rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around again in 2023-Chapter 2

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Keskustelu2023 ROOT CHALLENGE

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rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around again in 2023-Chapter 2

toukokuu 4, 6:06 pm

My name’s Julia, and I have too many books. Well, that’s not really possible but it’s fair to say I have too many books I haven’t read yet. I’ve participated in the ROOTs group for two years, and have met my goal of 48 ROOTs each year. I’m going to aim for that same target this year, just 4 per month. Under-promise and over-deliver is the hope for 2023!

I work at my alma mater, the University of Iowa, so my thread topper features seasonal images from the campus, often (as with this spring scene from last week) the Pentacrest of the five oldest buildings at the center of campus. This is Schaeffer Hall, just across the street from my office (where I haven't been since June 2020 — I now am working from home full time).

That’s enough of the blather — on to the books!

toukokuu 4, 6:06 pm

Keeping Score

ROOTs (books)

Total books read (read)

Acquisitions (buy)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 9:19 am

ROOTed in 2023
January through June

1. My Policeman by Bethan Roberts.
2. The Bone Is Pointed by Arthur W. Upfield.
3. The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang.
4. Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke.

5. Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout.
6. Exiles by Jane Harper.
7. A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie.
8. The Dry by Jane Harper.
9. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout.

10. The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur W. Upfield.
11. The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow by William Arden.
12. Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout.

13. Murder in the Ball Park by Robert Goldsborough.
14. Force of Nature by Jane Harper.
15. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths.

16. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.
17. Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska by Warren Zanes.
18. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.
19. All That Is Mine I Carry with Me by William Landay.
20. Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer (eds.).
21. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.

22. An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor.
23. Bushranger of the Skies by Arthur Upfield.
24. Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings.

25. Homegoing by Yah Gyasi.
26. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn.
27. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells.
28. Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The man, the music and the world in 1972 by Dave Bidini.
29. Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby.
30. The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder by Lawrence Block.
31. Real Tigers by Mick Herron.
32. The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian by Lawrence Block.
33. Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane.

KEY: Italics = non-ROOTs. Bold = Favourite book of the month.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 7, 4:26 pm

Added to the shelf in 2023
January through June

✔︎ 1. Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Julia E. Zelizer. ($18.99 ebook/Kobo)
  * NOTE: I also have the audiobook version, won in a Twitter giveaway by Professor Kruse.
✔︎ 2. The Bone Is Pointed by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.66 ebook/Kobo)
3. Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do edited by Gerald Gross. ($1.70 ebook/Kobo)
4. Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan. ($1.79 ebook/Kobo)
5. The Chicago Guide to Usage, Grammar and Punctuation by Bryan A. Garner. ($1.79 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 6. Exiles by Jane Harper. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)

7. Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles Through the Lens of Art Shay by Erik S. Gellman. (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
✔︎ 8. A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 9. The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur W. Upfield. (free ebook/Kobo)

10. This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom by Martin Hägglund. ($4.99 ebook/Kobo)
11. Caramel Pecan Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke. (89 cents ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 12. Bushranger of the Skies by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.66 ebook/Kobo)
13. Down Cemetery Road by Mick Herron. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 14. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 15. Deliver Me From Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska by Warren Zanes. ($28.00/hardcover from Prairie Lights)

No books bought in May! Although I did pre-order one being published in September so perhaps not quite the win I'd like it to be ...

16. Dangerous by Minerva Spencer. (free ebook for VIP membership renewal/Kobo)
17. The Big Bad City by Ed McBain. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
18. Blackberry Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke. (89 cents ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 19. The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder by Lawrence Block. ($9.99 ebook/Kobo)
20. A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)

21. Smiley's People by John LeCarré. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
22. The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

KEY: ✔︎ indicates books that I have read, either this year or previously.

toukokuu 4, 6:21 pm

Happy new thread, Julia! How am I the first one here?

toukokuu 4, 6:53 pm

Happy new one, Julia!

toukokuu 4, 7:25 pm

How did you like The Last Remains, Julia? I am waiting for it from my library.

toukokuu 4, 9:47 pm

Happy new thread, Julia! I'm also waiting for my library copy of The Last Remains. I'm #9 on 5 copies so it shouldn't be long now.

toukokuu 5, 9:17 am

>8 Copperskye: Thanks for joining me: Irene, Katie, Beth and Joanne. I'm so glad you stopped by — I hope to get caught up on my overdue reviews this weekend so you'll have something at least semi-interesting to read. :-)

Beth, I was happy with the way Griffiths wrapped up Ruth's story, especially that it made sense in the context of everything that's happened previously in the series.

toukokuu 5, 12:44 pm

>9 rosalita: I liked the way The Last Remains finished the series - it was what I wanted to happen - but I felt she left it in doubt right until the end!

toukokuu 5, 12:58 pm

Happy new thread! Hope both reads and acquisitions are going in the right direction (whatever 'right' is for you at the moment!).

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 5, 1:23 pm

>10 CDVicarage: I agree, Kerry — I kept changing my mind all the way through on how I thought it would end up. Which is pretty much how I've reacted all the way through the series, so at least it was consistent. :-)

>11 Jackie_K: Thank you, Jackie. Perhaps you noticed that my acquisitions have now exceeded my reads? And I have a couple of pre-orders that will come in later this spring/summer, in addition to whatever temptations BookBub sends my way. I haven't decided which direction is the "right" direction — I keep changing my mind!

toukokuu 5, 1:21 pm

>12 rosalita: Haha, that's exactly it, isn't it?! Which is why I didn't want to presume either way!

toukokuu 5, 1:24 pm

>13 Jackie_K: Thank you for your support!

toukokuu 5, 4:05 pm

Happy new thread, Julia. Thanks for posting the Elly Griffiths article on your last thread. Interesting series mystery history invoked there. Your Rooted to books added lists look pretty well balanced to me.

toukokuu 5, 4:21 pm

>15 Familyhistorian: Thanks, Meg. I'm glad you enjoyed the Elly Griffiths article. In a perfect world, I would read many more books than I acquire but I know myself too well to be surprised when that doesn't happen. :-)

toukokuu 5, 11:14 pm

>16 rosalita: I know what you mean. Strangely, I think I do read quite a few more books than I acquire but I still have a book accumulation problem due to a library habit. There's always something isn't there?

toukokuu 9, 3:29 pm

>17 Familyhistorian: There is indeed *always* something, Meg. And too often the something is on sale, which is triggering for me. :-)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 9:29 am

I'm done pretending that I will ever write real reviews of the books I've read since February(!). So here is a wrap-up with some brief thoughts on each.


5. Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout.
One of my all-time favorite Nero Wolfe mysteries, wherein Archie wrangles Nero onto a train (!) in 1938 to a fancy resort in the South where the world's most renowned chefs are gathering to host a dinner. Nero's as good at eating as he is at detecting, and here he finds himself in murder-solving mode before he can swallow a bite. This one deserves a full review but that will have to wait for the next re-read.

6. Exiles by Jane Harper.

The final book in Harper's Aaron Falk trilogy is a satisfying conclusion to the Australian Federal Police officer's story. He travels to South Australia with a friend (a policeman Falk first met in the series debut The Dry) to celebrate a new addition to the family and along the way ends up solving a year-old missing persons case. This isn't a fast-paced thriller but Harper's writing is so lovely and evocative of place that I'm happy to stroll along. This one also deserves a full review someday.

7. A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie.

The most recent entry in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, long delayed by the pandemic and supply-chain issues. Superintendent Kincaid's investigation into the stabbing death of a junior doctor could be the latest in a series of crimes being investigated by a task force led by his wife, Inspector James. In the midst of a demanding investigation, Duncan and Gemma struggle to balance work and home life with their blended family.

8. The Dry by Jane Harper.

Reading Exiles made me want to revisit the first book in the series, when Aaron Falk first meets and becomes friends with Sergeant Raco (there are illusions to the events of The Dry in Exiles but nothing critical to plot or enjoyment). It was just as good as when I reviewed it in 2018.

9. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout.

I didn't mention earlier that I am re-reading the Nero Wolfe series in chronological order, as a shared read with Liz. So here's #6, a real corker of a story that finds Nero and Archie in upstate New York, where Nero goes to show up a fellow orchid grower who snubbed his offer to trade rare specimens by sweeping the awards at the country agricultural exposition. Along the way, he solves the murders of a bull and two humans, so you can't say the trip was entirely a waste of time. Still just as good as when I reviewed it in 2013.

That's a wrap on February. I'll get to March in a bit.

toukokuu 11, 12:56 pm

"Brief thoughts" is pretty much all I do these days. No shame in it!

toukokuu 11, 1:03 pm

Thanks! I just don't seem to have any mental bandwidth to pull together full reviews right now, but I know most people would rather read brief comments than my usual dissertations. :-)

toukokuu 11, 1:19 pm

Great comments, Julia. I am fine with brief comments as well. I really liked The Dry but haven't read any of the following books. One of these days. Talk later.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 9:30 am

The "good" news is the March list is much shorter ...


10. The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur W. Upfield.

I really love this early 20th century mystery series (another shared read with Liz) featuring half-aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte. This one from 1939 finds him in a New South Wales coastal village known for its spectacular swordfishing. When a trio of local fisherman go out to sea one morning and never return, it's left to Bony to figure out what happened, in between soaring passages describing the athletic grace and beauty of pursuing swordfish in the deep. Away from his usual outback environs, Bony is a fish out of water (sorry) but he still manages to hook his quarry (sorrynotsorry) without tangling his line (OK, not sorry at all).

11. The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow by William Arden.

A favorite mystery series from childhood (and yes, another shared read with Liz) has three teenage boys (Jupiter, Pete and Bob) solving mysteries in the Southern California sunshine. The plot in this one is stretched to the point of absurdity, but they can't all be winners.

12. Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout.

Number 7 in the Nero Wolfe series has a convoluted plot involving shady dealings in the Baltics and fencing, and a woman who may or may not be Wolfe's long-lost daughter. Not my favorite but probably not the worst. (Edited to add my review from 2018.)

Deep breath .. April coming soon.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 9:30 am

I can see light at the end of the review tunnel! I just hope it's not an oncoming train ...


13. Murder in the Ball Park by Robert Goldsborough.

I have a general rule that I don't read series continuations — books written by another writer who may or may not have been chosen by the original author. I just don't enjoy them as much as the original series. The one exception I've ever made is Goldsborough's continuation of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series, and only because I love the world and characters that Stout brought to life too much too say goodbye forever. And the Goldsboroughs are not, in fact, as good as Stout's originals, though he tries mightily (too hard, probably) to evoke the same atmosphere and snappy dialogue. Lately he's hit on a formula that has him revisiting the series' heyday of the 1950s and these do work somewhat better than the ones he set in the modern world (Stout died in 1975, so the descriptions of Archie Goodwin using a personal computer in the first Goldsborough book, Murder in E Minor, were jarring to say the least). This 2013 entry involves a senator being assassinated at a baseball game, and it's fine. It's not my Archie and Nero, but it's fine.

14. Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

After reading the final book in the Falk trilogy, and then circling back to the first book again, I figured I might as well close the circle by re-reading the second book. It's still my least favorite of the three but pretty good nonetheless, as my 2018 review makes clear.

15. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths.

Speaking of series ending, Griffiths sent forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway off to that Great Dig in the Sky (metaphorically speaking; I'm not spoiling any plot points here) with this one. The mystery is fine, but more importantly I found the resolution of Ruth's personal dilemma to be satisfying. There was a section — in which a beloved recurring character goes missing while being suspected of murder — that would have been more suspenseful if I hadn't heard Griffiths mention on her podcast that she was open to the idea of writing a spinoff featuring that character at some point in the future. But it wasn't really a spoiler because I would have refused to believe anything bad about that particular character in any case.

OK, all caught up now. I just finished my first May book last night, and now that I've cleared out the underbrush I hope to write a more fulsome review of that one sometime soonish.

toukokuu 11, 3:14 pm

Well done on clearing the backlog, Julia.

Re: Elly Griffiths - I don't think I need a spin-off series featuring that character in my life. I always found that character sort of annoying :-P

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 3:20 pm

>25 katiekrug: I feel the same way, to be honest! I thought Elly gently skewered their faux mystic persona often enough to keep them from being too grating for me. Without it, they would have been insufferable. But I don't think a whole book of that would be much fun.

toukokuu 11, 3:30 pm


toukokuu 11, 4:47 pm

Well that was quite a nice catch-up on your reading, Julia, although I skimmed right past The Last Remains because I just picked my copy up from the library.

I'm totally fine with "brief thoughts," too. I keep thinking I'm going to go that route but always find a bit more to say. Still, my reviews ain't what they used to be.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 5:08 pm

>28 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura. Most of these honestly don't need long reviews (and some of them are re-reads I've already reviewed) but I am sorry not to have put more effort into reviewing the new Jane Harper, the new Deborah Crombie, and the new Elly Griffiths.

toukokuu 11, 7:06 pm

Nice to talk, Julia. I like your brief thoughts. I also liked the new Crombie and am waiting patiently for the last Ruth. I do want to read more by Harper as well.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 8:35 am

>30 BLBera: you liked The Dry, Beth, so I'm sure you will like other Harpers. There are standalones in addition to the Falk series.

toukokuu 12, 8:18 am

I'm fine with brief thoughts in a review too. Mostly I want reviews to give me a quick, rough idea of what to expect and how the book made the reviewer feel. That's what I try to do (with varying levels of success, depending on how verbose I'm feeling!).

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 11:29 am

16. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.

In the early part of the 20th century, a pioneering female aviator sets off to circumnavigate the globe along a Great Circle — that is to say, longitudinally over the North and South poles, rather than latitudinally in the way of Amelia Earhart. We follow Marian Graves' story from before her birth through her unconventional upbringing in Montana, where she first is captivated by the prospect of learning to fly, through a complicated adult life that eventually leads her on her final quest.

Meanwhile in present-day Hollywood, a former child actor and star of a fantasy movie franchise that seems like a cross between Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is looking for a way to resurrect her career after romantic scandal. Hadley Baxter sets her sights on becoming a "serious" actor by starring as Marian in a new biopic. But can Hadley's immersion into the character of Marian — a woman who fought against self-destructive demons — save her from her own impulsive lurches toward self-sabotage?

I can understand why the author chose a dual timeline format — there needed to be a mechanism to reveal things about Marian's final journey that were not in the public record. But as is too often the case with such narrative structures, one timeline is much more compelling and interesting than the other.

Marian Graves, her family and friends, and the entire setting of her 20th century life felt so much more vivid and real than the familiar contemporary Hollywood narrative full of backbiting, paparazzi and sleazy tabloids. It was disconcerting to leave Marian's world for the occasional breezy foray into Hadley's. I cared about one character very much, and about the other hardly at all. And that was true all the way through the respective endings of each woman's story, as I found Marian's to be surprising but satisfying and Hadley's to be unremarkable and inconclusive.

In the end, this was half of a great book dragged down by unwelcome interludes of tawdry Hollywood gossip. If I had to read it again I'd skip the modern-day segments and just focus on Marian's story. I suspect it would gain at least a star in my rating.

Sidenote: I read this as part of my alma mater's newly organized online alumni book club, although I didn't have much to contribute to the discussion because I received my library copy of the book long after the discussion was underway. My main reason for wanting to participate in the book club was to stretch beyond my reading comfort zone, and the first book (The Family Chao) and this one did just that, although I didn't love either of them. I'll try again next time with Homegoing.

toukokuu 15, 4:17 pm

>33 rosalita: Although I loved Great Circle, I absolutely agree that the modern day story line was a drag, and like you, I just wanted to get back to the main story. I appreciated when the stories came together and that's what probably redeemed it for me.

Good for you to be reading outside of your comfort zone, Julia! I haven't read The Family Chao but I loved Homegoing. I hope you do, too.

toukokuu 15, 4:27 pm

>34 Copperskye: Thanks for those comments, Joanne. I think there was a time in my reading life when I would have really enjoyed the insider Hollywood stuff but I'm just kind of bored with all that now. The downfall of social media means that nothing seems particularly "insider-y" anymore — we get to look behind the curtain all the time and the little bald man of reality can't match the wizard of our imaginations.

I'm glad to hear you loved Homegoing — I have high hopes for it and our reading tastes are often pretty well aligned so that bodes well.

And not to leave you on a cliffhanger to make you come back to visit me, but you will be especially interested in my next review, I think. :)

toukokuu 15, 4:35 pm

Currently Reading
(as of May 15)


I stopped including Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies about Our Past (which I've been reading since January, for Pete's sake) in my Currently Reading because I was stalled out, but I've gotten a second wind and hit upon a method that should have me finishing this one up sooner rather than later. I think I mentioned earlier that I had gotten a free copy of the audiobook from one of the editors, Kevin Kruse, in a Twitter giveaway. I had also pre-ordered the ebook, but I was finding it difficult to concentrate sufficiently on the ebook during my reading slump. But last week I remembered I had the audiobook and cued it up for my trips into Iowa City (which are usually about 30-40 minutes round trip). Listening in the car is my favorite way to read an audiobook, and the episodic nature of this book of standalone essays is perfectly suited to listening in shortish chunks. I'd love to finish it off by the end of the month.

The last book in The Brown Sisters romance trilogy seemed like a great change of pace from my recent and current reads. So far, so good.

toukokuu 16, 2:18 pm


Click of the Day

20 Years of Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood’s Other Horribly Prescient Dystopian Novel — I really enjoyed the MaddAddam trilogy (despite accidentally reading the second book first). If you did, too, you might find this article from Paste magazine interesting.

toukokuu 16, 7:07 pm

Great comments on Great Circle, Julia. I also loved Homegoing. I think one of the advantages of belonging to a book group is reading things one wouldn't normally pick up. I'll be anxious to see how this project progresses.

>37 rosalita: Interesting article.

toukokuu 16, 7:12 pm

>37 rosalita: When the author points out that Atwood "noted the ways that the dumbest shit is quickly elevated to genius when it has the right powers behind it," I thought of all the crap about "woke" education and the book banning.

toukokuu 17, 9:16 am

>39 BLBera: I agree, Beth. It's alarming how much of the dystopian "future" in MaddAddam doesn't seem nearly as outlandish as it did when I first read the books back in 2011 and 2013. I don't like that part at all, at all.

toukokuu 17, 9:36 am

I hope you like Homegoing as much as I did when I read it!

I need to get back to the MaddAddam trilogy. I read the first a few years ago...

toukokuu 17, 9:45 am

>41 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! I have high hopes for Homegoing. I would be fascinated to read your reaction to the rest of the MaddAddam trilogy reading it in today's world.

toukokuu 17, 9:57 am

>42 rosalita: - Oh, the pressure! ;-)

toukokuu 17, 11:07 am

>43 katiekrug: Pressure creates diamonds. ;-)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 12:12 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 12:30 pm

>45 rosalita: - Too late! I saw what you'd posted :)

toukokuu 17, 12:43 pm

>35 rosalita: I'll be back, enticement or not!

>37 rosalita: I've been reading Margaret Atwood since the 80s but I still haven't read her MaddAddam trilogy. I'm intrigued by your comment to Katie regarding reading it "in today's world". One of these days.

toukokuu 17, 1:03 pm

>46 katiekrug: Ha! I went to your thread and my post wasn't there and it took me a while to figure out exactly where I'd mis-posted it. :-)

toukokuu 17, 1:06 pm

>47 Copperskye: I think you'd find the MaddAddam series interesting, Joanne. Maybe by the time you get around to it it will be back to seeming like an outlandish scenario — we can only hope!

toukokuu 17, 7:33 pm

I should re-read the MaddAddam trilogy, or at least Oryx and Crake, which LT tells me I read back in 2007.

toukokuu 18, 7:56 am

>50 rabbitprincess: Wow, 2007 feels like another lifetime! Do you remember much of it after all the books and years in between? I have a terrible retention problem with books, which on the positive side means re-reading can be very enjoyable.

toukokuu 18, 5:29 pm

>51 rosalita: I can still conjure up the mental pictures I made of Oryx, Crake, and Jimmy, so I think I remember more of it than other books I've read, and even the other books in the trilogy.

toukokuu 19, 8:12 am

toukokuu 23, 5:49 pm

Currently Reading
(as of May 21)


I really enjoyed William Landay's 2012 legal thriller Defending Jacob, so when I saw that he had a new book out I had to grab it from the library. All That Is Mine I Carry with Me doesn't quite reach the heights of Defending Jacob, at least so far, but it's still quite readable.

Yep, still working on Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past but the end is in sight! Just three more essays to go. The best kind of history is readable history and this book delivers.

toukokuu 23, 5:56 pm

>54 rosalita: - My hold on the new Landay came in while I was out of town, so I deferred it to next week. I also really liked Defending Jacob. Did you see the TV adaptation of it? I can't remember what service it's on, but I keep meaning to give it a whirl.

toukokuu 23, 6:22 pm

>55 katiekrug: Hi, Katie! It's on Apple TV+ and it's in my queue — along with a bazillion other things. I do want to watch it, though — the limited series format should serve the book better than a movie.

toukokuu 23, 7:09 pm

I hear you about the long queues! After I posted that, I realized I should add it to my JustWatch app and saw it was on Apple. I love that app..... When I remember to use it 🙄

toukokuu 23, 7:33 pm

>57 katiekrug: i like the Apple TV app because it shows me what I've queued on other services, except Netflix. If I have to click on a bunch of apps to find something to watch, I'm more likely to just do something else entirely.

toukokuu 23, 7:42 pm

I get that.

toukokuu 24, 7:41 am

Hi Julia, Finally getting to your thread, Part 2 already. Impressive.
I scrolled down and noticed some books by Jane Harper (one of my favorites) and Margaret Atwood ( another favorite of me).

toukokuu 24, 9:23 am

Thanks for stopping in, Connie! Jane Harper is a relatively new discovery for me but I think she's terrific. I'm glad to hear you like her, too. And Atwood, of course, but she's more of a classic fave.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 7:57 pm

17. Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska by Warren Zanes.

Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska album isn't like any other album he's ever recorded — certainly nothing he had done up to that point (1982) in his career. Fresh off his first No. 1 album, The River, everyone including himself expected him to continue on that upward trajectory toward bigger and bigger stardom.

But recording his first five albums had been agony; months and months of studio time wasted while he wrote more songs, recorded and re-recorded with the E Street Band in an attempt to get the sound in his head onto tape. This time, Springsteen decided to do things differently: He wouldn't book studio time until he had written a set of songs for the next album and recorded solo demos for them. That would save time, money and tears of frustration.

He got a basic four-track recorder and sat in his bedroom working on a set of songs and then recording them himself onto a regular cassette tape. He wasn't too worried about quality because they were only meant to be demos. But when he and the band finally got into the studio, something strange happened. Some of the songs — "Born in the USA" for one (which ended up on the album after this one) — sounded great with the full band treatment, and the final version was nailed on just the second take. But others lost something ineffable in the studio. It didn't matter whether they tried recording with the full band, or just Bruce and his guitar attempting to recreate the vibe of the demo tape. The studio recordings were crap.

Eventually, it was decided to release the songs from the demo tape as is, without trying to re-record or overdub additional parts. Which set up a whole other technical challenge of translating something recorded on consumer-level equipment into a studio-quality record. The final album doesn't sound like anything else — it's a little muddy and a little echoey and some of the lyrics aren't quite fully fleshed out. But it's come to be considered Springsteen's masterpiece, the album that cemented his reputation as not only a great live performer but also a great songwriter.

The author, Warren Zanes, was part of the Del Fuegos band back in the day, and when he stopped being a musician he went and got himself a Ph.D and became an academic. So he's well situated to both understand the musical process and also be able to put it into a larger context. Zanes also interviewed lots of other musicians and songwriters, both famous and less so, who talk about the impact Nebraska had on their work, which added an insider facet to the story.

I will say that I am a total sucker for "behind the scenes" logistics narratives about the magic of how music gets made, probably because I love music but have zero talent myself. So I would have enjoyed this book no matter who the artist was. But of course, the artist is Bruce Springsteen and if you've been around these parts much you know how I feel about that guy. So yeah, a five-star read for me, but I think anyone who likes to read about how the musical sausage gets made would find it interesting.

toukokuu 28, 8:03 pm

18. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.

The third in a series of contemporary romances featuring a diverse cast of characters and centered around three British sisters. Eve is the youngest and as the title implies, has had a hard time growing up in the shadow of her highly accomplished older sisters and parents. But when she stumbles into a job as the chef at a B&B she finds her purpose in life and her soul mate. As one does.

I found the plot machinations strained credulity just a bit too much for me to fully enjoy the narrative, and both the obligatory "obstacle in the path of true love" and the resolution to be frankly beyond suspension of disbelief. But I really appreciate having the opportunity to read about people beyond the standard race/age/mental health status that is the usual fare, so bonus points for that. Of the three, I would rank the second one Take a Hint, Dani Brown as first, and the first Get a Life, Chloe Brown as second.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 8:09 pm

I have a couple of more reviews to write, but I'm going to leave it here for tonight, update you on my current reads and call it a night.

Currently Reading
(as of May 28)


The Man Who Died Twice is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series about pensioners solving crimes. I liked the first pretty well, and am hoping that like most series this one improves between book one and book two.

An Argumentation of Historians is the ninth full-length novel in The Chronicles of St Mary's time-travel series. It's been a while since I read No. 8, so I hope I remember where things left off well enough to pick up with this one.

toukokuu 29, 12:39 am

>62 rosalita: This sounds absolutely fascinating, Julia. Great comments.

toukokuu 29, 9:50 am

>65 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. It's so hard for me to write reviews of books I love without sounding completely unhinged. :-)

>66 BLBera: That is only one of the truly horrific things the legislature did this session. I'd give some examples but just thinking about how it all will affect the most vulnerable Iowans makes me want to cry.

toukokuu 29, 2:02 pm

>64 rosalita: I'm reading The Man Who Died Twice too, Julia! Unfortunately, as usual I've bitten off more than I can chew, reading-wise (mainly in terms of number of books on the go at any one time!) so it is taking me much longer than it should. I am enjoying it, though, and am grateful that so far I have been able to keep renewing it from the library! I've got about 10 days left on the current hold, let's see if I can finally finish it this time! :D

toukokuu 29, 2:52 pm

>68 Jackie_K: Go, Jackie, go! You can do it! (And that's the advantage to reading books that aren't hot off the press — you generally can renew the loan without having a queue of readers impatiently waiting for you to finish. :-)

toukokuu 29, 3:34 pm

>69 rosalita: Haha, exactly! I waited over a year to read the first one, for that very reason!

toukokuu 29, 3:43 pm

>67 rosalita: The news has that effect on me most days now, Julia. I think I might have to move to a cabin deep in the woods.

toukokuu 29, 6:02 pm

>70 Jackie_K: Being the last to read something has its advantages. :-)

>71 BLBera: Sounds tempting, Beth. Although I have to say it seems like the Minnesota state legislature did some really great, progressive things this year, so good for them.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 6:15 pm

19. All That Is Mine I Carry with Me by William Landay.

One day in November 1976, 10-year-old Miranda comes home from school to find that her mother is not there as she always is. When the mom never turns up the police are called, but no trace of what might have happened to Jane Larkin is ever found. The book traces the effect of their mother's disappearance (and their father's position as a prime suspect) on Miranda and her two older brothers as they grow into adulthood, as well as her mom's sister and other close family friends.

Landay has crafted an intriguing psychological study and provides some of the twisty suspense that made his Defending Jacob an outstanding read for me. But this one falls short of those lofty heights while still rising above the usual run-of-the-mill. I predicted some of the plot twists and never saw others coming, but the ending packs a punch almost as potent as the ending of Defending Jacob. Cautiously recommended.

toukokuu 29, 6:18 pm

>73 rosalita: - I've got this one on hold at the library, Julia. I will temper my expectations for it, but not remove the hold...

toukokuu 29, 6:21 pm

>74 katiekrug: No, it's definitely worth reading, Katie! But tempered expectations are a good plan. And you might end up loving it more than I did —I will look forward to comparing notes.

toukokuu 29, 6:25 pm

>75 rosalita: - I'm #3 on 9 copies, so I should get it fairly soon!

toukokuu 30, 8:33 am

>73 rosalita: I haven't read any Landay, but you've put him on my radar now...

toukokuu 30, 9:31 am

>76 katiekrug: Excellent!

>77 scaifea: In case it wasn't clear, I definitely recommend starting with Defending Jacob, and I think Katie does, too. Or will once she's read this most recent one. :-)

I watched the first episode of the Defending Jacob miniseries on Apple TV+ last night. It's an impressive cast that includes Chris Evans and the actress who played Lady Mary on Downton Abbey.

toukokuu 30, 9:34 am

Currenty Reading
(as of May 30)

I forgot that the UI Alumni Book Club started its next read last week, so I need to add Homegoing to my currently reading list.

toukokuu 30, 12:54 pm

It sounds like you've got your reading groove back, Julia.

toukokuu 30, 1:13 pm

>80 BLBera: I am cautiously optimistic, Beth. Although since I'm not entirely sure how I lost it to begin with, I can't rule out the possibility that it will happen again. Fingers crossed, though!

toukokuu 31, 1:44 pm

Hi Julia, We watched the movie of The Dry last night and both thought it was excellent - well acted and the setting was gorgeous. It doesn't seem to be streaming anywhere (where I can watch it anyway) but my library had the DVD. The extras on it were great, too, and well worth watching. (Jane Harper was an extra in a scene.)

Now I want to read the book again. The story all came back as I watched but I had forgotten a lot (as usual).

toukokuu 31, 2:43 pm

>82 Copperskye: It was available for rent from Apple TV+ for a while but now it's only available for purchase. I keep checking every once in a while to see if that changes.

kesäkuu 6, 7:26 am

>73 rosalita: - I finished the Landay yesterday. "The ending packs a punch" - yeah, as in I wanted to punch the author in the face, LOL.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 7:30 am

>84 katiekrug: Ha! I thought the ending redeemed an otherwise disjointed narrative, but I can also understand being annoyed if you'd enjoyed the book up to then.

kesäkuu 6, 7:33 am

>85 rosalita: - I didn't get the point of seemingly having the disappearance explained by the man in prison (which I thought was a lazy way to wrap it up and then it wasn't true. Also, the missing red tie was never explained, as in we are never given Dan's explanation for it. I dunno, after I finished, I found the whole thing kind of lazy in the end. And that made me mad because I had been really enjoying it!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 12:50 pm

>86 katiekrug: I looked at the serial killer thing as a way to inject more doubt in the reader's mind whether Dan was actually guilty, in order to set up the ending as a bigger shock. I didn't believe in it from the beginning so having it fizzle didn't surprise me at all. I was more bothered by the first-person narrative from Jane, which was later revealed to (apparently?) be written by Miranda, although I didn't understand how she could have known all the details when she wrote it since I don't think those came out until the body was found which seemed to be afterward? Maybe I just messed up the timeline in my head — there weren't very useful signposts for when things were happening and the narrative kept looping backward and forward in time which didn't help. That element bothered me much more than the ending.

Also, I remain perplexed about why Alex (the oldest son) had such a peripheral role in the entire book. His only reason for existing seemed to be to provide one person who took Dan's side, to the point that I was half convinced for most of the book that he would turn out to be the killer.

kesäkuu 6, 10:48 am

>87 rosalita: - Yeah, I didn't fall for the serial killer thing either, but how to explain it? And I agree about the section written by Jane/Miranda. The timeline of all of it was definitely confusing. AND and I totally agree about Alex! I guess the more I think about it as a whole, the more annoyed I am. It feels so sloppy.

I'm glad you read it so we can discuss :)

kesäkuu 6, 12:49 pm

>88 katiekrug: Yes, it's very satisfying to compare notes and make sure I'm not just completely misinterpreting something. :)

kesäkuu 11, 7:59 pm

20. Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies about Our Past edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer.

Princeton University professor Kevin Kruse is one of my favorite Twitter follows. He regularly posts threads that bring the historical receipts to refute whatever the misinformation talking points of the day are on that woebegone social-media quagmire. And he does it with an engaging narrative style that even non-historians can follow, and a mocking wit that feels deeply satisfying even when you know it's likely having no effect on the grifters he's targeting.

With Myth America, Kruse and his fellow editor Julian Zelizer (also a Princeton professor) have gathered essays from noted scholars across the spectrum of American history to refute some of the pernicious myths (some might call them lies) that are repeated ad nauseam these days. The hot-button topics include myths about "American Exceptionalism," immigration in general and the American-Mexican border in particular, the success of the Depression-era New Deal social welfare programs, the claims of voter fraud that underlie ongoing efforts to curtail voting rights, the increasing violence of police interactions with communities of color, and more.

Zelizer's essay deconstructs the myth of the Reagan Revolution, while Kruse expands a topic on which he has expended many tweets: the so-called Southern Strategy that Republicans employed to attract racist white voters in the American South that over decades resulted in the complete flip of the party from the "party of Lincoln" freeing the slaves to the "party of Trump" courting white Christian nationalists.

I got my bachelor's degree in history so I found I had at least a superficial knowledge of most of the topics covered in Myth America. For me, the value was in the details, having the bare facts put into context and buttressed by plenty of hard historical evidence. Some of the topics, such as the one on "The Magic of the Marketplace," which delves into economic theory vs economic reality, were things I had heard without understanding for years, and I felt smarter for finally getting encough context to be able to understand the topic the next time it comes up in the news. But I think the authors provide enough context to allow even readers completely unfamiliar with a topic to gain an useful understanding of it.

I'm sure there will be people who dismiss this book as partisan, a piece of liberal propaganda. I found the individual arguments to be dispassionate and matter-of-fact, a welcome breath of fresh air these days. The citations of historical evidence from primary and other trusted sources provide a foundation of facts from which fair-minded individuals can start a discussion about interpretation.

I was fortunate enough to have both the ebook and the audiobook editions, and found it most effective to listen to the essays, with a break between each to process the information I learned. During that time, I would often consult the ebook to look up the footnotes and in some cases the charts and graphs referenced in the text in order to more fully understand the topic. The audiobook used several narrators who were generally fine, although I was disappointed they didn't choose male narrators for the essays written by men and female narrators for the essays written by women. Instead both the male and female narrators seemed to be assigned more or less randomly.

kesäkuu 11, 8:27 pm

I definitely want to read this one. It's thanks to you I started following Kruse on Twitter, and I've learned so much 🙂

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 11, 9:44 pm

>91 katiekrug: He is one of the very few things keeping me on that hellsite, even as it descends further and further into chaos. Him and the DogRates account, pretty much.

kesäkuu 12, 6:57 am

>90 rosalita: That looks like a great book, Julia. Excellent review, too. I subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson's daily newsletter, and as an historian she often connects present-day events to the past and shows "how we got here". I find that kind of analysis super interesting, so I'm sure I'd like this book too.

kesäkuu 12, 8:37 am

>93 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura. Yes, Heather Cox Richardson's Substack is a must-read for me, too, as is Joyce Vance's Civil Discourse. Vance was an attorney in the civil rights division of the DOJ under Obama, and she does a great job of analyzing and explaining the legal implications of current news events.

And actually, Kevin Kruse has just started his own Substack, called (I think) Campaign Trails, if you'd like to get a sense of his style without holding your nose and opening Twitter. :-)

kesäkuu 12, 9:06 am

>94 rosalita: Oh that's good to know, Julia. I've never used Twitter and am not about to start. I should check out Joyce Vance too.

kesäkuu 12, 9:15 am

>95 lauralkeet: I've never used Twitter and am not about to start

Smart woman, Laura! If the @dogrates account would start a newsletter I might be able to abandon ship myself. As it is, I find the adorable dogs a useful palate cleanser when the sewer rats get re-tweeted into my timeline. I've blocked more accounts in the past six months than I had in my previous decade-plus on the site.

Let me know what you think of the Vance and Kruse newsletters if you check them out.

kesäkuu 12, 4:01 pm

>90 rosalita: That sounds like an excellent read, Julia. And my library has it so, of course, I requested it. Thanks!

kesäkuu 12, 4:22 pm

>90 rosalita: Onto the wishlist it goes! Wheeeee!

kesäkuu 12, 5:11 pm

>97 Copperskye: Fantastic, Joanne! I think you'll find it very enlightening.

>98 Jackie_K: Another "sale" — I hope you enjoy it, Jackie!

kesäkuu 12, 10:10 pm

>90 rosalita: I've already got Myth America on my wishlist, but this is a great review. I'm definitely going to have to pick up a copy. I also have a bachelor's degree in history, so I'm sure I will really appreciate what he has to say, and it will be interesting for me.

>94 rosalita: I have never created a Twitter account, and given the current state of Twitter I have no desire to open one now, so thank you for letting us know about his Substack site. I'll go check it out!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 9:52 am

>100 atozgrl: Thanks, Irene. Historians who can write in an accessible way are such a gift. I hope you enjoy his Substack — and good move for never getting sucked into Twitter!

kesäkuu 14, 6:54 am

So far so good on both Substacks (Joyce Vance and Kevin Kruse). Thanks for the recommendations, Julia.

kesäkuu 14, 9:54 am

>102 lauralkeet: I'm glad to hear you're enjoying them, Laura. Vance has been especially informative in explaining what's happening and what's likely to happen in the most recent Trump indictment.

kesäkuu 14, 11:18 am

I put the book in the mail to you this morning, Julia. Hope it arrives safely!

kesäkuu 14, 11:28 am

>104 katiekrug: Thanks so much, Katie!

kesäkuu 15, 7:26 am

Congrats on your LL win! I would have acquitted myself slightly better if I had been more careful and put the actual French word in for #6, rather than the English term :-P

kesäkuu 15, 8:17 am

>106 katiekrug: I am notorious for not RTFQ (reading the effing question) so I read through it several times before submitting to make sure I knew what it was asking for. :-)

kesäkuu 15, 8:30 am

You're a better/smarter woman than I!

kesäkuu 15, 8:51 am

>108 katiekrug: Well, this *one* time, anyway! I am under no illusion that I've permanently learned my lesson after all these years.

kesäkuu 17, 1:13 pm

Just chiming in late to say I am also a huge devotee of Heather Cox Richardson's daily newsletter. A NY Times columnist I developed a great appreciation for is Michelle Goldberg.

kesäkuu 19, 9:17 am

>110 rocketjk: Hi, Jerry! Yes, I try to read Goldberg's column whenever I can, although I don't always notice when a new one goes up on the website.

kesäkuu 28, 9:49 am

I came over to congratulate you on your excellent LL result this season! I had a terrible season - just missed being relegated. Still so much fun, though!

kesäkuu 29, 9:32 am

>112 katiekrug: Thank you! This season seemed to go really fast. I was very pleased to finish as well as I did, considering how extremely poorly I played defense. You can never discount the luck of who you're paired with on any given day. I'm sorry the luck of the draw worked against you this round, but at least you live to fight again in B Rundle next year. How did TW do?

kesäkuu 29, 10:55 am

>113 rosalita: - I'm not sure how he did, other than he's still in C....

kesäkuu 30, 5:22 pm

Well, I've gone and gotten behind again in my reviewing. Let's catch up, shall we?

21. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.

Perhaps I was more prepared for the rat-a-tat standup comedy rhythms that Osman employs in his storytelling, but I found this second entry in the Thursday Murder Club series a little less jarring, tonally speaking. Elizabeth, the retired but intrepid spy, takes center stage here, as an old colleague shows up seeking shelter from a mobster whom he's defrauded. The secondary plot is more realistic and quite poignant, as Ibrahim finds it hard to bounce back mentally from a rather vicious mugging. Once all four (the others being former nurse Joyce and retired labor leader Ron) are involved in the race to find the diamonds Douglas stole before the mobster does, the action really revs up. It's all a bit convoluted and a bit silly and a lot of fun.

kesäkuu 30, 5:30 pm

22. An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor.

The 11th full-length novel in the madcap Chronicles of St. Mary's series, involving time travel (strictly for historical research purposes, I assure you!) by a hangdog crew of historians and technicians who can't get out of their own way most of the time. I read the series entry previous to this one in 2019, and perhaps it's that extended gap in reading that helped me realize I no longer understand what the hell is going on in this series. Main characters who died previously are alive again, with the whole crew shifted into some sort of parallel universe or something? But other dead characters remain dead, so what's up with that? And the Time Police show up regularly to crack down on violations of the timeline, although they never seem to manage showing up in time to prevent one disaster or another. This was the book when I finally I threw up my hands, declared "the hell with it" and just enjoyed the episodic farce for what it is, without trying to suss out the big picture. Probably a failing on my part as a reader, or maybe on Taylor's as an author, but nonetheless I still enjoy the actual historical bits that gets slipped in between hilarious disasters.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 10, 9:28 am

23. Bushranger of the Skies by Arthur W. Upfield.

Many of the previous seven entries in this 20th century mystery series featuring half-caste Australian detective Napoleon Bonaparte ease into the action at a leisurely pace. Not so here, as Upfield starts things off with a literal bang, homemade bombs falling from an unidentified plane that target both Bony (traveling on foot to a rendezvous with a local policeman to take up his latest case) and the local policeman.

The action takes place in Central Australia, which I have now learned is not a territory in itself but rather part of the Northern Territory that is located pretty much exactly where you'd expect it to be located given the name. The immediate country is known as the Land of Burning Water, both because of the extreme dryness and heat that leads to mirages of oasis and because that is the name of the local aboriginal tribe's chief. After some initial suspicions between Bony and the local aboriginals, and between Bony and the squatter on whose land the previous crimes were committed, they all join forces to exact justice. Complicating matters is that the culprit, who is known to both the reader and Bony fairly early on, is not a stranger to anyone ...

This isn't the first entry in this series to feature airplanes as a significant plot point (another being Wings Above the Diamantina). I wondered if Upfield was perhaps an amateur pilot himself, but Liz tells me it's more likely that he was just reflecting both his own experience in moving around the vast inner region of Australia as well as the ways in which air travel really opened up the bush country in the early-mid 20th Century. And indeed, one of the characters here is a Flying Doctor, a literally lifesaving service for settlers in such remote country.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 8:45 am

Currenty Reading
(as of June 30)


I'm nearly done with Homegoing. It's been slow going just because it's such heavy material I don't feel able to read it for long stretches.

I have a tendency to go on deep dives whenever an artist dies who I thought I knew quite a bit about only to realize from the obituaries and tributes written after their passing that there was a quite a bit I didn't know. So I've spent some time doing a deep dive into Gordon Lightfoot's music after his death on May 1; when I saw a used copy of the 2017 biography Lightfoot for sale, I picked it up.

heinäkuu 1, 5:22 am

>118 rosalita: I'll be watching out for your comments on the Lightfoot biography. One of my favourite artists in my twenties!

heinäkuu 1, 6:59 am

>115 rosalita: I've really enjoyed all of the Thursday Murder Club books but The Man Who Died Twice was definitely the most convoluted and silly, plot-wise. The Ibrahim storyline saved it. The ongoing story of the four TMC members is really well done.

heinäkuu 1, 8:44 am

>119 MissWatson: He was always one of my faves, too, although I kind of lost track of his work after Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. And I've learned other songs that I loved as performed by other artists were actually written by Lightfoot, which has been a real revelation!

>120 lauralkeet: I'm glad to hear we had the same reaction to the plot in the second Osman. I've already got the third on my e-reader, so it didn't deter me from continuing with the series, and it's good to know you enjoyed that one as well.

heinäkuu 1, 10:45 am

I always loved Gordon Lightfoot, too, though I had a similar reaction to the Edmund Fitzgerald song. That's unfortunate, because I would guess that it was some record company executive, and not Lightfoot himself, who made the decision to release that tedious song as a single. (I'll be interested to know what the bio has to say about that.) At any rate, there is a lot of wonderful material, especially those early United Artist Records albums. Another reason I have a soft spot for Lightfoot is that he is one of the few artists that my mother and I both liked. Cat Stevens is another, btw.

heinäkuu 1, 2:52 pm

>115 rosalita: I'm nearly half way through The Man Who Died Twice, and have lost count of how many times I've had to renew it from the library (I started it in February!). I've definitely not found it as much of a pageturner as the first one, although I am enjoying it when I get round to it. I just get distracted by other books.

heinäkuu 1, 5:59 pm

>122 rocketjk: Oh dear, Jerry. I'm afraid I've given you the wrong impression — I actually love "Edmund Fitzgerald," always have. I just meant that I never really heard any of the music he released after that on the radio or in the news and didn't realize he kept recording until just a few years ago. I hope we can still be friends! :-)

As for whose idea it was to make "Fitzgerald" a single, I haven't gotten to that part of the biography yet, but I can relate an amusing story from earlier in his career.

According to the biography, Lightfoot's 1970 album, Sit Down, Young Stranger got good reviews but wasn't selling particularly well — until "If You Could Read My Mind" was released as the second single. It quickly became a hit, and the record company decided to capitalize by renaming the album after the single. Lightfoot was against the change and felt strongly enough about it to fly from Toronto to LA to make his point in person. The record company exec asked him if he'd ever taken algebra, and Lightfoot replied that he'd taken it but never passed it. The exec said something to the effect of, "Well, changing the album title is the difference between x and 8x." Lightfoot said, "Go ahead and change it," and flew back home to Toronto.

heinäkuu 1, 6:00 pm

>123 Jackie_K: Hi, Jackie! The plot is so convoluted that I'm not surprised you're finding it difficult to get stuck in when you're reading it over an extended period of time. I had enough trouble reading it straight through! But I'm glad you're enjoying when you do get to it.

heinäkuu 2, 9:31 am

>90 rosalita: This one sounds great, Julia.

I read the first few Jodi Taylors and really enjoyed them. It's been so long since I've read one, I wonder if I will be able to follow?

I love Gordon Lightfoot, and one of my good friends in college was a fanatic, so I saw him in concert several times in the 70s. The venues were mostly smaller and it was a great experience.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 10:24 am

>124 rosalita: Ha! Yes, we are still friends! Tastes differ on such things, of course. I think I would have liked Edmund Fitzgerald much more if I hadn't had to listen to it 10 times a day.

I have clear memories of the album name change you related there, though of course I had no idea about the humorous "algebra" anecdote you shared. Thanks for that. We heard "If You Could Read My Mind" all day everyday for a while, too, but it had the advantage (at least for me!) of being a much better song and one I could relate to on a personal level.

Now I'm going to share a piece of sacrilege with you (at least it's sacrilege among most of my peers from those days): I like Lightfoot's version of the Kris Kristofferson song, "Me and Bobby McGee," better than Janis Joplin's version. Now, all in all, I revere Janis. There's barely a song she ever recorded that I don't crank up to full volume whenever it comes on the radio, and I find the footage of her performances are powerful and heart-rending. The exception is that one song. For one thing, she sounds like she's having too much fun to come anywhere near the sense of longing and regret that the lyrics entail. Lightfoot is much more in tune to the song's intent, I think. Also, Janis changed a crucial lyric in a way I've never cared for. Lightfoot sings the original lyric: "Freedom ain't worth nothing, but it's free," which Janice sings as "Freedom ain't worth nothing if it ain't free." Anyway, that's all brought to you from Digressions Are Us, the home of opinions and observations nobody asked for. Remember, digressions ain't worth nothing, but they're free!

heinäkuu 3, 6:51 am

>127 rocketjk: I'll digress further with a memory triggered by mention of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee". My seventh grade English teacher had us do an exercise where we had to listen to the song and write down every noun. I don't remember how many nouns there were, or what the point of all this was, but I do remember the words coming at you a bit fast, and a feeling of relief every time the chorus came around.

heinäkuu 3, 10:11 am

>126 BLBera: Welcome home, Beth! I think you'd find Myth America worth reading. I think the best approach to the Jodi Taylor series is to just give up on trying to follow the overall arc and just enjoy the episodic shenanigans. At least, that's what seems to be working for me. And I'm jealous you got to see Lightfoot in concert. By the time I was old enough to go to concerts, I don't think he ever came anywhere close to home. Alas.

heinäkuu 3, 10:15 am

>127 rocketjk: Whew! Glad we are still friends. I do sympathize with getting sick of songs you hear over and over and over again. It does get tiresome even when the song's a good one. I do think "If You Could Read My Mind" is one of those songs I seem to get something fresh from every time I hear it. It's really special.

You probably know that Lightfoot's cover of "Me and Bobby McGee" was the first single from Sit Down, Young Stranger and it didn't make much of an impact. I do really like his version, especially for what you say about it hewing more closely to the emotional tenor of the lyrics. I never noticed that lyric change in Joplin's version — the original is much better, as you say.

heinäkuu 3, 10:16 am

>128 lauralkeet: I love your story, Laura! I have tried many times to transcribe lyrics from listening to songs and constantly having to stop and re-start the tape because I couldn't keep up. Thank heavens for repeated choruses!

heinäkuu 3, 10:23 am

I like your idea about how to approach Jodi Taylor. I think that will work. Yes, the Lightfoot concerts were good ones. I remember that most of the venues were pretty small, at least not stadium-sized. Not to rub it in. I, on the other hand, have never seen The Boss in concert, so there you are. :)

Talk later this week, I think.

heinäkuu 3, 10:39 am

>132 BLBera: Concerts in smaller venues are almost always infinitely better than those in giant basketball arenas or stadiums, and even more so for someone like Lightfoot whose music isn't bombastic or flashy. So I'd say you got the best possible experience. :-)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 10:45 am

>130 rosalita: "You probably know that Lightfoot's cover of "Me and Bobby McGee" was the first single from Sit Down, Young Stranger and it didn't make much of an impact. I do really like his version, especially for what you say about it hewing more closely to the emotional tenor of the lyrics. I never noticed that lyric change in Joplin's version — the original is much better, as you say."

I didn't remember that, but now that you say it, it does ring a bell. "Me and Bobby McGee" is a very nice song, but "If You Could Read My Mind," at least in my opinion, is significantly prettier, melodically speaking, and more memorable emotionally. The Janice version of "Bobby McGee" had a particular resonance, coming to us via the Pearl album, which wasn't released until several months after Janice's death. We were all grateful and eager for one last chance to imagine her alive and laughing. The NYC rock stations I listened to also played "Mercedes Benz" over and over, much, I think, for the same reason. But, look, obviously my preference for the Lightfoot version of "Bobby McGee" over the Janice version is a minority opinion, and I completely get why that is. For one thing, she makes it fun. Plus, when she sings, "I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday," well, given the context, that packs an emotional punch all its own.

heinäkuu 3, 3:20 pm

>134 rocketjk: I think I prefer Kristofferson's own version of MaBM over any other, but that line certainly takes on added poignancy when sung by Joplin. I hadn't realized that it was released after her death — that must have been bittersweet for her fans.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 3:43 pm

Currently Reading
(as of July 3)


Romancing Mister Bridgerton is the fourth entry in the series — it's Colin's turn in the Marriage Mart. It's interesting to compare how it's different from what was shown in the side plots of previous seasons of the Netflix series.

Still enjoying Lightfoot.

heinäkuu 4, 5:27 pm

I was fortunate to see Gordon Lightfoot a few times; whenever he came to my city, my friends and I made sure to get tickets. Two of my favourite songs of his are Carefree Highway and Steel Rail Blues. Carefree Highway played a lot on the oldies station my grandparents listened to, so hearing it transports me right back to their kitchen. Steel Rail Blues is my friend’s favourite and I’ve developed a fondness for it too; it has a good rhythm.

heinäkuu 5, 9:34 am

>137 rabbitprincess: Thanks for visiting! "Carefree Highway" was one of those songs I knew but didn't know was Lightfoot. And "Steel Rail Blues" was new to me when I started working my way through his catalog on Apple Music, but it's become one of my favorites as well.

heinäkuu 5, 10:34 am

There are a lot of Lightfoot songs that I love, but my favorite, I think, is an early one: "Long Way Back Home." I think it's because I so love this set of lyrics:

Now the pages have faded
The story grows cold
And the plot falls to ashes
Like the ruins of old
Those rats in my rafters
They're after my shoes
And anything else
They can find on the shelf
I've said they could use

heinäkuu 5, 9:14 pm

Hi Julia, I enjoyed reading all the Gordon Lightfoot comments. My favorites of his are Carefree Highway and If You Could Read My Mind. The book you're reading sounds interesting.

Like you, I prefer Kris Kristofferson's own version of Me and Bobby McGee. I can hardly believe that he just turned 87. I'm hardly a country music fan, but I still have a handful of his albums, bought in the 70s, that I'd never part with.

>116 rosalita: I have the first three Chronicles of St Mary's books on my Kindle (just checked, been there awhile - bought as a boxset in 2015, $0.99). Thanks for the warning that I should read them close together!

>115 rosalita: I love the Thursday Murder Club books. I like how silly they are without being dumb. A new one comes out this fall.

Homegoing is really a heavy read, but worth it, I thought.

heinäkuu 6, 7:47 am

>139 rocketjk: That's a lovely verse indeed, Jerry!

>140 Copperskye: "Silly but not dumb" is the perfect description of the Thursday Murder Club series, Joanne. That's what keeps them from being annoying — along with really well-drawn characters.

heinäkuu 6, 5:12 pm

25.Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

Homegoing chronicles the diverging family fortunes of two half-sisters in Ghana in painstaking, often excruciating detail, from the 18th century through to the present day.

One sister, Effia, is the oldest child of Cobbe, a member of the Fante tribe, and his first wife, Baaba. As she grows up, Effia doesn't understand why her mother doesn't love her. It is not until much later that she learns she is actually the child of her father's rape of an Asante housegirl named Maame. The house girl ran away the night Effia was born, getting lost in the chaos and confusion of a forest fire she deliberately set. Baaba's hatred of being forced to raise Effia results in a scheme to marry her off to a white man, one of the English colonials who occupy Cape Coast Castle, where captured Africans are taken and held until being sent to America to be used and abused as unpaid slave labor.

Esi was born to Maame and "Big Man," an Asante tribal chief who marries her when she arrives in his village after fleeing from the fire. Esi learns as a teenager about the circumstances of her mother's life, and scarcely has time to absorb this new knowledge before their village is raided by Fante warriors, who capture many of the villagers and hold them prisoner before selling them to the English soldiers. Esi and the others are taken to Cape Coast Castle to await their deportation to North America. Neither she, living in the castle's dudgeon, or her sister, married to the white man who now commands the castle, have any idea of the other's presence.

Alternating chapters introduce us to successive generations of Effia's and Esi's families. The stark contrast in the fortunes of their descendants — one family maintaining authority and power in Africa while the other is tossed and battered through slavery in America and the ongoing inequality that persists throughout — can make for difficult reading. At the same time, it's an effective way to convey that the African diaspora that came about via the slave trade is not a monolith. As Tolstoy reminded us in Anna Karenina, unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way. None of the characters profiled in the book has been well-served by their encounter with the slave trade, regardless of which side they were on.

I was grateful for the genealogy chart at the beginning of the book. Each chapter was so searing in its emotional weight that I found it difficult to read more than one at a sitting, meaning that I was constantly having to remind myself of who the various characters were and where in the timeline they lived. There is nothing light or playful to break the impact of Effia's and Esi's stories, which is hard on the reader but perhaps not inappropriate. If they could live it, the least we can do is read about it, I would guess is the rationale.

I'm having a hard time thinking of who I would recommend this book to, despite the brutal beauty of Gyasi's prose, as in this description of Esi's state of mind during her time in the slave dungeon:
Hell was a place of remembering, each beautiful moment passed through the mind's eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango; perfectly useless, uselessly perfect.

heinäkuu 6, 5:36 pm

I still owe two more reviews, but in the meantime here's what I've moved on to.

Currently Reading
(as of July 6)


I've had Blacktop Wasteland in my TBR queue for a while. I tried reading it in 2021 but my pandemic-addled brain wasn't up to it. I'm doing much better this time around, which is reassuring.

Rogue Protocol is the third Murderbot story. I'm hoping it provides some welcome escapism from my other, more gritty current read.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 6, 8:44 pm

I love Murderbot, Julia. I think it will provide you the escape you want. Do you read or listen to them? The audiobooks are really good.

heinäkuu 7, 6:43 am

>142 rosalita: Excellent review of Homegoing, Julia. I loved it, even though it was a difficult read at times.

heinäkuu 7, 7:39 am

I also really loved Homegoing when I read it in 2016. And then, when I was in Ghana, I took a day trip to the coast and toured Cape Coast Castle and its slave dungeons, and oof. It was, unsurprisingly, very intense.

heinäkuu 7, 9:50 am

>144 BLBera: I have them as ebooks, Beth, but I've heard (maybe from you?) that the audiobooks are good.

heinäkuu 7, 9:52 am

>145 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura! It was a hard one to write — so much to say and I find I'm still thinking about it quite a bit. I think it's one that will stay with me for a long time. I'd like to read more by Gyasi.

>146 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie. I can imagine how intense that must have been to visit the site of so much human misery, especially coming from the US where we learn what was waiting for them at the other end of the voyage.

heinäkuu 7, 12:55 pm

>146 katiekrug: oh ... wow. The NYT published an account of someone's visit with their children (was it Jesmyn Ward? I can't remember for sure, but it was a prominent black author), and reading that was intense enough. I can't imagine seeing it in person.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 8:05 am

Currently Reading (as of July 9)

Lawrence Block wrote 17 novels and a short-story collection featuring unofficial private detective Matt Scudder, and there's not a bad book in the bunch. Block, now in his 80s, just self-published what surely must be the last volume in the series, which is framed as The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder. It's meant to fill in the gaps before the novels began and a bit from after they ended.

heinäkuu 19, 5:32 pm

>150 rosalita: Wow...I've read a few of the Scudder series. I had no idea Block was still with us, and still writing!

Muokkaaja: elokuu 7, 4:01 pm

>151 laytonwoman3rd: Hi, Laura! The man is stunningly prolific. You'd think one series of nearly 20 books would be enough for a career, but he has written two other terrific series (Bernie Rhodenbarr and Keller's Greatest Hits) as well as a few other shorter series and a passel of standalones. I get tired just thinking about it.

heinäkuu 20, 9:39 am

>150 rosalita: I think I may have read some of his years ago...Good to know they are worthwhile.
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around again in 2023-Chapter 3.