Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2017 Reading - Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2017 Reading - Part 2.
This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2017 Reading - Part 4.
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A mural in Fishtown, the Philadelphia neighborhood we are moving to
2017 is my 9th year in the 75 Books Challenge. I started out as a highly structured reader, organizing my life around resolutions, challenges, and monthly reading plans. After a while, it all got to be a bit much and I’ve been happier with the “read what I want, when I want” approach, joining the occasional group or theme read when it strikes my fancy. That said, there are a few things I’m planning for 2017:
- Monthly author reads in the Virago Modern Classics group
- Continuing the Virago Chronological Read project, to read VMCs in order of original publication date
- Making progress on my active series, and no doubt starting some new ones :)
- Outside of LT, participating in the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club, which reads primarily contemporary fiction
- Knitting! This is one of my other major hobbies, and I have a thread in the Needlearts group for anyone interested
My 2017 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-14) | Part 2 (books 15-35)
Books completed ("details" jumps to my comments on this thread)
36. Breakfast with the Nikolides - details
37. A Rule Against Murder - details
38. Visitors - details
39. The Devil in the White City - details
40. Maisie Dobbs - details
41. The Almost Sisters - details
42. I See You - details
43. Cat's Eye - details
44. Growing Up - details
45. The Lay of the Land - details
46. The Brutal Telling - details
47. Bad Intentions - details
48. The Pelicans - details
49. Truth and Beauty - details
50. Agnes Grey - details
51. How to Read Literature Like a Professor - details
52. A Little Love, a Little Learning - details
53. Bury Your Dead - details
54. Autobiography of a Face - details
55. Cleopatra's Sister - details
56. Young Jane Young - details
57. Sing, Unburied, Sing - details
Active series as of July 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 2017:
* The Palliser Novels, by Anthony Trollope (March)
* The Frank Bascombe Trilogy, by Richard Ford (August)
Series started in 2017:
* The Frank Bascombe Trilogy, by Richard Ford
* Inspector Gamache, by Louise Penny
* Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
* Dr Siri
* Inspector Rebus
That's a great 'muriel' as a TV character here would have said! I predict your new neighbourhood is going to be filled with activity and fun Laura.
Happy New Thread, Laura! At least I can make it when it's new.
Happy Move!!! Looks like a creative place to say the least.
>3 lauralkeet: I love the muriel! It reminds me of the reaction we overheard when our downtown, brick-laid plaza opened: "This-here is the plasma..... Mine God! Look at them brickbats!"
Hello Amber, Caro, Katie, Peggy, Joe, Jim, & Lucy!! Thanks for stopping by my new digs. Hopefully I'll be able to feature more mural art too.
>1 lauralkeet: Interesting place name, Laura.
Happy move and very happy new thread. xx
>12 PaulCranswick: ha ha Paul! The neighborhood has its origins in early 1700s shipbuilding and fishing, hence the name.
Happy New Thread, Laura. Happy 4th! I hope you have a lovely holiday with the family.
Hey Mark, happy 4th to you as well! No big plans here, it's just the two of us and the dogs. Maybe we will treat them to a long walk LOL. Enjoy your holiday!
36. Breakfast with the Nikolides ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: Rumer Godden is the Virago Group’s author for July.
Emily Pool, her mother Louise, and sister Binnie are recently arrived in India to join her father Charles. He has been working in India for several years; the family only decides to join him when war seizes Europe (hmm, what’s that about? why the separation? keep reading …) Emily and Binnie are fascinated by the Nikolides, the only other European family in town, and it’s a treat to be given an opportunity to visit them for the day. But while they are away something awful happens at home, which has a huge emotional impact on Emily. Louise glosses over the details of this event and fails to admit her own part in it. Things between Emily and Louise begin to unravel, and the nature of Louise & Charles’ relationship is also exposed. The family’s interactions with Indian nationals reveal their ignorance and arrogance, and this, too, has its consequences. This is a dark but compelling novel of emotions and relationships.
37. A Rule Against Murder ()
Source: On my kindle
Why I read this now: My summer reading mood seems to be gravitating toward lighter fare, like mysteries.
The fourth Inspector Gamache novel takes readers away from the village of Three Pines, to a luxurious countryside hotel where Gamache and his wife are celebrating their anniversary. A family reunion is also in progress, and as it happens Three Pines residents Clara and Peter Morrow are part of the reunion party. Of course, there’s a murder, and Gamache’s team arrives on the scene to investigate.
It was actually kind of nice to get away from Three Pines for a bit -- everything is so cute and perfect there, it’s great but sometimes too much. The investigations typically unfold in such a way that almost everyone is a suspect, and the murderer is identified only through Gamache’s unique attention to detail and ability to connect seemingly disconnected bits of evidence. This series is always fun to read, and I will keep going!
Happy New Thread, Linda! I skimmed through your last one -- you have been busy reading and writing reviews! One that jumped out at me was your 4.5-star rating of Just Mercy. I have that one on the TBR shelves and your review made me more excited to get to it. I wish I had to take more than just 1-2 weeks off when P has her surgery! :-)
Love the mural! Must investigate Fishtown, PA. Penny is perfect smmer reading.
>2 lauralkeet: Happy new thread!!! I really do have to look at FictFact for this series completion thing. It looks like fun. What's the timeline for the neighborhood change?
>23 lit_chick: Nancy, you are so right about Penny. I have one more of hers on my shelves calling my name and then I'll probably turn to my library, unless I happen to come across one in a used bookshop.
>24 Berly: Fictfact is handy, Kim. I find it a little easier than LT for tracking my progress.
We will be moving in the fall, I'm guessing early October? Settlement is tentatively scheduled for Sept 27 but since it's new construction, that could slip. We are looking forward to an urban, walkable lifestyle. At the moment my focus is on getting our current house ready for sale. For a variety of reasons we don't plan to put it on the market until we have moved out, but meanwhile we have 30+ years of stuff to sort through and figure out what comes with us, and what to do about the stuff that doesn't. It's time to jettison the junk that has moved from house to house, unused ... but really that's the easy part. There's a lot of "gray area" in this process.
Morning, Laura! Are you moving locally? Good luck with all the preparations. Lots of work.
"We are looking forward to an urban, walkable lifestyle." There is much to be said for it!
38. Visitors ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I’m waiting on some library books, and have turned to my TBR shelf to fill the gap.
Dorothea May, a 70-year-old widow, lives alone in her London flat and is totally fine with that. Her day is filled with the small things in life: going out to get a newspaper or shop for her dinner, or enjoying a cup of tea in her garden. Her sisters-in-law, Kitty and Molly, check on her through obligatory Sunday phone calls, polite exchanges with little emotional connection. Then one day, Kitty asks Dorothea to take on a houseguest. Kitty’s granddaughter, Ann, has been living in the States but is coming to London with her fiancé, David, to get married. Their best man, Steve, will join them and needs a place to stay. Dorothea has little choice but to say yes. Steve is wandering aimlessly through life, with no job or prospects. Dorothea offers bed and breakfast, and even hires a car for his use, but never gets over her discomfort at having another person in her flat. Meanwhile, Kitty is throwing herself into planning a lavish celebration that Ann and David don’t really want, and tensions run high. Over the course of the novel, Dorothea’s relationship with Kitty and the family moves from distant in-law to trusted confidante, and Dorothea begins to envision something different for herself as well.
Anita Brookner began writing fiction in her 50s, and this novel was published when she was about 70, the same age as her heroine. I can’t help but think she was using this book to work through her own conflicted feelings about aging and independence. The narrative was a bit repetitive in spots, but I found Dorothea likeable and admirable, and enjoyed her story.
Happy New thread Laura!
From your last thread, Family Album by Lively sounded very interesting and reminded me that I have a couple of Lively's less well known books in my TBR.
>16 lauralkeet: And Breakfast with the Nikolides also sounds very good. I have that one too.
And good luck on the move and the sorting. Almost four years after our last move we are finally sorting through some of the stuff we failed to sort before that move. It's only really happening now Dan's not really working and one of us has some time and energy!
>30 souloftherose: I'm glad to have hit you with a couple of "book bullets," Heather! I'm a big Penelope Lively fan and was very excited to find a couple of her novels in my favorite used bookshop earlier this year. Thanks for the well wishes on the move, too. I understand the "sorting we should have done earlier" problem, we have a bit of that going on too. Ack!
Philadelphia. I may be visiting there next March for a conference. :-)
I do love the walking and the wonderful things that city living provides. The down side is the noisiness of city living. Our neighborhood is blissfully quiet but when I'm out and about I am often struck by how much noise we humans create. Still, sitting in our back yard, you'd never know it. Lucky us.
>32 EBT1002: ooh! ooh! Please let me know if those plans firm up. I'd love to get together!!
Just here to speak, Laura. I'm glad that you have breathing time before your big move. I'm pretty sure it won't be enough (it seldom is), but I hope that you enjoy it. I'll sort of hate for you to leave your lovely place, but I do understand the call of the city.
>34 LizzieD: thanks for visiting, Peggy! There are many things to love about our current place, but the upkeep is not one of them. Especially our garden, which was a labor of love at one time but we just can't or don't want to keep up with it now. I'll be glad to have just a few container plants on the deck!
39. The Devil in the White City ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I was waiting on some library books, and also felt like I was in a bit of a rut and needed to change things up a bit.
I’d heard so many good things about this book here on LT, but for some reason never got around to actually reading it. I came across a copy in a used bookshop a couple of months ago, and decided it was meant to be. And what an amazing story it was. I kept having to remind myself it’s nonfiction. Erik Larson describes the process of planning, building, and operating the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and, in parallel, the disturbing rise of a serial killer who took advantage of young women who came to the city for the fair. You might think the parts about the fair would be boring, but you would be wrong. The scale and complexity was like nothing ever seen before, and of course the project was fraught with politics and unforeseen problems. The fair was also the proving ground for many innovations we take for granted today.
And then there’s that serial killer. The “true crime” plot thread was suspenseful, and the creepy killer actually invaded my sleep. I was surprised how easy it was at the time for people to just disappear without a trace, and how poorly equipped law enforcement was for dealing with such situations, especially when they crossed state lines or happened in the midst of something as large, crowded, and busy as the fair.
I highly recommend this well-researched, well-written account.
I hid it, it was a good reveal
>38 raidergirl3: I almost mentioned that and then thought wait, is that a spoiler? I mean it's not really, because it's an historical event, but Larson takes a long time to build up how the fair planned to "out-Eiffel Eiffel" and I honestly didn't know what it was going to be. The reveal was kinda fun! There were lots of moments like that in the book, which is part of what made it such a great read.
>40 EBT1002: thanks Ellen! I have my fingers crossed for a March meetup!!
>37 lauralkeet: Oh, I really enjoyed that one when I read it - I'm so glad you did, too!
Morning, Laura! Hooray for The Devil in the White City! Glad you finally got to it and loved it too.
>42 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, we are excited about it although there's still much to be done to make it happen.
>43 LizzieD:, >44 lit_chick:, >45 Berly:, >46 scaifea:, >47 msf59:
Hi Peggy, Nancy, Kim, Amber, & Mark!! I thought I was the last person on LT to read Devil in the White City. Great to see those book bullets flying, eh?
Good review of Devil in the White City, Laura. I kept having to remind myself it’s nonfiction. Well said! It's beautifully written.
I've had The Devil in the White City on my shelf FOREVER. Really should get to it soon.... And I should have that embroidered on a pillow :-P
>53 Berly: Hi Kim!
Welcome to Katie's Pillows. You have reached the customer service department. If you would like to place an order, press 1.
Please hold ...
>56 laytonwoman3rd: those round things are mighty scarce, aren't they Linda? It's good to know you're also a Larson fan. LT buzz will definitely push me towards a book or author.
40. Maisie Dobbs ()
Source: Library Kindle loan
Why I read this now: I’ve heard so many great things about this series, it was time to start.
Maisie Dobbs’ first case starts out as an investigation for a client who suspects his wife is cheating on him. But in the process, she learns about a secluded retreat for wounded soldiers, which is shrouded in mystery. Set in England between the wars, most of this book sets up Maisie’s back story: her humble beginnings, her relationship with a wealthy family, service as a war nurse, and the loss of her first love. And all of that makes for a great story -- the mystery is almost secondary, and not especially complicated. The impact of the war, not just on Maisie but society as a whole, is palpable. I really like Maisie’s character and the unique talents she brings to her work. A few other characters will clearly play significant roles in the next books. I look forward to reading more.
>58 lauralkeet: I've got that one on my Read Soon shelf, too. I need to get to it...soon...
>59 scaifea:, >60 laytonwoman3rd: Hi Amber & Linda! I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes. I've read a decent amount of British fiction covering both world wars and the "between the wars" period, so I didn't need the historical context of Maisie's back story. But I know why Winspear did this. First off, her grandfather was a victim of shell shock, which had a strong enough impact on her to be central to her writing. Secondly, although Winspear is English she has lived in the US for nearly 20 years, and probably knows the vast majority of American readers benefit from the background, since the American war experience was quite different from the British one.
>37 lauralkeet: The Devil in the White City was one of those books that wound up being passed around our family with a "you've got to read this" comment. Nice review!
>58 lauralkeet: I've read the first nine in the Masie Dobbs series. I think I might even have the next one somewhere around here. I'm glad you enjoyed that one.
I'm happy to take some of the credit for *making* you read Maisie Dobbs, Laura. Delighted that you enjoyed the first in the series. You are spot on: I really like Maisie’s character and the unique talents she brings to her work. A few other characters will clearly play significant roles in the next books. Btw, not sure whether you listen to audiobooks, but if you do, this entire series is narrated by Orlagh Cassidy who is perfection for the role.
>64 lit_chick: Nancy, sorry for my delayed response! I haven't gotten into audio books, although they really seem to have come into their own lately. My audio time is significantly less now that I'm not commuting, and I still have podcasts I want to keep up with. I'm glad you enjoy them though!
>65 sibyx: well Lucy, the next time you stumble on a copy in a used bookshop, you know what to do. :)
41. The Almost Sisters ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: It’s a Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club selection
Leia Birch is a promising comic-book artist who learns she is pregnant with a biracial baby as the result of a one night stand at a convention. At about the same time, her grandmother Birchie has an incident that exposes her dementia. Leia is Birchie’s closest living relative, so she rushes to Birchie’s small-town Alabama home before telling either her parents or her stepsister Rachel about her pregnancy. Leia quickly sees that Birchie’s condition has been covered up for some time by Wattie, daughter of the Birch family housekeeper and Birchie’s closest friend since childhood. Leia knows Birchie should no longer live independently, but as she begins the onerous process of preparing Birchie’s move Leia discovers something horrible from the family’s past.
Well, that’s a lot to unpack, isn’t it? Just resolving the “something horrible” had the makings of a mystery. But there was also Birchie’s dementia, and its impact on the family. And the Birchie-Wattie shared history and adult relationship. And finally, the real theme and power of The Almost Sisters: issues of race, brought into sharp focus by racial divides in the town and Leia’s growing realization of the world her baby will inhabit, which is decidedly different from her own (white) experience. Believe it or not, it all came together in a surprisingly emotional ending.
This book was not at all what I expected, in the best possible way. Highly recommended.
>68 scaifea: Oh good, that's what I was aiming for. The book was only just released in mid-July, and it deserves a lot of attention.
>67 lauralkeet: Hmmm...my daughter was reading that and was speaking favorably of it, but I haven't heard that she finished it. I'm putting it on my list, for sure.
Fabulous review of The Almost Sisters, Laura. Taking a bullet, and onto the list!
>25 lauralkeet: I know all about those grey areas. We're only in a one-bedroom apartment, but the closets are stuffed and we each have a storage locker elsewhere. Except for the clothes and my mother's china, I wouldn't care if someone told me the storage place had burned down, but tossing things is harder than losing them accidentally. Good luck plowing through the process.
>77 ffortsa: thanks Judy! I've made several runs to Goodwill this week which made a dent in it. But it's also a bit like peeling an onion. Once one "layer" is removed you look around and realize you could still do more.
42. I See You ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: I enjoyed the author’s previous book, I Let You Go, so I jumped on it when it appeared in the Modern Mrs Darcy Summer Reading Guide
When Zoe Walker sees her photo in an ad for an online dating site, she is surprised, scared, and determined to find out how this happened. She then notices the photos change daily, and learns that two of the women have been victims of violent crime. Zoe’s information changes the course of the police investigation. Kelly Swift is a talented police officer whose career was derailed by a suspension. But she is determined to improve her reputation by getting to the bottom of the dating site before any more women are harmed.
Zoe’s stress level rises as she learns more about the dating website, and fears for her safety. At the same time, she is dealing with all kinds of personal challenges. Her son Justin is out of work and directionless. Her daughter Katie is an aspiring actress, and Zoe wishes she would pursue a more steady occupation. Zoe’s partner Simon is a steadying force for Zoe, but his relationship with her children has its ups and downs.
The plot shifts between Zoe’s life and the police investigation, developing the principal characters while also advancing the story with clues and cliffhangers. The inevitable chase and dangerous confrontation was surprising in and of itself, but there was even more to the “reveal” than I expected. This well-crafted mystery was a good summer read.
At least for now, retirement appears to be affording me more reading time. I've been clocking in at 7 books/month for the past few months now. With any luck I'll reach 75, something I haven't done for a few years now. Woo hoo! I hope I didn't just jinx it. :)
In an attempt to make a dent in my TBR bookshelf, I'm about to start Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, an oldie of hers that I picked up used about 2 years ago. I'm also planning to read Angela Thirkell's Growing Up real soon. This one has been on the shelves for 3 years waiting for me to get to it in series order.
Laura--Great review and hurray for more book reading in retirement!! Wishing continued good luck on the purge, onion-like though it may be. Without the smell. : P
The Devil in the White City coincidentally came up in our house last night. One of P's colleagues recently read it and raved about it, so P was wondering if we have a copy. Well, of course we do. It's been on my TBR shelves for a while now.
>80 lauralkeet: "At least for now, retirement appears to be affording me more reading time."
I look forward to that.
>83 EBT1002: well that's a funny coincidence! Are either of you planning to read it now? :)
43. Cat’s Eye ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: Just trying to clear a few TBRs off the shelves ...
Elaine Risley, a painter in her late middle age, returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work. Her visit triggers memories of growing up the daughter of scientist whose research focused on caterpillar infestations. In her early years the family was practically itinerant, traveling around Ontario to support her father’s research. When Elaine was about 8 years old he obtained a university professorship, and the family settled more or less permanently outside Toronto.
Elaine is an awkward adult, but the seeds were planted in during those early years, when Elaine was the target of verbal abuse by her closest “friends”. As an adult, Elaine is especially preoccupied with Cordelia, the friend she simultaneously admired and hated, but lost touch with in young adulthood. Each section of the book begins with the present-day Elaine preparing for the retrospective, and then takes the reader through childhood memories, gradually building a complete picture of Elaine’s history in an attempt to explain Elaine’s adult character.
While the structure worked, the overall effect fell flat. Elaine’s childhood hardships failed to capture my sympathy. Her awkward personality made me question her romantic exploits. Elaine also never came across as especially creative or artistic, making her an unlikely subject of a late career retrospective exhibition.
As much as I admire Margaret Atwood, my experience with her novels is decidedly hit or miss.
I read that novel when it first came out Laura, and I feel very much the same, despite not remembering much of the detail now, it was one I was a bit disappointed by.
Laura, just FYI, Darryl and I are trying to organize a meet-up in NYC on September 9. I know you have your hands full with the impending move, but if you want to take a break and have some fun....
>86 Caroline_McElwee: I'm glad it's not just me, Caro.
>87 katiekrug: Thanks for thinking of me, Katie! Our move date has been pushed out due to construction delays (sigh), but I'm still unlikely to make it. If we go to NYC in the next couple of months it will likely be to deliver a bookcase my husband is making for my daughter, who lives in Brooklyn.
>85 lauralkeet: Agree on Ms. Atwood being very hit and miss.
Have a great weekend, Laura.
>89 PaulCranswick: thanks for visiting Paul. It's nice to see you making the rounds this morning.
44. Growing Up ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I needed something light and fun after my last read.
Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels are set in an early/mid-20th century version of Anthony Trollope’s fictional English county. Thirkell pokes fun at provincial life, human nature, and even the impact of current events (in this case, World War II). There is always a romance or two, and they always end happily. These novels will not tax your brain, which makes them perfect for summer reading or times when you just aren’t up for anything strenuous.
Although the Barsetshire novels can generally stand alone, I most enjoyed Growing Up for its connections to previous books. The principal characters appeared as children or teens in previous books, and are now young adults early in careers and married life. Lydia Keith Merton, who was a rather brash teenager, has mellowed and conducts herself admirably as houseguest to the local gentry. Tony Morland makes an appearance and demonstrates he is no longer the abominable little boy of the early books. Most of the young men are off serving in the war, but a few are billeted at the local hospital or home on leave (because how could we have romance otherwise?).
The plot is loosely constructed to support the romantic storyline. It’s almost like an episode of Seinfeld, in that nothing much really happens but it’s really enjoyable and ends well.
>84 lauralkeet: I got it out for her but I don't know if she'll really read it. She does have the entire rest of August off so she probably will do. I am already overbooked (so to speak) for August so I won't get to it this month.
>91 lauralkeet: I love the last sentence of your review of Growing Up. It gives a real sense of the reading experience. Nice.
>92 EBT1002: Hi Ellen! I was actually struggling a bit with the review, because I wanted to say something about the plot. But then I realized there wasn't much to it, which reminded me of Seinfeld which I confess we still watch whenever we are in the mood for something good that doesn't tax your mind. Which is also applicable to Thirkell's novels. Have a great day!
Yay for Seinfeld!
If books could replicate the experience of watching that brilliant show then I would have read more books this year!
Have a great Sunday, Laura.
>94 PaulCranswick: Hiya Paul. We watch a little too much Seinfeld chez moi, because you can almost always find it on TV not to mention Netflix. But it never gets old!
45. The Lay of the Land ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I wanted to complete the trilogy.
Like the first two Frank Bascombe novels, The Lay of the Land takes place over just three days. Several years have passed since Independence Day, and Frank is now 55, married for the second time, with two adult children from his first marriage. He’s still in real estate but left his home town of Haddam for Sea Clift, a small town on the New Jersey shore. It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and Frank has a few things to take care of before welcoming his children and their significant others for the holiday. As Frank goes about his business, his internal monologue completes his recent life history including a recent prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. He ruminates about being 55, what else might be in store for him, and what constitutes a good life.
In real time Frank does some smart and caring things, and some stupid things. Like most people, Frank’s life has been a mix of good and bad. He’s been touched by tragedy, but also known love. He’s a proud if sometimes frustrated father. Several plot threads spin out over the three days both with his business and his family, culminating in a dramatic sequence that I didn’t see coming and, truth to tell, was a bit over the top.
I’ve enjoyed the style and structure of these novels as well as Frank’s character, but The Lay of the Land was the weakest of the trilogy. It’s long (over 500 pages), and is rambling in spots. Richard Ford has since published a fourth Bascombe novel but I think I’ll stop for now while my opinion of Frank Bascombe is still positive.
46. The Brutal Telling ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: It fit my summer reading mood
After enjoying the first four Inspector Gamache novels, I was worried they might become formulaic. The beginning of The Brutal Telling set the stage in a familiar way, with potential suspects emerging in rapid succession. And so I thought, how much can Louise Penny do with the tiny village of Three Pines which is seemingly the murder capital of Quebec? Well as it turns out, quite a lot. One of the things I enjoy about her books is the varied subjects that surround the mystery. In this case, a hermit is found murdered and his cabin turns out to be filled with priceless antiques. The search for his killer takes readers well outside of Three Pines, into the world of antique collectors and dealers as well as to remote islands near British Columbia, where the hermit was believed to have lived for a time. I admit it felt a little disjointed, but Penny had a huge surprise in store at the end. I’m still reeling from it and wondering where she will take the series next.
>99 lauralkeet: Another series I have been neglecting! Sigh. Thanks for the review and the push. : )
47. Bad Intentions ()
Source: My library’s Kindle collection
Why I read this now: I’ve been in a mystery-reading mood.
What the … ? This was a very disappointing entry in the Inspector Sejer series. Three young men are spending the weekend in a lake cabin, and one dies. The other two come up with a version of events that points to suicide. About halfway through the book, the young men are linked to another crime. The details unfold in a very predictable way. There’s no drama, no twist, just one long reveal.
I had several problems with this book. There really wasn’t a mystery; it’s apparent from the beginning that the young men are trouble. Inspector Sejer and his partner are peripheral characters and don’t even solve the crime. I guess this was intended to be more of a psychological thriller, but it failed in that regard as well. The young men were one-dimensional characters who did not earn any sympathy. The translation of these novels can be clunky at times, so I can only hope this book is better in the original Norwegian.
Happy Friday, Laura. Hope you had a good week. Congrats on finishing the Bascombe trilogy but sorry to hear this one was the weakest. I need to finish these books up too.
Have you been watching Ozark? We are a few episodes in and are really enjoying it.
>103 msf59: Happy Friday back at ya, Mark! I haven't watched Ozark but maybe I'll check it out. We've been watching a lot of tennis and cycling these days. During the Masterpiece lull we watched a couple episodes of Hinterland, a scandi-style detective series, but set in Wales. Now Endeavour has returned to Masterpiece, so our Sunday nights are back on track. :)
My reading has slowed to a crawl this week. I am reading The Pelicans, by E.M. Delafield, a Virago author best known for Diary of a Provincial Lady. It's fine, not her best but enjoyable. I've just been choosing to spend my time doing things other than reading.
Hi Laura, I'm glad I'm not the only one whose reading has slowed to a crawl. This has been my entire summer experience! Like you, have been spending my time doing other things. Not a bad thing, but it feels odd!
Lots of reading since I was last here. For reasons I can't explain The Lay of the Land has been my favourite of the Ford books so far. (The fourth one is OK but slight somehow.) Independence Day is really just as fine though, but somehow that third one affected me more or spoke to me more. Or something.
I liked your summing up of Thirkell too. It's fascinating that she can have virtually nothing happen in her books and yet one reads them contentedly caught up in the small details.
>105 lit_chick: Nancy, I'm glad it's not just happening to me. I am starting to wonder, though, if part of my problem is the book I'm reading. Again, nothing wrong with it, but it's not calling to me. My daughter is visiting this weekend so there won't be much reading time, but I may pick up another book next week.
>106 sibyx: Lucy, there were parts of The Lay of the Land that spoke to me, too. I think it's because Bascombe is in his mid-50s in that book, the same age I am now. I could relate to a lot of his reflection on life and enjoyed those passages, but not necessarily the ways he acted on those reflections.
48. The Pelicans (DNF)
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: It’s been on my TBR for 5 years so it’s about time I read it.
I decided to abandon this book. I spent several days reading a few pages here and there, and after ~140 pages (1/3 of the book) it was just dragging. A seemingly imminent plot development was taking forever to come to fruition. This book is one of Delafield's earlier works, and I could see shades of the masterful wit and satire demonstrated in Diary of a Provincial Lady, but there wasn't enough of it to rescue this book.
I thought I was in a reading slump or too busy to make progress on a book, but I picked up Ann Patchett's memoir, Truth and Beauty, last night and have already logged 60 pages. That's better!
>108 lauralkeet: Glad you are on to a good reading pace again! LOL This month has been S-L-O-W for me, too. Ah well.
>99 lauralkeet: "...how much can Louise Penny do with the tiny village of Three Pines which is seemingly the murder capital of Quebec?"
LOL ~~ I have had exactly that thought! And I'm only on the third book in the series. Your comments encourage me to continue.
>109 Berly: Yeah well, Kim, you've had trips to the ER and stuff, I think that could be quite a distraction from reading! I'm not sure what my excuse is ... but no matter, life is good.
>110 EBT1002: I think I came to Three Pines at the right time, Ellen. This summer I've been reading more mysteries / series than before. They are usually quick reads, relaxing, and fun, and I've been drawn to that. I've been avoiding books that require me to think, or are challenging to read. So Louise Penny is working for me. It also helped that I picked up the first 4 books in Kindle deals and the #5 in a used bookshop, so there they were, in my possession and calling my name. Yesterday I snagged #7 in another Kindle deal, which means I will soon need to get my hands on #6.
>111 EBT1002: I'm enjoying Truth and Beauty so far, Ellen. It's a very interesting memoir.
Well, it is fiction, after all. I decided a while back to just let Three Pines be the weird place it is . . . The whole genre, really, doesn't bear up to much serious examination. I mainly just want to eat at the cafe and browse that bookstore. And hopefully get away unscathed.
You are so right, Lucy! Some suspension of disbelief is necessary for nearly all mysteries. And I do love spending time in Three Pines.
I mainly just want to eat at the cafe and browse that bookstore. And hopefully get away unscathed. LOL! Love that, Lucy.
49. Truth and Beauty ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: To soothe disappointment in my previous read, I turned to my TBR shelf in search of excellent writing. This was just the ticket.
Ann Patchett met Lucy Grealy in college, but their friendship blossomed during graduate school at the Iowa Writers Workshop. The two complemented one another: Lucy was a free spirit, Ann was organized and practical. But Lucy’s life was complicated by childhood cancer which left her with virtually no jaw, and all of the self-esteem issues that can arise from looking different. As an adult, Lucy had several reconstructive surgeries, but none were successful. The two women supported each other as they encountered personal and professional challenges; Ann was always quick to hop on a plane to New York to visit Lucy any time she was needed, and especially after surgery. Lucy died young (not a spoiler, it’s evident in the dedication), but she left an impact on everyone who knew her.
Both Ann and Lucy ultimately experienced literary success and fame, Ann as the author of several novels and Lucy through her memoir, Autobiography of a Face which now I simply MUST read. Truth and Beauty is Ann’s tribute to their intensely close friendship, and a very moving tribute it is.
Hiya Mark! This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is also on my shelves -- I picked up both books in the same used bookshop visit, yay -- so I have that to look forward to. I didn't realize Lucy figured in that book as well. Great stuff.
>119 lit_chick:, >120 katiekrug: Nancy & Katie, it's a really good memoir, and I avoided sharing too many details in my review because I think if Lucy is an unknown to you (as she was to me), then it's better to approach the memoir without much background.
It took me a while to figure out why I hadn't heard of Lucy Grealy or Autobiography of a Face. It certainly seems like something I would have lapped right up. Then I realized it was published in 1994. My oldest daughter was born in January 1993, which cut into my reading time. Durn kids. :)
I love the Three Pines series, Laura. So glad that the newest just came out. I'm on a waiting list at the library. I think we all kind of have the same feeling about the number of murders in that little village, but there are a few books that leave the village, at least as far as the murder is concerned.
>122 NanaCC: COLLEEN !!!!! It's so nice to see you back in these parts! I'm truly hooked on Three Pines although unable to take part in the latest new book excitement. I did, however, request book #6 (Bury Your Dead) from the library, so it should be my next read.
>123 Berly: Keep watching that radar, Kim! I also requested Autobiography of a Face from my library so I will have more to say about that one soon. I love it when one book leads to another, don't you?
50. Agnes Grey ()
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: Virago Chronological Read project
Meh. I seem to be “off” classics at the moment, I just can’t get into them. I read this, it was okay, but I got bored quickly and skimmed quite a bit. So, no review … just registering a finished book.
I had essentially the same reaction to Agnes Grey. She is just so not interesting!
>126 katiekrug: Exactly. Just a very naive goody two shoes. And the love interest was obvious from the moment they met and it took freakin' forever for it to develop. Zzzzz ...
51. How to Read Literature Like a Professor ()
Source: On my daughter's shelves
Why I read this now: It's a September "flight pick" in the Modern Mrs Darcy book club
No review, just some thoughts. My daughter was assigned this book several years ago (yikes, was it 2009? where has the time gone?!) as summer reading prior to her AP Literature class. I came across it when I was cleaning out her room in advance of our move this fall. It's written in a breezy style, probably very similar to how the author conducts himself in the classroom, and explains common literary techniques, themes, and symbols. The author cites numerous works, from James Joyce to Toni Morrison, and includes an extensive reading list as an appendix which in itself is a good enough reason to get a copy of the book. I do enjoy books about books, so instead of tossing this one into the "donations" box, I'll give it a home on my shelves.
>116 lauralkeet: So nice to read your review of this. I found my copy in a clear out and clean up of my books (this got put straight back on the shelf) and it is one that has happy memories. I so enjoyed her picture of the friendship, although I remember very little more than that.
>116 lauralkeet: Yep, that is reminiscent of my reaction to Truth and Beauty.
>129 lauralkeet: I have How to Read Literature Like a Professor on the shelves and your comments make me look forward to reading it (and perusing the reading list!!). I also enjoy books about books. I mean, I enjoy almost anything about books.
I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you, Laura.
>133 EBT1002: thank you Ellen! I'm hoping to get all of my errands & chores done early, so I can settle in and watch the US Open Women's final at 4pm EDT. It should be a great match!
Wishing you a lovely weekend, Laura notwithstanding errands and chores.
>135 PaulCranswick: thank you Paul, it's been a very nice weekend in these parts. It's always nice to see you here!
52. A Little Love, a Little Learning ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: Nina Bawden is the Virago Group’s monthly author for September
Joanna, Kate, and Poll live with their mother, Ellen, and stepfather, Boyd somewhere near London in the 1950s. The sisters’ natural father left many years ago, and Boyd stepped in; they are a close-knit family unit with all the expected ups and downs of daughters aged 18, 12, and 6. Life suddenly gets more interesting when Ellen’s close friend comes to stay with them. Aunt Hat, as she is called, was assaulted by her husband who is now in prison, and she needs a place to stay for a while. At the same time, Kate and Poll become fascinated with their neighbors, an elderly man and his ailing sister, who have been feuding with one another for years.
Kate narrates the story, and although she is a close observer of family dynamics, her interpretation is informed by limited life experience and is often incomplete. Little by little, the reader develops a more complete picture of the family, and the back stories of Boyd, Ellen, and Aunt Hat. But Kate is also prone to stretching the truth and sharing private information. This creates problems for her parents, especially Boyd, who is a physician with a reputation to uphold. Events unfold that challenge his status in the community and test the family’s bonds and loyalty, but ultimately make everyone stronger.
I loved this portrait of a flawed but loving family facing adversity with determination. This was my first Nina Bawden but will not be my last.
>138 souloftherose: I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it, Heather, as that's one I have on my shelves as well.
Oh, I know I like Nina Bawden, but do I remember why or what I read?? Not this one . . . Let me see, apparently it was Tortoise by Candlelight. If I still have it, it is over at my studio. I have such a backlog of errands, bill paying, and stuff to do around the house that it'll be a little while til I get over there.
>140 sibyx: well it's good to hear you liked Tortoise by Candlelight, Lucy. It's inching its way up the TBR stack ...
Hi, Laura! Sweet Thursday! I see the books are treating you well. Watching anything interesting on TV?
Hi Mark! So nice to see you. Cycling and tennis dominated our television-viewing through the US Open, but this week we've watched a couple episodes of Hinterland, a mystery done in the Nordic noir style but set in Wales. We've just finished season 1 (4 episodes) and plan to watch more. We are also looking forward to watching Ken Burns' Vietnam series which begins Sunday. I have the DVR set because I'm not sure I will be up for watching every single night.
>143 lauralkeet: Did you see the Welsh version with subtitles or the English version of Hinterland? We watched in Welsh for the first two series ... I got very pleased with myself when I managed to decipher the odd phrase!
>144 SandDune: Hello Rhian! We're watching via Netflix US, which has the English version. To be honest, I'm not sure if they have Welsh with subtitles but considering I don't speak a bit of Welsh, English suits me just fine. I read somewhere they filmed the entire series in both languages, which is quite impressive.
>129 lauralkeet: Hi Laura--This book sounds informative and fun!
>143 lauralkeet: Just told Hubby to look for the Vietnam series. Like I need another thing to watch!! But he is a history buff and it will be great to watch.
>145 lauralkeet: I can't believe they filmed it twice in both languages--wow!
Hi there Kim!! How to Read Literature Like a Professor was indeed informative and fun. I imagine students enjoy his classes.
The Ken Burns Vietnam series is being touted as his best work since The Civil War, and a very important topic that hasn't been explored in depth, but in many ways set the stage for where we are today. I expect it will be quite sobering, but I would like to learn more about what really happened, since I was a child at the time.
I'm looking forward to the Vietnam series, but oddly my husband doesn't seem interested. He like his history a bit more removed in time, I think. Not to mention he so nearly had to go there himself that it may still feel a bit uncomfortable to hear about it. I can't watch any of the movies made about that war, though, and he has seen many of them.
Watched English version of Hinterland on Canadian Netflix, too. Excellent!
>148 laytonwoman3rd: I can understand your husband's point of view. I remember being kind of surprised when my kids learned about Vietnam in school. Not that I objected, it just didn't feel like "history" yet even though more than 20 years had passed. I can see being very wary if you were of a certain age during the war.
>149 lit_chick: Glad you enjoyed it, Nancy! I'd say we're hooked.
53. Bury Your Dead ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: Why not? :)
In the sixth Inspector Gamache novel, Louise Penny blends three storylines: Armand Gamache is pulled “unofficially” into the investigation of a murder at Quebec City’s Literary and Historical society. Gamache’s right-hand man, Jean Guy Beauvoir, is in the village of Three Pines quietly reopening a previous case. And both men are recovering, emotionally and physically, from an incident which resulted in the death of several members of the homicide division led by Gamache.
I was happy to see Beauvoir in Three Pines taking a second look at events in the previous book, which had a very abrupt and shocking ending. Gamache’s murder case was right up his street, relying on specialized historical knowledge which only a few people would possess. The story of the police incident unfolded through each man’s thoughts, as they relived the horrible scenes and tried to figure out how they could have prevented what ultimately happened. Penny delivered a fantastic combination of suspense and emotion that had me simultaneously choked up and on the edge of my seat.
This book is my favorite of the series, so far, and I know I’ll read the next one soon.
You're making great strides with the Three Pines series, Laura. Delighted you are enjoying! I'm waiting to get my hands on her latest in the series, Glass Houses.
My wife has gotten hooked by the Three Pines series. I happened upon a somewhat rumpled paperback of The Brutal Telling at Goodwill last week, and just yesterday, a pristine hardcover of A Great Reckoning at a library sale.
Although Vietnam history interests me, I don't think I'll watch Burns. I was a 1966 draftee (got my draft notice Saturday, my college diploma the following Monday), but I lucked out. Destined to spend my time at Ft. Bragg, I volunteered for a unit being sent to Thailand. Spent nearly a year in Bangkok.
>152 lit_chick: Nancy, I noticed that Glass Houses debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list this week. That's impressive! Penny has a lot of fans and I'm happy to be one of them!
>153 weird_O: Hiya Bill. It sounds like you definitely lucked out with your military service. I've never been to Bangkok but imagine it was a pretty decent posting compared to the alternatives.
Good morning, Laura, and Happy Sunday!
It's about time for me to dig into the third Three Pines novel.
We have the DVR set to record the Vietnam series and plan to watch it. I feel there is a lot I don't know about that time as I was a small child and not paying much attention.
Hey there Ellen! Happy Sunday back at ya. I know what you mean about Vietnam. I was too young to be aware of the protests, and the closest I got to the war itself was listening to my parents complaining about the television evening news being too focused on the "body count." I was not allowed to watch the news, for obvious reasons. The 1973 ceasefire is my only other memory of anything related to the conflict.
54. Autobiography of a Face ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: Reading Truth and Beauty inspired me to get my hands on this book as soon as possible.
When Lucy Grealy was 9 years old she was diagnosed with cancer, requiring a third of her jaw to be removed. While chemotherapy and radiation eventually made her cancer-free, reconstructing her jaw would be a very long and complicated process. Lucy faced her many surgeries with courage; dealing with friends, classmates, and adolescence in general was another matter entirely. More than anything, Lucy wanted not just to be accepted, but to be loved and desired. This book, published when Lucy was 31, is her story of personal growth. But it is so much more than a “disease memoir.” My edition included an afterword by her best friend, the author Ann Patchett, who does a far better job than I could at explaining this book as a work of literature, dealing with universal truths in the context of Lucy’s illness:
This is a book that understands how none of us ever feel we are pretty enough while it makes us question the very concept of beauty. It touches on our fears that love and approval are things we will always have to struggle to keep. It takes something so personal and so horrible that it is, for most of us, completely beyond our comprehension, and turns it into a mirror on ourselves.
Lucy was a poet and writer, who sadly died at age 39. Her talent is evident in the way she used her personal story, her quest for “beauty,” to create that mirror. I only wish we could hear more from her.
We --my husband decided to "give it a chance...after all, it is Ken Burns"--watched the first episode of the Vietnam series last night. It is powerful, and so clearly sets forth the background of the situation we plowed into. We both now intend to watch the rest of it, but if I never saw another episode, I would still understand a lot more than I did 24 hours ago about the source of that long conflict.
hmmm, I wrote a message and swore that I posted it, but it looks like it's gone. Darn it. Anyway ...
>158 laytonwoman3rd: I agree completely, Linda. After Episode 1, my first reaction was something like how did the US education system fail to cover such broad swathes of history? I learned nothing about French Indochina, or about any forms of colonialization for that matter (well, um, except for the founding of the US). It was really interesting to have the long-range historic context. We are watching it live (but setting the DVR just in case), so we saw Ep 2 last night. While it begins in 1961, the post-WW II mindset and government policy were referenced briefly and, again, developing a larger picture and connecting dots is enlightening.
>159 Caroline_McElwee: I hope it airs over there soon, Caro. It's very well done.
Once the Vietnam series is over, Our Souls at Night will be available on Netflix. That's a good thing -- I think I'll be ready for something different and more soothing.
>161 msf59: I hope you like it as much as I did, Mark. The two books together make a nice pairing. Just sayin'.
55. Cleopatra’s Sister ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I needed something to tide me over while waiting for a library book
Penelope Lively is a master at joining seemingly random, everyday events in people’s lives into a compelling story that would never have happened without those small moments. In Cleopatra’s Sister, she employs that technique to bring Howard Beamish and Lucy Faulkner together on a flight to Nairobi, and then explores what happens when the flight is unexpectedly diverted to the (fictional) country of Callimbia, which is in a period of unrest.
The novel begins by following Howard and Lucy from their childhood, with Howard becoming a paleontologist and Lucy, a journalist. Lively also intersperses chapters outlining the history of Callimbria. In Part 2, Howard and Lucy have not yet met, and they board their flight. The magic of this novel begins on landing in Callimbia, when our protagonists meet one another and it becomes clear their unexpected layover is anything but routine. It didn’t take long before I was emotionally invested in Howard and Lucy, and the suspense associated with their situation kept me glued to my reading chair until the end. This was a terrific read!
>164 katiekrug: thanks Katie. This might just be my favorite Penelope Lively so far.
I generally have loved or liked a lot anything I've come across of Lively's so onto the pile it goes!
>160 lauralkeet: Episode 1 was very informative. I think it so sad to see that we were so mesmerized by the Red Menace that we failed to see the difference in situations in Indochina, and instead duplicated the French failures after WWII. I wanted to yell NO, Don't Do It! to the TV.
>163 lauralkeet: I am a fan of Penelope Lively other than she physically reminds me of Theresa May which is quite unfortunate!
Have a lovely weekend.
Morning, Laura. Happy Sunday. Hope you are having a nice Sunday. I am nearing the end of Home Fire. You might like this one. Just sayin'...
>174 msf59: hey Mark! Funny you should mention it ... I was in a bookshop yesterday with both Home Fire and Sing, Unburied Sing calling out to me. I had requested both from my library. It was tempting to buy them both, but ultimately I came away with the Jesmyn Ward because I own several of her other books. I just read over on Ellen's thread that you'll be starting that one today. I will start reading soon, after I finish Young Jane Young, and I hope to read Home Fire in the next few weeks. So many books, but that's a good problem to have!
56. Young Jane Young ()
Source: My local library
Why I read this now: Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club - October selection
Aviva Grossman is lucky to land a prestigious internship with a US Congressman, and after a couple of initial missteps becomes a valuable member of Aaron Levin’s team. Unfortunately, the Congressman also notices some of Aviva’s other attributes and before you know it, the two are having an affair. Naturally, it all blows up in the media; Levin escapes unscathed with his career and marriage still intact, but Aviva’s future is ruined. Even though the case garnered only local attention at the time, the internet left a trail of information sufficient for prospective employers to learn about Aviva’s past. Suddenly she can’t get an interview, let alone a job, and is forced to take dramatic action.
Aviva’s story is told through a succession of narrators, beginning with her mother Rachel. We also hear from Levin’s wife Embeth, a woman named Jane Young, Jane’s daughter Ruby, and finally Aviva. Their voices are all fresh and memorable, and the reading is breezy and fun despite the serious subject matter. Unfortunately, the most important character and the continuous slut-shaming she endured are the least developed aspects of this novel. While Young Jane Young tackles other gender stereotypes and double standards in a mostly effective way, the author’s failure to tackle the central issue and generate intended levels of outrage and sympathy caused this book to fall a bit short for me.
57. Sing, Unburied, Sing ()
Source: On my shelves -- a recent purchase
Why I read this now: I’ve loved all of Ward’s previous books
Jesmyn Ward’s novels draw on her experiences as a black woman growing up in rural Mississippi. In Sing, Unburied, Sing 13-year-old Jojo is forced to grow up far too early. His father, Michael, has been in prison for years and his mother, Leonie, is an addict whose presence at home is intermittent. Jojo shoulders day-to-day responsibility for his 3-year-old sister, Kayla. The children live with their maternal grandparents who thankfully provide a loving and stable home. When Michael is released from prison, Leonie takes the children on a road trip to bring him home. Through Jojo’s eyes we see the impact of Leonie’s addiction, as she stops along the way to support her habit.
Their journey is interspersed with accounts of past events that have shaped the family; ghosts accompany them on the trip but only Jojo can see them. These stories are dramatic, often violent, and together with the present-day narrative show the immense challenges facing those marginalized in our society. Ward’s writing is brilliant. Her stark portrayal of the American south makes for emotionally difficult, but important, reading.
This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2017 Reading - Part 4.
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