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2017 is a Prime Reading Year for Banjo!

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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1banjo123
Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 8:45pm Top



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

2banjo123
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

3banjo123
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.

4banjo123
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:

5banjo123
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

6banjo123
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

7banjo123
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

8banjo123
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.

9banjo123
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

10banjo123
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

11banjo123
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

12banjo123
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

15banjo123
Edited: Jan 1, 8:43pm Top

16drneutron
Dec 31, 2016, 9:57pm Top

Welcome back!

17PaulCranswick
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.

18DianaNL
Jan 1, 6:24am Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda!

19BLBera
Jan 1, 10:05am Top

Happy New Year, Rhonda.

20FAMeulstee
Jan 1, 11:56am Top

Happy reading in 2017, Rhonda!

21banjo123
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.

22qebo
Jan 1, 5:00pm Top

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

23scaifea
Jan 1, 8:32pm Top

Hi, Rhonda!

24banjo123
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

25cammykitty
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?

26scaifea
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.

27msf59
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.

28banjo123
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

29banjo123
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.

30Berly
Jan 2, 3:45am Top

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

31lkernagh
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:

32Crazymamie
Jan 2, 10:31am Top

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

33banjo123
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.

34banjo123
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."

35banjo123
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.

36Berly
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!

37Ireadthereforeiam
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.

38charl08
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.

39Oberon
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.

40BLBera
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.

41arubabookwoman
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.

42banjo123
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.

43kidzdoc
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.

44Oregonreader
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.

45The_Hibernator
Jan 5, 1:12pm Top

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

46PaulCranswick
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.

47banjo123
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.

48msf59
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.

49vancouverdeb
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.

50banjo123
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.

51BLBera
Jan 10, 3:29pm Top

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

52banjo123
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.

53charl08
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.

54banjo123
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.

55banjo123
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.

56msf59
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?

57scaifea
Jan 12, 5:36pm Top

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

58banjo123
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.....

59banjo123
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.

60msf59
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!

61banjo123
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.

62banjo123
Jan 12, 6:41pm Top

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

63Oregonreader
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.

64ursula
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.

65msf59
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.

66banjo123
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.

67BLBera
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.

68eclecticdodo
Jan 13, 6:01pm Top

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

69banjo123
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.

70banjo123
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.

71banjo123
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,

72BLBera
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.

73lkernagh
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.

74banjo123
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.

75vancouverdeb
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.

76Berly
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!

77banjo123
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...

78banjo123
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.

79EBT1002
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!

80cammykitty
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.

81BLBera
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.

82muddy21
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!

83banjo123
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.

84PawsforThought
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.

85PaulCranswick
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.

86banjo123
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.

87banjo123
Jan 21, 11:26pm Top



The Portland March.

88BLBera
Jan 21, 11:50pm Top

Great picture.

89arubabookwoman
Jan 22, 1:29am Top

Thank you for marching!

90PawsforThought
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.

91msf59
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.

92banjo123
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.

93banjo123
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.

94banjo123
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.

95Oregonreader
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.

96banjo123
Jan 22, 5:50pm Top

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

97Berly
Jan 23, 12:12am Top

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

98eclecticdodo
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.

99RebaRelishesReading
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).

100banjo123
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.

101vancouverdeb
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.

102banjo123
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.

103FAMeulstee
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 ;-)

104Berly
Feb 1, 12:02am Top

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

http://www.librarything.com/topic/170100

105banjo123
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.

106Oregonreader
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!

107banjo123
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.

108banjo123
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.

109banjo123
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.

110banjo123
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.

111Berly
Feb 6, 1:48am Top

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

112BLBera
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.

113arubabookwoman
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!

114EBT1002
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!

115msf59
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.

116banjo123
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.

117banjo123
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.

118Crazymamie
Feb 7, 8:33am Top

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

119cammykitty
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.

120Berly
Feb 10, 11:36pm Top

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

121banjo123
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.

122banjo123
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...

123Oregonreader
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!

124banjo123
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.

125banjo123
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.

126EBT1002
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.

127msf59
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?

128banjo123
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.

129BLBera
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.

130banjo123
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?

131BLBera
Feb 24, 10:55am Top

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

132Oregonreader
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.

133PaulCranswick
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.

134arubabookwoman
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!

135banjo123
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.

136banjo123
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.”

137charl08
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 :-)

138BLBera
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.

139banjo123
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.

140banjo123
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.

141banjo123
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.

142charl08
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!

143Berly
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.

144banjo123
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.

145banjo123
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!

146banjo123
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.

147msf59
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.

148banjo123
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.

149banjo123
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.

150banjo123
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.

151PaulCranswick
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.

152banjo123
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.

153charl08
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.

154Berly
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!

155RebaRelishesReading
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.

156ursula
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.

157banjo123
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.

158BLBera
Mar 18, 8:59am Top

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

159banjo123
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.

160PaulCranswick
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.

161msf59
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?

162EBT1002
Mar 19, 11:46pm Top

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

163Berly
Mar 20, 12:48am Top

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

164scaifea
Mar 20, 6:38am Top

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

165Oregonreader
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.

166BLBera
Mar 20, 2:25pm Top

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

167arubabookwoman
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.

168banjo123
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.

169eclecticdodo
Mar 21, 5:37pm Top

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

170kidzdoc
Mar 22, 4:15am Top

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

171ffortsa
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.

172banjo123
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.

173banjo123
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.

174charl08
Mar 25, 5:03pm Top

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

175banjo123
Mar 25, 5:43pm Top

>174 charl08: You and me both!

176PaulCranswick
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.

177banjo123
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.

178banjo123
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.

179banjo123
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.

180kidzdoc
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.

181banjo123
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.

182banjo123
Mar 25, 7:06pm Top

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

183scaifea
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!

184BLBera
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.

185Oregonreader
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.

186eclecticdodo
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.

187banjo123
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!

188banjo123
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.

189banjo123
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.

190kidzdoc
Mar 27, 10:37am Top

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

191cammykitty
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?

192RebaRelishesReading
Mar 27, 12:12pm Top

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

193lkernagh
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.

194BLBera
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?

195vancouverdeb
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.

196msf59
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.

197banjo123
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)

198FAMeulstee
Mar 28, 3:56pm Top

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

199banjo123
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.

200BLBera
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.

201Berly
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. ; )

202banjo123
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.

203banjo123
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.

204banjo123
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.

205BLBera
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.

206banjo123
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.

207banjo123
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?

208BLBera
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.

209banjo123
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.

210msf59
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.

211ursula
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!

212lkernagh
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. ;-)

213BLBera
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.

214cammykitty
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.

215banjo123
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!

216banjo123
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.

217banjo123
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.

218banjo123
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.

219banjo123
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....

220BLBera
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.

221PaulCranswick
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.

222banjo123
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.

223EBT1002
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!

224msf59
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.

225BLBera
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.

226banjo123
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.

227charl08
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.

228BLBera
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.

229Berly
Apr 13, 1:43am Top

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

230banjo123
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!

231EBT1002
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.

232EBT1002
Apr 13, 11:03pm Top

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

233Berly
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.

https://literary-arts.org/box-office/

: )

234cammykitty
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.

235Berly
Apr 16, 12:14pm Top



Or just Happy Sunday if that is not your thing.

236banjo123
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.

237banjo123
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)

238banjo123
Apr 16, 3:10pm Top

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

239FAMeulstee
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?

240banjo123
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.

241EBT1002
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!

242PaulCranswick
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.

243Oregonreader
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?

244arubabookwoman
Apr 18, 2:59pm Top

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

245Oregonreader
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.

246BLBera
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...

247banjo123
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:

248banjo123
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?)

249banjo123
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.

250BLBera
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.

251RebaRelishesReading
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 :)

252banjo123
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.

253charl08
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.

254RebaRelishesReading
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.

255banjo123
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!

256banjo123
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!



257banjo123
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.

258kidzdoc
Apr 24, 6:25am Top

Great book haul, Rhonda!

259RebaRelishesReading
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 :)

260BLBera
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.

261banjo123
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.

262BLBera
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.

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