Laytonwoman3rd ZOOMS in to 2021

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2021

Join LibraryThing to post.

Laytonwoman3rd ZOOMS in to 2021

Edited: Apr 8, 1:12pm

Where it all began for me:

Hi, I'm Linda. I was born a whole bunch of years ago (although not quite as many as my daughter seems to think) in that little cottage hospital in the picture. Callicoon is a little tiny town along the Delaware River, and was one of the places in New York State we went to for services that couldn't be found on "our side" of the river when I was a kid. (It has a much larger hospital now.) I grew up, and have spent most of my life in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with brief interludes in New Orleans and Philadelphia after marrying flamingrabbit. I've been retired from my career as a paralegal a full five years now, and I highly recommend it.

LT has been an essential part of my life since I joined in 2005, after my daughter lycomayflower told me about "this site where you can catalog your books." My response was something like, "Why would I want to do that?" HA! I simply can't imagine life without it anymore. I never knew how much I needed a reading community, until I found one. I've been tracking my reading in the 75 Book Challenge Group for most of the last 15 years. If you'd like to explore my reading backwards from here, there are links on my profile page to my earlier threads. My goal is always to read more of the books I already own, and to acquire fewer books than I remove from the house. In past years this has been a big joke, but I did a pretty good job of moving things into boxes in the garage in 2020. They will sit there until my favorite libraries are accepting donations again.

I will use tickers to keep track of my total books read, the number of those that I've had on my own shelves for at least a year at the time I read them, and the number of books I decide to get rid of in 2021. For the first time in a long time, I did not meet my reading goal in 2020. My total usually exceeds 100, but in the First Year of Covid, I couldn't make it to 85, for some reason. I think it was because I spent a lot of time working on genealogy and cemetery documentation projects, and that I was learning the ropes of conducting Board meetings as President of the Scranton Public Library Board of Trustees. My reading time may have suffered, but I'm happy with the contributions I've made to the Find-A-Grave website, and relieved to find that I am OK at the Madame President thing.

I'll be hosting the American Authors Challenge again this year. See >6 below.

Here's a link to my last 2020 reading thread. You can navigate backward through the year with the continuation links. I usually have 4 threads per year, but in 2020 I only did 3.

Edited: Apr 8, 1:16pm

This one's for the tickers

Books Read in 2021:


Books Removed from the House:

Edited: Apr 8, 1:23pm

Here will be a list of the books I read in the first quarter of 2021. (I usually have one thread per quarter.)

I use some shorthand to help me keep track of my reading trends:

ROOT identifies a book that I have owned for at least a year at the time I read it.

CULL means I put the book in my donation box for the library book sale after finishing it, or otherwise gave it away.

DNF means I didn't finish the book, for one reason or another, usually explained in the related post.

ER means I received the book from LT's Early Reviewer program.

GN refers to a graphic novel, GM a graphic memoir (don't expect to see a lot of those!)

An * asterisk indicates a library book.

LOA means I read a Library of America edition;
SF means the book was a Slightly Foxed edition, (NOT science fiction, which I so rarely read);
VIRAGO means it was an original green-spined Virago edition from my own collection;
FOLIO indicates a Folio Society edition.

AUDIO and e-Book are self-explanatory, and probably won't appear very often.

AAC refers to the American Author Challenge.
NF indicates a non-fiction read.

Clicking on titles in this post will take you to the message in which I reviewed or commented on that book.


*21. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
20. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler ROOT, CULL
19. The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew ROOT, CULL
18. catalog of unabashed gratitude by Ross Gay
*17. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
16. The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall BAC, ROOT, VIRAGO
*15. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay DNF, AAC
14. Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley ROOT, CULL
13. Sing Sing Prison by Guy Cheli
12. Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall CULL
*11. R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton re-read


*10. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
9. Whispering Death by Garry Disher
8. Paradise by Toni Morrison ROOT
DNF A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin AAC, ROOT, CULL
7. Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig ROOT


6. Cloud Chamber by Michael Dorris ROOT, AAC
5. The Searcher by Tana French
4. The Murderous McLaughlins by Jack Dunphy AAC, CULL
3. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris ROOT, AAC
2. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca ROOT, CULL
1. Peter Pan By J. M. Barrie ROOT, BAC

Edited: Apr 8, 1:21pm

Here's where I'll keep track of what I get rid of.


1. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca
2. The Murderous McLaughlins by Jack Dunphy
3. Appetite for Life by Noel Riley Fitch
4. Southern Daughter by Darden Asbury Pyron


5. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin


6. Collected Stories of Jean Stafford (duplicate copy)
7. Whispering Death by Garry Disher
8. Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
9. Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley
10. Known to Evil by Walter Mosley
11. Walkin' the Dog by Walter Mosley
12. The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew


13. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
14. The Beginner's Good-Bye by Anne Tyler

Edited: Apr 8, 1:01pm

Books acquired


1. The White Rose of Memphis by Co. William C. Falkner
2. Falkner by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
3. Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule


4. Still Life by Val McDermid
5. The Persimmon Trail by Juyanne James
6. Fences by August Wilson
7. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson
8. Seven Guitars by August Wilson
9. Signal Loss by Garry Disher
10. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
11. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
12. Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall


13. Jean Stafford Complete Stories and Other Writings (LOA)

Edited: Apr 8, 12:59pm

Here is the line-up for 2021 in the American Authors Challenge:

JANUARY A Theme Month
All in the Family Spouses, partners, parents and children who all write.
The January thread is here.

I have finished A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, husband of Louise Erdrich.
Finished The Murderous McLaughlins by Jack Dunphy, long-time partner of Truman Capote
Finished Cloud Chamber by Michael Dorris

FEBRUARY Ethan Canin
The Thread for February is here.
Started A Doubter's Almanac DNF

MARCH Roxane Gay
The thread for March is here.
Finished with Difficult Women

APRIL A Theme Month
Americans Who Make Music Creative minds often use more than one medium to express themselves, and a lot of musicians have written fiction, memoir and poetry.
Here is the April thread.
Currently reading Chronicles by Bob Dylan

MAY Mary McCarthy

JUNE Ken Kesey

JULY A Theme Month
Native American Authors and Themes
Lots of possibilities, both fiction and non-fiction.

AUGUST Connie Willis

SEPTEMBER Howard Norman

OCTOBER Attica Locke

NOVEMBER Albert Murray

DECEMBER A Theme Month
Young Adult

WILD CARD---You name it, you read it.

The General Discussion thread for the challenge can be found here.

I'll try to remember to post links here to the individual monthly threads as they are created.

Dec 29, 2020, 1:10pm

And I'm first! Yay! Nice opener, Linda. I've known you for most of those 15 years but some of those details were still new to me. Here's to good reading in 2021.

Dec 29, 2020, 1:26pm

>1 laytonwoman3rd: I wonder if I could find a picture of Stanford Medical Center in my year of birth. Interesting idea, might just follow up on that.

Happy 2021, and it can't come soon enough!

Edited: Dec 29, 2020, 2:02pm

>7 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura! I tweaked my intro post this time...I'm going to use relevant vintage postcards for my toppers in 2021. I have quite a collection from one family source or another.

>8 richardderus: Hope you find that photo, Richard. E-bay is your friend, if there was ever a postcard featuring the place at the appropriate time. I also had my tonsils out, a few stitches in my head, a new baby brother, and visited my Dad after his appendectomy in that little place. It was privately owned and operated by the two GPs in town, Dr. Mills and Dr. Rumble. Dr. Rumble saved my cousin Gary's foot, which was nearly severed in a run-in with a hay baler when he was 12, and went on to practice orthopedic surgery at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California after being instrumental in planning the new hospital in Callicoon.

Dec 29, 2020, 2:25pm

Dropping a star, Linda. Looking forward to following your reading in 2021.

Dec 29, 2020, 2:27pm

Found and starred!

Dec 29, 2020, 2:31pm

>10 Crazymamie:, >11 katiekrug: Thank you, glad to see you both....stars most welcome!

Dec 29, 2020, 5:48pm

Welcome back! And I got all the AAC monthly entries into the group wiki today!

Dec 29, 2020, 6:25pm

>13 drneutron: You're the best, Jim. Thanks so much. Where would we be without you?

Dec 29, 2020, 8:37pm

Hi Linda! I love the topper. What a lovely spot to be welcomed into the world!

Dec 29, 2020, 8:50pm

>15 cbl_tn: I think you're right, although I have no specific recollections about THAT event!

Dec 30, 2020, 9:35am

Welcome back Linda.

Dec 30, 2020, 12:24pm

Welcome back, Linda! Hope your 2021 reading is outstanding.

Dec 30, 2020, 12:39pm

>17 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. Good to see you.

>18 thornton37814: I hope so too, Lori. 2020 wasn't a stellar reading year for me.

Dec 31, 2020, 1:27am

Time to take out the trash!

Dec 31, 2020, 7:13am

Best wishes for a better 2021!

Dec 31, 2020, 8:48am

Love the new digs, Linda! Wishing you excellent reads in 2021.

Dec 31, 2020, 3:03pm

Happy new thread and new year, Linda. Love the topper and the history behind it.

Dec 31, 2020, 6:33pm

Happy New Year, Linda! I love your comment in the intro about not knowing what you'd do without LT now. I feel the same way (and for me it has only been since 2011).
I used to start a list every January, determined to track the books I read. I had nothing more than a stack of unfinished lists in various journals and notebooks until I found this site. And the friendships are a delightful bonus.

Dec 31, 2020, 7:05pm

Happy reading in 2021, Linda!

Dec 31, 2020, 10:17pm

>20 weird_O: BUH BYE, 2020!
>21 DianaNL: Thank you Diana....and the same to you!
>22 MickyFine: I've got a head start on 2021 reading, and am looking forward to lots of good stuff, Micky!
>23 jessibud2: Aw, thanks, Shelley. I've been elbow-deep in family history, trying to organize and archive everything I've "inherited" from at least 3 households now.
>24 EBT1002: I kept a notebook of my reads for many years pre-LT, but recorded almost nothing more than title, author and date. I entered all that into my LT catalog in the last couple years, so at least I know what I read, if not what I thought about it! And you're so right about the friendships...double scoop of goodness.
>25 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita. Good to see you here.

Jan 1, 1:34am

And keep up with my friends here, Linda. Have a great 2021.

Jan 1, 4:15am

Happy New Year Linda!

Jan 1, 9:17am

Happy New Thread, Linda. Happy New Year! Glad we are turning the page on that one. Good luck with the AAC.

Jan 1, 12:36pm

Hi, Linda!

Jan 2, 12:21pm

>27 PaulCranswick: Hear, hear!
>28 SandDune: Thank you, Rhian.
>29 msf59: Thanks, Mark. Hope to see you in the AAC from time to time!
>30 tymfos: Thank you, Terri. Cross Stitch---cool!

Edited: Jan 2, 12:24pm

OK, let's do this for my 2020 reads:

Fill in the prompts using titles of books you've read this year...

Describe yourself: The Gastronomical Me

Describe how you feel: A Damsel Not in Distress

Describe where you currently live: Home (Too easy, too obvious, impossible to resist)

Your favorite time of day is: The Gap of Time

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Eastern Shore

Your favorite form of transportation: The Dark Horse

Your best friend is: Laura

You and your friends are: Something Wicked

What’s the weather like: Winter in Thrush Green

You fear: Dark Corners

What is the best advice you have to give: Take Out

Thought for the day: Hell is Empty

How you would like to die: Death at Victoria Dock

Your soul’s present condition: Hidden Depths

What is life for you: The Blessing Way

Jan 2, 12:54pm

And I will make my usual request for no wild glittery GIFS on my threads. I love the visits, but the shimmers and fireworks, not so much. Thank you for your consideration!

Jan 2, 1:42pm

>32 laytonwoman3rd: Great advice for the times we're in!

Edited: Jan 3, 11:07am

>34 cbl_tn: And we're taking my advice for dinner tonight!

Jan 2, 4:31pm

Love the meme responses, Linda, particularly your description of yourself.

Jan 3, 11:02am

Happy New Year, Linda. I hope 2021 is a good one for you.

Jan 3, 11:08am

>36 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky. Food has become very important in our lives this last year.

>37 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I hope 2021 is a better one for everybody.

Jan 3, 1:36pm

What’s the weather like: Winter in Thrush Green

Ohh, Miss Read! Mama read those like popcorn.

Spend a splendid Sunday, Linda3rd!

Jan 3, 2:05pm

>29 msf59: Miss Read is dandy when I want a little gentle escape from reality.

Jan 5, 5:16pm

1. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie For the BAC

Somehow, I have never read Peter Pan as written. Seen lots of stage and film adaptations, and a couple of picture book abridgements, but never the real thing in toto. It was fun. Made me recall the bloodthirsty make-believe of my own childhood, which involved cowboys and horse thieves and saloon girls being rescued, mostly, but sometimes saving the day with a well-placed rifle shot of their own---my playmates were boy cousins, and our source material was Gunsmoke. We didn't have wicked fairies or other mythological creatures in our fantasies. Maybe a rogue wolf, or a rattlesnake once in a while. I think maybe it's just as well we did grow up.

Jan 5, 6:43pm

>41 laytonwoman3rd: Just looked at my review from when I listened to the audio a couple of years ago. Like you, I had seen the stage and film adaptations but had never encountered the original. One thing that struck me was that infant/child mortality was higher at the time it was written, as well as women's mortality during childbirth. I wonder if the book would have resonated more with children in Barrie's day due to their life experiences?

Jan 5, 9:45pm

Stopping by and placing my star. All good wishes for a wonderful new year!

Jan 6, 9:45am

>41 laytonwoman3rd: So fond of that one, even with all its flaws. Glad you enjoyed it, Linda.

Jan 7, 1:53am

Dropping my star without glitter or fuss. : ) Peter Pan is a great way to start off the year!

Jan 8, 10:27am

>42 cbl_tn: Carrie, I think you're on to something. In my genealogy research and cemetery prowling it is often brought home to me how often children were left motherless as infants or young children, and how often parents lost one child after another to premature birth, untreatable conditions and illnesses that we now rarely see. Children's fantasies at any given period in history were surely affected by what kind of threats they perceived to be bearing on their lives.

>43 Whisper1: Good to see you here, Linda!

>44 MickyFine: It's a classic for a reason, isn't it, Mickey? It is flawed, certainly, but I'm sort of intrigued by the way it is flawed. The casual racism of "redskins" and "Picaninnies" is what you might expect from the time period, but yet Barrie made distinctions between tribal cultures that puzzled me and suggested that he really knew better.

>45 Berly: Bless you, Kim. Good to see you here.

Jan 8, 11:12am

>46 laytonwoman3rd: Along those lines, wicked stepmothers are such a trope in fairy tales because they reflected real life at the time: women died so often in childbirth, leaving behind children whose fathers tended to remarry quickly to have a(nother) woman to take over the running of the household. Any children the new wife had, she'd naturally want to see get the lion's share of any inheritance, hence, she wouldn't likely be too fond of her stepchildren.

Jan 8, 12:30pm

>47 scaifea: Yup. Of course, both of my grandmothers were stepmothers, and their step-children loved them, so there's that.

Jan 8, 12:33pm

>47 scaifea: that makes sense, and is something I hadn't thought about in my own genealogy research. As in >48 laytonwoman3rd: of course it's not always the case, but these posts make me realize I had been assuming step-mother transitions were generally positive for all involved.

Edited: Jan 8, 12:48pm

>48 laytonwoman3rd: >49 lauralkeet: Well sure, of course not always and certainly much less so in modern times (my own parents are step parents to my brothers and sisters (don’t let that make you too cross eyed) and they’re pretty far from evil), but I just love how so many elements in folk and fairy tales have roots in reality. So interesting to learn about.

Jan 8, 5:36pm

Nobody talks about stepFATHERS....unfortunately my dad had one who was a bastid, and he really never knew his own father (who died when Dad was 4) for comparison. Somehow, he knew how to BE a proper Dad anyway, even with no example to follow.

Edited: Jan 8, 5:43pm

>51 laytonwoman3rd: Well, not in fairy tales usually, anyway, but that's because men generally outlived women in those days and so there weren't as many. There's a fair few in more modern lit, though, I think. Of course, I can't come up with examples off the tongue tip right now...

ETA: OH! But I can think of a good *ancient* example! Zeus chucked his stepson (sort of), Hephaestus, right off Mt. Olympus. 'Swhy he has a limp.

Jan 8, 6:52pm

>52 scaifea: Ooo...that IS a good one!

Edited: Jan 21, 9:51pm

2. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca Well. What a mess this book is. The subject matter sounds fascinating...subtitled "The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective", it covers the remarkable career of Grace Quackenbos Humiston, a lawyer, US District Attorney, and private detective who for a period of time carried an NYPD badge, all in the first few decades of the 20th century. Mrs. Humiston was passionate about bringing an end to the practice of "white slavery", which claimed young girls in vast numbers and was believed to be supported by an international criminal organization; she also devoted much of her private practice to helping immigrants deal with the US legal system. She may, or may not, have been instrumental in solving the disappearance and murder of one particular young girl, Ruth Cruger. Any competent author should have been able to deliver a heckin' great book out of such material. But it is not this book. It meanders, it's repetitive, it has no coherent structure or narrative flow, contains way too much minute yet unenlightening detail and too many verbatim transcripts of interviews and testimony that fail to reveal anything useful. A competent editor would have slashed it by half. And I should have quit half way through. There was one fairly incredible 21st century-style quote worth sharing, however: "For a long time we have had runaway immigrants pouring in on us and have tried the man's scheme of building a high restrictive fence about our is time to take the bandage off the eyes of international Justice, lay down her sword, get her mind off the thief and the jail, and become a kindly, intelligent mother to the world". I get the feeling Mrs. Humiston deserved a better champion. This treatment was just too much of a slog.

Jan 9, 12:28pm

>54 laytonwoman3rd: Sorry that one wasn't more of a hit with you, Linda. I read it a couple years ago and enjoyed it but did note a disjointed narrative in the first half in my review so I did see flaws at the time.

Jan 9, 1:22pm

>54 laytonwoman3rd: - What a bummer. It sounds like such an interesting story.

Jan 9, 1:42pm

>55 MickyFine: I confess to skimming quite a lot in the second half of the book, and then reading the Epilogue.

>56 katiekrug: Yeah, disappointing. I usually enjoy "true crime" histories.

Jan 9, 1:43pm

>46 laytonwoman3rd: As you know I do cemetery research and genealogy also. When my son was in school he had an assignment to visit local cemeteries and find the graves and research the 1918-19 flu pandemic. We more or less struck out. Only at the beginning of last year while photographing our closest cemetery I happened upon the 1918 section. It was rather stunning. But doing this research in recent years I too have noticed all the young deaths, most notably here from diphtheria in the early 20th century.

Jan 9, 4:58pm

>54 laytonwoman3rd: Blast and damn. I wish that had been a better read to distract more from this awful week.

Jan 10, 12:30pm

Happy New Year, Linda. I know what you mean up top about the LT reading community. When I worked in bookstores I had that to some extent, but not like here. It's one of those things we don't know we're missing until we find it.

Jan 10, 1:24pm

>54 laytonwoman3rd: Sorry book #2 didn't hit the mark. Better luck on the next one! And Happy Sunday.

Jan 10, 3:58pm

Happy New Year! I look forward to visiting more frequently this year than I did last.

Jan 10, 9:07pm

>58 RBeffa: There are a handful of 1918-1919 death dates in my own family database, and none of them are noted to be related to the flu epidemic or to WWI, as far as I know. However, one woman died in 1921, after suffering from asthma for 2 years following a bout with influenza, according to her obituary.

>59 richardderus: Well, it did sort of distract me, as I muttered about the book instead of the Current Situation...

>60 jnwelch: I did have a couple book buddies in my work crowd from time to time, but the "pool" is so much larger here.

>61 Berly: Thanks Kim. I'm well into the next one, and it IS much better----A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris.

>62 Whisper1: Good! I'm looking forward to it.

Jan 10, 9:42pm

I'm sorry your second book was a bust, especially since it sounded so promising. Glad the current read is a better one for you.

As far as I know, I don't have any 1918 flu deaths in my family tree either. One of my gg-grandfathers died of pneumonia in 1918, but in January before the Spanish flu pandemic hit the Midwest.

Jan 11, 8:13pm

My grandfather's brother was a 1918 flu victim. He'd moved from Mississippi to Texarkana (Texas) where he sold shoes for the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis. He's buried in the State Line Cemetery in Texarkana on the Arkansas side. He actually registered for the WWI draft less than a month before he died.

Jan 11, 10:04pm

>54 laytonwoman3rd: Every once in awhile, a miserable book finds us. Hopefully, your next one will make up for the misery of book number 2.

Jan 16, 4:51pm

>64 cbl_tn:, >65 thornton37814: I really hadn't thought much about how that epidemic affected the small communities where my family would have been living at the time until lately. I knew I had never heard any family stories about it, so I did what checking I could into the deaths I know occurred between 1917 and hint of influenza.

>66 Whisper1: Thanks, Linda. The most recent read was a real winner. I'll post about it below.

Jan 16, 5:05pm

Hi Linda. Just stopping by to star your thread. I need to keep up with your Sue Grafton re-read.

Edited: Jan 16, 6:53pm

3. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris For the AAC

It has taken me much too long to get around to Dorris, whose books have been on my shelves a long time. This one was every bit as engaging as any of those I've read by Louise Erdrich, Dorris's wife. The couple, in happy times, often stated that they collaborated in each other's writing, and this has a "feel" to it that I recognize from Erdrich's work. Not surprising since both authors address the issues of modern life on the reservation in the American west.

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water brings us the lives of three Indian women, a daughter, a mother and a grandmother, in their respective first person narrative voices. We meet Rayona first; she is fifteen years old, and her life is not easy. She and her mother live in Seattle, but Mom is often "sick" and in the hospital. We are not told (as Rayona is not told) what is wrong with her. Rayona's father is a black man who moves in and out of her life, contributing very little to it other than the effects of his DNA on her appearance. When Rayona's mother Christine decides they must return to the reservation to live with HER mother, no reason is given for that either. In Christine's section of the novel, we hear her tell her story, going back to her own teen years. We learn of her bond with her younger brother Lee and his best friend, Dayton; and of the dynamic attraction that drew her to Elgin Taylor and brought her Rayona. Finally, we hear from Christine's mother, who has always insisted that her children call her "Aunt Ida", because she was not married when they were born and therefore isn't entitled to be called "Mother". As each section unfolds, we learn things that the previous narrator did not tell us, because she did not KNOW. Secrets are at the heart of each woman's life; sometimes they are revealed to the characters, but more often only we, as readers are let in on all the truths, all the motivations, all the heartbreaks. This is an incredible novel, and I highly recommend it.

I think I will read Dorris's Cloud Chamber before too long, as it tells the story of Elgin Taylor's family, forward and backward.

Jan 16, 7:51pm

>69 laytonwoman3rd: - That does sound good, Linda. I'll look for it at the library. I read Dorris and Erdrich's collaboration - The Crown of Columbus - when I was in high school. Don't remember much about it.

I believe Erdrich's Shadow Tag is based, in part, on her acrimonious split from Dorris. Have you read that one? I have it on my shelf but it hasn't called to me yet.

Jan 16, 9:39pm

I'm not sure I want to read Shadow Tag, knowing it's so closely based on the grim reality, Katie. A very sad situation in so many ways. I still have a lot of Erdrich's novels to read, and this made me itchy to get back into her world. I'm a real pushover for generational fiction like this.

Jan 16, 10:06pm

>69 laytonwoman3rd: That sounds like a book I would enjoy. My local public library has it so I've added it to my wishlist. No telling when I'll actually get around to reading it, though.

Jan 16, 10:09pm

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water sounds interesting. I'll try to get this from the library.

Jan 18, 11:30am

I didn't think Shadow Tag was one of her stronger books. And Erdrich says it's not based on her marriage. :)

Jan 18, 12:03pm

Hi Linda3rd. Wandering through. Poor Michael Dorris, such a terrible ending.

Jan 18, 12:18pm

>72 cbl_tn:, >73 Whisper1: A definite 4 star read. I will say I thought the end of the last section was a bit abrupt (well, they all were, but as the first two were followed by more story, I didn't object), and if not for that I might have given it 5 stars.

>74 BLBera: So, another tick in the "No" column for that one. I'm not sure Erdrich has been completely open publicly about her marriage, and Dorris's behavior. Not that I can blame her---but the less said, the better, sometimes. And whether that book is or isn't based on their life, it sounds a bit too grim for me, at least right now.

>75 richardderus: Yes, he really did self-destruct.

Jan 18, 4:35pm

Count me as one more interested in Erdrich's novels than in Shadow Tag. That sounds like a difficult read.

Jan 18, 5:37pm

>77 lauralkeet: Shadow Tag is a novel too, but from what I know of it and the Erdrich/Dorris family history, I have a feeling it was a therapeutic writing experience that might have been better not shared with Erdrich's loyal readers.

Jan 18, 9:06pm

>78 laytonwoman3rd: Oh I see, I thought it was a memoir. Still ... you've convinced me to take a pass on it.

Jan 18, 10:23pm

>69 laytonwoman3rd: You sold it!

Jan 18, 10:35pm

I did enjoy The Round House, Linda, but I think that Erdrich is not the easiest of reads generally but a rewarding one usually.

Jan 19, 9:39am

>69 laytonwoman3rd: This sounds good, Linda. Adding it to The List.

>70 katiekrug: Katie, I read Shadow Tag in one sitting. It just pulled me in and would not let me go. It's actually the only Erdrich I have ever read.

Jan 19, 3:36pm

>79 lauralkeet:, >80 justchris:, >82 Crazymamie: So, am I officially an "influencer" now?

>81 PaulCranswick: I have loved every Erdrich novel I've read, Paul. Yes, some of them are "difficult" in almost the way Faulkner can be difficult, but they are rewarding indeed. I look forward to the ones I haven't yet read.

Edited: Jan 21, 9:38pm

4. The Murderous McLaughlins by Jack Dunphy For the AAC

A forgettable sort of story told by an 8-year-old narrator with no name we ever learn, about a dysfunctional and fairly uninteresting Irish immigrant family in New York City long ago...very early 20th century, I would guess. Some incidents are mildly amusing, or touching; occasionally the child's perspective on adult behavior is engaging, but mostly I found this book just sad and pointless.

Jan 22, 8:18am

>84 laytonwoman3rd: Oh, yoicks. That's a nope for me, I think.

Jan 22, 10:15am

>85 scaifea: I recommend you pass. Not that easy to find anyway, probably.

Edited: Jan 22, 11:09am

>86 laytonwoman3rd: Just out of stubbornness curiosity, I looked and my library system has it. I will not be requesting it, though.

Jan 22, 2:04pm

>87 scaifea: Hmmm....our library system doesn't have it. And I was willing to send my copy to you, if you were stubborn curious enough to want to try it.

Jan 22, 2:25pm

>88 laytonwoman3rd: That's very kind of you, but I'll let you pass it on to someone more...worthy.

I'm happily impressed with my library system. There are very few books I've wanted that I couldn't find, and sometimes that's saying something. And the few times they system itself hasn't had a copy, I've been able to ILL request them, which is unlimited and free here.

Jan 22, 2:34pm

>89 scaifea: *psst* dodged that bullet

Happy weekend's reads, Linda3rd! They won't be Dunphyesque, at least.

Jan 22, 5:13pm

>90 richardderus: Thanks, RD. I'm well into the latest Tana French, and loving it.
>89 scaifea: There is none more worthy than our Amber! But never fear, I won't be sending the book to you.

Jan 22, 7:57pm

>91 laytonwoman3rd: Aw, shucks. Thanks, Linda!

Jan 23, 5:03pm

Hi Linda my dear, hope all is well with you and that you are having a good start to the weekend. Sending love and hugs dear friend.

Jan 25, 12:53pm

>84 laytonwoman3rd: Sad and pointless is not a great recommendation, Linda.

Jan 25, 1:04pm

>92 scaifea: Sholy.

>93 johnsimpson: Thank you, John. It's nice to see you.

>94 PaulCranswick: Nope. Right into the donation box it went.

Edited: Jan 25, 3:36pm

5. The Searcher by Tana French Another great enveloping read from Tana French. Her last book, The Wych Elm, felt a little bloated to me, and I had a few quibbles with it. But this time, she had me in her grip the entire time.

Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago police officer who has lost faith in the job and possibly in himself, and whose marriage has dissolved for reasons he doesn't feel he completely understands, has gone off to the Irish hills to regroup by buying a fixer-upper cottage. He hopes to find peace in a simpler life where few decisions involve life or death, and where his inclination to fix what's wrong can be satisfied by addressing physical objects like broken furniture and walls that need paint. Naturally, the universe isn't in full cooperation with this plan. When a neglected teenager starts hanging around, it soon becomes clear that Cal simply cannot turn away from a situation where his talents and experience might be all this kid has to count on. Suspense maintained at a proper level, occasional surprises that work without feeling contrived, and a heck of a good story with lots of wicked Irish humor.

Jan 25, 1:24pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: Thanks for this review! I was curious about it but on the fence about reading it.

Jan 25, 1:28pm

>97 cbl_tn: I was a bit on the fence about it myself, Carrie, but my daughter gave it to me as a gift, and it turned out to be exactly the sort of read I love.

Jan 25, 1:28pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: - I bought this to give to my aunt for Christmas, but then decided on something I felt she'd like more. So now I have it to read myself :)

Jan 25, 1:37pm

>99 katiekrug: I'm not going to question any part of that post.

Jan 25, 1:38pm



I have no idea what you mean.


Jan 25, 2:15pm

*nudge nudge* *wink wink* OK.

Jan 25, 3:15pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: You do make it sound quite tempting!

>102 laytonwoman3rd: "To make a friend, close one eye; to keep your friend, close both."

Jan 25, 3:44pm

>103 richardderus: Mmmhmmmm...

Jan 25, 6:10pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: Suspense maintained at a proper level, occasional surprises that work without feeling contrived, and a heck of a good story with lots of wicked Irish humor.

Yes, that's it exactly. I really liked The Searcher and it was great to see French back on form. My favorite "surprise that worked without feeling contrived" was the kid's gender. I totally DID NOT see that coming!

Jan 25, 7:52pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: I just finished The Searcher myself, and loved it as well. I knew we liked a lot of the same things. So not surprising.

Jan 25, 8:57pm

>105 lauralkeet: Yes, to all that. I believe there was a slight hint, looking back, that we ought to have picked up and wondered about...

>106 NanaCC: French has been a favorite since I read her first Dublin Murder Squad novel...I was a bit concerned after The Wych Elm, but as Laura said, she's right back at the top of my list now.

Jan 25, 9:11pm

>107 laytonwoman3rd: hmmm, I missed that hint and it was a library book so I can't go back and look now! Wanna share this tidbit behind a spoiler tag?

Jan 26, 8:44am

>96 laytonwoman3rd: I was so disappointed in The Witch Elm that I wasn't sure I wanted to read another Tana French, but your review makes me think I'll be adding it to my TBR list.

Jan 26, 10:36am

>109 thornton37814: I had the same feeling, Julie. I highly recommend putting The Wych Elm right out of your mind....this one is nothing like it.

Edited: Jan 26, 10:37am

>108 lauralkeet: I will, Laura, as soon as I go back myself and find the reference that's tickling my brain!

Jan 26, 9:31pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: Sounds lovely!

Jan 27, 11:55am

>112 justchris: Indeed.

>108 lauralkeet:, >111 laytonwoman3rd: Well, apparently there wasn't a clue...there were a couple scenes where I thought I might have missed something, but as I re-read them, I didn't find the hint I thought might be there. Several times early on in the novel someone mentioned Sheila's many, names, etc. Cal asked Trey about "his" siblings, their ages, where they were, etc. I thought the math might not have worked out as far as how many boys and how many girls, but it was never addressed quite that specifically. So not only did French fool us about Trey's gender, she fooled me into thinking I'd missed something! Only brilliant.

Jan 27, 12:17pm

>113 laytonwoman3rd: Re: spoilery comment, that's very interesting. I, too, thought she did a great job with this aspect of the novel. There were no obvious clues like use of neutral pronouns. I'm still marveling over how she did it.

Jan 27, 12:51pm

>96 laytonwoman3rd: The Searcher by Tana French sound like a book I would like. I'll see if my local library has this one.

Edited: Jan 27, 1:05pm

>114 lauralkeet: It helped that we never saw Trey interact with anyone other than Cal, and Cal didn't mention Trey to any of the people who would have known her.

>115 Whisper1: I hope you can get it from the library, Linda. It's a great read to escape into.

Jan 27, 3:16pm

Jan 29, 4:52pm

Oh, Ethan Canin! What a weird, abruptly abandoned career he had. Teaches writing now, at least I think so.

Interesting resurrection.

Jan 29, 5:06pm

>119 richardderus: His last novel was published in 2016, Richard. He's been teaching writing since 1998. I don't get the impression he's through writing. Or did you mean his medical career?

Jan 29, 5:21pm

His medical career was the specific one I meant, yes. Quite the pivot!

Edited: Jan 31, 11:16am

6. Cloud Chamber by Michael Dorris For the AAC (All in the Family).

Another fine multi-generational, multi-cultural, multiple viewpoint saga from Michael Dorris. This one takes us back to Ireland to meet the formidable Rose Mannion, the matriarch of an immigrant line whose descendants eventually include a Black man who marries a Native American woman and produces Rayona, a young woman who is now one of my favorite female characters of all time. We met Rayona's mother, father and grandmother in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Now we learn of the complex lives and relationships of several amazing, if not always admirable, women on her father's side, both black and white. Totally absorbing, superbly crafted, unpredictable and unforgettable.

Jan 30, 10:00pm

>122 laytonwoman3rd: Sold! Sounds like a great book.

Jan 30, 11:07pm

I'm definitely going to have to read some Michael Dorris now.

Jan 31, 8:08am

Hi Linda! I just created a thread for February's group read of Toni Morrison's Paradise.

Are you still thinking about joining us? I hope so! And I hope some others will too!

Jan 31, 11:15am

>123 justchris:, >124 katiekrug: I can't say enough good things about these two novels. I don't think I did justice to Cloud Chamber. I do recommend reading A Yellow Raft in Blue Water first, because the common characters will be much more alive for you in Cloud Chamber if you do.

>125 lauralkeet: I've starred the thread, Laura. Thanks so much for setting it up, and letting me know. I definitely hope to start reading Paradise for the second time around the middle of February.

Jan 31, 12:34pm

Hi Linda3rd!

That's it, that's the post.

Feb 2, 11:36am

Hoo boy, way too much has happened since last I visited. I read A Yellow Raft in Blue Water eons ago, so long ago that I don't remember it. I do remember loving it, so there is that. I would probably want to read it again before digging into Cloud Chamber. Another post-retirement project! Yay!

Feb 2, 12:25pm

>127 richardderus: *waves*

>128 EBT1002: The two go together so well, that I would definitely say re-read Yellow Raft before getting to Cloud Chamber, Ellen.

Edited: Feb 5, 2:46pm

7. Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig This is the story of two friends from Nethermuir, Scotland, who decided to take a chance on a new life in America in 1889. Rob Barclay was the most enthusiastic, and he had a prosperous relative already established in Montana who sent money home every Christmas---surely he'd be able to give two eager young men a grand start. Angus McCaskill was slightly more cautious, but ultimately took the plunge into steerage along with Rob. Their adventures with homesteading, sheep ranching, schoolrooms and matrimony make marvelous reading, as usual with Doig. This one I found a little more heart-wrenching than others of his; there is sadness, loss, bitterness and regret along with loyalty, duty, dancing and love at work here, and its realism is remarkable. I substracted a star for the fact that I could see several plot developments coming in the last third of the book, and then put half of it back because it was all done so darned well, and because when all was said and done, our Angus realized what was critically important to him and clung to it..

Feb 5, 10:17pm

>130 laytonwoman3rd: This one sounds interesting, Linda. I will add it to my list.

Feb 6, 10:19am

It "goes with" Doig's related novels English Creek and Ride With Me, Mariah Montana, Colleen. They are listed as a series, but I don't think any one of them depends on having read the others. I read English Creek first, and it features descendants of characters in Rascal Fair. I believe he actually wrote it first.

Feb 7, 12:50am

>130 laytonwoman3rd: Sounds lovely!

Feb 7, 10:20am

I really don't understand, Linda, why Ivan Doig's books are never available in Malaysia. I have read two of his books - I managed to snag Bucking the Sun when I was staying in Singapore and I ordered his debut novel on line. Can't get them for love nor money here.

Feb 7, 1:06pm

>133 justchris: It was, Chris.
>134 PaulCranswick: That's really a shame, Paul. He was a top notch story-teller.

Edited: Feb 13, 2:31pm

I do not like to do this with an AAC read, but after 190 pages, I am going to set aside (permanently, I imagine) A Doubter's Almanac. I feel a point has already been made (one I had known was coming, from listening to the author talk about it in a NPR interview), and can't imagine what could engage me about this totally unsympathetic character for another 350+ pages. I simply don't care what he's going to do with the rest of his life.

Feb 8, 11:56am

I just read the synopsis of that one. Nope from me!

I think you'd like Emperor of the Air, if you have that available and want to read another Canin...

Feb 8, 3:24pm

>136 laytonwoman3rd: Well that is too bad. I'm sure you noted the review that includes: "If the book's first half is difficult to read, the reader like Milo's colleagues finding him too obnoxious to bear, the second half (for those who stick with it that long) makes the early anguish worthwhile, for Canin gives us some beautiful and inspiring prose."

However, I don't think I would want to read the book based on the various descriptions. I have a hard time in general with unsympathetic characters (and I don't mean unlikeable characters).

Feb 8, 3:44pm

>137 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie. I will keep that in mind for the future. I don't have it at hand right now.

>138 RBeffa: Well, drat you, Ron. See, now you almost make me feel even guiltier about the abandonment. I probably did read that review a while back, and it didn't stick with me. I grant that the man has a good grasp of sentencing, but for my money, he hasn't demonstrated that he knows the point of stringing them together. Milo Andret would have to learn an awful lot more about himself, and what to do with that knowledge, in order to make him interesting, never mind sympathetic. I can find beautiful prose in lots of places, and after savoring what Ivan Doig can do with it in my last read, I'm not willing to "settle" right now.

Edited: Feb 8, 4:23pm

The older I get Linda the less tolerance I have for reading something that isn't working for me. When I was younger, if I started a book I would make myself finish it. And truthfully, I did not often regret it. It was probably influenced by reading things I had gotten good recommendations on. Nowadays I still don't like abandoning books but I think I have cut loose more books in the last 4 or 5 years than I had my entire life before that. That is partly because I try more things outside my comfort zone (and I also secretly think there are a lot more books in need of a good editor to kick a story into shape).

ETA: In my limited experience reading Ethan Canin his characters aren't really likeable but he does very well with the construction of the story.

Edited: Feb 11, 5:30pm

>140 RBeffa: I agree about the editing. I also think that after reading so many books in my lifetime, it takes a bit more to engage and impress me than it used to. Unlikeable characters can be very interesting....this one just wasn't. At least for me.

Edited: Feb 22, 10:14pm

8. Paradise by Toni Morrison I participated in a group read of this multi-layered novel in February. It was a re-read for me, and still difficult. There has been great discussion ongoing on this thread. Not sure if I will manage an actual review, or not. I did review it in 2011, when I read it for the first (or maybe the second) time. Old notebooks tell me I first read it in 1998, shortly after it was published. I have no record of my reaction to it at that time, nor did I recall reading it before when I picked it up as part of the Orange Prize challenge in 2011.

Feb 22, 10:16pm

9. Whispering Death by Garry Disher Love these Hal Challis investigations, set in the Mornington Peninsula of Australia. They are police procedurals, but not formulaic. Always full of interesting characters, crimes and surprises. Sadly, at the moment there is only one more available, but Disher has written a lot of other things, which I will be seeking out.

Feb 23, 7:22am

>142 laytonwoman3rd: I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't recall a thing about first reads of Toni Morrison novels. Like you, my first reading of Paradise would have been around the time of publication, and this time around it was like reading it for the first time.

Feb 23, 9:59am

>144 lauralkeet: I was so startled, shortly after I read Paradise in 2011, to find it listed in my old reading notebook from 1998. Back then I didn't write down anything but title and comments whatsoever. I read Beloved first around that time as well, and that I remember...I wonder if I sort of conflated the two in my mind after so many years.

Feb 28, 12:30pm

10. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths An excellent entry in the Ruth Galloway series. As the sea relentlessly erodes the coastline of Broughton Sea's End, it uncovers an old secret that seems to be spawning new murders. Ruth juggles the responsibilities of single motherhood, her university teaching obligations, and her consulting duties as a forensic archaeologist attached to the Serious Crimes Unit of the Norfolk police department. Some interesting history, and not a few red herrings in this one.

Feb 28, 12:31pm

And, it will soon be March. Here's the AAC thread for Roxane Gay.

Mar 2, 11:31am

Dancing at the Rascal Fair is another that I read eons ago and loved. I remember it much more clearly than I do Yellow Raft. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was my introduction to Ivan Doig and for a while I would have said he was a favorite author. I've sort of "lost touch" with him.

Mar 2, 11:36am

>148 EBT1002: I love Ivan Doig's storytelling. I've read a lot of his work, but still have a few on my TBR shelf.

Mar 4, 12:16pm

11. R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton Kinsey is engaged to pick up a young woman who is being released from prison, and return her home to her ailing father. After the lengthy car ride with her charge, she becomes "involved" with the situation far beyond the obligations of her employment, as is her wont. In this case, I got very impatient with Kinsey for not putting on the brakes, any number of times, before putting herself in legal, moral and physical jeopardy. Her reasons just weren't good enough for me. But the ending was twisty and satisfying, Kinsey's love life is in a good place, while her "elderly" hot octogenarian landlord Henry's is complicated by his interfering siblings. An absorbing read, despite the quibbles.

Edited: Mar 4, 12:28pm

12. Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall Badgered into reading this one by lycomayflower, but it also qualified for the February LGBTQ BAC challenge. A romance novella about an angsty young conservator at the Bodleian library struggling to get over a breakup, while flood waters are rising in his Oxford neighborhood. Well written, two fine characters (other than the narrator, whom I didn't love), a bit of humor, with the requisite happy ending. Nifty, but probably totally un-followable recipe for elderflower wine at the back. Not my favorite sort of fluff, but worth 3 stars.

Mar 4, 12:32pm

13. Sing Sing Prison by Guy Cheli An entry in the "Images of America" series, this is a mainly photographic history of American's most famous prison. Brief text segments discuss the reforms, renovations, construction projects, recreation and industry of the facility. Purchased this one mainly as a family history document---one of my father's much older cousins was Warden at Sing Sing from 1944 through 1950, and his name appears on a list of wardens contained in the back of this volume.

Mar 6, 5:44am

>152 laytonwoman3rd: That is fascinating, Linda.

Mar 6, 1:23pm

>152 laytonwoman3rd: How interesting! I need to get the one on Eastern State Penitentiary since I have ancestors associated with it. My people weren't guards, though...

Mar 6, 1:34pm

>154 cbl_tn: I making the correct assumption that they My dad's cousin's obituary makes mention of the fact that he supervised 56 executions during his six year term. I don't take a lot of pride in that.

Mar 6, 1:39pm

Hi, Linda. Good review of Dancing at the Rascal Fair. I liked that one of his, too.

I love that Ruth Galloway series, and can't wait for the new one to come out in June. Right now I'm reading her second Harbinder Kaur one, The Postscript Murders, and liking it.

Mar 6, 5:01pm

>155 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, my gg-grandfather and one of his brothers-in-law enjoyed the hospitality of the state for a while. His prison intake record is the only evidence I have for the approximate date of his mother's death.

Mar 7, 9:50pm

>156 jnwelch: I have a lot of Elly Griffiths still to go, and I'm looking forward to it.

>157 cbl_tn: It's amazing where the research takes us, and where we find tidbits of information hiding.

Mar 7, 10:02pm

14. Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley In this (No. 10) entry in the Easy Rawlins series, our man is a mess...he has lost his job, as well as the love of his life, and he's foundering. He has a house full of dependents, including his two adopted children, one of their significant others, and a tiny new grandchild, not to mention a surprise addition---the young daughter of a recent acquaintance who has been "dropped off" by her father without warning or explanation. Both the child's father and Easy's life-long friend Ray (a/k/a Mouse) are missing, and a lot of people want to know where they have gone. The police suspect Mouse of killing another man whose whereabouts are also unknown, but neither Mouse's loyal Etta Mae nor the other man's wife believe that to be true. Easy's in the search, going at it from so many directions my head was spinning, and his emotional state is causing him considerable disorientation as well. Gotta say this is not my favorite of the series; I don't like where Easy finds himself, and it felt like Mosley wasn't too sure about his direction either. He also left us hanging very uncomfortably on the last page. I'm not a fan of that technique in series fiction. I have the next two books on my shelf, so I'll continue, but I have a feeling this series may be losing its grip on me.

Mar 8, 9:37am

I love Elly Griffiths, Linda. I’m glad that you finally got around to this series. And now you’ve prompted me to get back to Easy Rawlins. I’ve only read the first, and enjoyed it. Book availability might be to blame. I think I listened to the first.

Mar 9, 11:45am

>159 laytonwoman3rd: I have a way to go in this series, Linda. I just read the first one and was impressed. Is the series still going on?

Edited: Mar 9, 12:18pm

>161 BLBera: I think the last Easy novel was around five years ago, Beth. There are 3 more after Blonde Faith. Mosley is definitely still writing. He seems to be more occupied with his Leonid McGill series the last few years.

>160 NanaCC: I am really enjoying Ruth Galloway, Colleen. I'm glad I got around to it too!

Mar 14, 6:30pm

15. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay This collection of short fiction demonstrates Roxane Gay's brilliance over and over again. Her women are "difficult" in various ways--some difficult to be with, some difficult for the reader to understand, many just difficult to forget. As with any collection, I liked some of the stories better than others. Most were enjoyable to read even when I thought they ended abruptly, or on a bewildering note. Some were almost too good. One in particular gave me such bad vibes that I knew I did not want to go on with it...did not want to learn what awful thing had happened to the narrator before we met her. I read a couple more stories after that one, but ultimately decided I had spent enough time in this company after reading approximately 3/4 of the book. No doubt Gay's intention was often to make the reader uncomfortable. She's very good at it. I exercised my prerogative to leave before things got too dreadful, an option some of her difficult women also found necessary.

Mar 15, 7:38am

>163 laytonwoman3rd: That sounds like a powerful book, Linda, but one I would have to be "ready" to read. I'll keep it in mind.

Mar 15, 8:59am

>163 laytonwoman3rd: - Once I'm finished with it, I want to circle back and find out which story affected you so strongly.

Edited: Mar 15, 10:36am

>164 lauralkeet: It is extremely powerful, Laura. If it were not a library copy, I would have spread the reading out more, and probably would have finished all the stories eventually. I may return to it one day. I never find it works well for me to read straight through a book of short fiction, unless the stories are connected in some way...these are thematically similar, but there is no chronology and no common characters.

>165 katiekrug: I'll be happy to tell you which one it was when you're ready, Katie.
ETA: Actually, since I'm returning the book today, I'll just put the title here Break All the Way Down under a cut for you to come back to.

Mar 15, 10:52am

>166 laytonwoman3rd: You make a good point about the difficulty of reading short fiction straight through. I've had the same experience. Were you able to spread it out somewhat, but it just wasn't enough? Or did you end up having to read it all at once?

Mar 15, 10:57am

>167 lauralkeet: I did space the stories out, Laura. I never read more than two in one sitting. In this case, I think the "difficulty" of the experience of reading them was a bit much to fit into a two-week period, for me. Others may not have that issue.

Mar 15, 11:05am

I started Difficult Women on 1 March and I still have about 1/3 of it still to go. I think it demands spacing out the stories.

>166 laytonwoman3rd: - I couldn't resist and peaked at the spoiler. I had already read that one, and yes, it was among the tougher ones...

Mar 19, 3:37pm

I’m way behind on threads this year. Just getting to yours, Linda. I have a good stepfather in my family line. My paternal grandfather married a woman with 4 children who liked him better than their own father. My grandfather had 3 children of his own with his wife.

Edited: Mar 19, 10:08pm

>170 Familyhistorian: Grand to hear about a lovable step-parent!

Mar 19, 10:55pm

I most often spread out the stories in a collection too unless they are really hitting the spot.

Mar 22, 1:08pm

>172 PaulCranswick: That's what works best for me, Paul. And I just don't read a lot of short stories, although I have a rather long shelf full of collections.

Mar 22, 3:36pm

16. The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall Read this for the British Author Challenge; February's theme was LGBTQ+ works, and I've had this classic, ground-breaking novel on my shelves for many years. I have things to say about it, but they need to be corralled. We'll see if that happens.

Mar 22, 3:43pm

Lovable stepparents: I had two stepmothers I liked better than either of my genetic parents. Maybe three, depending on how we're counting.

>174 laytonwoman3rd: Poor Stephen.

Mar 22, 4:29pm

17. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson The fictional story of Cussy Mary Carter, one of the "blue people" of Kentucky, and also one of the tough, resourceful women who rode horses and mules into the hills and hollers of rugged mining country to deliver books, magazines, newspapers and government pamphlets to isolated hill folk through FDR's WPA program, The Pack Horse Library Project. Unfortunately, the author has taken what I consider too much liberty with the time frame (a license she openly admits to in the Author's note at the end) and some of the facts associated with research into the causes and potential cures for congenital methemoglobinemia, a condition that imparts a blue hue to the bodies of its victims. The Pack Horse Library Project ended in 1943, and the relevant events of this novel do not extend past 1936. Published research and proven treatments for the condition were not available until the early 1960s, yet the author has a local doctor in the novel pestering Mary's family for years to allow him to take blood and skin samples, and then more or less blackmailing her father into agreeing to make her a test subject against her will, ultimately offering her a "cure", based on his reading of that research, that temporarily took away the blue but not the social taint of being "colored". I think this element of the story was unnecessary and distracting. Mary's experiences as a Pack Horse librarian, and her personal struggle with the ostracism of being blue were material enough for a better story than this one turned out to be. Maybe if I hadn't known that it was historically inaccurate I'd have liked it more, but I can think of so many Appalachian writers who might have made me love it.

Edited: Mar 23, 10:56am

18. catalog of unabashed gratitude by Ross Gay An incredible collection of affirmative, celebratory poetry that has spent a couple months on my nightstand, and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. This is pure and glorious stuff, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Stream of consciousness at its image blends into another, and sometimes one collides with another, and sometimes you feel like you're racing after the poet breathlessly trying to catch up...but it's all simply beautiful. Thank YOU, Ross Gay.

Edited: Mar 23, 10:53am

>175 richardderus: I have no personal experience with step-parents, but there have been a LOT of them in my family. My grandmothers both were stepmothers, although only one of them raised another woman's child; my dad had a miserable step-father, whom I knew and disliked, but did not fear; three cousins in one family group all managed to marry men with children, and eventually became adored "grandparents" to those children's offspring. Naturally it's terribly unfair to make assumptions about how such relationships will play out.

As for Stephen Gordon, well...sure. And yet...
stay tuned. I may eventually explicate.

Mar 22, 5:49pm

>177 laytonwoman3rd: - I recently heard a wonderful interview with Ross Gay about this book. If you are interested, I could try to find the link for it.

Edited: Mar 23, 10:52am

I have a few links to explore, Shelley. It's probably one of them. Thanks. I have listened to him reading some of his poetry, and an "essayette" that may have made it into his collection The Book of Delights, which I also have on hand.

Mar 22, 8:39pm

Just in case this isn't one of them (it's from our CBC radio program, Tapestry), here it is. Originally broadcast in 2019, I listened to it again a couple of weeks ago:

Mar 22, 8:58pm

>181 jessibud2: Oh, that is different...I'm sure I didn't come across that one. Thanks for hunting it down!

Edited: Mar 30, 1:49pm

19. Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew I came across this novel while re-arranging books onto new shelves, and since it looked like a fast engaging read, I dove in. It was an engaging read, though not always easy, as the setting is North Carolina and Florida in the 1950s as desegregation is about to become the law. It's the story of one long summer when 13-year-old June (Jubie) Watts traveled from home in Charlotte, NC, to her uncle's home on the beach in Pensacola, FL, for vacation with her mother, her three siblings, and their black maid, Mary. Something is wrong between Jubie's parents, and we gradually learn along with Jubie, what that is. We learn a few other unpleasant things about her father, and the ugliness of race relations in the American South is not glossed over. This was billed as a "must-read for fans of The Help", and I would agree, but maybe not for the reasons the blurber intended. I think the portrayal of the situation in the upper middle class world is more realistic and less stereotypical here, and the novel is basically free of certain elements that made The Help problematic. Not great literature, but pretty good story-telling.

Mar 30, 1:53pm

20. The Beginner's Good-bye by Anne Tyler A cozy sort of read about a man (a rather bewildered man, as is often the case with Tyler) learning to cope with his wife's death. Tyler understands ordinary people and their feelings so well, and portrays them with so little drama that some readers find her boring. I get that, but for me, reader her books is almost always like slipping into comfortable shoes and taking a leisurely walk through familiar grounds. So if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.

Edited: Mar 30, 9:23pm

21. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths This is a very good entry in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is called to examine a "collection" of likely aboriginal bones to determine whether they are in fact human, as well as the recently exhumed skeleton of a centuries-dead bishop whose coffin turned up in an excavation. All are in the possession of the wealthy Smith family, whose ancestor was responsible for bringing the human relics from Australia generations ago, and who can claim the bishop as family. Nothing is easy, naturally. The skeleton turns out to be full of surprises, and an activist group is determined that the Australian remains be repatriated so that the Old Ones can be at peace. Ruth's Druid friend Cathbad is in the midst of everything as usual. Nelson's wife has issued an ultimatum, and he's not making any progress with an investigation into a drug ring operating on his turf. People associated with those bones are mysteriously dying, and the horses in the Smith's prestigious racing stables seem to be suffering an inordinate amount of colic. It's nonsense, really, but there is that story about the bishop putting a curse on anyone who would ever disturb his remains by opening his coffin...

Mar 31, 10:09am

>185 laytonwoman3rd: It’s funny how even though so much of the things that happen in these stories are nonsense, I really enjoy them. I think Ruth would be a good friend.

Mar 31, 10:44am

>184 laytonwoman3rd: Hmmm. I can relate to the main character's bewilderment. I have read four of Tyler's novels, and have seven others (!!) in the TBR Black Hole. Perhaps I should get a copy of this one.

Mar 31, 11:45am

>186 NanaCC: I agree, Colleen! I love the Ruth Galloway books.

Apr 1, 4:34pm

>186 NanaCC: >188 lauralkeet: I agree, too.. She's a character I'd love to meet.

>187 weird_O: Or just read some of the ones you have on hand?

Apr 1, 4:35pm

As Bill has already discovered, The April thread for the 2021 AAC is up and open. And it's hoppin' already, so pick up your fiddle or your harmonica, and join the fun.

Apr 1, 11:57pm

>184 laytonwoman3rd: >187 weird_O: >189 laytonwoman3rd: Reading any of my unread Tyler novels wouldn't serve the purpose the way The Beginner's Goodbye would. You said it was a [a] cozy sort of read about a man (a rather bewildered man, as is often the case with Tyler) learning to cope with his wife's death. That's me! A bewildered man learning to cope with his wife's death.

Apr 2, 10:27am

>191 weird_O: I don't know that it would help you, Bill...but that's for you to say, naturally. I often find stories that come too close to reality are not helpful for me.

Apr 2, 6:23pm

22. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin Something of a hoot, if you remember the 1970s, more especially, I suppose, if you lived through them in San Francisco after Vietnam and before AIDS. The variously misguided tenants of Anna Madrigal's house on Barbary Lane wrestle with their identities, their need for love, and the quest for life's meaning, sometimes with calamitous results. Alternately hysterical and heart-wrenching, but Maupin never lets the reader dwell too long on any one heartbreak or tragedy. On the other hand, he isn't inclined to give his characters a true break very often either. Entertaining, in a disjointed, this-was-written-in-pieces sort of way. Maupin has admitted that he never knew from one installment to the next where the story was going. Like life, of course.

Apr 2, 7:00pm

>193 laytonwoman3rd: I read some of this as it was published as a serial column in the San Francisco Chronicle since I lived in and around the City at the time. Since it was so unique it held my interest for a time, but not long. I never has the urge to followup for the whole story.

Apr 2, 8:41pm

>194 RBeffa: The thing is, there is no "whole story", really. I mean, there are eight more volumes in the series, so it just goes on and on...I may eventually read some more of these tales, but I have no burning desire to know where everyone ends up. I do hope some of the characters manage to figure out what they want from life, though.

Edited: Apr 2, 9:29pm

>195 laytonwoman3rd:, Funny, that is kind of my vague memory of it. Felt kind of like "Days of Our Lives' in a newspaper serial. You could miss episodes and drop back in. I had no idea there were 8 volumes!

eta: Here's a facebook pic of myself and a friend circa 1975 in SF during the time of the "Tales of the City" (I'm the bearded one) Post high school and college we were all trying to figure out life.

Apr 3, 8:49am

I'd have a drink with Ruth Galloway. :)

Apr 3, 9:17am

Hi Linda3rd! Oh my, Brian and Mary-Ann and Michael and Mrs. Madrigal and DeeDee and Mona ("crotch, crotch, crotch, crotch..."). There are so many good memories of that series for me! But would I re-read them? I don't think to recapture the stunning sensation of Discovery....

Apr 3, 10:53am

>196 RBeffa: Yes, soap opera is a great characterization. Potato chips come to mind as well...actually I think some blurber compared the books to a bowl of pistachios. And that photo!! Classic. Your friend reminds me very much of a guy from my college days, whose real name I forget...but we called him "Puppy Dog". Ah, the '70s.

>197 BLBera: Oh yes.

>198 richardderus: I do love the mysterious Mrs. Madrigal. But I just want to shake DeDe and Mona.

Apr 7, 5:18pm

>193 laytonwoman3rd: & >194 RBeffa: Piqued my interest to go and take it off the shelves.

Apr 8, 11:41am

>176 laytonwoman3rd: I really appreciate your comments about Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Linda. I loved the book and I was much more ignorant about the relevant history than you. Sort of validates your thinking that it's a more enjoyable book without the knowledge base, but generally that makes me unhappy about the work. I would prefer that one's enjoyment of a novel is enhanced by knowledge about the relevant time and place, rather than the other way around.

>193 laytonwoman3rd: I first read this series back when it was new. My memory is lying on the couch of my grad school apartment, reading through without stopping. Yet another example of pleasure reading stalling my dissertation progress.... :-) I'm glad you're enjoying it. I think it's a wonderful series.

Apr 8, 12:15pm

>201 EBT1002: I know writers of historical fiction often take liberties with the facts, and I'm sure a lot of the novels I read and enjoyed in high school and college would now make me grit my teeth. I don't feel a bit guilty about loving the experience back in the day, though. Sometimes I wish I could read like that again.

I think Tales of the City would make a wonderful distraction from work of any kind. It's grand to have that kind of escape.

Apr 8, 1:27pm

Like it says below, I've started a new thread. Y'all come.