BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020

Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020 - Second half.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020

1BLBera
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 3, 2020, 10:34pm


Welcome to 2020!

My name is Beth. I love books – talking about them, writing about them, reading about them. I also love to read with my granddaughter Scout.

I teach English at my local community college, so I am always looking for books I can use in my classes. I like to discover new writers.

I tend not to plan my reading, other than for my book club, which meets once a month. We meet in January to plan our year’s reading. This year I would like to read more nonfiction and increase my reading in translation.

I tend to read more fiction than nonfiction and more women authors than men.

Welcome to my thread. Lurk or stop and say hello.

2BLBera
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 3:28pm

Currently Reading

3BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 2020, 7:33am

Read in 2020
January
1. Grand Union
2. The Bone Clocks*
3. Cantoras
4. Monument*
5. Enchanted Islands*
6. Tricky Twenty-Two*
7. Will and Testament
8. The Dutch House

January Reading Report
Books read: 8
By women: 7
By men: 1
Novels: 6
Poetry: 1
Short stories: 1
In translation: 1

Library: 5
- Audiobook: 1
- Physical copies: 4
From my shelves: 3
- Physical copies 3
- Gave away: 1

February
9. A Long Petal of the Sea
10. And Then There Were None*
11. No Fixed Line
12. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee*
13. The Friend*
14. The Decent Inn of Death
15. Grass
16. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
17. Simon the Fiddler*
18. Summer Hours at the Robbers Library*
19. Abigail
20. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick
21. Gender Queer: A Memoir

March
22. Still Waters
23. Hate that Cat*
24. Tracks* REREAD
25. Queenie
26. Weather
27. The Private Patient*
28. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn*
29. So You Want to Talk About Race
30. Dominicana*
31. Indelicacy
32. House of Trelawney
33. How We Disappeared
34. The Night Watchman
35. Norse Mythology
36. Hamnet*
37. New and Selected Poems 2

April
38. The Most Fun We Ever Had
39. The French Lieutenant's Woman*
40. Lady of Quality*
41. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line*
42. An American Sunrise*
43. Victim 2117

May
44. Girl
45. Sing, Unburied, Sing* REREAD
46. The Waters of Eternal Youth*
47. Sula*
48. Turbo Twenty-Three
49. Actress
50. Your House Will Pay
51. Bossypants*
52. The Long Call
53. Wolf Hall*
54. Crewel World
55. A Conspiracy of Bones
56. The Giver of Stars

June
57. Lockdown*
58. Old in Art School
59. The Overstory*
60. Masked Prey
61. Writers & Lovers
62. A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx*
63. Vacationland*
64. Redhead by the Side of the Road
65. Fleishman Is in Trouble
66. The Turtle Catcher
67. Hid from Our Eyes

* From my shelves

4NanaCC
tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:21am

Happy New Year! It’s nice to see you here. Will you be posting in both groups this year, Beth?

5BLBera
tammikuu 1, 2020, 11:22am

I will try, Colleen. We'll see how long that lasts.

6NanaCC
tammikuu 1, 2020, 12:02pm

I’ll follow you either way...maybe both. ;-)

7BLBera
tammikuu 1, 2020, 12:37pm

Thanks Colleen.

8japaul22
tammikuu 1, 2020, 1:02pm

Yes, glad to see you here!

9BLBera
tammikuu 1, 2020, 1:48pm

Thanks Jennifer.

10arubabookwoman
tammikuu 1, 2020, 3:30pm

Hi Beth-greeting you over here too—much less manic than the 75’ers, no?

11BLBera
tammikuu 1, 2020, 3:38pm

Maybe it's more my speed, Deborah. We'll see.

12kidzdoc
tammikuu 4, 2020, 10:36am

Happy New Year and welcome to Club Read, Beth! I'll likely keep threads in both groups as well, but intend to be more active in Club Read than I have been in the past.

13BLBera
tammikuu 4, 2020, 1:06pm


1. Grand Union is a collection of short stories by Zadie Smith and a good start to the year. There is a variety of stories here, from monologues, to parables, to snapshots of lives of people of color. Smith is especially good at creating a distinctive voice for each of her narrators. This collection is political -- although Smith never names names, it is clear to whom she refers. "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets" and "Downtown" are two of my favorites. As in any collection, I liked some stories more than others, but I'm happy to have read all of them.

14BLBera
tammikuu 4, 2020, 1:06pm

>12 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl.

15kidzdoc
tammikuu 4, 2020, 1:56pm

>14 BLBera: You're welcome, Beth. I'll probably buy Grand Union when I return to London in March.

16AlisonY
tammikuu 4, 2020, 2:28pm

Dropping off my star too. Happy new year!

17BLBera
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2020, 2:47pm

Smith is always a good read, Darryl.

Thanks Alison.

18NanaCC
tammikuu 4, 2020, 3:03pm

>13 BLBera: This one sounds like a nice start to the year, Beth.

19dchaikin
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 2020, 9:42pm

>13 BLBera: Good start, Beth. I’ll follow you here this year.

20BLBera
tammikuu 5, 2020, 10:26am

>18 NanaCC: It was a good one, Colleen.

>19 dchaikin: Thanks.

I'm about halfway through The Bone Clocks, trying to remember all the connections among the various times.

21BLBera
tammikuu 8, 2020, 8:54am


2. The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell isn't afraid to try new things in his writing. In Cloud Atlas, he used a kind of pyramid structure, moving from distinct stories and characters. He plays with structure again in The Bone Clocks, skipping across time and changing narrators. He also plays with genre; there is fantasy, realism, and dystopia. As we read, we wonder how it all ties together. Mitchell does tie everything together, mostly, and at the end, the message is clear: time passes, life ends, and we have to do the best we can with the life we have.

However, what distinguished the book for me were the characters: Holly Sykes, Crispin Hersey, Hugo Lamb. Love them or hate them, they were vivid and complex, and I was sorry to reach the end of their stories.

What didn't work so well was the supernatural element. In the end, I wondered, was it needed? The characters' stories themselves were so compelling that the fantastical elements seemed like a distraction.

Still, all in all, a solid novel. I will read more by Mitchell.

22kidzdoc
tammikuu 8, 2020, 12:25pm

Nice review of The Bone Clocks, Beth. I own a copy, so I'll try to get to it in the next year or two.

23sallypursell
tammikuu 8, 2020, 12:51pm

Hi, Beth. I'm here to introduce myself, and dropping off a star. I'll be delighted to follow you.

24dchaikin
tammikuu 8, 2020, 1:40pm

Both your first two books interest. I have a David Mitchell on the shelf, but haven’t read him yet. That supernatural element does discourage me a bit.

25BLBera
tammikuu 8, 2020, 3:26pm

Thanks Darryl and Sally.

>24 dchaikin: I think Cloud Atlas is better, but the last chapter of The Bone Clocks was beautiful.

26VivienneR
tammikuu 13, 2020, 11:25am

>24 dchaikin: Any supernatural element puts me off too. As soon as I see it mentioned, the book is passed over.

27rocketjk
tammikuu 13, 2020, 1:55pm

>1 BLBera: "Welcome to my thread. Lurk or stop and say hello."

For me, today, it's the latter. Hello! Looking forward to following your reading here.

28BLBera
tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:22pm

>26 VivienneR: Even though I agree supernatural stuff usually turns me off, I did still really like The Bone Clocks. So, don't let that put you off trying Mitchell.

>27 rocketjk: Hi Jerry. Thanks for stopping by.

29BLBera
tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:40pm

30BLBera
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 2020, 8:25pm


3. Cantoras depicts the dictatorship in Uruguay during the last half of the twentieth century and draws parallels between the government oppression of the left and the societal oppression of gays and lesbians. De Robertis, through her story of five women who are lesbians, gives voice to a group that was silent for too long: "...the silence of dictatorship, the silence of the closet, as we call it now -- all of that is layered and layered like blankets that muffle you until you cannot breathe."

The five women are friends and sometime lovers. They find sanctuary on an isolated beach, and the story takes them through fifty years of friendship. During that time, we see society and families change. Each character is vividly drawn and individual.

I don't know much about Uruguyan history, and I found this fascinating. My only real complaint is that I found the writing clunky in places. Let's face it; it's hard to write good sex scenes, and the ocean metaphors and hyperbolic language don't really work for me.

Thanks Bonnie for the recommendation - it was a good one.

Next: Enchanted Islands, historical fiction based on real people who were spies during WWII.

31BLBera
tammikuu 16, 2020, 8:49pm


4. Monument is a collection of new and selected poems from Natasha Trethewey. The poems all unite to create a monument to Trethewey's history: her mother, her father, the South, Mississippi. In "Shooting Wild," she writes a sonnet to her mother's memory, ending with "I can't recall her voice since she's been dead:/no sound of her, no words she might have said."

And in "Reach," she writes of her father:

I know where he is going. I cannot call
him back. Through the valley the blacktop
winds like a river, and he is stepping into it,
walking now toward the other side where
she waits, my mother, just out of reach.

She writes realistically of the racism of her home state of Mississippi, yet she still calls it home. This is a powerful collection. Trethewey is certainly one of our most gifted poets.

32nancyewhite
tammikuu 16, 2020, 8:59pm

>30 BLBera: Just put Cantoras on hold at the library! Thanks for leading me to it.

33BLBera
tammikuu 16, 2020, 9:10pm

>32 nancyewhite: You are very welcome. I hope you like it. I'll watch for your comments.

34RidgewayGirl
tammikuu 16, 2020, 9:39pm

>30 BLBera: While I can objectively see that Cantoras is a wee bit melodramatic and flowery, I just loved it so much.

35kidzdoc
tammikuu 17, 2020, 6:01am

Nice review of Cantoras, Beth.

I received a copy of Monument: Poems New and Selected as a Christmas present, and I plan to read it this month. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

36BLBera
tammikuu 17, 2020, 12:19pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: Kay, it's funny because in my head, I was hearing it in Spanish, in which it sounds better. I wonder if De Robertis' style comes from having Spanish as a first language?

>35 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl. I love Trethewey.

37NanaCC
tammikuu 17, 2020, 1:43pm

>30 BLBera: Interesting review, Beth. And, I’m looking forward to your review of Enchanted Islands. It sounds like something I’d enjoy.

38BLBera
tammikuu 17, 2020, 6:45pm

I am really enjoying Enchanted Islands, Colleen. Fanny, the narrator is a great character.

39BLBera
tammikuu 19, 2020, 12:56am


5. Enchanted Islands is a book I picked up because of a staff recommendation at Birchbark Books. The protagonist of the novel, Fanny Frankowski, is based on a real person, Frances Conway, who with her husband, spend WWII on a couple of the Galápagos Islands. Frances wrote two memoirs of their time there. Amend says while she used the memoirs as a source, she invented everything in the novel.

Fanny was born in 1882, and Amend highlights the difficulties girls faced, especially poor girls who liked school. Nothing in Fanny's life was easy. The novel is a retelling as Fanny looks back. She is a great character, resilient and forceful.

40lisapeet
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 2020, 11:21am

>39 BLBera: I've had that on the pile for a couple of years now—thanks for the reminder of why I probably picked it up in the first place (plus I really like the cover).

41BLBera
tammikuu 19, 2020, 10:55am

Hi Lisa - the cover is lovely. I really liked the character of Fanny; now I would like to read her memoirs, although Amend says they are mostly accounts of day-to-day life on the islands.

42dchaikin
tammikuu 19, 2020, 9:22pm

really intrigued by your last three reviews. Another nice review of Cantoras (Kay had me interested already), great review of Trethewey. And while the fictionalized version in Enchanted Islands only appeals a little, the true story sounds fascinating.

43BLBera
tammikuu 20, 2020, 8:58am

>42 dchaikin: Thanks - Trethewey is one of my favorite poets. She has a memoir coming out later this year that I am anxious to get my hands on.

Ainslie and Frances' Conway's story is fascinating. It sounds like the diaries are mostly about day-to-day life, but I might look for them. In the novel, and this is not a spoiler, they are spies, and Amend says that there were rumors that they were spies, so she didn't invent that aspect of the novel.

44japaul22
tammikuu 20, 2020, 9:10am

>39 BLBera: I read this a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Glad to see someone else reading it.

45BLBera
tammikuu 20, 2020, 9:15am

That's interesting, Jennifer, because this was never on my radar until I saw it recommended in a bookstore. I loved Fanny, and it's interesting to wonder what the real story was.

46BLBera
tammikuu 28, 2020, 10:18pm


7. Will and Testament

"I was incapable of forgiveness...Because it wasn't isolated incidents and a finished story, but a ceaseless exploration, a necessary excavation full of dead ends and distressing flashbacks. And the presence of my lost childhood, the constant return of this loss had made me who I was, it was a part of me, it pervaded even the slightest emotion in me."

Will and Testament is told from the first person point of view of Berglijot. In this stream of consciousness exploration of her relationships with her family, Berglijot repeats herself, gets angry, changes her mind, drinks too much, and talks endlessly about this broken relationship and her reasons for wanting to break ties with her family.

This is a masterful portrayal of a tormented woman. Certainly this novel won't appeal to everyone, but I became attached to this flawed, damaged woman.

47BLBera
helmikuu 1, 2020, 2:28pm


8. The Dutch House kept me turning the pages. It seems that it is very plot driven, maybe more than others of Patchett's. While I loved much about the novel, especially the relationship between Danny and Maeve, I think the choice of Danny as the narrator kept me at a distance. Danny is very detached. Besides those two characters, the others didn't seem as vivid, and I found Andrea to be a bit of a caricature. Still, a solid novel, and I zipped through it to finish it as my last January read.

Next: A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende's new one.

48BLBera
helmikuu 1, 2020, 2:30pm

January Reading Report
Books read: 8
By women: 7
By men: 1
Novels: 6
Poetry: 1
Short stories: 1
In translation: 1

Library: 5
- Audiobook: 1
- Physical copies: 4
From my shelves: 3
- Physical copies 3
- Gave away: 1

I didn't finish any nonfiction; I'm a little more than halfway through The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, so I'll finish that in February.

49RidgewayGirl
helmikuu 1, 2020, 3:00pm

>47 BLBera: It's an interesting activity to imagine how The Dutch House would have read if the story centered on the main character (so clearly Maeve, did anyone care about Danny?)

50BLBera
helmikuu 1, 2020, 5:56pm

>49 RidgewayGirl: I've been thinking about that, Kay; it would have been a very different book if Maeve had been the narrator. Certainly, the mother would have been more central.

51BLBera
helmikuu 3, 2020, 1:52pm

For Black History month, I always like to read African American writers. This month I am reading American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes and So You Want to Talk about Race, a collection of essays, as well as the new collection of short stories by Zora Neale Hurston.

One of Hayes' sonnets:

Are you not the color of this country's current threat
Advisory? And of pompoms at a school whose mascot
Is the clementine? Color of the quartered cantaloupe
Beside the tiers of easily bruised bananas cowering
In towers of yellow skin? And of Caligula's copper-toned
Jabber-jaw jammed with grapes shaped like the eyeballs
Of blind people? Light as a featherweight monarch,
Viceroy, goldfish. Pomp & pumpkin pompadour,
Are you not a flame of hollow Hellos & Hell Nos,
A wild, tattered spirit versus what? Enemy to Foe of
Those Opposed to Upholding the Laws Against What?
I know your shade. You are the color of a sucker punch,
The mix of flag blood & surprise blurring the eyes, a flare
Of confusion, a contusion before it swells & darkens.

52baswood
helmikuu 4, 2020, 4:19am

Thanks for posting the sonnet by Terrance Hayes

Found some others by him at Poets org. website.

53BLBera
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 4, 2020, 4:29pm

>52 baswood: You are welcome. Yes, he has published several collections. Here's a link to a good reading:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=625xdbsG1GQ

54BLBera
helmikuu 7, 2020, 12:37pm


9. A Long Petal of the Sea begins during the Spanish Civil War and follows Catalan Victor Dalmao through sixty years of his life. As it becomes apparent that the war is lost, Victor and his family head for France. Eventually they end up in Chile.

This is fascinating history, and Allende admits that the characters are based on people she knows, and the historical personages and events are real. That may be part of the problem with the novel. The first 200 pages of this 300-page novel cover five years of Victor's life, while the last 100 pages cover fifty years. After arriving at part III, the characters take a back seat to the historical events. I am interested in the history, but I would have liked more than summaries of the characters in the later third of the novel.

Isabel Allende, who was Salvador Allende's goddaughter (her father was Salvador's sousing), is passionate about the years Salvador was president and the aftermath of life under Pinochet.

So, if this history interests you, pick up this novel -- just don't expect a lot of character development in the last 100 pages. I did like the novel; I learned about events that I didn't know about. For example, I didn't know that many Spanish refugees ended up in Chile. Allende also paints a vivid pictures of Chilean society.

55BLBera
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 7, 2020, 1:26pm

10. And Then There Were None is a clever puzzle by Christie. I read it as part of my library's challenge. I do think she cheated a little on the reveal, but she did keep me guessing.

56dchaikin
helmikuu 7, 2020, 1:33pm

Some great reviews. I would like to read Dutch House, curious about that unlikable narrator. Allende - well, I haven’t read her yet. Interesting about the Spanish exiles in Chile.

57BLBera
helmikuu 7, 2020, 3:53pm

>56 dchaikin: Pablo Neruda actually spearheaded the efforts to get them from camps in France to Chile.

58BLBera
helmikuu 9, 2020, 10:03am


11. No Fixed Line is the latest Kate Shugak mystery from Dana Stabenow. One of the things I love about these books is the vivid setting. Stabenow gives us Alaska in all its wonder. In this one, as Kate travels through various out-of-the-way places, she thinks, "Viewing Alaska from the air was a sobering exercise in perspective, capable of making one small insignificant human being feel that much smaller and less significant."

In this one, a plane crashes in an isolated spot in the middle of the blizzard. Two small children survive. Who are they? Why was the plane flying during a blizzard? Kate, and the rest of the community have to figure out the answers. Page turner with a keen sense of Alaskan winter.

59BLBera
helmikuu 9, 2020, 1:27pm


12. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

"This book is meant to tell the story of Indian lives, and Indian histories in such a way as to render those histories and those lives as something much ore, much greater and grander, than a catalog of pain."

David Treuer's history of American Indian lives over the past century is a must read for those interested in American history. Treuer has done extensive research -- interviews, census information, historical documents, laws. Through this book, we get an overview of not only the history of how the US government has treated the American Indians, but also of how the Indians have adapted, survived and even thrived. Treuer ends with an overview of some of the activities happening now and looking to the future. By the way, there is a lot more going on than casinos.

I particularly liked that Treuer talks about his own experiences. As he notes in the end: "This book is, obviously, a mélange of history, reportage, and memoir." He also points out that others might have written very different books on the same topic.

Highly recommended.

60BLBera
helmikuu 14, 2020, 7:15pm


My book club met and discussed The Friend today. There were five of us there. Two of us loved the book, one person liked parts, one did not finish and one did not like it. The two who did not appreciate it didn't like the lack of plot. When we discussed it, the one who did not finish it said that she would go and look at it again.

We loved the descriptions of the students, two of us are teachers, and could appreciate the humor. Strangely enough, there was also discussion that pertains to the current American Dirt discussion. The narrator is remembering a conversation she had with her friend. He was complaining about the lack of esteem for writers: "The privileged shouldn't write about themselves, because that furthers the agenda of the imperialist white patriarchy. But they also shouldn't write about other groups, because that would be cultural appropriation." One of the members had read American Dirt, and she was aware of the discussion surrounding it. Anyway, we discussed the fact that this isn't a new conversation, and it won't end here.

It was a good discussion.

I enjoyed my reread of the book.

61BLBera
helmikuu 16, 2020, 2:26pm


14. The Decent Inn of Death
While I enjoyed revisiting the characters from previous books in this series, I would have liked more of Madden and less of Angus Sinclair. I thought the book dragged a little in the middle, that there could have been a little less snow.

In this one, John Madden and his wife are vacationing in Venice, so Sinclair is on his own. When visiting friends in a neighboring county, he becomes interested in a suspicious death. He starts to investigate on his own, landing him in the middle of an international manhunt, and snowed in in an isolated house near Oxford. The solution seems apparent early on, or is it?

Fans of the series will enjoy this, but it's not one of the best.

62BLBera
helmikuu 17, 2020, 10:13am


15. Grass is a graphic novel that focuses on the experiences of one of the comfort women. The drawings are quite wonderful, and the author uses black and white effectively to portray the experiences of Lee Ok-sun. For example, when she was first raped by Japanese soldiers, they have no faces, just black ovals.

63VivienneR
helmikuu 17, 2020, 3:20pm

>61 BLBera: Rennie Airth is a familiar name but I haven't read any of his books. The series is one to watch for.

64BLBera
helmikuu 17, 2020, 4:08pm

>63 VivienneR: I especially liked the first ones in the series, Vivienne.

65dchaikin
helmikuu 17, 2020, 4:36pm

>62 BLBera: sounds like a very difficult topic to cover in this form. Noting.

>59 BLBera: I listened to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a couple years ago, relentlessly depressing and left its mark. I’m interested in The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee and your review is encouraging. Another review I read implied it’s a long slow boring, but still important book. Sounds like you were more into it than that reader (not on LT).

66auntmarge64
helmikuu 17, 2020, 5:45pm

Stopping in to catch up and say hi, Beth. (I'm getting a slow start to the year.)

67BLBera
helmikuu 17, 2020, 6:00pm

>65 dchaikin: I was thinking about the format fitting the topic as I wrote my comments. I thought maybe the graphic format takes away from the seriousness of the topic. On the other hand, would I want to read a memoir on the topic? Or a novel? I'm not sure. In the end, I think the author did a fine job with the medium she had.

I am very interested in Native American history and literature, and I find Treuer an engaging writer. As he noted, the book is "a mélange of history, reportage, and memoir." I didn't find it dull at all. I also highly recommend Rez Life, which covers some of the same topics but in a shorter form. In fact, I've liked his nonfiction more than his novel Prudence.

>66 auntmarge64: Hi back, Margaret. Thanks again for the book.

68lisapeet
helmikuu 17, 2020, 6:19pm

>67 BLBera: Actually my first thought was how good the graphic format could potentially be for the subject (the faces as black ovals)--how do you portray the unspeakable, or unimaginable? Graphic novels and nonfiction offer this whole other dimension that magical realism isn't quite appropriate for. I'll put that one on my list, thanks.

69BLBera
helmikuu 18, 2020, 4:30pm

>69 BLBera: At first I wasn't sure this was the correct medium, but after thinking about it, I agree that it worked.

70BLBera
helmikuu 21, 2020, 10:03am


16. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
According to the blurb on the book jacket, these poems were written in the first 200 days after Trump was elected. There are a few poems that reference the president. Hayes plays with the sonnet form and writes poems that are angry, playful, and sometimes, incomprehensible. This isn't my favorite collection of his, but there are some standouts.

I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison,
Part panic closet, a little room in a house set aflame.
I lock you in a form that is part music box, part meat
Grinder to separate the song of the bird from the bone.
I lock your persona in a dream-inducing sleeper hold
While your better selves watch from the bleachers.
I make you both gym & crow here. As the crow
You undergo a beautiful catharsis trapped one night
In the shadows of the gym. As the gym, the feel of crow-
Shit dropping to your floors is not unlike the stars
Falling from the pep rally posters on your walls.
I make you a box of darkness with a bird in its heart.
Voltas of acoustics, instinct & metaphor. It is not enough
To love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed.

71sallypursell
helmikuu 21, 2020, 11:52am

Hi, catching up here. I'm very interested in the Native American literature, though not thrilled with Prudence, after your review. The others sound great. I read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee long ago, but I think I really ought to re-read it. The trouble is that I have read thousands of books, and I ought to re-read them all. And so many good ones I want to experience. I suppose we might call this "The Reader's Lament", hmmm?

72BLBera
helmikuu 22, 2020, 8:57am

>71 sallypursell: One of my favorite writers is Louise Erdrich. Have you read anything by her? I like her early work the best, but I will read anything she writes. Next month I'm going to reread Tracks, one of her earliest novels.

73BLBera
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 22, 2020, 10:43am


17. Simon the Fiddler
Paulette Jiles returns to Texas right after the Civil War in Simon the Fiddler. As in her successful News of the World, this Texas is vivid; the military occupation, lawlessness -- and possibilities -- all shine through. Jiles' prose brings Texas to life: "enormous towering clouds built up over the Gulf and sailed inland carrying, it seemed to him, secret messages about blue storms and pirates and tales of giant unknown fish."

Music is at the heart of the story. One character tells Simon that they won't hang a fiddler -- carpenters, laborers, merchants, yes -- but not a fiddler. People's lives are hard after the war and music takes them to better places for a little while.

Her protagonist, Simon, is a brilliant character that we cheer for from the moment we meet him, hiding from conscription officers. While Simon drives the plot, we also have sidekicks, a true love, and a villain, turning this into a rollicking adventure that keeps us turning the pages.

At times, I thought this novel was perhaps too similar to News of the World, but Jiles is at home in this world, and I was happy to inhabit it for a while.

74NanaCC
helmikuu 22, 2020, 8:39pm

Just catching up, Beth. Life is crazy right now. I enjoyed News of the World so I’m happy to see you enjoyed Simon the Fiddler.

75sallypursell
helmikuu 23, 2020, 2:03am

>72 BLBera: Beth, I know the name is very familiar, but I don't remember reading anything specific by Louise Erdrich. Do you have a suggestion for where to start, other than early works? I can start with that if you like.

76baswood
helmikuu 23, 2020, 6:02am

Enjoyed your example of a sonnet from the Terrance Hayes collection. Sonnets are easy to write, but good sonnets are on a different level. Perhaps we could all have a go? what fun to write our own sonnets.

So as not to clutter up your thread with my rubbish I have posted my New years sonnet on my own thread.

77BLBera
helmikuu 23, 2020, 9:31am

>74 NanaCC: Hi Collen. If you enjoyed News of the World, you will also like Simon the Fiddler, I think.

>75 sallypursell: Love Medicine is a good one to start with, if you don't mind non-linear story telling and multiple points of view. If you prefer more straightforward plot, The Round House is her best later work. My personal favorites are Tracks and The Last Report on Miracles at Little No Horse.

>76 baswood: Clutter away - I will visit your thread to see your sonnet.

78sallypursell
helmikuu 24, 2020, 9:46pm

>77 BLBera: Beth, I will start with Love Medicine and see how I do. Thank you so much for your recommendations.

79BLBera
helmikuu 25, 2020, 4:49pm

>78 sallypursell: You are very welcome. I love recommending books. I hope it works for you.

80BLBera
helmikuu 28, 2020, 8:56pm


19. Abigail is a coming-of-age story set in 1944, when the war really arrives in Hungary. Gina Vitay is the spoiled only daughter of a general. When her father suddenly takes her to a private religious school far from Budapest, she is upset and flouts rules, constantly getting in trouble. After she tries to run away, her father reveals the reason she is there, and Gina starts to grow up. At times irritating as only a 15-year-old can be, Gina is a wonderful, dynamic character.

Szabó writes vivid descriptions of the closed, claustrophobic world of the school, and her portraits of the characters are great. Of the director she writes, "His bedroom was always in perfect order, even before the cleaning lady had made the bed. It was as if he could sleep only under a completely smooth quilt with his head on a pillow without a single dent in it."

Through Gina's story, Szabó presents a snapshot of life as war closes in. I loved this even more than The Door.

81BLBera
helmikuu 29, 2020, 1:21pm


20. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is a wonderful collection of stories by Zora Neale Hurston from the Harlem Renaissance years. Some of the stories had not appeared in previous collections. I love the Eatonville stories, but some of the stories set in Harlem are also good. Hurston complicates gender roles, has a great sense of humor, and takes stylistic risks.

I have another collection of her stories that I'll be picking up while I am in the Hurston mood.

82thorold
helmikuu 29, 2020, 2:17pm

>80 BLBera: Oooh! A new translation of Szabo. That's going right on the list!

83BLBera
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 29, 2020, 10:59pm


21. Gender Queer: A Memoir is an excellent graphic memoir. Maia Kobabe writes honestly about eir struggle to find eir gender identity, finally identifying as nonbinary. I enjoyed following eir journey.

84dchaikin
helmikuu 29, 2020, 11:17pm

>81 BLBera: I'm curious about this book and these previously unpublished stories. Glad to have your comments

>80 BLBera: ooh, this Szabó sounds terrific.

85BLBera
maaliskuu 1, 2020, 8:45am

>84 dchaikin: It's a great find for fans of Hurston.

And yes, Abigail is pretty terrific. Gina is a well developed character. She is a teenager, though, so if you are not patient with spoiled fifteen-year-old girls, you might find the novel annoying. :)

86dchaikin
maaliskuu 1, 2020, 9:53am

>85 BLBera: patient with 15 yr old girls in real life or in just fiction? I fine with them in fiction, but, well, I have a 15 yr old daughter.

87BLBera
maaliskuu 1, 2020, 2:24pm

>86 dchaikin: :) I have the feeling that some readers might find the character of Gina annoying. In fact, she is, but I think that is part of Szabó's strength, to create such a realistic character.

You're on your own with your real-life fifteen-year-old. I am past that stage.

88BLBera
maaliskuu 1, 2020, 9:43pm


22. Still Waters took a while for me to become interested. The writing is pretty pedestrian, hard to tell whether that's the fault of the original or the translation, but despite the great setting, an island in the Stockholm archipelago, there's a lot of telling and not much showing.

Eventually I warmed to the characters, but not sure I'll continue with this series.

89japaul22
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 11:43am

>88 BLBera: wait, is this the series that I bought the first 6 of when there was a kindle sale a few months back? Oh well . . .

90BLBera
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:33pm

>89 japaul22: I am just one opinion, Jennifer. Many others have really liked the series. Someone said they get better, so maybe I will try another one.

91BLBera
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 8:37pm

Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist !
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Actress by Anne Enright
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Girl by Edna O’ Brien
Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell
Weather by Jenny Offill
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

92lisapeet
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 7:28am

>80 BLBera: The Szabó sounds wonderful—and I loved The Door, so that's strong praise. I have her others, but will look for this one.

>91 BLBera: Such a good list, right? I could happily read my way through most of it.

93BLBera
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 9:49am

>92 lisapeet: Hi Lisa - Yes the Women's Prize longlist does give me months of reading ideas. I've only read two, so I have some good ones to look forward to.

94NanaCC
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:22pm

>88 BLBera: I do think the books get better, Beth. I’m not sure if it has to do with translation or not. I don’t think they’ll ever be considered great literature, but I’ve found them to be entertaining and quick reads.

95BLBera
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:39pm

Others have also mentioned that, Colleen. I did like the characters, especially Nora, so I might pick this series up again at some point.

96RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 5:23pm

>91 BLBera: Oh, lots to look for. I've read five and have Dominicana on my bedside table. I'll have to find the rest.

97BLBera
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 9:26pm

Which ones have you read, Kay?

98sallypursell
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 9:51pm

>88 BLBera: I recently put this on my TBR mountain. I'll keep your thoughts in mind.

99sallypursell
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 9:54pm

>91 BLBera: Wow, I'm really excited by this list! If I didn't have a tremendous pile of books everywhere in my house, ready to be read, I'd be starting on these right away. They will have to wait, though. Or at least most of them.

100BLBera
maaliskuu 5, 2020, 8:21pm

>98 sallypursell: Many liked it more than I did, Sally.

It is a great list, isn't it? I always have fun with it.

101BLBera
maaliskuu 6, 2020, 2:34pm


24 Tracks
I love this novel because the characters and setting combine to portray a time in history that challenges the survival of the Ojibwe -- and despite the odds, they triumph, though not unchanged. Through Nanapush, one of my favorite characters, we see the trickster and the old-time Indian. Her persists in telling stories, the best way to keep the culture alive. Fleur embodies the conflict between old and new and survives terrible losses. And Pauline, another great character, shows what happens when a person denies her past.

The story isn't linear, so is not for those who love plot-driven stories. But the writing with its poetic descriptions of place and the humor that runs throughout, leavening the sadness of loss, make this a favorite read that I am always happy to return to.

102auntmarge64
maaliskuu 6, 2020, 3:55pm

>81 BLBera: I'm always interested in Hurston and was surprised last year to discover her connection with the Franz Boas anthropology group. It makes a lot of sense, though, doesn't it? I'll have to put this on my request list for the library.

103BLBera
maaliskuu 6, 2020, 3:58pm

I enjoy her stories, Margaret. She worked for quite some time with Boas. It's been a while since I looked at that aspect of her work, but it definitely informs her stories. I think some of her interviews have been preserved.

104BLBera
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 8:49am


25. Queenie surprised me. At first I thought it was a variation of Bridget Jones, but Carty-Williams does more than show a twenty-something who is obsessed me men. She shows how Queenie goes through each day, fighting microagressions. She has to defend herself from people touching her hair and men commenting on her ass, just to name a few things. And as the novel goes on, we realize that Queenie has a lot to deal with.

Still, did I find Queenie annoying at times? Yes, the constant texting and the obsession with men made me feel like a mom. There was a definite generation gap. But isn't annoyance with a character a sign of a well developed one?

The audiobook was excellent. One drawback was the reading of the texts and emails. I sometimes had to go back and listen to those again.

Overall, an excellent portrait of the life of a young black woman. Don't touch her hair.

105RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 11, 2020, 6:01pm

>97 BLBera: I've read Fleishman is in Trouble, The Dutch House, Red at the Bone, The Most Fun We Ever Had and Girl, Woman, Other. I'm certainly looking forward to reading Queenie.

106BLBera
maaliskuu 13, 2020, 9:26am


26. Weather is Jenny Offill's new novel. I love her style. The vignettes somehow work together to create a cohesive narrative. There's also enough humor to leaven the heavy content. The end-of-days concerns seem especially relevant with our current viral situation.

The narrator, Lizzie, is a librarian and worried about the coming apocalypse. Wrapped in this worry is climate change, Trump's election, hate, unsustainable lifestyles, and her brother. Her brother Henry is an addict and Lizzie tries to hang on to him.

This is not plot-driven. Recommended for those who like quirky.

107BLBera
maaliskuu 13, 2020, 9:27am

>105 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. I will get to the ones I haven't read eventually. They all sound great to me.

108BLBera
maaliskuu 14, 2020, 8:43pm


28. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a book I hadn't read since middle school years, and it was a slow start for me. But my thoughts changed as I read it, and it does deserve its place in the canon.

I didn't love the vernacular, but I got used to it.

There are some lovely descriptions of the river in the book, some of the best writing. It's obvious that Twain loved it. The character of Huck is surprisingly complex. While he doesn't want to be "sivilized," and he lies with a scary proficiency, he doesn't want to hurt people. He even tries to save thieves and murderers. And his dilemma over whether to help Jim escape slavery is heartfelt. Huck is more than a boy who wants to have fun and loaf.

There's also plenty of humor in the book, especially after Tom arrives on the scene. So, yes, kids should read this.

109BLBera
maaliskuu 15, 2020, 11:30am


29. So You Want to Talk About Race is important. In it Oluo defines racism and discusses its various effects on people of color. I read this using my educator's lens, and learned a lot. It's not always comfortable to read this, but Oluo points out: "You must get used to being uncomfortable and get used to this not being about your feelings if you plan to help and not hinder people of color in their efforts for racial justice."

Her thoughts on microagressions and cultural appropriation stand out:

"The problem of cultural appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriation and the culture being appropriated. That power imbalance allows the culture being appropriated to be distorted and redefined by the dominant culture and siphons any material or financial benefit of that piece of culture away to the dominant culture, while marginalized cultures are still persecuted for living in that culture...Even if a culturally appropriative act means to respect culture, it cannot if it can't understand the past and present power dynamics defining that culture's interaction with the dominant culture."

And:

"Microaggressions are constant reminders that you don't belong, that you are less than, that you are not worthy of the same respect that white people are afforded. They keep you off balance, keep you distracted, and keep you defensive. They keep you from enjoying an outing on the town or a day at the office."

I wish my faculty group would read and discuss this. Anyone working with a diverse population would benefit from it.

110BLBera
maaliskuu 16, 2020, 7:14pm


30. Dominicana is filled with believable details and characters, probably because, as Cruz tells us, the story is based on her mother's life:

"When I told my mother back in 2005 I would write a novel inspired by her, she said, 'Who would be interested in a story about a woman like me? It's so typical.' And yet, stories like my mother's, although common, are rarely represented in the mainstream narratives available to us. I am grateful for the opportunity to publish this singular story, knowing very well that so many writers who are women of color do not have this privilege and access."

And the story is typical. Ana Canción is fifteen when she marries Juan Ruiz, who is twenty years her senior. She lives in a small town in the Dominican Republic and has never even been to Santo Domingo. She loves going to school and doesn't want to get married and move away from her family. Yet, this is Ana's mother's dream, to make it to New York, the promised land.

In many ways, this is a coming-of-age story. Told from Ana's point of view, Cruz shows how hard it is to leave a way of life and make a new one in a strange place, a place very different from what she expected. Instead of a nice house with a closet full of clothes, Ana is taken to a tenement, where it is unsafe for her to walk the streets. Yet, she doesn't give up: "My breath is finally in sync with the city's. I can hear sounds of music. A fire alarm, a police siren, a bus halting at its stop, a garbage truck backing up..."

Recommended.

111RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 16, 2020, 7:32pm

>109 BLBera: Of the books I've read on this topic, this one is by far the one that has made the most impact on me. The part I think of most is her saying that my job isn't to convince black people that I'm not racist, but to talk to white people about racism. That has led to more than a few very uncomfortable conversations, but how can we make progress unless we are open to speaking frankly?

>110 BLBera: I just finished Dominicana yesterday and I'm still gathering my thoughts about it. But I agree on in being a worthwhile read.

112BLBera
maaliskuu 16, 2020, 9:51pm

Dominicana matched what I observed when I lived there. The big suitcases especially resonated. People would come back from the States loaded with stuff. Everyone wanted to go to the States and live the good life.

I agree that it is hard to talk about racism, but we do have to be open and call it out.

113BLBera
maaliskuu 18, 2020, 5:21pm


31. Indelicacy reminds me of Optic Nerve in some ways, but the art descriptions are not as vivid, and I liked Optic Nerve much more.

This short novel is more of a meditation on writing. Vitória, a cleaning lady at a museum, wants to write about the paintings: "Writing is endless, what it allows you to consider. What is in paintings is endless too." Vitória cleans, goes out with friends, marries, and learns to love ballet. And through all of these activities, we still do not know her. We see that the appreciation of art, writing, dance is not limited to the wealthy, that the arts enrich her. Of the book Vitória is writing, she says, "The problem was that it would make little sense to most people." I would like a little more sense.

It is pleasant enough, but I doubt it will stay with me for long.

Perhaps my timing is bad; read at another time, I might have appreciated this more.

Next House of Trelawney.

114lisapeet
maaliskuu 19, 2020, 9:47am

>113 BLBera: I think Optic Nerve is a hard act to follow, ekphrasis-wise.

115BLBera
maaliskuu 19, 2020, 10:00am

>114 lisapeet: I am so happy to give you a chance to use "ekphrasis" again, Lisa. :) To be fair, I think Cain means the novel to be more about writing, but still.

116BLBera
maaliskuu 20, 2020, 7:07pm


32. House of Trelawney
This very entertaining family saga was just the right book for this time. While not as interesting, narratively, as The Improbability of Love (no painting narrator), with this novel, Rothschild proves she knows how to tell a story.

The title is apt; the house is the centerpiece here. Home to the Trelawneys for 800 years, the house has seen better days. There is a room for each day of the year, an acre of roof (leaking), no central heat, and eight bathrooms. What is left of the family lives in a few of the rooms, no more servants, mince for dinner every day. Jane, the countess, spends her days sorting bills into piles, deciding which ones most desperately need paying and waiting on her in-laws, who pretend they are living half a century earlier, still dressing for dinner, mourning the lowered standards of the cook (the mince). Kitto, the heir, is determined to save the family and has just taken out a second mortgage to invest in a sure thing. It is 2008.

There are secrets, eccentric family members, a villain, and a wonderful family that has to somehow learn to live in the twenty-first century. I enjoyed this very much. Rothschild is sympathetic with the people who cling to an unsustainable lifestyle with generally likable characters.

117lisapeet
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 2020, 12:13am

>115 BLBera: Why thank you! I'm all for more opportunities to use it.

ETA: >116 BLBera: That looks like fun! And I have just the friend I want to recommend it to.

118BLBera
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 1:48pm


33. How We Disappeared is the story of Wang Di, a comfort woman, as well as the story of twelve-year-old Kevin and his discovery on his grandmother's deathbed.

Lee uses two timelines, not always very effectively. I think of these as first-novel faults. Too many threads that don't really connect with the rest of the story.

Through Kevin we see the generational trauma caused by war, but the best part of the novel for me was Wang Di's story. The sections set during WWII are stomach turning, and as we see her age, we understand how hard it is for her to tell her story. Lee might have been better served to stick to Wang Di's story, past and present and save Kevin for another novel.

Still, overall very good historical fiction. This is a story that deserves to be told.

Next: Louise Erdrich's new one: The Night Watchman

119sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:19pm

Ooh, you taught me a new word. "Ekphrasis". That's a good one. Thanks.

120BLBera
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:37pm

>117 lisapeet: It was entertaining, certainly suited to my mood now.

>119 sallypursell: Thank Lisa, Sally. She was the one who started it all.

121lisapeet
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:49pm

>120 BLBera: Well, thank the Greeks, I guess. It's such a good word. I sometimes think it sounds pretentious, but then... I don't care. It means what it means and it gets the job done.

122BLBera
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 5:09pm

>121 lisapeet:
efcharistó

123sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 7:04pm

>121 lisapeet: Believe it or not, I had just learned this very word from the mystery I was reading, Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood

124BLBera
maaliskuu 25, 2020, 11:09am

It's a small world, Sally.

125BLBera
maaliskuu 28, 2020, 11:44am



34. The Night Watchman

My comments might sound critical, so first I want to say that almost anything Louise Erdrich writes is better than about 90 percent of what else is out there. I do think her earlier work (Tracks, Love Medicine) is her best work. Michael Dorris and Erdrich had a synergy that created magical works.

This novel is a bit of a departure for Erdrich. It's set on the Turtle Mountain reservation and the main character, Thomas Wazhashk, is based on Erdrich's grandfather, who was the tribal chairman during the time the novel takes place. He worked as a night watchman and fought the efforts in the 1950s to "emancipate" the Indians:

"Emancipated. But they were not enslaved. Freed from being Indians was the idea. Emancipated from their land. Freed from the treaties that Thomas's father and grandfather had signed and that were promised to last forever. So as usual, by getting rid of us, the Indian problem would be solved. Overnight the tribal chairman job had turned into a struggle to remain a problem. To not be solved."

As to be expected, Thomas is the most developed character in the novel. And that's part of the problem for me. There are other characters who piqued my interest, but they remained flat; it's almost as though when Erdrich takes her focus off Thomas, she is lost

There is a lot going on here. There is a secondary storyline that involves sexual exploitation of Native women. But it isn't fully explored and takes away from the Termination issue. Or at least, Erdrich could do more to show that if the tribe were terminated as a tribe, there were no options available. Life off the rez was not necessarily a good thing.

So, in the end, interesting novel about an interesting time period in Indian history. But I felt the same way about this novel that I felt about The Future Home of the Living God. It could have cooked a little longer.

Still, Erdrich fans will enjoy. I read in an interview that she thinks she might have said everything she has to say about her people, so who knows how many more books there will be? Each one is a gift.

Next: Hamnet arrived in the mail just as I finished The Night Watchman, so I took it as a sign.

126RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 28, 2020, 12:20pm

Beautiful review of The Night Watchman, Beth.

127BLBera
maaliskuu 28, 2020, 12:29pm

Thanks Kay. I always find something to love about Erdrich's novels.

128BLBera
maaliskuu 28, 2020, 12:29pm

Thanks Kay. I always find something to love about Erdrich's novels.

129BLBera
maaliskuu 29, 2020, 12:52pm


35. Norse Mythology
I'd wanted to listen to Gaiman's reading, and this worked really well as an audiobook. Each chapter is a different story about the Norse gods, so it was easy to stop and then start again later. Although some stories referred to earlier events, it was easy to keep the thread of the narrative in my head. Gaiman is a good reader, expressive yet unobtrusive. I will look for more of his work read by him.

130BLBera
maaliskuu 30, 2020, 7:25pm


36. Hamnet
I loved this novel. Now I'm trying to describe what strikes me about it. O'Farrell has written a novel about a family: the father (who is never named), the wife Agnes, and three children: Susanna, Judith and Hamnet. O'Farrell has taken and used the few existing details of Shakespeare's life and created a family we learn to love. Especially Agnes, as she grieves for her son. This brought tears to my eyes:

"She cannot understand it. She, who can hear the dead, the unspoken, the unknown, who can touch a person and listen to the creep of disease along the veins...She cannot find, cannot locate the spirit of her own child. She waits in these places, she keeps her ear tuned, she sifts through the sounds and wants and disgruntlements of there, noisier, beings, but she cannot hear him, the only one she wants to hear. There is nothing. Just silence."

The description is marvelous -- from the beginning scene of the empty house when Hamnet is searching for help because Judith is sick, to the end, with the play -- the detailed setting allows us to experience this family's life.

There is a depth of feeling and sense of loss here, but there is also the play, in the end. These lives will never be forgotten.

Wonderful historical fiction. I know I will return to sections of this novel again and again.

131RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 30, 2020, 8:25pm

A new Maggie O'Farrell? I'm thrilled!

132BLBera
maaliskuu 30, 2020, 10:16pm

She's one of my favorites, Kay, and though this is different from her other work, it is wonderful.

133japaul22
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 31, 2020, 8:45am

I've never read anything by Maggie O'Farrell somehow but this one caught my eye when I saw it reviewed recently. It sounds right up my alley - do you think it's an ok place to start?

Oh, I see it doesn't come out til July here. Did you get an early copy?

134lisapeet
maaliskuu 31, 2020, 12:51pm

>130 BLBera: Oh good, glad you liked it! I've got it on the pile from the last conference I went to (last conference I'm going to for a while, I guess) and am looking forward to it. The idea sounds like a really good one, and O'Farrell seems like a good one to pull it off.

135BLBera
maaliskuu 31, 2020, 2:16pm

>133 japaul22: O'Farrell is one of my favorite authors, Jennifer. I think it doesn't matter where you start. The others of hers I have read are not historical fiction, so this is a departure for her. I've read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Instructions for a Heatwave and This Must Be the Place. I loved them all. I ordered a copy from Book Depository; I couldn't wait. I'd look at the descriptions and pick up the one that sounds most appealing.

>134 lisapeet: It is wonderful, Lisa. The way she structured it, her description, it all worked. I am always amazed when a writer take a historical event that we know the outcome of and still create tension and make us want to keep reading. I am looking at my comments, and one thing I didn't mention is that her creation of Agnes is wonderful. She really brings the character to life. Agnes is the star of the novel.

136BLBera
maaliskuu 31, 2020, 3:36pm


37. New and Selected Poems 2

This is a wonderful collection; I've shared some of the poems. It's interested to see how her style and tone have changed over the years. The poems are from collections ranging from 1994 to 2005. I love her close observation of nature.

137BLBera
huhtikuu 5, 2020, 11:48am


38 The Most Fun We Ever Had is a great first novel. It is the story of David and Marilyn Sorenson and their four daughters over the forty years of their marriage. Lombardo starts in the present and moves to the past to fill in the back story. Characters and relationships are revealed layer by layer, and we see the complexity of a family:

"It struck her how universal this particular take on her marriage seemed to be, among all of her daughters, Gillian, her father-in-law: everyone on the outside assumed that she and David were bulletproof. Her kids would never fully understand her, just as she'd never fully understand her own parents and just as she, in close proximity to this girl, once a tiny baby who'd grown inside her body, would never fully understand her kids."

My only complaint is that this, at 500+ pages is long, and at about page 400, my attention started to wane. But, overall, worth the time - a wonderful family portrait.

138kidzdoc
huhtikuu 6, 2020, 4:52am

Hamnet sounds very interesting, Beth. Hopefully it will be chosen for this year's Booker Prize longlist. I've read one of Maggie O'Farrell's books, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, which I enjoyed.

139BLBera
huhtikuu 6, 2020, 7:47pm

I haven't read O'Farrell's memoir, but I have enjoyed her fiction. Hamnet is excellent historical fiction. And her writing is amazing.

I hope you are well, Darryl. You physicians and other health care professionals are really on the front lines these days, and I appreciate all you do.

141NanaCC
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 12:06pm

>140 BLBera: I saw this last night, Beth, and it was really delightful.

142BLBera
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 12:54pm

>141 NanaCC: Hi Colleen. How are you doing? You were kind of in the middle of a move, no?

I hope you are all well.

I plan to watch the SGN every week. I haven't laughed so much for a while.

143NanaCC
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 11:02pm

>142 BLBera: Yes, we will be moving, Beth. We have a June 30 closing on a condo in Massachusetts. The workmen finished the things we were having done in our townhouse about a week and a half ago. We still need to paint two bedrooms and the basement. My daughter and son and their spouses were supposed to come last weekend for a painting “party”, but because of the virus, we’ve decided to wait. Of course that means my house still isn’t listed. I’m hoping once we do, that it will sell quickly. Other than the stress over that, we are doing ok. My hubby isn’t really taking the isolation part very well. Today he just took a short ride in the car to get out of the house. I told him no stopping, and surprisingly he listened.

We need more laughter. We have a group text with my kids and a couple of cousins. Every day we are posting funny things that we see on Twitter or Facebook. That episode of SGN was one. It was just what I needed.

144sallypursell
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 11:55pm

>143 NanaCC: What is SGN?

146lisapeet
huhtikuu 8, 2020, 8:08am

>140 BLBera: Love that, and hadn't known about the video series. Thanks!

147BLBera
huhtikuu 8, 2020, 9:36am

>143 NanaCC: We definitely need to laugh more, Colleen. My heart goes out to you. Big changes like moves are always hard and added challenges like COVID only make it harder. I suspect we'll have a mental health crisis to go along with the virus. I've watched the SGN episode more than once.

148BLBera
huhtikuu 8, 2020, 9:39am

>144 sallypursell: See Liz's links, Sally. They are hilarious.

>145 ELiz_M: Thanks Liz.

>146 lisapeet: You are welcome, Lisa.

Last night I was thinking that it's time I read Bossy Pants. I think my daughter listened to it during her commute, and she told me that at times she laughed so hard that she had to pull the car over.

149RidgewayGirl
huhtikuu 8, 2020, 12:54pm

>148 BLBera: Bossypants is good in print but great as an audiobook.

150BLBera
huhtikuu 8, 2020, 2:43pm

I know my daughter has the CD, but I'm going to check to see if my library has an audiobook.

151BLBera
huhtikuu 15, 2020, 7:37pm


39. The French Lieutenant's Woman. In this novel John Fowles uses the Victorian novel to comment on the mores of the time. Fowles, from the start of this post-modern metafiction, breaks through the view between the story and the reader. The narrator tells us: "The story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind."

While I admire the virtuosity of his accomplishment, the intrusiveness of the narrator makes it hard to care about characters. Instead, we view them as types from a Victorian novel.

Normally I would enjoy the intellectual exercise of reading this, but it required more brain power than I have at present. It didn't help that I had an old mass market paperback with teeny print.

If anyone would like my copy, let me know. I am happy to pass it on, tiny print and all.

Some escapist fiction next, I think.

152BLBera
huhtikuu 15, 2020, 9:25pm

40. Lady of Quality is another amusing story by Georgette Heyer. Miss Annis Wychwood is twenty-nine and unmarried and enjoys her independence. When she finds a young lady in a broken carriage at the side of the road, she takes her in, starting an enjoyable romp through Bath society.

As usual, Heyer's secondary characters add enjoyment to the story: we have Maria, a companion who is "an infernal gabster"; Sir Geoffrey, Annis' brother, pompous but easily manipulated by his soft spoken wife Amabel.

Great COVID reading.

153avaland
huhtikuu 16, 2020, 4:05pm

>106 BLBera: It occurs to me that I have a reader's copy of the Offil book somewhere around here. Good to know it was an interesting read.

>151 BLBera: Gosh, I think I read that in the early 80s, a reprint from one of the book clubs. Of course, I saw the movie. I am often tempted to reread something, but then I talk myself out of (there are just too many books out there)

154BLBera
huhtikuu 16, 2020, 7:39pm

>153 avaland: The French Lieutenant's Woman was a reread for me, but I read it in 1983; that's the date in the book anyway. I remembered very little. It is actually a book that would benefit from a reread, I think. Fowles has created an interesting intellectual exercise here.

I thought Weather was a lovely little book.

155sallypursell
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 16, 2020, 10:07pm

>151 BLBera: >152 BLBera: I loved The French Lieutenant's Woman, and I liked the narrator's voice in it--the double ending too. Different music for different voices, hmmm?

It almost goes without saying that I loved A Lady of Quality, which is not by Frances Burnett, of course. Or did she write one too?

I'll be darned! She did, and it was a huge bestseller in the US. Life is an endless surprise. It's at Project Gutenberg. I'll have to read it. (added later)

156BLBera
huhtikuu 22, 2020, 2:49pm

>155 sallypursell: Sally - I enjoyed The French Lieutenant's Woman - it wasn't a book I loved -- I think the distance from the characters makes it harder to care about them, while admiring the intellectual exercise of the project. I did think the two endings were great.

157BLBera
huhtikuu 25, 2020, 8:02am


41. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
In the Afterword to Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara explains the inspiration for this story. She was a reporter for years, focusing on young people. She says that in writing the novel she "was conscious of the narratives we craft to make sense of sadness and chaos, as Jai and others do in this book, and all the ways in which such stories may comfort or even fail us." Yet, she emphasizes the fact that this is not her story.

While this is the story of Jai, Pari, and Faiz, three nine-year-olds who live int he slums of an Indian city, it is also the story of countless children living in poverty. When children start to disappear, Jai influenced by cop shows on TV, decides to become a detective and find his friends. He enlists his friends Pari and Faiz, classmates and neighbors, to help him. The investigation reveals that not only are poor children disposable, girls and Muslims are even lower status. One neighbor even asks why there is so much fuss for one kid.

Yet, Jai's narrative voice is optimistic despite the dreariness of his living conditions, the hunger, pollution, danger. The sights and smells of the slum come alive with Anappara's description. So, while the story is sad, it is not unrelentingly dreary.

158kidzdoc
huhtikuu 26, 2020, 10:30am

>157 BLBera: Nice review, Beth. I may read that novel later this year.

159BLBera
huhtikuu 26, 2020, 6:05pm

Thanks Darryl. I think you would like it. I hope you are well.

160BLBera
huhtikuu 28, 2020, 8:11pm


42. An American Sunrise is Joy Harjo's, our poet laureate's, latest collection. Harjo is the first Native American poet laureate and is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is a poet, performer, musician. This collection contains a variety of work: poems honoring the earth, poems of remembrance, testimony from the Trail of Tears, love poems, and homages to Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich and Gwendolyn Brooks. In fact, the titular "An American Sunrise," is a response to Brooks' "We Real Cool" -- very cool.

I've quoted from a few of her poems as I read through the collection. This will be a collection I revisit.

161BLBera
huhtikuu 30, 2020, 9:06am


43. Victim 2117 is the newest installment in the Department Q series. In this novel, we learn about Assad's past. As an enemy from his past emerges, Assad and Carl rush to prevent a terrorist attack with a devastating personal cost to Assad. Other storylines include a Spanish journalist investigating a murdered refugee, victim 2117, and in Copenhagen, a domestic terrorist.

I think there was a bit too much going on, plot wise, but it was satisfying to learn more about Assad's past. It makes me wonder if there will be more Department Q books.

162BLBera
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 8:51pm


44. Girl is the story of one of the girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram. Told in first person, the girl tells of the rapes, beatings, and, finally, escape. But the world has changed and Girl is no longer sure of her place in it.

Beautifully written, this is a heartbreaking story, yet also one of of survival and resilience. It might seem a bit odd that a white octagenarian Irish woman writes this story, but that is another discussion.

163BLBera
toukokuu 6, 2020, 9:15am


46. The Waters of Eternal Youth is the twenty-fifth book in the Guido Brunetti series. This one started slowly, but the setting, the food, and the familiar characters drew me in, finally, for another entertaining read.

In this one, Guido is asked to look into an incident that occurred fifteen years earlier. At the time, it was considered an accident. Now, when a friend of his mother-in-law asks him to investigate it, Guido can't refuse. At first, there seems to be nothing to help find an answer, but Guido persists and finally uncovers what happened.

164BLBera
toukokuu 7, 2020, 12:31pm


47. Sula is short but powerful. The titular character is an original, someone I won't forget soon. Born in 1910, a black girl didn't have many choices, yet Sula manages to live life as she chooses. As she tells Nel: "I sure did live in this world...Girl, I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me."

The tragedy, of course, is the fact that Sula isn't allowed to be anything else. There is lots of lost potential here. Still, as Sula says, "...my lonely is mine."

This early Morrison is wonderful. I will definitely read this again.

165BLBera
toukokuu 9, 2020, 6:14pm


48. Turbo Twenty-Three is another Stephanie Plum story. This one starts with Lulu and Stephanie commandeering a semi and destroying a police car. The zaniness continues when Stephanie goes undercover in an ice cream factory. This is the second book I've listened to, and it works really well as an audiobook. I'll probably continue the series on audio.

Entertaining.

166BLBera
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 2020, 9:54am


49. Actress is a wonderful novel. It is not only a loving portrait of a flawed mother, but Anne Enright also captures what it's like to live in the spotlight. Her descriptions of theater life and Dublin are wonderful. Some examples. An empty room after a party: "...the reception rooms empty and disastrous the furniture askew, and everywhere the silhouettes of bottles and glasses like a miniature cityscape." Her mother as she leaves the house: "Finally, at the hall door, she turned to the mirror to put herself together and this was a wonderful thing to witness -- the way she locked eyes with her own reflection and fixed, by some imperceptible shift, into her public self."

Norah Fitzmaurice, after an interview about her famous actress mother, decides to write about her mother. She emphasizes the mother; people always ask her about Katherine O'Dell the actress, but Norah knew her first as a mother. As Norah remembers her mother's life, the story reveals the pressures the public puts on stars and their families.

This is my favorite Enright to date. I loved the characters, setting, and the writing.

167RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 11, 2020, 1:00pm

>166 BLBera: Enright has become an author I'll read automatically, and I recently picked up a copy of this one. Glad it's good, but I'd expect nothing else.

168BLBera
toukokuu 11, 2020, 2:39pm

Hi Kay - What have you read by Enright? I've only read a couple of other ones. One I really liked and one was so so. I loved this one, so I'd like to hear some recommendations.

169RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 11, 2020, 8:03pm

>168 BLBera: I loved The Green Road and while I'm swimming against the current on this, I thought The Forgotten Waltz was the best novel about infidelity that I've read.

170BLBera
toukokuu 12, 2020, 9:00am

Thanks Kay. I will look for The Green Road; The Forgotten Waltz is one that I have read, and I did like it a lot.

171BLBera
toukokuu 13, 2020, 8:34am

I'm enjoying reading young Native poets in New Poets of Native Nations. Heid Erdrich (Louise's sister) has selected twenty-one Native poets first published in the 21st century.

So far:

I really admire Layli Long Soldier, an Oglala Lakota poet, especially her poem "38," about the thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862.

Tommy Pico is from the Viejas reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation. His poems are long, but I found excerpts from "Nature Poem" powerful:

I can't write a nature poem
bc it's fodder for the noble savage
narrative. I wd slap a tree across the face,
I say to my audience.

...

Look, I'm sure you really do must want to wear those dream catcher
earrings. They're beautiful. I'm sure you don't mean any harm. I'm sure
you don't really think abt us at all. I'm sure you don't understand the
concept of off-limits. But what if by not wearing a headdress in yr music
video or changing yr damn mascot and perhaps adding .05% of personal
annoyance to your life for the twenty minutes it lasts, the 103 young ppl
who tried to kill themselves on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation over
the past four months wanted to live 50% more

172dchaikin
toukokuu 13, 2020, 1:31pm

Thanks for the Pico excerpts. I’m just catching up with your thread and really enjoyed your commentary on these newer novels.

Too many post I just read for commenting, but I’m glad you enjoy Sulla, among my favorites, and I was interested in your comments on Anne Enright, who I haven’t read, very intrigued by Hamnet and the comments on O’Farrell, and Dominicana, Weather, Queenie, Erdrich etc.

173BLBera
toukokuu 13, 2020, 8:28pm

>172 dchaikin: You are welcome. I am enjoying reading some new, young, poets. I have read some excellent new novels recently. As soon as I turn my grades in, I will officially be on break. At least until I find out what my fall semester will look like.

174BLBera
toukokuu 13, 2020, 8:37pm


50. Your House Will Pay. This novel is based on a true story. In 1991, Latasha Harlins, 15, was shot and killed by a store owner. As in the novel, the store owner received no jail time.

While the story shows the events of 1991, most of it takes place during a few months in 2019, almost thirty years after the death of Ava Matthews. The story follows Ava's family, as well as the family of the Korean woman who killed her. Explosive events bring the family together once more.

This is compelling reading. This novel shows the institutional racism that has incarcerated so many black men and taken away their choices. But it also shows the very different life of Grace Park, who lives oblivious to her mother's past and whose experience with the justice system is very different: "Grace had always believed, without really thinking, that the world was fair and reasonable. There were systems and structures to keep society alive and safely regulated, and it didn't make sense for her to mistrust them..."

Can two families with such different life experiences ever find common ground?

I found this novel thought provoking and hard to put down.

175BLBera
toukokuu 14, 2020, 9:24am


51. Bossypants is an entertaining and honest memoir. Besides being very talented and funny, Fey is thoughtful. She brings up issues that affect many women: juggling being a mother with long working hours; sexism in the workplace; and unrealistic expectations regarding appearance are just a few of the things she talks about in this book.

We learn about her work on "SNL" and "30 Rock," and how she became Sarah Palin. I want to go back and binge watch "30 Rock."

I don't usually read celebrity bios, but if you're going to read one, this is a good one.

176dchaikin
toukokuu 14, 2020, 10:47am

>174 BLBera: I know a little about this story. Interesting that there is a novel based on it.

>175 BLBera: : ) I might check this out sometime. Looks entertaining

177BLBera
toukokuu 14, 2020, 12:19pm

>176 dchaikin: I've heard that Bossypants is even better as an audiobook, if you like that format. It's read by Fey. My library didn't have a copy, so I read a hard copy I had on hand.

178BLBera
toukokuu 16, 2020, 1:41pm


52. The Long Call is an excellent start to a new series by Ann Cleeves, the author of the excellent Shetland and Vera series. This one is set in Devon, and once again, Cleeves uses the setting to her advantage, giving us a vivid sense of the small towns and beaches that make up the county.

Matthew Venn, the detective is an interesting, complex character. He had a difficult upbringing and is a gay police officer. I look forward to watching him grow in future books.

The story starts with a murder on the beach, not far from Matthew and his husband's house. The murdered man is an enigma, leading to frustration on the part of the investigators. Is the victim more than a homeless drunk? The investigation leads to Woodyard, a community center run by Matthew's husband Jonathan, further complicating the case. Intricately plotted, there's a lot going on here, yet Cleeves manages to pull all the threads together for a satisfying conclusion.

I look forward to the next book in this series.

Now, on to Wolf Hall!

179BLBera
toukokuu 16, 2020, 1:52pm

A poem by Laura Da', a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe:

Passive Voice

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.

Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting "by zombies"
after each one.

Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.

I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway's historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village--

Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.

Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood--
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.

I am loving this collection of New Poets of Native Nations

180NanaCC
toukokuu 16, 2020, 8:37pm

I loved Bossy Pants, Beth, and audio is the way to go, I think. It was very good.

181BLBera
toukokuu 16, 2020, 8:57pm

My daughter has the CD, Colleen, so I will borrow it at some point.

182BLBera
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 26, 2020, 9:59am


53. Wolf Hall is a marvelous achievement. Mantel not only creates a vivid, living portrait of an interesting man, but also recreates an era. I feel as if I've just spent a week in Tudor England. I suspect it won't be long before I continue with the trilogy.

183lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 26, 2020, 12:14pm

>182 BLBera: It's really something, isn't it? I reread it in March, and loved it every bit as much as—probably more than—the first time I read it ten years ago. I'm looking forward to rereading Bring Up the Bodies soon, and then finally diving into the final one.

>179 BLBera: Also I've wishlisted New Poets of Native Nations. That was a terrific sample, thanks.

184dchaikin
toukokuu 26, 2020, 2:03pm

>179 BLBera: thanks for sharing

>182 BLBera: I need to reread Wolf Hall ... and then get to the rest of the series.

185BLBera
toukokuu 26, 2020, 5:58pm

>183 lisapeet: It is amazing, Lisa. I have a long one to read for my book club in June, but I think I'll probably try to read the second and third one sometime this summer.

The Erdrich poetry collection is a good one. Some of the poets speak to me more than others, but overall, it's a great collection. My favorites so far have been Tommy Pico, Laura Da', and Layli Long Soldier. I'll look for their individual collections.

>184 dchaikin: You are welcome. Wolf Hall will definitely be one of my reading highlights this year.

186dchaikin
toukokuu 26, 2020, 11:56pm

I’m still thinking about the poem. Tried to explain it to wife, then finally came back here and read it to her. For all it’s seriousness and bitterness, it’s just really playful too.

187BLBera
toukokuu 27, 2020, 8:43am

>186 dchaikin: Yes, it is playful. It fits into the Native American trickster tradition.

188BLBera
toukokuu 27, 2020, 5:31pm

54. Crewel World is a cozy audiobook I just finished listening to. It was OK. It didn't matter if I blanked out for a while. I don't feel compelled to read or listen to any more in this series.

189auntmarge64
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 2020, 9:25pm

>106 BLBera:. I don't recall running across Jenny Offill before, but apparently lots of readers have, because the library to which I belong has 45 ebook copies of Weather, all on reserve! I've added my name - sounds right up my alley. (There are 143 people ahead of me! )

>130 BLBera:. I'm considering Hamnet after reading your review. I'm not big on reading fictionalized treatments of real historical figures, but now I'm curious. Recently I watched the British comedy series "Upstart Crow", which covered this period in Shakespeare's life, and was surprised by how tastefully it was done in the midst of raunchy hilarity.

190BLBera
toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:10pm

Hi Margaret. I hope it doesn't take too long for Weather to become available. I've found that often the ebooks don't seem to take as long as the physical copies.

Another friend also recommended "Upstart Crow" - I have been looking for it. Hamnet really centers on the mother. I absolutely loved it.

191BLBera
toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:14pm


55.A Conspiracy of Bones - I've enjoyed this series, but I think it's getting tired. In this outing, there wasn't so much forensic anthropology going on. In fact, there was so much going on, it was hard to follow the plot.

Temperance Brennan is in Charlotte and it's summer. She's not working because of a feud with the new ME. When a body is found after being partially eaten by feral hogs, Temperance expects to be called in to help identify the body. When she isn't, she decides to investigate on her own. The investigation takes her to the world of conspiracy theories, missing children, talk radio extremists, etc. It was a bit too much.

Or is this just lacking in comparison with the wonderful Wolf Hall? Anyway, time to choose another book.

192auntmarge64
toukokuu 30, 2020, 1:22pm

>190 BLBera:. Upstart Crow is available on Britbox only, as far as I've seen. Worth a month's fee, I think. :)

193BLBera
toukokuu 30, 2020, 1:49pm

Good to know, Margaret. Thanks.

194RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 30, 2020, 2:04pm

>191 BLBera: I really loved the Kathy Reichs series for awhile, but the quality dropped off sharply after the first few books.

195BLBera
toukokuu 30, 2020, 2:38pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: I agree Kay. This last one was probably the last one I'll read. There are too many good mysteries out there.

196BLBera
toukokuu 31, 2020, 6:10pm

56. The Giver of Stars was easy to listen to. The topic, the Packhorse Library of Kentucky was interesting. I didn't love this as much as some people did; I thought the characters were flat, but it was an entertaining audiobook.

197BLBera
kesäkuu 3, 2020, 4:01pm



57.Lockdown is a murder mystery set during a pandemic. In his foreword, May describes how when he wrote this novel in 2005, no one wanted to publish it because it was too unrealistic. So he put it away until now.

Jack MacNeil is on his last day as a police officer when he is given a bag of children's bones recovered from a building site. He is determined to find out who the child was and what happened to her. All of this is complicated by the bird flu pandemic raging through London. The fear, the masks, the social distancing, the stay-home orders, all of that is here. Quite an exciting read.

198BLBera
kesäkuu 4, 2020, 9:27pm



58. Old in Art School is a memoir that asks a lot of questions about aging, art, and race. Nell Painter, a respected historian, decides at age 64 to go to art school. Once there, she is surprised by the resistance she encounters and some of the questions that are raised: "What counts as art? Who is an artist? Who decides?" are just a few of the questions. She finds that being the oldest student in her cohort, as well as the only black makes her teachers and peers discount her.

In her honest account of juggling life and art, she finds answers to some of the questions, at least for herself.

Excellent memoir -- thanks to the LTers who recommended it. I know there were a few.

Now, on to The Overstory.

199dchaikin
kesäkuu 5, 2020, 4:12pm

>198 BLBera: i liked your review and it makes me think I should take the CR inspiration, like you did, an actually go read old in art school.

200BLBera
kesäkuu 5, 2020, 9:29pm

>199 dchaikin: Thanks. They were pretty brief comments; there's a lot to think about in this memoir, quite a lot about the process of making art, and lots of artists as well.

201BLBera
kesäkuu 12, 2020, 12:17pm


59.The Overstory
Trees are the real stars of The Overstory, which I loved although I do have a few reservations. Overall, I enjoyed the stories of the characters, and thought the structure Powers used worked well; the connections between the characters didn't seem contrived.

The characters served mostly as background to the trees. As I finished the novel, I didn't think any of them had much depth. This may be because there were too many stories. I don't think that all of them were necessary. This leads to my other reservation; I thought the novel was a little long. I was fully engrossed until about the last 100 pages.

Overall, though, this is a wonderful novel, recommended. I will certainly look at trees differently. I think perhaps this novel suffered in comparison, at least slightly, to Wolf Hall, which is a hard book to follow.

I can't wait to see what my book club thinks when we meet this afternoon. I will report back.

Next: Writers & Lovers

202dchaikin
kesäkuu 12, 2020, 1:48pm

I’m interested in your review because I would like to read Richard Powers sometime. Not surprised he doesn’t match up with Mantel.

203BLBera
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 10:58am

>202 dchaikin: Still, The Overstory is excellent, Dan. My book group commented on the lovely descriptions. The trees are the real stars of the story.

204stretch
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 10:15pm

>201 BLBera: Tree centeric story sounds so interesting. At 500+ pages it does sound a bit long, think I'llhave to try it out.

205BLBera
kesäkuu 14, 2020, 9:22am

>204 stretch: If you are interested in the environment, especially trees, you should definitely give it a try.

206RidgewayGirl
kesäkuu 14, 2020, 12:45pm

>201 BLBera: I thought the strongest part of the book were the opening chapters, that read like short stories. And I was not entirely happy with the women characters, especially the manic pixie tree girl. But so many people adore this book.

207BLBera
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 10:14am

>206 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay - I really did like The Overstory, but I didn't love it as much as some did. My favorite bits were the descriptions and the stuff about trees. I learned a lot, and the amount of research Powers must have done is pretty amazing. My book club was impressed with his writing. This is the first novel of his that I have read, so I will be looking at others by him.

208BLBera
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 15, 2020, 10:28am


61. Writers & Lovers is a wonderful book and I loved it! Part of the attraction of the novel is the amount of detail and the great sense of place. I've never been to Boston or been a waiter, and King makes me feel as though I'm walking along with Casey. I SEE her ride to work on her banana bike. And it's about writing, words, and love of books. What's not to love about that?

Casey Peabody tells her own story. At the beginning of the novel she is a hot mess. Yet, there is something admirable about her commitment to writing. She is thirty-one and has been working on a novel for six years. She owes a HUGE amount of student loans and lives in a garage. Luckily she works in a restaurant and can eat at work because she can only afford ramen noodles at home. Her mom recently died suddenly and her lover dumps her. And Casey keeps on writing.

There's a lot here about men vs. women authors and about the sacrifice required to write; most of the writers Casey knows work at other jobs. In the end, what Casey says about reading resonates: " I liked reading, but I was picky about books. I think the enthusiasm came when I started writing. Then I understood how hard it is to re-create in words what you see and feel in your head...That reverberation for me is what is most important about literature."

This one did reverberate for me. King makes us cheer for Casey throughout the novel.

209RidgewayGirl
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 11:23am

>208 BLBera: I'm really looking forward to this one.

210japaul22
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 12:00pm

I loved the beginning of The Overstory. As the book became more about the people and less about the trees, I lost interest. I still thought it was a great concept.

211dchaikin
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 1:15pm

>208 BLBera: Sounds interesting and there are some echoes of this is my current audiobook, especially the aspect about life and figuring out how to write. (The book is Suri Hustvedt’s Memories of the Future )

212BLBera
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 2:27pm

>209 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay - I loved it. I'll watch for your comments.

>210 japaul22: Hi Jennifer - I agree that idea behind The Overstory was a good one. I thought there were too many people. I think Powers could have developed better fewer characters.

>211 dchaikin: Hustvedt is one of my favorites. I must get to Memories of the Future. I think the copy got buried under a pile.

213dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 15, 2020, 4:30pm

Beth - This is my first time reading Hustvedt. I’m enjoying just spending time in her mindset. I’ll have to try others sometime.

214ELiz_M
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 9:02pm

>207 BLBera: I was very impressed by the two books by R. Powers that I have read. The Echo Maker was more accessible, but Galatea 2.2 is more memorable.

215BLBera
kesäkuu 16, 2020, 12:49pm

>213 dchaikin: Hustvedt is so smart; I love reading both her fiction and her essays.

>214 ELiz_M: Thanks Liz, good to know.

216BLBera
kesäkuu 17, 2020, 10:04am


62. A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx
Finally! I've been working my way through this for a couple of years, starting and stopping, but I've finally finished. Showalter, probably best known for her work about British women writers, A Literature of Their Own, has written a comprehensive history of American women writers. It beings in the 1660s and ends in the 1990s.

Showalter's research and scholarship are impressive; she has brought to light many writers who have been forgotten, while emphasizing the importance of better known writers. She says, "From its inception, women's writing in America has incorporated the unconventional along with the predictable, the transgressive and rebellious alongside genteel feminine conformity. Rowing against wind and tide, as Harriet Beecher Stowe described herself, American women writers persisted in leaving their record on shore and in wilderness."

She does seem optimistic at the end that women's writing is no longer viewed separately or as less important than that of men, but I think there is still a gap.

I'd love to see this work updated and carried into this century. I recommend this to nerds like me who enjoy reading literary criticism, especially feminist criticism, not a large audience I think. Still I enjoyed it and have noted some new-to-me writers that I will check out.

217dchaikin
kesäkuu 17, 2020, 1:56pm

That sounds fascinating! (And seems to desperately need an update of these last 20 years)

218BLBera
kesäkuu 17, 2020, 2:12pm

I have the feeling Showalter will leave it for a younger colleague. :)

219BLBera
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 26, 2020, 9:07am


65. Fleishman Is in Trouble is an uneven first novel. I wish the whole novel were like the last fifty pages. The major problem is a lack of focus. At first it seems like Toby Fleishman is the narrator, but a few chapters in, we are suddenly introduced to a first person narrator, Libby, a friend of Toby's from his college years. The problem with Libby telling the story is that she seems to have access to all of Toby's thoughts and ideas.

Like Fates and Furies, this novel takes a look at both the husband's and wife's point of view in a marriage. Fates and Furies works a lot better. Rachel's point of view is limited to the very end of the novel. By this time, we have already heard so many bad things about her that it's hard to look at her side with sympathy.

Still, flipping gender roles and making Toby the "wife" in the story is an interesting concept. I just could have done with a more balanced story between the two spouses. I don't agree ""that...the only way to get someone to listen to a woman (is) to tell her story through a man."

The metafiction turn at the end is clever, but it doesn't work to tie the novel together. So, all in all, a first novel with promise.

220BLBera
kesäkuu 26, 2020, 9:05am

While at the lake, I also finished Vacationland, a wonderful novel of related stories set at a resort in northern Minnesota. I loved the characters and the description. It was our family book club selection, and while the overall opinion was positive, many didn't like the connected stories and the jumping back and forth in time.

I also read Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler's new book. I was disappointed. More a character study than a novel, it was too short. I would have liked to see more of Mortimer's family.

Next, historical fiction: The Turtle Catcher.

221BLBera
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 3:27pm


66. The Turtle Catcher is a good historical novel set in Minnesota during the early years of the twentieth century. The fictional town of New Germany is home to many German immigrants. The story focuses on the Richter family. While the children are all born in the States, their father has close ties to his German relatives. When WWI starts, neighbors start to look differently at the German community.

Helget has done a lot of research, and presents a detailed portrait of farm life in the early years of the century, especially the lives of women. I would have liked to see more about the persecution of the German immigrants, but that wasn't the focus of the story. It seems, however, that some things don't change.

Helget is a new-to-me writer, and I will check out her other adult novels. She seems to write mainly for young readers.

222AnnieMod
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 3:33pm

>219 BLBera: " The problem with Libby telling the story is that she seems to have access to all of Toby's thoughts and ideas."

I've noticed that in some new-ish novels and stories - it almost feels like the editor was asleep at the helm (or was not there at all). New authors can do blunders like that, they have the story in their mind -- that's where editors and/or beta readers are supposed to help.

>220 BLBera: >221 BLBera:

Vacationland and "The Turtle Catcher" sound very interesting.

223BLBera
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 7:25pm

>222 AnnieMod: I do notice a lack of editing in many books these days.

I am looking forward to the next book in the Vacationland trilogy, Annie.

224sallypursell
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:00pm

>208 BLBera: This one sounds great. I am purely a reader, I think, but this sounds inspiring.

225sallypursell
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:10pm

>220 BLBera: You really have a family book club? I wish we could do that, but we are all so different, I can't imagine it. I do enjoy giving books to my oldest son, and I had to stop with my daughter, because she said she moved so much she didn't want more books. One youngest son doesn't read books, and my middle son reads only certain types of fantasy.
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020 - Second half.