• LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

2017 is a Prime Reading Year for Banjo!

This topic was continued by Thread # 2 May the Books be With you!.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

Join LibraryThing to post.

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 8:45pm Top

(picture from Webster Woods Art Park in Port Angeles, Washington)

Dec 31, 2016, 8:43pm Top

To the New Year

By W. S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 8:54pm Top

Hello fellow book fanatics! I am Banjo, aka Rhonda, back for another year of books and camaraderie. I live in Portland, Oregon, with my wife (aka Mrs. Banjo), our dog, Chica, and three cats (Banjo, Francis and Willi). Our daughter (known here as Banjo, jr) is 20, a junior in college, and growing into a really fun adult.

My day job is in geriatric mental health, and I enjoy music, movies, theater and the outdoors, as well as reading. The mainstay of my reading is literary fiction, but I also read a fair amount of non-fiction, and a variety of other genres.

Edited: Jan 1, 2:11pm Top

For 2017, I decided that I wanted to be more organized in my reading, and so I have developed several different reading goals. Hopefully this will help me to make a dent in my TBR! Although, there is actually a high likelihood that I will ditch my plans within a few weeks.

I am one of the people who was devastated by the results of the US presidential election, and for a while I had thought of arranging my reading in response. I was thinking of reading more US history in order to better understand recent events. However, then I read a rant on Facebook comparing Trump to Henry VIII, which caused me to realize that the US does not exist in isolation, and I needed to expand my reading goals.

I plan to group most of my 2017 reading into the following categories:

Edited: Mar 26, 11:14pm Top

The 2016 New York Times best 10 books.

I have already read three of these (The Vegetarian by Han Kang; Evicted by Matthew Desmond and The Return but Hisham Matar

I thought it would be worthwhile to read the other seven:

Dark Money by Jane Mayer--READ
In the Darkroom by SUsan Faludi
North Water by Ian McGuire Read!
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--READ
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
At the existentialist cafe by Sarah Bakewell
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans--- READ

Edited: Apr 19, 12:33am Top

The American Author's Challenge. This year I am going to try to be a completist in Mark's AAC.

January- Octavia Butler: Kindred
February- Stewart O' Nan The Good Wife
March- William Styron The Confessions of Nat Turner
April- Poetry Month the City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee
May- Zora Neale Hurston
June- Sherman Alexie
July- James McBride
August- Patricia Highsmith
September- Short Story Month
October- Ann Patchett
November- Russell Banks
December- Ernest Hemingway

Edited: Apr 25, 12:54am Top

And I will also try to be a Completist in the Non-Fiction Challenge:

January: Prize Winners Fun Home by Alison Bechdel The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
February: Voyages of Exploration The Old Patagonian Express
March: Heroes and Villains I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
April: Hobbies, Pastimes and Passions {My Life with BOB; Hallelujah: The Welcome Table Counting Coup
May: History
June: The Natural World
July: Creators and Creativity
August: I’ve Always Been Curious About….
September: Gods, Demons and Spirits
October: The World We Live In: Current Affair
November: Science and Technology
December: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Edited: Apr 8, 7:46pm Top

Other LT Challenges and reads, which I will try to participate in, though not to be a completist, include:

The Re-Read Challenge Fun Home, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The British Author Challenge
The Canadian Challenge The Heart Goes Last
The Reading Globally Challenges War and Turpentine
Obama Challenge The Fire Next Time

I also want to participate in Atwood April; and plan to start a read for Haruki Murakami in March.

Edited: Apr 19, 12:34am Top

My Book-Groups:

I belong to two, a Lesbian Book Group, which has been good for increasing the diversity of my reading, although not always great for the quality; and a regular book group, that mostly reads literary fiction. The current books for these groups :
Fun Home
The Double by Jose Saramago
Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc
Elephant company

I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

Edited: Apr 3, 12:05am Top

Early Reviewers:

I enjoy participating in the Early Reviewers program, and end up with a book most months.

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Peculair Life of the Lonely Postman
My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

Edited: Apr 25, 12:55am Top

I am planning to do the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

Read a book about sports. Counting Coup
Read a debut novel. The Mortifications
Read a book about books. My Life with Bob
Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South
American author.
Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. the MortificationsThe City in Which I Love You
Read an all-ages comic. March Book One
Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
Read a travel memoir. The Old Patagonian Express
Read a book you’ve read before. Fun Home I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. Objects in the Mirror by
Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. The Double by Jose Saramago
Read a fantasy novel. Kindredall the birds in the sky
Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Read a book about war. Elephant Company War and Turpentine
Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Juliet Takes A Breath
Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. Fun HomeTherese and Isabelle I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Read a classic by an author of color. The Fire Next TIme by James Baldwin, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey . The Mortifications
Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.
Read a book published by a micropress. Objects in the Mirror
Read a collection of stories by a woman.
Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. Kindred, Underground Railroad

Edited: Apr 1, 6:30pm Top

And I am challenging myself to read ALL of the books in my "read very soon" pile. Some of these will also go with other challenges... here they are:

Underground Railroad by Colson Whiteheasd-- READ
To Steal a Kingdom; Probing Hawaiian History by Michael Daougherty
Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen --READ
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan READ
Shipping News by Annie Prouix
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi READ
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova --READ
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
THe Mirrored World by Debra Dean
Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
How to be Both by Ali Smith
Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer
Just Kids by Patti Smith

Edited: Jan 1, 8:43pm Top

Dec 31, 2016, 9:57pm Top

Welcome back!

Dec 31, 2016, 10:06pm Top

I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.

Thank you for also being part of the group.

Jan 1, 6:24am Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda!

Jan 1, 10:05am Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda.

Jan 1, 11:56am Top

Happy reading in 2017, Rhonda!

Jan 1, 2:21pm Top

Thanks Jim, Beth, Paul, Diana, Anita!

Hoping that everyone is having a good year so far. I have a New Year's Brunch to go to, so will be back to finish setting up my thread in a little bit.

Jan 1, 5:00pm Top

Dropping by to set a star and wish you a happy new year!

Jan 1, 8:32pm Top

Hi, Rhonda!

Jan 1, 8:52pm Top

Thanks Katherine and Amber! I am looking forward to the year ahead.

Reading Update and plans for January: I finished 3 books in 2016 which I still haven't commented on, and hope to do some mini-reviews later today.
I have started Kindred, which I read years ago, but don't remember very well. Other books for January include Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; The Double by Jose Saramago for book clubs. I have Lost : A Search for Six of Six Million for the non-fiction book read, and an ERC the Mortifications. Other books in the queue are Dark Money; Homegoing and Underground Railroad

Jan 1, 9:34pm Top

Rhonda, I too felt like I'd been hit in the stomach after the election. I work in a school which has a 25% Latino population and this is the only time I've ever seen an election where you felt like you had to discuss what it might mean for the future with the students. And yes, I thought of making my thread a subtle response and in some ways I will, but I also don't want to give him more power by dwelling on him!

You'll love Fun Home and if it helps, that person we aren't talking about wouldn't want you to read it. He would prefer it had never been published at all. Makes it even more enjoyable, doesn't it?

Jan 1, 10:27pm Top

>24 banjo123: Oooh, Saramago! I've only read Blindness, but I loved it so much. I need to get back to more of his stuff eventually.

Edited: Jan 1, 10:44pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhonda. Looking forward to following you, in your reading life, for another year.

Hope you had a great holiday with the loved ones.

I also have my copy of Kindred. I will be starting it soon.

Jan 1, 11:45pm Top

>25 cammykitty: That must be so hard, talking to the students about the election and what it means. I did read Fun Home years ago, and loved it then, so I am looking forward to it.

>26 scaifea: I am in the same position--- I read Blindness and it was great, but hard. He is quite a writer.

>27 msf59: Sweet picture, Mark! I think that you will really like Kindred

Jan 1, 11:57pm Top

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

This is a beautifully written memoir about Matar's experiences in trying to find out what happened to his father, Jaballa Matar, a Libyan diplomat, who became a political dissident under Qaddafi. He was kidnapped, held in a secret prison, and disappeared. This book details Matar's attempts to find his father, and also the way that the event affected Matar and his family. It is a heartbreaking story of exile, hope, anger and disappointment, all the more touching because Matar makes it clear that this is just one story of many.

Matar makes it clear just how hard the uncertainty is. "I envy the finality of funerals. I covet the certainty. How it must be to wrap one's hands around the bones, to choose how to place them, to be able to pat the patch of earth and sing a prayer.

Jan 2, 3:45am Top

So many book plans!! Good luck! I'll be watching... : )

Jan 2, 10:27am Top

Hi Rhonda, thank you so much for stopping by my thread. What a lovely thread topper pic and congratulations on already having one book finished!

Relying on my Irish heritage to leave you the following Happy New Year wishes for you and your family:

Jan 2, 10:31am Top

Dropping a star, Rhonda! Looking forward to following you this year. That memoir sounds like one for the list.

Jan 2, 1:07pm Top

>30 Berly: Thanks, Kim! We will see how many plans last past MLK day.

>31 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori, for the New Year's wishes. They are apropos, because Banjo, jr is right now planning a study abroad semester in Ireland for the fall, and we are scheming to meet her there at some point.

>32 Crazymamie: Thanks for the star, Mamie! It really is a good book,

And speaking of books, I have two more un-reviewed from 2016.

Edited: Jan 2, 1:31pm Top

The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward

This is a collection of essays, and a few poems, by young African American writers on the subject of race, mostly written in response to the killings of young black men; such as Trayvon Martin. THe essays are all very well written and worth reading, although, because they are written from multiple points of view, the book doesn't hang together as a whole as well as it's namesake, The FIre NExt TIme by James Baldwin, or by the recent long essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me

Some of the well known contributors to this book are Edwidge Danticat; Natasha Trethewey and Isabel Wilkerson. One of my favorite essays was by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in which she talks about James Baldwin, and visits his home in France.

"James Baldwin lived in this house for more than twenty five years, and all that was left were half a dozen pink tea-cups and turquoise saucers buried by the house's rear wall, orange trees that were heavy with fruit, but the fruit was bitter and sharp to the taste. We see Baldwin's name in connection to the present condition more often than we see Faulkner's, Whitman's, or Thoreau's. We can visit houses and places where they lived and imagine how their geography shaped the authors and our collective vocabulary. By next year, Baldwin's house will just be another private memory for those who knew it."

Jan 2, 1:27pm Top

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert Caro

I have now finished the fourth of Caro's multi-volume biography of LBJ, and I am mad at Caro now, for not having finished the fifth yet. This is just an awesome political biography, full of fascinating details, and enlightening about how politics works in the US. LBJ was certainly a jerk, but also a genius, and he knew how to get things done. It was interesting, because I grew up always thinking of Kennedy as a big hero, and not that he wasn't, but he would have never gotten the civil rights bill past. The feud between LBJ and Robert Kennedy was interesting, and reflects badly on both men. When I read it, I was sad for the lost opportunity, because the two actually had similar values, both cared about poverty and civil rights. If they would have worked together, think how much could have been accomplished.

Jan 3, 2:21am Top

>33 banjo123: Banjo Jr is going to Ireland!! My oldest did her Fall semester there and LOVED it! I didn't get a chance to visit her there, but you guys should go if you can--I still want to. : )

And two reviews already--great job!

Jan 3, 2:51am Top

>4 banjo123: I wanted to me more organised in my reading last year, and now this year I am just aiming for reading. In general....just read lots of books. ;)

>12 banjo123: ooooh, some goodies in there! Just Kids and The Shipping News for starters. I also really need to read Wolf Hall soon....I gave it a half hearted attempt 2 years ago, and abandoned. But I hear it really kicks in once you get hooked.

Jan 3, 2:58am Top

Lovely new place you have here.

I love all your lists and challenges. Your topper image struck a chord as I am (still) reading The Long long life of trees - gorgeous pictures of many, many trees (but very British - she needs a companion volume I think).

Ooh, a trip to Ireland. Sounds wonderful.

Jan 3, 3:28pm Top

>33 banjo123: That seems like a wonderful excuse to go visit. One you should not pass up. Besides, you can engage in that wonderful parental right of embarrassing your child.

Jan 3, 5:19pm Top

Hi Rhonda - Great comments. Both >29 banjo123: and >34 banjo123: are on my list. You have great plans for January. I look forward to following your reading this year, and perhaps meeting.

Jan 3, 6:36pm Top

I started the Caro biographies a few years ago and stalled half way through Master of the Senate. Don't know why, since they are wonderful books. I need to get back to them. Maybe by the time I finish, he will have published the 5th volume.

Jan 4, 12:23am Top

>36 Berly: Hi Kim! I forgot that your daughter studied in Ireland... I am glad to hear she had such a good time. Ireland looks so pretty, I think it'd be fun to visit. I hope that Banjo, Jr really does it... we wanted her to study abroad, but she has put it off til Senior year.

>37 Ireadthereforeiam: I am like that as well, alternate between lots of plans, and then giving up and just reading on whim. I will have to see how this year goes.

>38 charl08: Thanks! I don't know of any really good tree books that cover North America comprehensively. But it would be a fun idea.

>39 Oberon: Yes, I think if she actually gets to Ireland (she still has to apply to the program) we will definitely need to go and embarrass her.

>40 BLBera: Yes, Beth, hooray for meetups! I think you really should come to Oregon.

>41 arubabookwoman: Hmm I found the first part of Master of the Senate kind of hard to follow, actually, so many characters and Senate rules. But after the first bit, it reads easier, and Passage to Power was actually the easiest to follow, I think because I was more familiar with that time period.

Jan 4, 2:54pm Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda! Sorry for the late greeting, but I've finally finished with my Christmas and New Year's Day work stretch and now have time to make the rounds.

I agree with your assessment of The Fire This Time. I found it to be uneven, with some good essays and many trivial ones, and overall it paled in comparison to Baldwin's searing nonfiction writings.

One of these days I am going to get to Caro's LBJ series, though probably not this year.

Jan 4, 11:35pm Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda. What an amazing book plan you have put together for this year. I'll be looking forward to reading your reviews.

I read the Caro books awhile back and still think them the best biographies I have read. It completely changed my idea of LBJ and gave me a real understanding of how the Senate works.

I hope you are keeping warm. I can't believe the arctic cold here in the NW.

Jan 5, 1:12pm Top

I'm currently reading Kindred, too, and am really enjoying it.

Jan 8, 9:54am Top

>33 banjo123: Rhonda - I will almost certainly be around in that part of the world in Autumn. A short hop across the Irish sea for a meet-up would be great.

Jan 9, 12:04am Top

Hello reading friends! Sorry that I haven't been around; we had out of town guests, which was fun, but busy. Then this morning I woke up with a cold and headache. I rested most of today, so hopefully tomorrow I will have more energy. (especially because I have to go to work.)
I did finish two books--Kindred and Fun Home and am almost done with The Mortifications

>43 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I was still glad to have read The Fire This Time; but it's reassuring to know that you had the same overall impression.

>44 Oregonreader: Jan, can you believe this weather? You were the one who actually piqued by interest in the Caro books. Thank you!

>45 The_Hibernator: So far Kindred is my favorite book of the year!

>46 PaulCranswick: That would be so exciting, Paul! Definitely an inducement to make this trip real.

Jan 9, 7:04am Top

Hi, Rhonda! Hope you had a good weekend. Good review of The Fire This Time. I have been trying to find that one on audio.

I think Ward has a new book of fiction coming out this year.

Jan 9, 11:26pm Top

Sorry to hear that you too are down with the cold. I think I'm going to take some Tylenol soon and just crash out on the couch. You seem to be very productive, Rhonda. I am supposed to get my hair cut on Thursday ( and it needs it ) but if I feel like this tomorrow , I'll have to cancel my Thursday appointment. Ugh.

Jan 9, 11:32pm Top

>48 msf59: Hooray for new fiction from Ward! I thought Salvage the Bones was amazing.

>49 vancouverdeb: I need a hair-cut as well, but have been too lazy to schedule it! I think my cold is getting better... but I did skip the symphony tonight, and I think I will skip my book group tomorrow, and stay home with a brandy.

Jan 10, 3:29pm Top

Take care, Rhonda. I hope you feel better soon.

Jan 10, 11:24pm Top

>51 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I am feeling a little bit better. There is a chance of a snow day tomorrow, which I would not mind.

Edited: Jan 11, 1:25pm Top

Hope you're continuing to improve-taking it easy sounds like a good move. I've not read any Baldwin, but he keeps popping up in other books - Teju Cole wrote about his time in Europe in his new essay collection, so I would like to.

Jan 12, 4:21pm Top

>53 charl08: Thanks, Charlotte! I read most of James Baldwin's works when I was younger, I think I would like to do some re-reading this year.

We are in the midst of a snow emergency here in Portland, and schools and workplaces have been closed. For me that's been good, since I could stay home and baby my cold. I pretty much lay around yesterday, did a little reading, and I am feeling a bit better today, although unfortunately I seem to have developed a mild case of pink-eye.
The weather has been harder on some other people in my city; there have been a number of power-outages, and tragically, four homeless people have died of exposure.

Jan 12, 5:05pm Top

Kindred by Octavia Butler

This a a time travel novel by Octavia Butler, the woman who brought the African American experience to Science Fiction. Dana is an African American woman and writer, married to a white man, and living in 1976 Los Angeles. She finds her self pulled back, to a plantation in Maryland, where she meets and interacts with some of her ancestors, both black and white. Butler does not spare details in describing the horrors of slavery, but the most effective thing that she does, is to show how living and growing up in this culture shapes both blacks and whites. Dana and her husband both visit the past several times, spending time there both together and separately. The experience tests them as a couple and as individuals.

I read in an internet article that Butler wrote this book in response to a Black Power individual who had made a comment disparaging African Americans of previous generations who were passive in face of slavery and racism. Butler's book shows how hard it is to judge those of the past by our standards today.

This book was written in 1979, and it holds up well. The writing and character development are quite good, and I thought the plotting was top-notch.

Jan 12, 5:16pm Top

>55 banjo123: Good review of Kindred, Rhonda! So nice to see so many of my LT pals enjoying this one. Have you read Butler before?

Jan 12, 5:36pm Top

Oh man, pinkeye! Dang. I hope it clears up soon for you!

Jan 12, 5:44pm Top

>56 msf59: I read quite a bit of Butler before, including Kindred, I think, but it was in the 80's when I read a lot of Science Fiction. All I remember from that time is a general feeling of the books.

>57 scaifea: Thanks, Amber, I think that it's a light case... fingers crossed because in this snowstorm, I don't think I could get to the doctor's office.

And I have more books to review.....

Jan 12, 5:50pm Top

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I loved, loved, loved this book the first time I read it, right when it came out. So I was looking forward to the re-read, but, darn, it didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. It's still a good book, and I loved the interplay between text and art-work, but this time around, it seemed overly-intellectual and self-involved. Oh, well. I will still give it four stars, for honesty, and for a fresh way of using words and graphics to create a intimate and crystal-clear picture on a dysfunctional, yet very interesting childhood.

Jan 12, 5:56pm Top

Hooray for Fun Home! It still remains one of the best GN memoirs I have read. And that is sayin' a lot!

Jan 12, 6:16pm Top

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

I got this book from Early Reviewers, as I was intrigued by the plot. It involved a Cuban family, in which the mother takes her twins, Isabel and Ulises, to the US as part of the Mariel boat lift of 1980. The father refuses, and stays in Cuba. The book takes us through a long separation, Ulises growing to manhood with a love for the classics (allusions to the Odyssey) and fine cigars; Isabel becomes a nun; Soledad, the mother, has a career, and meets another man. And then the book takes us back to Cuba, and a difficult reunion.

I really liked this book at first, it has a lot going for it, larger than life characters, strange plot twists, and an affinity to classic literature from the west and from Latin America. However, at some point, the book became a bit of a slog for me. Not to go into details, but one of the themes of the book is the division between body and spirit. Palacio uses descriptions of illness, sexuality, and squalor to highlight this. This theme did not resonate well for me, but I looked up an interview with Palacio, and found our that he is very Catholic-identified. I think that the book has a number of Catholic themes, which did not so much work for me, but might work for someone with a Catholic background and a tolerance for lots of sex.

Jan 12, 6:41pm Top

>60 msf59: Mark, you should make a list of your favorite GN memoirs! What else is on the list?

Jan 12, 9:58pm Top

Rhonda, I'm sorry you are not feeling well. But hopefully, you can stay at home and rest with no guilty feelings. It would be too stressful to try to get anywhere on our icy streets. I am spending my days reading and talking to my dog. I'm hoping to get out tomorrow afternoon.

Jan 12, 10:03pm Top

>61 banjo123: I got that through LTER too and I also had higher hopes in the beginning that just weren't borne out. I said at the time that I would have been more interested in reading the book that it could have been instead of the book it ended up being.

Jan 12, 10:10pm Top

>62 banjo123: Ooh, that would be a tall order, Rhonda. I will have to give that some thought.

Sorry, you are under the weather. Sending healing vibes.

Jan 13, 5:13pm Top

>63 Oregonreader: Thanks, Jan! I ended up working from home today, and I am feeling better, but still pretty puny. Reading and talking to the dog sounds about what I am good for.

>64 ursula: Sounds like we had similar feelings, Ursula. I would be interested in reading his future books, perhaps, because there definitely was something there.

>65 msf59: Think away, Mark! and thanks for the healing vibes.

Jan 13, 5:48pm Top

Great comments on your reading, as always, Rhonda. After seeing yours and Ursula's comments on The Mortifications, I think I'll pass on it and wait for his next one.

Jan 13, 6:01pm Top

>55 banjo123: Kindred sounds fascinating. I've never heard of it before. Thanks for putting it on my radar

Jan 13, 9:31pm Top

>67 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! You might like The Mortifications better, but its probably safe to wait.

>68 eclecticdodo: Thanks! It is a good read, I think you will enjoy it.

Jan 13, 9:48pm Top

The Double by Jose Saramago

My book group is reading this, and I will be interested in the discussion. The woman who proposed it had read it before, but wanted to re-read it. Now I am curious about why she wanted to re-read it; I liked the book, but it's a bit gimmicky. I thought that Blindness (the other book by Saramago which I've read) was a much stronger book. In the double, a math teacher is watching a movie on video, and discovers that one of the bit players is his double. He becomes obsessed with finding out who the double is and meeting him, and feels threatened by his existence.

Saramago's writing style is unique, but one gets used to it quickly, and it's not hard to read. The story is told by a unknown narrator in a humorous, sometimes arch tone. At times I found the book a little too odd, and I could not understand why the two men (math teacher and actor) acted as they did. I think part of it might be a European thing? It seemed like they were always making things more complicated than they needed to. The story, in one sense, seemed a bit slight for a novel. But the ending was powerful and it did make me think about identity and uniqueness.

Jan 13, 9:53pm Top

The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

I read this sweet children's book, at the suggestion of Joe, to lighten up my reading. It's about a dog who rescues two children in a snowstorm, and in turn, they rescue him. Lovely,

Jan 14, 11:19am Top

The Double sounds like it might be a good discussion book, Rhonda. I hope you tell us about the discussion.

I loved The Poet's Dog; I gave it to my daughter for Christmas, and she also loved it.

Jan 15, 5:28pm Top

Congratulations on Banjo Jr heading to Ireland for a semester! Sorry to learn that you have been hit with a cold. That darn cold is being overly friendly with too many people here on LT! Hope you are feeling better soon.

Jan 15, 6:11pm Top

>72 BLBera: I will let you all know how the discussion goes! Though we do have the problem in the book group, of some people will stop reading the book if they don't like it, and that's not so good for discussion.

>73 lkernagh: Yes, this is the peskiest cold. I am better, but still pretty funky. And it's still all icy here, so not really conducive to outings.

Today is Banjo, jr's last day at home, before returning to college after winter break. We will miss her, but I think that she is ready to be out of here (very politely, though).

Reading-wise: I am finding The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million very interesting. My only quarrel is that the print in my copy is small, and some of it in italic, and my eyes do not like it.

Jan 15, 8:28pm Top

It is a pesky cold, Rhonda. I find it kind of lingers on and leaves me with a quite a bit of fatigue. Sorry about your lousy weather. Ours has been bad, but has shaped up recently. I hope yours gets better fairly soon. Sad about the people dying of exposure. Sadly it happens in Canada, not so often in my city, but with the low temps in some areas, sometimes there are not enough shelters.

It must be a mixed feeling day, with Banjo Jr leaving to go back to college. However, I have a sister with a son , aged 26 and he is going to university in the UK. He's working on his PhD and though he enjoys coming home, according to my sister, he gets bored pretty fast. Two weeks at home over Christmas was all he could take :) My sister said that she and her husband felt that they had to entertain him and take him places. Funny feeling, that.

Jan 17, 11:12pm Top

Rhonda--sending you lots of get-well-soon mojo. I am so glad to see the rain come and the snow go!!! It was fun in the beginning, but everyone in my house has cabin fever at this point. I wasn't planning on reading Butler, but Kindred sounds awesome and now I have to go find it. Thanks!

Jan 17, 11:26pm Top

>75 vancouverdeb: Thanks, Deb, I am finally on the other side of the cold, thank goodness. And apparently our weather is turning to rain, which we are glad for.
That's interesting about your nephew... I can see feeling like we needed to entertain....

>76 Berly: Thanks, Kim! You will love Kindred

The good thing about all the snow and sick, is lots of reading time. I finished another one...

Edited: Jan 17, 11:40pm Top

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

This is the story of Mendelsohn's attempts to find out more about six family members (his mother's uncle and his wife and daughters) who were killed by Nazi's in a small Polish town. The rest of the family had emigrated to the US, or Palestine, but this uncle had gone back to Bolechow, Portland, and had a butcher shop there. The family had very little information about what happened to the family, and Mendelsohn spent five years interviewing people and searching documents in a variety of countries: Australia, Israel, Denmark, Poland, in an attempt to reconstruct as much as he could of their lives and deaths.
Mendelsohn writes like old men tell stories; starting on one topic, and then veering off to two or three other stories, before circling back. He talks about his family history, the time he broke his brother, Matt's arm, the story of Cain and Abel, and then circles around back to his investigations. Mendelsohn had been close to his grandfather, who he describes as telling stories exactly like this.
I loved how much respect Mendelsohn had for the people he interviewed. He clearly really likes older people.
The story itself was interesting, and very affecting. It was hard to read, at times, because it was graphic in describing the horrors of the Holocaust. And those horrors mean more when personalized, to one family, or to one 16 year old girl.

Jan 18, 10:18pm Top

I found you! And starred you!

Sorry you're under the weather and that you all have been hit with outlandish weather! Take good care and I look forward to a meet-up sometime this year!

Jan 18, 11:00pm Top

Wow! You've gotten a lot of reading done. Yes, I can see why you said the characters in The Double were making life to difficult for themselves. After all, unless the double claims to be you, why would it matter? Twins deal with that all the time. I used to know one twin but not her sister and she warned me that her sister hated people who mistook her for the other and would be very rude, and of course people have heard stories of twins switching places... but if two people have separate lives, no problem until you go stirring it up. Right?

Sorry the Bechdal didn't hold up. I can see why you would call it self-involved.

Jan 19, 6:11pm Top

The Lost: A Search for Six sounds like a riveting read. I will look for it. Great comments, Rhonda.

I hope you continue to feel better and hope for a March meet up.

Jan 19, 8:26pm Top

Hi Rhonda - I've had The lost: a search for six of six million waiting patiently on my shelves for far too many years, poor thing. Thanks for this discussion - I think I'll see if I can dig it up and add to the 'Read Sooner than Later' pile!

Jan 20, 12:06am Top

>79 EBT1002: Hi Ellen! And hooray for meet-ups. The weather and my cold are both better now.

>80 cammykitty: Thanks, Katie! So far 2017 has been good for reading. The Double was odd, but I was thinking about it tonight, and it does have a lot of good parts as well. I really liked the narrator.
I still think Fun Home is a good book--just not as awesome as I remembered.

>81 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! A march meet-up would be great.

>82 muddy21: Yes, the "read sooner" pile! Mine has extended into two different rooms. But The Lost: A Search really is good.

Jan 20, 2:31am Top

Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy Fun Home as much the second time. I read it a few years ago and loved it, but I wonder if I'd like it as much now. Often where we are in life has such a big influence on what we think about the things we read, doesn't it? I've been meaning to read Are You My Mother?, which I haven't got around to yet.

And thanks for the review of Kindred; I've seen that on tons of must-read-lists but it's a bit difficult to get a hold of it over here. Sounds interesting, though.

Jan 21, 1:07am Top

>78 banjo123: That is a sure fire book bullet for me, Rhonda, as it is a subject that I always feel impelled to read.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jan 21, 11:21pm Top

>84 PawsforThought: Hi Paws! That is really true, reading really is an interaction between reader and writer. Are You My Mother? really is not as good, I am afraid.

>85 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! It really is a good book.

It's been a nice weekend so far. Today we went to the Portland Women's March, which was amazing; 100,000 people and completely peaceful. Banjo, jr went to the march in New York. It was inspiring.

And I have been getting some reading done! I have a couple books to review, but later. Tonight I am tired.

Jan 21, 11:26pm Top

The Portland March.

Jan 21, 11:50pm Top

Great picture.

Jan 22, 1:29am Top

Thank you for marching!

Jan 22, 4:47am Top

It's so inspiring to see the photos of marches from all over both the US and the rest of the world. Gives me a little bit of hope for the future in an otherwise bleak world.
I'd have loved to participate in a march, but the closest one to me was in Stockholm and that's a whole days travel one way and I have work.

Jan 22, 8:10am Top

Happy Sunday, Rhonda! Hooray for the parades. It was so good to see many of my LT and other bookish friends taking part in this important, peaceful protest. I am not sure I have ever seen the left, organize this well. We NEED to keep it up.

Jan 22, 2:25pm Top

>88 BLBera: Thanks! I swiped if from the internet.

>89 arubabookwoman: You are welcome! It was fun.

>90 PawsforThought: It was pretty amazing to see all the pictures from around the world. Definitely gives one hope.

>91 msf59: Thanks, Mark! Yes, we need to keep organized.

Jan 22, 2:29pm Top

The North Water by Ian McGuire

This is a thriller about a serial killer who is on a whaling ship. It is well written, well plotted, and I think that the historical facts are well-researched. I read it as it's one of the NYT best reads of 2016; it probably wouldn't be my choice, as I am not into thrillers. Also, the parts about killing animals (seals, whales, bears) was difficult to read, and I am not normally squeamish about those things, so skip this book if animal cruelty is a trigger.

However, if you like thrillers, and historical fiction, this is a good one.

Jan 22, 2:38pm Top

The Peculiar Life of the Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault

This was an Early Reviewer book; it is a novella by a French-Canadian author, with a little romance, a little poetry, and a bit of an eerie world-view. It was a fairly easy read, and I think that people might like it if they liked The Little Paris Bookshop or The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For me, I did not like it. It was too creepy to have the postman open other people's letters and try to take on someone else's life.

Jan 22, 5:23pm Top

Rhonda, loved the picture of the March. I'm down in California caring for my sister or I would have been out there with you. It is amazing to have so many women worldwide joining together. It gives me hope.

Jan 22, 5:50pm Top

>95 Oregonreader: Thanks, Jan! Hope that your sister is getting better.

Jan 23, 12:12am Top

Rhonda--Glad you had fun on the march. My daughter also went! Proud of both of you. : )

Jan 23, 3:18pm Top

>87 banjo123: There was a march here in Bristol too (and all over the UK). I didn't make it but quite a few friends did and said it was a very positive event. I've deliberately not followed the news about *him* but I was reassured to hear the inauguration was half empty seats.

Jan 24, 11:39am Top

>95 Oregonreader: I agree. I was thrilled that it was world-wide and also glad to see a lot of men at our march here in San Diego (and I imagine everywhere).

Jan 25, 12:13am Top

>97 Berly: That's great that your daughter went! It was neat to see so many young women there.

>98 eclecticdodo: Pretty much everyone I know who marched found it very positive, except for the getting soaking wet in the rain bit. And it was touching to realize that people all over the world were marching in solidarity.

>99 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba, exactly.

Edited: Jan 25, 12:28am Top

Great picture of the Portland March, Rhonda! I've been thinking of ordering myself a pink pussy hat from Etsy. Thanks for marching. Even in Vancouver and around the world, there have been marches. I'm going to skip The North Water . Too much whaling , sea stuff and likely animal killing my for tastes. I like a good thriller and I enjoy historical fiction, but no thanks to sea stuff.

Jan 26, 11:24pm Top

>101 vancouverdeb: Thanks, Deb! I kind of thought that the sea stuff was interesting, actually. But the animal bits were too brutal for me.

I am hoping that everyone has seen this video from the Netherlands regarding the Trump inauguration. It's hilarious.

Jan 27, 9:13am Top

>102 banjo123: I think almost everyone has seen Lubachs video by now, Rhonda, and if not: watch it, as it is great ;-)

Feb 1, 12:02am Top

Rhonda--Potential Portland Meetup with BLBera (Beth)! Come check out the thread!


Feb 1, 11:28am Top

Thanks, Anita!
Super-cool, Kim---looking forward to it!

I have been off of Library Thing (I seem to spend my internet time obsessively reading news... not good for my blood pressure) However, I have gotten some good reading done, and will be back with reviews, hopefully soon.

Feb 1, 3:06pm Top

Rhonda, I'm on a news fast right now and feeling a little better. I love the video. It's therapeutic!

Feb 6, 12:12am Top

>106 Oregonreader: Jan, I don't think I can handle a news-fast, but I am trying to spend less time on the news.

The weekend has been busy... we went to the coast for Mrs. Banjo's birthday with some friends. Unfortunately, Oregon was hit with an ice storm the day we were supposed to leave (Friday) so we left Saturday instead. Then, on Sunday, there was another snow-storm coming, so we came home early to avoid icy roads on the pass. It rained the whole time we were there, so most of our time was spent inside, playing games. Very fun and relaxing, but I had been hoping for more walks on the beach.

Feb 6, 12:22am Top

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I was worried that this book would be a disappointment, as it has gotten so many great reviews, and often those books can be a let down. Also, I wasn't sure about the idea of the Underground Railroad being a real railroad. However, I ended up really liking the book. It won't make my top ten, but a solid 4 stars, for sure.

In this book the protagonist, Cora, is escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad, and in the process, makes stops in various communities that represent different hardships that African Americans have had to endure post-slavery, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. So the book is more conceptual than factual, which I initially worried would be confusing, but Whitehead managed to make it flow. Also, he was able to make Cora feel like a real, three dimensional person, as we saw her move through her journey.

Feb 6, 12:46am Top

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

Well, I read this because it was on the NYT list of the best books of 2016, and I am really glad I did. The right-ward turn this country has taken makes much more sense now. Also, I feel better about my fellow-citizens who have turned to right-wing candidates, now that I understand how much corporate money was spent to make this happen.

But, depressing, and hard to see how things will change, as long as the few with money are allowed to use it to influence government and avoid taxation, with few or no restrictions.

Feb 6, 12:59am Top

Kate Carroll De Gutes: Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear

For my Lesbian book-group. This is a nicely written collection of essays that cover the author's marriage and divorce, and also her struggles with elder-care for her mother and father. She is a local writer, so the setting is familiar, and I really enjoyed the book.

Feb 6, 1:48am Top

R--I am crossing my fingers that the snow passes us by this time....!

Feb 6, 1:54pm Top

Hi Rhonda - Some great comments. I thought Cora was the star of The Underground Railroad.

Dark Money sounds like something I should read, too. Sigh.

I have a copy of Objects in the Mirror; my aunt and Kate's mom were good buddies, and my aunt gave me her copy.

Feb 6, 7:00pm Top

>111 Berly: Kim I think the snow came up here to Seattle--we've had about 12 inches overnight and over the day today. Luckily, it's supposed to warm up soon, so it probably won't stay around long.

>109 banjo123: I've had Dark Money on my wishlist since it came out, and with everything that's happened since Trump's election I was wondering if it was even still relevant (with much worse things to worry about). Sounds like it is still a very important book!

Feb 6, 7:02pm Top

>109 banjo123: (and >112 BLBera:) I agree that Dark Money sounds like something I should read, too. Even without reading it, I am reminded of the Stalwarts who were so much in power in the 1870s. Their "reign" was brief but, with what little I actually know about them (having especially read Destiny of the Republic) reminds me of today. It's hard to imagine how the power that is so securely manifested among a very few billionaires can be shaken loose.

I have heard about Objects in the Mirror somewhere. It sounds good and I always love when our region is featured in good lit.

>107 banjo123: A full-on news-fast would indeed be hard. I feel like I need to keep up because things are changing every day, sometimes every hour (it feels like). But after the first week or so, I'm definitely trying to pace myself.

I hope your week is off to a good start, Rhonda!

Feb 6, 9:45pm Top

Hi, Rhonda! Sorry, to hear about all your cruddy weather. I just talked to my sister in Salem and they haven't had it as bad. More rain.

Dark Money sounds good but I may have to hold off a bit. Our current political environment is stressful enough.

Feb 7, 1:26am Top

>111 Berly: I was so happy not to be snowed in today. Hooray!

>112 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I think you'd like Objects in Mirror and it's short.

>113 arubabookwoman: I know! I wondered about the relevance to Dark Money, but I found it to be helpful background.

>114 EBT1002: Yes, it was fun! At one point she had a detailed description of The Primary Domain, scene of a number of memorable dates, back in the day.

>115 msf59: This weather is so unusual for Portland, Mark.

Feb 7, 1:35am Top

January Wrap-Up/ Feb. Plans:

January was a great month for reading! 11 books read. 7 fiction, 5 are non-fiction . My favorite for the month was The Lost: a search for six of six million

For February I have planned:

War and Turpentine
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan
I have a book by Paul Theroux for the non-fiction challenge, but can't recall what it is.
My book club is reading Elephant Company

And hopefully some more from my TBR piles! I think I will wait, though, to read these before planning on any others.

Feb 7, 8:33am Top

I read The Good Wife last year and thought it was very well done. Happy Tuesday, Rhonda!

Feb 7, 10:52pm Top

>105 banjo123: obsessively reading news. Aren't we all? I'm realizing that one of the things I want in a politician is someone I trust enough so I don't feel the need to look at the news all the time. - When you want a break from it, just tell yourself the man is a master manipulator and he's making the headlines to distract, divide and control us. If his media viewership drops, he'll be a very sad boy.

Looks like January was a good reading month! Wishing you a good February as well.

Feb 10, 11:36pm Top

Rhonda--I am enjoying our more "normal" temperatures and the thought of sun on Sunday. : )

Feb 12, 8:17pm Top

>118 Crazymamie: Thanks, Mamie! I finished The Good Wife. and wasn't crazy about it. But it was well written.

>119 cammykitty: Thanks, Katie! So far February is not-so-good reading-wise. But I still have time.

>120 Berly: The weather has been SO nice this weekend! We took a little walk with Chica, this afternoon, at Oak's Bottom. Very nice.

I realized I have been remiss in 2017, no pictures of pets in my thread! Here are Chica and Willi.

Feb 12, 8:25pm Top

Reading update:

I finished The Good Wife, and will review soon. My other book was War and Turpentine; which is beautifully written, but very literary. As a result, after 54 or 5 pages, I keep losing track of what's happening. So, slow reading. I am on page 152. I don't mind the slow reading, but it was due back at the library today. I returned it and will put it back on hold.... In the meantime, I need to read a book group book, Elephant Company. Unfortunately, the early reviews by Mrs. Banjo are not that good; so not looking forward to it. I did start my lesbian book-group book Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc. I like it, but it reminds me of Colette and for me, reading too much at a time is like eating too many chocolates.

I kind of want to pick up something else that's appealing, and not hard to read...

Feb 12, 10:38pm Top

Rhonda, I just discovered Stewart O'Nan and read Last Night at the Lobster. I was impressed with his writing and will pick out more. I'll be looking forward to your review of The Good Wife.

Alas, my news-fast didn't last long and I'm back in full misery!

Feb 14, 12:26am Top

>123 Oregonreader: I think I may have picked the wrong O'Nan-- this didn't wow me.

Sorry about the full misery! It's hard to avoid. I am trying to calm myself by doing regular political actions (phone calls, postcards, rallies). One of my neighbors had a postcard party, and that was fun.

Feb 14, 12:32am Top

The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan

This book follows a young, pregnant wife whose husband is arrested, and convicted of murder and spends 26 years in prison. It's well written, but I could not find much sympathy for the characters. It didn't seem that either husband or wife expressed the kind of horror and remorse that I would expect in the face of a pretty nasty crime. An elderly woman was killed by being bludgeoned over the head. Then they tried to burn the house down to cover up the crime. Our young wife is convinced, without any evidence, that her husband's accomplice was the one responsible. It's really hard on her, being separated from her husband, and raising their son alone, for all those years. It would be hard, but I couldn't figure out why she stuck with him.

Feb 14, 6:15pm Top

Well, I'm glad to see Chica and Willi finally make an appearance. :-)

>125 banjo123: It seems that O'Nan's works are rather hit-or-miss. I didn't love Snow Angels (I think my reactions were similar to your reactions to The Good Wife) but I thought Last Night at the Lobster was stellar.

Feb 14, 6:52pm Top

Hi, Rhonda! Hooray for Chica and Willi. They make a fine team.

Sorry, your O'Nan fell short. Was this your first?

Edited: Feb 16, 12:55am Top

>126 EBT1002: Hmm... maybe I will try another O'Nan. And hopefully Francis and Banjo will show up here sometime soon.

>127 msf59: Thanks Mark! It was my first O'Nan. I think it felt a little too much like an issue novel to me.

But no worries. Now I am reading The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux and he writes like a dream.

Feb 18, 2:13pm Top

Hi Rhonda - I LOVE Theroux's train books. I think Patagonian Express was the first one I read, and I was hooked.

Feb 20, 1:30pm Top

>129 BLBera: I am loving patagonian express as well. I haven't read anything by Theroux before, and I am pleasantly surprised.

QUESTION: I had planned to host a March Murakami read. I think that this could be a lot of fun, but now am wondering, is this the right timing? Are people interested in participating?

Feb 24, 10:55am Top

I do want to read more Murakami, but I'm not sure about March...

Feb 24, 11:04pm Top

Rhonda, I just recently read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and was blown away. I couldn't put it down. I had never read anything by Murakami before. I would be interested in participating whenever it happens. I plan to read more of his work at some point.

Feb 25, 7:34am Top

This month I had my first experience of Stewart O'Nan and was impressed.

I have read only one Murakami so far and need to get to something of his. I would try to join, Rhonda.

Have a great weekend.

Feb 25, 7:31pm Top

Hi Rhonda. My copy of Dark Money has arrived--hope to get to it soon.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Great Portland LT Meetup in a few weeks!

Feb 27, 12:21am Top

Well, I think I will wait and do a Murakami month in May, or maybe June. I think that it would make for good discussion.

>131 BLBera: Beth, I am excited about our great meet up!

>132 Oregonreader: I haven't read The Wind Up Bird Chronicles yet,it's high on my list.

>133 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! The weekend was good, but went fast.

>134 arubabookwoman: Hooray! It will be an epic meet-up.

Feb 27, 12:24am Top

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

I had been meaning for some time to pick this up, and I did so for the Obama' reading challenge. It's just a great essay on race and America, a very good companion to Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. Sad how much is still the same.

Here's a passage I liked:

“To accept one's past - one's history - is not the same things as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”

Feb 27, 2:13am Top

I've just bought my first Baldwin as part of a birthday haul. One of the reasons I picked it up was because of the Teju Cole book of essays - he talks about Baldwin a lot.

I love the quote.

I'm not a Murakami fan, but maybe a month of enthusiastic LTers will convince me (it's happened before :-)

Feb 27, 7:08pm Top

I can't wait, Rhonda! I don't think I've read that Baldwin, in any case, I'm due for a reread if I have.

Feb 28, 12:45am Top

>137 charl08: I haven't read anything by Teju Cole --- it sounds like I should.

>138 BLBera: It's a good time for a re-read.... and it is short.

I have a couple more reviews to do, although my favorite book for February is The Old Patagonian Express and I want to wait to review until I can gather my thoughts. I have started Homegoing, which I am enjoying so far.

Feb 28, 12:57am Top

Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc

I read this for my lesbian book group. The book has an interesting story. It was first written as the opening section of Leduc’s novel Ravages which was published in 1955. This was the first part of the novel, and was an erotic description of a love affair between two schoolgirls. It was too shocking for the publishers, and to Leduc's dismay, the book was published without it. Bits and pieces were published over the years, but it wasn't published as written until 2000, when it was published in French. It was published in English in 2012.

The writing is beautiful, and you really feel the intensity of adolescent sexual awakening. The only problem for me, is the book has little else in the way of plot or character development. But still worth reading, and I will be interested to see what the book group thinks.

Feb 28, 1:04am Top

Elephant Company by Vicki Croke

We read this for my other book group, really it is not that well written, and I wouldn't recommend reading it. But I did learn one interesting thing. The book is about an Englishman who trained elephants in Burma, and led an elephant brigade during WWII. The elephants helped build bridges and other things. At one point, he was leading a group of about 30 elephants, and a bunch of refugee women and children. They were trying to leave Burma to escape the Japanese, so were trekking out, with the Japanese behind them, attempting to cross over to India (at Assam). They reached a point where there was nothing ahead of them but a steep escarpment. They could not go back, because of the Japanese army, and elephants, of course, can't climb rocks.
They ended up carving a staircase into the rock (it was soapstone) which took 2 1/2 days, and then they were able to persuade the elephants to climb up the staircase. Pretty amazing, but now that I've told the story, you can skip the book.

Feb 28, 3:00am Top

That is amazing. I didn't know elephants could manage stairs.
And thanks for one I don't need to read!

Mar 1, 4:45am Top

>136 banjo123: Yay for the Obama read and I do love that quote. And I am in for Murakami May or June.

Mar 6, 1:07am Top

>142 charl08: Pretty crazy, stairs. But a good one to skip.

>143 Berly: Thanks, Kim! Baldwin is so quotable.

It's been a busy weekend, and I haven't had time to catch up with reviews, or to reflect on February's reading. I did finish another book A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara which I have mixed feelings about, as I found it wonderfully written, but emotionally manipulative. I am now reading Words Will Break Cement for the non-fiction read. I have The Confessions of Nat Turner, just in from the library, for the AAC, and All the King's Men for the Obama Read Challenge.

Mar 12, 6:24pm Top

Yikes! It's been a busy week. Banjo, jr was home for spring break, and we kept busy with movies, a play and a basketball game. Now she is gone, and I need to catch up on chores, sleep and LT.

I am going to try to do quick reviews on the books that are overdue, to get back on track.

And hey, next week, LT meet-up!

Mar 12, 6:36pm Top

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux

In 1979, Theroux travelled by train from Boston to Patagonia. He explains that travel writing should be about the travel, and so this book is all about the train and his stops along the way, and not, at all about Patagonia. He explains in depth the disadvantages of airplan travel, where really there is not sense of journey: “You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.”

I loved his writing, with a sly sense of humor, and loved the descriptions of his tavel, and of the South America he went through. It was interesting to get a snapshot of South American countries in 1979, and think about what was ahead for these countries. Just really an enjoyable book for me.

Edited: Mar 12, 6:52pm Top

Happy Sunday, Rhonda! Hooray for a Meet-Up! I hope I can make it out there next year, to see my PNW pals!!

I hope you enjoy Nat Turner. I thought it was excellent.

Mar 12, 7:05pm Top

>147 msf59: Thanks, Mark. That's nice to hear a good review for Nat Turner. I haven't really started it yet.

For my March reading, I am pretty far on Words will Break Cement, and I am liking it. However, my book group meets next week and we are reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I am hoping to finish that one today or tomorrow, because Mrs. Banjo need to read it also. (it's a couples book group) Nat Turner is after those. I have All the King's Men for the Obama read, but that's looking doubtful.

Edited: Mar 12, 8:08pm Top

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi has written a good first novel, and it's an interesting story. I have to confess, though, that I went into this one with high hopes, due to good reviews from other LT'ers, and the fact that Gyasi was impressive when I heard her speak, and in the end this book was just a little thin for me.

Gyasi is from Ghana, and came to the US as a child. This book follows the descendants of two Ghanaian half-sisters. One girl becomes the African wife of a slave trader. The other girl is sold into slavery and and shipped to the United States. Gyasi was given the idea for the book when she toured one of the slave castles on the coast of Ghana, and realized that the Slave traders had African "wives" who lived with them upstairs, while the slaves where kept in horrific conditions in the dungeons.

The book follows the descendants of the two women alternately, with each chapter the story of a different descendant, thus taking us from the early days of the slave trad up to the present day. I felt that this simple structure kept the book feeling a bit thin, but it was definitely a good read. I did wonder a bit about not having a central main character that went through the book. I felt that this perhaps reflected a more African notion by being the story of a community rather than an individual.

Mar 12, 8:13pm Top

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This book is about four male college friends, and their subsequent relationships/careers/etc. in New York City. The center of the book is Jude, who was the victim of horrible childhood trauma, including physical and sexual abuse, how that effects him in adulthood, and how his friends (and others) relate to him. Frankly, the abuse piece was too much. It felt like abuse voyeurism, and I was disappointed in Yanagihara.

Mar 12, 8:20pm Top

>150 banjo123: I am impressed that you managed to get through that one, Rhonda. For a book that was shortlisted for all the major awards it certainly has the habit of putting off its readership. Not sure that I will be rushing towards my copy.

Mar 12, 8:30pm Top

>151 PaulCranswick: I should be honest and say that I skimmed large portions of this book. Also, I actually liked some things about this book---the structure, with differing points of view and over lapping time periods was interesting.

Mar 13, 3:05am Top

I avoided this because of the abuse theme and because I found the previous book (also with a strong abuse theme) such hard work. The previous book was interesting in quesrioning cultural relativism and apparently based on a real case of an anthropologist (not sure if you have read it, sorry). Not an author I approach lightly.

Mar 13, 10:13am Top

I posted here earlier, or thought I did. But it's not here. Sigh. Let's try again.

Rhonda--Really nice review of some hard books...which I am not going to read just yet!! ; )

Can't wait to see you this weekend! Is Mrs. Banjo coming? I hope so. Tell her Hi! for me. And Happy Monday to both of you!

Mar 13, 2:10pm Top

>146 banjo123: I'm pretty sure Hubby has a copy of that. Sounds like I should find it and read it.

Mar 13, 4:01pm Top

>150 banjo123: I loved A Little Life. When I finished it, I said that although I did love it, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The topics are such that reactions are going to be very personal, and I wouldn't presume to guess who might like it and who might not.

Mar 16, 12:08am Top

>153 charl08: hi Charlotte! I did read The People in the Trees and it was hard, but interesting. But after this one I don't think I will read any others by Yanagihara unless she picks a different theme.

>154 Berly: Yay for meet-ups! See you soon.

>155 RebaRelishesReading: Yes, you should read it. With all the travel you do, it's bound to be interesting.

>156 ursula: Good point, Ursula. It's interesting how differently people can feel about the same book.

Mar 18, 8:59am Top

Great comments, Rhonda. I can't wait to see you to discuss them in person.

Mar 19, 7:38pm Top

>158 BLBera: Beth, so sorry to have missed the meet-up.

This week-end has been less than stellar. I have mostly spent it coughing and resting. Bleech. And I missed the epic LT meet-up! Double blech! Today I am a teeny bit better, but still not up to reading much.

Mar 19, 8:33pm Top

Sorry to see that you have not been so well, Rhonda.
I trust that a bit of rest will see you back to normal.

Mar 19, 8:38pm Top

Happy Sunday, Rhonda! So sorry to hear you missed the Meet-up. It sounded wonderful. I am so glad to hear folks are coming in from out of town. How great is that? I hope to make it it to Portland, early next year.

Sorry, you are feeling under the weather. Are you still getting some reading in?

Mar 19, 11:46pm Top

Missed you at the meet-up yesterday, Rhonda. I hope you feel better.

Mar 20, 12:48am Top

Another one here to wish you better. Missed you and Mrs B yesterday. Next one!!

Mar 20, 6:38am Top

Oh, dang, Rhonda - I'm sorry that you missed the meet-up! And I hope you're better soon!

Mar 20, 11:27am Top

I'm so sorry to hear you are sick, Rhonda. Maybe the occasional days of sun we are getting will improve your spirits if not your health. I missed the meet-up as well. I had a family/time conflict. It looks like we missed a fun day.

Mar 20, 2:25pm Top

Feel better soon, Rhonda. There seems to be a lot of stuff going around right now.

Mar 20, 7:20pm Top

Rhonda--I hope you are feeling better. I too am sorry you missed the meetup. It was great fun. We are thinking of repeating it sometime in the summer in Seattle--maybe you can come to that.

Mar 20, 7:53pm Top

Happy spring, everyone, and thanks for the get well wishes. I am better today, but ended up staying home from work , a good call as I still wasn't worth much. But tomorrow should be way better.

>160 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! I am working on it.
>161 msf59: Mark, the annoying thing is that for most of the weekend I was too puny to read. I spent time either sleeping or playing TypeShift, which could become a new obsession. I did do a little reading today, though, so hopefully the mojo is back.
>162 EBT1002: thanks, Ellen
>163 Berly: Oh thanks, Kim. Next time I will take extra vitamins ahead of the meetup.
>164 scaifea: Thank you, Amber!
>165 Oregonreader: The sun is so nice, Jan! I do love spring.
>166 BLBera: Yes, it's been a buggy year.
>167 arubabookwoman: Thanks! A summer jaunt to Seattle is definitely possible.

Mar 21, 5:37pm Top

>168 banjo123: Did you make it back into work today? I hope you're not too wiped out

Mar 22, 4:15am Top

I'm glad that you're feeling better, Rhonda.

Mar 24, 11:34am Top

>168 banjo123: Ouch, that doesn't sound like a good weekend. I hope you feel better today. It was too bad you missed the meetup; I would have loved to see you there.

Mar 25, 4:49pm Top

Thanks Jo, Darryl and Judy! I am way better this weekend, but still feeling tired, coughing and out of breath. I went in to the doctor on Tuesday, she confirmed that it was a viral upper respiratory infection--- apparently there is a very nasty one making the rounds here. She gave me an inhaler, and I have been trying to drink lots of fluids.

I am feeling cheerful about Trump's failure to pass the AHCA, and about the signs of spring we have everywhere.

I am going to try now to get caught up on my reviews.

Mar 25, 5:03pm Top

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This one was read for my RL book-group, one of the members is a huge Maya Angelou fan, and we got into a discussion about a PBS special on her life, leading to the decision to read this book for March. I read it many, many years ago, so a re-read for me.

Confession: I have never been a fan of Maya Angelou's writing. I still am not. This memoir has a tendency to too much detail; to telling instead of showing, and the writing itself is pedestrian. However, I am still very glad for the reread.

I just cannot give enough kudos for the courage it took to write this book back in 1969, to deal directly with sexual abuse and it's after-effects; with racism, segregation, and how it effected her family. Angelou gives us a picture of her life that is honest, very hard, but also ful of grace and triumph.

Mar 25, 5:03pm Top

Glad you're feeling a bit better, but hope you manage to get today of the bug altogether soon.

Mar 25, 5:43pm Top

>174 charl08: You and me both!

Mar 25, 5:53pm Top

>173 banjo123: I am another who admired rather than loved I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Rhonda. That said Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman.

Have a lovely weekend.

Mar 25, 5:55pm Top

Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

Before reading this book, I had thought that Pussy Riot was a Punk-Rock group. Actually, not so much, they were more a group of anti-Putin arsty-types who were doing kind of artistic political actions around Moscow. They weren't really musicians, and their membership fluctuated. In 2012, five young women fromt he group entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, and performed a punk prayer, beseeching the Mother of God to chase Putin out. This was a protest of the collusion between the Orthodox Church and Putin. Three of the women were arrested and tried, and two sentenced to spend two years remote prison colonies. This incident captured international attention, and brought attention to Putin's regime and issues of art and free speech.

Gessen's book centers on interviews with the women, their families and associates. It is a fascinating story. In my opinion, it shows that a powerful political action can originated from a disparate and oddly focused group of young women. This action brought them to a global stage and to represent something greater than their selves as individuals, as a voice for freedom and creativity.

Mar 25, 5:58pm Top

>176 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! We have the book group tomorrow, and it's at our house. Angelou had written a cookbook, so we are going to serve a meal from her recipes. Minestrone Soup, Salad, Biscuits and Banana Pie. I will let folks know how they turn out.

Mar 25, 6:41pm Top

Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera

This one I read for my Lesbian book group. It is about a 19-year old Puerto-Rican lesbian from the Bronx, who comes out to her family, and then flies to Portland for the summer, to be the intern for the white, feminist author of her favorite book "Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy."

I really enjoyed this book. It's not great literature, but Juliet is such a fun, bouncy baby-dyke, I couldn't help but love her. The book covers Juliet's coming out, and the conflicts she experiences being a young lesbian of color in mostly white Portland. Sometimes the book gets way to didactic about intersectional feminism, but at other times it is funny and insightful, as in the scene early in the book when Juliet is asked what are her preferred gender pronouns and how does she identify. Juliet doesn't understand what's being asked "I'm just Juliet."

"No, I didn't know the words. No, I didn't know my preferred gender pronouns. All of the moments where I was made to feel like an outsider in a group that was supposed to have room for me added up and left me feeling so much shame."

Don't worry, Juliet gets past this, but it made me think about how easy it is to use words and phrases that people who are young and new to the community may find exclusionary.

I looked up the author on the internet, and found out that on the strength of this book, Marvel Comics reached out to Rivera to write a comic with a queer Latina super-hero, America Chavez. That's pretty awesome, I think.

Mar 25, 7:02pm Top

I'm glad that you're feeling better, Rhonda. The respiratory viral pathogens have been worse this season here in Atlanta, at least for the kids, with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), HMPV (human metapneumovirus), rhinovirus, adenovirus and influenza A being the ones that have caused most of the hospitalizations in our system.

Edited: Mar 25, 7:03pm Top

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

I decided to read this for the AAC, and then I had second thoughts. First of all, it's about Nat Turner, who led an unsuccessful and violent slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. So you know it's going to be unpleasant, and then end badly. Plus, I read that it had been critiqued for being racist, even though it won the Pulitzer in 1967, and was praised by James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. So I was worried I would have to decide whether or not it was racist when I reviewed it, and I wasn't sure I was up for that. But I did read it anyway, because Mark read it, and Mark wanted me to read it, and so, here I am.

And it was difficult, but a good book. . I can't say there was anything really redeeming about the story, it's story about slavery, and slavery was just plain horrible. I think that's Styron's point. And unfortunately, the idea of retributive African American violence was still relevant in 1967 when Styron wrote the book. And, sadly, the themes fo the book are still relevant today.

I don't think that the book is racist. Some of the critics had a problem with Styron, a white southerner,writing from the point of view of a black man. I believe, however, that a writer should have the freedom to write from outside his/her experience (otherwise all we'd have would be autobiography!) Other writers had a problem with the way that Styron presented Turner's sexuality. (I am being vague to avoid spoilers.) I can understand the concerns, but I thought it made sense in the context of the book. Another concern I read was that the white slave owner were too positively portrayed. I can't agree with that--- the slave owners weren't all brutal, but Styron's point was about the brutality that is inherent in the idea of slavery.

Styron describes this book as a meditation on history, rather than a historical novel. He doesn't try to be historically accurate in his description of Turner. What he gives us is a Turner who is magnificent and awful; miserable and brilliant, and very human.

Mar 25, 7:06pm Top

>180 kidzdoc: Yes, nasty stuff around! I feel sorry for the kiddos.

Mar 26, 9:36am Top

Ooof, I'm sorry that you're not feeling well, either, Rhonda! Me, too, I'm afraid. Short of breath, heavy chest kind of stuff. Here's hoping we're both better soon!

Mar 26, 1:09pm Top

Rhonda - Great comments on your reading, as always, very thoughtful. I think I might be catching what you have. Scrachy throat and start of a cough today. Yuk!

Have a relaxing Sunday. I hope you feel better soon.

Mar 26, 2:07pm Top

Rhonda, I'm glad you are on the mend. It's a tough virus to get rid of.

I was interested in your review of the book about Pussy Riot. I also was under the impression they were primarily a rock band. I imagine they were described that way to diminish their importance and make them seem like a group of publicity hungry girls. One more book to add to my TBR list.

I also really liked your review of Nat Turner. I haven't read it for the same reasons you were reluctant but your review gives me a better idea of it.

Mar 26, 3:41pm Top

>172 banjo123: Glad you're on the mend. Glad too about Trump's defeat, I hope it means your healthcare is safe.

Mar 26, 11:25pm Top

>183 scaifea: Yuck, Amber! I hope you are better soon. Lots of fluids and sleep, is what my doctor said.

>184 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I hope you manage to kick the bug.

>185 Oregonreader: Thanks, Jan! Words Will Break Cement was really interesting.

>186 eclecticdodo: Thanks, Jo!

Mar 26, 11:35pm Top

Our book group today went well, we had a great discussion of Maya Angelou, and our dinner, made with her recipes, was great. I will see if I can post some links to the recipes.

We did a minestrone soup, as one of our book group members is vegetarian. It was quite good, and used edamame, which I thought was a fun addition. Recipe is here.

The salad, with feta and raisins was a huge hit. Recipe is here.

And finally we had to make the banana pudding with a meringue on top. Recipe is here.

Mar 26, 11:50pm Top

Also, on the reading front, I finished War and Turpentine by Flemish author Stefan Hertmans

I am not quite sure how I rate this book. It is the story of the author's grandfather, who was a WWI war hero and a painter, from a very working class, Catholic family. I read the book thinking it was novel, and was a bit annoyed at how wonderfully heroic and good the grandfather always was. But now that I know that the grandfather was a real person, well, that seems sweet, and Hertman's exploration of his grandfathers life and loves, and the effect that the war had on him, is very tender and compassionate.

Mar 27, 10:37am Top

Nice review of War and Turpentine, Rhonda. I'll start reading it later this week.

Mar 27, 12:01pm Top

What a title! My father was a painter, so I'm quite familiar with turpentine and was wondering if the title was of the spit & vinegar sort. Was it mostly on his difficulty with moving on with life after the war?

Mar 27, 12:12pm Top

Glad you're doing better. It seems to have been a tough winter in the NW this year.

Mar 27, 6:30pm Top

Hi Rhonda. Stopping by to get caught up and making note of the great reading you have been doing. Also happy to see that you are feeling better now.

Mar 27, 7:52pm Top

Hi Rhonda - Your dinner sounds wonderful.

Great comments on War and Turpentine; I've seen other positive comments on it as well. So, it's nonfiction?

Mar 27, 8:21pm Top

I'm glad that you are feeling better, and yes, I think it is great that Trump bid to kill healthcare did not work . I hope the Republicans come to their senses.

>178 banjo123: - Sounds like a lovely dinner! I hope you all enjoyed.

Mar 27, 10:05pm Top

>181 banjo123: I am so glad you ended up liking Nat Turner, Rhonda. Whew! I could have lost a pal there. Grins...

Good review, my friend. I am glad you included the controversy observations.

Donna recently read War and Turpentine too. I do not know how I missed that one.

Edited: Mar 27, 11:51pm Top

>190 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl! I think you will enjoy.

>191 cammykitty: Katie, art bits are pretty interesting. He was a copyist and did some Frescos. He did OK after the war, but sort of felt like he had a part of himself always packed away. He was the kind of working-class guy who always did what was put in front of him.

>192 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks Reba! It has been a bad year for germs.

>193 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori!

>194 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! It was a delicious. I think I am going to get her cookbook! War and Turpentine is supposed to be fictionalized memoir? I think he had some of grandfather's writings, and took off from there. Which was sweet; who doesn't love a guy who loves his grandfather?

>195 vancouverdeb: Yes, Deborah, we were very happy about that one.

>196 msf59: LOL, Mark, you have given so many good book recs, that I would forgive you if this one had been a clunker. (but it wasn't)

Mar 28, 3:56pm Top

I just got War and Turpentine from the library :-)

Mar 28, 4:10pm Top

>198 FAMeulstee: I will be interested to see what you think, since you will have a lot more local knowledge.

Mar 28, 7:12pm Top

>197 banjo123: I think that's one of the things I loved about Moonglow, the sense of affection between the grandfather and grandson.

Mar 30, 8:36pm Top

That's the second time today I have heard about War and Turpentine. Book bullet! I am glad your germs are behaving better than mine! Stay well. ; )

Apr 1, 6:36pm Top

>200 BLBera: Sweet!

>201 Berly: Thanks, Kim! I am feeling well now, and I think tomorrow we are going to the Art Museum, so I will get to see the exhibits I missed during our meet-up.

Happy April, everyone! I have two more books finished for March, so I will try to review those quickly. We have a quiet weekend planned, so I am hoping for some reading and some LT time.

Apr 1, 6:39pm Top

Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

I had really liked Kostova's The Historian, something about the combo of vampires and historical intrigue really worked for me. So I was looking forward to this, as a light-ish read. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well. She tends to over-write, with long, unnecessary descriptions, and the plot was super-unlikely. Too bad, because parts of it were fun, and I liked the end, where all of the political thriller bits came together.

Apr 1, 6:58pm Top

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

This is a Science Fiction/Fantasy book, which I read about in the Tournament of Books. It's a fun read about two young people, and a fight between Science and Magic. Lots of fun gizmo's in the Sci Fi part of the book, so definitely worth reading if you like that kind of thing. (I want a 2 second time machine now.) The relationship between the two main characters is interesting, and believable.

I did have a couple quibbles with the book.

#1 is that in a book that pits magic/nature against science/technology; I think it's a bit too stereotyped to put the young woman at the witch and the young man as the science nerd.
#2 Parts of the book are overdrawn. Both young people have just awful parents, and their childhoods seem practically Roald Dahlish. Which was fun for a bit, but then overly cute.

Apr 1, 7:15pm Top

Too bad the Kostova didn't work, Rhonda.

I have the Anders on my e-reader. I may try it soon.

Great comments, by the way.

Have a great weekend.

Apr 1, 7:51pm Top

>205 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I will be interested to see how you like All the birds.

Have other people been following the Tournament of the Books? I have enjoyed it this year, I think becasue I had read three of the books. And Underground Railroad won, which was my choice.

So April ended up being an OK reading month. 8 books read, which is good for me. Not, overall, my favorite bunch of books, but mostly I was glad to have read them all. (maybe not the Kostova, though). Words Will Break Cement ended up being my favorite for the month.

Apr 1, 7:59pm Top

And for April, I have a number of things planned.

For the non-fiction reading (hobbies and pasttimes), I was going to read something about women's sports, and have picked out Counting Coup. I've also ended up with two others that fit the theme: My Life with Bob (about reading), and Hallelujah, the Welcome Table (about cooking)

For the American Author read, it's poetry, and I picked out The City In Which I Love You, because it was on my wish list. I don't recall how it got there or why, but it fits the theme, and they have it at the library.

I didn't manage to do my Obama read for March. For April, I am looking for The Three Body Problem

And for Atwood April, I wanted to re-read The Handmaid's Tale (so that's on the re-read challenge also) I also have a copy of The Heart Goes Last which a friend gave me, so maybe that, too?

My reading groups is reading The Sympathizer. Also, there is another book for the Lesbian book club, but I have forgotten what it is.

And finally, I was at the library today and picked up two books I need to read: March, the graphic novel about John Lewis, and Ann Patchett's Commonwealth.

This winds up being eleven books. I think that is over what I can do, but maybe if I get reading right away?

Apr 2, 12:23pm Top

Great plans for April, Rhonda. I want to read The Three Body Problem as well. Maybe I'll get to it this month? The Handmaid's Tale is one of my all-time favorites, but I did like The Heart Goes Last as well. I should pick up an Atwood this month... I've also been wanting to read The Sympathizer.

We need jobs where we can read all day.

It looks like you have a lot of good choices, even if you don't get to all of them.

Have a great Sunday.

Apr 3, 12:10am Top

Thanks, Beth! I am happy to hear that you liked The Heart Goes Last. I had seen mainly negative reviews, but being a big Atwood fan, thought I would try it anyway.

I did finish a book today--My Life With Bob, and ERC. An easy read but I found it pretty so-so. I will give it a day or two before I review it, in case it grows on me.

Apr 3, 7:03am Top

Hi, Rhonda. Mixed opinion on All The Birds in the Sky has prevented me from putting it in my audio rotation. I have had it forever.

Good luck with your April reading. Looks like some gems in there. I hope you enjoy The Sympathizer as much as I did.

Apr 3, 7:56am Top

>203 banjo123: A shame about the Kostova. I liked The Historian too, although I know a lot of people had problems with the length and slow pace (and if I recall correctly, some of the plotting as well), but I enjoyed it. Sounds like the flaws really show in something lighter.

>207 banjo123: I really enjoyed The Sympathizer. If nothing else, it should spark an interesting discussion in a reading group!

Apr 4, 7:09pm Top

>203 banjo123: - Sorry to see Shadow Land was a bit of a dud read, Rhonda. Like you, I really liked The Historian and have been meaning to get around to reading her other book(s) - I cannot remember how many books she has published. ;-)

Apr 6, 7:09pm Top

If you like Atwood, I think you will like The Heart Goes Last. I think I preferred the Oryx and Crake books, but this one is still very good.

Apr 8, 5:18pm Top

Yup, you've put me off All the Birds in the Sky too. I like the concept, but if the author relies on stereotypes to pull it off, nah. I'll pass. I totally get what you say about too Roald Dahlish.

Apr 8, 7:25pm Top

>210 msf59: I think All the Birds in the Sky would be good on audio, if you go that way. Mrs. Banjo is reading The Sympathizer now, and she is really liking it.

>211 ursula: and >212 lkernagh: Ursula and Lori, glad to her that others enjoyed The Historian I was a little doubting my judgment there. And right, Ursula, she really needs to smooth out her style if she wants to write a political thriller.

>213 BLBera: Beth, i LOVED The Heart Goes Last.

>214 cammykitty: Katie, the stereotypes aren't too bad; more conceptual than something that bothers you whilst reading. I am glad you understood the Roald Dahlish reference. And I love Dahl's children's books!

Apr 8, 7:35pm Top

My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

Paul is an editor for the NYT Book section and a big reader. Since early adulthood, she has kept a notebook with a list of all the books she reads; the Book of Books, or BOB. This seems like a great idea. I didn't start keeping a record of books I read until I joined Library Thing, and I wish I would've done so.

She has written a literary biography, where she tells a bit about her life, and a bit about the books she read. This seems like a good idea, but actually is quite dull. She doesn't manage to pull up deep connections between her life and the books she reads, and her thoughts about life and reading are, honestly, kind of shallow. I did not end up adding anything to my TBR list based on Paul's descriptions.

I feel a bit bad to say this, because I am sure that if I had kept a list of all my books, and then tried to write a book about the process, it would be equally dull, if not more so. Also, this suffered because I read Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express so recently, and he manages to discuss his reading and how it intersects with his life at the moment in a totally fascinating way.

Apr 8, 7:42pm Top

March Book One by John Lewis

This is a graphic novel about John Lewis's early life. Things I learned: He had quite an affinity with chickens, from when he was a kid and would help tend to the family's chickens; he became a preacher at age 16; and he was deeply committed to non-violence. I liked the sections about the lunch counter sit-ins because I hadn't really realized before how much planning and strategizing went into the sit-ins. Also, I liked the art work in this book. The graphics are varied, and you the people look like individuals, not all the same.

This series seems like a great way for young people to learn about the civil rights movement.

Apr 8, 7:45pm Top

Hallelujah: The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou

This is a cook-book by Angelou, interspersed with stories about her friends and family. It was fun to read; she sounds like quite a cook and hostess. I had made a couple of her recipes previously and really liked them, but probably won't do too much from this book because most of the recipes use beef or pork (which I don't generally eat) or are just too rich for me.

Apr 8, 7:58pm Top

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

I don't know what to say about this without giving away spoilers, and half of the fun in this mad-cap dystopian novel is not knowing what's going to happen next. Although you do know that whatever happens, it will be bad. The plot careens between absurd; frightening; and very possible. Atwood makes sure all of her science fiction bits are based on things that are actually happening or could happen soon.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. None of the characters are very likeable, but they are so much fun. Especially Charmaine, who is pretty, and seems simple and conventional. But underneath....

Apr 8, 9:31pm Top

What a lot of great reading you've been doing. Thanks for commenting on the Paul book. That sounds like one I would pick up, expecting it to be fascinating -- I loved, for example Howard's End Is on the Landing. The Lewis graphic memoirs get better and better.

You remind me how funny The Heart Goes Last was in parts. Atwood is genius. I want to read one of hers this month.

Apr 8, 10:44pm Top

Rhonda, I finally finished The Confessions of Nat Turner yesterday and came, pretty much, to the same conclusions you did in your excellent review I remember way above.

>220 BLBera: Beth is right by the way. You really are on a reading roll.

Apr 9, 5:57pm Top

Thanks, Beth! Atwood IS genius. Have you read Stone Mattress? It's an awesome collection of stories, and lots of humor.

Thanks, Paul! I do seem to be on a reading roll, which is nice.

Reading Update: I started Commonwealth last night, and it is good so far. My lesbian book group is reading Ammonite by Nicola Griffith It sounds good, but I have had a lot of Sci Fi and Fantasy lately, so may put off The Three Body Problem.

Apr 9, 5:59pm Top

Hi Rhonda!

I purchased the box set of Lewis' March during the last Portland meet up and I need to unwrap it and read them.

And your review of The Heart Goes Last is encouraging, too. I love the title and it's good to know that the novel itself delivers, too.

It's sunny today in Seattle. I went for a run, spent a couple hours in the yard pulling Morning Glory (the pernicious choke-weed variety), and now I'm sitting in my new(ish) reading chair in the living room with the door open to let in fresh air! Spring in the Northwest! Yay!

Apr 9, 7:18pm Top

Happy Sunday, Rhonda. I hope you are enjoying the weekend. I am glad you had such a good time with The Heart Goes Last. For some reason, it left me cold. I really liked the beginning and then it just kind of fizzled.

Look forward to your thoughts on Commonwealth. I have that in the audio stacks.

Apr 10, 7:17pm Top

I haven't read Stone Mattress yet. Maybe I will pick up that one.

I loved Commonwealth, but I know it didn't thrill everyone. I'll watch for your comments, Rhonda.

Apr 11, 12:54am Top

>223 EBT1002: Yes, Ellen, hooray for Spring! Though it seems mostly like rain here.

>224 msf59: Mark, I remember that you didn't like The Heart Goes Last, and that gave me low expectations. Luckily, it worked for me.

>225 BLBera: I am liking Commonwealth Did you read The Story of a Happy Marriage? I keep being reminded of it--- this book seems much more autobiographical than her usual.

Apr 11, 2:24am Top

>219 banjo123: This sounds good, will have to have a look for it. I've read her historical novels but not the others, so should probably rectify that.

Apr 12, 8:59pm Top

I haven't read The Story of a Happy Marriage, Rhonda. I do have a copy, however. I did love the characters in Commonwealth and thought it was a wonderful portrait of a blended family. I haven't read too many of those.

Apr 13, 1:43am Top

Delurking to say Hi!! Lots of books being read here. Happy Thursday. : )

Apr 13, 10:53pm Top

>227 charl08: I like Atwood's historical novels best, actually, but this was a fun read.

>228 BLBera: Beth, in Happy Marriage you learn about her childhood, which she came from a blended family, and there was a lot in Commonwealth that came from her childhood. Her dad was on the LAPD.

>229 Berly: Thanks, Kim!

Reading Update: I finished Commonwealth; liked it, will try to write out some thoughts this weekend. Now I am reading Ammonite for my Lesbian book group, it's not my favorite, so far. I think I may need a break from Science Fiction. I hope to read The Sympathizer soon, but Mrs. B is reading it now--we are sharing a copy. I should've tried to get another copy out of the library.

And speaking of books, did everyone see that Colson Whitehead got the Pulitzer for Underground Railroad? So cool!

Edited: Apr 13, 11:02pm Top

I am a fan of Nicola Griffith (she lives in Seattle, but I've never met her). I really loved Slow River as well as The Blue Place. Ammonite worked a bit less well for me but part of that may be that I'm not a huge science fiction aficionado.

Apr 13, 11:03pm Top

I was pleased that both Underground Railroad and Evicted won Pulitzers in their respective categories.

Apr 13, 11:45pm Top

Rhonda--Hey there! If you want tix to Literary Arts, call soon!!

Subscriptions start at just $90. Box office at 503-227-2583. Portland Arts & Lectures has sold out for the last four seasons, and the deadline to renew is Friday, May 26.


: )

Apr 14, 12:01am Top

>217 banjo123: report it for TIOLI 18! I read March: Book One too. I liked the fact that he defied his parents to go to school. Ha! That's the reverse from the usual!

>231 EBT1002: Got to say ditto - but I haven't read Blue Palace yet. Her partner, Kelley Eskridge, is quite a writer as well. It's worth looking up her Solitaire. I can imagine them bouncing ideas off of each other quite easily. You can kind of see each other's influence in their works.

Apr 16, 12:14pm Top

Or just Happy Sunday if that is not your thing.

Apr 16, 3:03pm Top

>231 EBT1002:, >234 cammykitty: Ellen and Katie-- I am liking Ammonite better now that I am farther in.

>233 Berly: and >235 Berly: Kim, Thanks! I just bought my Literary arts tickets. A great line-up.

>232 EBT1002: I think it was a great year for the Pulitzers in general. I am already planning a re-read of The Underground Railroad.

It's been a good weekend so far. Yesterday I volunteered at Schoolhouse Supplies booksort. Mrs. Banjo and I are in charge of the middle school books, and this was a good month for it. We got 48 copies of The Hunger Games; which is so awesome. We went to the tax day march in downtown Portland. Here was my favorite sign:

I ran up to tell the sign holder how much I admired the sign, and guess what? It turned out to be someone we know. Sometimes Portland is a small town.

Apr 16, 3:08pm Top

I did feel bad at the protest that I didn't have a sign, so have been busy trying to find appropriate quotes for next weeks Science March. Here are the quotes under consideration:

"Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity and I am not sure about the former" (Einstein)

"Science is basically an inoculation against charlatans" (Neil de Grasse Tyson)

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood" (Marie Curie)

'Science is Magic that works" (Kurt Vonnegut}

"The good thing about science is it's true whether or not you believe in it" (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

"It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved." (Galileo)

Apr 16, 3:10pm Top

Also, Chica got a haircut today! Here she is:

Apr 16, 4:18pm Top

>236 banjo123: Like that sign!

>237 banjo123: I like the Einstein quote and the second Neil deGrasse Tyson quote.

>238 banjo123: How does Chica like her haircut?

Apr 18, 1:00am Top

Thanks, Anita! I think I had her cut too short, and now she is cold. Hopefully we will get some good weather soon.

Apr 18, 1:03am Top

>234 cammykitty: I'm adding Solitaire to the wish list. Thanks for that tip.

And Chica looks quite lovely, I must say!

Apr 18, 4:01am Top

Slightly belated Happy Easter from your pal who is presently enjoying his first visit stateside. Hopefully many more to come.

Apr 18, 1:59pm Top

Rhonda, I was so sorry I couldn't go to the march. I was glad to see your picture. There wasn't much news about the march here or else I missed it.

I've been looking for news about a Science March here in Portland. I know there is one in Seattle. Have you heard of one here?

Apr 18, 2:59pm Top

You've found some great science quotes! It will be hard to choose.

Apr 18, 3:36pm Top

Rhonda, after leaving my message, I got an email that there is a march here in Portland but no details.

Apr 18, 8:27pm Top

>236 banjo123: Love the sign.

This one: The good thing about science is it's true whether or not you believe in it.

>238 banjo123: Adorable. Now she needs a coat...

Apr 19, 12:13am Top

>241 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen!

>242 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul, and hope all is going well with your visit.

>243 Oregonreader: THe March is Saturday (Earth day) 10 to 2 at the Tom McCall Waterfront park. here is a link.

>244 arubabookwoman: Yes, maybe I will do a different quote on each side of the sign.

>245 Oregonreader: Goodness, Jan! They should make it easier to find. There is a Facebook group, if you are on Facebook, and I put a link to the website above. I hope to see you there.

>246 BLBera: Hi Beth! That's one of the top contenders for quotes. Chica doesn't like to wear coats.... it seems to offend her fashion sense. But she might have to do it anyway.

And now for some book-talk:

Apr 19, 12:24am Top

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

I have been a fan of Ann Patchett ever since The Magician's Assistant and this book did not disappoint. It is much closer to Patchett's own life than her earlier works; it covers a blended family with posts in LA and Virginia,over a period of 4 or 5 decades. Patchett is a warm-hearted person, and this comes across in her fiction. You end up really liking all the different parts of the family. Still, she is honest about short-comings and difficulties. At times, the parents are quite neglectful. At other times, adult children have to pick through a maze of relationships that don't even have names/ (ex-step brother?)

Apr 19, 12:32am Top

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

I read this science fiction book for my lesbian book club. It ended up being pretty good, though not a favorite for me. The book takes place on a planet which has been colonized by people from earth. The planet was hit by a virus which killed many, and killed all of the men. The women left on the planet are able to reproduce without men. The main character is an anthropologist, visiting the planet for a company which is exploring, with the idea that, if the virus can be dealt with, there are profits to be made off of the planet.

I think I would have liked this book better if it had focused more on the role of big business in inter-planetary colonialism. Instead, that is a side-bar to a book that is mostly world-building, which, apparently, is not so much my thing these days.

Apr 19, 3:44pm Top

Great comments on both books, Rhonda. I loved Commonwealth as well, although I did see mixed reviews of it.

The Griffith -- we'll see.

Apr 19, 4:21pm Top

Patchett is going to be at Chautauqua this summer so I'm saving Commonwealth to read just before I see her. Now I'm looking forward to it even more :)

Apr 20, 1:11am Top

>250 BLBera: Well, we can be Commonwealth fans together, Beth. I think that you need to be a SciFi fan for Ammonite.

>251 RebaRelishesReading: Reba, you have a treat in store. I heard Patchett speak a few years ago and she was totally interesting and charming.

Apr 20, 2:18am Top

I was reading an article about Patchett's bookstore this week, saying people go to Nashville just for the shop. All very tempting. I think I'll have to look at going to a book festival soon, I haven't been to one for years, but there aren't so many reading events locally.

Apr 20, 12:49pm Top

I've thought about routing us through Nashville on our way to Chautauqua sometime just to stop at her bookstore.

She was at Chautauqua last summer too, Rhonda, and I agree. She's delightful.

Apr 23, 5:16pm Top

>253 charl08: I don't know that I'd go to Nashville just for Parnassus Books. But if I was there anyway, or near-by, definitely I would go.

>254 RebaRelishesReading: Reba, if you go, I want a review!

Edited: Apr 23, 5:25pm Top

So, weekend happenings. The March for Science was loads of fun. Here are the signs I ended up with:

Last night we went to the symphony. Simone Lamsma was the guest violinist, pretty much awesome, very passionate, lots of range. She played Britten's Violin Concerto.

Today, I went to the library book sale with a friend. Here is the loot!

Apr 23, 5:31pm Top

And for reading, I am very much enjoying Counting Coup. Almost finished. I finished my American poetry---review to follow.

I am bombing out on the Obama reads, however. I was going to try Three Body Problem but didn't get it from the library. plus am feeling Sci-Fi'd out. So I picked up Fates and Furies but after the first couple of chapters, I love the writing, but the story is not pulling me in.

Apr 24, 6:25am Top

Great book haul, Rhonda!

Apr 24, 11:30am Top

I talked to Hubby about it yesterday and we're now seriously talking about coming home through Nashville in October. I will post if it happens :)

Apr 24, 3:33pm Top

Love your signs, Rhonda.

Good to know about Ammonite; I'm not much of a SF/Fantasy reader. I loved Fates and Furies, but I think you have to get to the second half to fully appreciate it.

Great book haul although there were a couple of titles I couldn't make out. The ones on topped of Stiffed.

Apr 25, 1:01am Top

>258 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl!

>259 RebaRelishesReading: Hooray!

>260 BLBera: Well, maybe I will give F & F a little longer. The top books are Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks; A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Tiong'o and The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton.

I finished Counting Coup, really liked it. I will try to review soon, in the meantime, The Sympathizer is next up.

Apr 25, 7:00pm Top

Oh, I loved Caleb's Crossing. I have yet to read Ngugi wa Tiong'o -- I do want to get to him this year.

Apr 29, 6:41pm Top

Beth, Wizard of the Crow was brilliant. You would like it.

It's been a stressful week at work (budgets, issues with staff, clients with increased symptoms) and while I am happy for the weekend, decided I needed some time at the office to catch up a little. So, I spent several hours trying to catch up on details that keep slipping through the cracks. It looks like it would take a day and a half to manage all of them.

Tomorrow's going to be busy, but all fun stuff. We have book group, and I need to finish The Sympathizer. I wasn't sure about it at first, but now it is fascinating.

Apr 30, 10:27am Top

Hi Rhonda - My weekend is centered around work as well. We have two weeks left in the semester, so it's time to catch up with grading. Oh well. In three weeks I will be dancing a jig, done for the summer. My first summer without classes or a second job!

Wizard of the Crow will be on my summer reading list. I trust your judgment, Rhonda. No pressure.

Have a great Sunday.

Apr 30, 1:39pm Top

>256 banjo123: Great book haul up there. Some very nice titles. Sweet.

Happy Sunday, Rhonda. I hope you are doing well and I hope you enjoy The Sympathizer as much as I did.

Edited: Apr 30, 2:59pm Top

Hope the book group meeting went well. I've got to get to The Sympathizer, I loved his short story collection.

May 4, 11:10pm Top

>264 BLBera: I am not worried, Beth, because Wizard of the Crow is genius. It should work for you.

>265 msf59: Mark, not sure if I liked The Sympathizer as well as you, but I did like it. Four stars.

>266 charl08: The group was loads of fun, but some people didn't like the book, for reasons I could not understand. One member thought that it was all about the US involvement in Vietnam, and how bad it was, which I thought was pretty opposite of the book and what it meant. Not that the US comes off well, but that no one comes off well in this book.

So, I have been a bit scattered lately, and am behind a couple of reviews. But first I want to start a new thread. I think that it is time.

This topic was continued by Thread # 2 May the Books be With you!.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

359 members

99,892 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.




You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,176,999 books! | Top bar: Always visible