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Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 1

This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Edited: Apr 1, 2018, 11:45am Top

Shepard Fairey Mural, Frankford Avenue in Fishtown | Obama HOPE poster
Photo credit: Philadelphia Magazine

This year my threads will highlight Philadelphia’s public art. This mural adorns the side of a building a few blocks from my house. The artist is Shepard Fairey, creator of the famous Obama HOPE poster.

2018 is my 10th (!!) year in the 75 Books Challenge. Despite being a highly structured, hyper-planner type of person, I try to keep my reading flexible and read what I want, when I want. Still, it wouldn’t be a new year without a few goals, so here are some things I’m planning for 2018:
* Strike a balance between newly-published books, author backlists and classics
* Dip into the 75 Books author challenges if something strikes my fancy
* Check off tasks in the Book Riot “Read Harder” challenge
* Participate in monthly author reads in the Virago Modern Classics group
* Continue the Virago Chronological Read project, to read VMCs in order of original publication date
* Make progress on my active series, and no doubt start some new ones :)
* Knit! Knitting is one of my other major hobbies, and I have a thread in the Needlearts group for anyone interested

My 2017 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-14) | Part 2 (books 15-35) | Part 3 (books 36-56) | Part 4 (books 57-74)

Books completed ("details" jumps to my comments on this thread)
1. Outline - details
2. The Last Ballad - details
3. Hunger: A Memoir of Body - details
4. Mrs Warren's Profession - details
5. The Semi-Detached Couple & the Semi-Attached House - details
6. The Underground Railroad - details
7. The Hounds of Spring - details

8. The Brimming Cup - details
9. Go Tell It On The Mountain - details
10. The Lady of the Camellias - details
11. Little Fires Everywhere - details

12. Celia - details
13. The Long Way Home - details
14. Resurrection - details
15. Bad Feminist - details

Edited: Dec 29, 2017, 8:21am Top

Series Progress

Active series as of January 1:

My series list is courtesy of FictFact, which allows you to select the series you wish to track. They do a reasonable job of maintaining current series, although in some cases they have added books that I don't consider a legitimate part of the series (e.g., the Harry Potter prequel). The above snapshot is a view of my active series sorted on the "progress" column.

Series completed/current in 2018:

Series started in 2018:

Series abandoned in 2018:

Edited: Jan 22, 2018, 12:03pm Top

Read Harder

Ellen (EBT1002) piqued my interest in Bookriot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge, and while I do not plan to use this to drive my reading choices, the categories are interesting enough to consider when I’m thinking about what to read next.

The challenge consists of 24 “tasks.” I’ll provide more details as I complete them:

1. A book published posthumously
2. A book of true crime
3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
4. A comic written and illustrated by the same person
5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
6. A book about nature
7. A western
8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
10. A romance novel by or about a person of color
11. A children’s classic published before 1980
12. A celebrity memoir
13. An Oprah Book Club selection
14. A book of social science
15. A one-sitting book
16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
19. A book of genre fiction in translation
20. A book with a cover you hate
21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
22. An essay anthology
23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

Dec 29, 2017, 8:39am Top

Welcome everyone! This thread is officially open for business. I'll come back to this post a bit later with reflections on 2017 and/or what I'm reading or about to read and/or whatever.

Meanwhile speak up!

Dec 29, 2017, 9:00am Top

Welcome back! The street art’s really gorgeous.

Dec 29, 2017, 9:02am Top

Nice idea to highlight Philadelphia's public art, Laura! I look forward to seeing your posts.

Dec 29, 2017, 9:03am Top


(That was me dropping a star.)

Dec 29, 2017, 10:59am Top

Dec 29, 2017, 11:03am Top

I have starred you, Laura, although I can't see how you are going to have time for reading or LibraryThing when you have just moved house!

Dec 29, 2017, 11:23am Top

What a gorgeous mural! Happy reading for 2018, and good luck with the Read Harder challenge! *starred*

Dec 29, 2017, 5:41pm Top

Starred you Laura!

Dec 29, 2017, 10:12pm Top

Hope you have a great year of reading!

Dec 30, 2017, 10:25pm Top

Just placing my star. Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2017, 8:21am Top

Happy (almost) New Year!

Thanks to Jim, Darryl, Katie, Kim, Kerry, Ellie, Rhian, Lori, and Colleen for keeping my thread warm the past few days. I'm looking forward to the new year, especially the camaraderie of this group.

Dec 31, 2017, 9:53am Top

Lovely new thread evolving Laura. I shall look forward to more book bullets in 2018.

Dec 31, 2017, 9:56am Top

Starred! Love the Shepard Fairey Obama poster up top, Laura - we had a small one of those on our front door for his eight years.

Dec 31, 2017, 12:47pm Top

Happy New Year! I wish you to read many good books in 2018.

Dec 31, 2017, 1:26pm Top

Happy reading in 2018, Laura!

Dec 31, 2017, 1:29pm Top

Happy New Year from the beach in Paihia, Laura! I’ll try to keep up with you on here a bit better this year.

Dec 31, 2017, 4:24pm Top

>17 The_Hibernator: Happy New Year, Rachel! I love that dog!!!

>18 FAMeulstee: same to you, Anita!

>19 cushlareads: It's always nice to see you Cushla, whenever you are able.

Jan 1, 2018, 4:04am Top

Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.

Jan 1, 2018, 12:05pm Top

Hi Laura and Happy New Year! I love the Obama Hope poster ~~ we still need lots of that.

I'm looking forward to another year of wonderful reads, discussion, and friendly book banter. I have, of course, dropped my star off on your thread (I think I did that a couple of days ago but I didn't announce it at the time).

Jan 1, 2018, 12:12pm Top

Happy Reading in 2018, Laura. And good health to you and the family.

Jan 1, 2018, 3:09pm Top

Happy new year Laura!

Jan 1, 2018, 4:19pm Top

Happy 2018!!

Jan 1, 2018, 6:05pm Top

Hello and happy new year to Paul, Ellen, Mark, Heather, & Kim! It's been a busy day with New Year's Day brunch followed by a shopping trip to buy some hiking gear for my daughter (a Christmas gift, but we wanted her to choose). Now holed up for the evening and hoping to get more than a few pages into my current book, Outline by Rachel Cusk. I've had my eye on this one for a while and it jumped into my arms when I was in a bookstore the other day. Go figure.

Jan 1, 2018, 6:15pm Top

Happy New Year, Laura! I hope you have a great reading year!

Jan 1, 2018, 6:48pm Top

>26 lauralkeet: How strange is that Laura. But when that happens, you just got to go with it. Happy New Year.

Jan 1, 2018, 7:27pm Top

Hi Laura. Well I’m going to be interested in what you think about Outline I’ve had it on my library request list for awhile. Other books keep jumping the queue. Not to be confused with a book jumping into your hands at a book store. That’s something else entirely. Lol

Jan 1, 2018, 8:01pm Top

I liked Outline when I read it a couple of years ago - it's an interesting little book. I haven't felt compelled to pick up her follow-up, though...

Jan 2, 2018, 7:46am Top

>28 Caroline_McElwee: my thoughts exactly, Caro. 😀

>29 brenzi: I will keep you posted, Bonnie!

>30 katiekrug: Outline came to my attention when it was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize. At the time, it was hard to find, or maybe not available yet in the US. I didn't even realize there was a follow-up book until I added it to my catalog. Apparently she is planning to make it a trilogy.

Jan 2, 2018, 10:58pm Top

Happy New Year, Laura. I look forward to hearing more about your Philadelphia adventures. I really liked Outline. It was an unusual way to tell a story and the writing was stellar. I didn’t know it is Part One of a planned trilogy. I will look for the sequel and look forward to the conclusion.

Jan 3, 2018, 1:38am Top

Happy New Year Laura, and Happy Reading!

Jan 3, 2018, 7:07am Top

Happy New Year, Donna & Nathalie!


I won a copy of Lucy/sibyx's book, The Hounds of Spring, through Early Reviewers!! I haven't requested an ER book in ages so I wasn't sure if that would work for or against me. Yay, I'm excited!

Jan 3, 2018, 10:05am Top

Happy New Year, Laura, and congrats on the ER win! And of a fellow LTer's book to boot! That's awesome.

Edited: Jan 3, 2018, 6:29pm Top

I find Cusk very much worthwhile and getting better all the time.

>34 lauralkeet: Seems totally unreal to me. Perhaps when I actually see a copy that will change!

Jan 3, 2018, 8:37pm Top

>1 lauralkeet: I miss the murals, but we've gotten some here in Lancaster too.
>34 lauralkeet: What! Wow, I'm really out of the loop...
Happy New Year!

Jan 3, 2018, 8:40pm Top

Happy New Year Laura. I hope your year is filled with lots of great books, and plenty of room to store them.

Jan 4, 2018, 6:48am Top

>35 rosalita: I know, Julia! I'm excited to read the book, but also excited for Lucy for becoming a published author!

>36 sibyx: Lucy, I'm glad to see your enthusiasm for Cusk. I'm finding Outline very intriguing.

>37 qebo: Hey Katherine! Nice to see you here, happy new year!

>38 Whisper1: Hi Linda, and Happy New Year to you, too!

Jan 4, 2018, 5:14pm Top

I'm hoping to be a bit better getting over to this thread this year, I'm going to try to drag myself into 2018 by using all the "my group," "starred" ...etc shortcuts.

The "read harder" challenge is interesting.

Jan 4, 2018, 6:09pm Top

>40 avaland: Nice to see you around here, Lois! Now, if I could just finish a book there would be something worth visiting for, lol.

Jan 5, 2018, 1:13pm Top

Hi Laura, I'm just now getting around to the threads that I starred in the mad rush to start the New Year on LT. I hope you had a wonderful New Years and congrats on winning an ER copy of The Hounds of Spring.

Jan 5, 2018, 9:01pm Top

Thank you Meg! Happy New Year to you, too.

Jan 6, 2018, 3:11pm Top

Happy New Year, Laura. I hope 2018 is filled with fabulous reading.

Jan 6, 2018, 4:05pm Top

Thank you Beth! Back at ya ...

Jan 8, 2018, 7:37pm Top

1. Outline ()
Source: Recent bookshop purchase
Why I read this now: In a rare move, I decided to read something immediately after buying it.

Outline is a character study of a British woman who travels to Athens to teach a writing workshop. It's clear the woman has experienced a significant emotional event; there's a certain emptiness about her. The novel's structure is interesting: a series of dialogues with people the woman encounters during her stay, intended to provide an increasingly detailed portrait while revealing most details through what isn't said.

This approach started off promising, but by the end the dialogues felt stilted and there were huge unanswered questions about the woman which left me feeling unsatisfied.

Jan 8, 2018, 8:24pm Top

I liked Outline a bit better than you did, Laura, but I understand your comments. I wonder if the follow-up fills in some of the blanks...

Jan 10, 2018, 8:41pm Top

>46 lauralkeet:. Hmmmm well I’m not going to be in any hurry to read that one Laura.

Jan 11, 2018, 7:14am Top

Hi Katie & Bonnie. I've been thinking Outline may require a different reading environment. It's a quiet sort of book and one you need to get immersed in, in order to follow the subtle threads. I was only able to read a little bit at a time, and life has been hectic, so I'm sure that contributed to my experience.

Jan 12, 2018, 8:48am Top

Currently Reading

The Semi-Attached Couple & the Semi-Detached House | The Last Ballad

We are leaving on vacation today to have fun in the sun on a Caribbean cruise! We are sailing with Windstar, a line of small ships. We did one of their cruises last year, met a very nice Scottish couple, and decided to meet up again this year. I'm excited and, after all the stress of moving, very ready for relaxation and pina coladas.

I'm currently readinging The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House with the Virago group, and will bring that with me. I also have the latest Wiley Cash, The Last Ballad, on my Kindle. Those two will probably be enough for the week but my Kindle also holds the next Inspector Gamache and some nonfiction, should I need it.

We will have wifi on board so I hope to keep up with threads but if you don't hear much from me you'll know why!


Jan 12, 2018, 9:18am Top

Bon voyage! Enjoy your pina coladas and trip and books and friends! What a great life!

Jan 12, 2018, 12:24pm Top

It sounds lovely, Laura. Enjoy!

Jan 12, 2018, 3:24pm Top

Chin chin. I do love a good piña colada it has to be said.

I’m sure the have a Wiley Cash somewhere.

Jan 13, 2018, 9:48am Top

Oh, that sounds wonderful! Have a fabulous trip!

Jan 13, 2018, 10:54am Top

>50 lauralkeet: January is an excellent time to be elsewhere.

Jan 16, 2018, 3:54pm Top

Just booked our hotel in Philly for the March meet-up!

Hope you are having a great cruise.....

Jan 17, 2018, 10:58am Top

Checking in from the Caribbean! I understand we have snow back home. Gee, that’s too bad. 😃

Several piña coladas consumed so far, and we are enjoying the relaxing in the sun with our books. This was a much-needed respite after the past few months of activity and stress.

Jan 17, 2018, 11:02am Top

Glad you are having a restful time Laura. You certainly deserve the break.

Jan 17, 2018, 1:38pm Top

>57 lauralkeet: Sounds awesome! I could really use some beach time.

Jan 18, 2018, 6:26am Top

>57 lauralkeet: That sounds AMAZING. Yay for respiteful pina coladas!

Jan 18, 2018, 12:52pm Top

>56 katiekrug: Where are you staying? We haven't booked yet, were thinking of AirBnB depending on the relative pricing.

Jan 19, 2018, 4:19pm Top

I'm so glad you're enjoying your sunny and warm vacation, Laura! Relaxing in the sun with books and piña coladas sounds perfect.

Jan 19, 2018, 4:28pm Top

Hi all! We've had a lovely week and some good reading has been done. I finished The Semi-Attached Couple, but wasn't in the mood to read The Semi-Detached House just yet. So I read The Last Ballad, which was superb. Then, in the middle of the week I received library notice of 2 kindle books so I am moving immediately on to those starting with Hunger, by Roxane Gay, which is very good but also a difficult subject. That should keep me occupied through Saturday's airline travel but if not (or if I need a diversion), I also have The Underground Railroad.

I was chatting with a woman on ship the other day about ways to pass the time. She remarked, "you know, there's only so much reading you can do" ... sigh. I could read all day, lady!

Jan 20, 2018, 2:46pm Top

Ha, I could read all day too. She was clearly not LT material, or maybe she just needs some coaching Laura.

I have a couple of Rixanne Gay’s books in the tbr mountain.

Safe travels.

Jan 20, 2018, 3:18pm Top

>61 ffortsa: - PMed you, Judy!

Jan 21, 2018, 8:44am Top

We are safe and sound at home after a very long but uneventful travel day yesterday. I finished Hunger, which was tough stuff but thought-provoking. I need to catch up on threads and I need to update this thread with recent reads. I'll get there eventually.

Jan 21, 2018, 8:59am Top

Happy Sunday, Laura. Glad you made it home safely. I saw some of your vacation photos. Looks great. We leave for the Riviera Maya, a week from tomorrow. Looking forward to soaking up some sun.

Jan 21, 2018, 12:16pm Top

Welcome home!!!

Jan 21, 2018, 12:25pm Top

Welcome back! I have Hunger waiting for me along with a few shelves of other books. Someday I will get to it! Happy Sunday.

Jan 22, 2018, 7:40am Top

Welcome home and welcome here! Loved following you on fb!

Jan 22, 2018, 12:00pm Top

Hey there Mark, Lucy, Kim & Peggy! Thanks for the warm welcome.

I thought it was about time I told y'all about what I've been reading ...

Edited: Jan 22, 2018, 12:01pm Top

2. The Last Ballad ()
Source: On my Kindle, thanks to a recent deal
Why I read this now: Mark (msf59) made me do it. :)

The Last Ballad describes the struggles of both labor organization and racial integration in North Carolina fiber mills during the early 20th century. Wiley Cash tells the story of Ella May Wiggins, a white worker turned activist who ultimately lost her life while working for the cause. Ella May was a single mother living in poverty, doing her best to feed her family. She believed in the union cause, but perhaps more importantly, they paid her a better wage as a union organizer than she could earn in the mills, and it provided her a way to try to improve working conditions for both black and white workers.

I loved the structure of this book. There are several narrators, each with their own personal history. Their individual threads advance Ella May’s story, and sometimes intersect with one another as well. Ella May’s daughter Lilly’s thread is set in 2005, providing both prologue and epilogue for the book. Cash’s afterword, where he discusses the history behind this book and his personal interest and connection to it, was also very interesting. Highly recommended.

Jan 22, 2018, 12:01pm Top

3. Hunger: A Memoir of my Body ()
Source: Library Kindle loan
Why I read this now: I’ve had my eye on it for a while.

Oomph. This was a tough but important read. Roxane Gay is well-known as a contemporary feminist voice. She is also “a woman of size,” and has come to accept that, to some degree. Writing this memoir was a part of her journey. But this was not a “rah rah we can all be body positive” book. Roxane’s body is the result of horrific trauma as a young girl, which took a significant toll on both her physical and mental health. And her challenges are far from over; every day presents challenges to her personal well-being.

I did not expect such a searingly honest account, nor did I expect to learn as much as I did. Reading this book opened my eyes and, I hope, will help me to curb any judgemental thoughts that I have, and possibly even speak out when others comment about a person’s body in harmful and hurtful ways.

Jan 22, 2018, 1:20pm Top

>73 lauralkeet: Not quite holiday reading me thinks, but I’ve dropped it on my Kindle Laura.

Jan 22, 2018, 1:37pm Top

>74 Caroline_McElwee: that's true, Caro. I was in the library kindle queue for this one and didn't expect it to pop up while I was away. But it did, just as I was finishing The Last Ballad, and I was intrigued enough to dive right in.

Jan 22, 2018, 11:47pm Top

>63 lauralkeet: "...there's only so much reading you can do." ?????????
Does. Not. Compute.

You got me with both The Last Ballad and Hunger. I had both on my radar but now they are actually on my wish list. I still have a gift certificate for Elliott Bay Books that I need to use.... :-)

Jan 23, 2018, 7:04am Top

>76 EBT1002: You NEED to use that gift certificate Ellen! Time's a-wasting!! but seriously, I'm always happy to share the book love.

Jan 23, 2018, 7:50am Top

>73 lauralkeet: I just finished Hunger last night. Very raw and powerful, and I liked that it ended up a little optimistic. Will definitely read Bad Feminist by her.

Edited: Jan 23, 2018, 7:51pm Top

>78 raidergirl3: what a coincidence Elizabeth! I also have Bad Feminist on my TBR list (not an actual pile, just a list!!)

Jan 23, 2018, 12:17pm Top

I got a little bogged down in Bad Feminist last summer, can't quite remember why now. I loaded it as an e-book for my trip. Will have to revisit.

Jan 23, 2018, 6:45pm Top

And just like that I find The Last Ballad on my list. Hmmm, wonder how that happened🤔

Jan 23, 2018, 7:52pm Top

>80 sibyx: Sometimes it's just the right book at the wrong time, ya know? Then again, maybe it's just not your cuppa. I've read a lot of earlier-generation feminists, but more recently have read Lindy West in addition to Roxane Gay. It's interesting to hear their voices and the issues that concern them vs. their foremothers.

>81 brenzi: ha ha! It's nice to have you back, Bonnie.

Jan 23, 2018, 8:03pm Top

I've just started a course on Prostitution in Literature, through the Temple University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. We will be reading three 19th century works: Mrs Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw, The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, and Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy. I've not read any of these books, so I'm excited about not just the reading, but the discussion exploring the course theme.

The first session was today, and we immediately dove into Mrs Warren's Profession. She provided background on Shaw's life and works, noting that his best material explores the plight of marginalized people and the ways in which society fails them. We discussed Act I and part of Act II, which just begins to reveal the reasons Mrs Warren "chose" her profession. The tone of the play is light and satirical, but there's a very serious undercurrent.

Interesting stuff! I'll share more insights as we progress through these works.

Jan 23, 2018, 8:58pm Top

>72 lauralkeet: Lots of love here for the Wiley Cash book. I'll get to it eventually.

Edited: Jan 25, 2018, 8:15am Top

>73 lauralkeet: Caught a BB for this one, and it might already be on my WL, I think I read a review somewhere else and thought it might be for me.

>83 lauralkeet: Sounds like a fascinating course. More BBs, but these at least should be in the public domaine.

Jan 25, 2018, 8:48am Top

>84 thornton37814: yay! I loved A Land More Kind Than Home, so my decision to read The Last Ballad was kind of a no-brainer. I hope you enjoy it, Lori.

>85 Deern: Hi Nathalie, yes the books from my course are old enough that you should be able to find inexpensive copies. I bought the specific editions recommended by the instructor (because she will be referencing page numbers and so on), but they were not expensive and in many cases Kindle editions were available for free or $0.99.

Jan 25, 2018, 6:09pm Top

>86 lauralkeet: just checked, that's the Wiley Cash I have Laura, just got to find it now. It will be my first.

Jan 27, 2018, 7:21am Top

>87 Caroline_McElwee: Ooh, I do hope you enjoy it, Caro!

Jan 27, 2018, 7:25am Top

4. Mrs Warren’s Profession ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: Prostitution in Literature course

This little book surprised me. The premise -- a young woman who finds out her mother has been supporting the two of them through the world's "oldest profession" -- led me to expect either a farce or a morality play. There's plenty of humor but social messages about women's roles in society carry this play. I'm looking forward to discussing this further in my course.

Jan 27, 2018, 10:37am Top

Glad you enjoyed the Shaw. I have a conflicted relationship with him, as I often feel bludgened by his attempt to have me accept his point of view, which is often my own, but I don't want to be so beaten about the head. Look forward to hearing what evolves from your group Laura.

Jan 27, 2018, 11:54am Top

I understand your conflicted relationship, Caro. Although he wrote in a way that advocated for poor & marginalized people, he was on the wrong side of many fundamental issues (e.g., he approved of eugenics). I won't be seeking out more Shaw, but this worked and is a very good fit for the course.

Jan 30, 2018, 7:23am Top

5. The Semi-Attached Couple & the Semi-Detached House (DNF)
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection
Why I read this now: Group read for Virago Chronological Reading Project

I'm putting this one back on the shelves. I read the first novella which was decent and slightly Austen-ish. I was well into the second novella when we began our cruise. It didn't suit my holiday reading mood, I haven't felt like coming back to it, and there are several other books calling my name. Still, that's 387 pages under my belt so I'm counting it.

Jan 30, 2018, 8:09am Top

I have that one and I'm trying to remember if I liked it or not . . . no . . . I can't remember. The book's in my work studio, so remembering will have to wait. I'm fussier about my Virago reads than of yore.

Feb 1, 2018, 10:57am Top

6. The Underground Railroad ()
Source: Library Kindle loan
Why I read this now: It’s the February book for a RL book group I intend to check out.

This book has been much-read and much-loved by LTers. I meant to read it when it was first released, but life got in the way for a while. Inspired by an upcoming book group, I found it at my local library. Maybe you’ve heard about this book, and Colson Whitehead’s creative imagining of the Underground Railroad as an actual, well, railroad that runs underground. The main character, Cora, runs away from a Georgia plantation and travels through South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana by way of the railroad. She is haunted by memories of her mother, who ran away when Cora was a child, and was never found by the slave hunters. At each stop she goes above ground, often facing danger and violence but occasionally finding kindness and community. Very slowly, Cora begins to recover from the physical and sexual abuse experienced as a slave. But at the same time, she finds white hatred is never far away.

Whitehead writes brilliantly about racism, and I can see why this book was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I liked this book a lot, although I wasn’t blown away by it as others were. This is possibly because of all the hype at its release, and I would still recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Feb 1, 2018, 3:05pm Top

>94 lauralkeet: Ooo. That's on my to-read list this year. Was on last year, too, but I didn't get much read. I'm glad you liked it.

Feb 1, 2018, 3:30pm Top

Great review Laura. I liked it a little more than you did which doesn’t really make sense since I’m not one for fantasy or magical realism or whatever category this book falls into. But I did like it a lot.

Feb 3, 2018, 12:21pm Top

>92 lauralkeet: Sorry you didn't enjoy that one more, but it definitely still counts as a book (the stories were published separately after all). I agree Austen-ish is about as close as these get - but that leaves me even more in awe of Miss Austen.

>94 lauralkeet: I can't remember if I told you that I genuinely thought the underground railroad was an actual railroad until I visited the Museum of International Slavery in Cincinnati.... Anyway, maybe because of that and maybe because my knowledge of American history is still very limited, I didn't find Whitehead's book as fantastical as I expected but I did enjoy it.

Feb 3, 2018, 1:19pm Top

>95 The_Hibernator: It's a well-loved book around here, that's for sure. I hope you enjoy it!

>96 brenzi: Bonnie, now that you mention magical realism, maybe that's why I wasn't over the moon about it.

>97 souloftherose: Heather, I made it 100 pages into the second novella, because I was on an airplane and had finished the first one in flight. But I found the transition jarring, because they are so different in tone. And then my reading mood shifted ... oh well. And your "mistake" about the Underground Railroad is completely understandable, not having grown up around here. I was a fully functioning adult before I realized King Arthur wasn't actually King of England.

Feb 3, 2018, 2:13pm Top

>94 lauralkeet: Can't say why, but this is one the 2 books of last year's Booker dozen that didn't want to be read by me yet although I bought it. Thanks for reminding me it's still open. I should get to it before the next longlist in summer.

Edited: Feb 4, 2018, 5:40pm Top

>99 Deern: I should get to it before the next long list in summer
Yes indeed, because then there will be an entirely new set of books that "want to be read by you" (I love that phrase!)


This past week I read The Hounds of Spring, written by the 75ers' own Lucy (sibyx), which I received through LT Early Reviewers. I was a little worried about reading a book written by a friend: would she hate me if I didn't rate it highly? If you're a regular visitor you know I rarely award 5 stars to a book. To earn that rating, the book has to strike an emotional chord, and maybe even draw tears (an unusual reaction for me). Well, I'm here to say The Hounds of Spring did exactly that, so I can give it 5 stars in good conscience and not because I'm afraid Lucy would hate me otherwise!

Now for my review ...

Feb 4, 2018, 5:40pm Top

7. The Hounds of Spring ()
Source: LT Early Reviewers program

Poppy Starkweather recently abandoned her PhD program in literature and, for the time being anyway, works as a dog walker with clients across Philadelphia. She lives with Clive, who loves her dearly. She loves him too, but is afraid of marrying before she has her whole life “figured out.” But one spring day, Poppy has a series of life-changing experiences. Things start out fairly routine with a typical schedule of client visits, and plans to join Clive for a medical appointment in the afternoon. But Poppy is a kind soul, and will help anyone who asks. It slowly becomes clear she’s trying to accomplish too much in the time available, but thankfully, the long-suffering and amiable Clive rolls with it. And in the end, the journey proves to be a significant event in their relationship.

This book was an absolute gem. I loved Poppy from page one. Her dog Spock, and her client dogs, were just as interesting as the humans. The novel has just four chapters -- Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Night -- which turned out to be a very effective structure for Poppy’s personal journey. The descriptions of Philadelphia were right on the mark, both in terms of the landscape and the culture:
Philadelphia was one of those prudish and quietly racist cities that lagged far behind the tidal wave of loosening inhibitions and taboos elsewhere. (p. 33)

Most importantly, I found Poppy’s story compelling. I cared about her, and when I wasn’t reading I found myself thinking about Poppy and other people in her life. In the afternoon Poppy, Clive, her brother Price, and a client, Mrs. Twigg, end up visiting Poppy’s mother. Each of these characters has an impact on Poppy, as does the setting itself:
Poppy, passing under the archway into the garden, was aware of slipping into a less coherent self, made up of memory and desire. A more intense and chaotic child self, where impulse and emotion had the upper hand. (p. 91)

What a beautiful passage. As Poppy’s day came to an end, I felt that pang of emotion that only comes from a truly excellent book, and a few days later she still appears in my thoughts from time to time. Don’t miss this wonderful novel.

Feb 4, 2018, 6:11pm Top

Hooray for The Last Ballad & The Underground Railroad! I also loved them both.

And, Oh yeah-

Feb 4, 2018, 8:59pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: BB! Forgot to duck.

Feb 4, 2018, 9:39pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: Excellent review! I've pre-ordered the book from the publisher and look forward to reading it.

I'm watching the Super Bowl and I'm about sick to death of the Tom Brady hung the moon mantra.

Feb 5, 2018, 7:04am Top

They did it! To the delight of everyone in Philadelphia, and most of the rest of the United States (see Ellen's comment in >104 EBT1002:), the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. I do not follow football at all, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement. It was a terrific game. We went outside afterwards and milled about with the throngs of people celebrating in the streets.

Fly Eagles Fly!!

Feb 5, 2018, 7:06am Top

>103 NanaCC:, >104 EBT1002: Colleen & Ellen, I'm thrilled to see a BB hit its mark.

Edited: Feb 5, 2018, 7:37am Top

>105 lauralkeet: We were imagining the hubbub in the streets last night. I mean, the Iggles! Winnng! My sister-in-law whose family is utterly Iggles loyal was pretty much out of her head. I'm quite pleased too as I do love that city.

And speaking of pleased! Thank you for such a powerful and positive review!

Feb 5, 2018, 9:39am Top

>107 sibyx: you are most welcome, Lucy!

Feb 5, 2018, 9:54am Top

Go Eagles!! My husband is a long-suffering Eagles fan having grown up in Allentown but now he has seen his team win the Superbowl!! I lived in Philly for a couple years and I know how much football means to that city. Super exciting.

Feb 5, 2018, 5:32pm Top

>94 lauralkeet: That's the one I'll be reading so I didn't read your review too closely--just enough to know you liked it.

Edited: Feb 5, 2018, 6:21pm Top

I wouldn’t have cared who played the Patriots as long as someone would just beat them. Thank you Eagles. I’m forced to watch those Patriots twice each season (at least) since we’re in the same division. They’ll probably br back with a vengeance next year. Blech.

Feb 5, 2018, 10:22pm Top

>109 japaul22:, >111 brenzi: Hi Jennifer & Bonnie, it's great to see the Eagles love. There's a lot of joy in Philly now, which I'm sure will continue all the way through the parade on Thursday.

>110 thornton37814: I hope you enjoy The Underground Railroad, Lori.

Feb 6, 2018, 3:48pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: I'm hit, I'm hit! *adds to wishlist*

Feb 6, 2018, 5:28pm Top

* rubs hands together gleefully *

Feb 6, 2018, 5:34pm Top

Currently Reading

The Brimming Cup | The Lady of the Camellias

I have two books on the go at the moment. The first is by the Virago Group's February author. I'm 65 pages in and it's good but I keep finding myself reading it only at bedtime, which slows my progress.

The second is for my Prostitution in Literature course, where we just finished discussing Mrs Warren's Profession. I read the first few chapters this afternoon and am quite taken with it, but I think I'll read along with the syllabus, so it will be spread out over several weeks.

Feb 7, 2018, 12:09am Top

>101 lauralkeet: I keep checking amazon IT for it, I really hope it will turn up there eventually to pre-order. Great review!!

>100 lauralkeet: Yes, sometimes I start a book and it doesn't draw me in although I'd really like to read it. Then I could force it (and probably end up not liking it) or better let it sit for a while until it waves at me from shelf or Kindle library. :)

Feb 9, 2018, 7:09am Top

>101 lauralkeet: I've not even heard of The Hounds of Spring, will look into it for the store.

And I'll be interested in your further reading for your "prostitution in literature class". I was trying to think of novels I've read that would apply and all I could come up with was Sheri Holman's The Dress Lodger.

I'm trying to get around a bit more this year (which means I finally have to train myself to use some of the LT shortcuts to such things as starred threads across a variety of groups).

Feb 9, 2018, 8:15am Top

>101 lauralkeet: I think you got me with that one.

Feb 9, 2018, 9:20am Top

>117 avaland: - Oh, I really liked The Dress Lodger when I read it (pre-LT).

Edited: Feb 9, 2018, 9:51am Top

>116 Deern: Your Kindle waves to you? What a great feature! 😀 I love my Kindle but I also tend to forget what's on it, since I can't see the books on my shelves.

>117 avaland: Hi Lois! *waves maniacally* Thanks for stopping by!! You've inspired me to post more about the Prostitution in Literature course, so I'll try to get to that soonish.

>117 avaland:, >118 Caroline_McElwee: I'm always happy to spread the love for a book, especially when it's an opportunity to support another LTer. Earlier this week Lucy asked my permission to use part of my review on the back cover of her book -- of course I said yes! Woot!

>117 avaland:, >119 katiekrug: hmm, now I need to go check out The Dress Lodger. Thanks ... I think. 😉

ETA: That does look like a good book. And I couldn't help myself: the book description entered by an LT member was riddled with typos. I could forgive 1, but there were at least 5. So of course I had to edit and correct. That's my good deed of the day, done & dusted.

Feb 9, 2018, 9:57am Top

>120 lauralkeet: Woot indeed.

Feb 9, 2018, 4:02pm Top

Prostitution in Literature - Mrs. Warren's Profession

This short play by G. B. Shaw was written in the late 1800s, but it was several years before the censors allowed it to be performed, and even then it was in a private club. Briefly, the play concerns a young Cambridge-educated woman named Vivie, who learns (to her horror) that her mother earned her living as a prostitute and madame for her entire adult life, and that this income was how Vivie was clothed, fed, housed, and educated. Vivie never knew her father, so this knowledge also raises questions of paternity.

The play is written in a very light-hearted tone, but Shaw had serious social messages to convey. While most of society felt that prostitution was a profession entered into by choice, Shaw rightly proclaimed that women were forced into it by other circumstances e.g., poverty, and being unmarried (by choice or otherwise). One interesting aspect of the play is that Mrs Warren's profession is never named outright. Even when Vivie ascertains what it is, and writes the words on a slip of paper, those words are never spoken, so the audience/reader is left to draw their conclusion. Shaw uses so much innuendo it's not a difficult conclusion, so this is more a commentary on social mores of the day.

In the last class session about this book, we spent time discussing the language used to describe prostitution today, noting that all of it is derogatory. You can say the same of most discussion about sex in general. There was a collective "hmmm ..." about that.

Next up: The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas fils

Feb 9, 2018, 7:00pm Top

>122 lauralkeet: It always interested me that Vivie and her mother were not so very different. Vivie's education and the progress made for women in the workplace allowed her to choose a profession that was more approved of, but she and her mother are both women who need to be occupied in substantial efforts. Mrs. Warren was after all a manager, and liked to work and create an income. Vivie is much the same, but she's been raised a Victorian prude in many ways, and can't see the utility of her mother's choice.

Feb 10, 2018, 12:21pm Top

That's a very good point, Judy. And Vivie has not had to deal with the economic hardship her mother did, and so was never faced with difficult choices about an occupation.

Feb 13, 2018, 1:48pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: Excellent review of what sounds like an excellent novel Laura. That's one I am going to try to get a copy of once released.

>115 lauralkeet: I've started The Brimming Cup and I like it but it's not calling to me compared to some of the other books I have on the go. I'm not very far in yet though so hopefully I'll get more drawn in as I go.

>122 lauralkeet: Mrs Warren's Profession sounds interesting - I've heard of GBS but don't think I've read any of his works (I don't suppose seeing the Audrey Hepburn film of My Fair Lady counts).

Edited: Feb 13, 2018, 3:38pm Top

>125 souloftherose: Heather, I just finished The Brimming Cup today. I had a hard time getting into it, too, and had to really push myself. It took about 200 pages for it to click and for me to be invested in Marise. The last 1/3 is very good. I'm giving it 3.5 stars but would have gone higher if I'd been immersed from the beginning. It took 12 days to read a 320-page book, and that wasn't because I was too busy.

Feb 13, 2018, 3:50pm Top

>126 lauralkeet: I'm afraid nowadays I'd have given up by about page 50, unless someone had told me it was worth powering past a certain point Laura.

Feb 13, 2018, 5:05pm Top

>127 Caroline_McElwee: Caro, my persistence is just a demonstration of my firm commitment to the Virago Group's monthly authors (LOL).

Feb 13, 2018, 5:52pm Top

Hi Laura. Ellen told me that you are the person with details of the impending meetup in Philadelphia. March 4. I recall seeing it mentioned some time back, but nothing recent. I'd love to take part.

Feb 13, 2018, 7:01pm Top

>125 souloftherose: I'm afraid My Fair Lady doesn't count, for reasons you would find clear if you read the original Pygmalion (Did I spell that right?) GBS was quite a character, and his prefaces and postscripts to his plays are famous in their own right.

Feb 13, 2018, 7:20pm Top

>129 weird_O: That's great, Bill! I have all the details in an email that I can send to you. I'll PM you to request your address.

>130 ffortsa: Judy, can you enlighten those of us (me!) who have no intention of ever reading Pygmalion? I wasn't going to let Heather count it just because I'm mean that way, but I'd love to know more about the differences between the original work and the musical.

Feb 13, 2018, 8:15pm Top

>131 lauralkeet: email
Oh. I'd been wondering.

Feb 14, 2018, 12:21am Top

Your Prostitution in Literature course sounds fascinating. I'd be interested in the syllabus.

>130 ffortsa: and >131 lauralkeet: I'm interested, too!

Feb 14, 2018, 6:57am Top

>132 qebo: I sent you an email, Katherine.

>133 EBT1002: I'll email it to you, Ellen!

Edited: Feb 14, 2018, 6:06pm Top

Pygmalion: a spoiler, as requested. I would suggest you read the preface or end piece at least. Anyway, Eliza and Doolittle do not marry. She marries Freddy, of course. GBS has all sorts of good reasons why this would transpire, which I can't recall at the time, but he would have found it ludicrous and probably greatly disrespectful to Eliza.

I would look up Shaw's reasoning and quote it here, but I'm leaving for Texas tomorrow and am a very bad 'pre-traveler'. Once I'm on the way, I'm fine, but the two days before, I'm a wreck. Come to think of it, my father was the same way. And he traveled a lot. I wonder if I'm echoing his behavior. Or if I just feel totally disorganized.

Feb 15, 2018, 4:58pm Top

8. The Brimming Cup ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection
Why I read this now: Dorothy Canfield Fisher is the February Virago author

When her youngest son leaves for his first day of school, Marise Crittenden is bereft. She feels a sudden lack of purpose, which is further challenged by the arrival of new neighbors. Mr. Welles, an elderly man, has settled in the village after a long career in business. Vincent Marsh, a younger associate, has come along to help him settle in but immediately trains his sights on Marise. His attentions, coming at this vulnerable time, are both irresistible and frightening.

Marise is a strong woman in a strong marriage, but her marriage lacks the spark of courtship and Vincent promises her more excitement than leading the village chorus, or tending to the needs of other families in the village. A visit from her childhood friend Eugenia makes Marise doubt even more whether life as a wife and mother is all it’s cracked up to be.

This book plodded along for quite some time -- about 200 pages in fact -- before the pace picked up and Marise got her act together. The last 100 pages are dramatic, filled with insight, and very satisfying. If the entire book read that way, it would have earned a higher rating. I stuck with it for the sake of a group read, and I think I would still recommend it, but with reservations.

Feb 15, 2018, 5:52pm Top

>136 lauralkeet: I read her Understood Betsy for a YA lit course. I should try one of her "adult" books.

Feb 16, 2018, 9:19pm Top

Laura, I really liked your review of Lucy's book. I am eager to read it and have it on preorder from Amazon.

Feb 16, 2018, 9:39pm Top

>137 thornton37814: And I haven't read any of her "younger" stuff! So many books, right?

>138 Donna828: Thank you Donna. I'm confident you'll enjoy the book!

Edited: Feb 18, 2018, 8:07pm Top

^I hope you had a great birthday, Laura.

Feb 18, 2018, 8:34pm Top


Feb 18, 2018, 8:48pm Top

Hey, thanks Mark and Paul! I've had a nice day with my husband and older daughter, and I don't feel a day older than I did yesterday so that's a win!

Feb 18, 2018, 9:49pm Top

There’s a birthday going on? Hope you had a good one!

Feb 18, 2018, 10:37pm Top

Birthday? Adding my Happy Birthday wishes, Laura!

Feb 18, 2018, 10:56pm Top

Is there cake left? Maybe a dollop of ice cream?


Happy Birthday.

Feb 19, 2018, 6:58am Top

See what happens when Mark lets the cat out of the bag? Everyone comes looking for cake. Sheesh!

Edited: Feb 19, 2018, 7:21am Top

Feb 19, 2018, 9:19pm Top

I’m enjoying your literature course vicariously Laura. I took one when I retired also and enjoyed it immensely.

Feb 19, 2018, 9:21pm Top

Happy birthday!!!!

Feb 19, 2018, 9:33pm Top

From one Pisces to another--Happy Birthday!!!

Feb 21, 2018, 6:56am Top

>147 msf59: Ha! Cute one, Mark.

>148 brenzi: I'm glad you're enjoying the summaries of my course, Bonnie. I love having the opportunity to take classes like this one.

>149 sibyx:, >150 Berly: Thank you Lucy & Kim!! But Kim, I gotta correct you: I was actually born on the last day of Aquarius (Feb 18). Anyway, I'm going to pop over to your thread and wish my favorite Pisces a happy birthday!

Feb 23, 2018, 9:32am Top

I can't believe I missed your birthday. It appears to have been a pleasant one and that is a good thing. It's also on my "half-birthday," and I don't think I've ever known anyone else born on 2/18. Not significant but kinda cool.

I almost never see Viragos in bookshops; I must not know how to spot them and/or I look in the wrong places. I don't know whether they would suit me but they are appealing for a variety of reasons.

Today I fly back to Seattle and my next trip is to Philly! :-)
On the plane I'll be reading A Wrinkle in Time and/or How I Found Her.

Have a great weekend, Laura!

Feb 23, 2018, 9:40am Top

>152 EBT1002: - I have a bunch of Viragos but I've read very few... *sigh*

Feb 23, 2018, 10:16am Top

>152 EBT1002: well whaddaya know Ellen, I don't think I've ever met someone whose birthday was on MY half birthday! It's almost like finding a twin!

>153 katiekrug: did someone say "bunch of Viragos"? My talented husband built a bookcase for our living room. Spot the Viragos. 😀

I actually fit all 310 of them on the shelves. Double-stacked, of course.

Feb 23, 2018, 10:25am Top

>154 lauralkeet: That is a pretty space, Laura.

Feb 23, 2018, 10:32am Top

>154 lauralkeet: - Nice job, Chris! Love that shelf unit.

I "only" have 133 VMCs.... :)

Feb 23, 2018, 10:55am Top

>154 lauralkeet: yes, a very nice design.

Feb 23, 2018, 1:20pm Top

>154 lauralkeet: Agree with everyone else, Laura. That looks comfortable and pretty.

Feb 23, 2018, 2:45pm Top

Swell bookcase. I'm working up to such a project.

>156 katiekrug: Don't feel bad, Katie. I have "only" ZERO Viragos in my house.

Feb 23, 2018, 5:08pm Top

Thank you all, I will pass along your compliments to my favorite woodworker.

>156 katiekrug: wow, I had no idea you had amassed a genuine collection. How many have you read? Full disclosure: 189 of my 310 are tagged "tbr". Sigh.

>159 weird_O: well Bill, at least you don't have the "tbr" issue. Not with Viragos, anyway.

Feb 23, 2018, 5:31pm Top

Umm, I've read exactly 6 of them. Oops.

Feb 23, 2018, 5:55pm Top

Just lovely, Laura. I only have 59 Viragos and have only read five of them. Hmmm, I guess I should do something about that.

Feb 25, 2018, 7:35pm Top

9. Go Tell it on the Mountain ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: My husband read it last month and highly recommended it.

John is the stepson of an evangelical preacher in Harlem. At 14, he is beginning to chafe under his father’s iron hand. This novel is a “day in the life,” where we see John at home after his brother Roy is injured in a fight, and then he sets out on his own for church, meeting up with Elisha, whom John clearly has feelings for. The novel then transitions to “prayer” segments which provide the back story for John’s aunt, stepfather, and mother. These powerful narratives shed light on the lives of black people in the early 20th century, while also providing the rich character and plot development necessary to complete John’s story. This is a superbly written, moving book.

Feb 25, 2018, 7:35pm Top

10. The Lady of the Camellias ()
Source: On my shelves - recent acquisition
Why I read this now: Prostitution in Literature course

Just logging this one as read. It will be a few weeks before we wrap up our class discussion, and I’ll share some thoughts at that time.

Feb 25, 2018, 7:36pm Top

And my current read is Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. My daughter read this over her winter break and left it behind for me to read next.

Feb 25, 2018, 8:36pm Top

>163 lauralkeet:. This was the book that lead me to read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Laura. I liked it a little more than you did.

Feb 26, 2018, 7:12am Top

>166 brenzi: Hi Bonnie! I enjoyed the book but found it difficult to give words to the feelings it evoked. And guess what? Just last weekend I bought a copy of The Warmth of Other Suns, and plan to read it in March.

Edited: Feb 26, 2018, 7:15am Top

>163 lauralkeet: this was the first Baldwin book I read, when I was 14, Laura. It got me hooked on Baldwin, and African-American writing. I still have my old Corgi paperback on the shelf.

(From the Internet)

Feb 26, 2018, 7:20am Top

Oooh, that's a great cover, Caro. It captures the powerful emotions of the book. Ours is an Everyman edition, which looks nice in a more austere sort of way. 😀

My husband discovered an excellent African American bookshop/coffee shop here in Philadelphia, which is where I picked up my copy of The Warmth of Other Suns last weekend.

Feb 26, 2018, 11:37am Top

>163 lauralkeet: I read Go Tell it on the Mountain many years ago, and it is a powerful book. I can understand how difficult it is to put feelings into words.

Feb 26, 2018, 11:55am Top

Bookshelf envy happening here.

Feb 26, 2018, 1:48pm Top

>170 NanaCC: I'm not especially good at putting my feelings into words under any circumstances, Colleen. So I finished the book and said wow that was powerful but couldn't figure out how to articulate anything more substantive than that! This would be a good book to discuss in a group.

>171 sibyx: Thanks Lucy. I'm pretty proud of the hubs, I gotta say! Also, I forgot to mention a nice detail about these shelves. If you look closely at the photo in >154 lauralkeet: you'll see small "cubbies" housing various objets d'art. These sections are "lined" with an interior box made of ash (a lighter-color wood than the walnut). And then, there are little LED lights running along the inside of each box that illuminate the art. It's a lovely touch.

Feb 26, 2018, 1:54pm Top

Very clever re the lighter wood and lights, I'd missed that altogether. You'll have to take an evening photo now, so we can appreciate the effect Laura!

Feb 27, 2018, 5:26pm Top

Lovely shelves and lovely collection of over 300 Viragos!!!!

Mar 4, 2018, 12:51pm Top

>151 lauralkeet: My bad. I like Aquariuses, too!!

>154 lauralkeet: >172 lauralkeet: Love the bookcase (nice job Hubby!) and the Viragos. 300! Wow.

Mar 4, 2018, 4:33pm Top

11. Little Fires Everywhere ()
Source: Borrowed from my daughter
Why I read this now: Mood

From the opening of this book, the reader knows the Richardson family’s house will burn to the ground, and the family has a shared suspicion as to who set the fire. But why? To understand that, we need to flash back to the arrival of Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, who rent a house from the Richardsons and somewhat unwittingly turn their neat, orderly life in Shaker Heights, Ohio upside-down.

Mia and Pearl have lived a nomadic life in support of Mia’s work creating artistic photographs. Their possessions are few; this is the first time Pearl has had her own bedroom. The Richardson’s son Moody is first to connect with Pearl, and the two become inseparable. Soon Pearl is spending her after-school time at the Richardson house, basking in their affluent surroundings and developing bonds with all four children.

When an abandoned baby is taken in by friends of the Richardsons, the community becomes divided over a custody battle. The Richardsons, Mia, and Warren are divided as well, and each person has reasons -- both public and private -- for their point of view. Elena Richardson, the meddling matriarch and landlady, begins to uncover Mia’s past and promptly adds two and two together to get five. And then we understand who started the fire, and why.

This novel was a real page-turner. The characters were very human, each likeable and unlikeable in equal measure. I found the storyline, with its complex interconnected threads, especially well done. Seemingly innocuous details would turn out to be crucial plot elements, eliciting a satisfying “aha!” every time. Days later, I’m still thinking about the characters and wondering, what happened after the fire?

Mar 4, 2018, 4:55pm Top

There was an LT meetup in Philadelphia today, occasioned by Ellen (EBT1002) coming to town for a conference. We met at a British-style gastropub for brunch, and the waiter kindly took a group photo. Starting from the front and going clockwise around the table: The Wayne & Katie (katiekrug), me, Bill (weird_o), Katherine (qebo), Judy (ffortsa) & Jim (magicians_nephew), Ellen (EBT1002), Jim (drneutron) & mrsdrneutron, and Vivian (vivians).

Conversation flowed as if we'd known each other forever. After brunch, we visited The Book Trader, a used bookshop. We initially had thoughts of visiting the art museum, but our collective energies were flagging after amassing our bookish treasures.

There are several more photos on Facebook, and you do not need a Facebook account to see them. Check it out here:

Mar 4, 2018, 7:32pm Top

>177 lauralkeet: What a GREAT photo!

Hooray for a very successful Meet Up, Laura. I can happily say, I have met 6 of these lovely people. If this becomes an annual event, I will have to make it, some how, some way!

Edited: Mar 4, 2018, 9:21pm Top

>178 msf59: Me too!

>176 lauralkeet: I have gone back and forth over this book but you make a compelling case for it Laura. I can almost always count on you for a good book recommendation.

Mar 4, 2018, 9:05pm Top

>177 lauralkeet: I had to preserve some energy for the flower show. Also had to walk off those pancakes.

Mar 4, 2018, 9:22pm Top

>178 msf59:, >179 brenzi: Mark & Bonnie, I assure you if either of you were to visit Philly, a meetup would happen!

>180 qebo: I can understand that, Katherine! Those were some incredible pancakes. I hope you enjoyed the Flower Show. We are probably going to go tomorrow.

Mar 4, 2018, 9:32pm Top

Hey, that pic came out pretty good! We had a great day, and it was fun to finally meet folks I’ve been sharing with for so long.

Mar 5, 2018, 1:18am Top

>177 lauralkeet: That's a great meet-up picture, Laura. I followed Katie's link to your Facebook photo. Good pictures there too but this one is even better because you name all the faces.

Mar 5, 2018, 5:11am Top

>177 lauralkeet: Good to see so many of our group together, having a good time!
Thanks for sharing :-)

Mar 5, 2018, 6:30am Top

Trying hard not to be so, SO jealous of everyone in that photo...

Mar 5, 2018, 9:04am Top

>181 lauralkeet: The "rain forest" exhibit at the entrance is visually stunning, but a few exhibits toward the back are more informative and within the realm of possibility for mere mortals, notably one by Philadelphia high school students.

Mar 5, 2018, 8:40pm Top

Great photos, Laura!!

Mar 5, 2018, 8:54pm Top

I'm glad everyone is enjoying the meetup photos. I usually get caught up in events and forget to capture it "on film," but this time I was vigilant. It was a really nice time.

>186 qebo: I agree with your take on the Flower Show, Katherine. We had a nice time and came away with a few ideas for our new place. It's a big shift from lots of outdoor planting space to container gardening.

Mar 6, 2018, 12:39pm Top

Currently Reading

Celia, by E.H. Young | Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

I have two books on the go at the moment, one for the Virago group and one for my course. I'm about halfway through Celia and have only just started Resurrection. Our first discussion will be on March 20, so I'm really just trying to get a jump start on this book and maybe stay ahead of the syllabus.

Mar 6, 2018, 2:14pm Top

Dropping by to say "how de do" and say how much I enjoyed talking with you in Philly, Ellen.

all good wishes

Mar 6, 2018, 3:21pm Top

>177 lauralkeet: Love the photo, Laura. What a gathering!

Edited: Mar 7, 2018, 6:50am Top

>190 magicians_nephew: hey Jim, it was great to see you & Judy too. And I'll pass your regards on to Ellen. 😀

>191 jnwelch: We had a great time, Joe. LT meetups are generally great though, aren't they?

Mar 7, 2018, 2:00am Top

Laura--Thanks for the link--what a great photo!! Totally jealous. : )

Mar 7, 2018, 9:54pm Top

>177 lauralkeet: Thanks for posting the photo and the link, Laura! It was a wonderful meet up and I am so glad I made my way to Philly! Thank you for all your organizing magic and for hosting us in your charming, warm, and comfortable home. It was memorable and I hope to return again in the not-so-distant future!

Mar 7, 2018, 10:58pm Top

Many thanks for the meet-up pictures, Laura. Looks truly wonderful. *sigh*

Mar 8, 2018, 7:53am Top

>193 Berly: Thanks Kim. I'd love a chance to meet you sometime, so who knows maybe that will happen one way or another.

>194 EBT1002: You are most welcome, Ellen. I'm so glad you came to Philly, of course because I got to meet you but also because it was the catalyst for so many other LTers getting together.

>195 LizzieD: It was a fun day, Peggy. Of course it would have been even better if you had suddenly appeared in our midst!

Mar 8, 2018, 11:17am Top

Great meet-up, Laura! and an enticing review of Little Fires Everywhere.

Mar 10, 2018, 8:40am Top

I'm just getting here Laura -- You all look so happy in the philly meet-up photos. Wistfulness. I'll make it to a big meet-up someday.

Mar 10, 2018, 8:45am Top

>197 ffortsa: Hi Judy, it was great to see you and Jim again. And yeah, Little Fires Everywhere is great!!

>198 sibyx: Lucy, you were in our thoughts and even influenced our plan for the day since our bookish outing was at one of your favorite haunts, Book Trader!

Mar 10, 2018, 8:56am Top

I know! I was so pleased. I love that place. They have a 'sibling' store in Wellfleet on the Cape (also wonderful) that I mostly avoid given that the Wellfleet Public Library is so very very good.

Mar 10, 2018, 11:05am Top

>130 ffortsa:, >131 lauralkeet: Well, I didn't really think My Fair Lady would count :-) Although I like the musical I can't say I've ever really liked the ending particularly. Perhaps I should see if the library has a copy of Pygmalion?

Belated happy birthday!

>310 I love those shelves (and not just because of all the Viragoes although they do look lovely). One of my ambitions is to get fitted book shelves installed either side of the chimney in our living room. Neither of us are any good at DIY though so we are saving our pennies to get someone else to do it.

>177 lauralkeet: Hooray for a meetup!

Mar 11, 2018, 12:50am Top

I finished Crow Lake this evening, Laura. 4.5 stars. Excellent recommendation.

Mar 11, 2018, 8:27am Top

>202 EBT1002: woo hoo! I'm so glad. I picked up another book by Mary Lawson during our meetup, which I'm looking forward to.

Mar 11, 2018, 8:48am Top

Happy Sunday, Laura. Hope those books are treating you well. Glad to hear you loved Little Fires Everywhere. I was on the fence on that one, since I had mixed feelings about her first novel and heard a similar reaction to her latest. Back on the TBR.

Mar 14, 2018, 7:21am Top

>204 msf59: I haven't read Ng's first book, Mark, so I didn't have a point of comparison. But I did like this one quite a lot!

Mar 14, 2018, 7:22am Top

12. Celia ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: E.H. Young is the Virago Group author for March

In Celia, one of E.H. Young’s later novels, the author shifts her focus from young, optimistic marriageable women to the middle-aged, married, and mostly disenchanted. Celia’s marriage to Gerald has little emotional or intellectual connection and she flat out avoids the physical aspects. She also must endure a truly horrible mother-in-law. But Celia finds genuine satisfaction in running her household, and raising her children. Celia believes her sister May and brother John are in healthier relationships, but as the novel unfolds it’s clear no one’s situation is perfect.

Celia’s disillusionment is fueled by memories of an affair from several years earlier; she can’t help feeling that life with Richard would have been more satisfying, even though deep down she knows that is not the case. These feelings resurface when Richard falls seriously ill and is being cared for by another friend. Celia knows surprisingly little about her sister May and her marriage to Stephen and likewise, her brother John and his wife Julia. Both of these couples put on a bold public face to mask their conflicts, and even in times of strife find it difficult to confide in anyone, even a close family member.

Most of this novel is spent inside Celia’s head, as she processes all of these relationships and explores her own feelings about Gerald, Richard, and life in general. While this made for sober reading, E.H. Young is so skilled at character development I found myself completely immersed in the story, and even relating to parts of it on a more personal level.

Edited: Mar 14, 2018, 12:19pm Top

I'm appalled to realize I've been missing your 2018 reading until now, Laura. Especially since I knew about your Prostitution in Literature course and was looking forward to hearing about that. And you've been doing such a lot of really FINE reading. I'm glad you loved the Wiley Cash--he's become a favorite of mine, and I wouldn't miss a new one for anything. I thought The Last Ballad was excellent. I had much the same reaction to The Underground Railroad as you: it was wonderful, but not mind-blowing. I waited some time to get around to it, just because of the hype. Little Fires Everywhere has now gone onto my wishlist.

>152 EBT1002: I have always found Viragoes to be very difficult to find "in the wild". Most of those I own (I have 105, according to my catalog) were either bought on-line or received from LT'ers who offered duplicates, although some have turned up at Too Many Books in Roanoke.

Mar 14, 2018, 3:30pm Top

Well hello there, Linda! I'm so glad you found my thread! And that reminds me, I need to post an update on my literature course since we just finished discussing The Lady of the Camellias. I'll try to do that soonish.

Mar 14, 2018, 5:49pm Top

You’ve put Little Fires Everywhere on my wishlist.

Mar 14, 2018, 7:55pm Top

>209 NanaCC: ha ha! *rubs hands together in glee*

Mar 16, 2018, 12:32pm Top

>196 lauralkeet: I definitely vote for one way or another!! Happy Friday.

Mar 16, 2018, 3:49pm Top

>211 Berly: Same to you, Kim!!

Mar 21, 2018, 10:08am Top

I need to get my paws on a copy of Little Fires Everywhere.

>207 laytonwoman3rd: It's actually validating and a bit relieving to hear that Viragos are hard to find "in the wild" (I love that). They seem to have a solid following but I rarely spot them in bookstores. I do tend toward new, rather than used bookstores so that may explain part of it.

I hope you're already having a wonderful Wednesday. I love that I can envision your home and your neighborhood so I can imagine you living your life. :-)

I think Julia has returned to school now so it's a bit quieter, yes?

Mar 21, 2018, 10:35am Top

Just checking in, Laura! Carry on....

>207 laytonwoman3rd:, >213 EBT1002: - I find the Viragos (the classic green ones) are much less rare at used bookstores in the UK, which makes sense. I'm always sad, though, because I want to Buy Them All when I see them, but it's not practical with the luggage and airline weight restrictions.

Mar 21, 2018, 11:32am Top

>213 EBT1002:, >214 katiekrug: My Virago collection is probably 90% from used book sources. I got the collecting bug from visiting a used bookshop where there were about 7 VMCs there for the taking. The LT Virago group used to have a pretty active thread for people giving away duplicates or books they no longer needed for whatever reason. And I made heavy use of Paperbackswap, putting probably 100 VMCs on my wish list and just waiting for one to pop up. Oh, and the occasional eBay find. I've pretty much stopped collecting now, since most of the ones I see "in the wild" are ones I already have. I'm okay with that.

>214 katiekrug: nice to see you back in these parts, Katie! Welcome home.

Edited: Mar 21, 2018, 12:02pm Top

Prostitution in Literature - The Lady of the Camellias

In this novel, Dumas fils used the technique of a "frame story," where a narrator hears the story of the hero and afterwards writes a book. Dumas is essentially telling a story about himself without admitting it, but it is known that he lived through an experience nearly identical to the events told in the book.

From the beginning we know a courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, has died in poverty and her belongings have been sold at auction to settle her debts. Our hero, Armand Duval, was in a romantic relationship with Marguerite, which ended several months before her death. Duval relates their love story to the narrator.

Marguerite received financial support from a duke, because she reminded him of his daughter, who died young. She was also courtesan to other wealthy men, whose gifts helped her maintain a certain lifestyle. Armand is not as well off; despite the genuine love between the two, Marguerite cannot afford to leave her profession. Armand's father is also opposed to the relationship and engages in a lot of woman-blaming. To him, it's perfectly fine to have a mistress, but not someone like Marguerite.

In class we discussed the similarities and differences between Marguerite and Shaw's Mrs Warren, courtesans vs. prostitutes, masculine and feminine roles in 19th century France, and circumstances which forced women into "the profession".

We are now reading Tolstoy's last novel, Resurrection, which will keep us busy until the end of term in late April.

Mar 21, 2018, 3:46pm Top

Interesting Laura. How many are there in your class.

Mar 21, 2018, 6:42pm Top

>213 EBT1002:;>214 katiekrug:;>215 lauralkeet:. And I blame Laura for my Virago collection which is nowhere near as large as hers. I used pretty much the same sources. My problem is I haven’t read one in a few years. I should do something about that.

>216 lauralkeet:. Your course is fascinating Laura. Is Resurrection typical Tolstoy novel and by that I mean very very long?

Mar 21, 2018, 7:07pm Top

>217 Caroline_McElwee: I'd say about 25, Caro. There were more at the beginning of term but it seems we've had some attrition since the spring break.

>218 brenzi: Well Bonnie, I know you're reading Custom of the Country right now. I read it in a VMC edition so you could kind of count it, right? 😀

As for Resurrection, believe it or not it's my first Tolstoy but at 500 pages it's short compared to his better-known works.

Mar 21, 2018, 8:14pm Top

>219 lauralkeet: Unfortunately I’m reading it on my Kindle. And oh yeah, I don’t have the VMC unless I’m going to start counting your reading as well as my own lol. Hmmm maybe not such a bad idea.

Edited: Mar 22, 2018, 8:53am Top

13. The Long Way Home ()
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: I’d like to catch up on this series before the new book is released in the fall.

It is almost impossible to review this book without spoilers for anyone who has not yet reached this point in the series, but I really don’t want to give anything away so here’s my attempt.

Inspector Gamache is recently retired and settling into life in Three Pines with his wife, Reine-Marie when someone raises a concern about another member of the community. It’s not a criminal matter, but Gamache’s investigative skills can be put to good use. His assistant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, is also at the ready.

Their examination into the matter takes them, along with several others from Three Pines, on a field trip of sorts around Quebec. But of course Gamache uncovers some evildoing that must be set right. Unfortunately, this aspect of the book seemed very contrived. Louise Penny hits readers with a huge punch to the gut in the final two chapters, which left me staring into space with my jaw hanging open, but also eager to read the next installment.

Edited: Mar 25, 2018, 8:07am Top

Currently Reading

Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy | Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

I'm still plugging away at Resurrection for my Prostitution in Literature course. I'm about halfway through this ~550-page book. It's easier reading than I expected, but not a page-turner. Even though our class discussion will continue through late April, I'd like to finish the book this month. Despite that last sentence, I started Bad Feminist on Friday because sometimes Tolstoy just doesn't fit my mood.

My reading pace seems to have slowed these past three months. I've been devoting a fair amount of time to my knitting -- I'm working on a certification program -- and I guess just spending my time on lots of different things.

Mar 26, 2018, 8:30am Top

>213 EBT1002: They used to be everywhere. Where have they all gone? Let's hope NOT pulped!

Mar 26, 2018, 8:35am Top

I have Bad Feminist but I got bogged down early and haven't returned to it. I'll be interested to see what you make of it.

With the snow hanging about I've been in a knitting frenzy myself.

Mar 26, 2018, 9:16am Top

>224 sibyx: Bad Feminist has been my bedtime reading, Lucy. It works best for me to take essays and short stories in bite-sized chunks, lest I get bogged down. Of course I will be posting my thoughts in due course.

Whatcha knitting?

Mar 26, 2018, 10:52am Top

>223 sibyx: "Where have they all gone? " I'll bet a lot of 'em are hiding here among us...

Mar 29, 2018, 4:24pm Top

14. Resurrection ()
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: Prostitution in Literature course

In his youth, Prince Dmitri Nekhlyudov fell in love with Katusha Maslova, an orphan girl raised by his aunts. Unbeknownst to him, their brief affair resulted in pregnancy and Katusha was turned out of the house and left to find her way in the world. Many years later, Dmitri finds himself on a jury where Katusha is one of three accused of a crime. He learns Katusha turned to prostitution to survive. He is so worried their relationship will be discovered that he fails to advocate for her during jury deliberations, and she is sentenced to penal servitude in Siberia.

This experience has a strong effect on Dmitri. He feels at fault both for Katusha’s life circumstances and the sentence. He is also disillusioned by the court system, and shocked at the plight of the lower classes. Dmitri intercedes on Katusha’s behalf, working on legal appeals to reduce her sentence. He also believes he should marry her to improve her lifestyle (never mind whether Katusha wants this …). He puts his affairs in order and prepares to accompany Katusha to Siberia, while also advocating for other prisoners who have been unjustly convicted.

Published in 1899, Resurrection was Leo Tolstoy’s last novel, and through Dmitri he describes a dramatic shift in his own views on social issues of the day. As a treatise, it was probably quite effective. As a novel, I found it lacking in both plot and pacing. Dmitri saw himself as noble, but was actually weak and cowardly. Katusha is the stronger person, and I wish she had figured even more prominently in the novel. The ending is downright preachy, as Dmitri has a kind of “born again” experience and finds new purpose in life. Meh.

Mar 30, 2018, 2:32pm Top

Hmmm, sounds like JBS when he has his mallet out to beat you into submission ha. Interesting your course had both of them in Laura. Maybe Lev had run out of steam by then, and had lost the energy for subtlety.

Mar 30, 2018, 11:33pm Top

Hi, Laura. Just speaking and saying that I"m thrilled beyond saying that your LT review is quoted on the back of Lucy's novel. That makes it perfect!
Wow! You are really reading up a storm even with the knitting. You make me wonder what happens with my time!

Edited: Mar 31, 2018, 7:32am Top

>228 Caroline_McElwee: you may be right about that, Caro. The class discussions of Resurrection have been interesting, though. We've had two sessions on this book and I've left each of them with a greater appreciation for the book. We have four sessions left in the term, and I'll summarize those discussions on my thread.

>229 LizzieD: Peggy, I am flattered and honored to be featured on Lucy's book! That was such a surprise, and definitely the closest I will ever come to being published. 😀

Mar 31, 2018, 7:48am Top

Happy Saturday, Laura. I hope you are doing well. Not sure if I'll go back to The Three Pines series. I think I read the first 7. That might be enough.

I'll be watching your thoughts on Bad Feminist. I have that one in the stacks.

Apr 1, 2018, 11:44am Top

15. Bad Feminist ()
Source: On my shelves - recent acquisition
Why I read this now: I recently read Gay’s memoir, Hunger, and wanted to explore this earlier work.

Roxane Gay’s first collection of essays received considerable acclaim when it was published in 2014. She candidly observes the culture surrounding her through both gender and racial lenses. However, I found this collection a bit uneven. I was most moved when Gay wrote from the heart about personal experience. Other essays had a more academic tone and did not hold my interest. I was also surprised to find that topical issues and pop culture seemed dated, even though only a few years have passed.

Gay writes very, very well and represents a new, fresh voice of feminism. Her recent memoir, Hunger, is powerful. I think I would have enjoyed Bad Feminist more had I read it immediately after its release. With that in mind, I will be on the lookout for her new essay collection which will be published in May, 2018.

Apr 1, 2018, 11:46am Top

And with that, March is a wrap. I'm off to start a new thread now.

Apr 1, 2018, 12:09pm Top

>232 lauralkeet: interesting comments Laura. I have that volume in the tbr mountain. Interesting how some recent subjects are already a little stale, a sign of the times, and the speed our society changes now perhaps.

I dropped Hunger on my Kindle after your review. I'll nudge that up a bit.

Off to check out the new thread.

Apr 1, 2018, 12:41pm Top

^Did you miss me up there? At least I know your thoughts on Bad Feminist. Smiles...

Apr 1, 2018, 5:06pm Top

>235 msf59: ack! Sorry Mark! I was so keen to move on to a new thread that I neglected my visitors. Forgive me?!

Apr 1, 2018, 8:20pm Top


This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 2.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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