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Bonnie (brenzi) Gives It Another Go - 3

This is a continuation of the topic Bonnie (brenzi) Gives It Another Go - 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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1brenzi
Edited: Jul 8, 7:22pm Top





Cole just turned one last month but that doesn't stop him from doing what we all love best.

2brenzi
Edited: Jul 8, 6:55pm Top

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean---
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down---
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

I belong to a writing group where we share our writing, get tips and writing prompts. We often start with a poem and this Mary Oliver poem was one that was used last week. Because I was too intimidated to divulge plans for my “one wild and precious life” I wrote about what I called The Perfect Summer Day:

I’d love to stroll through the fields with my three-and-a-half year old granddaughter this summer so that I can hear her ask a million questions about all the things that may be new to her. The innocence of her questions is certain to astound even a casual listener. We take so much for granted maybe because we’ve seen so much and very little surprises us any longer. But a child, without that experience behind her, is sure to be in awe and wonder at all that nature is certain to offer up. And maybe that wonder will transfer to me. In fact, it’s bound to. I can see her face light up now if we are lucky enough to find a grasshopper that would eat sugar from our hands. I can almost feel the wind in my face, the sun on my back, on this perfect summer day.

3brenzi
Edited: Sep 20, 8:55pm Top

Books Read in 2018

January

Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie – eBook - 5 stars
Fateless - Imre Kertesz - OTS - 4.2 stars
Killers of the Flower Moon - David Grann - eBook - 4.3 stars
Fire and Fury - Michael Wolff - eBook - 3.8 stars
Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin - OTS - 4.6 stars
The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson - OTS - 5 stars
The Good People - Hannah Kent - eBook - 4 stars
Bluebird, Bluebird - Attica Locke - eBook - 3.5 stars

February

The Last Crossing - Guy Vanderhaeghe - OTS - 4.5 stars
The Black Count - Tom Reiss - eBook - 3.7 stars
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee - eBook - 3.2 stars
In This House of Brede - Rumer Godden - OTS - 5 stars
Road Ends - Mary Lawson - eBook - 4.5 stars

March

Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck - OTS - 4.2 stars
White Houses - Amy Bloom - eBook - 4 stars
The Jewel in the Crown - Paul Scott - 4.8 stars
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - eBook - 4 stars
In a Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson - OTS - 4.1 stars
The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton - eBook - 5 stars
The Vet's Daughter - Barbara Comyn - OTS - 4 stars
Go, Went, Gone - Jenny Erpenbeck - eBook - 4.3 stars

April

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing -eBook - 4.3 stars
The Dog Stars - Peter Heller - OTS - 4.2 stars
The Woman in the Window - A. J. Finn - eBook - 3.5 stars
The Day of the Scorpion - Paul Scott - OTS - 4.9 stars
Invitation to the Waltz - Rosamond Lehmann - OTS - 4 stars

May

The Light Years - Elizabeth Jane Howard - eBook - 4 stars
Sugar Money - Jane Harris - 4.2 stars
American Fire - Monica Hesse - eBook - 4.5 stars
The Post Office Girl - Stefan Zweig - OTS - 4.5 stars
The Towers of Silence - Paul Scott - OTS - 4.5 stars
Across the China Sea - Gaute Heivoll - L - 4.8 stars

June

Blue Monday - Nicci French - L - 3.8 stars
Circe - Madeline Miller - eBook - 4.5 stars
American Wolf - Nate Blakeslee - eBook - 4.5 stars
Anderby Wold - Winifred Holtby - OTS - 4 stars
A Division of the Spoils - Paul Scott - OTS - 5 stars
Black Swans - Eve Babitz - OTS - 4.4 stars
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston - OTS - 4.2 stars

July

Marking Time - Elizabeth Jane Howard - eBook - 4.3 stars
Warlight - Michael Ondaatje - eBook - 4.7 stars
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott - OTS - 3.8 stars
Two Days in Aragon - M. J. Farrell - OTS - 4.1 stars
Staying On - Paul Scott - OTS - 4.2 stars

August

Confusion - Elizabeth Jane Howard - eBook - 4.2 stars
The Mars Room - Rachel Kushner - eBook - 4.3 stars
Changing My Mind - Zadie Smith - OTS - 4 stars
High Rising - Angela Thirkell - OTS - 3.4 stars
Tuesday’s Gone - Nicci French - L - 4 stars

September

Paris Echo - Sebastian Faulks - ER - 3 stars
1947: Where Now Begins - Elizabeth Asbrink - eBook - 4.5 stars
Casting Off - Elizabeth Jane Howard - eBook - 4.2 stars

STATS (Idea borrowed from drneutron)

Total Books: 52

Author Gender
Male: 21
Female: 29
Joint: 2

Author Status
Living: 30
Dead: 22

Publication Medium
Hardback: 5
Trade: 22
Mass Market: 0
eBook: 25

Category
Fiction: 40
Nonfiction: 12

Source
Library: 26
Mine: 26

Translation: 5

4brenzi
Edited: Jul 8, 7:03pm Top



Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

4.2 stars

”Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eye away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.”

The opening lines of this book set the stage for the depiction of the life of one fiercely independent black woman, Janie Crawford, living in the South in the early 20th century. It’s considered by many to be one of the most important books of the century. Janie is no dreamer. She takes what life hands her and makes the most of it. When she finally finds her one true love, after a couple of misses, she happily follows him, leaving behind a comfortable life in order to work the Florida muck because she knows his pride depends on her doing so. This is true romance with no holds barred. At the end, Janie needs to swallow her pride and because her character is so resilient, she’s is able to do so and carry on. This has been her true legacy, this ability to carry on, make the best of things and move forward.

I have to admit I found the dialect difficult at first and kept wishing that Hurston had used the voice she began the book with throughout. But she would have lost the authenticity of this admirable character and that would have been a tragedy. So as the book continued I found myself actually enjoying the dialect and appreciating its value. Highly recommended.

5brenzi
Edited: Jul 10, 6:29pm Top



Marking Time – Book 2 of The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
4.5 stars

The author really ramped up the interest in this second volume and I could hardly put it down. The Cazalet family certainly has their share of tragedy and drama but it makes for delightful reading. This volume takes place mostly in 1940-41 so the Blitz plays a large role and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor has set the stage for the U.S. to enter and thereby prolong what everyone had hoped would be a short war.

For a book with so many characters I have no trouble keeping them sorted and following the stories, most of which are told through the eyes of the youngest members of the family. The writing is excellent but that’s not what this series is about. It’s the story, through and through. A large family, caught up in WWII and its effect on everyone dominates the narrative, with different love stories playing out. So good. And highly recommended.

6brenzi
Edited: Jul 12, 6:59pm Top

Currently reading:



Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

7msf59
Jul 8, 7:54pm Top

Happy New Thread, Bonnie. Love the Cole topper and the Oliver poem. Hope you had a good weekend and are enjoying Warlight.

8katiekrug
Jul 8, 8:29pm Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie! Thanks for sharing your writing with us - that , along with the pickleball you posted about on FB, must be keeping oyu busy, even without the grandkids! Good on you.

I loved TEWWG. I first read it my junior year in high school, and still remember the title and thesis of the paper I wrote about it. I had a great teacher for that class who really helped my appreciation of the novel. I understand people struggling with the dialect, but like you, I think it would have been less authentic without it. I read portions out loud to get a sense of what it sounded like, and then could hear it in my head when I read it. I re-read the novel last year, and was still very moved by it.

I have the entire Elizebeth Jane Howard series on my shelf. It might just be the thing for this summer - at least to get a start on it!

9brenzi
Jul 8, 9:18pm Top

>7 msf59: Hi Mark. I am really enjoying Warlight. The writing is just phenomenal.

>8 katiekrug:. I can honestly say I’m busier now than when I worked Katie lol. I remember years ago when my father in law used to tell me that and I’d think, Yeah, right. But it’s true.

This is my first time reading the Hurston novel. I have no idea why I was so late getting to it but I’m glad to have read it. The parts that weren’t written in dialect were incredibly well written, just beautifully crafted. And the dialect was necessary I think.

10tymfos
Jul 8, 9:34pm Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie. Cole is absolutely adorable!

11ChelleBearss
Jul 9, 7:54am Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie, and happy belated birthday to Cole!

12jnwelch
Jul 9, 4:02pm Top

Happy New Thread, Bonnie!

Great to see Cole "reading." Can't wait until he starts posting on LT. :-)

That's one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. What an amazing couple of last lines.

You'll see I posted Tony Hoagland's The Word on my thread after you mentioned it. My wife liked it so much she wants to put it on our refrigerator door (the home of many special things).

13RebaRelishesReading
Jul 9, 4:30pm Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie! I love the photo of Cole and the poem in >2 brenzi:. Hope you're enjoying the lovely weather!

14brenzi
Jul 9, 5:34pm Top

>10 tymfos: Thank you Terri. He can be a handful😏

>11 ChelleBearss: Thanks Chelle.

>12 jnwelch: We kind of decided in our writing group that MARY Oliver is so good at what she does because she’s the most observant person ever. That Tony Hoagland poem is special too Joe.

>13 RebaRelishesReading:. Thank you Reba. By lovely weather I assume you’re not talking about last weeks abominable heat. Much nicer now. Just about perfect with sunny days in the 80s and low humidity and no rain. I’ll take it.

15RebaRelishesReading
Edited: Jul 9, 5:39pm Top

>14 brenzi: Goodness no, I don't mean last week!! That was horrible. I mean since the turn to lovely on Friday which I believe is still continuing (we left for Washington yesterday so can't really speak first-hand about what is going on now).

16drneutron
Jul 10, 11:59am Top

Happy new thread!

17BLBera
Jul 10, 7:43pm Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie. I love the Cole photo. Grandkids are the best!

I am also a Hurston fan, and loved the Cazalet chronicles. I haven't read the last one yet. I read the first four? close together, and I'm wondering if I need a reread to refresh my memory.

I look forward to your comments on Warlight; my library owns a copy.

18vivians
Jul 10, 7:46pm Top

I'm eager to hear your thoughts about Warlight, I'm considering rereading The English Patient,now that it won the Golden Booker award. Maybe this time I'll try it on audio.
I'm right behind you on the Cazalets. I loved The Light Years and will start #2 soon. It reminds me of how I felt about the Winston Graham's Poldark series which was equally compelling for me.

19brenzi
Jul 10, 8:27pm Top

>15 RebaRelishesReading: 😎

>16 drneutron: Thanks Jim.

>17 BLBera: Hi Beth. Grandkids certainly are the best. Warlight is quite good.

>18 vivians: I’m loving The Cazalet series Vivian. I’m trying to read one volume a month just like I did The Raj Quartet but I probably won’t get to volume three until the end of the month. Too. Many. Books lol

20Carmenere
Jul 11, 9:34am Top

Happy new thread, Bonnie! Cole looks like a cutie! Glad to see he's picked up one of your favorite past times.

21brenzi
Jul 11, 7:56pm Top

>20 Carmenere: Cole is a happy little boy Lynda and very very active but he always finds time to read 🤷‍♀️

22Donna828
Jul 11, 9:54pm Top

Lovely new thread, Bonnie. Don't pictures of grandchildren make the best thread toppers? It looks like we have another reader in the LT family. Cole is a cutie and on the right path. I know you will keep him motivated.

23brenzi
Jul 12, 6:57pm Top

>22 Donna828: Absolutely Donna. That's the plan anyway.

24brenzi
Jul 12, 6:59pm Top



Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

4.7 stars

”That familiar false modesty of the English, which included absurd secrecy or the cliché of an innocent boffin….had concealed in some ways the most remarkable theatrical performance of any European nation. Along with undercover agents, who included great-aunts, semi-competent novelists, a society couturier who’d been a spy in Europe, the designers and builders of false bridges on the Thames that were meant to confuse German bombers who attempted to follow the river into the heart of London, chemists who became specialists on poison, village crofters on the east coast who were given lists of German sympathizers to be killed if and when the invasion came, and ornithologists and beekeepers from Kew, as well as permanent bachelors well versed in the Levant and a handful of languages…All of them biding by the secrecy of their roles, even when the war was over, and receiving only, years later, a quiet sentence in an obituary that mentioned they had ‘served with distinction in the Foreign Office.’”


I have always admired how the English conducted themselves during the horror that was WWII. Michael Ondaatje in his new novel Warlight, makes it clear, through his meticulous research, that I was only aware of a fraction of their sacrifice. The willingness of regular, everyday citizens to fight secretly, in undistinguished ways, with no recognition is quite remarkable.

Nathaniel (14) and Rachel (16) are left by their parents in post-WWII Britain in the care of a very dubious, possibly criminal, man they have been told to call the Moth. He invites other suspicious characters into the home and soon Nathaniel finds himself involved in many and various unexpected activities. Exciting for a teenager for sure, but all in all, very dangerous. The first part of the book reveals that Nathaniel’s mother hasn’t actually gone to Singapore as she suggested. And in Part 2 she is reunited with her children and Nathaniel begins his quest to find out exactly what it is that his mother does.

I found this second part of the book to be almost dream-like in quality as the narrator goes back and forth in time and so many secrets are finally revealed. Breathtakingly beautiful prose adds to the splendor of this book along with finely drawn characters that aren’t always what or who they seem. This was a wonderful story of sacrifice and love of country which makes it an anomaly in today’s world. Very highly recommended.

25brenzi
Jul 12, 7:02pm Top

Currently Reading:



Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

26Berly
Edited: Jul 12, 8:27pm Top

Happy new one, Bonnie!! Love your thoughts on the wonders of children--I certainly find it catching! Love the photo of Cole, with a book, of course! Warlight sounds wonderful and I am anxious to hear your thought on Lamott's in >25 brenzi:. I usually like her. : )

27brenzi
Jul 12, 8:25pm Top

Hi Kim, just a few pages into the Lamott book it’s very funny for one thing. Always like a little humor in a book.

28BLBera
Jul 12, 9:24pm Top

Great comments on Warlight, Bonnie. I'm number 10 on the library reserve list, but I will get it sooner or later.

Love Bird by Bird - seems like a good follow-up to Warlight.

29vivians
Jul 13, 9:39am Top

Thanks for the Warlight review...onto the list it goes!

30lauralkeet
Jul 14, 6:17am Top

We just bought Warlight yesterday! I’m happy to see it was a winner for you, Bonnie. That bodes well for me.

31brenzi
Jul 15, 10:34am Top

>28 BLBera: Thanks Beth. Bird by Bird is making me laugh out loud.

>29 vivians: I hope you enjoy it too Vivian.

>30 lauralkeet: That’s great Laura. I hope you enjoy it too. Now I have to get to The Cat’s Table. 🙄

32tymfos
Jul 17, 9:41pm Top

Uh, oh. Must add Warlight to the list.

33msf59
Jul 18, 7:01am Top

Happy Wednesday, Bonnie! Great review of Warlight! Big Thumb! Bird By Bird sounds like just my cuppa. I do not think I have read Lamott. Bad Mark?

I am really enjoying Beautiful Music. Brings back a lot of musical memories from my childhood.

34thornton37814
Jul 18, 2:01pm Top

>24 brenzi: We got that one at the library. You just settled whether or not I will be reading it. It's going on the TBR list.

35brenzi
Jul 22, 5:27pm Top

>32 tymfos: Gotcha Terri lol.

>33 msf59: Thanks Mark. I've only read the one Lamott so I'm right there with you.

>34 thornton37814: I hope you enjoy Warlight as much as I did Lori.

36brenzi
Edited: Jul 31, 8:28pm Top



Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

3.8 stars

”Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do---the actual act of writing---turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”


Anne Lamott has written a few novels and a lot of non-fiction, some of it much too spiritual for my taste. But in this book she shares her ideas about the writing process that are all part of the syllabus that she uses in her writing classes at UC Davis. Some struck me as invaluable, some seemed pretty obvious and many were downright hilarious and that’s why I liked this book. She said a lot of things that could apply to almost any career path you were contemplating and would hold you in good stead. With humor and sympathy for those struggling with the writing process she explained why so many writers fail miserably before they finally succeed. By so explaining I had to wonder why any books have ever gotten written. It sounds like a horrible slog.

She stresses that you should write about your childhood and quotes Flannery O’Connor who said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. And my mind immediately goes to The Glass Castle, Liar’s Club, Angela’s Ashes and other books that found great success because the author survived a truly awful childhood and I think O’Connor may have hit on something here. At any rate, Lamott is pointing out that within ourselves we have many stories that need telling and some of them may even be interesting to other people so it’s a good place to start. I think she’s probably right. Recommended.

37brenzi
Jul 22, 5:29pm Top



Two Days in Aragon by Molly Keane (M.J.Farrell)

4.1 stars

Set in the 1920s, just after the Irish “troubles,” and during the Irish Civil Wars, Molly Keane describes two heartbreaking days in one of the last of the Irish great houses, Aragon. Residing within its great halls are young sisters Grania and Sylvia, their mother Mrs. Fox and dotty aunt, Miss Pigeon as well as Nan, a distant cousin and nursemaid, although the girls are way beyond that stage.

Grania sets the narrative in motion by falling in love with Nan’s accomplished horseman son, Foley. It would be unheard of for her to associate with what is really just a serving class member so nothing good can come of this and it would be outrageous for Grania to reveal this relationship to “good” people. Her slightly older sister has her heart set on Captain Purvis of the British army who is stationed locally and often invited for tea and tennis. The IRA is frequently in the area also.

Oddly enough, Nan O’Neill stands at the center of the book, even though her class should preclude this. We aren’t really aware of this at first but as the novel progresses it becomes more and more apparent as this very powerful woman dominates the narrative in surprising ways. Keane has depicted such complex characters that I wonder why the rest of her oeuvre has been described as “light.” Perhaps she didn’t realize how well-done these strong characters were but this book is a testament to powerful women. Sylvia, in the end, turns out to be another very complex character who is left questioning everything she once stood for.

Told with humor and poignancy, Two Days in Aragon dispels any question about the differences in the Irish classes at that time in history and the reasons why that social structure crumbled. This is only my second Molly Keane book but it certainly won’t be my last. Very highly recommended.

38brenzi
Jul 22, 5:34pm Top

Currently Reading:



Staying On - Paul Scott

39RebaRelishesReading
Jul 22, 5:37pm Top

>37 brenzi: OK, I'm convinced :)

40brenzi
Jul 22, 6:26pm Top

Sooooo since it was 93 degrees on Friday we apparently lost our freaking minds and actually went to a local water park along with about a million other crazies. Ok so Mia had the time of her life but honestly...I would rather have been in the air conditioning.



41brenzi
Jul 22, 6:27pm Top

>39 RebaRelishesReading: Hi Reba, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

42lauralkeet
Jul 22, 7:41pm Top

>37 brenzi: I liked that one too, Bonnie. I don't know why her work is considered light either. Maybe some of her early work would fit that description, but when she hits her stride it's all very good.

>38 brenzi: yay!

43BLBera
Jul 23, 8:40am Top

The Keane goes on my list, Bonnie. You make me want to pick up Bird by Bird again; I remember laughing a lot while I read it.

>40 brenzi: I love the pics. Kids seem immune to temperatures, don't they?

44msf59
Jul 23, 8:36pm Top

Hooray for Bird By Bird. Sounds like a good one, Bonnie.

Not familiar with Staying On.

45brenzi
Jul 24, 7:10pm Top

>42 lauralkeet: Well you just made me go look to see what other Keane novels I own Laura. I’ll probably read another one sometime soon (famous last words lol).

>43 BLBera: oh yes Beth. Hot? It’s not too hot Grandma. Of course it isn’t Mia. Let me spray some more sunscreen on you. Lol.

>44 msf59: Keep up Mark lol. Or should I say B.A.G.

46kidzdoc
Jul 25, 10:42am Top

>40 brenzi: Nice photos!

>45 brenzi: LOL at your comments about Mia.

47ChelleBearss
Aug 2, 10:56am Top

>40 brenzi: That looks awesome! A dragon bouncy slide, how cool!

48brenzi
Aug 5, 12:39pm Top

>46 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl.

>47 ChelleBearss: It is cool Chelle. And naturally Mia loved every minute of it.

49brenzi
Aug 5, 12:57pm Top

So I’ve been negligent of my own thread again but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

I finished the last of Paul Scott’s brilliant Raj Quartet by reading Staying On which was a sequel of sorts described as a coda. It takes place about 25 years after India gained its independence from Great Britain and after partition and the creation of Pakistan. It followed the lives of one couple who played a part in the earlier novels and decided to stay on in India rather than return home. They both have their regrets but especially Lucy Smalley whose life we learn a great deal about. I know Scott’s many other books are not looked upon with great esteem but I may try a couple because his writing and descriptions are absolutely incredible. This description of Mrs. Boolabhoy owner of the dying hotel, is a good example of the wry humor his books were infected with:

“On her bad days he walked on tiptoe and had the entire staff doing the same so that even the guests (when there were any) felt themselves under a cloud and got out of the place as soon as possible after breakfast. This last Monday in April was such a morning; if anything heavier than usual with the pressure of Mrs. Bhoolabhoy’s martyrdom which throbbed like a silent fog-warning through the hotel from the shuttered bedroom where she lay on a massive double bed which she took up most of.”

Just another wonderful, yet tragic read.

50brenzi
Edited: Aug 5, 1:04pm Top

I also finished Volume three of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles, Confusion which ends with the end of WWII. I have become very invested with these characters. Howard did a phenomenal job of blending unique characterizations with historically cogent activities and made this series just delightful. I’ve watched with much interest as she aged the people involved and the children fron volume one are now adults making their way in a new world. It won’t be long before I move on to Volume 4. Just a great series overall if you’re interested on how ordinary citizens made their way through the war years in Great Britain.

51brenzi
Aug 5, 1:17pm Top

Currently reading



The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

52BLBera
Aug 5, 2:46pm Top

I never read Staying On, Bonnie. I didn't know it carried on after the Raj Quartet. I want to reread the whole thing.

I have one volume left in the Cazelet series. And it's been a while, so maybe I should start that one again...

Too many books!

I'll watch for your comments on The Mars Room.

53msf59
Aug 5, 4:45pm Top

Happy Sunday, Bonnie. I am also reading The Mars Room. 65 pages in. I like her grim, tough, style.

54brenzi
Aug 5, 6:53pm Top

>52 BLBera: yes Beth, way too many books. They get stacked around the house in little piles that signify nothing or they accumulate on my Kindle or languish on my Overdrive request list getting constantly suspended because some other book pushed them out of the way. And then somebody will mention a book that I’d thought of reading some time ago and that’ll serve as a reminder to bring that one forward. It’s hopeless. Lol

>53 msf59:. Grim is just the right word Mark. Interesting that I’m reading this just when I started watching the latest season of OITNB.

55tymfos
Aug 5, 10:46pm Top

>54 brenzi: Too many books indeed! I have the same kinds of piles, jumbled Kindle account, Overdrive list . . . oh, dear!

Happy Reading to you, Bonnie, from whatever pile or file you pull your next reads!

56lauralkeet
Aug 6, 6:55am Top

Hi Bonnie, I'm glad to see you enjoyed the coda to The Raj Quartet. I read it quite some time after the quartet and thought it was a brilliant premise, to revisit the place and the themes and explore "what happened next."

I also just read your post on Katie's thread about Sebastian Faulks and understand you have a copy of Birdsong on your shelves!!! I read it waaay pre-LT and absolutely loved it so I'm here to urge you to pick it up sooner rather than later!

57BLBera
Aug 6, 9:26am Top

Hopeless in a good way, right, Bonnie?

58vivians
Aug 6, 9:41am Top

Just finished The Mars Room and am still mulling it over. Powerful and distressing, that's for sure. I'll definitely continue the Cazalet Chronicles - I'm one behind you.

59brenzi
Aug 6, 6:27pm Top

>55 tymfos: Hi there Terri. I know we all struggle with too many books and I guess it’s a good problem to have lol.

>56 lauralkeet: I thought Staying On was quite a melancholy read Laura, the way he brought forward the marital regrets of both the Smalleys and the Bhoolabhoys. My heart went out to Lucy Smalley. But Scott is a brilliant writer so I’m going to see how his other books stack up.

I knew a lot of people loved Birdsong which is why I grabbed it when I saw it at the book sale. But knowing you loved it kind of clinches the idea that I will read it sooner rather than later🤷‍♀️

>57 BLBera: Yes absolutely Beth haha.

>58 vivians: I’m really loving the Cazalet Chronicles Vivian and The Mars Room is very compelling.

60msf59
Edited: Aug 6, 6:40pm Top

Hi, Bonnie. 130 pages into The Mars Room. I really like her no-nonsense writing style and it sure looks like she has done her homework as well.

Hey, I have not read Birdsong yet either. Lets set a date!

61lauralkeet
Aug 7, 7:22am Top

>59 brenzi: knowing you loved it kind of clinches the idea that I will read it sooner rather than later

Oh, such power, I hope it doesn't go to my head ha ha.

62brenzi
Aug 8, 7:01pm Top

63brenzi
Aug 8, 7:07pm Top

So after requesting an ER book for the first time in years I promptly forgot all about it until last week when I got notice that I’d won the book, Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks. Today it arrived. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an ER book this fast. I guess I’ll have to actually read it now. Not RIGHT now but soonish. Hope it’s good. I never continue with a book that doesn’t satisfy.

64kidzdoc
Aug 8, 7:53pm Top

>63 brenzi: I look forward to your thoughts about Paris Echo, Bonnie. IIRC I also requested it, but I won another book instead.

65lauralkeet
Aug 8, 8:11pm Top

>63 brenzi: I'm also very interested to see what you think of the Faulks!!

66katiekrug
Aug 8, 10:40pm Top

>63 brenzi: - My copy arrived today, too!

67brenzi
Aug 9, 5:00pm Top

>64 kidzdoc: >65 lauralkeet: you’ll be the first to know lol.

>66 katiekrug: yay Katie!

68brenzi
Aug 9, 5:03pm Top



This is a picture of what’s on top of a small book case in the hall outside of my bedroom. Can you tell which books are the direct fault of one laurelkeet? Haha. Just a couple of little hints.

69brenzi
Edited: Sep 9, 9:07am Top



The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

4.3 stars

”I worked at the Mars Room, giving lap dances. It’s not even the best of the strip clubs in San Francisco. There isn’t any status in it unless you’d be impressed to know that the Mars Room is not a middling or mediocre strip club but definitely the worst and most notorious, the very seediest and most circuslike place there is.”


Romy Hall is a young mother in 2003 when her shitty world comes crashing down around her and she ends up with two life sentences in a California penitentiary. This is the grittiest and most maddening novel I’ve read in a long time. Kushner knew just what she was doing in tearing down the general policy of mass incarceration of poor people who may or may not belong in prison but definitely got a raw deal because they couldn’t afford a good criminal attorney and had to settle for a court appointed lawyer, who really could care less what the outcome for their client was.

Romy was dealt a hand from the bottom of the deck from the day she was born and her negligent mother named her after a German actress who was said to have dated Hitler. So an auspicious start for Romy. Things just went downhill for her from there. It’s not until the end of the book that we learn the details of what she did to land in prison.

Kushner fills the book with complicated characters who share Romy’s fate and favors a dry, static narration that serves to build the drama of their lives. Overcrowded conditions wear the inmates down as well as the inhumane treatment by the prison guards. The scene where Romy and some other inmates are being delivered to the prison initially when a young woman goes into labor will tear your heart out and just adds to the frustration and anger that builds as the novel progresses. This is not an easy read but, I think, a necessary one. If we are not going to ensure that poor people get a proper defense in court we will never get beyond the horrifying conditions of mass incarceration in this country. Highly recommended.

70brenzi
Edited: Sep 9, 8:55am Top

Currently Reading



Changing My Mind Zadie Smith

71BLBera
Aug 9, 8:10pm Top

Great comments on The Mars Room, Bonnie. I am waiting for my turn with the library. I think I'm 5 or 6. But I have other stuff to read. I've been reading other essays by Smith; I love her. I'll watch for your comments on this one.

72Berly
Aug 10, 2:31am Top

>70 brenzi: Hi Bonnie. I like Zadie Smith, but haven't read that one. Waiting for your thoughts....

>68 brenzi: Lauralkeet!!! You go girl.

>40 brenzi: Love the photos of Mia. : )

73lauralkeet
Edited: Aug 10, 6:56am Top

>68 brenzi: ha ha ha I love it, Bonnie!
And you can tell I'm not quite awake yet: I spent a good minute zooming in on the photo to check a couple titles before realizing you'd circled the ones that are "my fault"!

You also reminded me I need to hunt for The Fire-Dwellers and The Diviners. After my summer course I want to read Laurence's complete Manawaka cycle. Done! I found two Virago editions on Abebooks. Now see, that's YOUR fault!! 😀

74brenzi
Edited: Aug 10, 8:47pm Top

>71 BLBera: Thanks Beth. Im a big Zadie Smith fan but this is the first book of essays I’ve read.

>72 Berly: Hi Kim, this is the first time I’ve read any of Zadie Smith’s non-fiction.

>73 lauralkeet: Hahaha I couldn’t resist Laura. As I was adding my new ER win to that stack of books which I hope to get to soon, I thought hmmmm. Which one is not like the others.

I wouldn’t mind rereading the whole Manawaka cycle at some point but right now I’d just like to get through the last two.

75kidzdoc
Aug 11, 7:56am Top

Great review of The Mars Room, Bonnie. I'll read it sometime in September.

I look forward to your thoughts about Changing My Mind. I own a copy but I haven't read it yet. I've read two or three of her essays that were published in The New York Review of Books, which were all very good.

76ChelleBearss
Aug 12, 8:03am Top

Good review of Mars Room! I'm looking forward to reading that one sometime this fall.

77brenzi
Aug 12, 9:31am Top

>75 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl. I think The Mars Room is an important book especially given the current conditions in this country. It’s not important whether or not it wins the Booker. I doubt it will.

I’m enjoying Zadie Smith’s essays and will probably seek out other collections.

>76 ChelleBearss:. Thanks Chelle. I hope you enjoy it.

78msf59
Aug 12, 9:39am Top

Happy Sunday, Bonnie. Excellent review of The Mars Room. Thumb! I loved the book, as well. It could end up being one of my favorite fiction titles, of the year.

79PaulCranswick
Aug 12, 10:04am Top

Just catching up and wishing you a wonderful Sunday, dear Bonnie.

80arubabookwoman
Aug 13, 12:18am Top

I discovered the old Jewel In The Crown miniseries on Amazon Videos and I’ve started rewatching it. It’s as good as I remembered. The actor who played Ronald Merrick is perfect.

81lauralkeet
Aug 13, 6:57am Top

>80 arubabookwoman: That may be my favorite miniseries of all time. Soooo good.

82brenzi
Aug 14, 8:28pm Top

>78 msf59:. Thanks Mark. I still have The Mars Room on my mind. Such a compelling novel.

>79 PaulCranswick: Hi there Paul😊

>80 arubabookwoman: which one are you arching Deborah? The one from the 80s or the later one. I still haven’t started it.

>81 lauralkeet: And which one ar you referring to Laura?

83lauralkeet
Aug 14, 9:49pm Top

>81 lauralkeet: the original 80s version with Tim Piggott-Smith as Merrick. I didn't know there was a newer one.

84arubabookwoman
Aug 14, 10:18pm Top

>82 brenzi: >83 lauralkeet: I thought there was only one too, the one Laura references. I saw it when it originally aired, and I don’t think I’ve watched it since, though I’ve read the books several times.

85brenzi
Aug 15, 8:25pm Top

>83 lauralkeet: >84 arubabookwoman: Amazon Prime lists two versions, one from 2015 which you need some kind of passport to Masterpiece for and the one from the 80s which they say is currently unavailable for viewing. Grrr. Maybe they’re the same thing.

86PaulCranswick
Sep 2, 5:26am Top

Wishing you a lovely Sunday, Bonnie. xx

87Berly
Sep 8, 3:45pm Top

Hi, Bonnie. Happy Saturday!!! Rachel Kushner of The Mars Room is coming to Porltand--I am hopibng to go see her. : )

88brenzi
Sep 9, 8:41am Top

>86 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul.

>87 Berly: Lucky you Kim. I would love to see her. Have you read her novel Telex from Cuba?

89brenzi
Sep 9, 8:48am Top



Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulkes

2 stars

This was the worst book I’ve read in a long, long time. If it hadn’t been an ER book, I never would’ve finished it. But I forged my way through what was really quite a slog. Part coming of age, part WWII history about the role of Paris women in collaboration with the Germans (or not) it held great promise but never really lived up to it. It failed to draw me in on so many levels. An Algerian teenager who doesn’t really know what he wants, leaves his home and travels to France to work for what amounted to a few months. He finds that all is not rosy in France and eventually returns home, somehow buoyed up to finish his degree and go on at college. Why he arrived at this conclusion is about as clear as mud.

An American woman, doing research about the Parisian women during the war years, listens to audio recordings supplied by these women in their old age. In the meantime, an old acquaintance, recently divorced, seems to have fallen in love with her. She’s oblivious. Until the last few pages of the book. Then she suddenly realizes she’s in love with him and MUST move in with him.

The worst, and I mean the very worst part for me was the fact that the author felt the need to flood every single page with French street names or restaurant names or neighborhood names until I wanted to just throw the book against the wall. I don’t speak French. If I wanted to read a book loaded with French phrases I’d look for an actual French author. This was absolutely mind-numbing and very, very tiresome. Just like the rest of the book. Save yourself.

90brenzi
Sep 9, 8:52am Top

High Rising by Angela Thirkell

3 stars

”Ah, Laura, you mock me. Your paths are beyond me. You raise mediocrity to genius.”


I really have no more words to describe this book. That quote spells it out. I never got interested in these ho-hum characters, in a plot that didn’t thicken so much as sit desultorily waiting for someone or something to jump start it. What in the world is the draw here? I loved the Anthony Trollope Barsetshire novels and they could be silly and pointless sometimes yet they were somehow highly enjoyable. But this novel just falls flat. If you couldn’t figure out the one twist or so-called mystery in the book then you really have been sleep-reading which is certainly possible.

On the back of my paperback copy it says: “There’s just no stopping after one novel.”

Wanna bet?

91brenzi
Sep 9, 8:55am Top



Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

3.8 stars

I absolutely love Zadie Smith but this collection of essays was a mixed bag. The first essay, “Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful mean,” was especially good mostly because I just read the Zora Neale Hurston book in July. I appreciated almost every word Smith had to say on the subject. Essays about Nabokov, Barthes, Kafka and especially David Foster Wallace….not so much. The Wallace essay was downright deadly boring and long. Just terrible.

The essay about Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo was absolutely fascinating. So much I never knew about these women was brought out beautifully by Smith. And her essay entitled “Smith Family Christmas” was wonderful and this passage really hit home:

”Santa help me but I believe this too. You know you believe it when you start your own little family with some person you met four years ago in a bar, and then he tries to open the presents on Christmas Eve because that’s what he did in his family and you have the strong urge to run screaming from the building holding your banner about the end and how it is nigh. It is a moving and comic thing---a Murdochian scuffle between the Real and the Dream---to watch a young couple as they teeter around the Idea of Christmas, trying to avoid internecine festive warfare.”


So like many essay collections this one had its ups and downs but on the whole was really quite good. Recommended.

92brenzi
Edited: Sep 12, 7:57pm Top

Once again I had abandoned my own thread but only because RL is just kicking my butt for all of August well into September. Things are finally settling down a bit so I'll try to be more attentive to LT.

One thing keeping me particularly busy is the fact that I had to buy a new car. I don't know about the rest of you but for me that whole process is like having major surgery. Why can't they make it easier? No idea but it points out why Ill never be a candidate to lease a car. The whole idea of doing this again in three years makes me slightly very nauseous. I kept my last car for eleven years and hope to get just as many years out of my new Subaru.

I also bought a bike and that has kept me really busy also. There's a bike trail a few blocks from my house and have been enjoying riding way more than I ever thought I would.

But I've still been finding time to read. My current read is absolutely fascinating:

93katiekrug
Sep 9, 9:20am Top

>89 brenzi: - Ruh roh! Guess i wont be rushing to read my ER copy...

Sorry your recent reads haven't been very satisfying, Bonnie.

94BLBera
Edited: Sep 9, 11:01am Top

Great comments, Bonnie. I'm sorry your recent reads have not been all you hoped for. I do want to try the Thirkell (it's on my shelf), but I guess there's no hurry.

Enjoy your Sunday. A bike ride?

Car buying is terrible. I'm hoping mine lasts for the rest of my life.

95brenzi
Sep 9, 3:26pm Top

>93 katiekrug: Yeah to say I as disappointed in Paris Echo is a complete understatement Katie.

>94 BLBera: It’s 57 out right now Beth so I’m not sure about a bike ride. Maybe but it’s windy too. Brrrr. First taste of autumn. I’m hoping this is my last car. If not I may turn to Uber.

96Berly
Sep 10, 12:46am Top

A new car! A new bike! Congratulations and may they last you many years so you don't have to go through this again soon. I want to hear more on 1947: Where now begins...

97brenzi
Sep 10, 8:21pm Top

Haha I hadn’t ridden a bike since high school Kim but. I’m really enjoying it.

I finished 1947: Where Now Begins last night but I haven’t written any remarks yet. It was a fascinating book.

98msf59
Sep 10, 8:54pm Top

Hi, Bonnie. Glad to get the updates. I hope your next few reads are all winners.

Congrats on the new car. Yes, it can be stressful but I hope you are happy with the decision. A new bike too?
Since, I have been getting into birding, my biking has taken a backseat. I miss it.

99vivians
Edited: Sep 11, 10:22am Top

>89 brenzi: Thanks for thanking the bullet Bonnie! I had Paris Echo on my radar after listening to an interview Faulks did with Simon Mayo. I'm very happy to skip it, although I'm still curious about Mayo's historical fiction Mad Blood Stirring.

Good luck with your new Subaru! We've had them for years and routinely keep driving them for 150,00 miles plus! They've always been very reliable for us.

100lauralkeet
Sep 12, 2:12am Top

>89 brenzi: oh dear. Well, I'll just add my gratitude for doing us all a favor. Sorry the Thirkell didn't work for you, too. I must say that first one in the series is not the best and it might be a good thing that I (unknowingly) started in the middle somewhere. They are definitely fluffy reads, though, so I can only take so much at once.

I love that you bought a bike! Go Bonnie go!

101brenzi
Edited: Sep 12, 8:08pm Top



1947: Where Now Begins Elizabeth Asbrink

4.5 stars

I don’t remember how I learned about this book but I know I was drawn to it by the title. This may be an embarrassing revelation but 1947 is my birth year so how could I not be interested in this book? And it was absolutely fascinating.

Translated from the Swedish, the narrative was somewhat choppy but I came to view that as purposeful to better describe exactly what was going on during that pivotal year, just a couple of years out from WWII. The author goes through the year month by month describing events that will come to be very important today. Europe is a disaster with little to eat and homes and factories destroyed. And yet people somehow march on and survive.

In the March section she poses this:

”The meeting between Per Engdahl and Johann von Leers is also a point in time from which threads stretch on into the future and at which other names appear, but the dreams are the same: a new Europe, a homogeneous section of a continent in the world. No social classes. No political parties. The individual subordinated to the collective. Authoritarian movements, with leaders who take clear-cut decisions, and in which no time is wasted on slow, unsatisfactory democratic processes. A uniform organism, harmoniously white. Europe a Nation, to quote the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley.”


She makes a direct connection between these men, in 1947, and what is going on in Europe and even in the U.S. today. They are responsible for being the first to deny the Holocaust.

She details the establishment of the state of Israel, and the difficulties that accompanied it including the blocking of ships with Holocaust survivors on board by both Britain and the U.S.

The birth of the Muslim Brotherhood occurred in 1947.

The Nuremberg Trials began in 1947.

Simone de Beauvoir, Christian Dior, Thelonius Monk, Primo Levi

The Marshall Plan. And it’s consequences when the Soviet Union refuses to allow Eastern Europe the U.S. aid that would help their people survive.

The birth of jihad under Hasan al-Banna.

The Palestine Problem

George Orwell was on an island with his young son in 1947 writing his most well- known book, 1984. If that’s not prescient I don’t know what is.

In August, Arnold Schoenberg composes A Survivor from Warsaw for a narrator, choir and orchestra.

The role of the Vatican in helping to set up Nazi escape routes to Argentina to avoid trial was startling to me.

The Kalishnakov rifle was invented by the Russian Mikhail Kalishnakov.

I could go on about this connection between 1947 and the world we know now. It’s absolutely amazing. And fascinating to me.

Very highly recommended.

102brenzi
Sep 12, 8:07pm Top

>98 msf59: Hi Mark, I know you love your birding but I am really enjoying bike riding. So much more than I expected.😀

>99 vivians: I love my new car and hope I get as many miles out of it as you do Vivian. Considering I drive maybe 7-8,000 miles a year I’ll have to stretch my life maybe more than is possible lol. See what Katie thinks of Paris Echo when she reads it. She may have a different opinion.

>100 lauralkeet:. Sometimes I don’t mind fluffy Laura but that’s not usually my go to genre, if you can call it that. I’m really loving my bike and riding almost every day. I also play pickle ball two or three times a week and someone there told me I could take my bike on the subway at the end of the bike trail and go down to Canalside and follow the trail along the water so I’m thinking of giving that a try.

103brenzi
Sep 12, 8:17pm Top

Currently reading:

Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Volume Four of The Cazalet Chronicles

104msf59
Sep 12, 10:09pm Top

Great review of 1947, Bonnie. Thumb! Congrats on the bike riding. I like biking too but since I started birding, I have not rode much. I may have to tune up my bike.

105FAMeulstee
Sep 13, 4:59am Top

>101 brenzi: Good review, Bonnie, sounds good. My library has it in Dutch translation, so I hope to get to it soon.

106RebaRelishesReading
Sep 13, 12:22pm Top

Wow, that sounds like a rather unpleasant period there, three disappointing books in a row and having to buy a new car. Ugh! But brighter lights at the end with a good book and a new Subaru. Which one did you get?

107BLBera
Sep 13, 1:46pm Top

>101 brenzi: Great comments, Bonnie. This sounds like one I would like.

108brenzi
Edited: Sep 13, 9:56pm Top

>104 msf59: Thanks Mark. It’s not really NNF but it’s awfully good NF. Can’t you watch the birds from your bike haha.

>105 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. I hope you enjoy it.

>106 RebaRelishesReading: Yes Reba, I seldom have the problem of terrible books so I may have been due. I bought a Forester and I love it. No blind spots.

>107 BLBera: Thanks Beth. It was really eye opening to me.

109Donna828
Sep 16, 6:12pm Top

Congratulations on your new forms of transportation. I recently gifted my bicycle to my daughter-in-law. It was making me feel too guilty because I quit riding a few years ago when vertigo entered my world. I like to keep my feet on the ground!

>101 brenzi:: I share your birth year, Bonnie, and had no idea how pivotal it was. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

110msf59
Sep 16, 10:20pm Top

>108 brenzi: "Can’t you watch the birds from your bike haha." I have definitely thought about it. LOL. I just think it might be to dangerous.

I hope you had a great weekend, Bonnie.

111brenzi
Sep 17, 8:51pm Top

>109 Donna828: Vertigo is so hard to deal with so I don’t blame you for keeping your feet on the ground Donna. It’s good to see you my friend.

>110 msf59: yes it would be dangerous Mark so don’t try it lol.

112vancouverdeb
Sep 20, 6:33am Top

What a cutie Cole is, Bonnie. Enjoy your new Subaru. In July, I purchased a humble new Toyota Corolla. The sports model ;-) But they are great reliable cars.

113RebaRelishesReading
Today, 6:29am Top

>108 brenzi:. We bought a Forrester last year and totally love it. We’ll have to introduce them sometime🙂. Are you around in late October?

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