BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020 - Second half

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BLBera's (Beth's) Reading in 2020 - Second half

1BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 2020, 7:36am



I've been looking at a winter image all year; it's time for some summer. This is from Waves by Suzy Lee, a favorite of Scout's.

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: joulukuu 28, 2020, 6:57pm

Currently Reading

4BLBera
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

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

5BLBera
heinäkuu 1, 2020, 7:34am

Last book of June

67. Hid from Our Eyes is the new Russ Van Alstyne/Clare Fergusson novel. It's been awhile, but the wait was worth it. Not only do we catch up with the newly wedded couple and meet their son, but we are also treated to a well-plotted mystery that covers 50-plus years.

Russ faces new challenges at work. There is a ballot initiative to eliminate the police department, his department faces a lawsuit, and a body is found that mirrors other bodies found 50 and 34 years earlier. The similarities are uncanny, but how could one person be responsible? While struggling to solve the new death, Russ is finding it difficult to ignore the previous cases.

I had a hard time putting this one down.

6BLBera
heinäkuu 1, 2020, 7:34am

7VivienneR
heinäkuu 3, 2020, 3:51pm

What a joyful image to open your thread! Although I loved the winter graphic in part 1.

8BLBera
heinäkuu 4, 2020, 11:38am

Thanks Vivienne. It's so hot here right now, that I need some beach art.

9BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 6, 2020, 9:29am


68. New Poets of Native Nations is an excellent anthology composed of poets who have been published for the first time in the twenty-first century. There is a wide variety here, as expressed in an excerpt of a poem by Karenne Wood:

"My Standard Response"
I.
The first question is always phrased this way.
"So. How much Indian are you?"

II.
We did not live in tepees.
We did not braid our hair.
We did not fringe our shirts.
We did not wear war bonnets
We did not chase the buffalo.
We did not carry shields.
We were never Plains Indians.
We tried to ride,
but we kept falling off of our dogs.

Wood is a member of the Monacan tribe. Poets from all over the country and from a variety of tribes are represented. Some names were familiar, while others were new to me. Some of my favorites are: Laura Da', Eric Gansworth, Layli Long Soldier, Tommy Pico, and Karenne Wood.

For poetry lovers and for those interested in Native American writing. Each poet writes an introduction and mentions mentors, so I have quite a reading list from this anthology.

10RidgewayGirl
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 9:46am

Marvelous picture up top! That really captures the joy of splashing in a puddle.

I finished Writers and Lovers and I loved that book so much. I slowed down when I started nearing the end because I loved inhabiting her life like that, although it was an anxious read.

11BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 6, 2020, 1:01pm



69. Bring Up the Bodies continues the story of Thomas Cromwell that Mantel started in Wolf Hall. I thought Wolf Hall was better, but it may be because I knew what to expect, and I wasn't as awestruck as I was with Wolf Hall. However, this is still excellent historical fiction. This second part of the trilogy reveals a more ruthless side to Cromwell, and of course the fall of Anne Boleyn. I am anxious to read the third and final volume.

12BLBera
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 12:57pm

>10 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay - Writers & Lovers is one of my favorite reads this year. King does a good job with the character of Casey. It would be so easy to get tired of her, yet I didn't.

13dchaikin
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 1:08pm

>1 BLBera: seems like ages ago i read/showed this to my kids. I remember this exact image.

>9 BLBera: this native poetry sounds terrific
>11 BLBera: haven’t figured out when i’ll get to this trilogy. I have to reread Wolf Hall first.

Nice new thread.

14BLBera
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 1:21pm

>13 dchaikin: It is a favorite of my granddaughter's. I'll be sorry when/if she isn't interested in picture books. There are so many good ones.

I liked the Native American poetry collection because it exposed me to new-to-me writers. Not all of them grabbed me, but that is the case with any anthology, I think.

I was really anxious to read Bring Up the Bodies after loving Wolf Hall, but I think I'll pause for a bit before I continue with the last one.

15AlisonY
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 6:06pm

Another reminder that I really should give Wolf Hall a try...

16BLBera
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 7:36pm

>15 AlisonY: Hi Alison. And I thought I was the last person on LT to read it! I loved it, but the style won't appeal to everyone.

17AnnieMod
heinäkuu 6, 2020, 10:08pm

>15 AlisonY: If you decide to, give it at least 50-100 pages to work on you - the style IS weird but once it draws you in, it is a very pleasant read indeed. And the more you know about the Tudors, the better it works - you can see the unsaid, hiding under the surface. Not a requirement, it works even if you have never heard of the Tudors I suspect but still... :)

18VivienneR
heinäkuu 8, 2020, 8:59pm

>16 BLBera: No, you are not the last. I have it on the shelf but the size puts me off.

>17 AnnieMod: Good tip.

19BLBera
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:17pm

>18 VivienneR: Good to know I'm not the last, Vivienne. It was actually a pretty fast read for me. I would recommend giving any book about 50 pages before deciding it won't work. And, we don't all like the same things, and that's OK, too.

20sallypursell
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:18pm

>16 BLBera: I don't plan to read it for a while, and I haven't read it yet, so you are doubly not the last.

21BLBera
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:20pm

Thanks Sally. I see you posted on my previous thread.

About my family book club: We have a family reunion every two years, and the aunts and cousins participate in a book discussion. I am so lucky to belong to a family of readers.

22BLBera
heinäkuu 12, 2020, 9:38pm


70. The Shadow King

In her author's note, Mengiste says the novel is the story of Ethiopian women who fought in the war, inspired by the story of her great-grandmother. The premise of the novel sounded fascinating and I was really excited about it. But...there's a lot of other stuff here that takes the focus away from the women. There are interludes that tell us Haile Selassie's story, and there's a lot of time spent on one of the Italian soldiers, Ettore Navarra, a photographer.

The descriptions of photos are lovely and stark but do tend to slow down the story. Mengiste's writing is descriptive and poetic, and she leaves us with a keen sense of place.

I think the novel could be shorter, with greater focus on the women. Still, I learned a lot about an historical event about which I knew nothing.

Next: Afterlife, Julia Alvarez's new novel.

23BLBera
heinäkuu 14, 2020, 7:47pm


71. Afterlife

Julia Alvarez is one of my favorite writers, and her new novel doesn't disappoint.

Antonia Vega's husband dies of a heart attack on the day she retires from teaching at a small Vermont college. She is at a loss: "She recalls friends consoling her after Sam's service, saying that the hole in her heart would heal with time. But Antonia suspects this is not quite what will happen. More likely she will learn to live with a hole in her heart." This is the start of Alvarez's elegiac novel, a lyrical portrait of a woman working through loss as she tries to decide how she will be in the world without Sam.

We revisit the idea of sisterhood and immigration, frequent themes of Alvarez, as Antonia spends time with her sisters and gets involved with the undocumented immigrants who work on the farm next door. I enjoyed spending time with Antonia very much.

24BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2020, 7:47am


72. The Glass Hotel

I love how Mandel takes some characters from Station Eleven and creates an entirely new world. She has a little fun with it, too, as she references Station Eleven as Vincent considers the possibility of alternate realities: "Imagining an alternate reality where...the Georgia flu blossomed into an unstoppable pandemic and civilization collapsed." Fans of the previous novel will note this as well as appearances of characters from that novel. At first, I found it a little distracting, but Mandel soon drew me into the world of Hotel Caiette and I stopped trying to make connections, for the most part, anyway.

Hotel Caiette, the titular hotel is a five-star hotel on an isolated tip of Vancouver Island. It is owned by Jonathan Alkaites, who is also an investment manager running a Ponzi scheme. The people affected by Alkaitis circulate through the novel. Mandel creates vivid portraits of even the least consequential characters.

The structure is interesting, starting with Vincent falling from a ship and ending on the same scene. In between, Mandel skips around in time and place. I liked that but some readers may not.

In many ways this novel is about imagining other lives, other possibilities. There is regret both for actions done and for missed chances. Alkaitis, in prison, tries to imagine himself in a "counterlife." Vincent reinvents herself several times.

While there isn't a pandemic that destroys the world, the novel does give us the financial meltdown of 2008 and dishonest investment managers who destroy individuals' worlds.

Very rewarding read.

25BLBera
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 8:21am



73. Yellowrocket
This is a lovely collection of poetry. Boss plays with language, rhyme, and form, the key word being "play." There is a sense of wonder and playfulness in this collection that is very winsome. Many of the poems are close observations of nature. Fans of Mary Oliver would appreciate them. He ends with "Enough."

Enough

Enough is as good as a feast.
A bird is as good as a beast.
A morning's as good as a day.
Love me in your own way.

I will definitely pick up his other collections. First, though, I have to read a collection recently published by one of my colleagues.

26lisapeet
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 9:14am

>25 BLBera: I hadn't heard of this one—noted, thanks.

27BLBera
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 9:23am

He's from the Midwest, Lisa. I heard him read several years ago and was impressed. He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, and some of the farm poems are hilarious. I think he has two later collections as well.

28BLBera
heinäkuu 19, 2020, 4:00pm



74. Star Fall

This is an entertaining police procedural with Bill Slider's usual crew. His boss Superintendent Porson continues to murder the English language with his malapropisms and his detective sergeant Atherton continues to play the field.

In this case, a TV star is murdered, and there don't seem to be any indications that lead them to a solution. After a lot of leg work, they figure out who did it, but will they be able to prove it? Satisfying mystery with familiar characters. Enjoyable read.

29BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 21, 2020, 10:54am


75. How to Be an Antiracist
Kendi uses a combination of memoir, research and reflection to discuss his journey to become an antiracist. Yes, Blacks can be racist, one of the points he discusses in this important book. He is a bit repetitive in places, but that doesn't diminish the timeliness of his discussion.

30BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 21, 2020, 10:56am


76. Dear Edward
I had my doubts about this one, but it grabbed me right away. It's the story of Edward Adler, a twelve-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his parents and older brother. He's severely injured and traumatized, of course. The novel is about his learning to live with the fact of his survival and to cope with the weight of expectations that relations of victims place on him. On his first day of school: "The entire town seems to be present, and every eye in the parking lot is on their car. This must be the most highly attended pickup in the school's history."

The novel is well paced. Napolitano opens with the Adler family in the airport, along with a few of the passengers, and then tells us of the crash. She intersperses Edward's life with an account of the flight, so we get to know the passengers even though they are dead from the start of the novel.

This was more thoughtful than I expected. We see the damage inflicted by social media and the intrusiveness of people into private lives of victims. Compelling reading.

31BLBera
heinäkuu 25, 2020, 6:08pm


77.All Adults Here is a pleasant novel about a family. I enjoyed meeting Astrid, the matriarch, who comes out to her children at the beginning of the novel, and her children: Elliot, Porter, and Nicky. Still, the familial issues seemed similar to those of other domestic novels I've read, so I think I need a different type of read for the next little while.

I will definitely read more by Straub.

32BLBera
heinäkuu 27, 2020, 11:19am


78. Death in a Darkening Mist is the second in the series starring Lane Winslow. Set in the years after the end of WWII, Lane has moved to British Columbia in an effort to leave her memories of the war behind. Unfortunately, once again she is drawn into a murder investigation when a Russian is murdered. The man is a member of the Doukhobor community and Lane is called upon to translate.

Entertaining series with a great setting. I'll continue to follow Lane's adventures.

If anyone would like my copy, PM me your address and it's yours.

33BLBera
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 2020, 8:18pm


79. Under Ground is a novel based on the iron mine strike of 1916 in Northern Minnesota, on the Iron Range. I really like the way Marsnik builds up to the strike, describing the day-to-day life of the miners and their wives and letting us get to know the key characters.

Marsnik, the granddaughter of Slovenian immigrants, writes movingly of immigrants of many nationalities who only wanted a piece of the American dream; there were over thirty languages spoken on the Range. She writes, "The workers were unhappy with their jobs, but none... wanted to leave America. They simply wanted America to more closely resemble the America that had been in their dreams when they came over in the big ships."

This novel is timely; more than 100 years have passed and we still see the abuses of big companies abetted by the justice system. The strikers were non-violent, yet the deputies were given permission to shoot them if more than three assembled at a time. That's when the women came in; they weren't miners, so they took over the picketing!

I found the story riveting although it did end abruptly. The writing was somewhat uneven, but the story was so interesting that I could ignore it, for the most part.

34BLBera
elokuu 2, 2020, 7:55am


80. Valentine
Life is hard in the oil fields in the West Texas of the 1970s, where accidents on the oil rigs are commonplace. But life is even more dangerous for the women, as one of the narrators in Elizabeth Wetmore's excellent first novel comments: "And the women, how do we lose them? Usually, it's when one of the men kills them."

The novel opens with the brutal rape of a fourteen-year-old girl. Wetmore continues the thread of Gloria's story through a series of narrators, all women. In the various voices, we get a clear picture of the life of women in a community in the midst of an oil boom. The jobs created bring in a thriving economy, but they also bring in outsiders, who are often dangerous.

The women try to help each other as much as they can, with casseroles and stories. The stories are often sad and gruesome but convey a warning to young girls.

Really good first novel.

Next, I'm traveling to Ireland, in the midst of the Spanish flu outbreak in Emma Donoghue's new novel The Pull of the Stars.

35lisapeet
elokuu 2, 2020, 8:33am

>34 BLBera: Oh good, glad you liked it. As I've mentioned before, I grabbed this one because my husband and sister-in-law grew up in Lubbock, and I'm always interested to read more about what that experience could have (tangentially) been like. Interested to hear what you think about the Donoghue too... I don't have that one, but this can always be rectified.

36BLBera
elokuu 2, 2020, 11:59am

Lisa, I thought Wetmore did an excellent job with the setting. I could feel the sand and grit as I read.

37BLBera
Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 2020, 8:33am



81. The Pull of the Stars is set in a hospital room in Dublin over three days. The Spanish flu is decimating the population, and Donoghue uses this small space to show in microcosm the cost of the pandemic. Midwife nurse Julia Power works to save the lives of the pregnant mothers under her care, and their babies when they are born. Over the three days the novel takes place, we see her helplessness at the limits of the care she can offer.

Good historical fiction although I think Donoghue loses focus in the last part of the book. She throws in a relationship that comes as a surprise and doesn't really fit. But maybe that's just me. I would be interested in seeing what others think. Overall, I really liked this book.

38AlisonY
elokuu 5, 2020, 4:52am

>37 BLBera: Great to see a review of this. I've a birthday coming up soon, and I put this on my shortlist on Amazon (I thought giving my sister my main long list with hundreds of books might be off-putting!). I therefore may or may not be reviewing this soon, depending on what next week brings!

I enjoyed Room but didn't go crazy for it, so I wasn't especially looking for another Donoghue book but this was well reviewed in The Times.

39BLBera
elokuu 6, 2020, 9:46am

Well, I hope you have a happy birthday, Alison. I will be anxious to see what books you receive.

I haven't read Room yet -- perhaps the only person on LT not to have done so -- but I did read Akin, which I loved. I thought the first two-thirds of The Pull of the Stars was very good, and certainly timely, but the novel takes an unexpected turn toward the end, which I didn't feel was successful.

40sallypursell
elokuu 6, 2020, 12:19pm

>39 BLBera: I haven't read Room either.

41lisapeet
elokuu 6, 2020, 1:57pm

I didn't either... it never quite appealed to me. I remember really liking Slammerkin when it came out, though it was pretty bleak. Not sure what I'd think now, since it's been a while. But I do want to read this new one.

42BLBera
elokuu 6, 2020, 5:19pm

Hi Sally and Lisa - Well, I am not the last one, then. :)

Slammerkin does sound like one I would like. Lisa, I would love to hear your thoughts about the new one. I had some reservations about the end; she seemed to lose a little focus.

43AlisonY
elokuu 7, 2020, 11:17am

>39 BLBera: Thank you! Ironically I usually never get books for birthdays or Christmas as family think I've 'probably already read them', so looking forward to getting a new title or two.

44BLBera
elokuu 7, 2020, 11:26am

Alison, I am in the same boat. I rarely get books as gifts anymore. :(

45lisapeet
elokuu 7, 2020, 2:56pm

Ditto. I have one friend, though, who consistently sends me stuff, mostly backlist, that I don't have. He's uncanny, and has really neat taste. I owe him a big birthday package from February, which is sitting in the office I haven't been to since March.

46BLBera
elokuu 7, 2020, 8:32pm

>45 lisapeet: Good friend, Lisa! Will you go back to your office anytime soon? It sounds like working from home works for you.

47lisapeet
elokuu 8, 2020, 8:17am

>46 BLBera: He's true blue for 17 years or so. Yet another online friend from Readerville, though we've met in person by now.

I'm not going back to my office anytime soon, though my boss said if I wanted to go pick something up she could get me permission (!). We're going to be closed down for the foreseeable future, and will probably reopen on a staggered basis—but she says she'd ideally like to wait until there's a vaccine, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that overabundance of caution on their part. Of course, that's given the extreme privilege of almost all of us being able to do our jobs online, and the fact that I don't think anyone on our hardworking little team has used this as a way to slack off. If I do go back to pick up things like birthday gifts and some of my books (which I do miss!), I'd probably take my car down on a weekend to avoid the subway and so as not to have to schlep heavy stuff home by hand. On the other hand, those narrow, crowded little streets are awful to navigate by car... though maybe weekends are a bit better.

48BLBera
elokuu 8, 2020, 10:19am

You are lucky with your work, Lisa, as am I. While some of my friends and family have been furloughed, most have a spouse who is working, and some have now gone back to work. I wish I liked teaching online, but I just don't feel the same connection to students. Still, as the semester progresses, I may not have a choice.

49BLBera
elokuu 8, 2020, 8:27pm


82. A Children's Bible is a short novel with a lot going on. It begins with a group of friends vacationing in a large house somewhere on the East Coast. The twelve children, represented by the narrator, Evie, are contemptuous of their parents. There's a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe here. Then, a large storm hits and changes everything. The children leave the house, looking for a refuge. They find one, with an absentee Owner who lets them stay as long as they follow some rules.

The weather continues to destabilize things, changing the novel into an ecotopia, revealing a world that exists after the climate destroys the world as we know it. The children must figure out how to survive. Evie's brother Jack has a children's Bible and is "decoding" it. Will Jack find the answer? Lots of Biblical references here. The omnipotent Owner, the twelve children, the flood.

As usual, Millet gives us plenty to think about; I will definitely be reading this wonderful novel again.

50BLBera
elokuu 9, 2020, 10:19am


83. Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
In this engaging book about reading, Lesser explains the elements that she pays attention to as she reads. She discusses how plot and character are intertwined, the value of translations, the importance of truth, and advantages of physical books over e-readers, to name a few of the topics she covers. She loves Henry James, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, and Cervantes, and uses their works as examples, always admitting that reading is a very individual pastime. At the end she includes a list of 100 books she has enjoyed, explaining that it was difficult: "In the never-ending conversation about what might count as good literature, there are many worse things than being wrong."

I read this slowly and enjoyed her discussion. Some of Lesser's comments that resonated with me:

"Reading is not a ratings game, and to treat it as one is to diminish its pleasures and powers. Very little in the world can compare with the experience of reading, or even rereading, The Golden Bowl, but we cannot always be reading The Golden Bowl. Our moods and our tastes require other diversions, other satisfactions. The inveterate reader is not always looking for the Top Ten, the winnowed winners; on the contrary she is likely to be seeking out precisely those kinds of immersive experiences that allow her to forget all about such invidious comparisons."

"If there is anything I hate when I am reading a book, it is the sense that I am being lied to."

"We may think we are choosing what books to read, but they choose us as well."

"Pleasure reading is a hungry activity; it gnaws and gulps at its object, as if desirous of swallowing the whole thing in one sitting. But we need to slow down, and at times even come to a dead stop, if we are to savor all the dimensions of a literary work."

If anyone would like my copy, PM me your address and it's yours.

51lisapeet
elokuu 15, 2020, 7:42am

>46 BLBera: And he just did it again! Late birthday gifts: Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures and a beautiful little collection, Summer Solstice: An Essay. Neither of which I had, the first of which was on my wish list, and both of which look fabulous. How does he do it? He's never even seen my bookshelves... I want to say we're literarily connected on some deep level but I have the feeling the magic is all his.

52BLBera
elokuu 15, 2020, 10:26am

That is so cool, Lisa. Both of those books look fabulous. The fungus book looks interesting; and that is a sentence I never expected to say. :)

53BLBera
elokuu 15, 2020, 12:00pm


84. Olive, Again is a collection of linked stories that follows Olive Kitteridge, from Strout's previous novel. Strout writes beautifully and her characters are wonderful. I enjoyed visiting Olive again, in this book about aging. It shows how unforgiving aging can be, but it also shows that people do not lose their humanity when they are old. Lovely book.

The linked stories work really well, with the setting of Crosby, Maine -- almost a character itself -- uniting the book.

54BLBera
Muokkaaja: elokuu 23, 2020, 12:02pm


86. A Good Time for the Truth is a wonderful collection of personal essays by Minnesota writers of color. A variety of cultures are represented: Hmong, Vietnamese, African American, Latinx, and Indigenous, to name a few. Some authors include Kao Kalia Yang, David Mura, Heid Erdrich, and Andrea Jenkins.

The library has been hosting a number of virtual sessions with various authors, which have been informative. I've attended ones with Kalia Yang and Shannon Gibney. As one of the writers states, echoing several of the authors, "...if you fail to value a people's stories, you fail to value them." This collection is a good start.

I'll be using it in my classes.

55BLBera
elokuu 24, 2020, 6:32pm



87. Midnight's Children has been written about and commented on, so I'll be brief. This was a reread for me, but I found I remembered little of it. It is a dense novel, full of allegory, symbolism, and satire. But, at its core, it's a coming-of-age story, the story of Indian, as manifested in the life of a boy.

I found discussing this novel made me appreciate it more, but I think I'd like to read it again when my mind is less occupied with other things.

56BLBera
elokuu 28, 2020, 8:43am


88. One Year of Ugly is an entertaining novel with some truths about the plight of immigrants. I really enjoyed the story of the Palacios family, illegally in Trinidad after escaping from Venezuela in a boat. Ugly is a gangster who is blackmailing them after one of the family incurs a debt related to the immigration.

Yola, the narrator, is the star of the novel. Outspoken, her voice is unique and funny. She also sees clearly the problems of undocumented immigrants, which seem to the be same everywhere; it turns out that Venezuelans are despised by Trinidadians. Yola says, " in our under-the-radar lives, all people like us Palacios had was the helping hands of our oppressors...You have to be grateful for the employer who hires you under the table, even if it's doing bitch work for below minimum wage."

The end seems a bit contrived, but overall, this is entertaining and undemanding. Go along for the ride.

57AlisonY
elokuu 28, 2020, 9:15am

>55 BLBera: I've not read a single Rushdie novel because I have pre-conceived ideas that there will be too much magical realism in them for me. Have I jumped to the wrong conclusion?

58BLBera
elokuu 28, 2020, 9:38am

Hi Alison - Not all of Rushdie's novels, at least the ones I've read are filled with magical realism, but Midnight's Children is packed with it. So if magical realism is not your cup of tea, I wouldn't recommend this one for you.

59sallypursell
elokuu 29, 2020, 11:30am

>55 BLBera: I read Midnight's Children, but just couldn't seem to appreciate it. There were vivid scenes and themes, to be sure, but in general, it was unappealing. It may be all the government-involved stuff, as I have a reader's allergy to intrigue.
I just couldn't like the characters. What did you like about it?

60BLBera
elokuu 29, 2020, 12:09pm

Hi Sally: I loved the way he tied Saleem's life to Indian history. I did find the characters compelling, I liked the writing, description, and I liked that it made me think. It is a challenging book. It is a great book to discuss, which made me appreciate it more. Maybe this wasn't the time to read it because I have so much going on, but I would certainly like to read it again when my mind is less occupied.

61BLBera
elokuu 29, 2020, 2:44pm


90. Deadly Threads is a satisfying, well-plotted installment in the Josie Prescott series. When Josie's friend Riley is murdered, Josie is devastated and determined to help the police catch the killer. There are lots of twists and turns to misdirect us, but they lead to a satisfying solution.

One of the things I like about this series -- other than the setting -- is that each book focuses on a different type of antique. As one might guess from the title, this one is about vintage clothes, shoes, handbags. As usual, there is a lot of information about the process of authenticating the items.

This was entertaining and undemanding, just what I needed.

62BLBera
syyskuu 1, 2020, 9:53pm


91. This Is What America Looks Like
In her memoir, Omar talks about her earliest memories of growing up in Mogadishu, until the arrival of the civil war when she was eight years old. The family escaped to a refugee camp in Kenya. When she arrived in the US at the age of twelve, not speaking English, she was determined to get an education and make a better life.

She speaks candidly about her personal struggles and how difficult it has been to come to terms with being in the public eye, admitting, "If I'm honest with myself, there are situations where my trying to help causes more harm than good." She has always been a fighter, and is still learning when to stop and listen before acting.

Her story is a remarkable one, and after reading her memoir, I admire her tenacity and spirit. She says, "I want to help all those who feel small to feel large; to give strength to all those who believe they are weak; to make loud those who think they are voiceless. To me, that is the American dream...We are not living up to the ideals we export to the rest of the world. In our country, we've normalized inequities and hardships to the point what we don't even recognize them as such."

Recommended.

63BLBera
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 5, 2020, 12:04pm



92. Long Bright River is a book I'll be thinking about for a long time. More than just a murder mystery, this novel captures the costs of addiction on families and neighborhoods.

The novel starts with a list; soon we realize that it is a list of people who have died drug-related deaths. The narrator, Mickey, grew up with her sister and grandmother in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. After the death of their mother from an overdose, Mickey took over the care of her little sister, who becomes addicted herself.

Now a police officer, Mickey becomes anxious when she can't find her sister. There have been a series of murders of vulnerable women in Kensington. Mickey realizes that the most vulnerable members of society are not always well served by police.

The neighborhood and characters are complex and realistic. Recommended.

64BLBera
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 12, 2020, 6:48pm



94. The Lantern Men is intricately plotted. It's the best constructed mystery that I've read in this series for a while. As the novel begins, Dr. Ruth Galloway is living and working in Cambridge, where she has been for two years, after deciding on a new start with Frank. However, when a serial killer caught by Nelson says that he'll only reveal where he buried some bodies if Ruth excavates them, Ruth is drawn back to Norfolk. It seems as though they've already caught their killer. But have they?

The downside of this novel is the relationship between Ruth and Nelson. Figure it out, already!

65BLBera
syyskuu 13, 2020, 9:47am


95. My Time Among the Whites should be required reading for all teachers and college administrators, at the very least. Capó Crucet's memoir/collection of essays reveals the racism and bias she encounters as a student and, later, professor. Her parents are Cuban, and Capó Crucet grew up in Miami. When she decided to go to Cornell, it was the first time she had been far from home. It was a difficult experience, more so because of the lack of orientation for first-generation college students.

Her message is "The real truth is that people of color didn't create these problems, and we don't have magical solutions to them that we are keeping from you. We're in more vulnerable positions than you are. We need you to solve these problems because it is costing us our lives. You are part of these systems yet refuse to believe how immensely you benefit from them. Losing privilege can feel a lot like inequality."

We see this inequality as she discusses her experience in education and as a lecturer. In one of the funny/scary essays, she talks about going to work on a ranch in Nebraska for a week so that she would understand where her mostly white students were coming from.

I loved her novel Make Your Home Among Strangers, which is obviously autobiographical. I can't wait to see what she will write next.

Recommended.

66baswood
syyskuu 13, 2020, 12:22pm

>65 BLBera: "Losing privilege can feel a lot like inequality." I think many of us could do with losing a few privileges.

67BLBera
syyskuu 13, 2020, 3:09pm

>66 baswood: Yes. We are lucky to have so many young, talented writers of color who can speak about this. It's not always a message that people want to hear, but we have to keep speaking out.

68VivienneR
syyskuu 15, 2020, 1:03am

Nice reviews, Beth. You've had some good reading recently. I'm putting Ilhan Omar's memoir on my wishlist. She is inspirational.

I still have two books before I get to The Lantern Men in the Ruth Galloway series. It sounds like one of the best.

69BLBera
syyskuu 15, 2020, 11:29am

Thanks Vivienne. I thought Omar's memoir explained a lot about her. She is amazing.

I really liked The Lantern Men; I thought it was one of the best plotted ones, at least of the most recent ones.

70BLBera
syyskuu 18, 2020, 10:34am


96. The Resisters
One doesn't usually mention dystopia and baseball in the same breath, but her novel The Resisters, Gish Jen combines these seemingly disparate things and builds a chilling and all-too-realistic world.

In this future world, Aunt Nettie rules, much as the faceless Big Brother in 1984. Houses surveil their inhabitants, and outside there are drones, and many people have implanted chips. Climate is extreme, with terrible storms and flooding. Society is divided into the Surplus and the Netted. The Surplus are people whose jobs, in the new AutoAmerica, have become automated and how are deemed unretrainable. Teachers comprise one of these groups. Not surprisingly, the Surplus are people of color, while the Netted are "angel fair."

The story focuses on one Surplus family. Grant, the narrator, was once a professor. His wife Eleanor is a lawyer, and they have a daughter, Gwen, who has "an arm." From the time she was a baby Gwen had a talent of throwing things and hitting her mark. Her dad plays catch with her, but as she grows, he realizes she needs a team. So even though baseball games are considered illegal gatherings, Grant organizes a league so his daughter can play. Team members work together to evade surveillance. Many of the parents of team members are resisters like Eleanor and Grant.

Jen shows us how difficult it is to keep one's humanity in a police state, where decency is not rewarded, Eleanor's mantra is "Right makes might." And despite beatings, imprisonment, and torture, she continues to resist and draw attention to the illegal actions of the state. On her daughter's baseball team, we see how people who play together can learn more than a sport. They learn values like loyalty, which will help them during dangerous times. Grant goes back to the idea of baseball being America's sport: "But if baseball took on a hallowed meaning, it took on that meaning in our American dreams. For was this not the level playing field we envisioned? The field on which people could show what they were made of? And didn't we Americans believe above all that everyone should have a real chance at bat?"

I really liked this.

71BLBera
syyskuu 26, 2020, 11:32am


97. Foreign Wife Elegy is another collection of poetry by a colleague. I found the collection uneven. There is some nice imagery, as in "Poem."

Poem
The wind swings
a leaf round
and round
in the air;
the sky drops
its vast blue
on the surface
of the ocean.
I listen to the old
sound, humanly
full and silent.

72BLBera
syyskuu 26, 2020, 12:59pm


98. Girl, Woman, Other is a fantastic novel on so many levels. Much has already been written about it, so I'll mention two things that stand out to me.

First, I love the way Evaristo uses style to complement her message. No periods, capital letters, written in a stream of consciousness that gives the novel a sense of the epic. This values the lives of women of color, who are too often invisible. Also, the characters are remarkable. Despite the MANY (my only tiny quibble), characters, each woman is a distinct person, often with connections to others.

In fact, each woman could easily carry off her own novel. Wonderful novel.

73AlisonY
syyskuu 28, 2020, 1:30pm

>72 BLBera: I'm so pleased to hear a glowing review of this. It keeps grabbing my attention, but I've read so many negative reviews it's put me off a bit.

74BLBera
syyskuu 28, 2020, 8:12pm

Hi Alison. It's curious that you have heard a lot of negative things about it; I've only heard good things. I'm going to have to search for some of the pans.

75lisapeet
lokakuu 2, 2020, 10:53am

Just popping in to say that for those who are ebook/Amazon tolerant, Girl, Woman, Other is on sale for $2.99 today.

76BLBera
lokakuu 3, 2020, 6:06pm

Thanks Lisa. If you like ebooks, this might be a good one; the book is a long one, and heavy.

77BLBera
lokakuu 4, 2020, 8:10am


99.Tar Baby is Toni Morrison's fourth novel and a departure from her previous ones in that this one is set on a Caribbean island, and that white people are central characters. There's a bit too much going on for this to be a wholly successful novel, but it does provoke thought, and it's one I will revisit at some point.

The novel takes place in December, over the Christmas holiday. There are Valerian and Margaret Street, the "masters" of the island; their US servants, Sydney and Ondine; and servants from the island Yardman and "Mary." Jadine, Sydney and Ondine's niece, is visiting, and Michael, Valerian and Margaret's son, is expected for Christmas. Into this world comes Son, an intruder who jumped ship and is hiding from the authorities.

Morrison writes, "If my work is to be functional...then it must be witness and identify that which is useful fro the past and that which ought to be discarded. She also states that in Tar Baby "memory meant recollecting the told story." While I am always skeptical about accepting an author's statement about her work, it seems to me that these comments do offer some insight into this novel.

As I finished the novel, a couple of things struck me. First, going back to what Morrison said about the past, it seems like Jadine and Son's relationship embodies the conflict of what to keep and what to discard. Each wants to make over the other. Son wants to remove Jadine from the bad influences of the "white" world and go back to the all-Black town that he grew up in, while Jadine finds nothing there for her. She wants Son to continue his education and integrate into the professional world she lives in. Yet Jadine can't commit fully to the white world and marry a white man either.

There's also the interesting relationship between Sydney and Ondine and Valerian and Margaret. Do the roles start to blur at the end -- and what does that mean? And what about the Caribbean servants? Where do they fit?

Lots to think about here.

78BLBera
lokakuu 7, 2020, 9:25am


100. Transcendent Kingdom is the story of Gifty, daughter of Ghanian immigrants. Now a researcher in neuroscience, the novel traces Gifty's search for answers to her brother's addiction. Brought up in Alabama in an evangelical church, Gifty has always been searching. She is looking for God. As a scientist she balances her religious faith with science, something she sometimes finds hard to reconcile:

"Because of our work, we are often given to thinking about the part of humans that is the vital, inexplicable essence of our selves, as the working of our brains -- mysterious, elegant, essential. Everything we don't understand about what makes a person a person can be uncovered once we understand this organ. There is no separation. Our brains are our hearts that feel and our minds that think and our souls that are."

I love Gifty's philosophical musings as she searches for answers to the inexplicable. Why did her brother die? Why couldn't he stop taking drugs? Her struggle to reconcile God and science are interesting. She also points to possible physiological effects of internalized racism.

I liked this novel better than Homegoing. While I thought the premise of Homegoing, of tracing two branches of the family tree through history, was interesting, I never felt attached to any one person because we got short snips of each person's life. In Transcendent Kingdom, we get a complete portrait of a young woman, with her curiosity, her struggles, her heart. I prefer the deeper character development.

In a few places, perhaps the philosophical discussion takes precedence over the plot, but I could forgive that. And the end seems rather abrupt. But those are minor quibbles. I loved this novel.

79RidgewayGirl
lokakuu 7, 2020, 3:12pm

>78 BLBera: Good to hear that this is good. I'm looking forward to reading it.

80BLBera
lokakuu 8, 2020, 8:34pm

I'll watch for your comments, Kay.

81BLBera
lokakuu 8, 2020, 10:18pm

101. The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation*
I love The Great Gatsby, and while this graphic novel adaptation won't replace it, It is a fine homage to the original. As these works from the 1920s start to come into the public domain, it will be interesting to see what people do with them.

The advance reader's copy of the graphic novel was not in full color, as the final product will be, the the sample provided fit the art work, with an art decoish palate. The women, Jordan and Daisy are slender flappers who seem to float.

Woodman-Maynard as pared the dialog to fit the graphic format and selected the key events of the novel. She has even added some of Fitzgerald's poetic passages. The narrator, Nick, manages to sympathize with Gatsby while at the same time disapproving of him. I felt his portrayal really matched that in the original novel.

In the author's note, Woodward-Maynard explains some of the changes she made, which seem appropriate.

Fans of the original should be pleased with this.

82BLBera
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 12, 2020, 4:49pm



102. What Are You Going Through was disappointing. It is very like The Friend, which I loved, but I don't want to read the same book over and over. The style is very similar; much of this is an internal monologue. In it, the unnamed narrator tells the sad stories of several people she knows, focusing mainly on a friend who is dying of cancer. So, basically, another book about death and grieving.

Read The Friend instead.

83markon
lokakuu 13, 2020, 3:41pm

>77 BLBera: I read this novel in my earlly 20s, and I'll bet I'd get more out of it today than I did then. She's a challenging and rewarding author.

>78 BLBera: I've now seen one postive and one not-so-good review on LT for this one. Guess I'll have to read it and make up my own mind.

84BLBera
lokakuu 15, 2020, 2:27pm

>83 markon: This was my first time reading Tar Baby, and I think it's not one of her most successful novels, but I am glad I read it. At some point, I will read it again.

I loved Transcendent Kingdom, but I have seen varying opinions, so I guess you will have to read it. :)

85BLBera
lokakuu 16, 2020, 2:23pm

My book club discussed The Handmaid's Tale today. People who just read it for the first time found it frightening, and too close to reality for comfort. One of the members found a NYT review by Mary McCarthy written when the novel was first published. McCarthy found the novel too unrealistic...

In other comments, Melania as one of the wives?

One person listened to a new audio version that included an essay by Atwood and another essay about the novel.

86BLBera
lokakuu 16, 2020, 5:35pm



104. Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir is unfortunately an all-too-familiar story. Yet, Trethewey's poetry and honesty make it visceral and personal. Even though I knew the story, this memoir was heartbreaking.

Trethewey begins by talking about her idyllic childhood, surrounded and protected by people who loved her. Later, her parents divorce and her mother remarries. It doesn't take long for Trethewey to feel that something is wrong with Big Joe, what she calls her stepfather. He starts with emotional abuse of Natasha when Natasha's mother is at work. Soon, she realizes that he is hitting her mother. She tells some people, but no one does anything. It takes her mother years to escape and divorce Joel, but he continues to stalk the family, with a tragic outcome. When Trethewey is nineteen, her mother is murdered. (Not a spoiler - she mentions this at the beginning.)

This is beautifully written and one that will stick with me.

87BLBera
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 19, 2020, 9:57pm


105. The Eighth Detective is a clever detective story. In it, mathematician Grant McAllister has proposed a mathematical theory of the rules for detective stories. He then wrote seven stories to illustrate the rules. Twenty years later, an editor visits him on an isolated island in the Mediterranean where he lives the life of a hermit. A publishing company wants to publish his stories with commentary, which the editor will write. This then, is the novel. There is a story, followed by the editor's and Grant's discussion. The stories themselves are entertaining, but as the novel progresses, we start to sense that something is off. The endings are surprising and satisfying. Very clever indeed.

88kidzdoc
lokakuu 23, 2020, 10:51am

Nice reviews of Tar Baby and Transcendent Kingdom, Beth. I hope to read Gyasi's latest novel before the end of the year.

I'm glad that you were also impressed by Memorial Drive.

89BLBera
lokakuu 23, 2020, 10:59am

Thanks Darryl. All were excellent reads. I hope you are staying well.

90BLBera
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 26, 2020, 8:30pm


106. Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline takes place in the Ontario Metís community. Every culture has its bogeyman; the Metís have the rogarou, a werewolf-type creature. Dimaline has created an atmospheric setting, with a community that is struggling to hang on to its culture and its land. We see that there is still value in the old ways when Joan has to use the knowledge of the elders to get her husband back from the rogarou.

I will definitely read more by this author.

91Nickelini
lokakuu 28, 2020, 2:31am

>85 BLBera: My book club discussed The Handmaid's Tale today. People who just read it for the first time found it frightening, and too close to reality for comfort. One of the members found a NYT review by Mary McCarthy written when the novel was first published. McCarthy found the novel too unrealistic...

In other comments, Melania as one of the wives?


Well, isn't THAT interesting! Melania is a Serena, isn't she?

92BLBera
lokakuu 28, 2020, 7:47am

Hi Joyce - Yes, that was an interesting comment. It was fun to look at the old review as well. Atwood was ahead of her time with this speculative novel.

93lisapeet
lokakuu 28, 2020, 8:09am

I have Empire of the Wild somewhere in my pile. It sounds really good.

Back when I used to commute there was a woman I would see on the platform whom I secretly dubbed "Serena Joy"—she was always carefully put together in skirts, stockings, sweater sets, and a matching purse, with her feet painfully crammed into pointy heels and her blonde hair tastefully colored. She was middle aged, and looked like she was still trying to keep the professional look she had going 20 years ago—you could see a trace of foundation undergarment under her clothes, though I never docked points for that because it could have been a back brace. And in fact I couldn't really make too much fun of her in my head because she always looked SO unhappy, and always with dark glasses on even on cloudy days... I got the feeling there was some deep misery at work there. And yet she fascinated me. Ah well, those days of being out on the subway platform at 9 a.m. are over for now, thank goodness.

94RidgewayGirl
lokakuu 28, 2020, 12:08pm

>90 BLBera: Empire of Wild had something to it - I'm eager to see what the author writes next.

95BLBera
lokakuu 28, 2020, 3:17pm

>93 lisapeet: I really liked Empire of Wild, Lisa. I love Indigenous and First Nation stories, generally. This one showed the conflict between present and past and the value of holding on to old beliefs, among other things.

I love your Serena Joy story! Yes, mass transportation is great for people watching. I was just thinking longingly of the bus, but just don't want to ride it until we have a vaccine.

>94 RidgewayGirl: I knew I had heard about Empire of Wild on LT. I need to be more organized about where my recommendations come from. Usually, by the time I get the book in hand, I've forgotten who recommended it.

96VivienneR
lokakuu 30, 2020, 7:55pm

>87 BLBera: This goes on my wishlist for sure! I've already placed a hold on it at the library where it is at the "on order" stage. I love mathematical mysteries, there are not enough of them.

97BLBera
lokakuu 30, 2020, 9:26pm

I'll watch to see what you think of it, Vivienne. I thought it was clever and unexpected.

98BLBera
lokakuu 30, 2020, 10:33pm


107. Nasty Women is an excellent of essays written in response to Trump's election in 2016. Contributors include people like Jill Filipovic, Alicia Garza, Kate Harding, Samantha Irby (whose essay is hilarious), Sara Jaffe, Katha Pollitt, and Rebecca Solnit, to name a few. The essays are uniformly thought-provoking from a wide variety of experiences and points of view.

I highlighted lots of passages, but here are some highlights.
Theories why Hillary lost: "The We Must Pay More Attention to the White Working Class analysis said that Clinton lost because she did not pay enough attention to white men...I've always had the impression -- from TV, movies, newspapers, sport, books, my education, my personal life, and my knowledge of who owns most things and holds government office at every level in my country -- that white men get a lot of attention already."

"Because we as a nation have never reckoned with our white Christian male supremacy, the stage has been set for the current racist-in-chief...to come along."

"In the United States, it's fine for a woman to claim equality, as long as she cheerfully opts out of it."

"My own privilege and complacency led me to overestimate how much my fellow citizens care about people whose lives differ from their own."

"This election wasn't simply a political contest. It was a referendum on how much America still hates women."

Because these essay were written so soon after the election, they are emotional and angry. Great collection of passionate, smart women. We should elect people like this.

99Nickelini
lokakuu 30, 2020, 10:40pm

>98 BLBera:
That sounds good

100BLBera
lokakuu 30, 2020, 10:54pm

The essays are unformly good, Joyce. I'm hoping they don't have to start another one next week.

101VivienneR
lokakuu 30, 2020, 11:49pm

>100 BLBera: Agreed! It would be tough to have to write a repeat.

102lisapeet
lokakuu 31, 2020, 8:00am

I put The Eighth Detective on my library holds list too. A mathematical mystery—something immersive and that takes a little brain power—sounds like just what I need. I find I want the opposite of brain candy these days, but rather something that will take my mind hostage for a while.

103BLBera
lokakuu 31, 2020, 9:56am

>101 VivienneR: Fingers crossed, Vivienne, fingers crossed.

>102 lisapeet: I tend to agree, Lisa. It is something that has to grab me. I picked up a recommendation of yours from the library yesterday -- Inheritors. So, that will be one of my next reads.

104arubabookwoman
lokakuu 31, 2020, 4:22pm

>85 BLBera: I read The Handmaid’s Tales the first time right after it was published, and I had the same reaction as Mary McCarthy-unrealistic/it couldn’t happen here. I reread it with my book group in the early 2000’s during the Bush years, and then I thought, hmm, it could happen. Now, I fear we’re on the verge, especially if Trump wins.

105dchaikin
lokakuu 31, 2020, 9:48pm

>100 BLBera: >101 VivienneR: oye, please not again this week.

Just had a long catch up. So many books. Enjoyed your take on Tar Baby. It is a little underappreciated, I think. And that ending, the way the servants and served interact is really clever. It is surprisingly complex and curious. Anyway glad you enjoyed.

Intrigued by Transcendent Kingdom. I liked Homegoing, but was not crazy on it. But, as geology person, dealing with religious geologists who are good geologists is always curious to me (but much more understandable than my creationist neighbors who only have a hacked closedminded wishful misunderstanding of geology... oops, digression). Anyway, noting.

You and Darryl are both crazy on Memorial Drive... hmm.

106BLBera
lokakuu 31, 2020, 10:33pm

>104 arubabookwoman: I also read The Handmaid's Tale when it first was published, Deborah, and I remember thinking it was chilling. At that time I think I thought of it as science fiction. We're closer to it being a reality today, I think.

>105 dchaikin: Tar Baby is good, just not as polished as some of her other work, I think. She has too much going on in it. That being said, I would like to reread it at some point.

Memorial Drive is beautifully written, as one would expect from Trethewey.

107BLBera
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 11:20am


108. Hieroglyphics is a lovely novel that quietly adds layers to the characters until the end, when we are sorry to leave them behind.

The novel tells the story of Lil, Frank, and Shelley, all of whom end up in the same North Carolina town. In alternate chapters, we learn their stories. At first, I wasn't sure I liked this approach because I found some people's stories so much more compelling than others', but in the end, McCorkle makes it work. Slowly, we get to know Shelley, a single mom with two boys. She tries to escape the past. Frank and Lil, a couple in their eighties, have moved to North Carolina to be close to their daughter.

All the characters have survived painful pasts -- Frank and Lil try to hang on to the memories of Frank's dad and Lil's mom, while Shelley only wants to forget. In the process of learning about their pasts, McCorkle asks us to consider the importance of memory and the extent to which we should hang on to the past.

108RidgewayGirl
marraskuu 11, 2020, 11:29am

>107 BLBera: Thanks for the review - I've seen this in a few places, so it's good to hear that it's worth reading.

109BLBera
marraskuu 11, 2020, 11:36am

Hi Kay - I was reading it during the whole election things, so I was a bit distracted, but, in the end, I think it worked. It would probably benefit from a reread in a less turbulent time.

110RidgewayGirl
marraskuu 11, 2020, 12:46pm

>109 BLBera: Yes, no kidding. I've probably retained less from my 2020 reading than usual.

111BLBera
marraskuu 11, 2020, 3:11pm

Fingers crossed that 2021 will be calmer.

112VivienneR
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 3:47pm

The conversation about The Handmaid's Tale above is a reminder that I should read it again. I read it when it first came out and didn't like it much. A comparison read in a different era might show it in a different light.

Congratulations on the election results. It was the first time I followed live results as they came in for a country other than my own. Nerve-racking.

113BLBera
marraskuu 13, 2020, 10:00am

Hi Vivienne - It would be interesting to reread it now. I wonder if you would like it more.

I am so ready for the election to be done with and to have an adult in the White House again.

114BLBera
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 14, 2020, 10:20am


109. Miss Emily was my book club book this month. We had a good discussion about this short novel. All loved the language and the way O'Connor uses Dickinson's words and snippets of her poems in the narration. Most liked the alternating point of view: Ada Concannon was an Irish maid in the Dickinson household, and her story alternates with narrative from Dickinson. Most of the discussion focused on the latter part of the novel, when the focus shifts to Ada and pretty much stays there. Several people found that unsatisfactory. I found the ending a little unrealistic, but liked the book overall.

I especially liked the Dickinson chapters, with the lovely description and the figurative language that reflects Dickinson's style. I loved this passage:

"For now I need the solace of words. Words bracket silence. That quiet gives propulsion to the words and all that they say. Words smolder, they catch fire, they are volcanic eruptions, waiting to explode. I like to start small. With the fewest words I can manage. If the words run away, I trip them up and pull them back. If they do not cooperate, I obliterate them. Each word is a candidate, sized up and interviewed and given its role only when it has proved its superiority to all other words."

Fans of Dickinson will appreciate this novel, even if they would like more of her narration.

115BLBera
marraskuu 20, 2020, 9:24am


110. Bright Dead Things is a wonderful collection of poetry. Limón writes of love, death, and nature. I love her imagery, the way she captures moments in time and makes them universal, as in "The Problem with Travel." We all know the pull of the possibilities when we enter an airport. These are poems I will revisit.

116kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 21, 2020, 10:17am

>115 BLBera: We all know the pull of the possibilities when we enter an airport.

Indeed. I especially feel that way when I'm in the main waiting area of Heathrow Terminal 3, listening for the gate for my return flight to Atlanta to be announced, and hearing the announcements of other flights to far more interesting destinations: Athens, Casablanca, Delhi, Nairobi, Rome, et al. I've been tempted more than once to make a last minute booking on one of those flights!

117BLBera
marraskuu 21, 2020, 12:51pm

Hi Darryl. Yes, Limón does a fine job of communicating those possibilities. I hope you are well. Good job turning Georgia blue!

118kidzdoc
marraskuu 21, 2020, 2:01pm

>117 BLBera: Thanks! Hopefully the narrow win in Georgia will put to bed the thought that one's vote doesn't count here, especially with the two Senate runoff elections coming up in January.

119BLBera
marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:08pm

I have faith in your mayor and Stacy Abrams, Darryl!

120BLBera
marraskuu 27, 2020, 9:35am


111. Inheritors is a collection of linked stories. It follows one Japanese family through the twentieth century to the middle of the twenty-first century in both Japan and the US.

Many of the stories focus on WWII and its effects on several generations of the family. The stories are not in chronological order, but Serizawa makes this work. Often I read a story, only to find clarification I wasn't even aware I needed in another one.

I really enjoyed this. Thanks to Lisa, I think.

121lisapeet
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 27, 2020, 9:47am

>120 BLBera: That was me. It's a neat collection, isn't it? I'm not sure every single one of the stories works, but this is one of those cases where "ambitious" isn't faint praise—she took on something really interesting and big, and I think she did a great job with it. Especially considering this was her debut collection, I was really impressed and for the most part captivated by the way she painted such a big picture in pieces.

122BLBera
marraskuu 27, 2020, 10:43am

I really enjoyed it, Lisa. It was great to see the long-term effects of the war on the characters. I will definitely read what she writes next. Thanks for the recommendation. For once, I actually remembered who recommended something!

123BLBera
marraskuu 29, 2020, 8:13am

I've been reading Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread and it's one most of my LT friends will love. In her introductory essay, Kakutani asks, "Why do we love books so much? These magical brick-sized objects -- made of paper, ink, glue, thread, cardboard, fabric, or leather -- are actually tiny time machines that can transport us back to the past to learn the lessons of history, and forward to idealized or dystopian futures. Books can transport us to distant parts of the globe and even more distant planets and universes."

The essays are short, and there is a nice mix of the old and new. I'm compiling quite a reading list. Some of the books, like The Handmaid's Tale, I've read, but others are new to me.

I got this from the library, but it may be one I want to own...

Anyway, if you have a Christmas WL, you may want to add this.

124BLBera
joulukuu 1, 2020, 8:12pm

125BLBera
joulukuu 8, 2020, 5:25pm


114. The Great Offshore Grounds is a wonderful novel about a mother and her two daughters. This family happens to be poor, and toward the end of the novel, I realized that this story about a family living on the edge of hunger and eviction is rare; this isn't a dysfunctional family (at least no more than most families) with addiction or legal problems. Instead, it's a sympathetic look at a loving family.

However, there are secrets and changes, and the movement and growth of the characters kept me reading. As I finished I realized I would miss Kirsten, Livy, and Cheyenne. Kirsten, the mom, is a witch and made choices that her daughters don't always understand. Livy, works on restoring boats and dreams of having her own boat one day. Cheyenne is newly divorced and restless.

While I loved the characters, there were some odd sightings of Walter Raleigh, which I don't quite understand, but overall, this quirky family was worth the time I spent with them. I'll look for more by this author.

126BLBera
joulukuu 11, 2020, 3:46pm


115. The Phantom Tollbooth is a young reader book, but most of the members of my book club thought that to enjoy it, kids would probably have to be about fifth grade. One member thought that it is really for adults. We all enjoyed it.

Juster's book is not only a story of adventure, but is packed with word play. Milo, a bored boy finds a tollbooth in his room one afternoon, and when he enters it, he finds a new world. He enters the city of Dictionopolis, where words are sold in the market and ends on a quest to bring back princesses Rhyme and Reason. On the way to Castle in the Air, he has all sorts of adventures. He also learns to be careful with how he chooses his words.

One of the members listened to it, and she thought that she would like to read it. Jules Feiffer's illustrations are wonderful, and she found the puns and other plays on words to not work so well on audio.

This was one of Michael Chabon's favorite books, and looking at the blurbs, many writers fell in love with this book. Now 50 years old, it is still original and clever. It was a fun read for us.

What is really odd is that none of us had read it before.

127lisapeet
joulukuu 12, 2020, 8:01am

>126 BLBera: I grew up with The Phantom Tollbooth and loved it to pieces—probably 10 or 11 when I read it, but I was a bookish little kid with a love of word play, so I think I got most of it, and definitely did on later rereadings. I'm so glad they haven't come out with a modern cover to replace the original Jules Feiffer one, which seems like such common practice with so many kids' books whose covers I thought were too iconic to mess with (Harriet the Spy, I'm looking at you).

My son's copy of The Phantom Tollbooth is sitting in his room right now with all my books—I've worked a few favorites of his into my library.

128BLBera
joulukuu 12, 2020, 5:05pm

I wonder how I missed it, Lisa. I don't remember reading it to my kids either. I am, however, saving a copy for my granddaughter. We thought 10 or 11 would be an age where kids might appreciate it -- depending on the kid.

Thanks for the note. I got it yesterday.

129BLBera
joulukuu 19, 2020, 3:11pm


116. Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread is like candy to a reader. Michicko Kakutani's selection of essays cover a variety of both fiction and nonfiction. She also discusses both the old and the new. Her recommendations go from Shakespeare to Tommy Orange's There There. A lot of the nonfiction focuses on authoritarianism and its parallels to our current (not for long!) president. I've noted several from my shelves to add to my next year's reading.

This was a lot of fun. I read a couple of essays each morning with my coffee. It was a great way to start the day.

130BLBera
joulukuu 20, 2020, 10:03am



117. Old Baggage asks what someone can do after changing the world. That's what Mattie Simpkin has to live with after gaining the vote. Set in 1928, the suffragettes have gained the vote. Now what?

I love Mattie. Evans is great at capturing people in a few actions or phrases. At the very beginning of the novel, she says, "People always stared. If one didn't creep around, if one said what one thought, if one shouted for joy or roared with anger, if one tried to get things done, then seemingly there was no choice but to be noticeable." Mattie is definitely noticeable.

In this novel we see her try to figure out what to do after getting the vote. She makes mistakes along the way, but I enjoyed following her journey.

Mattie also appeared in Crooked Heart, another great novel by Evans. This makes me want to reread that one.

131BLBera
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 23, 2020, 8:27am


118. Manhood for Amateurs
The title of this collection of essays pretty much sums up the topics that Chabon discusses. He writes about being a father, a husband, and a friend. There are also riffs on baseball and music and writing, but my favorite parts are the essays in which he discusses parenting. In "Textbook Father," he writes about the challenges of being a father to a girl approaching puberty. He fully recognizes the difficulties of getting things right, yet he also allows us to see his love for his children and his delight in them, as when he writes about initiating them into the joys of "Dr. Who."

132dchaikin
joulukuu 23, 2020, 2:25pm

>129 BLBera: Kakutani made a living reviewing books - have to admire that. Her NY Times reviews, mostly freely available, are of interest. I would love to scan through this and see what she recommends. Might check out a library copy...

133BLBera
joulukuu 23, 2020, 5:37pm

>132 dchaikin: I've always admired her reviews. I know there are those who don't.

134BLBera
joulukuu 23, 2020, 5:46pm


119. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Normally I don't count plays, but this is a discrete book (as opposed to a collection of plays), so I am.

This play is set in the 1920s. The two acts take place in a Chicago recording studio. Wilson has said that all his plays are inspired by music, and the influence of the blues is readily apparent here. Through the interaction of Ma and her musicians (all Black) with the white owner of the studio, we get a pretty clear picture of the race relations of the time. We see some of the things we would expect from Wilson, especially the limited possibilities that exist for Black musicians, in this case.

I wanted to read this before I watched the new film on Netflix. I wish more of Wilson's work were available on film. It would motivate me to finish reading through the ones I haven't read yet. Maybe a 2021 project...