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Thread # 2 May the Books be With you!

This is a continuation of the topic 2017 is a Prime Reading Year for Banjo!.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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1banjo123
May 4, 11:15pm Top


2banjo123
Edited: May 4, 11:20pm Top

Thought for this thread:

3banjo123
May 4, 11:17pm Top

Books Read in 2017 # 1:

1. Kindred by Octavia Butler
2. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
3. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
4. The Double by Jose Saramago
5. The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
6. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
7. North Water by Ian McGuire
8. The Peculiar Life of the Lonely Postman
9, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
10, Dark Money by Jane Mayer
11. Objects in Mirror by Kate Carroll de Gutes

12. The Good WIfe by Stewart O'Nan 2/11
13. Therese and Isabelle by Violette leDuc 2/19
14. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
15. Elephant Company by Vicki Croke.
16. The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux
17. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

18. A Little life by Hanya Yanagihara
19. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 3/14
20. Words Will Break Concrete: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
21. Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera
22. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
23. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
24. Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostovo
25. All The Birds In the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

26. My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul
27. March Book One by John Lewis
28. Hallelujah: The Welcome Table by Maja Angelou
29. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
30. Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
31. Commonwealth by Ann Pratchett
32. The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee
33. Counting Coup by Larry Colton
34. The Sympathizer

5banjo123
Edited: May 17, 1:21am Top

6banjo123
Edited: May 13, 8:43pm Top

So, next, my categories of reading:

The 2016 New York Times best 10 books.

I(The Vegetarian by Han Kang read in 2016
Evicted by Matthew Desmond read in 2016
The Return but Hisham Matar read in 2016
Dark Money by Jane Mayer--READ
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans--- READ
North Water by Ian McGuire Read!
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--READ
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan READ
At the existentialist cafe by Sarah Bakewell
In the Darkroom by SUsan Faludi READ

7banjo123
Edited: May 14, 7:26pm 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 Their Eyes Were Watching God
June- Sherman Alexie
July- James McBride
August- Patricia Highsmith
September- Short Story Month
October- Ann Patchett
November- Russell Banks
December- Ernest Hemingway

8banjo123
May 4, 11:25pm 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

9banjo123
May 4, 11:26pm 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

10banjo123
May 4, 11:27pm 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. Books read 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
The Sympathizer

11banjo123
May 4, 11:27pm 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

12banjo123
May 4, 11:28pm 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 The Sympathizer
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. Like A Straw Bird it Follows Me
Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. Kindred, Underground Railroad

13banjo123
Edited: May 17, 1:22am Top

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
Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen --READ
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan READ
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi READ
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova --READ
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen READ
To Steal a Kingdom; Probing Hawaiian History by Michael Daougherty READ

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
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
Shipping News by Annie Prouix

14Berly
May 4, 11:48pm Top

R--Man, have enough challenges!! LOL. Happy reading and congrats on the new thread. ; )

15banjo123
Edited: May 5, 12:11am Top

>14 Berly: Yes, I think I overdid it, but it was the beginning of the year and I was ambitious. Next year maybe I will do the kick back with a novel and bottle of wine, challenge.

As for my current reading, right now I have out about half a dozen library books I want to get to: THe Association of Small Bombs; In the Darkroom ; At the Existentialist Cafe Fates and Furies The Golden Legend.

I was going to read To Steal a Kingdom for the non-fiction challenge, and Their Eyes Were Watching God for the AAC. For book groups it's The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah and Charity and Sylvia

And that's it for tonight... more book thoughts coming.

16PaulCranswick
May 5, 1:37am Top

Happy new thread, Rhonda.

Hopefully I can keep in mind that this thread is you as you are no longer mentioned in the thread title.

17FAMeulstee
May 5, 6:33am Top

Happy new thread, Rhonda!
I like the thought in >2 banjo123:, although there are human traits that I'd like to avoid.

18drneutron
May 5, 10:54am Top

Happy new thread!

19RebaRelishesReading
May 5, 11:21am Top

What a busy reading life you're planning. Happy new thread!

20scaifea
May 5, 11:36am Top

Happy new thread, Rhonda!

21EBT1002
May 5, 9:42pm Top

Hi Rhonda and Happy New Thread!

I wanted to thank you for recommending Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. I quite enjoyed it.

And I noticed your comments about Wizard of the Crow on the prior thread. I have had that on my TBR shelves for a while and now I'm thinking I'll try to read it this summer.

22msf59
May 5, 10:18pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhonda. Happy Friday, my friend. Glad to see you doing so well on the AAC.

23BLBera
May 6, 10:24am Top

Happy Saturday Rhonda. Happy new thread. I love your topper.

24banjo123
Edited: May 6, 12:25pm Top

Kim, Paul, Anita, Jim, Reba, Amber, Ellen, Mark and Beth: Thanks for finding my new thread, even though I goofily forgot to include my name in the title. Can't believe that I did that. I asked LT if they could change it... if not I might just start a new thread, because it seems confusing.

Ellen, Solitaire was mentioned on my thread, but I think it was Katie who recommended it. I haven't read it myself. Also, regarding Nicola Griffith some of the SF fans in my book group highly recommended Slow River.

And hooray for more Wizard of the Crow reading. It is really awesome.

25banjo123
Edited: May 6, 12:31pm Top

So this morning is BEAUTIFUL but I am going to be inside most of the day, attending a conference on political activism. We have had so much bad weather in Portland, that I hate to spend a nice day inside. Tonight we are going to a Thorns game (Women's Soccer) though, so that should be fun.

In other life updates, Banjo, jr comes home in a week. She is in the midst of finals right now. She will be home for about two months, and then takes off to study abroad in South Africa. We thought about going to see her in South Africa (which I have always wanted to see) but it is such a long flight. Instead, we are going to meet her in Europe at the end of her program (December). I have never been to Europe before, so I am excited about that.

26banjo123
Edited: May 6, 12:50pm Top

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton

This is a fascinating book by journalist and former pr-baseball player, Larry Colton. (And Colton lives in Portland, Oregon!) Colton spent a year in Montana, following a high school girls basketball team, and one of its star players, Sharon LaForge. The book covers the basketball teams ups and downs; wins and losses and also the lives of teen-age girls on the team. Colton did not know much about Native American life before writing the book, and the book becomes a vehicle to explore the hopes and frustrations of the Crow; the economic and social problems, and also the friction between Indian and White, and the casual racism of whites in the area. Colton talks about how young Native American athletes have less access to College recruiting and scholarships, and also hints at the difficulties for those who do go to college, and don't see their culture represented.

Colton puts a lot of himself into the book, which is a practice that I like in non-fiction. You see his hopes for the girls, hopes for a college education and a better future. You also see his frustrations when those hopes seem unlikely. One of the hero's of the book is Janine Pease Windy Boy, who established a community college on the Crow reservation.

Although I really liked this book, I did have some concerns about how the people pictured in the book, and Native Americans in general would feel about their depiction. He is very honest about issues of addiction, family tensions, absent fathers, domestic violence. He obviously admires Coach Mac, the girl's coach, but is frustrated by some of her basketball strategies and coaching techniques.

27banjo123
May 6, 1:16pm Top

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Here is a novel that combines literary fiction, political diatribe, a thriller and black humor. Also, it gives an account of the Vietnam war from the perspective of the Vietnamese. You would think that we'd have had lots of that perspective, given that it was the "VIETNAM" war; but in the US most of the accounts we get are from the perspective of the US. So I enjoyed this story, loved his humor, and also found the account of civil war to be devastating in many ways.

I had a few issues with the book. I found it slow reading at first, and confusing. There is a certain amount of jumping back and forth in the narrative, and crucial pieces of information are not given at first. In the end, I liked that, but in the beginning, it was frustrating. Also, in parts of the book the political polemic was pretty heavy handed. I realized that was because of it being a "confession" but it still grated at times. (but then, page 307 happened.)

We read this for book group, and so Mrs. Banjo read it also, ahead of me. This meant I got to watch her laughing and gasping as she read the book, and when it was my turn she kept asking "Where are you?" and then, towards the end, "Are you at page 307 yet?" So definitely an involving book for both of us.

Our book group was mixed on it. One person did not like it because she did not like the way women were treated, and the way the main character related to women. There may be something to this, because she's really a smart reader. I actually I had the opposite reaction. I felt his reactions to women were entertaining and I liked the way that he admired the women he encountered and saw them as individuals. Women's issues are central to the book. Another member felt the book kept harping on the faults of the US in the Vietnam War, and was kind of one-note. Honestly, I don't agree with this; it seems that blame was spread pretty thickly and generously between North and South Vietnamese, the US, and also Europe.

28banjo123
May 6, 1:28pm Top

Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan translated by Fady Joudah

This is a translation of poetry by a Palestinian poet, apparently very celbrated. Honestly, the poetry didn't do much for me; not sure if it is partly a problem with translation? But it did fill one of my Book Riot categories. Here is one of the poems that I rather liked:

"A Graphic 1995"

The endings are not ours
not anyone's.

Endings belong to strangers
who weren't born on wagons,
people we find in the dust of corridors
and who happen in speech

people who are born from shadows
and unraveling mats.

And while we were plowing
they were laughing
and filling our pockets with dirt.

29banjo123
May 6, 1:41pm Top

the association of small bombs by Karan Mahajan

This is going to be one of my favorite reads of the year.

This book tells the story of a bombing in Delhi, which kills two young brothers. A friend of theirs escapes the bombing, but had physical and mental after effects. The book follows the story of their families, and also the sotries of the bombers. Mahajan's story-telling is exquisite, winding around and back to show the differences between the internal and external lives of his characters.

In this book we are tasked with looking at the effects of terrorism on non-western people, and also with looking at how small-scale terrorism can have large scale effects.

30Oregonreader
May 6, 1:44pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhonda. You are ambitious! It looks like we have a few days of sun so I hope you can get out and enjoy.

31BLBera
May 6, 1:55pm Top

Hi Rhonda - I'm grading today, so I too, will spend most of the beautiful day inside. :( Great comments. I will definitely search for Counting Coup - keeping in mind your comments. The Sympathizer is also one I'd like to read.

I loved THe Association of Small Bombs as well. I wish it had a wider audience here. Maybe your comments will encourage people to pick it up.

It sounds like you have an exciting year ahead. Where in Europe will you go?

32banjo123
May 6, 2:05pm Top

>30 Oregonreader: Thanks, Jan! I am hoping to get out soon. I am actually at home and not at the conference, due to a plumbing issue. So right now I am waiting on the plumber; who is off looking for supplies to fix our complicated sink problem.

>31 BLBera: Yes, Beth, more people need to read Small Bombs. It's so great from a character development aspect, isn't it?

We are thinking Spain and Portugal for travel. The idea is to spend more time in a few places.

33PaulCranswick
May 7, 2:32am Top

Rhonda things are buzzing on your new thread.

Hope your Sunday is perfect.

34RebaRelishesReading
May 7, 11:13am Top

> 27 Hi Rhonda -- Your thoughtful comments on The Sympathizer make me want to go back and revisit it.

35banjo123
May 7, 10:46pm Top

>33 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! It's been a nice day, though too full of chores and errands.

>34 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba, did you not like The Sympathizer?

I had a good stretch of reading today, while I was waiting for new tires. I started In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi. Has anyone else read it? Her father was such a difficult character. It's really interesting.

36RebaRelishesReading
May 8, 11:51am Top

>35 banjo123: The comment had more to do with not remembering a lot about it but I went back and found I gave it only 2 stars, so I would say I'd didn't like it much.

37ursula
May 8, 12:28pm Top

I liked The Sympathizer a lot too, although I also had some issues with it. It is a shame that what you say is very true, we don't get much of the Vietnamese perspective on the war. Even considering how many Vietnamese live in the US.

38banjo123
May 9, 1:01am Top

>36 RebaRelishesReading: Well, Reba, if you didn't like it before, it's hard to imagine that you will a second time around.

>37 ursula: I am going to try to look for more that's written from a Vietnamese angle. Last year we saw a really good play on the topic "Vietgone" by Qui Nguyen. If you ever have a chance, I would recommend that.

39Berly
May 9, 1:47am Top

>27 banjo123: Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, is coming to Portland next year as part of Literary Arts. In fact, one year from today!!

40lkernagh
May 9, 9:16pm Top

What a perfect thread topper! Love it!

Happy new thread, Rhonda.

41msf59
May 9, 9:31pm Top

>27 banjo123: Good review of The Symphathizer, Rhonda. I agree it wasn't always a smooth read but there was enough there to impress me.

>28 banjo123: I really like this poem. Thanks for sharing.

42banjo123
May 10, 1:01am Top

>39 Berly: Yes, and I have tickets so I am excited. I bet he will be interesting.

>40 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori

>41 msf59: And thanks, Mark!

43ffortsa
May 10, 7:35pm Top

>38 banjo123: Yes, we saw Vietgone also, and enjoyed it very much. It was good creative theater and a good perspective.

44banjo123
May 11, 12:25am Top

>43 ffortsa: That's great, Judy, I am glad someone else saw it. Did you see it in New York? We saw it at the Oregon Shakespeare Theater, it was very lively.

45BLBera
May 11, 12:49pm Top

The Sympathizer sounds good. Has anyone read The Boat? I have that one on my shelf and have been trying to convince my book club to read it...

46PaulCranswick
May 13, 1:10am Top

Rhonda, just dropping by to wish you a fabulous weekend.

47banjo123
May 13, 2:18pm Top

>45 BLBera: I haven't read The Boat. It looks interesting...

>46 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! I am looking forward to it,

The weekend looks to be fun, though the weather here is awfully rainy. Last night we had a "Postcard Part" and invited enighbors and friends to write postcards to Senators, the White House, etc. It was really fun Also, some guests brought instruments and jammed together, so we had nice music for our efforts. Tonight Banjo, jr comes home--she just finished her junior year at college. We are excited to see her!

48RebaRelishesReading
May 13, 2:49pm Top

Your postcard party sounds fun. I have state and national legislators that I strongly support so always have a "I don't need to" reaction to calls to "write you congress member/senator" but decided recently that I should express my support with more than my vote so emailed everyone and told them I thought they were doing a great job and to stay strong. Hope it helps.

49ffortsa
May 13, 7:46pm Top

>44 banjo123: We saw Vietgone in New York, as part of our subscription to Manhattan Theater Club.

50banjo123
May 13, 7:59pm Top

>48 RebaRelishesReading: Reba, our state and federal legislators are pretty great, actually, so lots of than yous in order. I think it helps them to know that the constituents are behind them

>49 ffortsa: That's cool! It was our favorite play last year.

Reading-wise I just finished In the Darkroom. Review to follow.

51banjo123
May 13, 8:41pm Top

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

Susan Faludi was mostly estranged from her father, when, in 2004, she received an email informing her that her father had, at age 76, had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand, and was now Stefani. This was not the first name change for the former Steven Faludi, who had been born Istvan Friedman, but changed the last name to a more Hungarian and less Jewish sounding name. Susan had grown up in the US, and knew only stories about how her father had survived WWII and had come to the US. Susan Faludi had been a teen when her parents divorces, and had had only sporadic contact with her father after that.

Susan flew to Hungary, where her father was living, and spent the next ten years re-connecting with Stefani. It was not an easy process. Early in the process she ruminates:

"What was I doing here? She seemed to be the same old impenetrable, walled-off person he had always been. As far as I could tell, becoming a woman had only added a barricade, another false front to hide behind. Every road to the interior was blocked by a cardboard cutout of florid femininity, a happy housewife who couldn't wait to get "back to the kitchen," a peasant girl doing the two step in a Photoshopped dirndl."

In the beginning of the book, Stefani seems a very self-centered person, who wants to communicate with her daughter, but only on her terms, and avoiding huge swaths of conversational topics. In particualr, Stefani is conflicted about her Jewish identity and about antisemitism in Hungary. Faludi intersperses personal stories with research into transgender issues and Hungarian history. This technique is a little choppy at times, but over-all, it works. As the book evolves, the relationship between father and daughter deepens.

In one of my favorite scenes, the two dance in a Disco party in an abandoned factory in Budapest.

"My father and I circled around each other for a few minutes. Then I put out my hand and she took it. I couldn't teach her the "female steps" to a Viennese waltz, but I'd done my time in New York's limelight. I knew what to do with Michael Jackson. I led her through a few moves and soon we were swinging each other around. It occurred to me that I hadn't danced like this in ages. It occurred to me that I was having a good time.
...I looked back at my father. She was grinning and not that anxious half-grin she so often had on her face. I held up my arm and she twirled underneath like a pro."

52BLBera
May 14, 10:10am Top

In the Darkroom sounds good, Rhonda.

A postcard party - a great idea.

53lunacat
May 14, 3:52pm Top

I can very much recommend Spain, as can many other LTers, Darryl and Joe most of all I think. I have fallen in love with it. I'm sure you can get a LOT of recommendations for places to visit from various people here. I'd be happy to, if you'd like. Am typing on my phone currently so not so convenient but let me know if you'd like suggestions.

54Berly
May 14, 3:58pm Top

>51 banjo123: I am kinda surprised that the doctors would do that kind of surgery at the age of 76. Wow. Sounds like a very interesting book.

I can't believe Banjo JR has already completed her junior year--where has the time gone? Happy Mother's Day!!

55banjo123
May 14, 7:24pm Top

>52 BLBera: The postcard party was a lot of fun. We got a lot of feedback that it helped people feel more empowered.

>53 lunacat: Hooray! Yes, we'd love suggestions. We have been making plane reservations today, which is super complicated these days, it seems. We fly in to Barcelona December 2nd, and out of Lisbon on the 21st, I think. The plans for what to do in between are still in flux.

>54 Berly: Thanks, Kim and happy mother's day to you as well! Faludi's father was good at altering documents. Apparently that's a Hungarian survival skill.

The weekend is going by nicely. Banjo, jr came home last night... it's great to see her! We had waffles for breakfast and are doing various errands and chores. I did finish Their Eyes Were Watching God; a re-read which I liked as well the second time.

56msf59
May 14, 10:25pm Top

Happy Mother's Day, Rhonda. Happy Sunday! Hope you had a fine weekend.

And hooray for Their Eyes Were Watching God!

57banjo123
May 17, 1:25am Top

Thanks Mark! I was going to write out some thoughts on Their Eyes but now I am too tired. Soon!

58Ireadthereforeiam
May 17, 1:28am Top

>6 banjo123: wow, you are really getting through that list!

>51 banjo123: I always get Susan Faludi and Susan Baldacci mixed up....This one does seem interesting though.

59lunacat
May 17, 12:56pm Top

Would you be renting a car or going by public transport? We rented a car and it was a really good decision. Driving throughout the south of Spain is lovely, delightful vistas and interesting scenery. But you're unlikely to be able to easily get an automatic, so it depends if you drive a manual?

We visited:

Seville - our favourite city. Chilled out, friendly people (for Europeans, we aren't the crazy, friendly people that Americans are ;)! Lots to see and do, reasonable prices, our airbnb was brilliant and in a good location. The food is fantastic. Nearly completely flat, so easy to walk around, lots of bar hopping and tapas eating. The old Roman town of Italica that is just outside Seville was incredible, almost deserted and stunning.

Jerez de la Frontera - a sherry town. A lot smaller than Seville, but lots of interesting things. A wonderful flamenco bar, and some decent history.

Cadiz - a surprisingly small port town. It's very like Venice in feel, with high, old buildings intersected with warm plazas with cafes etc.

Granada - we weren't that enamoured with Granada. There is tons of history, and some amazing views and scenery, but the vibe wasn't quite for us. It was a mix of tourist-centric and hippy (lots of weed being smoked). The moorish elements were very strong, which was interesting, and maybe we didn't give it enough of a chance, but the heavy tourist trap feel wasn't quite 'us'. Also, it is VERY hilly so there is lots of up and down walking. Also, if you want to go to the Alhambra, you need to book at least a month in advance. You might be OK in winter, but it was heaving when we tried to go, and we didn't manage to get in. I wouldn't have coped with that number of people anyway.

Ronda - glorious, on a mountain plateau. Our second favourite place. Not for someone wary of heights though (my boyfriend struggled a bit going over the huge bridge). Scenery is spectacular, wonderful to drive around the area, lots of interesting villages, and the old bits of Ronda have a fascinating history and a lovely feel, And vistas wherever you go. I'd recommend it to pretty much anyone.

60kidzdoc
May 17, 8:39pm Top

>59 lunacat: I'm in essentially complete agreement with Jenny. I loved Sevilla and Ronda, but I didn't like Granada very much (it didn't help that my bag was robbed in a restaurant, probably by a grungy weed smoking hipster at the table next to us). Barcelona is magical, and I loved Montserrat, Girona, and my visit to the Teatre-Museu Dalí in Figueres (all of those Catalunyan cities are easily accessible by train).

Bianca & I rented a car to go from Sevilla to Granada, with an overnight stay in Ronda. I can drive vehicles with manual transmission, as can she, so it wasn't a problem for us. I'm not sure how easy it would be to rent a car with automatic transmission in Spain or Portugal.

I hope to travel to Portugal later this year or next, and I intend to visit Coimbra, Porto and Lisbon. Longtime LT member deebee1 lives in Lisbon, so she may be able to give you advice about that lovely city.

61RebaRelishesReading
May 18, 12:06pm Top

We were in Granada a few years ago and had a wonderful experience helped a lot by the fact that we stayed at a hotel recommended by Rick Steves called (strangely) The American Hotel. It was reasonably priced and was right next to the Alhambra (or maybe even on the grounds). The view from our bathroom was into an archaeological dig on the Alhambra. We were able to buy tickets and walk right in, but then, we were there in November and it was a few years ago. The Alhambra is jaw-dropingly beautiful.

If you opt to rent a car, give consideration to where you will park at your various hotels. We had a car and there were times when I really regretted it when it came time to check into the hotel. (The American Hotel has parking right out front, by the way).

We were in Malaga, Alicante and Barcelona by cruise ship last fall and loved them all. I want to go back!!

62BLBera
May 18, 12:12pm Top

Rhonda: I want to go with you to Spain!

The Alhambra is outstanding, and if you get the chance to go, don't miss it. Both my kids studied in Granada, and it is a huge college town. I loved it.

We stayed at the Hotel Reina Cristina, where Lorca was arrested. It's pretty central and reasonably priced.
Here's a link to an interesting article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/granada-spain-holidays-city-break-lor...
Do you speak Spanish? If not, maybe you need an interpreter? ME!

63Oberon
May 18, 3:32pm Top

>62 BLBera: Great Lorca article. I am a big Lorca fan. >55 banjo123: Completely agree about Granada being enchanting which was why I was so bummed when Darryl had his bag stolen and his experience wrecked. Read Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving and then make sure you visit.

My ranking in order: Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Seville, Segovia, Cordoba, Cuenca, Aranjuez, El Escorial (technically not a town but visit it), Cadiz, Salamanca, Ronda, Avila, Jerez de la Frontera, Malaga and Valencia. Assuming you are limited for time seriously look at the first four. The next five all have specific sites that are well worth the visit.

64lunacat
May 18, 6:34pm Top

It is such a shame that neither Darryl or I liked Granada. I will (slowly) try and convince my boyfriend to give it another go, and book the Alhambra at least a month in advance. We have spoken about doing a daytrip into Granada specifically to go to the Alhambra, and NEVER driving there again.

I will happily be in rough places (I spent a month in Mongolia, for goodness sakes) and if people want to smoke all sorts of things then good on them. I certainly have, as has the boyfriend. There was just something.............odd about Granada that didn't gel with us. I'd love to give it another go, but there are so many other wonderful places in Spain that I think, apart from a possible day trip to see the Alhambra, we won't be back.

>63 Oberon: Your list is great - we want to do Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba, Cadiz (for longer), Salamanca, and Valencia. I wouldn't want to do Malaga though, too many British people spoiling it!

65banjo123
May 18, 10:58pm Top

Thanks for all the help with trip planning! And, Beth, yes, I think we need you as an interpreter. Banjo, JR has years of taking spanish, but has steadfastly managed to pass her classes without actually learning. She hates learning languages. Luckily for her, she has now fulfilled her college requirement. I have had a little Spanish here and there, but don't remember any of it. I was thinking of doing Rosetta stone.

I am interested in the discussion of Granada. That's one place I really wanted to go, because I am super-interested in the Moorish influence. But, hmm....Jenny and Darryl's experience worries me. We were thinking of going to fewer places and having longer stays at each place. Barcelona and Lisbon are for-sures

>58 Ireadthereforeiam: It's a great list! The last one, At the Existentialist Cafe, it a bit of a drag so far. It's really well written, but turns out I am not too interested in Existentialists.

>59 lunacat: Seville sounds great! I would like to do Ronda, but Mrs. Banjo and Banjo, jr both have issues with heights, so I am not sure.

66banjo123
May 19, 12:30am Top

>60 kidzdoc: Thanks for the suggestions, Darryl! Sounds like Seville is a great bet. I think that we wanted to avoid a car, and I am afraid to driving on the wrong side of the street. But we can do a manual, if we need to.

>61 RebaRelishesReading: ooh, Reba, good tips. We will have to check out that hotel.

>62 BLBera: Thanks for the advise, Beth, and the interesting artlcle.

>63 Oberon: Erik, thanks for the tips. My sister lived in Madrid 25 years ago, and she loved Toledo. But she said that in Madrid you have to either read DonQuixote or pretend that you did, and then tell everyone you love it. Also you have the swoon over Picasso's Guernica.

>64 lunacat: Jenny, you didn't make yourself sound squeamish, I didn't think, and the tourist-centered bit bothers me, too. But, the Alhambra.

67banjo123
May 19, 12:57am Top

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

This was a re-read, and it is still brilliant. I just love the way Hurston gives a voice to Janie, who is looking for a way to define her own life, relationships and to find love. The use of dialect is amazing.

The story is lovely, in parts, being about love, and other times hard and sad. Janie and Tea Cake have hard lives, and sometimes their own decisions make life harder. Hurston takes the lives of these seemingly ordinary people, and makes something more out of it, something universal and heroic.

68Oberon
May 19, 10:59am Top

>66 banjo123: Ha. I have read Don Quixote twice and didn't care for it either time. I say read Lorca and Miguel De Unamuno and swoon for Velazquez's Las Meninas! (Or my personal favorite St. George and the Dragon by Peter Paul Rubens.)

Guernica is great and the Reina Sofia in a lovely museum but it has nothing on the Prado for me and I would rank it behind Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza though that is more a function of my tastes than anything else.

69RebaRelishesReading
May 19, 12:14pm Top

As to lists of favorite cities in Spain (and I must admit that I know northern Europe way better than southern and, although I've visited several times, I've managed to never make it to Madrid -- must do that soon) my favorites are: Barcelona, Salamanca, Grenada, Toledo

70lunacat
May 19, 3:05pm Top

Hope I can have been of some help!

I wouldn't avoid Granada if I were you - just book the Alhambra well in advance and be prepared for the hills! I'm sure we just had a bad experience, which was a pity, but it happens in any city, I'm sure. It is fairly touristy though, and there is nothing to be done about that.

71banjo123
May 19, 11:49pm Top

>68 Oberon: I liked the first half of Don Quixote, but it went on too long. If this trip was all up to me, we'd spend half the time in art museums, but it's actually being planned as a present for my daughter. It pains me to admit that a child that I raised doesn't appreciate art museums, but the fact is, she doesn't. (She does have other virtues.) We will probably just hit the very highlights art-wise--now that I think of it, she might like Picasso, she is kind of a Modern Girl.

>69 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba! We will definitely hit some of these.

>70 lunacat: I think we will be OK with the hills--- we are from Oregon. But maybe we will make Granada a quick stop.

All the advice is great! We are going to have to sit down with a map and think it out. The plan is to see fewer places, and be more leisurely, but it's hard to leave anything out.

72banjo123
May 20, 1:02am Top

To Steal a Kingdom: Probing Hawaiian History by Michael Dougherty

This isn't the best written book, but it is very informative and well researched. Dougherty details the contacts that Hawaiians had with Western explorers, Businessmen, missionaries and others between James Cook in 1769, and the early 20th century. Herman Melville and Mark Twain both make appearances.
Just one quick fact; estimates indicate that 400,000 (or more) Native Hawaiians were living on the major Hawaiian islands when Cook landed in Hawai'i. Due to the influx of disease, etc, the population dropped to about 40,000 within 100 years.

73PaulCranswick
May 20, 9:00am Top

>65 banjo123: I have been to Ronda, Granada and Jerez as well as Gibraltar, Nerja and Cadiz. Don't have a bad word to say about any of them. Malaga is a bit of a dump but I would gladly live in Andalucia if my finances would allow.

Have a lovely weekend, Rhonda.

74BLBera
May 20, 2:36pm Top

Wow, Rhonda. You have gotten a lot of advice. I think the time of year you visit is important as well. If you want any more suggestions, let me know. I would try to avoid a car, and actually, the transportation is pretty good.

I did enjoy our trip to Gibraltar; you would need a car for that.

All this Hurston love makes me want to reread/read more of her work.

Have a great weekend.

75banjo123
May 23, 11:55pm Top

>73 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! The weekend was really nice.

>74 BLBera: THank you Beth... and definitely, read more Hurston!

And happy almost Wednesday, everyone! The week seems to be going fast, for me.

Reading update: Finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (for my book group)/ Definitely not my thing: historical novel that reads like a romance. :(. I had to take The Existentialist Cafe back to the library half-read (page159) I will get it later... it's not a favorite for me, but I want to finish that book list. My other book group is reading Charity and Sylvia which is pretty good in a Women's Studies/US history sort of way. Not a fast read, however. And I am reading A House Without Windows lent to me by someone at work.

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