long-standing ties to a transnational crime syndicate affiliated with the Kremlin and one ends up with a human road map to an American kleptocracy."

The book is full of facts to support her underlying arguments. Bill Barr features prominently (i.e. securing pardons for those convicted in the Iran Contra deal), even though the book was written before some of his more recent controversial actions. Relationships among many of the members of the Trump administration and family members are also detailed--these people are all interconnected in ways that are not entirely above-board.

The book ends with the question: How do we continue to allow a president to commit impeachable offenses on a weekly basis? It's even worse now, with covid, and Trump's overt and despicable attempts to suppress the vote and steal the election by destroying the Post Office. I, for one, am terrified by what may happen in November.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:41pm

66. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim (2018) 321 pp

Polly signs on to time travel to the future as a sort of indentured servant to help rebuild America in order that her lover Frank will receive the necessary health care to save him from the pandemic that is raging in 1981. She is only traveling to 1993, so she and Frank make careful plans about when and where to meet in the future. He will be 12 years older and she will be the same age as she presently is, but hopefully they can carry on. What could go wrong?

This was a quick and easy read of a well-rendered dystopian America, where the poor (and indentured laborers) exist only to provide for the comfort of the wealthy few. Polly meets many obstacles as she tries to make her way back to Frank in the future.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:43pm

>147 arubabookwoman: I enjoyed One Day too. Some of the stories were stronger than others, but I thought it was an interesting idea that he executed pretty well.

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:49pm

67. 100 Places You Will Never Visit by Daniel Smith (2014) 272 pp

This is a unique and fascinating travel guide (with pictures) of places that are remote, dangerous, or to which travel is forbidden. In other words, a guide to places you will probably never see, some of them places that governments will not even confirm the existence of. Some example: Fort Knox, the Coca Cola vault, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, Area 51, Drug smuggling tunnels, Snake Island (home of the Lancehead Viper, the most poisonous snake in the world, where you find one every 10 square feet), and many others.

A brief diversion, I dipped in and out of.

3 stars

That completes my June reading. On to July!

elokuu 23, 2020, 5:53pm

68. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) 288 pp

This book tracks the lives and fortunes of the slum-dwellers of Annawadi, a collection of raggle-taggle hovels near the Mubai airport and its surrounding luxury hotels. It focuses on several families, including the Husains and their son Abdul, garbage/recycle buyers, and Asha, community "fixer" (aka "bribe taker") and her beautiful daughter Manju who may become the first female Annawadi college graduate, as well as many, many of the scavengers and other inhabitants.

As the book opens, Fatima, the Husain's neighbor, has set herself on fire after an altercation with the Husains, and Abdul, his father, and his sister are arrested and jailed, charged with "instigating" Fatima's actions. Over the years covered in this book, there are many other deaths--suicide by rat poison is common--and TB, hunger, and other health problems are rampant. Generally, these tragedies and others are met with shrug, and life goes on. This is a heart-rending book, and what is almost as tragic as the suicides, deaths, poverty, hardships, and despair, is the ubiquitous corruption. Nothing gets done without payments to the unscrupulous, and, it seems, almost everyone is unscrupulous--policemen, teachers, government officials, employers of all ilks.

At one point Abdul comments that people are all alike, like water is all alike, but sometimes water is ice, and Abdul says, he wants to be ice. Boo states that her purpose in writing the book was to explore how children intent on being ice become dirty water.

This was an extraordinary book, and will long be on my mind. I'm only sorry I waited so long to read it.

Highly recommended.

4 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 6:02pm

69. Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)

This is a short, barely novella length work, but it packs a punch. Idir is sitting to take a test which will determine whether he will be allowed to stay in the country to which he has emigrated, whether he is the type of person suitable for British citizenship. He is only a few questions in, when armed, masked terrorist break in, taking hostages, waving weapons and making demands. Now, Idir faces the "real" test.

I read this in one sitting, glued to the page.


3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 6:05pm

70. The Law of Lines by Pyun Hye-young (2020) 226 pp

As this novel opens, Se-Oh returns home from an errand her father sent her on to find their home in flames. She has lived the past several years as a recluse for reasons which only become clear over the course of the novel. Her father's death in the fire is ruled a suicide, but Se-Oh suspects foul play and begins to investigate.

In an alternate narrative, Ki-jeong, a teacher, learns of the death of her estranged sister, which was also ruled a suicide. Ki-jeong, like Se-Oh, is not convinced, and begins to delve into her sister's life. One thing she discovers is that her sister made several attempts to contact Se-Oh before her death. In parallel narratives the stories of Se-Oh and Ki-jeong begin to converge.

I enjoyed this book, but based on the reviews and descriptions I had read, I expected it to be much more in the psychological thriller genre. Instead, it's much more literary and philosophical. There is very little action, just glimpses of contemporary life in Korea, a novel of character, not crime.


3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 6:09pm

71. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriart (2018) 463 pp

Moriarty has great fun with this send-up of the culture of fat-farm/health resorts, bringing it just to the edge, but not quite over the top. Nine diverse strangers convene for a week at an exclusive health resort. Our primary point-of-view character is Frances, a successful romance novelist who is reeling since her latest book has been rejected by her long-time publisher and she has also just been scammed in an online romantic encounter. Jessica and Ben are a young married couple who have won a multimillion dollar lottery, but are having difficulty dealing with the changes in their life and who want to work on their marriage. The Marconis, father, mother and daughter are grieving the suicide of their teenage twin son/brother. There's also the impossibly handsome gay divorce lawyer, the over-the-hill out of shape former football star, and the divorced mother of four daughters who's convinced she's overweight. Masha, a probably insane Russian immigrant, presides over the festivities along with two minions.

Things start out conventionally enough, though the wine and chocolate Frances has tried to smuggle in is confiscated. Then, the guests are told that they must maintain a vow of silence for the first five days, and must not even talk to their family members. Things really go off the rails (or at least Masha does) when the vow of silence is lifted.

Moriarty seems to have great fun with this book, and it's very endearing and humorous. Nevertheless, she makes some very good points about body-image, particularly for women, albeit in a humorous way. As I've now read several books by her, I'm finding her to be a reliable go-to author for light and distracting reads. Recommended.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 6:15pm

72. The Last Astronaut by David Wellington (2019) 401 pp

A mysterious object has appeared in the outer reaches of the solar system and is on a deliberate course for Earth, apparently controlled by an extraterrestrial intelligence. NASA launches a probe, led by astronaut Sally Janson, to meet and explore the object, making first contact with the aliens. I was hoping for something like the Rendezvous with Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke, which I read and loved many years ago, but Rama it's not. The characters here are cardboard, the situations ridiculous, but mostly, for me, it devolved into a horror story, and horror is among my least favorite genres.

I know a lot of people like horror, and a lot of people liked Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which I also did not like, and which I found veered into horror. This book reminded me a bit of Annihilation so if you liked Annihilation you might also like this. Me, I'm kicking myself for wasting so much time on it. Life is just too short to keep reading a book I don't like just to find out what's going to happen next.

1 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 6:20pm

73. Peace by Gary Disher (2019) 277 pp

Paul Hirsch, former big city detective, is now a small town constable in the Australian outback, demoted for his role in a police corruption scandal. He was cleared, but his reputation was tarnished, and he was labeled a snitch. This stand-alone crime novel begins at a leisurely pace as Paul confronts small town issues and crimes--the town drunk, a pair of teenagers joyriding in a stolen car, the malevolent town busybody spreading rumors. Things turn more serious when several horses are stabbed to death and several more are mutilated. Even so, we are more than half way through the book when the murder occurs. I like this pace, however. I liked getting to know the town and its inhabitants. I like that the crime(s) are solved through the steady accumulation of facts and evidence. I like that there are no car chases, shootout, bombs, etc., though there is a poisonous snake and a brush fire. Some may argue that there's a bit too much coincidence, but I didn't find that to be so. Things do get tied up very neatly in the end (the town drunk reforms, the busybody gets his comeuppance), but this really didn't bother me. I've pretty much liked every book I've read by Gary Disher, and this was no exception.


3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 7:58pm

Another crime novel. Lots of easy reading going on here.

74. Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 442 pp

Mickey is a single mom and a cop in the rough Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington. Her younger sister Kasey is a prostitute and drug addict on the streets. Although they are estranged, Mickey tries to keep an eye out for Kasey to make sure she's not in harm's way. As the book opens, it is becoming apparent that there might be a serial killer on the loose who is targeting prostitutes. Mickey realizes she hasn't seen Kasey around in a while, and begins to check on her whereabouts. Soon, although Mickey is a beat cop not a detective, she's taking things into her own hands, searching for her sister and trying to catch a serial killer.

While this poses as a police procedural, and that is the skeleton around which the book is constructed, in actuality, this is more of a character study of a broken family, and a treatise on the effects poverty and drug use wreak on families over generations. It's gotten lots of good reviews, and while I enjoyed it, I think it was a bit overrated. Still, recommended if it sounds intriguing to you.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:01pm

75. Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell (2013) 338 pp

Greta is long-married to Robert when one morning after breakfast he leaves to get a newspaper and does not come back. She finds that he has cleared out their bank account and disappeared without a word of warning or explanation. Their three children are summoned, Michael, whose marriage appears on the brink of collapse, Monica, who is not doing well in her marriage either, particularly in her role as stepmother, and even Aoife, who has been living in faraway New York for several years and who is harboring some dark secrets from her past.

This was the sort of lovely family drama I've come to expect from O'Farrell, and she effortlessly weaves us in and out of the stories of Greta, Robert, and each of their children. We learn their secrets, and care about them all. They are real people with real life problems, but nevertheless, I found this to be a real "feel good" book, one I immersed myself in and forgot about the world.


3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:05pm

You may have heard the term "throwing shade." I had, but wasn't sure what it meant. According to Pete Souza, official photographer during the Obama presidency, it means, "a subtle, sneering expression of contempt or disgust with someone." Hence, the name of the following book, a collection of Souza's photographs.

76. Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza

Pete Souza was Obama's official photographer during his presidency. As many of us, he was dismayed when Trump won the 2016 election. He has since been periodically been posting photographs taken during Obama's presidency to remind us of what we have lost. Many were posted without explanation or label, and may have seemed random. In this book, he presents a sampling of some of the photographs he has posted, and also includes the Trump tweet, statement, news article or other action that inspired or compelled him to post the particular photo in question. The impetus for his publication of the photos hasn't previously been revealed, and the connection was sometimes obscure, often snarky, and always on point. I found this to be an uplifting book, but sad in that it really brings home how far we've fallen.

Some examples:

--Obama shaking hands with an awestruck young cub scout; posted after Trump's disgraceful speech at the Boy Scout convention.

--Obama holding a glass of water with one hand; you can guess what instigated this.

--Bo (the Obama's dog) sitting in Obama's Oval Office chair; Bo never "leaked" in the White House.

--Photo of the secure iPad on which Obama received his daily briefings; posted the day after Trump met with the Russian ambassador and other Russians in the Oval Office (the day after firing Comey) and revealed classified information to them.

A nice diversion.

3 1/2 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:09pm

77. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004) 418 pp

I read this book years ago when it was first published, but thought I would reread it in light of our current situation This is an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt and becomes president in 1940. He immediately enters into a pact with Hitler (and soon after with Japan), so that the United States will not enter WW II. Soon, encouraged by Lindbergh's government, anti-Semitism is overt, government-approved, and everywhere.

Despite covering these big issues though, this is also a family story, the story of a Jewish boy named Philip Roth growing up in Newark at this time. He is growing up in a poisonous atmosphere, but he also has many of the normal experiences you might expect for a young boy. The family tries to live their normal lives in an extraordinary time. I have to wonder how much, if any, of the familial stories and relationships are autobiographical.

So while at times this is a sweet coming of age story, it is also a vivid reimagining of what might have been, and a terrifying look at how quickly and easily America could go so wrong. And it is all the more tragic because of how prescient the book was regarding our present circumstances.

Highly recommended.

4 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:13pm

Continuing the group read of Willa Cather's novels on Litsy:

78. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (1931) 240 pp

This novel, set in 1697 Quebec follows a year in the life of 12 year old Cecile and her father, apothecary Auclair. It gave me a real feel for what it might have been like to leave your home for the New World with the possibility of never returning to go live in an unknown and untamed wilderness, all the deprivations you would suffer, but the adventures and discoveries as well.

While I enjoyed the book, I felt that it had a very YA feel to it (not my favorite genre), although it made me really want to visit Quebec, where I've never been. I would recommend for fans of The Little House on the Prairie series who have grown up a bit.

3 stars

elokuu 23, 2020, 8:18pm

That completes the report on my July reading. I did read a significant amount of a book getting a lot of buzz, but which I did not finish, The End of October by Lawrence Wright. In this book a world-wide pandemic begins in an internment camp in Indonesia, and spreads to Haj pilgrims in Mecca, and from there around the world. Only one man can save the day, the CDC's Henry Parsons. But his wife wants him home to help with the kids. But no one else can do what he does. I found it silly, which was disappointing since Wright has written at least one excellent NF book. I found the storyline and characters implausible, even in this incredible covid era.

I'll be back soon to report on August. I've enjoyed by most recent reads, which include Utopia Avenue byDavid Mitchell. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. and The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.

elokuu 25, 2020, 6:32pm

>137 arubabookwoman: So glad you are settling in and things are going well for your husband. I look forward to your book reviews this fall!

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:19am

>165 avaland: Thanks Lois. Here I finally am with a bit of life update and a few more books I've read.

We continue to have bumps and valleys here in isolation in Florida. About a month ago my husband's white count cratered. After a few shots it's back up, and we may never know why this happened, and he is now fine. But he went for an ordinary dental checkup, and either the radiation or the prednisone has rotted out many of his teeth, and he needs 9 crowns (he's always had good teeth with few cavities). With no dental insurance that's a hit. Oh well. I've been doing physical therapy for my knee. After my knee replacement surgery last December, my recovery didn't go well, and in February I had a manipulation under anesthesia. After that I had good range of motion, but still a lot of pain. Then in March, physical therapy was interrupted by covid, and then our move. I started PT again a few months ago. My knee is much stronger, but the pain is still there, although it's not as bad. I sure hope it doesn't stay like this forever. My mother, father, and 2 of my sisters all had very successful knee replacement operations, so I'm disappointed that mine did not follow suit.

But there's good news! Our youngest son Ben got married in NYC a few weeks ago to Ericka. It was a beautiful ceremony, outdoors in a park, and was officiated by our middle son Brandon. In (physical) attendance were Brandon's wife (our d-i-l) Liat and their son Milo, the ringbearer, our younger daughter Mia, and Ericka's mother. We attended by Zoom, as did our oldest son Matt and his family, our older daughter Sonia and her family, and a few of their friends. Afterwards they had dinner at an outdoor restaurant.

But the exciting part is that I had mentioned that we have possession of 2 beachfront condos through 10/31, so on Monday, after the wedding Ben and Ericka, with Mia tagging along began the drive from NYC to Florida. They arrived Wednesday, and have been staying in the condo we own while we stay in the rental. Also, when my husband began the transplant process in March 2019, since he couldn't be around animals, Ben and Ericka took our dog Dante. When I said goodbye to Dante in March 2019, I didn't expect to see him again. But he has accompanied them to Florida. He's now nearly 19, a bit blind, a little senile, but otherwise in good health, and a happy dog. I was so glad to see him again, though I'm not quite sure he remembers us (Sad, I know). They will be here another week.

Now for some books:

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:21am

79. In Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth About America's "Deep State" by David Rohde (2020) 352 pp

Trump is constantly complaining that the "Deep State" is seeking to destroy him, so I read this as part of my "Trump readings" to try to understand the crisis our country is in. However, this can be read as, and in fact is, a good nonfiction political history of how our government actually works. In the prologue, the author states that he investigated, and then wrote the book, to answer the question of whether a "deep state" exists. Part I chronicles the CIA and FBI scandals and overreach of the last forty years, including accunts of the Church Committee's proceedings on warrantless spying, the Iran-Contra scandal, the false intelligence about WMDs to justify the Iraq war, and the mass spying that was revealed by Edward Snowden. Also discussed was the ongoing power struggles between Congress and the President from Ford through Obama. Part II investigates the claims and counterclaims of the Trump era, and scrutinizes the work of William Barr, who like no other Attorney General, acts as the president's "political shield and sword."

This was a balanced and informative discourse on the subject. Recommended.

4 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:24am

80. Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (2020) 570 pp

London, 1967. I was there, and Mitchell brings this time and place vividly to life. A new band is formed. Bassist Dean Moss, a working class bloke from Gravesend, estranged from his father. A lady's man, reveling in the adulation of the chicks and groupies. Elf, from a stable, middle-class family, a folksinger/song writer with a small but loyal following. Just dumped by her Australian lover, Bruce, a jerk. Griff, the drummer comes from a jazz background, and in the background he mostly stays (often the fate of the drummer, I think), except for an interlude when circumstances cause him to question whether he will stay with the group as it takes off. And finally Jasper de Zoet, half Dutch, half English descendant of Jacob de Zoet, guitarist extraordinaire, another Clapton or Hendrix. Together, they become the band Utopia Avenue.

We follow the band's slow but steady rise to fame from playing the gritty pubs and halls of working-class England to Top of the Pops, to Amsterdam, and then onto a USA tour--from demo records to LPs topping the charts. Along the way famous people pass in and out of their lives--from Brian Jones to the Beatles and Stones to Leonard Cohen ("Lennie") to Janis Joplin to the Grateful Dead. It's a great ride, especially if you lived the times and the names and the music are familiar to you.

But even if you didn't, Mitchell tells a great story, with real and engaging characters. And, in particular, Mitchell is able to convey the creative processes his characters go through, so we are able to see and feel how songs are written, the spark that generates them, how the music is composed and the lyrics evolve. He also brings to life what the band members experience as they play their songs--how they "feel" the music and how they work together, and "rub off" on each other during performances and recording sessions. I particularly loved seeing how each of the band members composed songs to work through life issues, and seeing how even if the lyrics of a song might seem opaque or "druggie" if you didn't know what was going on behind the scenes, they were in fact wonderfully expressive.

There was one part of the book I didn't care for, although overall it didn't distract me too much. I haven't liked the "supernatural" elements of Mitchell's more recent fiction, i.e. The Bone Clocks. Here, Jasper is presented with a history of mental illness, having experienced a period of hospitalization for something resembling schizophrenia: he hears knocks. In actuality he has some sort of demon or malevolent spirit within him who has been dormant for centuries and who now wants out. This issue of Jasper being tormented, the effects on him and the band, just didn't have to involve the supernatural. Plain old schizophrenia would have been enough. But there's a whole chapter involving the horologists. I waded through, but didn't like it. But I didn't write the book, and overall I loved it.

4 1/2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:26am

81. The First Cell by Azra Raza (2019) 368 pp

Subtitle: And The Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last

Azra Raza is an oncologist and researcher, primarily specializing in MDS (myelodysplasic syndromes), which frequently lead to acute myeloid leukemia, a deadly cancer. Her primary thesis is that we need to change the paradigm for cancer research and treatments. Currently, research focuses on making tiny incremental changes in survival rates. Barely any progress has been made in cancer survival rates in the last 50 years, other than progress made as the result of early detection.

Interspersed with the facts and the arguments she presents to support her thesis are stories of many of the cancer patients she has treated over the years, as well as the personal story of her and her husband who passed away from cancer at a relatively young age.

In her view, "Prevention will be the only compassionate, universally applicable care," for cancer. By "prevention", she is not referring to life style changes etc., but to the identification and eradication of transformed cancer cells at their inception. In her words, "We should not be aiming for weeks of improved survival." No more "mouse models." She is arguing for a huge about face in how scientists approach cancer research and treatment.

She makes this point repetitively, over and over. Unfortunately, she doesn't really present much information on how this is to be accomplished, and I am at a loss as to what she is arguing for scientists/doctors to do. So we are left with a book that points out problems, but does not provide solutions. And, I found that even identifying the problems was done in a somewhat disorganized way. The inclusion of the personal stories of her patients, while interesting to me, were not particularly necessary to presenting her arguments, other than showing the hell current treatments for cancer can put patients through, and ended up disrupting the flow of her arguments. It seemed to me there were two books here: personal cancer stories and a scientific argument, and neither helped the other much when they were put together.

A much better book I read several years ago about problems in cancer research is The Truth in Small Doses by Clifton Leaf, which I would recommend if you are interested in the subject. The First Cell, not so much.

2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:28am

82. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (2020) 305 pp

Julia is a nurse at a hospital in Dublin during the 1918 flu pandemic. She works on a ward caring for pregnant women who are also suffering, or suspected of suffering from the flu. Donoghue is an excellent writer and story teller, and although I don't think this book rose to the level of Room, I 'enjoyed' it. It was interesting seeing the parallels in our current pandemic situation to the events going on in the book, so I think it works well as historical fiction. And it seems the medical details are accurate, although I will say that there are some very graphic childbirth scenes, which if you are squeamish may be a bit much for you. And there is a lesbian love affair that came out of left field at the end of the book, and didn't seem to fit to me. Otherwise, recommended.

3 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:30am

83. On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee (2014) 432 pp

I've really liked the other books I've read by Chang Rae Lee, but this one not so much. I can't figure out whether I don't like it because it too me so long to read (a few months), or whether I took so long to read it because I didn't like it.

This is Lee's foray into dystopian fiction. In near future America, society has devolved into three very unequal and stratified societies. Former urban areas have become labor colonies, largely populated by the descendants of emigrants. The labor colonies manufacture goods for and cater to the needs of the elite Charters. The rest of society lives in the wilds of the open counties, where crime is rampant and there is little order or government influence.

Our main character is Fan, descendant of Chinese emigrants, who lives in the labor colony of B-Mor and works as a diver in the massive fish tanks which grow food for the Charters. When her boyfriend Reg disappears, Fan leaves B-Mor in search of him. Over the course of her search for Reg, Fan experiences life in the open counties as well as life in an elite Charter.

The book moves very slowly, and I never really connected with Fan, or indeed with any of the characters. This is likely due to the method of narration chosen by Lee. The story is told in the second person plural, so that while Fan is the focus character, we never really get inside her mind, never get to know her or her motivations. The book seems less a novel with real, living characters, and more a myth, with symbols acting on a stage. I never had the feeling we were progressing and learning anything.

If you've never read anything by Chang Rae Lee, his other books are much better choices. This one is not recommended.

2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:32am

Another Trump book. Sorry.

84. Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson (2018) 449 pp

Subtitle: Subtitle: How Trump Betrayed America

First, obviously things move so fast in Trump-world that many books are out-of-date before they are published. And this book is no exception. Abramson has written three books (so far) each covering an aspect of the Trump phenomenon. This one sets forth in exquisite detail all the information known as of the time of its publication in 2018 (thus predating the Mueller Report) about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election to help Trump get elected, and of Trump's knowing acceptance of those efforts (collusion by any definition). It is valuable for that reason.

The book is organized chronologically from 1987 through 2018. I took lots of notes, which I won't reiterate here, other than to set forth a long quote. The author concludes, somewhat prophetically, in the Afterword:

"The volume and scope of Trump's deceit, along with his indefensible domestic and foreign policies, could well produce, in short order, the crashing of the American economy, multiple costly military adventures abroad, and continued degradation of American cultural and political discourse that will take many years to heal. Ironically, the chances that Trump will cause dramatic harm to the very party that elevated him to the presidency are far higher than many people suppose; we cannot expect that Trump will go quietly into the good night while he retains his power or at any time thereafter. He will pursue vengeance against anyone he perceives as having been an instrument of his accountability, whether those in his sight are Democrats or, as he might see it, disloyal Republicans.

"America will survive this period; to do so, however, it will have to finally accept the unthinkable: it elected a man capable of corporate crime, astonishing greed, and personal cruelty."

3 1/2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:34am

85. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (2020) 321 pp

This is mostly the story of a young woman named Vincent who grows up in a remote settlement on Vancouver Island, but who for a brief time lives in the land of the wealthy as the wife/companion of a Bernie Madoff-like "money-manager" who is actually running a massive Ponzi scheme. We also come to know Vincent's brother, as well as some of the Ponzi scheme victims.

The book is narrated in what I found to be a somewhat disjointed manner, skipping around among multiple pov characters and plot lines. I did not necessarily find this a bad thing, though it was sometimes disconcerting and would take me a moment to get back into the flow. There were also occasional "ghostly" elements, which usually annoy me, but which worked here. Overall I enjoyed this book, and it's a worthwhile read, but it definitely does not reach the quality of Station Eleven. Nevertheless, recommended.

3 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:37am

Some lighter reading, a thriller:

86. The Chain by Adrian McKinty (2019) 389 pp

You are not the first. And you will not be the last.

As the novel opens, single Mom Rachel receives a phone call which upends her life: her daughter Kylie has been kidnapped. With that phone call, Rachel becomes part of "The Chain." But this is no ordinary kidnapping, and her daughter's kidnapper is not an ordinary criminal: her daughter's kidnapper is another ordinary parent who was required to kidnap another child so that their child could be released, and so on up the chain. Rachel is informed that in order to secure Kylie's release, she must pay a ransom to an anonymous Bitcoin account, and kidnap the next victim to continue the chain. Only when the next victim's parent pays the Bitcoin ransom and has kidnapped another victim will Kylie be released.

The first half of the book moves very fast, and details Rachel's actions and thought as she seeks to secure Kylie's relief. The second half of the book details the aftermath of the kidnapping--as Rachel determines that the only way to heal is to find out who is behind the chain, and to break it.

A quick engrossing read, it fell apart a bit towards the end, but it definitely did its job and kept me turning pages.

3 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:39am

87. Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts (2014) 368 pp

I am so not a fan of the celebrity memoir, I run screaming from the room when one appears. However, I recently learned that Robin Roberts had a bone marrow transplant (like my husband), and had written a memoir about it. So I knew I had to read it. I also generally like "medical memoirs," and that's what I kind of expected this to be. Unfortunately, this was 90% celebrity memoir stuff--"My dear friend so and so, and my dear friend such and such"--so many dear friends to keep track off. Not to mention the week long birthday celebration with "dear friends" in Tuscany, and vacations in the Turks and Caicos, and Maui, and her house in Key West, not to mention how much she "so appreciate{s} that Disney provided a private jet for me to fly home." To be fair, there's lots about her family--she is very close to her sisters and her mom--and she does seem to be a person of faith. But her writing is trite and cliched, and she never really made me "feel" it.

The transplant process does not begin until way more than half way through the book. She had her transplant in 2012, and was hospitalized more than a month. I don't know if the process is different at Sloan-Kettering than at the Hutch, or whether things have changed in 7 years, but my husband wasn't hospitalized for his transplant. At the Hutch they found that patients being careful at home and vigilant about the first sign of infection or other complication did better than patients isolated in the hospital. And I will say that the chemo she received pre-transplant was much more extensive than what my husband got, though I'm not sure whether that's a factor of improvements over time, or the type of underlying cancer she had. And I'll be just a little curmudgeonly (as if I haven't already been) but I was bit jealous over all the breaks and vacations her caregiver (her girlfriend) got, as a respite to the stresses of serving in that role which led to some conflicts.

There was one part that made me cry--when she had to send her dog to stay with friends during the process. As noted in >205 arubabookwoman:, we had to send Dante our dog away too, but I did so never expecting to see him again. Luckily I just got to pet him again after nearly 2 years.

I won't warn you off this book if you like celebrity memoirs. I don't think it had as much or as detailed medical information as I was looking for either. So overall, this was a book that did not work for me.

1 1/2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:41am

88. Fever by Deon Meyer (2017) 744 pp

Deon Meyer is the South African author of a well-regarded crime series I heard about recently here on LT. When I was investigating on Amazon, I came across this stand-alone novel about rebuilding society after a pandemic has decimated much of the world's population. The price was right, so I picked it up, and have now completed it.

It's the story of a young boy Nico coming of age in a vastly changed world, and of the conflicts with his father Wilhelm. Welhelm has a philosophical bent, and has founded a new society, hoping for it to progress along Utopian ideals. Nico, on the other hand, is becoming a man of action, and in the new world, full of danger, and people unfettered from society's strictures, is an expert marksman, able and willing to fight for their new community. Much of the story is about how the new community Amanzi develops, and tries to re-establish a civilization, about the technology, science, medicine, and agriculture that must be redeveloped, but it is also about how the community needs "protectors," an army willing to kill to protect what they've built.

This was an interesting book, and a lot more philosophical than other post-apocalyptic books I've read. It did go on rather long, and there was a plot twist at the end that I think was pretty much unwarranted. Nevertheless, I think that if you're a fan of this genre, you might like this book.

2 1/2 stars

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:42am

>168 arubabookwoman: I was also there in 1967 - This one sounds good

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:47am

>177 baswood: Hi Bas--It was a great time to be there wasn't it? The center of the universe for the teenager I was then. The book brought back a lot of memories for me.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:48am

89. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015) 378 pp

This is the first novel in The Broken Earth Trilogy, and like me you've probably seen it referred to everywhere. It won the Hugo (as have each of the 2 succeeding volumes in the trilogy), but although I occasionally like science fiction, I usually don't like "Fantasy," and Fantasy was the category into which I had placed this novel. But then I learned that the author is an alum of my college (there was an article about her in the alum magazine), and there was a cheap Kindle deal, and so.....

I loved the book. It's set on a world in which the earth fights and does its best to destroy its inhabitants. The inhabitants sometimes relies on orogenes, who have powers to protect from the earth's furies, but mostly they fear orogenes, and frequently kill them. The main character of the trilogy is a "hidden" orogene, who returns home one day to find that her husband has discovered that their son and daughter are orogenes, and has killed their son and taken off with their daughter. About the same time, the earth has begun a "season" of fury--earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, ash and fire.

Every aspect of the world-building is imaginative, original and believable. The characters are real. The plot builds intricacy upon intricacy. On finishing the book, I immediately ordered the second book from the library, and I'll also read the third, and look into other books Jemisin has written. I'm glad I didn't let my prejudices stand in the way of my reading this.

4 stars

BTW the author was just granted a McArthur Genius Award.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:49am

90. The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (2019) 301 pp

The cover of this novel (the silhouette of a hooded figure on a horse in front of a Norman church tower) and the blurb led me to believe this was a medieval murder mystery. But only a few pages in, an anachronism: reference to a "patchwork quilt." I know (but maybe a lot of people don't know) there were no patchwork quits in the Middle Ages. But this was a small thing. But then there were references to artifacts from the past--made of plastic. Huh?

Anyway, the novel is set in 1468. A young priest has arrived in a remote village to conduct the funeral for the village priest who has died under mysterious circumstances. His death may be related to his hobby of collecting artifacts from the past, including strange devices embossed with the symbol of the devil--an apple with a bite taken out of it. The mystery of course is what caused civilization to collapse, and why are people continuing to live in primitive circumstances.

This was a nice quick read. Nothing earth-shatteriing, but definitely diverting. Recommended for escapist reading.

3 stars.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:58am

That brings me to September in my reading. In September, my reading fell off a bit. All of our stuff was moved out of storage, most into our new condo, but a lot to Goodwill or sent to NYC to our kids as "duplicate" stuff (even though I had gotten rid of a lot of stuff before it all went into storage nearly 2 years ago). It was so lovely to see all my stuff again. We bought new bookshelves and I unpacked and shelved all my books, fondling them along the way. I gave away at least 1000 books before we left Seattle, but we still had at least 40-50 boxes to unpack. It was so good to see these "old friends" again after so long. I also unpacked my quilt studio, with lots of my supplies and projects that I haven't seen for ages. The "studio" in the condo is much much smaller than what I had in our house in Seattle, but again I got rid of much of the stuff I had and had collected over the years. The studio is now unpacked, but not organized. As I said above, our son, new daughter-in-law, and daughter are staying there now, but they are leaving next week, we will make the final move in by November 1, and I can stare at my bookshelves all I want, and organize my studio. Can't wait!

Hope to be back with September/October readings soon.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2020, 11:38am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 4:39pm

>179 arubabookwoman: I also enjoyed this one, then got bogged down in book 2. I've been considering giving it another try, but am not there yet.

Hope you're having fun with your family. And congratulations on getting to see Dante again!

lokakuu 29, 2020, 2:42pm

Happy move-in day, Deborah! I hope you're enjoying your family time.

Turn Florida blue!

lokakuu 29, 2020, 3:17pm

>166 arubabookwoman: Great update, thanks! Sorry you have have problems with your replacement. I had mine in 2016 (I think) and it went well. Have had no problems. And the left knee has improved a lot now that it hasn't been compensating for that bad knew. And how wonderful to have a family wedding in the midst of so much national angst! It sounds lovely and now family visitors. Definitely something good for one's mental health. My younger daughter gave me a new grandchildren two weeks ago and I don't know when we will see her in person (they are outside of DC and we are in NH).

And, as always, you are reading interesting stuff! The last Robert Harris I read was Pompeii.

marraskuu 1, 2020, 1:53am

Catching up. I’ve been missing you on Litsy but see a lot has been happening since arriving in Florida. Sending positive vibes and wishing you the best!

marraskuu 2, 2020, 9:35am

Congratulations on your successful move! Your condo sounds perfect, complete with studio. When I was in Florida, I was sad not to have a beach view, although I was only a mile away and walked there often. I find beach views therapeutic, as, it sounds, do you.

I'm glad your husband is doing well and that he has good care at the Moffit Center. How lovely to have visitors from the north and finally have children close by. I have found living near family after a thirty year hiatus to be wonderful, something I wasn't sure would be the case. I'm currently watching my 8-month-old niece in the mornings so that my sister can go back to work part-time. That's been a hoot, although tiring too as she gets more mobile.

Thank you for investing the time in Club Read this year despite all that's going on with you. I love your thoughtful reviews and many end up on my wishlist.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 3, 2020, 3:51pm

Well, Life goes on. We have now experienced our first hurricane here (Eta), even if she was only minimally a hurricane and stayed 40 miles offshore around here. I want to try to catch up with reviews before the end of the year, I can't believe it's December already!

>183 markon: Thanks Ardene. Turns out I've had the same problem--I didn't like the second volume nearly as much as the first.

>184 BLBera: Hi Beth!

>185 avaland: Thanks Lois. I hope it's not too long before you can see your grandchild. Fingers crossed for quick return to normalcy as the vaccine is distributed.

>186 Simone2: Hi Barbara. I'm back on Litsy a bit more, but still do most of my reviews on LT. What I like about Litsy is that it's so easy to post pictures, and I find that I'm unable to post pictures here on LT.

>187 labfs39: Hi Lisa. Yeah the beach and water view compensates for a lot of the negatives about Florida, not to mention being cooped up due to covid, as wel as knowing no one here. I'm such a slug that I know if we weren't right on the beach, I'd probably never go. I hope you are feeling better, and that Katie is well.

Is anyone else thinking of book goals for next year? I think mine will be to try to limit reading library books and to concentrate on books I own. Since I started reading library ebooks in 2017, 90%-95% of my reading has been from the library, which has allowed me to read much more recent books, and books I see recommended here and there which become "bright and shiney" objects I must have (read) immediately. Meanwhile, the books on my shelves (and Kindle), which I've carefully chosen over the years, languish. We'll see how this goes.

Got a few books to discuss:

joulukuu 3, 2020, 3:54pm

91. The Year of Dangerous Days by Nicholas Griffin (2020) 330 pp
Subtitle: Riots, Refugess and Cocaine in Miami 1980

This is the story of a year in the life of a city--Miami, 1980--told through several lenses: race, immigration, and drugs.

Shortly before the year began, a motorcycle chase ended when the young black rider, a former Marine, was brutally beaten by a number of Miami police officers, who then tried to cover up their crime by trying to it look like a motorcycle accident. The young man died from massive skull fractures, and early in 1980 several police officers went on trial. When they were acquitted, the Liberty City area of Miami erupted in massive riots. Dozens of people were killed, including random tourists who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The riots had barely subsided in the spring of 1980 when Castro announced that he would allow Cubans to leave from port of Mariel. Hordes of people descended on Key West and attempted to charter boats to go to Mariel to pick up relatives. President Jimmy Carter waffled on what the US response should be, but private boats, many unsuited for open ocean transport, began transporting Cubans from Mariel. Not infrequently boats ran into trouble, capsized, and a fair number of refugees died. Nevertheless, over the next several weeks, upwards of 120,000 Cuban refugees arrived at Key West, most to be transported to Miami and absorbed into the Cuban community there. It was later revealed that Castro had released criminals from prison and mental health patients from institutions and transported them to Mariel to be "exported" to the US. Almost all of these refugees, forever known as "Marielistas", became Miami's problem

And, about the same time, on top of the race and immigration problems, Colombian drug lords were beginning to take over the streets of Miami. One drug lord, for example, had 25 hit men in Miami, and 5 or 6 murders a day was not uncommon, many of them blatant, daylight, in plain sight hits. The drug lords also generated massive amounts of cash, which was good for Miami's economy (though bad in so many other ways). We follow one of the money launderers for the drug lords, who made the rounds every day with suitcases full of cash to several banks.

With all this going on, we also get glimpses of the mayor of Miami, who at the time was attempting to place Miami as an international power and financial center for South America and the Caribbean.

This was a fascinating and engrossing book. It is nonfiction, but reads like a thriller. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. It is one I highly recommend.

4 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:06pm

93. Trump on Trial by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan (2020) 560 pp

Subtitle: The Investigation, Impeachment, Acquittal, and Aftermath

This is a definitive account of the Trump impeachment by a husband and wife team of Washington Post reporters. The book proceeds chronologically, from Lev and Igor and Rudy in the Ukraine, culminating in Trump's phone call to the new president of Ukraine, to Trump's hold on military aid, to the House investigation and its reasoning about how broadly to investigate and what charges to bring, all the way through the Senate trial and failure to convict. The book was published very close in time to the actual events we lived through, but it is very complete and well organized. It reads like a novel, or the best narrative nonfiction. It is a devastating portrait of what Trump did and why it matters, presented in a factual and unbiased way. Recommended.

4 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:13pm

I read the book above (#93) and the following book during the lead up to the election. For some reason I felt compelled to read Trump books. I also read the following book before the Jeffrey Toobin "Zoom Scandal," and may not have chosen to read it afterward that came out.

94. True Crimes and Misdemeanors by Jeffrey Toobin (2020) 496 pp

Subtitile: The Investigation of Donald Trump

This book combines a blow by blow account of the Mueller investigation with the Ukraine scandal and impeachment. I almost stopped reading it early in, partly because it is somewhat repetitive of other books I've read and the events are by now so well-known, at least by people who follow the news as closely as I do. I read this about a month before the election (and to top it off, RBG died the day before I finished it), so in some ways, this book detailing events of the recent past (Mueller and impeachment) which seemed so monumental as they were occurring seemed distant and inconsequential.

But I decided to persevere, and I'm glad I did. Toobin provides a good review of the events, and he makes some valid analytic points and judgments about the wisdom of some of the actions and decisions of some of the primary players that I hadn't considered before. It also includes an Epilogue detailing Trump's "revenge," starting the day after his acquittal in the Senate.

Here's one of his interesting musings on the Mueller investigation:

"Mueller's caution and reticence led him to fail at his two most important tasks. Thanks to the clever actions (and strategic inaction) of Trump's legal team, Mueller failed to obtain a meaningful interview with Trump himself. Even worse, Mueller convinced himself--wrongly--that he had to write a final report that was nearly incomprehensible to ordinary citizens in its legal conclusions. By doing so, he diluted, nearly to insignificance the extraordinary factual record he had assembled. And the opacity of Mueller's report allowed Trump's allies to define it to the president's advantage.
"Trump played with modern tools--mass media, social media, and the power of the presidency. He also relied on the traditional tool of demagogues by refining his legal position to a simple slogan--'no collusion, no obstruction,'
"Simplicity rarely loses to complexity in battles in the public square."


3 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:28pm

95. Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti

Several years ago I read and loved I'm Not Scared, (which is on the 1001 list), so when I saw this I picked it up. This book was similar, but not as substantial, and had a much more YA feel to it. Loner Lorenzo is 14 and having a difficult time fitting in. To make his mother feel better about his social issues, he tells her he has been invited on a week long ski trip. He plans to hide in the basement playing video games for the duration. All is going as planned until his older (estranged) half-sister shows up, and she's in trouble.

While I highly recommend I'm Not Scared, this was not my cup of tea.
2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:29pm

96. Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter

Subtitle: Beautiful Plants in Beautiful Spaces

Since we no longer have a garden, I'm planning to devote a corner of our new condo to house plants. This book is full of beautiful photos of people's living areas incorporating house plants. I read it on Kindle though, and the photos weren't always easy to match with the captions so it was frequently difficult to identify the plants pictured. It was also rather sparse and general about plant care etc. Still, nice to look at--a decorating book if you will.

3 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:35pm

97. The Innocents by Michael Crummey (2019) 293 pp

Evered and Ada live with their parents on an bleak and isolated Newfoundland cove. The family scrapes out a living fishing and subsistence farming. Then, their infant sister and their mother die, and soon after their father dies, leaving them, about ages 12 and 10, to survive on their own. We follow them over several years as they fish, salt the fish and sell them to a supply ship that appears twice a year, their only human contact with the outside world. Later they begin to do a bit of fur trapping as well. Life is rough and hard, but they seem to be making it work, if barely.

This was a well-written story of self-sufficiency and surviving in the elements in the wilderness in the not so distant past. Nature is a huge part of this story. Even though this was not a "thriller", it was a page-turner for me. I couldn't wait to find out what happened to these kids.

*********************POSSIBLE SPOILER BELOW*************************************

The bad Amazon reviews seemed primarily related to the hints of incest as the children grew older. This may bother some people.

*************************END SPOILER******************************************


4 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:41pm

98. The Vanished by Lotte Hammer (2016) 448 pp

This is the third volume in the crime series featuring Danish detective Konrad Simonson (Simon). Although it's rather long and liesurely, it opens with a bang: a school shooting. However, that proves not to be the main crime to be solved, but only the link to a connection with a postman who recently died in a fall. Simon is given the task to determine whether the postman's death was an accident or murder. Along the way Simon also looks into the disappearance 40 years previously of a teenage runaway from Liverpool named Lucy. And that's where, for me, a lot of the "fun" and merit of this book came in: repeated reference to Beatles songs and trivia. The runaway's name of course refers to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and the circumstances of her leaving comport with She's Leaving Home ("meeting a man from the motor trade"), with her parents still mourning and wondering what they did wrong 40 years later. And then Simon's girlfriend from the late 60's was named Rita, and she's involved with parking garages, so references to Lovely Rita the Meter Maid abound. And so on.

I'll probably read another in the series, though I'm not sure Beatles references will be enough to keep me reading. In general I'm not a huge fan of series (or at least those that go on too long), preferring to read new characters and new situations.

3 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:48pm

That completes my reading through September. On to October. Unfortunately, that requires some thoughts on another Trump book.

99, Fear by Bob Woodward (2020)

I really liked All the President's Men (having lived through Watergate as a young woman). And while I know Woodward is an excellent and trusted reporter, I haven't found his books on Trump to be among the better books on the Trump presidency. The consist mostly of news report-like snippets, many of which have already appeared in news reports, and I find the books somewhat light on analysis and thoughtfulness. I also find it annoying (though I recognize it is sometimes necessary) that he tends to insert himself in the book as a player.

So when this book was published, the big news that came from it was that Trump knew in the beginning (January or February) how serious the covid virus was/would be, and chose to do nothing, and in fact to lie to the American public about it. And that's about it for new perspective from this book. I also note that he took some flak himself for not making this tidbit known sooner, but that's another story.

So while Woodward is the dean emeritus of the Washington press corp, and he has a certain degree of gravitas, I've read so many Trump books now I know that there are much better Trump books out there if that's where your interests lie. This book mainly consists of regurgitated news reports.

2 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 4:58pm

100. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

This is the second volume of the Broken Earth Trilogy, after The Fifth Season, which I loved. It kept me reading, but it wasn't "new" anymore. I was reading to find out what happened--will Essun find her daughter, etc.--and I was not constantly marveling at the originality and novelty of the world Jemisin was creating. I also found, beyond the necessary reiterations of certain things from The Fifth Season to refresh the memories of readers, the plot is becoming more repetitive than I like.

I know that it's almost a given in the Fantasy genre that books are written as a series, but I'm not sure a work is always best served by that convention. I may or may not read the last volume (if I do it will be to find out what happens), but I kind of wish that the whole thing had been done as one long novel. Although this would probably require cuts, I think there's enough here that's repetitive and/or unnecessary that could be left out.

2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:03pm

101. The Hanging by Lotte Hammer

This is the second in the Simonson detective series (see >237 arubabookwoman:, Book #98). I wasn't blown away by the first one I read, but liked it enough to check this out of the library. In the first, I liked that the author played games with the reader with the Beatles references. This one was very like the first in its density and in the fact that most times progress in the case came from an "epiphany" of the investigator rather than a new clue or the discovery of hard facts. Like the first one I read, as well, the story sometimes seems to be going all over the place. It took a lot of effort to keep reading, not something I look for when I read crime novels (my go-to comfort reads).

As I've noted before, I generally like stand-alones, and I don't think this will be one of the few series I follow.

2 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:07pm

102. On Radji Beach by Ian W. Shaw

This is a nonfiction account of an event that took place shortly after the fall of Singapore during WW II. A number of Australian nurses had been stationed in Malaysia and Singapore, and for about a year they had a carefree and easy Colonial life. Then the Japanese began their race down the Malaysian peninsula and chaos ensued. The British retreat down the peninsula to Singapore was a shambles. About 100 nurses were put on one of the last boats out of Singapore. This is the story of what happened to those nurses after their ship was bombed and sunk.

Most of the nurses survived the initial sinking to become stranded on an island in the Indonesian archipelago controlled by the Japanese. Some washed up near a town and became POWs. Others washed up on a more remote beach, known as Radji Beach, and were summarily massacred by Japanese soldiers, an infamous event in Australian history. There was one survivor from Radji Beach, who played dead to survive, and who later joined the other nurses in captivity. The nurses kept her identity and knowledge secret for the duration of the war, and she was ultimately able to testify at the war crimes trial for the Japanese officer who ordered the massacre. Most of the book relates the story of the hardships of life in a POW camp.

The book was both horrifying and fascinating. If it sounds interesting to you, go for it.

3 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:11pm

I read this next book after it was short-listed for the Booker, but before it was declared the winner.

103. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

This is a coming of age novel of Shuggie, a young boy growing up "different" in the Glasgow slums, but there is also a great deal of focus on his mother Agnes, a troubled alcoholic young woman. It's bleak, there is frequently no hope, but boy do you come to care for Shuggie. This was a devastating portrayal of addiction and the effects it has on families, particularly the children of addicts.

Highly recommended.

4 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:16pm

The following review contains a lot of plot summary. I found this book to be illogical, but found I couldn't explain it without the detailed plot review. I know a lot of people have liked it, even when recognizing that it's vague and doesn't make sense. I did not like it, but don't let that put you off reading it if it sounds interesting to you. I just don't recommend it.

104. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (2020) 253 pp

Amanda and Clay, a yuppie couple from NYC and their 2 teens have rented a vacation house on the eastern edge of Long Island. The first few days are idyllic--playing in the pool, a beach day, indulging in luxury items at the grocery store. Then late one evening there's a knock at the door, and they panic--should they answer? Is there a baseball bat they could brandish? This seemed a bit much for me, but their indecision went on several pages before they finally opened the door to find--

G.H. and Ruth, an older couple who claim to be the owners of the house. They relate they had been driving home from a concert (in NYC) when it looked like the lights went out, so, instead of going home to their apartment (and risking the elevator being out of service), they drive out to their vacation home (a several hours drive in RL). Although, G.H. had been noticing some strange things in the stock market, so he thinks something bad may be about to happen.

The tvs have gone out, but the house still has electricity, so the next day Clay decides to drive into town to see if there's any news. He's driven into town before to get groceries with no problem. But this time, he gets in the car and drives around and around in circles, hopelessly lost; he can't find his way to town, and he can't even find his way back to the house for a long while.

Then all sort of strange things start happening: a flock of flamingos lands in the pool, there's a loud unexplained noise (a sonic boom?), the teenage son vomits and all his teeth fall out. When this latter event happens, G.H. and Clay decide to take the son to the ER, only on the way there, they decide to go to the contractor who had renovated G.H.'s house. They just do, don't ask why. In the meantime, Amanda and Ruth are left back at the house looking for the teenage daughter who has disappeared. Inexplicably the daughter felt compelled to wander to a neighbors house, which is empty (there is a brief and jarring interlude introducing the neighbor and why he's not there). So the daughter breaks in and decides to watch videos.

And then the book ends. The bulk of the book seems to be trying to build a sense of forboding (which I guess it does), but it is so illogical and the characters are so not acting like real people that it's not a story I could believe in or a fear I could feel. It's possible that whatever caused the possible blackout (just in NYC or worldwide? why was the house spared?) and the flamingos landing in the pool and the loud noises and the teeth falling out and so on, has also caused the humans in this story to act like zombies (except for not craving human flesh). I dunno--the author did not make me feel like any of this was really happening, or to care about any of the characters.

I will note that one of the reviews on Amazon noted that the book had great reviews from a lot of respected authors, and asked, What Kool Aid were they drinking?

Not recommended.

1 1/2 stars

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:22pm

Next, a quick psychological thriller:

105. Platform Seven by Louise Doughty (2019) 338 pp

It's the middle of the night on Platform 7 of the Petersborough Train Station, and a man waits on a bench, though no trains are due. A woman observes the man, and knows what he is thinking, but is powerless to stop him when shortly he throws himself in front of a freight train speeding through the station.

The woman is Lisa. And she is a ghost, or a spirit, or ethereal or at any rate not real. No one can see her, and she cannot go beyond the train station's bounds. She wants to know how she ended up here, no longer alive.

So this was an interesting mystery told from an unusual perspective. A woman is dead and her ghost must solve the mystery of how she died. That may sound kind of silly, but it's actually well done and fully believable. Most of the book is the story of Lisa's life, so it's kind of a domestic drama, with the twist that she met her end in a mysterious way, ruled suicide, but was it really?


3 stars

joulukuu 4, 2020, 12:08am

>189 arubabookwoman:

This sounds very interesting. It is this kind of histories that add those small details to a story that actually make you think you know the times... in a way. And it is about a time in US history (it is a bit before I was born so it IS history) I know almost nothing. :)

joulukuu 4, 2020, 2:55am

Nice to see you again, Deb,

>191 arubabookwoman: That last paragraph is a doozy. I think I even agree with it.

>194 arubabookwoman: Glad you enjoyed the Crummey novel. I did too.

>196 arubabookwoman: I'm fascinated that you have been able to read "Trump" books. (Ah yes, Watergate seems so quaint now, doesn't it?)

joulukuu 4, 2020, 7:41am

Great variety of reading! Thanks for all those thoughtful reviews—I have a few of those, at least one I'm very much looking forward to (the Crummey) and one that your not-so-enthusiastic review hasn't quite scared me off of (the Alam).

joulukuu 5, 2020, 12:50pm

Thanks for reading the Trump books; I read your comments so I don't have to read the books, Deborah. :)

joulukuu 14, 2020, 4:22am

Some really interesting reads there. Noting a few of them for my own list.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2020, 5:53pm

Hello lovely visitors! I am on a mission to complete reviews on all my 2020 reading, so I'll hopefully be back after a few reviews!

106. The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey (1954) 216 pp

This is the story of 3 white sisters who grew up on the island of Dominica. It is narrated by their former nursemaid Lally. She tells the story of their childhood, and of what happens after each of the sisters returns to the island as an adult.

I have the sense that this is an excellent book. However, what I wanted to read was a book about an idyllic childhood on a tropical island. There was a tiny bit of that, but the book was much more a political and historical treatise about Domenica, partially reflecting the author's own life. She was raised on Dominica, and returned as an adult, became involved in politics (as an ardent socialist), and founded Dominica's first political party. It was also rather darker than I was looking for: their father was a drug addict who squandered the family's livelihood; the love interest was dying of TB. It was not a book I looked forward to coming back to, and I had to force myself to keep reading. At a different time, under different circumstances, with different expectations, I think I would have liked it a lot more.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:00pm

107. Amnesty A Novel by Aravind Adiga (2020) 268 pp

Danny is a housecleaner in Sydney, Australia. He's an illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka, so he is constantly on the lookout so that he won't be found out and deported. Because of his status he takes underpaid jobs, and frequently finds himself at the mercy of unscrupulous people. The book does a good job of depicting what it must be like to live subject to potential deportation at every turn. Unfortunately, otherwise it is not a successful book.

One day while on a job he learns that one of his former clients has been murdered. He has knowledge that the murdered woman had been having an affair with another of his clients, and because of things he witnessed he believes the other client may be the murderer. Facts come out which seem to confirm his suspicions. Thus his dilemma--if he reports his suspicions to authorities he will probably be found out as an illegal alien and deported. If he doesn't report his suspicions, a murderer may go free.

The bulk of the book is the story of Danny's day as he wanders about Sydney trying to make a decision about what to do. There were times when Danny is playing a game of cat and mouse with the suspected murderer, but for the most part the book is unsuccessful at creating a sense of dramatic tension. It mostly became a rather boring itinerary of a man walking the mundane streets of Sydney. Maybe if you were familiar with the city, there might be some drama. I really just couldn't connect with the book, despite its good premise. One word that stuck out to me from an Amazon review was "tedious."

2 stars.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:06pm

Another tome from JCO

108. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars by Joyce Carol Oates (2020) 793 pp

Oates frequently takes on topical issues in her novels, i.e. the murder of an abortion doctor by an extremist; the Jon Benet Ramsey murder; the exploitation of Marilyn Monroe by Hollywood, etc. So I thought I was in for a similar ride when this novel opened.

Whitey McClaren, a former mayor in his late 60's, see the police pull a dark-skinned man from his car and begin brutally beating and tasing him. He pulls over and approaches, calling for the police to stop. Instead of heeding Whitey, the police turn on him (the young man they were beating, an Indian doctor, is now on the ground incapacitated). They tase Whitey several times, beat him brutally, kick him while he's on the ground and leave him unconscious. When he is later brought to the hospital in an ambulance his family are told that he suffered a stroke while driving and had an accident.
So I was ready for an Are the police really going to get away with this? ride. I was interested to see how Oates connected the dramatic opening incident with the BLM movement and the whole police brutality issue. Nope. Instead this whole aspect mostly disappears from the pages of this 700+ page novel, and it becomes a novel of family drama, an Oatesian one at that, with mostly unlikeable characters, including some very over-the-top mean people.

Whitey's family consists of his wife Jesalyn and his 5 children. Jesalyn is the most sympathetic character. She loves her children and sees the best in everyone. She has always lived only for Whitey. She's also a bit annoying, because even for a 60-ish woman she is incredibly naive and unknowledgeable about ordinary skills for daily living--unable to activate a credit card and afraid to write a check.

Thom, the oldest son, is Whitey's heir, and works in the family business. He is the first to suspect that Whitey may not had a stroke, or been in an accident--the airbags in Whitey's car had not been deployed. He photographs the injuries, but is stymied to pursue the matter further when Jesalyn refuses to allow an autopsy. Thom is extremely mean to other family members, especially youngest brother Virgil, and fairly early in the novel he commits an act of animal cruelty so awful I gasped and nearly stopped reading.

The oldest daughter Beverly is a former prom queen, and is whiney and grasping. She's never outgrown her entitled teenage days, and is constantly exhibiting racist attitudes. She's afraid her mother will remarry and squander the inheritance she feels entitled to. She's mad Whitey's will left equal bequests to each of his children, believing she deserves more.

The middle daughter Lorene is a high school principal who hates teenagers and is deservedly characterized by many of the students as a "she-Nazi." Over the course of the novel, her actions become increasingly bizarre and paranoid. One of her first actions is to hack into student accounts to change grades, activities, and/or recommendations to be less favorable so that students she thinks have "trolled" her won't be able to get into the colleges of their choice. She also interferes in various ways in the personal lives of the teachers she supervises, dividing them into those who like her and those who against her, ultimately devolving into what appears to be full-blown paranoia.

The two youngest children are not as bad as the older three. (How on earth gentle Jesalyn raised such deplorable specimens is beyond me.) Sophia has dropped out of a Ph. D. program, is involved with a married man, and is mostly ignored by her family. The youngest, Virgil, is an artist, who has never held a "real" job, and mostly lives in a sort of hippie commune.

So 95% of the book consists of bickering among Whitey's survivors as they navigate the first months and years after Whitey's death. There is very little about the in-your-face issue with which Oates opened the novel. This is not to say that I did not find it an interesting read, though it is perhaps a bit long. It is written in Oates's typical prose style--lots of parenthetical asides--almost breathless, but at the same time in no hurry to get to the point. I think a lot of people are opinionated about Oates; I happen to like her, and despite the unlikeable characters I recommend the book.

3 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:14pm

I thought I was the champion reader of books about Trump. Carlos Lozada, Washington Post Book Reviewer, has me beat by a long shot. He read 150 Trump books, and wrote a book about what he learned. Which of course I had to read.

109. What Were We Thinking by Carlos Lozada

Subtitle: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era

"Many books have been written about me, some good, some bad. Both happily and sadly, there will be more to come." Donald J. Trump 7-17-20

The author is a book reviewer at the Washington Post, and over the years, he read 150 (so far) books on the Trump era which were published between 2016 and 2020. In this book he categorizes and analyzes his Trump readings. Each chapter discusses his thoughts on a particular category of Trump Book.

In the first chapter, entitled Heartlandia, he discusses the 15 or so books he read that were intended to help explain the Trump voter (i.e. is it economic grievance or racism?), books such as Hillbilly Elegy, White Trash, and Strangers in their Own Land.

Chapter 2 is entitled Resistable. These are the books seeking not to understand Trump and his voters, but to plan for resistance. This group of books includes No Is Not Enough, The Man Who Sold America, and On Tyranny. In Lozada's words, these books "prioritize the purity of resistance over its expansion." Most of these books also recognize that the greatest danger to be resisted is not simply a change of policy, but an erosion of our system of government.

The third chapter, entitled The Conservative Pivot, discusses books written by conservatives. Lozada divides these into three categories: The Sycophants, The Never-Trumpers, and the Pro-Trump "Intellectuals." Jeanine Pirro, Newt Gingrich, and Hugh Hewitt have written books in the Sycophant catgory. Lozada doesn't hold the Never-Trumpers in high regard, noting that in general they hold everyone responsible for the rise of Trumpism, except themselves, despite years of ignoring racism, conspiracy theorists, etc. until it was too late. This category includes books like How the Right Lost Its Mind, Everything Trump Touches Dies, and Conscience of a Conservative. The "Intellectuals" are pro-Trump conservatives who seek to "retrofit an ideological framework onto the whims of a man whose positions show few organizing principles beyond self-interest and self-regard." Here, he includes books by Rich Lowry, Peter Wehner, Yuval Levin, and others.

Chapter 4, Beyond the Wall, discusses books dealing with immigration issues, and Chapter 5, True Enough deals with the cheapening of truth in the Trump era and the power of Trump's lies. This chapter includes a subcategory of books relating to Trump's war on the press, with books like The Enemy of the People and Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.

Chapter 6, See Some ID, includes books relating to identity politics, and Chapter 7, Him Too, is about books with a feminist slant, in particular the "me, too" movement. Hillary Clinton's What Happened is included in this chapter.

Most of the books I read are those in the final three categories Lozada sets forth. Chapter 8, The Chaos Chronicles, includes the books Lozada describes as books full of explosive anecdotes about chaos. Here you will find Fire and Fury, A Very Stable Genius, A Higher Loyalty, and many others. The Mueller Report itself finds a place in this category. Lozada has particular praise for Michael Lewis's The Fifth Risk ("For all the president's blather about a nefarious deep state, it is his contempt for the deep-seated expertise of the federal government that could prove the most damaging.") and Unmaking the Presidency (In Trump's vision, "the presidency emphatically is not about the successful management of bureaucracies or the implementation of policy objectives. It is about the showmanship and flamboyance of the person and about entertaining and captivating audiences.")

Chapter 9, Russian Lit, discusses books exploring links between Trump world and Russia. Included are Collusion, Russian Roulette, The Apprentice, as well as Timothy Snyder's The Road To Unfreedom. The final chapter, In Plain View, includes books that ask Is Democracy Dead? Here we find How Democracies Die, Surviving Autocracy, and Trumpocracy.

And just in case you thought I've referred to enough books in this review, Lozada includes an epilogue of the books he thinks are the most valuable to read if you seek an understanding of the Trump era. I will list them all in case you have an interest:

We're Still Here by Jennifer Silva
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
A Time to Build by Yuval Levin
America for Americans by Erika Lee
The End of Myth by Greg Grandin
A Lot of People Are Saying by Russell Muirhead
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Kahn-Cullors
The Mueller Report
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Unmaking the Presidency by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes
One Person No Vote by Carol Anderson

Of these, I've only read On Tyranny, The Mueller Report, The Fifth Risk and Unmaking the Presidency.

3 1/2 stars

Has anyone whose read Know My Name have an opinion about why it might be an important book to read to understand the Trump era?

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:23pm

110. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (2020) 336 pp

Edward is a 12 year old boy who is the sole survivor of the crash of a commercial airliner. We meet Edward and his family (older brother Jordan and parents) as they wait to board a flight for a cross-country move from NYC to LA. When the second chapter began with Edward in the hospital after the crash, I thought, "Oh good, we don't have to go through the terrifying last minutes." That turned out not to be the case: the book alternates chapters detailing minute by minute the events of the fatal flight with chapters relating the days, weeks, months and years of Edward's recovery.

The book in a thumbnail sketch sort of way details the backstories of some of the other passengers on the flight--the young black soldier recovering from war wounds, the young woman flying to the man she hopes to marry, having just learned she is pregant, the Wall Street high roller with a history of cocaine use who has sex in the lavatory with the drop dead gorgeous flight attendant, and a few others, cliches all. The story of Edward's recovery from the trauma is the focus of the book though, and a lot of it relates to his friendship with the girl next door. This was fairly well depicted, but overall the book had a very YA feel too it, and was rather superficial.

2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:29pm

111. The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid (2020) 123 pp

The narrator of this short novel is a "Holocaust Guide," a "Poland Extermination Camp Expert." He primarily lives in Poland (his wife and child are in Israel), and guides groups and individuals (mostly Israeli school groups "so they will never forget" and visiting dignitaries) to the various death camps, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka.

The novel is in the form of a letter to the head of Yad Vashem, purportedly a report by the narrator to explain what happened to him personally as he faced the memory and the reality of the atrocities. What the book documents is an account of the unraveling of an individual.

This was a dark book, set in the present day, but with the evils of the Holocaust lurking all around. How can we ever make sense of those events? Yet, how can we live with the memories of such evils?


4 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:35pm

112. Lake Life by David James Poissant (2020) 300pp

The Starling family are taking a short vacation break at the lake cottage owned by the parents, Lisa and Richard, before they sell it and retire to Florida. On the first day there, the family witnesses a traumatic accident, and over the next several days there are tragic reverberations as family secrets are revealed--affairs, alcoholism, death of a child, unwanted pregnancies, etc.

I usually like family dramas, but there were a few things here that just didn't ring true for me. Take older son Michael. He and his wife Diane are in financial difficulty while trying to come to a decision about Diane's pregnancy--she wants the baby, he doesn't. But on top of this Michael has a drinking problem, and in-your-face drinking problem. He begins drinking at 10 in the morning (that's good, it's not 9), always has a coffee cup full of "something" he sips on all day. We also know that at home not on vacarion he visits several bars before going home after work, also uses coffee cup gambit, and is basically always drunk. But Diane has never noticed and his parents are also oblivious to his problems. (At least until the end when they are sorting out all the problems, and after he has been arrested.)

Younger son Thad and his partner Jake also have problems. One wants an open relationship, the other does not. Currently Thad is fretting because he can't find his comic collection which has been stored at the lake house. He thinks his mom might have thrown it out in preparing the house for sale. As it happens, Lisa is afraid to admit that she did in fact dispose of the comic collection. So what does she do? About to retire, somewhat financially insecure, Lisa goes to a memorabilia store and asks them to recreate the comic collection, at a cost of thousands. Not to mention that clearly whatever the store is able to recreate it would be gapingly obvious to the owner of the collection that things are missing, things are added, things are different, it's just not the same. As a mom who stored my son's baseball card collection in boxes in the garage until he was well into his 30's, I can't imagine throwing something like this out without asking, but more, if it happened not admitting it.

I could go on about things that bothered me about the book, but I'll leave it at these two things. I guess as I get older I'm more of a curmudgeon, but I want things to ring true in a book, and little things like this--would people really be so oblivious and surprised about Michael's problem? would a mom throw away a prized possession and then try to hide it?--pick at me and bring me out of my enjoyment of the book.

2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:42pm

113. Your House Is on Fire Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye (2020) 205 pp

This was strange, but in a very good way. A group of former childhood friends return to the remote German village where they grew up many years later for the funeral of one of them. The strange and sometimes brutal events of their childhood are related through the alternating points of views of each of the survivors. Comparisons to Shirley Jackson, William Faulkner, and Gunter Grass are apt, as are comparisons to some of the darker tales of the Brothers Grimm. I will also say I was reminded of Jerzy Kosinki's The Painted Bird.

I'm not a fan of horror, and this book occasionally flirts with horror, but the writing is delicious, very different and inventive. For example, "In our village time didn't progress courageously. In our village she limped a bit and got lost more than once...." Or, "The teacher had told them to collect colorful leaves and dry them between sheets of blotting paper imported into the pages of large and heavy books. Now they were trying the mithod on lizards and blindworms."

So strange, but very enjoyable.

4 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:48pm

This was one I loved when I read it in the 70's. I'm afraid I can't rate it highly any more.

114. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

After reading On Radji Beach I somehow wanted more about Australians in Malaysia and remembered this book. I read it in the 1970's, I think, after seeing the excellent BBC adaptation.

The overall story I was remembering, of British women POWs in Malaysia during WW II who are helped by an Australian POW, and who told tales about what a wonderful place Alice Springs is, is actually only a small part of the book, with most of it happening after the war. I will admit that I found the part when Jean goes to Australia to look for the Australian soldier Joe and ends up almost single-handedly transforming a drab outback town into an almost paradise a bit much. So overall I didn't find this an enjoyable reading experience this time around.

But more than that what really grated on me was the overt and ubiquitous racism. The Malaysians and the aboriginals are referred to as "boongs," and the "white" people (British and Australian) know better, have good intentions, will protect them, give them jobs, but they can't eat at the same ice cream parlor. A reader often has to overlook the ethos of the time expressed in older books, but this one was just too much for me.

1 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:54pm

Next, a bright, shiney, new book thriller from the library.

115. Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (2020) 315 pp

Coming home on the train one evening, Selena uncharacteristically confesses to the young woman sitting next to her that she suspects that her husband is having an affair with the nanny. A few days later the nanny disappears, and Selena's husband becomes a suspect. And then Selena stars receiving text messages ending, "This is Martha, by the way. From the train."

This is a "best-seller" type of book, sometimes formulaic, but well-written, well-plotted, okay characterization. But somehow it's a bit like a Hallmark made for TV movie. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, and I was definitely distracted from real like while reading it, but I will forget all about it in a few days, and with so many great books out there that I haven't read, did I really need to read this?

I don't know, but now that I've entered my 70's and knowing how many good books there are out there that I haven't read, many of them on my own book shelves, my answer should be more and more no--choose something better. In my 30's I had lots of time; books like this were ok. Now I should concentrate on the good ones. And read something by Patricia Highsmith if I'm in to mood for something like this.

2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:00pm

116. Iza's Ballad by Magda Szabo (1961) 352 pp

Ettie and Vince, a long-married couple live in a small town. Their daughter Iza is a doctor in Budapest. When Vince dies, Iza insists that Ettie move to Budapest and live with her. Ettie is exited to do so--she assumes she will be of use to Iza, able to cook and clean and make her life easier. Her life will have purpose. She arrives in Budapest to find all new furnishings--none of her things from her long time home have made it to Budapest. And Iza already has a housekeeper/cook who threatens to quit if Ettie keeps getting in her way by trying to help. Soon Ettie finds herself in a strange place, knowing no one and with nothing to do. She finds herself sinking into depression. Iza, too, finds that having her mother there all the time puts constraints on her life as well.

Both daughter and mother had good intentions, but they are from two different worlds. Iza is a modern career woman, and Ettie is basically an uneducated peasant, loving each other, but having difficulty coming to terms. This was a rich novel of the misunderstandings that can exist between generations, despite the deep love connecting them.

As an older person with independent adult children, I think I connected more with Ettie who desparately wanted happiness for her daughter, but didn't know how to make that happen. But I also related to Iza, who loved her mother, felt responsible for her, but basically wanted her to fade into the background.

A very special novel.

4 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:06pm

17. Consolation by Gary Disher

When I read Peace by Gary Disher earlier this year, I thought it was a stand-alone. Actually, it was the second in a series in which this one is the third. This one is very like Peace, which I liked very much. Described as "rural noir", one Amazon reviewers says Disher "drags you into the heart of Australia."

It begins quietly, with small crimes, in this case "snow-dropping," or stealing old ladies' underwear off their clotheslines. We are many pages in before a murder occurs. While, as in Peace, I really enjoyed getting to know the town's characters, their foibles, and the life of a small town constable as he is torn in many directions by many crimes, large and small, at a certain point this got to be too much for me to keep track of--who was who and what crime belongs to what suspect. We move from the snow-dropping to child neglect (and by the way the child's father is missing--was he murdered?), to stalking, to an irate parent threatening the school principal, to a father and son attacking a bureaucrat from a government environmental agency and then going on the run, to a possibly cancelled music festival, to a scam involving Irish roofers, to potential bank embezzlement, to a Ponzi scheme involving Sun Coast property, to graffiti at a wind farm, and oh, by the way, all these crimes may be connected.

I ultimately got these crimes all straightened out (or Disher's skill as a writer did), so I still think this is a worthwhile read. I checked with my library, and it does not have the first book in the series. I'm not in a book buying mode now, so I will have to wait to read that one, if it ever turns up.

Recommended for Disher fans.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:13pm

118. Fallout by Lesley M.M. Blume (2020)
Subtitle: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World

"Journalism allows its readers to witness history. Fiction gives readers an opportunity to live it." John Hersey

This book presents the backstory on how John Hersey got the full story about the atomic aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima when no other journalist had been able to, and how his reporting, as ultimately set forth in his book Hiroshima became and remains one of the most important works of journalism ever created. Until Hersey's reporting appeared in the New Yorker, the US government had basically managed to hide the magnitude of what the bomb had done, its deadly aftereffects in terms of radiation sickness, and, importantly, the implications of potential nuclear warfare for humanity's future.

The power of Hersey's work was in its focus on individuals. Previously, the bomb was presented as a big bomb that could blow down lots of buildings. Hersey chose six individuals, and told their stories of how they experienced that day, rather than relying on statistics about the number of people killed or injured, or the square miles of property damaged.

The New Yorker was an unlikely publication for the story to first appear. The magazine was founded as a humor publication catering to "urban sophisticates" and ignoring "the little old lady in Dubuque." It devoted an entire issue to Hersey's piece, forgoing even its regular features. The cover of the issue was a fairly standard New Yorker cover, with little hint of what was to come in its pages when the magazine was opened.

Until Hiroshima appeared, "most of the reporting...had to do with the power of the bomb and how much damage it had done in the city," i.e. landscape and building destruction. Hersey and the New Yorker editors decided he would write about "what happened not to buildings, but to human beings." In choosing how to report the events, Hersey was influenced by Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey which detailed the lives of five people who met their fates when the bridge they were on broke. Hersey decided his goal was to tell the story from the victim's point of view, as they came to their "moment of shared disaster." Hersey determined that emphasizing minutiae, not grandeur, would be most effective at driving the point home. His goal was "to have the reader enter into the characters, become the characters, and suffer with them."

I don't know about you, but I read Hiroshima as a teenager, and was extremely affected by it. And based on the country's reaction to the piece when it appeared, and in the ensuing 70+ years, Hersey succeeded in achieving his goal.

The backstory of how Hersey achieved this was an interesting and informative read. I'm not quite sure that there's enough here to warrant a book rather than a magazine article, (if I had to guess I'd say that this book is longer than Hersey's work) but I'm glad I read it.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:20pm

119. Summer by Ali Smith (2020) 393 pp

"Whatever age you are, you still die young...."

To the tune of You Are My Sunshine:

"There will be sunshine; and lots of sunshine,
The polar icecaps are melting down.
Get suntan lotion. Here comes the ocean.
We won't have to go to Spain to get brown."

I had previously thought that each of the books in Ali Smith's Seasonal Quartet were independent of one another. The first I read was Winter, the second in the series, which I found okay, but which did not compel me to read the others in the series. But this came my way, and I read it, and I was blown away. This is the last in the series, so I guess it is the one that ties it all together. I will say that some of the characters from Winter reappear in Summer, so my recommendation is to read them in order, starting with Autumn.

Its hard to describe what the book is about. The focus is on Daniel Gluck and his sister Hannah, and a lot of what story there is takes place during WW II, where Daniel, whose father is a German emigrant to England, follows his father into an internment camp after the start of the war. They lose contact with Hannah, who is in Germany when the war starts. In the present day, we become involved with teenage siblings Sacha and Robert, dealing with contemporary issues like climate change, who serendipitously becomes involved in a journey to return an object of value to Daniel. And there's so much more: about art and aging; Brexit and covid; time and memory; immigration and our interconnectedness to the world. And it's all so cleverly written. I now have to go back to the beginning and read the whole series.

Highly recommended.
5 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:27pm

120. Oracle Night by Paul Auster (2003) 256 pp

Sydney, a Brooklyn writer recovering from a near-fatal illness wanders into a stationery store owned by Mr. Chan, purchases a blue notebook, and for the first time in a long while begins writing, the story magically pouring from his pen. He writes of an editor, Nick Bowen, who is given a strange manuscript by a long dead writer to edit. But on his way to the office one day, Nick is nearly killed by a heavy falling object, and this experience impels him to just drop everything in his life and run away to the first place he can buy a plane ticket for, Kansas City as it happens. In Kansas City, Nick becomes involved with a man who collects worldwide telephone books and stores them in a "museum" hidden away underground under the railroad tracks, where Nick becomes trapped with no way out when the telephone book collector suddenly dies of heart disease.....So we have a story within a story, within a story: The manuscript of a novel called Oracle Night by a deceased writer, being edited by Nick, who has just abandoned his life to run away to Kansas City, as written/imagined by Sydney, a writer in Brooklyn who hasn't written in a while, as written/imagined by Paul Auster (a writer living in Brooklyn I believe). There's layer after layer here, and it was sometimes a challenge keeping track of whose story we were in, especially if I had set the book aside for a few days. But it was all thoroughly enjoyable. I'm a fan of most of the Paul Auster books I've read. I like the way he frequently plays games with the reader of his books, and I constantly marvel at his imaginative powers.

4 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:31pm

121. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020) 304 pp

Nora has had it with her boring life, a life at which she feels she has failed. So she takes some pills to end her life--and wakes up in a library. Not a typical library though. This library is filled with shelves as far as the eye can see that are full of book after book after book, and every book is the story of the life of Nora. Or rather the story of ONE of the lives of Nora, depending on which choice or choices she has made along the way. So this is a story about multiple versions of one character's life, which can result in a very good read, think Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which I loved.

But, sorry to say, Matt Haig is no Kate Atkinson. His writing is mundane, and his versions of the lives Nora are more made-for-TV versions, stereotypical, simplistic, unoriginal, and not fully convincing as reality. (I.e. should she become an Olympic swimmer, or a world-wide rock star?) So even though the book is readable, it's pretty juvenile, and there's no there there.

2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:35pm

122. Seven Years of Darkness by Jeong You Jeong (2011) 352 pp

Sowon's father is awaiting execution for mass murder. Seven years previously, when he was a security guard at a massive dam, he opened the sluices and flooded the village below, killing many. Sowon was a young boy at the time, and his father's actions have haunted him since, resulting in his being ostracized wherever he went. Now, on the verge of adulthood, he wants to understand why his father took the actions he did.

This is the second novel I have read by this South Korean writer, and once again this was an enthralling read. While it is essentially a crime novel, it is also an excellent novel about a dysfunctional family and some of the societal ills besetting contemporary South Korea. The book is beautifully plotted, moving seamlessly between the events leading up to the crime, and the present day as Sowon tries to make sense of the crime, as well as relating the events of his life between the time of the crime and the present day.

3 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:41pm

123. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (2020) 321 pp

I loved other books by Maggie O'Farrell, but this was a book I admired rather than loved. This is a novel about the life of Shakespeare (who is never referred to by name in this book), focusing on the death of his son Hamnet at age 11 as the pivotal event. In fact, most of the story focuses on Shakespeare's wife, in this novel referred to as Agnes. She is presented as an illiterate (though educated and wise in other ways), semi-wild country woman. She remains behind with the children in Stratford when Shakespeare goes to London. She is a healer, and well-versed in the arts of herbal healing, but is unable to save her son Hamnet when he is afflicted with the plague.

The book is beautifully written, and full of detail about 16th century country life. I'm not sure why I never fully connected with the book.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:49pm

124. Sisters by Daisy Johnson (2020) 224 pp

Following an "incident" at school sisters July and September are taken by their mother, who is apparently grieving and depressed, to an isolated cottage near the sea. The mother retreats to her room, and the sisters are left to their own devices. This is described as a gothic novella a la Shirley Jackson, and that is a fairly accurate description. We have unreliable narrators, not telling us the whole story (or who perhaps are too traumatized to know/remember the whole story), and lots of play between what is real and what is hallucination. There was a lot of psychological suspense in this quick read. It's very well done, but I'm not sure there is a lot of substance here.\

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:53pm

125. A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison (2015) 354 pp

As a young woman of 19, Annie spent some time living and working in London. She was having a flirtation/affair with her boss, a much older married man, but unbeknownst to her boss was actually lusting after and infatuated with Patrick, a much younger man who was the boss's wife's lover. Fast forward 20 years and Annie is happily married with 3 kids living in San Francisco when she receives a photo in the mail--a picture of her, Patrick, her boss, and the boss's wife on a trip they all took together to Paris. And just like that, the past comes back to bite her.

This kept me reading, so it gets points for that. But it is told in a very convoluted way. First, it's in the form of a long letter to her oldest son, which really makes no sense, because there's a lot of information being conveyed that I could not see a mother telling her teenage son. Secondly, it kept jumping around in time: there's before the photo was received and after; there's before Annie's trip back to London (in the present) and after she returns; there's before her son's accident and after--these are all befores and afters in the present, and on top of this there's Annie's time in London 19 years ago, and the present. As the story is told these various times are all jumbled together, and I frequently had trouble figuring out where we are in time (or in fact if it was even critical where in time we were). So I don't think the author did a very good job in planting us where we needed to be.

The big flaw to me though was its overall premise, which is that after 19 years, a mature woman with a good life was still not over a fling she had at age 19 with a man she knew even then was not a good person. It doesn't seem real that someone would risk losing their good life for a scoundrel from their past.

And beyond that, I can't say I cared for Annie. To start with, she is presented as an idealistic young woman who wants to live and work in London for a while to see the art and soak up the culture. So what does she do? She starts the affair with her boss the first day on the job, and thereafter spends all her free time drinking in pubs to drunkeness, being hung over everyday until the next round of drinking begins.

Overall, this is not one I recommend.

2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:24pm

126. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (2020) 321 pp

The setup for this character study of several women and the place they inhabit (Odessa Texas) is as follows:

Glory, a 14 year old Mexican girl, is raped in a deserted oil field near Odessa, Texas on Valentine's night 1976. Brutally beaten and traumatized, she makes her way to a nearby ranch house after her attacker passes out. There, hugely pregnant Mary Rose, who lives there with her husband and young daughter, takes Glory in, calls the sheriff, and fends off the rapist until help arrives.

This is not a crime novel however. Instead, it is the story of the aftermath of a violent crime and the effect it had on a small town, particularly its women, all told from multiple points of view of the women of that town. Along the way it explores issues of sexism (Was the rape Glory's "fault"? Afterall she voluntarily got into the guy's truck.) and racism (Glory was Mexican, why should it matter what happens to her?) Along the way, we meet some outstanding characters. Mary Rose fears living on the isolated ranch after the incident and moves to town. She must defy her husband in order to testify against the rapist. After she agrees to testify, she receives threats, and fears for herself and her daughter. Corinne, a former school teacher who is dealing with the loss of her husband, lives across the street from Mary Rose and is eccentric, outspoken, and individualistic. Suzanne, is a perfect housewife (and Avon Lady) whose facade is actually compensating for her "white trash" upbringing. And most of all there's 10 year old Debra Ann (or DA) whose mother has just skipped town, leaving her neglected, but giving her the opportunity to come across a homeless Vietnam vet she adopts and helps. (Perhaps I liked her so much because she is my namesake, spelled differently--I'm Deborah Ann).

The Washington Post described this as a book about how women particularly those "without much education or money--negotiate a culture of male brutality." For character, and evocation of place, this was a very strong book.

3 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:29pm

So, having read 2, I go back to the beginning to start again:

127. Autumn by Ali Smith (2017) 288 pp

This opening novel in the Seasonal Quartet focuses on Daniel, an elderly man about whom we learn much more in future volumes, and Elisabeth, his next door neighbor who is a young girl when they first meet. We see Daniel and Elisabeth as they interact during her childhood/teens, and then years later when Elisabeth is a young woman is visiting Daniel in a nursing home. Despite what seems to be the lack of a strong plot, there is actually quite a lot going on. Once again there is a lot about art, and I particularly enjoyed learning about Pauline Boty, a British pop artist from the 60's I had never heard of, who died tragically young, and now seems to be having something of a resurgence.

Lots of the book is narrated in a somewhat stream of consciousness way, somewhat surreal and hallucinatory (as in the dreams of a 101 year old man on his deathbed). There's a lot of humor here too, Elisabeth's encounters with the bureaucracy being particularly funny. I think if I had read this first, I wouldn't have hesitated to commit to the whole quartet.

4 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:45pm

128. The Jewish Dog by Asher Krawitz

This bestseller from Israel is narrated from the point of view of a dog. Caleb (the dog) is born into a Jewish family in 1930's Germany. Soon restrictive laws require that Caleb's family give him up to an Aryan family, and thereafter, Caleb has a "dog's eye" view of the Holocaust, ultimately ending up as a guard dog at Auschwitz. The author does an excellent job of commenting on the horrors and incomprehensibility of the Holocaust by having us view these events through the lens of an innocent.

3 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:50pm

129. The Writer's Library by Nancy Pearl

This book is a series of interviews between Nancy Pearl and a collaboration and numerous contemporary authors. I read it (or more accurately skimmed it) to find references to books to add to the wishlist. I got a lot of those, so the book did its job.


3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:54pm

130. The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey

Three teen siblings, Matthew, Zoe and Duncan, find and rescue an unconscious and severely injured boy in a field. Afterwards, their lives change in ways good and bad, expected and unexpected.

Written simply, in alternating points of view of each of the 3 teens, this is a quiet family story. Given the premise, you might expect a bit of a thriller, a bit of grimness, but I found this to be a very feel-good book. The characters are all decent good people, not perfect, making mistakes, but trying hard to do their best by one another. It was good visiting them for a while. I enjoyed Duncan's parts the most. He is the youngest, but already is recognized as an extremely talented artist. I was enthralled by how he views the world through an artist's lens.

3 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:58pm

My last Trump book, I hope.

131. Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump

This is Mary Trump's portrait of her family, with the focus on the family dynamics that produced someone like Donald Trump. It rings true, but I found it rather shallow sometimes, and without a lot of new information or insight. I mean, she takes the time to diss the Christmas presents she (and her brother) received from Donald and Ivana over the years.

I also sometimes wonder why Mary just didn't walk away from this family that she has recognized as so awful. I recognize that she is (and has in the past) fought for the money that she believes she is owed by this toxic family, but I sometimes couldn't help but feel this book was at least in part motivated by money.

2 1/2 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 9:00pm

I read Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff, an excellent account of the events of 9/11. Someone told me this book, which came out about the same time, was just as good.

132. The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff

Subtitle: An Oral History of 9/11

This book consists of minute by minute snippets of dozens of people describing what they experienced or saw on that day. Overall, I'm glad I read it, but at times I found that the methodology did not work for me. Many of the snippets were quite short--one to three sentences, after which another person would speak for a few sentences, then another, and so on. A particular person might appear again to continue their story in a few pages, or maybe half the book later, or maybe would not reappear at all. I found the interrupted narratives disconcerting and disruptive. I personally would have appreciated the book more had each person's narrative been more complete. On the other hand, this method of narration did effectively represent the chaotic feel of that day, as people--ordinary people and government officials alike--were scrambling to figure out what was going on.

I will also note that the book is at times very graphic. I hadn't realized so many people jumped from the Twin Towers. I thought just a couple, or at most a few had jumped. Apparently there were dozens of jumpers, and this book devotes several pages to people describing the bodies splatting when they landed. There were also some pretty graphic descriptions of burn victims in the Pentagon.

If you're going to read just one book on the subject, I'd go for Fall and Rise, but this still goes in the recommended category.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 9:05pm

133. Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen

I figured that since I live in Florida now, I've got to read some Carl Hiaasen. I may have read one or two of his books in the part, but I really can't remember, and it would have been years ago.

As expected, this one goes over the top, but I could accept that here. The book is very funny. Jo Layne, a black veterinarian assistant has won the lottery with a $28 million jackpot. There's a second winning ticket as well, but Jo Layne doesn't mind because $14 million is plenty for what she wants to do, which is purchase a small plot of undeveloped land and leave it as a nature preserve for the animals, particularly turtles, or cooters. Unfortunately, the second winning ticket is held by Bode and Chubb, two lowlifes, and they want it all. They are White Nationalists, and want to establish a militia to protect the white people when NATO invades from the Bahamas. (They are even stupider than they sound here). So Bode and Chubb head to Grange Florida, beat up Jo Layne, and steal her ticket. Unfortunately for them, they didn't know who they were dealing with in Jo Layne, and she takes off after them to retrieve her winning ticket.

Along the way, we meet lots of other exotic characters: the town of Grange is on the tourist route for Christian fundamentalists, so we meet a man and his wife who maintain a weeping Madonna in their front yard, perfumed tears and all. There's the woman who maintains the image of Christ which miraculously appeared on the highway from oil drippings. There's the man who maintains the "stigmata" on his palms with Crisco, and the newspaper editor who falls under the spell of the cooters and starts talking in tongues. The "straight" character, a newspaper reporter along for the ride to help Jo Layne has his house firebombed by the corrupt judge whose wife he was having an affair with. And along the way, Bode and Chubb, to their great detriment, fall in love with a Hooter's waitress, and decide to kidnap here and take her along for the ride. She turns out to be another woman, like Jo Layne, they didn't reckon on being aeons smarter than them.

This was laugh out loud funny. I wouldn't want a steady diet of Carl Hiaasen, but I thoroughly enjoyed this.

3 stars

joulukuu 30, 2020, 9:10pm

134. Salvation of a Saint bKeigo Higashino

I've now read several Japanese mysteries by this author and enjoyed them all. This one was no exception.

Ayane and Yoshitaka have been married for one year. Prior to their marriage, Yoshitaka had told Ayane that his purpose in marrying was to have children, and that if she was not pregnant within one year he would divorce her. The time has come: Ayane is not pregnant, a year has passed, and Yoshitaka tells her he will file for divorce. Ayane asks to go visit her parents in the north first. The day after she leaves, Yoshitaka dies, and it is discovered that he has been poisoned by arsenic.

Ayane is a "perfect" woman, and the main detective on the case is almost falling in love with her. She is also the person with a motive for murdering Yoshitaka, and the primary suspect. The problem is, how did the arsenic get into Yoshitaka's coffee when Ayane was hundreds of miles away.

A nice police procedural, with the extra little touch of interest for me that the character of Ayane is a famous Japanese quilter, with her own quilting school. I love Japanese quilts, which are usually incredibly intricate, and often sewn by hand. This was only a small part of the book, but it was authentic, and I enjoyed it.

3 stars.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 9:16pm

Well I did it!! Yay me!! That's all the books I've completed this year, and for the first time in a long while I reviewed/commented on all the books I read.

I am about half way through what unless there is a miracle will be my final book of 2020. It's longish, which is why I don't expect to finish anything else this year, so I'm going to make a few comments on it here and call it reviewed.

135. 150 Glimpses of the Beatles by Craig Brown

I'm loving this series of vignettes about the Beatles, their early lives, their meeting, starting the band, the growth of fame, the touring, the parties, the drugs, and so on. I was a Beatlemaniac, my Beatle was George. I was 14 in 1964, so held a rather innocent view of their shenanigans, and I fully anticipated marrying George when I grew up. Oh well.

This is a good counterpoint to Utopia Avenue set in roughly the same time period, and about the rise of a fictional band. This is not a full-fledged biography, but a series of "glimpses." For my purposes, I'm getting just enough information. I can't imagine reading thousands of pages on the life of John Lennon for example. And one interesting thing the author does here is that where there have been incidents in which there have been differing versions reported in various "definitive" accounts, a fight John got into, for example, or who added what to a particular song, this author gives us the varying versions, shrugs and sighs about memory, how everyone has different memories of the same event, and moves along. In other words, he doesn't take things too seriously.

Last year after getting interested in The Crown, I read 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, in which the author used the same technique to describe the life of Princess Margaret. I will say 99 glimpses might be a better number than 150 glimpses, since at the moment I'm finding some of the vignettes a bit repetitive--how many LSD trips can you bear to read about? But I'm only halfway through, so I'm sure there's lots of new stuff to come.

As of now,
4 stars

joulukuu 31, 2020, 4:09am

The morning of New Years Eve was enlivened for me by reading your reviews. I have got the Ali Smith seasons quartet firmly in my sights for next year.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:09am

Boy, when you catch up you go for it! Interesting to see the first lukewarm review of Hamnet. I'm nervous to read it in case I don't love it as much as I'm expecting to.

I think I might have Iza's Ballad on my wish list already, but adding it just in case.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 9:19am

Well done, Deborah! I'll have to finish Ali Smith's Seasons quartet in 2021.

Hmm...I should probably create another list in my 2021 thread, for books by contemporary British women authors that I would like to read, particularly the remaining three books in this quartet, The Mirror & the Light, and two books by Sarah Moss, Signs for Lost Children and Summerwater.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 9:58am

Congratulations! That's quite a bit of writing, and several interesting to me books. Specifically, Iza's ballad, Valentine, The boy in the field, and Lucky you. Of course, since this time of year I'm riddled with book bullets, who knows when I'll get to them!

Thanks also for your comments on the book about Trump books. I would really like to stop reading/hearing about him in the media, but love him or hate him, I think he's articulated a persistent point of view in our culture, and It will be interesting to see over time how Trump's presidency has affected government and politics.

I haven't read Know my name, so I can't answer your question about how it might help us understand the Trump era . It's one I'd like to read, but have been hesitant to do so due to the subject matter. Your question interests me - I've been aware of rape and harassment so long that I've just thought awareness finally exploded in our culture. I saw Trump's pride in harassing women as an extreme example of how some men see it as normal. Are you saying you think there is some connection between Trump's persona capturing our attention with the rise of me too? (Gonna have to check some dates on this.)

tammikuu 1, 1:10pm

What a great batch of reviews, including a few books I have in the pile. I like your takes on all these different genres and subjects.