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Donna Reads and Reflects…as the year nears its end...

This is a continuation of the topic Donna Reads and Reflects: The Rest of the Year....

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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1Donna828
Edited: Nov 5, 4:55pm Top


The leaves are coming down with our cooler rainy and windy weather.
It looks like some books are in the mix, too!


And look who I found under the tree waiting for the perfect book to read.
Haley (8) and Molly (5) enjoying one of the few nice days we've had recently.

2Donna828
Edited: Nov 5, 5:26pm Top

3Donna828
Edited: Nov 5, 5:24pm Top



Books Read in January:
1. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold. 3.5 stars. Comments.
2. The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens; audio by R.C. Bray. Comments.
3. Slade House by David Mitchell. 3.8 stars. Read for my Book Group. Comments.
4. ⭐️Fools Crow by James Welch. 4.3 stars. Review.
5. Death at La Fenise by Donna Leon. 3.5 stars. Read for the Two-Guidos Group Read. Comments.
6. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. Read for the Nonfiction Challenge. 3.5 stars. Comments.
7. Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. 3.3 stars. Comments.
8. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold; audio by Grover Gardner. 3.3 stars. Comments.
9. Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. 4.2 stars. Review.

Books Read in February:
10. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. 3 stars. Comments.
11. The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone; audio by Cassandra Campbell. 3.9 stars. Comments.
12. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. 4.1 stars. Comments.
13. Artemis by Andy Weir. 3 stars. Comments.
14. ⭐️Autumn by Ali Smith. 4.2 stars. Comments.
15. Personal History by Katharine Graham. 3.6 stars. Comments.
16. The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh; audio by Lloyd James. 4 stars. Comments.
17. Death In Summer by William Trevor. 3.2 stars. Comments.

Books Read in March:
18. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. 3.8 stars. Comments.
19. Time Present and Time Past by Deirdre Madden. 3.9 stars. Comments.
20. The Leavers by Lisa Ko. Read for Book Group. 4 stars. Comments.
21. Exposure by Helen Dunmore. 4.2 stars. Comments.
22. Death In A Strange Country by Donna Leon. 3.6 Stars. Comments.
23. Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. Reread. 4 Stars. Comments.
24. ⭐️Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig. 4.3 Stars. Comments.

Books Read in April:
25. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. 4 stars. Comments.
26. Fever Dream by Samanta Schwebin. 3 stars. Comments.
27. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. 3.5 stars. Comments.
28. Improvement by Joan Silber. 3.1 stars. Comments.
29. ⭐️Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck. 4.5 stars. Comments.
30. The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville. 3.6 stars. Comments.
31. Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore. 3.7 stars. Comments.
32. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; audio by Elisa Davis and Sean Crisden. 3.4 stars. Comments.

Books Read in May:
33. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn West. 4 stars. Read for Book Group. Comments.
34. The Power by Naomi Alderman. 3.5 stars. Comments.
35. Winter by Ali Smith. 4 stars. Comments.
36. Less by Andrew Sean Greer. 4.1 stars. Winner of Pulitzer Prize. Comments.
37.⭐️
The Hounds of Spring by Lucy Andrews Cummin. 4.5 stars. Review.
38. Upstream by Mary Oliver. 4.2 stars. Comments.
39. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. 3.5 stars. Comments.
40. Dressed for Death by Donna Leon; narrated by David Colacci. 3 stars. Comments.

Books Read in June:
41.The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. 4.3 stars. Comments.
42. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. 3 stars. Comments.
43. A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz. 4.1 stars. Review.
44. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. Read for Book Group. 3.8 stars. Comments.
45. A Charm of Goldfinches by Matt Sewell. 4 stars. Comments.
46.⭐️ The Overstory by Richard Powers. 4.75 stars. Review.
47. Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li. Early Reviewer Book. 3 stars. Review
48. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. 3.4 stars. Comments.
49. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. 4.5 stars. Comments.

4Donna828
Edited: Nov 15, 1:42pm Top



Books Read in July:
⭐️50. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. 4.5 stars. Comments.
51. The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell. 3.3 stars. Comments.
52. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. 3.8 stars. Book Group. Comments.
53. The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, audio by Peter Ganim. 4.1 stars. Comments.
54. Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. 4 stars. Comments.
55. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. 4.3 stars. Comments.
56. The Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye. 4.3 stars. Comments.
57. The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan. 3.5 stars. Comments.
58. Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea. 4.4 stars. Review.
59. Dark of the Moon by John Sandford. Audio by Eric Conger. 3.2 stars. Comments.

Books Read in August:
60. Heat Lightning by John Sandford. Audio by Eric Conger. 3.4 stars. Comments.
61. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. 3.2 stars. Book Group. Comments.
62. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Audio by Saskia Maarleveld. 3.5 stars. Comments.
⭐️63. There There by Tommy Orange. 4 stars. Comments.
64. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. 3.9 stars. Comments.
65. The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehamat Khan. Audio by Peter Ganim. 3.8 stars. Comments.
66. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. 3.3 stars. Comments.

Books Read in September:
67. Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. 3.5 stars. Comments.
⭐️68. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. 4.6 stars. Comments.
69. Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear. Audio by Orlagh Cassidy. 3.6 stars. Comments.
70. From A Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. 3.7 stars. Comments.
71. Educated by Tara Westover. 4.2 stars. Comments.
72.
An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. Audio by Orlagh Cassidy. 3.5 stars. Comment
73. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. 4 stars. Comments.

Books Read in October:
74. Southernmost by Silas House. 3.7 stars. Review.
75.⭐️ When Books Went to War by Molly G. Manning. 4.2 stars. Comments.
76. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. 4 stars. Comments.
77.⭐️ The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. 4.2 stars. Comments.
78. Transcription by Kate Atkinson. 3.8 stars. Comments.
79. Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Unrated. Comments.
80. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. 4 stars. Review
81. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. 4 stars. Comments.



Books Read in November:
82. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. 4.2 stars. Comments.
83. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. 4.2 stars. Comments.
84. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. 3.2 stars. Comments.
85. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear. Audio by Orlagh Cassidy. 4 stars. Comments.

5Donna828
Edited: Nov 5, 4:08pm Top



I've done a very poor job keeping up with all the interesting reading challenges in the group. Here's two that I managed to do:

I enjoy reading The Modern Mrs. Darcy's Blog on FB.
Here is her simple challenge that looks very doable to me:
***2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge***
1. A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read - Vanity Fair
2. A Book Recommended by Someone with Great Taste - Heat Lightning, rec. by my DH (lol)
3. A Book in Translation - Fever Dream
4. A Book Nominated for an Award in 2018 - Miss Burma
5. A Book of Poetry, a Play, or an Essay Collection - Upstream by Mary Oliver
6. A Book You Can Read in a Day - Autumn
7. A Book That’s More Than 500 Pages - Beneath A Scarlet Sky
8. A Book by a Favorite Author - Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
9. A Book Recommended by a Librarian or Indie Bookseller - Exit West
10. A Banned Book -
11. A Memoir, Biography, or Book of Creative Nonfiction - Personal History
12. A Book by an Author of a Different Race, Ethnicity, or Religion Than Your Own - Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea.

***BingoDOG***
1 -- Mozart's Starling
2 -- Vanity Fair
3 -- Fever Dream
4 -- Fools Crow
5 -- Bridge of Clay
7 -- The Overstory
8 -- Exposure
9 -- Personal History
10 - Virgil Wander
11 - Less
12 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist
13 - The Hounds of Spring - Random CAT, April, bought in April
14 - A Million Steps
15 - Cryoburn
16 - Go, Went, Gone
17. Heat Lightning
18. Lost in Shangri-La
21. When Books Went to War - Travel, bought in 2017
20 - The Bedlam Stacks
22 - Dog Songs
24 - Blue Highways
25 - The Lieutenant

6Donna828
Edited: Nov 5, 4:49pm Top



Book No. 82: Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. Library, 300 pp., 4.2 stars.

"For more than twenty years I'd felt at home, in my home. Now I stood weirdly slack in the middle of my kitchen. Everything was off. The fall of light from the wall fixture, the pressboard ceiling tiles mimicking ornamental tin. My skin prickled. What might seem to you only the webby neglect of a week's absence felt to me ominous and elemental. The scene felt staged for my benefit, down to the smallest details: a dead ladybug legs-up on the counter, fingerprint whorls on the chrome toaster. The evidence of my life lay before me, and I was unconvinced."
(7)

Thus Virgil begins the story of what happened to him after his dramatic rescue from a near-death experience in Lake Superior. It takes time to readjust to life when something that remarkable happens. Virgil does slowly get back in the swing of things in small-town Minnesota…with a little help from his friends. This is a character-driven novel and most of the characters are on the quirky side.

I've waited approximately ten years for another book from this author, and I wasn't disappointed. In the book, Virgil struggles for words, especially adjectives. The author has no trouble finding the perfect words to depict a sense of community made up of individuals who care for one another. After finishing it I felt like I had just had a long conversation with a good friend. I will miss Virgil and the inhabitants of Greenstone.

7BLBera
Nov 5, 3:50pm Top

Happy new one, Donna. I hope I'm not too early.

8Donna828
Nov 5, 4:52pm Top

>6 Donna828: Not at all, Beth. Welcome to my new thread. It's good to "see" a friendly face!

9mdoris
Nov 5, 5:07pm Top

Hi Donna. Happy new thread. I am super impressed how when clicking the "comments" after a book in the lists above that it takes the reader to your thread review of that book. Not sure how you do that but I'm impressed. Great reading going on here!

10figsfromthistle
Nov 5, 5:34pm Top

Happy new thread, Donna!

11FAMeulstee
Nov 5, 6:08pm Top

Happy new thread, Donna!

12msf59
Nov 5, 6:10pm Top

Happy New Thread, Donna. Love the fall toppers. I can't believe Haley is 8. I remember when she was a newborn.

Hooray, for Virgil Wander. I have this one lined up for later this month.

I am just about done with Washington Black. If you don't have it on your TBR WL, get busy and slap it on there. It is a terrific read.

13RebaRelishesReading
Nov 5, 6:23pm Top

Happy new thread Donna! Great photo of the girls.

14thornton37814
Nov 5, 8:30pm Top

Happy new thread! I love the falling leaves of both kinds (tree and book)!

15vivians
Nov 5, 8:52pm Top

I'm so glad to find another fan of Virgil Wander! It will definitely be on my "best" list for this year.

16Berly
Nov 5, 9:14pm Top

Happy new one, Donna!! Well, you've already finished your Bingo and you surpassed 75, so I'm thinking you are good for the year!! Nice review of Virgil Wanderer. : )

17ronincats
Nov 6, 12:05am Top

Happy New Thread, Donna!

18karenmarie
Nov 9, 9:06am Top

Hi Donna!

From your last thread, I'm so sorry to hear about Lucky. They leave holes in our hearts, for sure.

>6 Donna828: I loved Peace Like a River, but haven't had Enger on my radar since. He published another novel in 2009 - So Brave, Young, and Handsome. Have you heard of it?

Congrats on surpassing 75.

19Carmenere
Nov 9, 11:55am Top

Happy new thread, Donna! Oh wouldn't it be wonderful if books fell with the leaves?! The girls are getting so big! Have a wonderful weekend!

20jnwelch
Nov 10, 5:57pm Top

Happy New Thread, Donna!

I love that photo of Haley and Molly up top.

21Whisper1
Nov 10, 9:00pm Top

Donna, I can't believe that time went by so quickly. I remember your grandchildren as little girls, and now look how much they have grown and changed...still so very beautiful.

22Donna828
Nov 13, 5:02pm Top

>9 mdoris: Mary, there is a thread somewhere that lets you in on all those little secrets. Unfortunately, I can't locate it. It's a little cumbersome but I do like being able to reference my thoughts about past books I've read when my memory fails me. :-)

>10 figsfromthistle: Thanks very much, Anita.

>11 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita.

>12 msf59: I know, Mark, my grandkids are growing up way too fast. Sadie will be 17 in February and is looking at colleges already. Washington Black is getting closer to be in my hands by the day. I'm on the library list.

>13 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba. They're keepers!

23Donna828
Nov 13, 5:06pm Top

>14 thornton37814: Hi Lori. We raked up ten huge bags of leaves on Sunday…and then it snowed on Monday. I may have to change my thread topper sooner than I planned.

>15 vivians: Vivian, I'm going to have some big decisions at the end of the year. I usually post a list of my Top Ten. This year I may have to post separate lists for fiction and non-fiction. I've had a good reading year!

>16 Berly: Well, Kim, I usually fall apart reading-wise after Thanksgiving so I thought I'd get my goals completed early. Maybe not quite, though, as my "real" goal is reading 100 books.

>17 ronincats: Thank you, Roni.

24thornton37814
Nov 13, 5:12pm Top

>23 Donna828: I still get notifications for weather in Mississippi where my father resided. I kept up when he was alone, and since it's my home town, I'm not really inclined to get rid of the alerts. I received a notification today for a winter weather warning Wednesday afternoon until Thursday noon for there. It made me wonder if I'd be getting into any of the weather driving from here to Nashville Thursday afternoon. I didn't see anything in Nashville's weather, but I know if it will be snowing anywhere between here and there, Crossville would be the place. Sure enough, snowflakes dot the Thursday weather forecast on my my weather app. I think the Interstate will remain passable because of big trucks during the day so I'm not too worried, but I am glad I got permission to leave work at noon so I'm not driving after dark.

25Donna828
Nov 13, 5:13pm Top

>18 karenmarie: We're still moping around here, Karen. Life is so different without a furbaby in the house. Thank you for the kind words. I read the So Brave book and liked it. Enger's books are definitely in my comfort zone.

>19 Carmenere: Linda, I wouldn't have gotten as much leaf raking done on Sunday afternoon if I had to stop and peruse the books. But, yeah, I would have been happier for sure.

>20 jnwelch: Hi Joe, I don't see my girls nearly as often now that they are both in school all day. They are coming for a sleepover this Saturday. Woo Hoo!

>21 Whisper1: Thanks, Linda. They're big girls now, but still so much fun.

26Donna828
Nov 13, 5:20pm Top

>24 thornton37814: It seems early for snow in our part of the country, Lori. I had to get out, of course, but didn't have any trouble getting around. It's in our forecast again for Thursday. I hope that's not a harbinger of lots of snow this year. It's good you can leave work early on Thursday. Things always seem worse when it's dark.

27Donna828
Edited: Nov 14, 11:58am Top



Book No. 83: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Library, 465 pp., 4.2 stars.

"…Thatcher saw he could never name his friend with one tree because she was many. The fossil ferns, ancient cedars, and flowering plants joined at the root to the different eons of their emergence. Mary was all these at once. She was phylogeny."
(191)

I'm glad this book featured a prominent self-taught botanist from the late 1800s named Mary Treat. She was my favorite character and provided an outlet for Kingsolver to show her knowledge of science. I enjoyed learning about the way Darwin's theories were received in this country. Mary's friendship with her neighbor Thatcher Greenwood shares the limelight with a modern couple who also lived near the corner of 6th and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey. Setting is so important to this story because the dilapidated house that is literally falling down on Willa and her husband gives the book its title. Willa is a journalist for a defunct magazine and her husband is the victim of academia and tightened budgets. They feel fortunate to have inherited this house until they experience the deterioration of an old structure.

The book is so much more than science and home-improvement. Kingsolver manages to touch on various topics including birth and death, grown children moving back home, medical dilemmas, the economy, environmental issues, politics, materialism, immigrants, and on and on. I actually think I should read it again to make sure I understand how everything ties together. She does seem to have a lot of agendas, however, I am still a fan of her writing and will eagerly await her next book.

28msf59
Nov 13, 7:01pm Top

Hi, Donna. I am glad to see many of my LT pals have enjoyed Unsheltered, since I have a copy waiting in the wings. I might try to squeeze it in this month.

It looks like I will start Virgil Wander any day now.

29mdoris
Nov 14, 12:59am Top

I started Unsheltered today and valued and appreciated your review.

30RebaRelishesReading
Nov 14, 10:52am Top

>27 Donna828: Glad you liked the new Kingsolver, Donna. I bought a copy last week and am looking forward to it.

31Donna828
Nov 14, 12:02pm Top

>29 mdoris: It wasn’t my favorite Kingsolver book, Mary, though still pretty darn good. I look forward to your opinion.

>30 RebaRelishesReading: I hope you like it, Reba. It starts out slowly and takes awhile to get used to the alternating chapters in different time periods. Once you get in the rhythm, however, there are lots of themes to ponder.

32Donna828
Nov 15, 11:10am Top



Book No. 84: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Library, 368 pp., 3.2 stars.

"He came out of nothingness, took form, was loved, was always bound to return to nothingness. Only I did not think it would be so soon. Or that he would precede us."


Fact: Willie Lincoln died of Typhoid Fever in 1862 while his parents were hosting a State Dinner downstairs. Lincoln visited the crypt during the night and held his son's body.

All the rest is fiction written more like a play with a Greek Chorus of lost souls. There are so many of these "undead" (or at least that's what they think) that are in limbo. They are able to move around and speak to each other in short bursts of dialogue. And they are very hard to keep track of.

I was curious about the book but, because I'm not usually a fan of experimental fiction, I decided to pass on reading it…until it was chosen for my book group. I kept an open mind about the premise of the inhabitants that were stuck in the Bardo because they refused to accept their death. I wish there hadn't been so many, however, as it added to my confusion. There were aspects of the book that I thought were done well. These included the Civil War vignettes about the 'dead' soldiers and the treatment of slaves, the conveyance of deep love between father and son, and the way several of the souls tried to communicate their concern for Willie. Children didn't last long in the Bardo (except for the young girl imprisoned at the fence by strange worm-like beings) and they knew that only Lincoln could persuade his son to move on to the afterlife.

I appreciate what Saunders was trying to do and give him credit for a fine imagination and some wonderful writing but had to take away an entire star in my rating because I was exasperated by the artistic license he took with his quotations. I understand that the book is fiction but I still think that entire chapters made up of "patched-together quotes from biographies about Lincoln, some invented, some real…" need to be acknowledged somehow for the gullible readers amongst us. Saunders readily admitted to his 'invented' quotes in an interview, so why not add an acknowledgement of which ones were true and which ones were made up at the end? I have stated before that I am not a fan of alternate history so I definitely was not the intended audience for this book.

One of my fellow book club members stated what I was thinking very succinctly: "Too much Bardo, not enough Lincoln".

33Donna828
Nov 15, 11:34am Top



Book No. 85: Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear. Audio by Orlagh Cassidy. Hoopla, 303 pp., 4 stars.

I continue to enjoy this post-WWI series set in London about an amateur sleuth/psychologist. Number six in the series is set during the Christmas holidays of 1931 and opens with a suicide bombing that Maisie and her assistant Billy Beale witnessed. It's followed up by threatening letters from a seemingly madman who gives New Year's Eve as his headline for releasing a dangerous chemical bomb on the masses. Maisie as always relies heavily on her understanding of human nature and intuition to catch this man who like many others of the period is a victim of PTSD, or as it used to be called, "shell shock". This is a satisfying psychological mystery series and gets even better as the characters become more developed with each addition.

34Donna828
Nov 15, 12:53pm Top

>28 msf59: How did I miss you up there, Mark? You have some good reading ahead of you. Both Virgil Wander and Unsheltered get my seal of approval. lol.

35Whisper1
Nov 15, 1:44pm Top

>32 Donna828: You nailed just what it was that I didn't particularly like about Lincoln in the Bardo.

36karenmarie
Nov 17, 2:39pm Top

Hi Donna!

>32 Donna828: It didn't bother me at all, but I can see how "Too much Bardo, not enough Lincoln". might disappoint. Silly me, I assumed all the quotes were legit the first time I read it - this time I knew at least some were made up but they moved the story forward that satisfied me.

37EBT1002
Nov 17, 4:49pm Top

Hi Donna. I'm currently reading Lincoln in the Bardo and quite enjoying it. I can see the "too much Bardo, not enough Lincoln" criticism but the Bardo characters are so varied and interesting. I had wondered about the quotes, too, so I'm glad to know now that some are real and some are fictional. I knew some were real but wasn't sure about all the others.

We're having a beautiful autumn in eastern Washington. Cold, clear, and mostly dry.

38Familyhistorian
Nov 18, 6:40pm Top

Happy new thread, Donna. I have the Kingsolver in the stacks and look forward to it after your review.

39brenzi
Nov 18, 8:06pm Top

Yay Donna. You said everything I thought about Lincoln in the Bardo when I read it last year. All the while thinking another unworthy book won the Booker.

40Berly
Today, 12:57am Top

>32 Donna828: Bardo is still near the top of my TBR pile. I heard him speak about the book last year and so I knew that he had made up some of the quotes, but I am still willing to give it a go because I loved hearing how he went about writing it.

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