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Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 4

This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 12:11pm Top

Artist: Paul Santoleri
Photo credit: me

Continuing my 2018 theme highlighting Philadelphia’s public art.

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
abandoned this one, lost interest
* 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 :)
* Knitting! This is one of my other major hobbies, and I have a thread in the Needlearts group for anyone interested

My 2018 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-15) | Part 2 (books 16-29) | Part 3 (books 30-46)

Books completed ("details" jumps to my comments on this thread)
47. The Drowned Boy - details
48. Mrs Dalloway - details
49. A History of Hand Knitting - details
50. The End of the Affair - details
51. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult - details
52. Moby Dick - details
53. The Doves of Venus - details

54. The Lost Vintage - details
55. Madame Chrysantheme - details
56. The Diviners - details
57. Lethal White - details
58. The Misalliance - details
59. The Year of Living Danishly - details

60. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse - details
61. Kingdom of the Blind - details
62. These Truths - WIP - details
63. That Lady - WIP - details

Edited: Dec 27, 2018, 6:16pm Top

Series Progress

Active series as of October 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:
* Inspector Gamache (July) (December)

Series started in 2018:
* Sandhamn Murders

Series abandoned in 2018:
* Cormoran Strike (November)

Oct 1, 2018, 8:24am Top

Happy new thread! :)

Oct 1, 2018, 9:56am Top

Happy new thread!

Oct 1, 2018, 10:07am Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

Oct 1, 2018, 6:08pm Top

Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by and keeping my thread warm! I'll post an update on my current reading soon, probably tomorrow (Tuesday).

Oct 2, 2018, 7:06am Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

Oct 2, 2018, 7:37am Top

Happy new thread, Laura! (I thought that I had said hello yesterday.)

Oct 2, 2018, 9:50am Top

Hi Amber & Darryl, great to see both of you!

Oct 2, 2018, 9:59am Top

Nice topper, Laura.

Oct 2, 2018, 11:05am Top

Happy New Thread, Laura. Hope those books are treating you fine.

Oct 2, 2018, 1:10pm Top

>10 weird_O: Thanks Bill!

>11 msf59: Hi Mark!

Did someone mention books? Time to spice up this thread with a little update ...

Oct 2, 2018, 1:37pm Top

Currently Reading

Moby Dick | The Drowned Boy | Tristan and Iseult

In the spring, I was invited by a friend to join her book club. This club seems to emphasize the social aspects over the literature, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I went to one meeting, had to miss the next one, and then the group agreed it would be best to take the summer off. They planned to discuss Moby Dick in September, when I would be on vacation, so I gleefully put it out of my mind. And then they had to reschedule. So now I'm reading Moby Dick. I'm only three chapters in so it's too soon to have any impressions.

Meanwhile, I requested the next Inspector Sejer mystery from my library and it turned up last week. As an aside, the Philadelphia library is extremely slow at filling library requests, which is disappointing and ridiculous. You have one job!! But the library funding situation here is much more dire than I realized. Sigh.

I'm also taking a course this fall called From Libro to Libretto, where we will look at three well-known operas, both original sources (books, aka libro) and lyrics (libretto). Catchy course title, huh? Our first work is Tristan and Isolde. We meet weekly and will wrap this one up by the end of October. The other operas are Madame Butterfly and The Marriage of Figaro. I'll share commentary here as we finish each libro/libretto.

But wait, there's more! Not pictured: I'm supposed to read an Olivia Manning novel for the Virago group, I have other library hold requests that may or may not come in, and I have required reading for other purposes like a knitting certification program I'm enrolled in.

I may have overcommitted myself. 🙄

Oct 2, 2018, 6:07pm Top

>13 lauralkeet: the book before The Drowned Boy sounds familiar, but I don’t have it marked as read. I’ll have to check my kindle cloud, because I think I read most of them on kindle. I’ll put The Drowned Boy on my wishlist as I really like Fossum’s books.

In the meantime, I just got a notice that I can pick up Lethal White at the library. Yay!

Edited: Oct 2, 2018, 7:23pm Top

>14 NanaCC: Colleen, Lethal White is one of the library books I'm waiting for!

Oct 2, 2018, 8:10pm Top

You may have over committed?? I don’t think there’s any question Laura lol.

Oct 3, 2018, 11:27am Top

>13 lauralkeet: "I may have over committed myself' Hmmm, that would be an unusual experience for you then Laura!

Tell me somewhere where the library funding isn't dire! It is so undervalued in most places.

Oct 4, 2018, 7:10am Top

>16 brenzi:, >17 Caroline_McElwee: Sigh. Also, I forgot to mention I need to re-read Mrs Dalloway for a 2-part seminar later this month. I'm looking forward to that actually. I read it several years ago, before I started reviewing books, and I know I didn't fully appreciate it. I'm ready to give it a second chance.

Oct 4, 2018, 7:11am Top

47. The Drowned Boy ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: I’m getting close to the end of this series, but haven’t read one in a while, so I thought this was as good a time as any.

I’ve enjoyed most of the Inspector Sejer mysteries, but this book frustrated me no end. The case concerned the drowning of a toddler with Down Syndrome. Sejer’s sidekick, Jakob Skarre, was first on the scene and after interviewing the parents, had his doubts about the circumstances of the boy’s death. The investigation focused on the parents, especially Carmen, the boy’s mother. But there was no suspense, the pace was dreadfully slow, and the character development weak. I’ve gone easy on some of the previous novels where I felt the translation was a little clunky, which may have been the case here, but this novel was weak on multiple levels. The only reason I finished it -- and I was skimming -- was because of a plot thread involving the inspector. I want to complete this series just because I’ve come so far, but I need to get over my disappointment in this novel first.

Oct 4, 2018, 7:24am Top

Morning, Laura. I was a latecomer to Moby Dick. but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading it. I know many readers find it difficult and a trudge but it worked for me. I hope you feel the same.

I am off today, so I plan on strolling through the woods a bit. Smiles...

Oct 4, 2018, 7:28am Top

>20 msf59: Mark, I've read about 80pp of Moby Dick so far. Ishmael has met Queequeg and he is just now boarding the Pequod. And to my surprise, I am liking it a lot!

Oct 4, 2018, 7:33am Top

>21 lauralkeet: I was also surprised to find that I really enjoyed Moby Dick, although I will admit to skimming a bit of the long whale passages.

Oct 4, 2018, 7:47am Top

Oct 4, 2018, 10:00am Top

So unfortunate how strapped the Philly library system always is -- running on a shoestring.

Whoa! Moby Dick That's a lot of book to read in a short time!

Oct 4, 2018, 10:30am Top

>19 lauralkeet: I didn't recall if I'd read The Drowned Boy so I checked my list, and discovered that a) it's the next one and b) I'd skipped one a few books back. So first, I'm repairing that slip, and then I'll catch up to you.

Edited: Oct 4, 2018, 1:57pm Top

>24 sibyx: I know, Lucy. I don't know how long this has been going on, but it's very common for branches to close for a day or part of a day on short notice, due to "insufficient staffing." And in Chester County, I could receive holds within about 2 days of my name reaching the top of the list. The Fossum took 2.5 weeks to get to my local branch. Worse yet, it appears some branches are "more efficient" than others and it happens they are in the wealthier parts of the city (e.g., Rittenhouse). It makes me sad.

>25 ffortsa: Well Judy, I hope you enjoy getting caught up and you'll have to let me know what you think of this latest one.

Oct 6, 2018, 9:08pm Top

>26 lauralkeet: "it's very common for branches to close for a day or part of a day on short notice, due to "insufficient staffing." Here in Lackawanna County, we've had a library tax since the early 1980's. Prior to that, some branches had closed entirely, and the main library (the one on whose Board I serve) was open about 12 hours per week, due to lack of funds. A proposed tax was put to a referendum, and it was solidly supported by the voters. There is one idiot on the County Board of Commissioners right now who wants to end it. Fortunately, she is one of three, and the other two do not agree with her. But the county tax base is shrinking, and funding remains perilous; state money is sometimes there, and sometimes not...very hard to rely on. People need to make noise on this issue everywhere.

*steps down from soapbox*

Oct 7, 2018, 8:50am Top

There's a fair amount of noise making going on in the city of Philadelphia now. Friends of the Library groups have held meetings in branches all over the city. I wasn't able to make it to the one near me but as I understand it they are trying to both educate the community about the issues and mobilize people to act. I hope they'll publish updates about what that action will look like and how more people can get involved.

Oct 7, 2018, 12:51pm Top

I live in New York State and since we get taxed on just about everything we’ve always paid a library tax or for as long as I can recall anyway. Even with it our county system had a huge consolidation and reduction in number of branches several years ago to make the system more viable. It was painful but necessary. I happen to live between two libraries and have used them both but with the plethora of e books available now and the fact that being a NYS resident allowed me to obtain both a Buffalo library card and a New York Public Library card I avail myself of the eBooks for the most part and don’t go to the actual library very often.

Oct 7, 2018, 1:44pm Top

Libraries in Philadelphia go back to the pre-Revolutionary War days. Ben Franklin. The Library Company. I believe the GOP virtual stranglehold on the state legislature has starved libraries and education in particular in Philly and Pittsburgh. The GOP line is of course that these cities are draining the commonwealth's treasury. Patently untrue. Next month's election could recolor the state legislature here as well as the federal house and senate.

Vote! y'all.

Oct 7, 2018, 7:19pm Top

>29 brenzi: Bonnie, I started borrowing eBooks more than physical books at our previous library, and I really love it -- so easy! Since the Philly system is so slow to deliver physical books, I will definitely be requesting the Kindle version anytime it's available.

>30 weird_O: I couldn't agree with you more, Bill.

Oct 7, 2018, 8:01pm Top

Funny how thoroughly many (of course not all!) rural Pennsylvanians view their two big cities as sucking the rest of the state dry, a perception goes back a long long way.

Oct 8, 2018, 1:04am Top

Happy New Thread, Laura!

I'm still very happily availing myself of the wonderful Seattle Public Library system, checking out eBooks when I can. It's one of the best combinations: an outstanding public library system and the convenience of eBooks.

Oct 8, 2018, 1:17am Top

It's a whale of a tale!! Hope you enjoy Moby Dick. I actually really did.

Oct 8, 2018, 6:54am Top

Hi Lucy, Ellen, & Kim! Thanks for stopping by and singing praises for public libraries and whales!

We went to New York this weekend so I had two, 1.5-hour train journeys to read (yay!). Instead of Moby Dick I brought Mrs Dalloway, which I need to finish before a seminar on Oct 17. I read well over 100 pages, so am more than halfway through. I'm both enjoying and appreciating it more than I did when I first read it (which was sometime in 2006, the year I joined LT but before I started writing reviews). This week I'll return to Moby Dick.

Oct 8, 2018, 7:36am Top

Morning, Laura. I hope you had a nice time in NY. I also really liked Mrs Dalloway and should plan a reread for next year.

Oct 8, 2018, 1:12pm Top

Hey, Laura, you were in my town! What brought you up here? Maybe next time you will have a little time for a meetup?

Oct 8, 2018, 4:40pm Top

>36 msf59: I don't re-read much Mark, but for some books it's worth it. Mrs Dalloway is one of those, for sure.

>37 ffortsa: Judy, some friends from Scotland were in town for a few days and we made a quick trip to spend time with them, which didn't really allow for other activities. These days, most of our trips to NY are to visit our daughter in Brooklyn, and we don't go into Manhattan. But to be honest, for a variety of reasons she comes to Philly more than we go to Brooklyn.

Oct 8, 2018, 6:43pm Top

<38 I forgot she was in Brooklyn. What neighborhood? Much of Brooklyn just feels like another stop on the subway anyway. I can understand that she heads down to see you more than you travel the other way.

Sometimes it's difficult to realize that out of towners think New York is so big that we aren't accessible. Joe was within three blocks of us a few trips ago, and thought we were far away. Katie K was just down on E. 4th Street this weekend and thought she wasn't in our neighborhood either, and that's just 10 blocks away! Also, New York was built by the subways as much as anything, and New Yorkers are great walkers too, so the next time you are in town (including Brooklyn) and have a little time, we'd be happy to travel to where you are.

Of course, we'd be happy to see you in Philadelphia too!

Oct 9, 2018, 10:50pm Top

Hi Laura - you are quite an advertisement for retirement!! Looking forward to hearing what Tristan and Isolde is like. Opera is the part of classical music I know least about - I like it when I hear it, but I don't listen to it much.

I hope Lethal White comes in to the library soon for you but I imagine there's a big queue for it.

Oct 10, 2018, 6:53am Top

Hi Cushla! Thanks for visiting. The Libro to Libretto course is really interesting. It's less about the music; we are examining the literary differences in the way the story is told. One more week of Tristan and Isolde and I will report back!

I'm keen to read Lethal White but with all of my other book commitments, I'm okay if it takes some time to get my hands on it.

Oct 11, 2018, 9:01pm Top

48. Mrs Dalloway ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I’m attending a 2-part discussion seminar over the next two weeks.

The first time I read this book it fell flat. Several years later I read The Hours, which is based on Mrs Dalloway, and thought it was wonderful, which made me think I should re-read the original someday. And this time I appreciated it so much more; in fact, I loved it. From the opening sentence, when Clarissa Dalloway leaves her house to buy flowers for a party she is hosting that evening, I was immediately immersed in the atmosphere of a beautiful London morning. Woolf moves seamlessly from Clarissa to other characters and other places, using events like a passing car to get the reader to “look” in another direction and observe other vignettes in the London scene. This flow continues throughout the novel, as Clarissa prepares for the party and others go about their days. Some characters will attend the party; others have more symbolic dramatic roles. By the end of the party, the characters have all been woven together into a tight and often moving narrative flow.

Oct 12, 2018, 4:57am Top

You have just proved my theory, that few people fall in love with a Woolf novel on first reading Laura, but something takes them back (and back) and then they are ensnared.

Oct 12, 2018, 6:49am Top

>43 Caroline_McElwee: that is an excellent theory, Caro! I've read several of her novels once and appreciated their literary excellence, but also felt there was more to be gleaned.

Oct 12, 2018, 7:23am Top

Happy Friday, Laura. Good review of Mrs. Dalloway. I am really enjoying Praise Song for the Butterflies. This might be your cuppa too. Just sayin'...

Oct 12, 2018, 9:55am Top

>45 msf59: thanks Mark!

Edited: Oct 12, 2018, 10:04am Top

Currently Reading

Moby Dick | The End of the Affair | A History of Hand Knitting | Tristan and Isolde

I'm about 1/3 of the way through Moby Dick and liking it more than I expected. My book group met last night and we had a really good, interesting discussion. I plan to continue reading, but with another book on the go to break things up a bit. The End of the Affair is for my other book club, which meets on Nov. 5.

You might be wondering, what's this A History of Hand Knitting? I'm working on a "Master Hand Knitter" certification program, which requires written work in addition to knitted pieces, and I'm currently doing research on history for a report. This is kind of the definitive book on the subject, and I've found I'm actually reading most of it vs. just dipping in and out, so I'm going to count it as part of my "not even close to 75" this year.

My Libro to Libretto course is also in full swing, and I'm reading each week's assignment "just in time." By the end of October we'll have finished our discussion of Tristan and Isolde and I'll post more about that at the time.

Thankfully my library hold for Lethal White hasn't come up yet so I've been able to manage my over-committed situation reasonably well ... so far. 😀

Oct 12, 2018, 6:00pm Top

Hi, Laura.

Good review of Mrs. Dalloway. That was the first one of hers that I really enjoyed. Beautiful writing.

Oct 13, 2018, 2:03pm Top

>48 jnwelch: thanks Joe! I agree, Woolf's writing is just sublime.

Oct 13, 2018, 2:07pm Top

49. A History of Hand Knitting ()
Source: My local library

Knitting is one of my other hobbies, and at the beginning of the year I started a Master Hand Knitter certification program. I passed Level 1 (of 3) in August, and am now working on Level 2 which could take up to 18 months. The program includes a lot of knitting, but also written work. For this level, we need to write a report on the history of knitting. This book is one of the recommended works, and while somewhat dated (it was published in the 1980s), it is very comprehensive. It describes the first known occurrences of knitting and how the craft evolved from the 12th century to modern times. It was a bit dry in parts, but there was enough to serve as a primary source for my report, with gaps to be filled in through other books. I was most fascinated to see the author, Richard Rutt, was also Bishop of Leicester in England.

Oct 13, 2018, 8:14pm Top

Just spent two days in your neck of the woods, Laura! College visits to Gettysburg, Dickinson and Bucknell. Loooooong drives, which gave me the opportunity to begin Lethal White on audio. So far so good!

Oct 13, 2018, 9:07pm Top

>51 vivians: oh wow, we visited Bucknell with both of our kids and Kate's decision came down to Dickinson vs. Kenyon so we went to admitted students days at both. Gettysburg is the only one I haven't been to. But all three are in the middle of nowhere and close, but not really that close, to one another. I'm glad you made the most of the drive.

Oct 14, 2018, 5:30pm Top

Great review of Mrs. Dalloway Laura. I just checked and LT says I gave it one star. That is not accurate and it’s a very sketchy thing because there’s no review and it doesn’t say when I read it. All very strange especially since I’m pretty sure I did read it. I will have to check my reading journal which is to me like your spread sheets are to you.

Oct 14, 2018, 7:07pm Top

>53 brenzi: I've occasionally clicked the rating section by accident, Bonnie, so maybe that's what happened to you. It's good you have the journal as a backup.

Oct 14, 2018, 11:55pm Top

I'm glad you enjoyed the reread of Mrs. Dalloway. I liked it but I have to admit that her writing is challenging for me. I still haven't read To the Lighthouse though I have started it at least twice. I did love The Hours, though, so I don't know what that says about me....

Oct 15, 2018, 6:57am Top

>55 EBT1002: Ellen, I read The Hours some time after my first reading of Mrs Dalloway, and I loved it. That's one of the reasons I wanted to re-read MD. So that's what it says about you: try MD again sometime when the mood strikes!

Oct 20, 2018, 4:09pm Top

50. The End of the Affair ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: My “Literary” Book Group

This account of an extramarital affair and its aftermath was just okay. I couldn’t get invested in the principal characters (although some of the secondary ones were amusing), and I didn’t connect emotionally with the narrative. This isn’t really a review; I’m just counting it and moving on.

Oct 23, 2018, 3:10pm Top

51. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult ()
Source: On my shelves

In my From Libro to Libretto course, we are comparing well-known operas with their original literary sources. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult was originally passed down through oral traditions. The first written sources are from 12th-century France, it was translated into German in the 13th century, and this became the source of Richard Wagner’s opera, composed in 1859.

The original story has parallels to other medieval legends such as King Arthur and Camelot (Tristan and Isolde are similar, in some ways, to Lancelot and Guinevere). There are knights, fair maidens, and dragons. Knights must go on a quest, and commit acts of bravery. The opera sets all of this aside to focus on the love story. The libretto greatly simplifies the narrative and takes away most of the action. We watched portions of the opera in class, and the lack of dramatic pace was even more apparent.

It was interesting to compare and contrast these two approaches to the same story. For my taste, I’ll take the medieval story of gallant knights and fair maidens any day.

Oct 23, 2018, 3:12pm Top

Currently Reading

Moby Dick | The Doves of Venus

Moby Dick has gone from interesting to a slog. So. much. whaling. I'm skimming and setting daily goals for myself in order to just get through it. The Virago is my antidote.

Oct 23, 2018, 4:37pm Top

>58 lauralkeet: I do agree about the opera. I recall getting invited to the opera some years ago, not knowing how long it was (4-5 hours!), and definitely wishing for more active a plot.

Oct 25, 2018, 2:03pm Top

52. Moby Dick ()
Source: On my shelves, a recent purchase
Why I read this now: ”Social” Book Group, October meeting

I'm finally finished. I enjoyed the first 1/3 of this book, but then it started to wear me down. The chapters in which the Pequod meets another ship, or when a member of the crew is up to something, are interesting and fun. But there are many, many chapters involving lengthy discourse on whales or whaling, or worse yet, the killing of whales, that I just couldn't take. The last three chapters, in which the crew chases Moby Dick, were pretty thrilling, so at least it ended on an exciting note.

This being one of those books you "should" read, I'm glad to have done it. But I'm also glad to be done with it, ha ha.

Oct 25, 2018, 3:50pm Top

>61 lauralkeet: Great job!! Go you!!!

Oct 27, 2018, 9:08pm Top

Congratulations on finishing Moby Dick! I've never read it and I plan to keep it that way.

Oct 27, 2018, 10:39pm Top

What Ellen said!

Oct 28, 2018, 7:33am Top

Hi there Nora, Ellen, & Katie. I have to say I never would have picked up Moby Dick on my own, it just didn't call to me. It wasn't a complete waste of time but I'm happy to be reading other things now.

Oct 28, 2018, 11:46am Top

>61 lauralkeet: Yeah, that's what everyone seems to think about Moby Dick----too much whaling, blubber processing, etc. I believe when we studied it in an American Lit course in college our professor even condoned skimming those parts, ironically in the interest of getting to the "meat" of the work.

Oct 28, 2018, 12:34pm Top

>66 laytonwoman3rd: the "meat" of ther work
Heh. I see what you did there! 😀

Oct 28, 2018, 2:44pm Top

>67 lauralkeet: You ALWAYS catch me, Laura!

Oct 28, 2018, 2:46pm Top


Oct 28, 2018, 6:54pm Top

>61 lauralkeet: well there’s a classic I feel no compunction to read. Thankfully.

Oct 28, 2018, 7:38pm Top

Oct 28, 2018, 7:55pm Top

>70 brenzi: happy to help, Bonnie!

Glad my little old thread generated some good old-fashioned snerking and snorking today. 😀

Oct 29, 2018, 2:08pm Top

Count me as one of the few who love Moby Dick. Can't explain it. I msut have read it three or four times by now.

Oct 30, 2018, 4:22pm Top

Your review of Moby Dick fits me to a tee, Laura. My BIL loves it like Judy does, but for me, as you say, there were too many lengthy whale-related discourses. Like you, I'm glad to have done it, and glad to be done with it. :-)

Oct 30, 2018, 5:53pm Top

>73 ffortsa:, >74 jnwelch: this is what makes LT such a great place! Isn't it wonderful how we can share and appreciate all of our different perspectives on a book? Oh that the rest of the world was like this ...

Oct 30, 2018, 9:28pm Top

Hi, Laura. I was surprised how much I liked Moby Dick. I read it a few years before LT. I would like to revisit it and see if my opinion changes. I am glad you hung in there and, at least finished it.

Nov 1, 2018, 9:42am Top

53. The Doves of Venus ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: Olivia Manning is the Virago Group author for October.

Ellie Parsons is proud of being an 18-year-old independent working woman in London, having left her mother and sister, and their family restaurant, behind in Eastsea. She seeks work as an artist and, through a liaison with a married man, finds work in a furniture refinishing studio. Meanwhile Quintin, the married man, is being harassed by his estranged wife, Petta and decides to put distance between himself and Ellie. This challenges Ellie’s perception of her own independence and shatters her self confidence.

Ellie befriends her co-worker Nancy and joins her on a weekend visit to her rich uncle, Tom Claypole. Tom lavishes attention on Ellie in a way any objective observer would describe as truly creepy, but Ellie soaks it up and attaches unrealistic importance to their relationship. The daily lives of Ellie, Quintin, Petta, and Tom unfold in tangentially connected ways. Ellie is jerked around by almost everyone and falls on hard times, but refuses to bow to pressure to return to her mother’s house. The circumstances resolve in a somewhat surprising but ultimately satisfying way.

At the beginning, I thought this would be a typical early 20th century novel about a plucky heroine who cheerfully overcomes the odds. It turned out to be darker than expected with a less clear-cut resolution. In other words: good.

Nov 1, 2018, 9:43am Top

>76 msf59: hey Mark! I think I deserve a special badge for hanging in there, don't you?!! 😀

Nov 6, 2018, 12:55pm Top

54. The Lost Vintage ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: “Social” Book Group, November meeting

Kate is following in the steps of her French wine-producing family by studying to become a Master of Wine. She visits the family domaine in Burgundy to help with the harvest and improve her knowledge, and stirs up all kinds of stuff from the past. First, there’s her relationship with friend of the family Jean-Luc, which ended suddenly after her study abroad ten years earlier. Then, while cleaning out the cellar with her cousin’s wife Heather, they discover artifacts from the past and learn about a heretofore unknown family member, Helene. For the remainder of the novel, Kate seeks the truth about Helene, while also trying to get her own life together. Kate’s chapters alternate with excerpts from Helene’s supposed diary, which didn’t sound like the musings of an 18-year-old and included long passages of dialogue (in a diary? really?). Of course the ending resolved Kate’s conflict, but it also included some implausible elements.

This is the stuff vacation reads are made of and on that level, it’s acceptable. But it’s not a great novel. There’s too much thrashing about, as Kate waffles between life in California and life in France. A couple of obvious baddies arrive on the scene to thwart her efforts. Significant plot developments happen very suddenly, in ways that don’t seem to fit with the way characters have developed so far. I only gave it 3 stars on its merits as an easy, mindless read. If you’re looking for something meatier, I can’t recommend it.

Edited: Nov 8, 2018, 2:47pm Top

55. Madame Chrysantheme ()
Source: On my shelves

This is the second opera studied In my From Libro to Libretto course. We compared Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with the original literary source as well as two other written works leading up to the opera.

Madame Chrysantheme, by French author Pierre Loti, was published in 1887 and recounts the author’s actual lived experience as a sailor, recently arrived in Japan at a time when brides were available “for hire” on a monthly basis. He finds Chrysantheme through a marriage broker, and sets up house with her for the duration of his stay in Japan. Loti marvels at the landscape, the people, and their culture, sometimes with wonder and sometimes with great derision and prejudice. When the time comes for his ship to leave, he bids Chrysantheme farewell and moves on; she seems resigned to this outcome.

This story evolves through two subsequent literary works: Madam Butterfly, by John Luther Long (1898), and a one-act play of the same name, by David Belasco (1900). In these works the sailor promises to return, Chrysantheme bears a child after being abandoned, and then encounters indifference when the sailor eventually reappears. The final outcome of Long’s play is somewhat ambiguous, but Belasco’s work is clear about the tragedy of Chrysantheme’s suicide. Puccini wrote the opera after seeing the play, and his 1904 work is fairly true to Belasco’s version.

I’m finding it very interesting to explore the roots of well-known stories, discuss the pros and cons of each approach, and examine why operatic composers might have made certain decisions or changes from the original works.

Nov 15, 2018, 3:42pm Top

56. The Diviners ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection

The Diviners is the last novel in Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka cycle, set in and around a fictional Canadian town. All four novels feature strong, smart female protagonists, chafing under the constraints society places on them (circa 1970 and earlier). In this novel, Morag Gunn is a 47-year-old writer with a young adult daughter, Pique, who recently set off to make her way across Canada on her own. While Morag frets about Pique’s welfare while trying to get work done, she also reflects on her past through a series of “snapshot” and “memorybank movie” flashbacks.

Morag’s parents died when she was very young, and she was taken in by Christie Logan and his wife, Prin. They treated Morag as their own child; it was a loving home environment if a somewhat impoverished one. Christie was the town scavenger / garbage collector, and the family’s socioeconomic status led to Morag being somewhat of an outsider among her classmates. Morag befriended Jules Tonnerre, who was also an outcast due to his Métis heritage (a mix of indigenous people and European settlers). Eventually Morag, suffocating in the small town environment, left for university, married, and published her first novel, but the bond between Morag and Jules remained strong. The plot threads come together beautifully as the narrative of the past catches up to the present.

I loved everything about this novel. The characters are beautifully drawn; I felt I knew Morag and was moved by her relationships with Pique, Jules, and Christie, especially during pivotal events in their lives. Laurence connects this novel to the previous books in the Manawaka cycle through references to characters or events, and while it’s not essential to read the earlier novels first, doing so enhances the reading experience. Near the end of The Diviners, Laurence makes a powerful emotional connection back to The Stone Angel’s Hagar Shipley that was absolutely perfect, and that’s when I knew for sure I was reading a 5-star book.

Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka novels are true classics -- highly recommended.

Nov 15, 2018, 3:46pm Top

Great review, Laura. I have the first two in the cycle....

Edited: Nov 15, 2018, 6:04pm Top

>82 katiekrug: I was in the same situation, Katie. I read The Stone Angel several years ago (4.5 stars!), and re-read it for a course this past summer. Somewhere along the way I'd also read the second novel. I bought the last two after the summer course and have really enjoyed my return to Manawaka.

Nov 15, 2018, 7:54pm Top

Great recommendation, thanks Laura! I'll add these to my list - they seem right up my alley.

Nov 15, 2018, 8:19pm Top

Hmmm. I own The Stone Angel and The Diviners and haven't read either. I didn't realize they were part of a set. Are the four meant to be read in order with developing characters/plot or are they more a themed set?

Edited: Nov 15, 2018, 8:49pm Top

>84 vivians: ooh yes Vivian, I think you'd enjoy them.

>85 japaul22: Hi Jennifer, they are more of a themed set. The characters are completely different in each novel. Laurence occasionally references a character from another novel, but they are never involved in the story. For example, in The Diviners, Morag refers several times to a prominent family, and their daughter who was in her class at school. That daughter is the main character in The Fire-Dwellers. She never really appears "on camera" in The Diviners but you do get a sense of the coexistence and intersections between characters from all the novels.

Nov 16, 2018, 6:05pm Top

>81 lauralkeet: I do have that on my shelves....

Nov 16, 2018, 6:45pm Top

>87 Caroline_McElwee: have you read any of the other Manawaka novels? They're all good, but I enjoyed The Stone Angel and The Diviners most.

Nov 16, 2018, 8:39pm Top

Ok Laura you’ve made it plain that I will have to start over with this series. Otherwise I’m sure I won’t get the connection back to The Stone Angel since I read it so long ago. That’s ok since I love reading books like this one month after their last. Thanks for the enticing review.

Nov 17, 2018, 7:11am Top

>89 brenzi: Funny, Bonnie, I had a similar thought. I re-read it this summer for a course and I'm pretty sure I made the connection because the book was still relatively fresh in my mind.

Nov 17, 2018, 7:44am Top

Morning, Laura. There is a light snow falling here but it isn't supposed to amount to much. Did you get hit hard with the snowstorm?

Edited: Nov 17, 2018, 11:41am Top

Hey there Mark! Happy Saturday my friend. We had about 3" of snow on Thursday, which was all gone by yesterday. It was enough to give us an excuse to stay indoors, except my daughter was moving from our house into an apartment, and since she recently started a new job I offered to supervise the movers. Fortunately her place is less than a mile away, so it wasn't a big deal.

It's warmer today (mid-40s), but overcast and a bit windy. My older daughter ran the Philly Half Marathon this morning so we were out and about to cheer her on.

Nov 17, 2018, 7:08pm Top

>81 lauralkeet: Compelling review. I'm going to put the first in the series on my wish list.

We still haven't had any snow and I'm starting to wish for it. But perhaps it can wait until after Thanksgiving and the Apple Cup.

I'm glad you went out to cheer your daughter on in her half-marathon (not that I'm surprised). I have run a couple half-marathons, along with one (and only one) full marathon. It meant a lot to have folks out there cheering me on!

Nov 17, 2018, 8:14pm Top

Hi Laura - I'm coming to your neck of the woods (at the crack of dawn) tomorrow to cheer my son and his fiancee running the Philly marathon! I'm hoping to track their progress with the app they provided and actually find them. All that time in the car will help me make a dent in the audio of Witch Elm, which is very long but so far very good.

Nov 17, 2018, 8:51pm Top

>93 EBT1002: We had a good time at the Half Marathon, and we followed up with a nice family brunch. Kate's pretty tired now though.

>94 vivians: Is that the RaceJoy app, Vivian? I used that today during the Half Marathon. I really liked the way it sent me alerts at each mile. I also had fun sending audio cheers to Kate. The app has quite a selection to choose from including music clips like the Rocky theme. I hope your son and his fiancée have a great race!

Nov 18, 2018, 10:23am Top

Currently Reading

Just one book going at the moment, but hoo boy, it's a doorstop: Robert Galbraith) JK Rowling's Lethal White. Ya know, she did the same thing with the Harry Potter series -- each book was longer than the previous one. I'm approaching the 200-page mark and so far, I'm enjoying the story. But the writing can be really wordy and overly descriptive. Once I had my first editorial twitch, the excessive adjectives seemed to be everywhere.


But meanwhile, it's Thanksgiving week and the family is gathered around, so maybe it's okay to have some light reading. This morning I chose to tax my brain by creating my Thanksgiving dinner prep timetable. Last year we lived in a home with two ovens, and now we have just one. That changes up my entire process. Yikes!

Nov 18, 2018, 11:46am Top

How I would love 2 ovens...but I'm here to tell you it can be done with one. I hope yours is a bit larger than mine, though.

As for Lethal White...well, you know what I thought. I'll be interested in how it strikes you (yes, I DID do that) overall when you've finished it.

Nov 18, 2018, 12:37pm Top

I bought The Diviners without realising it was part of a series, but I remember you saying they didn't need to be read in order, so I nudged it up the pile a bit. It's kind of now in the possible Winter reading pile Laura.

Nov 18, 2018, 8:19pm Top

>97 laytonwoman3rd: thanks for the Thanksgiving reassurance! I bet your thoughts on Lethal White influenced me a bit, but I probably would have been bugged by the same issues no matter what.

>98 Caroline_McElwee: I hope you enjoy it, Caro!

Edited: Nov 20, 2018, 3:29pm Top

>96 lauralkeet: Well, my negative thoughts about Lethal White reached a tipping point ...

Nov 20, 2018, 3:29pm Top

57. Lethal White (DNF)
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: It’s a recently-released addition to the Cormoran Strike series.

Sigh. Having enjoyed the first three books in this series, I was so looking forward to this one. But after 220 pages I was losing interest and decided to abandon it. I’m not normally put off by really long books, but let’s face it, 600+ pages is unusual for a detective story. Even mundane events get the flowery descriptive treatment, like when Cormoran Strike stirs his “brown tea.” Really? Tea is brown? Oooh, tell me more about the tea. Was it also hot? There was another reference to stacks of paperwork, stacked in a corner (paraphrasing because I forgot to mark the passage). C’mon, where was the editor?

And then there’s the relationship between Cormoran and his sidekick, Robin, which has now devolved into each character morosely pining for the other, repeatedly recalling fleeting encounters in stairwells, and wishing they weren’t in relationships with someone else. The “will they or won’t they” tension has completely disappeared.

I know many of my LT friends loved this book as much as the others in the series, and I only wish I could say the same.

Nov 20, 2018, 5:45pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: I’m sorry you didn’t like Lethal White, Laura. I enjoyed it despite the 600 page length. But, I think I like descriptive books. I’m one of those people who doesn’t snooze through Michener. I love him.

Nov 20, 2018, 6:02pm Top

>102 NanaCC: The last time I read Michener I loved him too...although it's been a long time, and maybe I wouldn't feel the same now. But I don't dislike long books because of their length. Still, I'm right there with Laura on this one, as you know. It wasn't the descriptive bits...it was that relationship nonsense. As I think I said in my review, both characters are too smart to be behaving as they do. Move it on already. (I'm talking to YOU, Jo.)

Nov 20, 2018, 7:04pm Top

Yeah, the relationship nonsense was overshadowing the crime-solving, and not in a good way. At least for me. I totally understand why most readers will love it anyway!

Nov 20, 2018, 7:48pm Top

I actually thought the relationship stuff was pretty realistic - not the way I wanted it to happen, but probably what most people would do. I mean, they aren't really suited to each other, right? Robin giving her marriage a try made sense to me and it doesn't seem like Strike is ready for a real relationship anyway But I do agree that the book was slower paced than the others and I'm very sick of Robin always getting kidnapped, injured, etc. - that was the biggest annoyance for me!

Edited: Nov 20, 2018, 8:58pm Top

Hey there! I haven't been here in a while--my bad! I see you have slogged through Moby Dick and abandoned Lethal White. Well...I enjoyed MD more than you but then I also read it for a class. I do remember skimming some shippy sections. And as for LW, I did happily finish it, but it was my least favorite of the four. I found the bad guys to be everywhere and not very appealing. I was okay with the romance, which is moving at RL pace. And Robin played her cards pretty well in this one! I hope Galbraith cuts back on the length a wee bit for book #5, which I would still be interested to read.

Better luck with the next tome you tackle!

Oh, and I loved Mrs Dalloway. : )

Nov 21, 2018, 7:16am Top

>105 japaul22: Hi Jennifer, I agree with your spoilery comment about the relationship stuff, and that it is true to real life. I just felt like that part of the story was too dominant. I didn't get far enough to have context for your second comment, but now that you mention it, OF COURSE that happens. Gah.

>106 Berly: Hey Kim, thanks for stopping by!! I agree with you about the bad guys in Lethal White, there were so many of them and they were all a bit one-dimensional and stereotypical baddies.

As for my next tome: well, I have you to thank for that because it's going to be These Truths. One of my book groups is going to start discussing it in December so I'll have a head start on the 2019 group read. I'm excited to dive in.

Nov 21, 2018, 3:05pm Top

Well I guess we’ll have to disagree on this one Laura. I loved it although I thought it was long. Still I managed to get through it pretty quickly because I could hardly put it down. In Suzanne’s words, I thought it was a thumping good read. I don’t usually quibble with mysteries much as I consider that to be my fluff reading lol.

Nov 21, 2018, 6:16pm Top

>105 japaul22: I agree with you wholeheartedly about Rowling putting Robin in jeopardy over and over. It just gets very old. I've given up on other series when the author did that with main characters or their families. It's such a cheap way of building suspense, and so over-used. And also the bit where she keeps her captor talking and talking until help can arrive. Standard TV drama stuff, and so unbelieveable.

Nov 21, 2018, 7:16pm Top

>101 lauralkeet: Your comments about Lethal White cracked me up! I haven't yet read any of the Robert Galbraith novels (you may have heard that I have an irrational bias against J.K. Rowling) and this does not persuade me to commit my time to the series.

Regardless, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Laura!!!

Nov 21, 2018, 9:49pm Top

>108 brenzi:, >109 laytonwoman3rd:, >110 EBT1002: I love it when books generate lots of different opinions and discussion!

Nov 21, 2018, 10:04pm Top

Happy Thanksgiving, Laura. Have a great holiday with the family. I have not read Lethal White yet, but I will. I admire your decision, because I get frustrated with LOOOOOOONG genre books as well, including the Harry Potter books. Tana French has gone in this direction too. What is wrong with a tight 300 page crime/thriller?

Nov 22, 2018, 7:11am Top

Exactly, Mark!!

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, and to all my LT friends. My older daughter Kate is visiting from Brooklyn and my younger daughter Julia lives here in Philly, so we have the whole family together. Cooking will commence in a couple of hours. We're hoping to have drinks with our next-door neighbors sometime today, too.

Nov 22, 2018, 11:09am Top

>112 msf59: "What is wrong with a tight 300 page crime/thriller?" I wholly agree!

Nov 22, 2018, 2:45pm Top

>112 msf59: "What is wrong with a tight 300 page crime/thriller?" Sing, warbler, sing!

Edited: Nov 23, 2018, 8:40am Top

Loving the discussion -- that book is being hoarded for Christmas giving -- probably I won't mind the length, but who knows?

Must get back to the Manawaka books. I've only read The Stone Angel. Lovely review.

Nov 23, 2018, 8:40am Top

>116 sibyx: Thank you Lucy! Oh yes, do read the Manawaka books. I think you'd really enjoy them.

Nov 23, 2018, 2:09pm Top

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! I agree with you about the length of Lethal White and the relationship repetition. But I still enjoyed listening to it on audio. I suspect that if I had been reading the print version I wouldn't have had the patience. I'm almost done listening to The Witch Elm, which seems interminable but is still holding my interest.

Nov 24, 2018, 4:26pm Top

Hi Vivian, thanks for visiting. We had a very nice holiday, and our nest is once again empty since Kate returned to Brooklyn this afternoon. We've had a quiet afternoon reading and relaxing.

I'll look out for your thoughts on the new Tana French. "Interminable," eh? I for one am looking forward to the release of Louise Penny's Kingdom of the Blind this week; I'm pretty high up on the library list so shouldn't have to wait long for it.

Nov 24, 2018, 4:26pm Top

58. The Misalliance ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: It’s been on my TBR for over 2.5 years. Better late than never, right?

Blanche Vernon has been living on her own for several months, ever since her husband Bertie left her for a much younger woman. Formerly the consummate wife and homemaker, she has struggled to find a role for herself as an independent woman in late 20th-century London. She visits museums and volunteers at a hospital, but the days still drag on. Her ex-husband looks in on her from time to time, and seems to appreciate her cooking if not her conversation.

One day, while volunteering at the hospital, Blanche befriends Elinor, a little girl waiting with her mother Sally for an appointment. Blanche learns that Sally is trying to raise Elinor on her own, while her husband Paul is working elsewhere. Unfortunately the terms of his employment do not result in a steady paycheck, so Sally is living somewhat hand to mouth. Blanche inserts herself into their lives intending to help, but it soon becomes clear Sally is overly dependent on Blanche’s generosity and unwilling to pursue real solutions to her problems. As Blanche attempts to both help Sally and extricate herself from this awkward situation, she also develops her own sense of identity separate from Bertie, and begins to envision a new way of life for herself. But Anita Brookner throws in a twist that leaves the reader wondering if this ideal will be achieved.

Brookner’s novels are generally slow, quiet, character studies featuring strong women in difficult circumstances. The Misalliance is no exception. While it dragged in parts, it was a wonderful portrait of a woman of a certain age, in a certain place and time, overcoming adversity and finding her feet.

Nov 26, 2018, 2:40pm Top

>120 lauralkeet: Two and a half years is nothing! LOL

Nov 26, 2018, 3:41pm Top

>121 Berly: Well, yeah, there are definitely books in my house that we've had for years and I have never read. I have a few criteria for what I consider my TBR:
* Must be in my physical possession, not a vague intent.
* Must be mine or shared, not one of my husband's books (this is also a criteria for making it into my LT library).
* Should not be reference or a special-interest topic that is no longer of ... erm ... special interest.
* Not a Virago Modern Classic (they are a "tbr" unto themselves).

I can pull up books satisfying these criteria with a catalog search on tags: "tbr own -virago". But to make them more visible and remind me to read them, I keep a list in my reading spreadsheet and update it periodically. The books that have been on this list the longest were acquired in June 2015.

Sorry, this was probably waaaay more than anyone wanted to know!

Nov 26, 2018, 4:01pm Top

>122 lauralkeet: - I, for one, love to learn how people organize their books and TBRs. I can call up all of mine easily on LT, because every book I buy - print, Kindle, or audio - goes into my "To Read" collection (or "To Listen" in the case of the audios). I refuse to say how many are there or how far back they go, but definitely farther than 2015 :)

Nov 26, 2018, 5:44pm Top

>123 katiekrug: I love this stuff too, Katie! Also, I admit I occasionally cull the list, admitting to myself that I am no longer interested in a book and will likely never read it. I did a lot of that before we moved, so I started 2018 with a pretty clean list. Nevertheless, when I created my 2019 reading spreadsheet (because YES OF COURSE I'VE ALREADY DONE IT), I removed a few. They're still in my possession but no longer tagged "tbr".

Nov 26, 2018, 6:17pm Top

I plan to do a major cull next year, as we are likely to be moving this time next year...

Edited: Nov 27, 2018, 1:45am Top

>122 lauralkeet: I love hearing how people obsess over organize their books! LOL. Seriously, half the fun is admiring our shelves and piles and lists. I just know I have book acquisitions from WAY back. So, I plan to continue whittling down those numbers next year. The method is still in question....BINGO, POPsugar, color, alphachallenge? But I will have fun trying!

Dec 2, 2018, 12:46pm Top

59. The Year of Living Danishly ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: My neighbor passed this book on to me a few months ago and I felt guilty for not having read it yet.

Helen Russell is a London-based journalist working long hours to further her career, but finding herself feeling more stressed than satisfied. When her husband is offered a job working for a Danish company, they decide to take a leap into the unknown for a year and see how it works out. Helen turns to freelance journalism focused largely on Danish culture and lifestyle, seeking to understand what is behind the studies showing Danes to be the happiest people on earth. Each chapter of this memoir looks at one aspect of Danish living, from home life and weather to government, from traditions and food to gender roles and parenting. The insights to Danish culture and happiness are interesting and thought-provoking.

In parallel to her cultural analysis, Russell candidly shares their immigrant/expat experience, which goes well beyond the obvious language issues to very real differences in mindset and social norms which are not obvious and can easily be violated. Russell’s writing style is breezy, with plenty of humor even when writing about hard times. It’s clear the experience changed Russell and her husband for the better, and the book ends on a positive and hopeful note.

Dec 3, 2018, 3:52pm Top

So, is 3.5 stars your "go-to" rating for a solid read? I've had a rash of 4-star reads ("A great read; truly enjoyable" in my rating scale) and I worry that my ratings are getting inflated here at the end of the year.

Dec 3, 2018, 4:59pm Top

>128 EBT1002: yeah, I'd say that's about right Ellen. I worry about ratings inflation all the time. I give a lot of books 3.5 stars. 3 stars is more of a "meh," like it was a good effort but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

This is my rating system as posted on my profile page:
Not recommended

That puts 3.5 stars somewhere between Respectable and Recommended. I'm not likely to talk about a 3.5-star book with everyone I meet, but if someone asks me "have you read ... and did you like it?" I'd say yes.

Dec 3, 2018, 11:51pm Top

Hmm, I like that rating scale. I've tried to make 2.5 stars equal to "average" (mathematically it makes sense) but I don't think I have a real concept of what an "average" work reads like. My reads are so heavily influenced by recommendations; they are absolutely not random. So "average" doesn't have much meaning in that context. I like most of what I read because (a) there are gazillions of wonderful reads out there and (b) I take recommendations from trusted book-lovers. So I end up with lots of 3.5 and 4 and 4.5 ratings. I do try to reserve the 5-star ratings for truly exceptional works. The Carrying: Poems and The Overstory are two recent 5-star reads for me.

Touchstones not working this evening.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:11am Top

Ellen, I guess I consider 3 stars average, like getting a C in school. But you are so right about reading being influenced by recommendations from trusted readers. I'm the same way, and that definitely skews my ratings. Of my 59 reads year-to-date, only two were rated below 3 stars, and I've had 3 DNFs.

5-star books have to hit me on such an emotional level that I just "feel" the rating in my gut. I've had 3 of those this year: The Hounds of Spring, The Warmth of Other Suns, and The Diviners. And these are all books I never would have discovered without LT.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:55am Top

I appreciate this ratings discussion. I tend to think of 3 stars as average, and I think I give a lot of 3.5 stars. I do find it somewhat stressful to rate books, but I try to just go with my gut and leave it at that. I've toyed with the idea of not rating them, but I don't think that would solve my problem. Maybe I'll just note if something is a four or above. Those seem much clearer in my mind than the vast pool of 3 to 4 star ones...

Hi Laura!

Dec 4, 2018, 9:47am Top

>132 katiekrug: Those seem much clearer in my mind than the vast pool of 3 to 4 star ones...

Hi Katie! I agree totally with the 3-4 star range. Those are very fine lines, but 4 and above stand out.

Dec 4, 2018, 10:33am Top

"My neighbor passed this book on to me a few months ago and I felt guilty for not having read it yet." OMG, I hate that. The "I would never pick this one for myself, but now I feel I have to read it" Lucky it turned out to be at least a 3 1/2. Usually I get a 2 in those circumstances. Present company totally excepted...cause around here people have a better idea of what I like.

Dec 4, 2018, 10:44am Top

All of my ratings are a bit inflated, but I'm fine with that. IMO books deserve an extra star just for being good enough for me to finish! Most books I read are 4 stars and I probably won't finish a book that earns less than 3 stars unless I have a very good reason to.

Dec 4, 2018, 12:11pm Top

>134 laytonwoman3rd: oh yes I do feel lucky the book was decent. To be fair, it came up in conversation about some related topic. I'd heard of the book when it was published and was mildly intrigued at the time. So I was receptive to her offer. Plus, I was just so excited to discover I HAVE A NEIGHBOR WHO READS!!!!

>135 norabelle414: Nora, you inspired me to have a look at my less-than-3-star 2018 reads. As I mentioned upthread, there were only 2, along with 3 DNFs. So, what made me finish those two instead of flinging them at the wall? One was a book I'd brought on vacation, and my alternatives were limited. The second was from a series I'm very close to finishing, and my inner completist pushed me on. Otherwise, yeah, if it's heading south of 3 stars, I'm likely to stop reading.

Dec 4, 2018, 12:22pm Top

Ooh la la, here's some good news for Tana French fans:

Starz Acquires Dublin Murders Crime Drama Based on Tana French’s Novels

Dec 4, 2018, 5:28pm Top

>137 lauralkeet: Oooh....*rubs hands together*

Dec 4, 2018, 5:34pm Top

>137 lauralkeet: Definitely something to be excited about. :)

Dec 4, 2018, 7:23pm Top

I think I’m notorious for rating most books four stars or more. If I like it that’s what I go with. If it’s below four stars it was a disappointment in some way. But I have to say I don’t have a strict code of rating like yours Laura. I just go with the flow. Whatever my feeling is when I finish the book I slap the stars on and that’s it. In a very very few cases I may change it at some point. That’s highly unusual though.

That said, we share one five star read this year and that is the absolutely brilliant The Warmth of Other Suns but I will undoubtedly add the four book series The Jewel in the Crown as a whole.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:03pm Top

>140 brenzi: oh yeah, Bonnie, I read The Jewel in the Crown years before I joined LT, but it's definitely 5-star-worthy.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:04pm Top

>141 lauralkeet: The Jewel in the Crown is one I keep meaning to read.

Dec 4, 2018, 8:06pm Top

>142 NanaCC: ooh yes you definitely should! I read it after watching the superb dramatization that aired on Masterpiece in the 1980s. It's well worth watching, too, if you can track it down.

Dec 6, 2018, 8:43am Top

Some happy news! If you're a regular here, you'll know we moved to Philadelphia about a year ago. Our former home, in a suburban location about 1.25 hours' drive from the city, needed some improvements before we could list it for sale (like refinishing all the hardwood floors), and we decided to do have that work done after we moved out. It's a unique property with acreage and a large pond, so it took a while to find just the right buyer. Yesterday we completed the sale to a family with four young daughters who are eager to "make it their own." We are happy for them but most of all, happy and relieved to be out from under the whole "selling your home" process!

Dec 6, 2018, 9:13am Top


Dec 6, 2018, 9:33am Top

Great news, Laura!

Dec 6, 2018, 10:27am Top


Dec 6, 2018, 10:44am Top

Wow that's terrific news, worthy of celebration!

Dec 6, 2018, 11:54am Top

>144 lauralkeet: just YIPPPEEE!!!

Dec 6, 2018, 3:47pm Top

Yay! Selling your home is the most difficult thing to undertake especially if it’s a unique property so congratulations Laura.

Dec 6, 2018, 3:52pm Top

Thank you Nora, Katie, Jim, Vivian, Linda, and Bonnie. It was a lot of work accented by stressful spikes coupled with ongoing feelings of dread. How does that sound? LOL. While we haven't popped a bottle of champagne (YET), the hubs and I definitely breathed heavy sighs of relief at having this behind us.

Dec 6, 2018, 8:32pm Top

>151 lauralkeet: Congrats, Laura. My son is going through that now. They are selling their home, but it needs the right buyer. Hopefully things will work out for them as well. Stressful, indeed.

Dec 6, 2018, 11:07pm Top

Congratulations on selling your former home, Laura!

Dec 6, 2018, 11:31pm Top

No way I can catch up, Laura, but CONGRATULATIONS on closing on your much-loved former home. I didn't say on my own thread that my best life-long friend Bobbie and her husband have moved from Cinnaminson to NC. Their house sold 2 days after they put it on the market (not on a lot of acreage) and they had counted on having months and months.....another problem entirely.
Count me as a Moby-Dick lover with Judy. I've read it only twice and am now overdue for another reread. Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, I need some non-fiction and was thinking about Alexander Hamilton, but The Warmth of Other Suns is one I have that appeals to me more right this minute. Thank you! I'll give it a try, I think.

Dec 7, 2018, 1:08am Top

>144 lauralkeet: Whoohooo!! Congrats on the sale of your home. I am sure you feel so relieved. And a tad nostalgic. All at the same time.

Dec 7, 2018, 7:17am Top

>152 NanaCC: good luck to your son, Colleen. I hope all goes well with their sale.

>153 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl.

>154 LizzieD: Those quick sales can be a big problem, too, Peggy, since you then have to very quickly find another place to live while also doing everything required to move. We knew the market in our area was soft and we were extremely unlikely to face that problem.

And I predict you'll really like The Warmth of Other Suns. It's even better than Moby Dick! 😂

>155 Berly: Hi Kim, a tad nostalgic, maybe. We've let go of a lot, emotionally and physically, in the intervening months. When I think about the young family that's moving into the home now, I do feel a twinge of nostalgia because we were that family once. I hope they enjoy the house as much as we did during our heyday.

Edited: Dec 7, 2018, 10:08am Top

Currently Reading

These Truths | The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Hey Free Library of Philadelphia, when ya gonna gimme Kingdom of the Blind? Based on my position in the hold queue I thought I would be in the first round, and my name was #1 on the list last week. The system doesn't say when MY copy is in transit, but I could see that a copy was in transit to my local branch. And now it's been checked out! Noooo ... !

I decided the best way to make sure I get the book ASAP is to start reading another book. My first attempt at this trickery was last weekend, when I started reading These Truths. I had this on my TBR for Kim (Berly)'s group read beginning in January. Now one of my RL book groups is having a two-part discussion beginning this month. I've finished Part I and am finding it pretty interesting.

Since I still don't have Kingdom of the Blind, I plan to start another book from my shelves this weekend. I was lucky to receive the Louise Erdrich from an LT friend, and she is a new-to-me author, so I'm looking forward to it, even if I have to set it aside for a bit to see what Inspector Gamach is up to.

Dec 7, 2018, 10:20am Top

I'm doing Kim's group read, too...

And I am an Erdrich fan, but I haven't read that one yet. Hope it's a good one!

Dec 7, 2018, 11:55am Top

>157 lauralkeet: I opted to re-read Glass Houses to pass the time until I get my hands on Kingdom of the Blind. I’m fourth in line and they have two copies, so it might be a couple of weeks. Frustratingly, one of the copies has been on the “hold” shelf for a few days... I wish the person would pick it up and get moving on it.

Dec 7, 2018, 12:13pm Top

>158 katiekrug: yay, I'm looking forward to the group read, Katie.

>159 NanaCC: ugh, yes! I feel your pain, Colleen.

Dec 7, 2018, 2:38pm Top

Adding my congratulations on your selling your old home, Laura! That's got to be a big load off your mind - and helps the budget, too, I'm sure.

Dec 7, 2018, 3:41pm Top

>161 jnwelch: well yes, those darn budgets. The sale absolutely helps.

Dec 9, 2018, 8:55am Top

Having recently moved and sold our home, I know what you've been through - CONGRATS!!

Dec 9, 2018, 5:29pm Top

A congratulations on resolving the house sale. It must be a relief, just in time for the holidays.

Dec 9, 2018, 7:30pm Top

Thanks Amber & Judy. I had the satisfaction this weekend of seeing a wire transfer land in our bank account. Woot!

Dec 9, 2018, 7:42pm Top

>131 lauralkeet: Hmm, I don't know how you compiled your stats for just this year but since I joined in January 2011, my average rating is 3.88. My most common ratings are:

4 --> 262
3.5 --> 166
4.5 --> 147
3 --> 88
5 --> 78
2.5 --> 32
2 --> 6
1.5 --> 2
1 star --> 4


>144 lauralkeet: CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I truly know how wonderful that feels! Since we sold our place in Seattle I have had moments of wishing Luke, Kate, and their two wee girls much happiness in the house. And I have felt repeated waves of relief, especially as the Seattle market has "cooled" a bit, the median price having dropped by 11% in the past 6 months. Your place outside Philly sounds perfect for the right family and I'm glad they found it. And of course I think your place in Philly is delightful!!

I'll be joining Kim et. al. for the 2019 read of These Truths. I have to acquire it first.... Heh.

Dec 9, 2018, 7:43pm Top

^As I look at that, I find myself thinking I need to give out more 3-star ratings. Maybe for 2019 I'll review and tweak the descriptors for my ratings; that may change how I apply them.

Dec 9, 2018, 8:07pm Top

>166 EBT1002: I don't know how you compiled your stats for just this year
Answer: my trusty spreadsheet! I have a tab devoted to stats and every time I add information to the main "books read" tab, it updates the stats tab.

Hmm ... maybe there's a retirement business opportunity in developing reading spreadsheets for LTers. HA!

>167 EBT1002: but if you do that, then you can't compare apples to apples from one year to the next. That's always been my dilemma whenever I've thought about being more hard-nosed in my ratings.

Dec 9, 2018, 11:34pm Top

>168 lauralkeet: I would be your first customer in line!

You have a point and I did think about that. I figure the greatest likelihood is that my ratings will come down only a wee bit given (a) that I read books recommended to me by trusted sources, and (b) my generally positive and optimistic outlook on life. We'll see how it goes. I doubt I will become a book curmudgeon. *smiles*

Dec 10, 2018, 7:20am Top

>169 EBT1002: Having met you in person Ellen, I am confident you don't have a curmudgeonly bone in your body!

Dec 16, 2018, 9:49am Top

Currently Reading

These Truths | The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

This week I finished the first two parts of These Truths, which was the goal for my book group's discussion coming up this week. So yay! And that means I'm more than ready for Kim (Berly's) discussion beginning in January. Double yay!

I picked up Kingdom of the Blind from the library a few days ago, so now I need to hunker down and finish The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. I'm really enjoying it, and am trying hard to keep focused on it while Inspector Gamache's siren song is getting louder by the day ...

Dec 16, 2018, 9:59am Top

>144 lauralkeet: Congrats on the house sale! Sounds like a beautiful property.

Happy Sunday, Laura. I plan on joining in on These Truths. Pretty good so far??

Dec 16, 2018, 12:08pm Top

>172 msf59: Whoops, sorry Mark. I meant to offer at least a smidgen of opinion on These Truths. The book begins with the initial European settlement of North America and its impact on the native population. Part II ends with the end of the Civil War. Lepore doesn't shy away from calling out the bad behaviors of those in power. And she very effectively shows how slavery was a central issue from the very beginning, it didn't just pop up and cause a civil war (as it might appear from the way it's taught in school). The writing is excellent; the book is very readable and doesn't bog down in facts & dates and such.

Dec 16, 2018, 7:13pm Top

>173 lauralkeet: I'm looking forward to starting that one in January!

Dec 21, 2018, 9:09am Top

60. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I needed something to tide me over while waiting for a library book, and this one looked interesting.

Father Damien is an elderly priest who spent his career serving the native Ojibwe population in remote northern Minnesota. When a nun becomes a candidate for sainthood, another priest arrives to interview Father Damien, who harbors secrets from the confessional that cast an entirely new light on the nun’s candidacy. Sharing those secrets would require Father Damien to reveal a damaging personal secret that could negate his lifetime of good works.

As he wrestles with this conundrum, Father Damien recounts the story of his priesthood and the Ojibwe community. This made for a rollicking good tale, with a myriad of colorful characters; the family tree on the inside cover is an essential reference. Louise Erdrich brings considerable humor to her story, but is also serious and poignant at just the right moments, and the ending wraps things up perfectly. This was my first novel by Louise Erdrich, and I expect I will read more of her work.

Dec 21, 2018, 9:11am Top

Nice review, Laura! I haven't read that one, but I've liked every Erdrich I've read. Which I think may be only two - ha!

Edited: Dec 21, 2018, 9:18am Top

Currently Reading

These Truths | Kingdom of the Blind

Although I'm disappointed to have finished only ONE book so far this month, I need to keep reminding myself that I've also read 300+ pages of These Truths, which is like a normal-sized novel. My book group met last night to discuss the first two parts. We are all learning a lot about our country's history, and it's interesting (and sometimes depressing) to compare with the present time when things are such a freakin' mess. I'm looking forward to discussing this book more here on LT, when Kim's group read gets going.

I also finally got my copy of Kingdom of the Blind from the library. I just started it a day or so ago and have not had a lot of reading time, but am happy to be in Three Pines with some comfort reading as we head into the holiday week.

Dec 21, 2018, 9:29am Top

Good review of The Last Report, Laura. I'm adding that one to the WL.

Dec 21, 2018, 6:43pm Top

>178 jnwelch: Thanks Joe! I hope you enjoy it.

Dec 21, 2018, 8:05pm Top

>177 lauralkeet: Oh, is there a These Truths group read happening? I'm on hold at the library but hope to have it in the next month or so.

Dec 21, 2018, 8:16pm Top

Yes! Kim (Berly) is going to host it. We will read one part each month, Jan-Apr (there are four parts). No thread yet; she's probably waiting for the 2019 group to be set up.

Dec 21, 2018, 9:17pm Top

Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for it!

Dec 21, 2018, 11:27pm Top

Hmmm. These Truths looks good, and I hope you are very happy with The Kingdom of the Blind. Will I ever get back to L. Penny? Not anytime soon.
Meanwhile, I do dip into *Other Suns* a few times a week. I like it, but reading time is scattered and limited when it should be a major chunk of my life. Oh well.

Dec 22, 2018, 4:19pm Top

(Or in other words, Happy Christmas, to you and yours!)

Dec 23, 2018, 9:13am Top

Taking my cue from laytonwoman3rd and katiekrug, I'm posting holiday greetings here on my thread. Here's the Philadelphia Museum of Art, all lit up for Christmas:

Merry Christmas to my LT friends who celebrate it, and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all!

Dec 23, 2018, 12:23pm Top

Have a wonderful holiday, with the family, Laura. I hope you get some bookish gifts.

Dec 23, 2018, 10:33pm Top

>175 lauralkeet: To my surprise, I have not yet read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, even when I did a full year dedicated to Erdrich! I thought I had read it. Still, I know Father Damien from her other works. I'm adding this to my list for 2019. I need to complete her oeuvre. 😀📚

I also need to acquire my copy of These Truths so I can join in the fun in January. I will likely pick up a copy while I'm in Seattle this week.

Dec 24, 2018, 11:49am Top

To Laura, Merry Christmas. May the new year bring health, joy and new adventures.

Here is something for your Christmas tree.

Dec 24, 2018, 1:53pm Top

Stopping by to add my belated congratulations on the house sale Laura and a happy Christmas to you and your family!

Dec 25, 2018, 3:52am Top

Happy holidays, Laura

Dec 25, 2018, 6:23am Top

Happy Christmas from Santa Mouse and Rudy the Red Shelled Lobster, Laura! I hope to see you in Philadelphia this coming spring.

Dec 26, 2018, 1:00pm Top

Glad you liked "Last Report" -- Erdrich is so worth reading and the earlier books have a special energy, so read on!

Happy Holidays!

See you in the New Year!

Edited: Dec 27, 2018, 5:10pm Top

Thank you for the holiday greetings Mark, Ellen, Caroline, Heather, Paul, Darryl, and Lucy! We had a lovely Christmas with our daughters, who are now returning to their busy lives, leaving us empty nesters all alone in the peace and quiet. 😀

The end of the year is approaching and I have a thread ready for the 2019 75 Books Challenge group, but I'll wait to post that until the last couple days of the year. I'll finish out here with at least one book review and a year-end recap.

Edited: Dec 27, 2018, 5:02pm Top

61. Kingdom of the Blind ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: It was just released in November, so of course I had to read it as soon as possible.

In this latest installment in the Inspector Gamache series, he is inexplicably named as one of three liquidators in the will of a recently-deceased elderly woman whom he had never met. All three liquidators are equally baffled about being appointed to this role, and as they work to understand the woman’s rationale and the details of her estate, the woman’s eldest son is found dead. Gamache is on suspension, but that doesn’t stop him from assisting with the investigation. At the same time, he is working feverishly to stem the opioid epidemic and stop a new and deadly version of the drug from hitting the streets.

The two cases moved toward resolution at a brisk pace, and along the way Louise Penny continued to develop the characters readers have come to know and love, and introduced new twists into their lives which left me eager already for her next book.

Dec 27, 2018, 5:41pm Top

>194 lauralkeet: I just finished Kingdom of the Blind a few minutes ago, Laura. And, now we have to wait for the next. I’m thinking about reading the entire series again to make the waiting go faster. I wonder if that would work. :)

Dec 28, 2018, 1:18am Top

Happy holidays!!!

Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 12:11pm Top

Loose Ends

These Truths | That Lady

I like my year-end reading to be all neat and tidy, with all books finished. Alas, that is not to be for 2018. I mentioned previously that I've logged just over 300 pages in These Truths, which I'm reading for a RL book group and for Kim's 2019 group read. I'll definitely pick it up again in January with intent to finish for a late-February book group meeting.

I started reading That Lady because Kate O'Brien is the Virago Group's featured author for December. It's the story of a love affair and its ramifications, set in the 16th century Spanish court. I read just over 100 pages and would have kept going, except I really needed to start reading another book for a book group meeting on January 7. I hope to pick it up again sometime, but am not sure when because the library holds and book group reads just keep coming.

Meanwhile, given the amount of pages read I'm going to count these for 2018. And yes, I'll count them again in 2019. And yes, that's kinda cheating but so be it. 😀

Dec 29, 2018, 2:21pm Top

"LT gremlins" It's a mystery to me why it only affects some threads, some images, etc. and not others. When I upload a photo, its original URL should then be irrelevant, shouldn't it? Because this site is not going back there to find it. So once it's part of LT, its location ought to be in the correct format, or ALL images uploaded here ought to fail. What am I missing?

Dec 29, 2018, 2:26pm Top

>198 laytonwoman3rd: I know right? I'm mystified. However, I think there's something to using "https://..." for LT-based images like your member gallery. I was surprised to see my FictFact graphic appearing in >2 lauralkeet:, but looking at the code it appears I used "https://..." for that one, whereas the thread-topper in >1 lauralkeet: has only "http://..." These were not conscious choices, just whatever I copied/pasted at the time.

Dec 29, 2018, 3:00pm Top

Year in Review

Since there’s no way I’m going to finish another book before the end of the year, it’s time to pull out my trusty spreadsheet and serve up some stats and comments.

2018 was a good, but not great, reading year for me. I read only 63 books, which is the fewest since I started keeping track in 2007. I hit this nadir in 2014 as well. I’m not sure why, except that I typically read 5-6 books per month. I can’t explain why some months I read 5 and others, 6 but obviously, if I read only 5 in most months, my total will be closer to 60. My ratings have been fairly consistent year to year, averaging 3.7 in 2018 and for 7 of the past 8 years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being thoughtful enough about my ratings, but I usually conclude that I just don’t read crap, and if I find myself reading crap, I stop reading and move on.

This year my reads tended to be recent acquisitions, which I think is due to 1) being part of two book groups, and 2) the dreadfully slow book fulfillment from the Free Library of Philadelphia. From long hold queues to using carrier pigeons to bring the books to my branch, only 13% of my 2018 reads were from the library, compared to 30% or more when I used the Chester County (PA) library system. I still managed to make a small dent in my TBR pile, reading 14 Viragoes and 10 other titles from my stacks. Let’s not mention the recent acquisitions filling the empty space left by those books, okay?

Let’s end on a positive note, with the three 5-star books I can now count as some of my all-time favorites (as of this writing, touchstones are not working):

* The Diviners
* The Warmth of Other Suns
* The Hounds of Spring - shout out to Lucy (sibyx)!

And that’s a wrap on 2018. See you in 2019!

Dec 30, 2018, 8:20am Top

Stopping by to thank you for adding to my wishlist this year, Laura.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.

Dec 30, 2018, 12:09pm Top

My 2019 thread is up! Come and visit me here.

Dec 31, 2018, 12:40pm Top

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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