Banjo keeps reading in 2019
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Hello Reading Friends! I am Banjo; aka Rhonda.
About Me: Turned 60 last year, so working on that wisdom and maturity thing. Live in Portland, Oregon; with wife (Mrs. Banjo) our daughter (Banjo, Jr.) who is grown and almost launched; three cats; one dog; and thousands of books. Work in Geriatic Mental Health. I think my reading is eclectic, but it runs to literary fiction and narrative non-fiction. Lately I have been reading more SciFi and Fantasy.
My topper is a picture of a mural in industrial southeast Portland, and my resolution for 2019 is to bring more whimsy into my life. I ended 2018 in a bit of a reading funk, so I am going to begin 2019 reading without goals.
Books Read In 2019
1. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2. Make Me A City by Jonathan Carr
3. Warlight by Michael Odaatje
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama
5. The Magic of Tidying by Mari Kondo
6. Good Omens by Gaiman/Pratchett
7. Overstory by Richard Powers
8. Sadie by Courtney Summers
9. Bingo Love: Jackpot Edition
10, We are Legion by Dennis Taylor
11. Corregidora by Gayl Jones
12. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
13. Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
14. the Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky
15. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
16. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
17. The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd
18 The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
19. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
20. How To Love A Country
21. As Texas Goes by Gail Collins
22. These Truths by Jill Lepore
23. Riding Fury Home by Chana Wilson
24. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
25. Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
26. Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
27. the Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan
28. Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington
29. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
30. The Leavers by Lisa Ko
31. Rangers at Roadsend by Jane Fletcher
32. Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis
33. The Great Believers
34. The Golden Son
35. Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
36. The National Team by Caitlin Murray
37. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
38. God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright
39. In Another Place Not Here by Dionne Brand
Books from 2018 that I am still talking about:
1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
2. The Odyssey: a father, a son and an epic by Daniel Mendelsohn
3. Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
4. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
5. History of Love by Nicole Krauss
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
8. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan
and happy reading to all my LT friends! I began 2019 reading, as I finished A Visit from the Goon Squad just after midnight. This was a re-read for me; we are doing it for book group. I did love this book both times I read it. This time, I found out what the name means. Time, we learn, is a goon. This makes since, because the book is mainly about time, and how the lives of the characters change, for better and worse, with time. But it reminds me that all of our past selves are folded, in some way in our present self.
Happy New Year, Rhonda. I love the topper.
>4 banjo123: What a great list - I've read and loved some of these as well. The others go on my WL for 2019.
I also loved A Visit from the Goon Squad - I think it's one that gets better with rereads. There's so much to think about.
And Queen of the Tearling! What is there about this trilogy that stays with us? And I'm not usually a fantasy reader...
I look forward to following your reading in 2019.
Happy New Year, Rhonda and Happy New Thread. Looking forward to sharing another year of books with you!
Ooh, the Goon Squad. what a perfect book to kick off the year with. Swoons a little...
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Rhonda, this year.
>6 drneutron: Thanks, Jim!!
>7 Berly: Yay, Kim!! New Books! I have a Powell's gift certificate, so we need a meet-up.
>8 BLBera: Thanks, Beth, and thanks for the Tearling recommendation. Mrs. Banjo just read it, and she also really liked it. Surprising, because she is not a SciFi person, usually.
>9 Cait86: Hooray for Octavia Butler!!
>10 msf59: Thanks Mark, and I will have to look for McCracken. I think I have her on my wishlist.
>12 FAMeulstee: and happy new year to you also, Anita!
>13 EBT1002: Yes, definitely read Pachinko! And happy new year, Ellen
>14 PaulCranswick: Happy new year, Paul! Love the picture.
>5 banjo123: I missed that definition of "goon" completely. How fascinating.
Wishing you a great year of reading in 2019.
Happy New Year, Rhonda! You make me want to give Goon Squad another go - it was a failure for me the first time, and I did not finish it. Maybe I will try it again.
Happy New Year, Rhonda, and dropping a star! Love your 2018 list. Middlesex was a 5 star read for me.
Rhonda--Maybe we should try for a Powell's meet-up late January??? What do you think? Juli, if you read this, same question! : )
>23 Berly: If I may be so bold, we're going to be in Portland for grandson's first birthday over MLK weekend. I will, of course, have to attend any actually scheduled events but might be able to sneak away for a meet-up at other times :)
OK, so if anyone else is interested in a Portland meet ups soon, the discussion is here. Thank you Kim!
And Reba, it would be great to see you again! And Juli!
Here is a funny book related thing. On my last thread, I had asked for Neil Gaiman recommendations. I ended up with a copy of Good Omens; and started it the other day. Well, I just realized a read it before! The
We went today to see "Bohemian Rhapsody"; which everyone else I know had already seen and loved. We also loved it. Now I have the song going through my head (Scaramouche! Scaramouche!)
Also, I completed another book. Make Me a City by Jonathan Carr. This was a Early Reviewer Book. I see that I had one of the more positive reviews of the book, at 3.5 stars. So, probably not a book that's going to work for a lot of people, but here is my review:
Overall, I liked this book. It's kind of a historical novel, kind of an alternative history of Chicago, and kind of a series of linked stories. The stories show that a place's real history is different than the recorded history, and address the erasure of Native Americans, Women, and working people in the building of Chicago. The book could have used a little more plot, and at times the writing is overly studied, but I found the characters interesting and enjoyed the shifting viewpoints.
I usually avoid posting pictures of the family, but couldn't resist this one
That's Banjo, Jr reading All the Birds In the Sky, (which I gave her for Christmas) and Mrs. Banjo with a library copy of Becoming. They are joined by Chica (the dog) and Banjo and Willi two of our cats.
Actually, all the animals were originally with them, but Francis moved when he saw the camera.
So for good measure, here's a picture of Franny with Banjo.
Thanks for sharing the pictures, Rhonda. Love it! Your comments make the Carr book sound interesting.
I want a Powell's meet-up!
>29 banjo123: I love this photo and I see you in the reflection too.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda. I hope you are enjoying the weekend and getting some quality reading time in.
>30 Berly: Thanks Kim! Looking forward to seeing you.
>31 The_Hibernator: Thanks, Rachel!
>32 BLBera: Surely you can come to Portland for MLK weekend and have a meet-up, Beth?
>33 msf59: Mark, that's funny. I hadn't realized I was in the reflection.
>34 SuziQoregon:, >35 Crazymamie: Thanks, Juli and Mamie!
I listened to the audio of Good Omens last year. Just fun. I'm looking forward to the TV adaptation coming to Amazon Prime sometime this year. David Tennant will be perfect as Crowley.
Happy New Year, Rhonda!
I love the photos in >29 banjo123:.
I'm envious of the potential Powell's meetup! Wish we could be there. Madame MBH and I have agreed, after so much traveling last year, that we're going nowhere this month. Of course, picking January in Chicago to stay home wasn't the brightest move we've made, but we're determined to reacquaint ourselves with our house!
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
This is my first book by Ondaatje, and I haven't even seen the movie of The English Patient. Now I am sorry that I waited, I quite liked Warlight. In this novel our protagonist, Nathaniel, explores his childhood, including seeming neglect from both parents, and tries to learn more about his mothers war time and post-war experiences as a spy. The book explores how episodic and unreliable childhood memory is. The writing is lovely.
The English Patient is my only Ondaatje book. I liked the book, didn't like the movie so much. At the time, I didn't know the actors well enough, and they all looked the same and all those flashbacks confused me because I couldn't tell who I was supposed to be watching.
>45 banjo123: Adding that one to the BlackHole!
I hope you have a great reading year, Rhonda, and avoid the reading funk!
Hi Rhonda, Thanks for letting me know about the meet up. I'm looking forward to seeing you again.
>46 The_Hibernator: Rachel, I will have to read The English Patient!
>47 msf59: Warlight will be there when you are ready for it, Mark. And I predict you will like it!
>48 alcottacre: Thanks!
>49 BLBera: I think maybe your review nudged me towards reading Warlight, Beth.
>50 Oregonreader: Hi Jan! Hope all is well with you.
>51 charl08: It sounds like Anil's Ghost is good!
I'm always happy to take credit for recommendations if people liked the book, Rhonda.
Great weekend plans. I was just telling Kim that I need to move to Portland.
Don't got anything worth saying, other than I stopped by and I like the place. Even if it is the wrong Portland. (Heh heh).
Nice to read that you liked A Visit from the Good Squad. It was one of my ten best from last year. Along with The English Patient, which I need two tries to get through (and I am glad I did). I have a couple other Ondaatje novels on the TBR. Must keep an eye out (eewww) for Warlight.
Hope that meetup is a success. We're hunkering down for snow followed by rain, accented with a sharp, quick temp drop of about 20-25 degrees. Ice on everything.
>45 banjo123: I've never read anything by him. Might have to check out Warlight. Sounds good.
>54 Berly: Thanks, Kim! What a fun meet up
>55 EBT1002: Thanks for stopping by, Ellen, I finished Becoming, and will review soon.
>56 BLBera: Yes, definitely move here, Beth.
>57 weird_O: Thanks, Bill! Ugh on the ice and cold. It's just rainy here... perfect bookstore and reading weather.
>58 SuziQoregon: I think you'd like it, Juli. And, great to see you!
>59 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr weekend, everyone.
My weekend's been good, so far. We volunteered yesterday with Schoolhouse Supply book sort; as a MLK Weekend of Service activity. Today, a fun time meeting up with Kim, Juli, and Reba; and a little shopping at Powell's. Tomorrow we have NOTHING planned, so it will be fun to figure out what to do.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I had too high of expectations starting this book, with so many finding it a 5 star read. Don't get me wrong, I liked the book, but it was more of a 3.5 to 4 star read for me; very good for a famous person autobiography, but not a book that stood out for me, on it's own. The writing was solid, but not great. I did think that Obama did a good job of keeping the book focussed, which is often a problem with books like this, as there are so many details in anyone's life, it's easy to get side tracked. Obama figured out what her main point was, and she stuck to it.
My favorite thing about the book was her descriptions of Barack, and her analysis of them as a couple. The two are so different, but with mutual respect were able to pull it off. Barack being the dreamer, the ambitious one, always running late; Michelle with a more conventional outlook, very focused on achievement and organization. It seems that they rubbed off a little on each other, so that Michelle was able to leave corporate law for public service, which was a much better fit for her; and Barack, obviously, benefited from Michelle's solidness.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda. Sorry, to hear that Becoming wasn't a 5 star read for you. It sure rang all my bells. Hey, it happens.
I am having a perfect day off, with two to follow. Grins...
Happy MLKJ day to you! I'll be spending it with the kids - I wonder if they even know who he is.
Happy MLK Day, Rhonda. Such a good quote from him. He knew he wouldn't see it in his lifetime. What a long haul it is to get to simple equality.
That looked like a great meetup.
I'll be reading Becoming soon, and your comments will help me keep my expectations realistic.
>63 Berly: Thanks, Kim!
>64 SuziQoregon: Likewise
>65 msf59: Hooray for time off, Mark! And Becoming was still well worth reading, even if not IMO 5 star. Juli was recommending the audio-book, so I suggested that Banjo, Jr try it that way, as she wanted to read it and likes audio books.
>66 The_Hibernator: Hope your day is good, Rachel. I remember when Banjo, jr was younger her teacher would tell them that this weekend was for more than skiing. Hopefully M and D have teachers who also emphasize that.
>67 BLBera: Yes, book purchases! I forgot to mention. I was restrained, only two books. I picked up These Truths, which I think can double as hand weights, and then I wanted something lighter so Kim recommended We Are Legion. I look forward to reading both.
>68 jnwelch: Hi Joe! Yes, a great meet-up. I will be interested to see what you think of Becoming. The Chicago angle should be fun for you.
The Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
I picked up a free used copy of this at the book sort, and brought it home so I could make fun of it. I read it (lots of skimming) and Kondo is an odd duck. She started being interested in "tidying" and household organization when she was 5; and as a school girl would come home and organize her room, her brother's room, and the family closets. I am sure glad that I didn't have her for a sibling, someone else "organizing" and discarding my things would drive me crazy. Also she has this habit of talking to her possessions, like when she comes home and changes her clothes, she thanks her work clothes for keeping her warm.
However, she obviously has got something going, she has so many people interested and talking about it. Her general plan is fairly simplistic, and definitely has bad parts (no sweatpants! only 30 books). But here are some techniques that I may try to adopt.
My other issue with the technique, is that she is completely focused on getting rid of things that "don't give joy", but doesn't address the reasons why we have so many things in the first place.
>70 banjo123: I now feel I know all I need to about Kondo, Rhonda. Great comments.
Good job only buying two books.
No sweatpants? Crumbs.
Interesting to read the different takes on Becoming. I have it out from the library and should get on with it before the other 100 people in the queue get impatient.
Reading Kondo's book felt like being inside of someone else's OCD. But then I did go through my closet and give 4 garbage bags of clothes to charity, so I guess it has some good points.
>71 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! Glad to help.
>72 RebaRelishesReading: And I will agree that Michelle Obama is a "5" as a person!
>73 charl08: Yeah, sweatpants are a deal breaker for me, also.
>74 Deedledee: At least Kondo is cheerful in her compulsiveness! I need to go through my closet, also.
Hope that everyone is having a great weekend. I finished another book, Good Omens. This has been a busy weekend, though, and not sure when I will get to review.
Have you seen the trailer for the upcoming TV adaptation of Good Omens - looks promising.
>76 SuziQoregon: That looks fun!
Hope everyone had a great weekend. We were at the coast, celebrating Mrs. Banjo's birthday. Very fun and relaxing.
Two more books finished, ready to review. (i.e. to give a brief comment about each)
Good Omens by Pratchettt and Gaiman
Well, this is part of my resolution to bring more fun into 2019. I found that reading this really improved my mood; obviously there is more space in my reading for the light and humorous. So hooray for Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and this very silly collaboration. I realized, after starting, that I had read this before, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment. I did think, with both readings, that this book could have benefited from a bit of editing. Parts are totally hilarious, and other parts could use focus.
Overstory by Richard Powers
This book has gotten great reviews here on LT, and Powers is a good writer, but overall, this book fell flat for me. There were too many separate story lines that didn't pull together. The book takes us into the lives of a number of different people involved with trees, an posits the idea that trees are living beings, as deserving as humans of respect and protection. Somehow, I think that to get this across for me, I would need to have more information from the perspective of the trees, rather than the people buzzing around the trees. I am not sure how you would present the voice of a tree.... maybe poetry?
Perhaps it wasn't the right time for me to read this book; I might be more in the mood for it another time. There were parts that I liked, enough so I kept reading.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
We read this for the lesbian book club. I am not sure why--there is really not lesbian content. It is a young adult novel, a sort of thriller, that is told in alternating view points. One is a podcast, investigating the murder of one teenage girl and the disappearance of another. It is clever idea, and well done. The book is dark, themes of abuse, neglect, and poverty. I would recommend if you are interested in this theme.
>77 banjo123: Belated happy birthday to Mrs Banjo! Do we share a birthday, mine was the 3rd.
Hi, Rhonda. Sorry The Overstory fell flat for you. Another 5 star read for me. LOL. Maybe you will 5 star one of my 4 star reads. Grins...
I had a good time with Good Omens too.
>78 banjo123: I've found listening to the audios of his witches books good like this too. I do love the witches' attitude to life. Not sure what that says about me!
I liked The Overstory more than you did, I think, but it did take me ages to work out where he was going with all the diverse stories. At first I thought it was going to be like All that Man Is nd only technically a novel, more realistically short stories. Did you read Annie Prouxlx book about trees? It had left me with a fascination with NZ trees. I would love to go see one of the really ancient ones that survived the loggers. Maybe one day...
Happy belated birthday to Mrs. Banjo - we were over at the coast last weekend too.
Happy Friday, Rhonda. Great comments on The Overstory. I want to read it, but realistically, I'll probably wait for the summer. You've tempered my expectations, which is a good thing.
>81 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul!
>82 FAMeulstee: Thanks, Anita---hers was on the 1st, so just a couple of days off.
>83 msf59: LOL, Mark, I should look at all your four star reads and find one to rave about!
>84 charl08: I think everyone liked Overstory more than me! Maybe the wrong timing? I do have Barkskins on my TBR shelves, but I may need more reading fortitude for that one.
>85 The_Hibernator: There were parts of Overstory that I liked, which is why I kept reading to the end. But by the last 100 pages I was more than ready for it to be over.
>86 SuziQoregon: Thanks! The coast was pretty amazing, such waves.
>87 BLBera: Thanks Beth! I think sometimes its good to go in with mixed expectations, so hopefully it will work for you.
And hope everyone is having a good week! I am overly busy at work, still looking for some balance.
In my quest for some fun reading, I am reading We Are Legion; recommended by Kim (Berly). Thanks, Kim! Also started These Truths; which is good, but not going very fast. If I am lucky I will catch up with the group read by March.
The coast was great, Kim! And really glad it was last weekend and not this. Sounds like we have similar reactions to Barkskins One of these days.
I am enjoying Legion and These Truths is really good.
We had some snow here in Portland. Those of you from colder climates will laugh at us... The city is moving at half-speed; libraries closed, etc. Here we have about an inch. But I think there is also ice. Anyway, a good weekend for reading.
Worrisome news here in the Banjo household. Francis the cat went to the vet yesterday, for dental work. (not his idea) They ended up not doing the work, because they found his kidney levels were high, and also he had a heart murmur. I am happy they were cautious, because we lost a cat with a heart murmur in the past, who died after surgery. Hopefully this one doesn't end up being a big deal.
Happy Saturday, Rhonda. How are you guys coping with the snowstorm? I am hearing reports that Seattle got a foot of snow. That is insane. Good luck!
Glad you are jumping aboard the These Truths train. I am getting very close to the finish-line and it has been pretty terrific. To do this in one-volume is quite an achievement.
ETA- Good luck to Francis.
Sorry to hear about Francis' woes. Hope you do get to Barkskins. It's quite an achievement.
Oh dear... sorry to learn about Francis' health issues. As you said, good thing the vet and crew discovered this pre-surgery. What a sweet kitty!
>93 msf59: Seattle got it worse that us, Mark, and it looks like the rest of the week should be OK.
>94 charl08: Good to hear about Barkskins. I haven't read too much from Prouix, and I want to get to more of her work.
>95 lkernagh: Thanks! Franny is an amazing cat, although not altogether sweet. He's the guy who follows us throughout the neighborhood when we take walks, charms some of the neighborhood strollers, but also attacks dogs (though never Chica, they are buddies) and sometimes attacks us. I blame it on his traumatic youth, and we love him with all his quirks.
Regarding Francis's health, he seems pretty lively still, so I am hoping for the best. We find out the results of his extra testing in a week, he may need to see a cardiologist.
I did read a quick graphic novel this weekend, Bingo Love (The touchstone isn't working, I will fix it later.)
This was for the Lesbian Book group, it's sweet and romantic, if a bit too much so for me. I think this picture tells the story:
Sorry to hear about Francis. I hope things work out okay. We found out something a little similar a few weeks ago when our Poppy was feeling off and we could not figure it out. The vet did two sets of x rays among other things and we found out that our 5 1/2 year very fit little dog has an enlarged heart. That was not the cause of her problems, but it worries me a bit looking to the future. For now the vet said it's not a big concern. A surprising finding for us.
>97 banjo123: Lovely picture!
>97 banjo123: That does look a little saccharine, Rhonda.
I hope Francis is OK.
>98 vancouverdeb:, >99 alcottacre:, >100 BLBera: thanks everyone for the best wishes to Francis. We have had quite the set of adventures with him this week; he got in a fight, and had a huge gash on his chest. It turns out his heart bloodwork was elevated, we will need to see a cardiologist. In the meantime, the vet didn't want to use anesthesia to stitch him up. We decided that she would do staples with light sedation, and I convinced her to let me stay in the room for it, as I knew Franny would be calmer with me around; and if she couldn't do it we'd have to go to the emergency vet. ($$$, more stress). Between me, the vet tech, and the vet, we kept him still enough, but he is one tough cookie and was not, actually, very sedate. Now he is in the cone of shame, and has been told that from now on he is an inside cat.
Despite this, he is still stalking around the house with great energy, so it's hard to imagine that there is all that much wrong with his heart.
>79 banjo123: I think most folks liked it more than me, maybe it was timing?
And book-wise, I finished We Are Legion by Dennis Taylor
Thanks, Kim! I enjoyed this one. It's a sci-fi romp about artificial intelligence and theocracy.
So glad to hear Francis survived the fight! Yikes. Hope the heart thing turns out to be nothing.
So glad you enjoyed We Are Legion! : ) I think the first one was my favorite, but they are all very good.
Enjoy your Sunday.
>103 BLBera:, Thanks, Beth! Francis is, as we speak, trying to "help" Mrs. B and Banjo, jr with a jigsaw puzzle. So at least he still has a lot of spunk.
>104 Berly: Thanks again fro the Bobiverse recommendation, Kim!
Reading -wise, I just finished an ERC, and am also getting a lot from reading These Truths. I have switched back to serious reading! Our book group is discussing White Tiger in a week, so I am going to try to re-read it soon, but we will see if I get to it.
Corregidora by Gayl Jones
I received this book from Early Reviewers, and it was a tough, but worthwhile read. First published in 1975, this book explores the legacies of slavery especially as related to black women and sexuality/intimacy. Ursa Corregidora is a blues singer, whose mother and grandmother were both fathered by the same man, Simon Corregidora, a Portuguese slave master in Brazil. Jones's writing is excellent, she does a good job of representing Ursa's voice. I will note that it is sexually explicit. The book really illustrates inter-generational trauma and how tragically it has effected individual lives in the African American community.
>106 banjo123: Well said, Rhonda. I just finished this as well. Great minds...
>92 banjo123: Sorry about Francis. Hopefully nothing will come of it.
>107 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I looked at your review, and it seems like my thoughts are pretty much the same.
>108 The_Hibernator: Thanks, Rachel. Franny seems to be doing well right now, so we are hoping for the best.
The weekend has seemed busy, we had out of town guests, which was nice. Also book group... see below.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
We read this for book group, it was a good discussion, and people in the main liked the book. I was surprised, I thought it would be too dark, and the narrator too much of a mixed bag for some of the group. The narrator in the book is a servant/driver turned entrepreneur in India; lots of themes about class, oppression and corruption. But it's also quite funny. I had read it before, back in 2012. I looked and my description then was "dark and zany", and I gave it 4 stars. I think that holds up. Here is one of my favorite parts of the book:
Now, I've driven around Bangalore at night too but I never get that feeling here that I did in Delhi--the feeling that if something is burning inside me as I drive, the city will know about it--she will burn with the same thing.
My heart was bitter that night. The city knew this--and under the dim orange glow case everywhere by the weak streetlamps, she was bitter.
Speak to me of civil war, I told Delhi.
I will, she said.
>110 banjo123: This one has been on my shelves for a long time, Rhonda. Another one to put on the "read soon" pile. It sounds like one I would like. Interesting how book groups can surprise one, right? I still am often surprised at which books generate a good discussion.
Have a great week. Is spring there yet?
I forgot to mention in my review that Corregidora is sexually explicit. That probably is a good thing to add. There may be people put off by that part.
I also quite enjoyed The White Tiger when I read it a few years ago, Rhonda.
Have a great weekend.
>111 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! It's still cold here, but the weekend is sunny and beautiful. I hope that you enjoy The White Tiger when you get to it.
>112 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! It has been a good weekend so far.
>113 lkernagh: Yes, wasn't that a unique voice?
And hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. I finished Washington Black yesterday, which was a five star read for me. I will try to review it soon.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
I am giving this book 5 stars, it's the kind of book I really get lost in. Historical fiction, with an intriguing plot full of wonderful and strange twists; a compelling narrative voice, and also a book that leaves you with several troubling and interesting ethical questions. The book starts out difficult, Washington Black is a young boy, and a slave on a plantation in Barbados in 1830, where the slaves are treated, just completely horribly. The only thing that Wash has going for him really is Big Kit, an older woman slave who has taken him under her wing. But Edugyan's main interest is in the post-slavery period, and Wash soon finds himself in a new world, and in a new and ever-changing set of circumstances. The book is a page-turner, with lots of action, but also with the dilemma, very relevant in today's world, of the "liberal" white savior, who wants to set himself apart from the horrors of slavery, but whose whole life is steeped in privilege that came from enslaving others.
Rhonda , perhaps we have more similar taste in books that we knew! I loved The White Tiger and even gave it 5 star, back when it was out as a Booker Prize . I also very much enjoyed Washington Black. I " had " to read it as it was up for several Can Lit prizes. I was a bit intimidated by Washington Black, as it appeared to be quite long and also I thought , not really to my taste. But I was pleasantly surprised that it was a wonderful adventure story, in a sense. You are quite, right, yes, the " liberal white saviour" is somewhat of a problem.
I'm really enjoying The Hours Before Dawn. I'm glad you did too. I'll be looking for more by Celia Fremlin.
>118 msf59: Hi Mark! Thanks for stopping by. I haven't been reading any poetry lately, I should try to rectify that. I will look for Lord of the Butterflies
>119 vancouverdeb: Deborah, I am glad that you also liked Washington Black. And I will be interested how Celia Fremlin's other work stacks up.
This has been pretty relaxing weekend. We took a nice little hike today with Chica, and enjoyed the sunshine, in spite of a cold wind. Life is feeling a bit precious to us these days, as a close friend was just diagnosed with brain cancer. It's a hard thing, for him and also for his family. Kind of puts other troubles into perspective.
Looks like you've had some great reading. Washington Black sounds particularly interesting to me.
Great comments on Washington Black, Rhonda. I didn't love it as much as you did, I think partly because I loved the slave narrative it was based on.
Reporting back re The Hours Before Dawn, Rhonda. I really loved it, - really something different . A short read at about 190 pages, but I enjoyed it so much I have ordered another book by the same author, The Long Shadow. I'd like to order more, but for now I"ll leave it at purchasing two of Celia Fremlin books. But there could be more in my future.
>117 banjo123: Rhonda, I will almost certainly get to read that one this year.
>121 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba! I really liked it. And Mrs. Banjo is reading it now, and she is also.
>122 jnwelch: Joe, I liked the ending. Somehow it tied the book together for me.
>123 BLBera: Interesting, Beth... I didn't realize it was based on a slave narrative. That would be interesting to read.
>124 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl!
>125 vancouverdeb: I am glad you liked it Deb! I read it years ago, when I was more into thrillers and mysteries. But I liked it enough that I think I still have my copy.
>126 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by, Paul! And I think you will like it. It made me remember Sacred Hunger, which I read for the BAC a few years ago, and really liked. I need to get to the sequel.
And happy weekend all! We have the symphony tonight, and tomorrow our book group meets at our house. Plus, a bunch of errands, etc; so I really should get cracking on housecleaning, but thought I'd spend a few minutes on LT first.
Reading-wise, I haven't finished anything. I am currently reading a bunch of non-fiction. These Truths; which I aim to finish next month with the group; Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas because I heard him on the radio, and he was really interesting. I think he might be a better speaker than writer, however. Also reading The Primate's Memoir I started it for February's non-fiction challenge, but have not yet finished it.
Happy Saturday, Rhonda. I hope everything is going fine. I also want to listen to Winners Take All. I may have heard the same podcast. Enjoy the symphony.
>129 msf59: Thanks, Mark! He is interesting.
And the symphony was great. A good weekend all-in-all, but not enough reading time and now I am back at work.
>127 banjo123: Thanks, Rhonda. I like the idea of it emotionally making sense. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that.
Happy Friday, Rhonda. I'll look up the name of the slave narrative. I kind of want to reread it.
>131 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe! By the time I got to that part of the book, I had no idea what to expect, but I went with it & that worked for me.
>132 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I have actually never read any slave narratives, other than Frederick Douglass's. (which I read LONG ago.)
The weather here is lovely, we are looking forward to the weekend. But, lots of chores to do today.
So far this year, my reading is slow. But I have finished one more book!
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
In this book, Giridharadas quotes Audre Lorde "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House." Which pretty well sums up his point, which is that philanthropy and social change that is led by business elites has a natural bias towards continuing the systems that allow those elites to flourish. I had heard Giridharadas speak on the radio, and was intrigued by his thoughtfulness. I am glad to have read this book, as it gave me lots to think about. One interesting coincidence was that at work, and also my real life book group just listened to Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability. I liked the talk, but Giridharadas points out that Brown's analysis of shame and vulnerability doesn't include any of the external factors (crime, racism, poverty) that lead some people to have more feelings of shame and inadequacy than others.
However, I think that he was more persuasive as a speaker, than as a writer. Some parts of the book are stronger than others. I liked the discussions about the history of philanthropy. (Andrew Carnegie is a great example.) But other times I felt that he was repetitive. Overall I am glad to have read this book, which was thought provoking for me. I am not sure I totally agree with Giridharadas, but his analysis is interesting.
One thing that I think would have helped the book would have been if Giridharadas had included more of his personal story. In the afterward, he explains that he had originally been a part of the group that believes in market forces creating change, and gradually changed his mind. He has friendships and relationships with a lot of the people and institutions that he critiques. He left that out until the end, but I think that a book of narrative non-fiction that included his changing perspective could have been more powerful.
>134 banjo123: This does sound interesting, Rhonda. I think maybe I'll listen to his interview first and then decide if I want to read the book.
Thanks, Beth, I think that's a good idea. I was thinking of posting an interview, but couldn't figure out which to use.
Today is spectacularly nice here, we took a walk along the esplanade (by the river) and across the Tillicum bridge (Portland's pedestrian bridge.) Here is a picture of the bridge:
And speaking of pictures, my topper disappeared from the thread, so I have replaced it with a photo of another Portland mural.
Here is a link to an interview with Giridhardas and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.
>62 banjo123: I appreciate your honest review of Becoming (touchstone not working), Rhonda. I agreed with much of it. I still gave in to peer pressure and gave her 4.5 stars but I agree that the writing is solid but not amazing (every once in a while there was a turn of phrase that caught my attention but mostly it was just a well-written memoir).
I have totally slowed down on These Truths with all my work and life craziness. I will get back to it but I probably won't finish it in April as was planned.
>92 banjo123: Sorry to hear about Francis. The kidney issues and heart murmur sound familiar (although Abby's heart murmur seems to have disappeared after a while). I hope it gets sorted out. He is too young for such troubles! And awfully cute, too. xo
A gorgeous day here too, Rhonda! A lovely day for a walk, Nice and sunny and warm / 53 F .
>138 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen. Francis seems to be doing fine, he sees a cardiologist in a few weeks. Who would have thought we would send our cat to a specialist? He is struggling now as we try to make him an inside cat.
>139 vancouverdeb: Spring in the Northwest can be magical.
>140 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I will confess to having taken that photo off of the internet. I wanted to show what the bridge is like, because it is pretty cool.
And happy weekend, everyone! We went and saw Captain Marvel last night, which was fun. Today is quiet so I am hoping to get some LT time, some reading time, and caught up on the laundry.
Reading-wise, 2019 continues to be a bit slow. I am reading These Truths, and hope to finish in April. I liked the first section better than the part I am in now. I just started Just Mercy (for the Non-Fiction Challenge). And for my book group, reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Kidd. It is suffering, I am afraid, in comparison to Washington Black.
I did finish A Primate's Memoir. Review to follow.
The Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky
I enjoyed this book overall (Sapolsky is an entertaining writer) but I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't more science-y. The book is about the author's time studying baboons in Kenya. His focus was on the impact of an individuals place in the social structure and physical health and stress hormones. This is a topic I am interested in, as I work in community mental health, and we really see how traumas impact physical health and can take years off of a person's life. I was hoping that this book would add to my knowledge of the topic, but it's really more a memoir of his day to day life in Africa, both studying baboons and in various travels.
Definitely interesting. Some of the stories about Africa, the politics and people there were interesting. I especially liked the chapter about Dian Fossey. However, the parts about the baboons were my favorites. He definitely makes it clear that we are primates also, and have a lot in common with the baboons.
Beth, I can recommend Captain Marvel, if you like comic book adventure. Lots of fun.
I ended up quite liking The Invention of Wings; and I will review it later. I think it's going to be a four star read for me, so really pretty decent, and the story of the Grimke sisters is pretty amazing.
>136 banjo123: I see you have been enjoying our great weather!! Too bad it switches to rain again this week. Sigh. I am ready for warm and sunny on a regular basis.
I really do have to get to Washington Black, another book in my TBR pile. Sigh. On the other hand, I love my piles!
>145 Berly: I would love experiencing the seasons again. We are having typical and frustrating monsoon type weather here. At 4 pm the heaven's open and yesterday I was stuck in the site office until after 7 when it abated a little. It was carnage with most of the roads flooded.
Have a lovely weekend, Rhonda.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I had a couple of problems with this book. I felt that the writing was fine, but not stellar, and the characterization somewhat flat. The book suffered in comparison to two other books I read at the same time period, Washington Black and The Silence of Girls; both of which also deal with issues of slavery, and are in my opinion better written. The other thing is that I often have trouble reading books in which real historical people are characters. It is frustrating for me not to know what is real and what is imagined. Kidd does have an afterward that gives this information, and for the most part the book seems to be historically accurate.
This book features Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who were sisters from a slave-owning family in Charleston. Sarah was born in 1873. The Grimke story is amazing. The sisters became abolitionists and feminists, became Quakers, moved North, and worked with William Lloyd Garrison. Kidd's story focuses on Sarah, beginning in her childhood, and alternates chapters with the story of Hetty, or Handful, a slave who had been given to Sarah on her 11th birthday. Apparently, Sarah Grimke was given a slave named Hetty as a young girl, but the real life Hetty died in childhood. Kidd does do a really good describing what was like for both enslaved people and for slave-owners at that time and place. She shows the little (and not so little) ways that the enslaved people resisted their situation.
She also shows how even abolitionists and Quakers had limits in their "progressiveness." The Grimke sisters often ran across Quakers who wanted to end slavery, but not quite yet; and who were scandalized by the Grimke's belief that their should be equality between blacks and whites. Also, their feminism often got them into trouble.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I just finished this book about the failures in the US criminal justice system. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, which provides legal assistance to the incarcerated poor. This is an important book, and Stevenson weaves individual stories throughout, which helps to personalize the issues he brings up. Tough stuff.
>147 banjo123: I love the photos! I saw some of them on FB too. What a gorgeous place.
Hi, Rhonda. It sounds like you had a great weekend. You also reminded me why I have never got around to The Invention of Wings. Mixed reactions from my pals. I also loved Just Mercy. I am reading American Prison, which could be a powerful companion piece to that one.
Thanks for your review of Just Mercy, Rhonda; I've just added it to my wish list.
>150 msf59: Thanks Mark! I am interested to see what you think of American Prison
>151 kidzdoc: Thanks, and thanks for stopping by, Darryl!
>152 BLBera: Thank you, Beth! I am glad that I read The Invention of Wings. That book group meets on Sunday, so we will see what everyone there thinks.
And in other news, Francis the cat saw the cardiologist. He has early heart disease, most likely hereditary, but no symptoms currently and there is a good chance that he will stay healthy for the next five years or so. So, good news on the pet front.
Hi Ronda--Yay for the good cardio visit! And the awesome reviews. Happy belated anniversary--we just celebrated ours, too.
Great news on the pet front, Rhonda. My daughter got some bad news about Lola, her seven-year-old dog. Fingers crossed that Lola will bounce back. Some infection is damaging her kidneys.
The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd
I read this one for the Lesbian Book Club, and we agreed that it was pretty "meh." Not bad, but not great either. Also that it felt a bit of a period piece, being written in the 90's. It was set in Charleston and seemed to be a semi-autobiographical. It is sort of the non-linear exploration of childhood trauma and eccentric family of a white southerner. When I was describing the book, I realized that this could also be a description of Pat Conroy's work. I was surprised to notice this commonality, as I hadn't thought of the books as similar, Conroy tends to the long-winded, with lots of purple prose, and this book was shorter and the writing more direct. Still there is something similar in these two writers from South Carolina.
Having recently read The Invention of Wings; also set in South Carolina, I was wondering if there is a relationship between the history of Slavery, and this kind of relationship to family and trauma. Of course, slavery was more traumatic to enslaved people than to the slave owners. But I think that witnessing and participating in the violence of slavery could also be a trauma to children in slave-owning families. It certainly was for the Grimke sisters. So I theorize that intergenerational trauma might still effect families, and lead to some of the dynamics seen in Boyd and Conroy's work. I am not sure about this theory, but it seems possible to me.
I did notice that Boyd has a new book out, involving the same family. Tomb of the Unknown Racist, which is a finalist for the Pen Faulkner Award.
Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
I also read this book recently, and thought it was great. Not sure I have much else to say; I thought she did a great job with the voice of Briseis, and with giving a female perspective on war and it's consequences. And it's a good reminder of how history is slanted, and not all stories get told and remembered.
Hi, Rhonda. I hope you had a nice weekend. Our weather was gorgeous...FINALLY. I loved American Prison, so I highly recommend it. I NEED to get back to Pat Barker. I have not read her in many years.
FYI- I did mail the book out. You should get it soon.
Hi Rhonda. I am taking advantage of a rainy Easter Monday to get caught up with threads.
>147 banjo123: - What a lovely location for an anniversary trip!
Happy to read the good news health report for your fur kid!
Happy Saturday, Rhonda.
I need to get to Barker's Regeneration trilogy. It's been sitting on my shelf for a long time.
Thanks, Beth! Barker is really a great historical fiction writer. I think that I liked Silence of the Girls even better than the Regeneration trilogy, but both are really good. I mean to read more of ehr work.
Hi, Paul, and thank you!
Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson.
>118 msf59: >122 jnwelch: Thank you to Mark and Joe for the recommendation. This is a book of poetry by poetry-slammer Andrea Gibson. Their poems are political, and also personal. I really enjoyed the book.
Here is the video for the first poem in the book, "Your Live"
Choosing your life, and how that made you into someone
Who now often finds it easy to explain your gender by saying
You are happiest in the road, when you're not here or there, but in between
That yellow like running down the center of it all like a goddamn sunbeam
How to Love a Country by Richard Blanco
A book of poems that combine the personal and the political. I was familiar with Blanco as the Presidential Inaugural Poet for Obama. Some of these poems hark back to an older tradition (Whitman, Sandburg, Hughes) in trying to make connections and speak to national identity. Several of these poems were commissioned, and many speak to recent national tragedies (Pulse Night Club, Sandy Hook). Here are some of my favorite lines:
.... We can die valiant as rainbows,
and hold light in our lucid bodies like blood.
We can decide to move boundlessly without
creed or desire. Until we are clouds meshed
within clouds sharing a kingdom with no king.
a city with no walls, a country with no name.
a nation without any borders or claim. Until
we abide as one together in a single sky.
As Texas Goes by Gail Collins
Mrs. Banjo and I both read and really loved Robert Caro's LBJ series. Mrs. Banjo then became eager to visit the LBJ ranch and presidential library. So we have signed up for a Road Scholar tour of Texas this fall. The trip came with a reading list, so expect more Texas themed reading in coming months!
This book had actually been on my reading list for some time. I am now wishing I would have read it when it came out in 2012. So much has happened in our national landscape in the last few years, that I read this book wanting a sequel, or annotation.
Collins has a breezy easy-to-read style, and over-all, it was a good book. I learned about Texas politics in relationship to national politics; and was given more thoughts on the red/blue divide in our country now. I learned lots of interesting facts. The one that I have thought about the most, has to do with textbooks. Collins talks about the Texas influence on textbooks, and how the result of attempts to make history political palatable is to make it very boring. This was an interesting observation when involved in the joint reading of Jill Lepore's These Truths and realizing how much many of us don't know about our country's history.
These Truths by Jill Lepore
Lepore is valiant in her attempt to tell the history of the US, with emphasis on the legacy of slavery in our country's founding, and a realization of how business interests influence politics. It is a very good book. I especially enjoyed the first part, as it's focus on slavery really made me think about the country's founding differently. I had known that slavery was part of the country's history, of course, but she puts it together front and center.
The main problem I have with this book is that she covers so much material in such a short span of time, that some points are over simplified or glossed over. (For example, she discussed Billy Graham's conservative leanings, but not his insistence on racial integration. ) The last part of the book felt to me like a piling together of events and facts in rapid succession, rather than thought out analysis.
Of course, if she followed my advise, this would be 10 volumes and I would still be reading! So glad that I read this and I plan to supplement with some books that go in more depth. For example, I have to read more about Eisenhower, because I hadn't realized before that he grew up Mennonite. That is so intriguing.
Some interesting parts:
Frederick Douglass on the Dred Scott decision: "You may close your Supreme Court against the black man's cry for justice, but you cannot, thank God, close against him the ear of a sympthising world, nor shut up the Court of Heaven. ....Slavery lives in this country not because of any paper Constitution, but in the moral blindness of the American people."
Clarence Darrow: "Gentlemen, the world is dark. But it is not hopeless. "
Lepore talking about political divisions between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the global war on terror: "They fought by tooth and nail and by hook and by crook and they believed they were fighting for the meaning of America, but really, they were fighting for raw political power."
And Lepore, on the internet: "But online, where everyone was, in the end, utterly alone, it had become terribly difficult to know much of anything with any certainty, except how to like and be liked, and especially, how to hate and be hated."
>170 banjo123: That sounds like an excellent book. I will keep it in mind for birthday/Christmas presents for my dad.
Looks like you've had some good books lately. We visited LBJ library and ranch on our own a few years back and really enjoyed them but I imagine you will get even more out of a Road Scholars visit. I look forward to hearing what you think and to your sharing some gems you pick from the guides.
>168 banjo123: Wasn't it a great collection? I loved it.
Your Texas tour sounds interesting - I'll watch for the reading list. The Collins sounds fascinating.
I'll get to the Lepore eventually.
>167 banjo123:. Oh good, Rhonda. I’m happy that you liked Lord of the Butterflies so much. Great choice of excerpt, too. They (I think Andea’s a they, right?) are remarkable, and this is their best one yet, IMO. I also loved Take Me With You and The Madness Vase, and want to read more.
We were also impressed by their performing partner Megan Falley, who’s also on my WL now.
>171 The_Hibernator: Thanks for stopping by, Rachel, and yes, These Truths is really good.
>172 RebaRelishesReading: I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the ranch and library, Reba. I am looking forward to the trip, but we have never done anything quite this structured, so I am not completely sure about it.
>173 BLBera: Yay, Beth, another Blanco fan. A great ARC
>174 jnwelch: Thanks again, Joe, for the recommendation, and I will look for more by them. It was nice of you and Mark to get me reading more poetry.
And happy Sunday, everyone. We are back from a lovely few days at the Oregon Coast, and the weather is also amazing here! In a bit we are taking Chica over to the local pub, where they are having a puppy happy hour, in connection with a nearby pet store. And then later tonight, hoping to watch the Trailblazers win another playoff game. So life is good.
And I do have a couple of books read as well!
Riding Fury Home by Chana Wilson
This is a memoir from a woman who spent her childhood caring for her mentally ill mother. As an adult, she and her mother bonded as they discovered that they were both lesbian, and both became very involved in the emerging women's movement. An interesting life, but I felt the memoir was too focused on the details of Wilson's life, and lacked the punch it could have had if better edited. My favorite part of the book was the cover.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
This is a short novel, that left me with a lot to think about. The narrator is a single mother, who works as a housekeeper, and takes a job working for a mathematician who, due to a brain injury, has only 80 minutes of memory, and so meets her anew every day. Somehow the two of them, along with the housekeeper's son, form an alliance that cuts through the isolation that all of them have, based on math and baseball. Here is a quotation about how the Professor bonded with the son, who was called Root.
“He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him, primes were the base on which all other natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world”
>179 BLBera: Thanks, Beth!
Most of the book group liked Riding Fury Home better than I did, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Currently I am reading 3 books; Gates of the Alamo which seems well written, but I am never excited when I am reading it. (for the Texas trip); Bowlaway --which is fun, thanks Mark! and also Stray City.
And happy mother's day to all mothers. Tomorrow we are being taken out to brunch (yum!) and also hoping to watch the Trailblazers beat the Nuggets in Denver.
But I trust your judgment, Rhonda.
Happy mother's day. I'm invited to lunch at my daughter's.
>181 BLBera: Enjoy your lunch, Beth!
We went out for a lovely lunch, with Banjo, Jr, and friends. And then we did get to see the Blazers beat the Nuggets, so a wonderful day so far.
We are a bit worried here in the Banjo household, about Chica, the little dog. She recently had a couple of seizures, and we started her on an anti-seizure medication, but she had side-effects, and so now she is off of that and is taking CBD (supposedly the non psycho active parts of marijuana). We have to wait and see how it goes. It's pretty likely, apparently, that the seizures could indicate a brain tumor, and not a good prognosis... but we are hoping that she adapts to the the CBD and does better.
Oh Rhonda!! So sad to hear about Chica. I'll be helping you hope for the best.
>182 banjo123: So sorry to read about Chica's problems, Rhonda.
I hope the CBD works for her, hugs for you both.
Sorry to hear about Chica, Rhonda. We have recently lost a dog as well. That is so tough.
Reba, Anita and Beth -- Thanks for the sympathy for Chica. She is hanging in there. The CBD is increasing her mobility, which is nice. We have started a new anti-seizure medication, so waiting to see how that impacts her. I think she is a bit more woozy-headed, but otherwise OK.
It's hard, pets add a ton to our lives, and work their way so firmly into our hearts. And Chica is an especially sweet little dog.
Hope everyone has had a good week-end! I have, though I am finding myself not ready for tomorrow to be Monday.
Reading-wise: Two books finished, Stray City and Bowlaway. I liked both of them, and will get reviews done sometime soon.
Meanwhile, reading two books for the Texas trip, Gates of the Alamo and Three Roads to the Alamo. I am feeling lucky this weekend, because I found Three Roads to the Alamo in a Little Free Library yesterday!
>147 banjo123: Ah, hiking in the Cascades. I do miss it.
You finished These Truths. I have neglected it badly and I'm starting to think I will need to download it as an audio book to listen to while walking on the new treadmill. That is how I read Hamilton (all 42 hours of it) and it worked for me.
I keep seeing bits about Bowlaway on folks' threads. I need to investigate as I have not heard of it. One thing I'm noticing with my relative absence from LT: I know less about what books are "hot" at present!
>187 banjo123: It is a week later, and tomorrow is Monday again, but at least it is a holiday!! Hope all is well with you and Chica. And, no, I haven't finished TT yet either. Still working on it. : )
>188 EBT1002: Thanks for stopping by, Ellen. I do think These Truths is worth finishing, it has actually stayed with me and informed by more recent readings. I have been reading about Texas and the Alamo, and one of the things that I had never thought of before, was how big of a role slavery played in the history of Texas.
and Bowlaway is fun.
>189 Berly: And now it's a week later, still, Kim! You will finish TT one of these days. TBH, I thought the first two thirds were the best.
So, it seems that life has been busy, with not as much time for reading and LT as I would like. Only four books read in May, and I have only reviewed one of them. Hoping to rectify that tonight.
I am at home alone tonight, because both Banjo, jr and Mrs. Banjo are working. Banjo, Jr convinced Mrs. Banjo that Guest Services at Providence Park would be a good retirement job, so they are both there now, working the Timbers (our local men's soccer team)'s home game opener. Providence Park has just had a giant renovation, and it supposed to be quite fancy. Tomorrow I will get a chance to see it, for the Thorn's (our Women's Team's) home opener. There has been lots of sports in our household, between the NBA play-offs, the Women's World Cup, and the MLS and NWSL season's starting.
Mrs. Banjo is not, actually quite retired, she still works about 30 hours a week I think, but will be done with the job at the end of the month. (It's a grant). Hopefully then she will be able to manage all our home and pet appointments, as these have been quite extensive lately. This week it was a squirrel in the fireplace and chimney. The cats thought that was quite a show.
Chica is doing OK, no more seizures, but she is slow and slower and not eating that well. However, her weight is stable and she is so sweet. The cats are fine, except Banjo has a skin issue. We thought it might be ringworm, but it turns out probably not, so hopefully it will just heal.
Work has been busy, with a couple of challenging situations, but, this week at least, I am remaining philosophical about it all.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
This is a quirky book, full of quirky characters. It all revolves around Bertha Truitt, who appears mysteriously in Salford Massachusetts to open a Candlepin Bowling Center. I had never heard of candlepin bowling, but apparently it's a thing in New England, with smaller, narrower pins and a smaller ball than regular bowling. The book revolves around the bowling centeer, and various characters with connections there, and covers several decades and a number of social issues. I enjoyed the book, would recommend it to fans of Anne Tyler or maybe John Irving.
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
There is a lot to like in this well-written book, set in Portland, late 90's. The main character , Andy, is a young lesbian, mostly rejected by her conservative family, who is finding a home in Portland's queer/lesbian community. The book rings true to the place and time, and Andy and the portrayal of Portland are both very likable and relatable. There are parts of the book that I had mixed feelings about, but I can't go into those without spoilers. I also felt the book could have used a bit more grit; the ending was a bit sunshine and kitten wish-fulfillment. All in all, though, a good read and I will look for more be this author.
The Gates of the Alamo by Steven Harrigan
I wish that I had liked this book better, especially since it is 577 pages long. I am not sure why this book didn't work better for me, it is well-written and historically accurate. But somehow, I never seemed to want to pick it up and read it. I think for me it would have been better to focus on fewer characters. I did learn a lot about Texas history, and if you want to read a very long historical novel about the Alamo, this is the book for you.
I've been wondering about Bowlaway, Rhonda. I know the library has a copy. I've heard differing opinions here, so I was unsure. It sounds like you enjoyed it, though, and I trust your judgment.
Glad to hear Chica is managing with medications. We have a new kitten in the family. Scout is thrilled; name to be determined, I guess.
Your comments on These Truths makes me want to start it. I'll wait, I think, until I finish Iron Curtain, which I started before we left for our Danube River cruise. I think I'll pass on the Harrigan.
>193 banjo123: This one sounds good.
Hi Rhonda! I'm glad Chica is doing better. :) I will be flying in to Portland and staying in Corvallis from August 25 through Labor Day weekend. I will be busy on the weekends, but would enjoy a meetup sometime during the week if you'd like!
Thanks for stopping by, Beth and Rachel!
And excited for a Labor Day meet up
We are spending the weekend at the coast, and I am bad at posting from my phone; so more later.
Feeling like a reading lightweight... haven't finished a book in several weeks. I am reading Three Roads to the Alamo, but perhaps need to switch to lighter fare. Work has been stressful lately, and I think that has just tired me out.
On the plus side, really enjoyed the Pride Celebration Treasure Hunt! And I was able to get all the clues with a little help from google.
Thanks, Mark! I thought of you yesterday, as we took a long walk with my sister, through the cemeteries in SW Portland where she lives. There is a family of eagles that comes back there every year, and we were able to see one. My sister said that she could see chicks moving in the next, but honestly, I couldn't see that.
And happy Father's day to all the father's out there, plus happy Pride Month to everyone.
I did finish a book last night A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington. It might have just been the wrong time for me for that book, but I found the writing didn't pull me in, and the plot never completely pulled together. I kept reading because I wanted to know how a particular plot device tied in, but it actually never resolved. Which is OK, lots of things in life don't resolve, but since it was my main interest in the book, I felt cheated. The book in general is about how a family copes with a returning Vietnam soldier, with physical injuries and mental anguish. So, an important topic, but it didn't work for me.
>201 banjo123: I'm so sorry this one didn't work for you, Rhonda. I loved that book. And we usually agree, too.
I hope you find something that really pulls you in soon.
>202 BLBera: Beth, I think it just wasn't the right time for me.
I just finished My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and it pulled me right in. I am not sure that it actually was a better book than Catalog of Birds, but it worked for me, an quick, easy read full of dark humor. It might be that under the dark humor, and short, punchy chapters, there is a serious statement about the oppression of women. Or maybe it's just a fun read. I am not sure.
>203 banjo123: I'm not sure either - we read it for our book group and it got a varied discussion going, so that was good.
Hope Chica continues to do ok on her meds. I would love a dog but LT does remind me of the emotional wrenches owners face.
>204 charl08: -- Well, I liked My Sister the Serial Killer, even if I am not sure about it's depth!
And Chica is doing well right now. Pets do entail heartbreak, but they are worth it.
>205 BLBera: Yes, Beth, and I have also had books I have given up as a loss, and then read later, because I'd forgotten, or a friend urged me, and then loved them.
I came across a poetry performance that I need to share. It's Sarah Kay "A Bird Made of Birds", and includes this line: "Maybe it's not my job to invent something new. Maybe instead it's my job to listen to what the universe is showing me & to keep myself open to what the universe offers, so that when it's my turn, I can hold something to the light, just for a moment, just for as long as I have."
Here is the video.
You are welcome, Beth!
Hope everyone has had a good week/weekend. It's been busy here, with work and the Women's World Cup. Go USWNT! Go RAPINOE!
I have completed another book, Lisa Ko's The Leavers. It was good. Very thought provoking. I will try to put together a mini-review soon.
And in family news, Mrs. Banjo is retired from her job as of yesterday. She will probably do some part-time work in the future, but that's a bit up in the air. And Banjo, jr, just got a promotion at her job. It's really nice to see her doing well at her first post-college job.
I enjoyed The Leavers as well, Rhonda.
Congrats on retirement and promotion; you have two ends of the employment spectrum in your family!
Wishing you a lovely Sunday, Rhonda.
Good luck to Mrs. Banjo on her retirement too.
>209 banjo123: I like to watch Rapinoe too, and love her hair! I might go for those hair colors later this year.
Only if the US team ends up against my country, I will be rooting for the Dutch.
Congratulations on the retirement of Mrs Banjo & the promotion of Banjo Jr.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda. Congrats to Wendy. How exciting. Give her a big hug, from me. I also really enjoyed The Leavers. I am glad you got to it.
>210 BLBera: Thank you Beth! It is a bit of a coincidence to have it all happen at once.
>211 PaulCranswick: And, thanks Paul! I am hoping retirement agrees with her. I do worry a bit that she will miss work, she is a bit of a busy bee.
>212 FAMeulstee: And Anita, yes, I think those colors would be awesome for you. And it does look likely that the US and the Dutch could play each other in the end.
>213 msf59: Thanks, Mark... I will tell Wendy.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
This is a book that gave me a lot to think about. I was initially skeptical, because the plot seemed unlikely and convoluted. Polly Gau, from a backwater Chinese village, comes to the US illegally (New York City to be exact) in hopes of finding more opportunities. She tries to make a life there for herself and her son, but the cards are stacked against them. Her son, Deming, one day finds his mother gone, and after a series of events, is adopted by a well-to-do white couple. The book alternated between Deming and Polly's stories, which are both more complicated than they initially seem. Also, all of the characters in the book are a mix of good and bad motives. Polly is a great character; brash and ambitious.
I did a little research, and found out the plot was not as unlikely as I had initially thought. The thing that struck me most about the book was the title, Polly and Deming are both "leavers," people who move from place to place searching for a better life, or a home that suits them better.
Rangers at Roadsend by Jane Fletcher
I was not too fond of the book. We read it for my lesbian book group, and this was a crossover book. The books store also has a SciFi/Fantasy Bookgroup and a Mystery Book Group; this book met all three criteria, a lesbian fantasy mystery.
It started off well, I thought, but it moved so slowly, that by the time we had gotten to the murder plot, I really did not care what had happened. To be honest, I am not exactly sure even now exactly what happened in the end. The writing is not bad, however, so if you are drawn to this genre, it might be worth a try.
>209 banjo123: Congratulations to Mrs. Banjo and Banjo, Jr. both!! Sounds like some celebrating is due.
>217 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba! Yes, we do need to plan some celebrations.
This weekend should be good. I took Friday off, so it's a long one. today we are going to watch the Hillsboro Hops (Local Single A baseball team) and there will be fireworks after. Tomorrow we have the Portland Thorns (Women's Soccer) and Sunday is the World Cup. So a sporty kind of weekend, but we also plan to go to the Blue's Festival here, maybe on Saturday. I am glad to have time for R & R as the past few weeks at work have been really busy.
Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis
Hooray! I finally finished this book. I was reading it in preparation for our Texas trip, but I am afraid that this book presumes a bit more knowledge of and interest in the Alamo than I in fact have. It is long (587 pages) and very well researched. The book is sort of a joint biography of three figures, David Crocket, James Bowie, and William Travis. It does give good background on what people's lives were like back then, and the men behind the legends. My impression is that Bowie and Travis were creeps, Bowie was involved in criminal forgery and land-grabbing schemes. Crocket was entertaining, but not super-competent.
I did find myself wishing, in the end, that Davis would have included information about the Mexican motives, and especially Santa Ana, who looks like a fascinating character.
Congrats to Mrs. Banjo and Banjo, Jr., Rhonda. I'm a big fan of retirement; I hope Mrs. B enjoys it. A big difference for me, particularly at the beginning of retirement, was going to sleep without job worries. Much more pleasant and restful!
>219 banjo123: Looks like a fascinating book, Rhonda - I must lok out for it.
Have a lovely weekend.
>220 jnwelch: Thanks Joe! So far, it seems to be going well.
>221 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul... hope things are going well for you this week.
I am afraid I have been a bit absent on LT. Work has been busy, we have had some household challenges (refrigerator malfunctioning for one), and last weekend we went up to Seattle for a Mariner's Game. Actually, Mrs B and Banjo, jr then went up to Canada to visit relatives, and I am now home taking care of all the pets by myself. The pets are doing fine, but they miss the rest of the family.
I have gotten a little reading done, and enjoyed all of it. I read The Great Believers, which lived up to the hype; The Golden Son (for book group), which was a good read and Anne Tyler's Clock Dance This was not my favorite Anne Tyler, but still fun. I will try to do reviews a bit later.
Sounds like the reading is going well, Rhonda. Congratulations to the family on their work news. I still haven't read Clock Dance - hopefully I will be able to pick it up on paperback.
Hi Rhonda - The Great Believers is still one of my favorite reads this year.
>223 charl08: Definitely some good reading. You could skip Clock Dance, though, unless you just love Tyler.
>224 BLBera: I think that The Great Believers maybe is my favorite of the year so far.
I forgot that I also read The National Team, about the US Women's Soccer Team, so when I get around to my reviewing, I have that one also.
Right now, I am reading Lost Children Archive, not sure about the book, I am finding the narrator hard to relate to.
Thanks, Paul! Tomorrow is Friday and looking forward to the weekend. It's been a tough week at work, but hopefully next week is better.
And tomorrow is Banjo, Jr's birthday! She is going to be 23.
Thanks, Beth! We celebrated with dinner and then a Thorns (women's soccer) game with friends. It was fun, though we did not get the results we wanted from the game.
And speaking of soccer, I wanted to share this picture of Portland Timber Jeremy Ebobisse and his awesome t-shirt:
Hi Rhonda! I'm sad to say that I will not be coming to Oregon for Labor day, as expected. I'm starting a new job, and need to stay in town while the family all has fun in Sun River.
Bummer, Rachel, although I totally understand. You have a lot going on!
And now it is time for some book reviews. I am afraid they will be brief!
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
This book has gotten a lot of positive feedback, and it is well written, but I am afraid it didn't work for me. The book has an academic feel, with lost of obscure texts mentioned, and the main character has an annoying habit of being intellectual about everything, including her own children, which makes for a strange and unpleasant family road trip. The book is aptly titled, as "Archives" which indicates an academic approach to history, but is a little odd to me when talking about things that are happening here and now. Later in the book, we do learn a little more about the narrators background, and understand a bit of why she sees things the way she does. I can see why this book works for some, but it didn't work for me and I hope it doesn't win the Booker.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
I think this is my top book of 2019. Makkai did a good job portraying Gay Chicago in the 80's and the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the community. (I lived in Chicago in the late 70's and Mrs. Banjo is from Chicago.) The book alternates between the early 80's and the present, which is very effective. It shows that the lasting trauma that the AIDS epidemic had on people involved, and also highlights cultural changes that have happened in the decades since. Reading about how closeted Yale (one of the main characters) needed to be in his academic job, reminded me of how much progress there has been in Gay rights, and also to feel a lot of pride and gratitude for those of us who fought for this change.
Also, the book is just a good read, with characters that I cared about, and a plot that kept me turning pages to find out what happened next.
The National Team by Caitlin Murray
I enjoyed this book, and learned a lot about the history of women's sports in the US. We owe a lot to Title 9, and to the women from the US Women's National Team, who fought for more recognition and opportunities for women in sport. This had an impact on women in other sports and also globally. Murray does a good job detailing the history, giving information about the personalities and the issues that impacted the USWNT. Recommended for anyone who enjoys sports writing.
The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The writing in this book is kind of pedestrian (nothing terrible, but just not very literary), but the plot is very absorbing. She alternates between the stories of Anil and that of Leena, two young people from the same Indian village. Anil goes to Dallas, for medical residency, dealing with racism and cultural shock, as well as the stressors of becoming a doctor. Leena stays in India, and deals with the limitation in the roles for women there. There are a lot of thoughts regarding individual vs. community choices, and a person's responsibilities to family and community.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
As I mentioned above, I enjoyed this book, but don't think it's one of Tyler's better works. I enjoy her depictions of individuals and relationships, and her warm-hearted descriptions of people's foibles. In this book, Willa, at age 60, feels a little at loose ends, socially, vocationally, and in her marriage. She decided to care for the daughter of her son's ex-girlfriend (who she doesn't know) and becomes a part of that family, and their neighborhood community. This is an odd choice for Willa, but it allows her time, it seems, to reflect on her life and future. I liked it, and lots of funny bits, but, as I mentioned earlier, Tyler has other works I would recommend more. Spool of Blue Thread deals with similar issues more effectively.
Wow, Rhonda. Great comments on some really good books. I haven't read The National Team or The Golden Son, so those sound like ones that should go on my list.
I liked Lost Children Archive more than you, but I did have some issues with her writing style. This is her first novel written in English, and I think it shows.
>237 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I didn't realize that it was her first book in English. It wasn't my favorite book, but it did make me think.
I have completed two more books, which I will review soon, but my proud moment now is as a parent. Banjo, jr wanted something to read, recently, and I lent her The Heart Goes Last. And now, she has become a Margaret Atwood fan. How cool is that?
>238 banjo123: That really is very good news indeed. I think I still most love Alias Grace, the first one of hers I read.
I loved The Great Believers and was just recommending it to my colleague in the office at work today. One of those books that has stayed with me.
I realise this is a bit odd when you've said you didn't like The Lost Children Archive but I wondered if you'd come across her Non-fiction long essay/v short book Tell me how it ends - for me, that was a much more effective look at children and the refugee "crisis". And it doesn't have all the wordiness of the other.
>239 msf59: Thanks, Mark! I liked The Heart Goes Last; though it's not my favorite Atwood. & Emma got Wendy to read it, they both thoroughly enjoyed it. It is pretty funny in parts.
>240 BLBera: Yes, lots of books! I don't know how she is going to feel about the non-SciFi stuff though. She read Handmaid's Tale; and is working on Madame Oracle.
>241 charl08: Alias Grace is great! But I think Cat's Eye is my favorite Atwood.
And thanks for the tip on Tell Me How it Ends. That sounds like it could be good.
I am kind of up for some light reading now, however, and am reading Fever Pitch I had picked up one of the Booker longlist books, and read the first couple pages. Great writing but I wasn't up for it.
I've been doing light reading as well, Rhonda. My brain seems too occupied with school prep.
I haven't read Cat's Eye; I've heard many people say it's their favorite, though, so I should make that my next Atwood.
Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand
This is a beautiful book, a sad love story taking place in Toronto, and in an unnamed Caribbean island. Themes are colonialism, immigration, labor organizing.
We read this for the lesbian book club. It had somewhat mixed reviews, as it takes a lot of concentration to read. Brand is a poet, and the book is written in a sort of prose-poetry. I will probably read it again sometime, as I think that I read too fast and missed parts.
“I wouldn’t call nothing that we do love because love too simple. All the soft-legged oil, all the nakedness brushing, all the sup of neck and arms and breasts. All that touching. Nothing simple about it. All that opening like breaking bones.”
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