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Mary (bell7) reads extravagantly in 2019, part the second

This is a continuation of the topic Mary (bell7) reads extravagantly in 2019.

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Edited: Feb 21, 3:40pm Top

Welcome to my second thread of the year! If you haven't been following along since the beginning, here's a little about me:

I'm a librarian working and living in western Massachusetts where I was born and raised. I'm in my mid-30s and single with no kids, but rent an in-law apartment from some family friends (I may refer to my "landlords" occasionally as the man of the house and the lady of the house) while I save up for a place of my own.

My reading is eclectic, so you'll see anything from fantasy (still my go-to genre) to historical fiction to contemporary fiction to mystery. I'm picky about romance and don't like horror, but I'll try almost anything. My goals for 2019 are to read more globally and diversely and I'll be using a spreadsheet from BookRiot to attempt to keep track of that. I'm also going to "read through the library" in the sense that when I'm looking for a new read I may dip into the shelves at the library where I work and (slowly) read from A-Z through the fiction. My "rules" are one book I want to read on each shelf. I can skip shelves entirely where nothing appeals to me or they're full of popular authors (like David Baldacci or James Patterson). And I don't have to finish the book - the attempt counts. And if I didn't say this clearly, this is a very s-l-o-w project. I think I've only "read" the first two or three shelves so far and haven't left the A's behind.

Outside of reading? I enjoy sports, particularly football, tennis, hockey and baseball. I'm a New York Giants fan all the way, but otherwise I go for Boston sports teams. Roger Federer is still my favorite tennis player to watch - not sure who I would support after he retires. I also enjoy knitting and will occasionally post pictures of my current projects.

My thread toppers all year will be photos of my niece Mia (3) and nephew Matthew (1). They're my sister A's kids and live outside of DC. I get to see them a few times a year but won't be going down again until late June when I go to the ALA conference. Here's a slightly old photo from my last trip in September (sorry it's sideways - it looks fine on my phone, but this is the way it uploads to LT!):

Edited: Mar 22, 8:05pm Top

One of my job responsibilities is facilitating one of our library book clubs (there's 3 - an afternoon one with my boss, an evening one with me, and a classics one with a volunteer). I'll often comment on the discussions we have since they give me a greater appreciation for what we read together and people have seemed to enjoy that the last couple of years. Here's what we're reading in 2019 -

January - My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, pH.D. COMPLETED
February - Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese COMPLETED
March - Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks COMPLETED
April - Evicted by Matthew Desmond
May - Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
June - The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
July - Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
August - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
September - Educated by Tara Westover
October - Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
November - Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
December - A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass

Edited: Mar 22, 8:06pm Top

Currently Reading

Devotionals/Bible reading
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
A Year with C.S. Lewis
Judges & 1 Corinthians

1. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
2. The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
3. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
4. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
5. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
6. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
7. Everyday Millionaires by Chris Hogan
8. Stars Uncharted by S. K. Dunstall
9. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
10. The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King
11. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

12. The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
13. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
14. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
15. The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
16. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
17. The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
18. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

19. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
20. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
21. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
22. The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
23. How Long 'Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
24. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
25. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
26. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Feb 20, 9:21am Top




Feb 20, 9:23am Top

That's it for set up - welcome to my second thread!

Feb 20, 9:26am Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 20, 10:12am Top

Hi Mary! Happy new one!

Feb 20, 10:20am Top

Happy new thread, Mary.

Feb 20, 10:27am Top

Happy New Thread!

Did your book club gather or were you snowed out? I thought Cutting for Stone was interesting. It brought a lot of light to a subject (female circumcision and fistulas) to a subject I knew so little about.

Feb 20, 10:31am Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 20, 10:31am Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 20, 11:19am Top

Thanks Anita, Katie, Beth, Janet, Jim, and Richard!

>9 streamsong: Book discussion will be tonight, Janet, and I'm not sure if we'll be snowed out or not. It's scheduled to start snowing at 5 p.m., and a winter weather advisory starts at 7 p.m. right when we'd be meeting so it could definitely go either way... I'm working 12-8 today because of the discussion, so I will be at the library and plan on holding it as long as we're open. If no one shows or we close, I'll have to cancel and I'll plan on doubling up book discussions next month.

Feb 20, 11:45am Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 20, 12:05pm Top

Happy New Thread, Mary, and glad you are settling back in in a good way. Let us know about your snow situation as it goes!

Feb 20, 1:53pm Top

Happy new thread, Mary.

Feb 20, 5:51pm Top

Happy new thread, Mary!

Feb 20, 8:24pm Top

Happy New Thread, Mary. I loved Cutting For Stone but have not read anything else by that author.

Feb 20, 8:52pm Top

Thanks, foggi, Roni, Barbara, Anita and Mark!

>12 bell7: Welp, we stayed open (it just started snowing around 7), and only one person showed up... she didn't want to stay with it just her, so I told her briefly about my trip (she had been a co-worker of mine before retiring a few years ago) and then went back into the library to finish my shift. It was a very quiet evening with only a few regulars left at the end of the night. Our director cleaned off our cars for us. The drive home was not bad, just went a little slow over places that obviously hadn't been treated.

>14 ronincats: The forecast is for it to change to sleet/freezing rain overnight and finish up by 7 a.m. with about 2-3 inches altogether. Just enough to be annoying, not enough to close anything... though a few school districts will most likely have a delay.

>17 msf59: Neither have I, Mark. I own My Own Country and really should move it up the pile.

Feb 21, 12:37pm Top

Hopefully your commute into work today wasn't too gross.

Also, that is one awesome library director to clear off cars!

Feb 21, 2:42pm Top

>18 bell7: I am astonished that your director was so kind! That's lovely.

Feb 21, 3:34pm Top

>19 MickyFine: Nah, it was a pain to shovel the icy coating on the sidewalk and clear off my car, but the drive was uneventful and the icy stuff had stopped coming down before I got up.

>19 MickyFine: and >20 richardderus: She has her faults, but you can never say she's unwilling to do the undesirable tasks.

Feb 21, 4:22pm Top

>21 bell7: Huzzah for decent work commutes in the winter. Walking to and from the train in the cold snap we just (sort of) emerged from was a pain, but I'm always grateful that I can take public transit to work. Has the added bonus of extra reading time. :)

Feb 22, 7:57am Top

>22 MickyFine: Brrr! Hope things warm up for you. In library school, I used to drive most of the way into Boston and then take public transit into the city. It was miserable to walk in the rain or cold, but the extra reading time was lovely. I've always lived in suburbs with very limited public transportation so a car is pretty much a necessity of life. It's not quite a long enough commute for me to listen to audiobooks, either. So music it is!

Feb 22, 8:00am Top

Happy Friday, all! I'm working a 9-2 day which includes a trip into Town Hall to drop off some bills and pick up our checks, plus 3 hours on the service desk. So it'll go by quickly.

My other plans this afternoon mostly involve getting my tax stuff together for the accountant. We'll see how that goes. I also have a season of Doctor Who out from the library and I'd love to get a chance to watch a few episodes...

I finished The Skin I'm In last night and have How Long 'Til Black Future Month ready to go as my next audio. I'm hoping the book comes in to the library today so I can go back and forth between formats - I don't pay attention or remember well when it's audio only. I'm still reading Crazy Rich Asians and hope to make good progress this weekend. It's a fun and fast read.

Feb 22, 7:46pm Top

Your reading plans sound most enjoyable. I hope it's a lovely early-spring weekend of luxurious wordplay.

Feb 23, 1:58am Top

Happy new thread, Mary. Hope you are still enjoying some of the relaxed feeling from your Cancun trip.

Feb 23, 8:47am Top

>25 richardderus: Thanks, Richard! Happy weekend to you.

>26 Familyhistorian: Thanks, Meg!

Feb 23, 8:54am Top

17. The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
Why now? The audio and e-book were available from the library after I was finished with The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat and it fit my #OwnVoices reading

Maleeka is in seventh grade and deals with bullies giving her a hard time about her clothes (sewn by her mother after her father's death) and her dark skin. Even her best "friend" Char is trouble, but Maleeka keeps her head down because Char's attention and changes of clothes are all that keep her from being picked on even more. But then a teacher with a light patch on her face who also draws the kids' attention takes an interest in Maleeka. Will she be able to fit in her own skin and stand up to the bullies?

Though the book originally came out over 20 years ago, its themes of accepting yourself and standing up for what's right are just as relevant as ever. Maleeka's doubt, fear, and gradual growth unfold naturally in the course of this quiet, character-driven story. 4 stars.

It suffered a little from the way I read it - it was a fairly short story I normally would've read in a day or two but because it was so drawn out it felt like nothing much happened 'til near the end. I'm sure that had more to do with my reading than the actual story though.

Feb 27, 10:46am Top

18. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Why now? It seemed like good light reading after some heavier stuff (the tome of my book club book and thematically with The Skin I'm In) for right after vacation

Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nicholas Young have been going out for a couple of years when Nick asks her if she'd like to come to his family home in Singapore for his best friend's wedding. Rachel says yes, not realizing what she's in for - Nick's family is super rich and he's considered quite the catch, while his friend's wedding is the event of the season in their set of upper echelon "crazy rich Asians."

This sort of over-the-top romantic comedy is really more my type of movie than book. I enjoyed it, there were moments I chuckled, but I wasn't absolutely sucked in or compelled to keep reading to find out what happened. This says so much more about me than the book, though. It's perfect if you like satirical, crazy-dramatic situations. It's fast-paced, episodic and funny. 3.5 stars.

Alright... for those of you who have read the trilogy, what do you think? Should I read book 2?

Feb 27, 10:51am Top

>29 bell7: The second book is very much in the same vein, so if you didn't find the first one very compelling, you probably don't need to bother with the second one. I enjoyed all three, but I enjoyed them more than you enjoyed that one, from the sound of it.

Feb 27, 2:29pm Top

>29 bell7: For me, I find that all 3 books are more about the moments of satire and the long explanations of politics and social structure than about the overall plot (which is the same way I feel about Jane Austen). Whereas the first book is driven by the tension between Rachel's American-ness and the old-money Singaporeans, book 2 is about the tension between the Singaporeans and the nouveau-riche mainland Chinese, who have only recently been allowed to amass wealth under the Chinese government. I don't really care about the plot in a "what's going to happen next?" kind of way, but I really enjoyed the experience of reading them. As foggi mentions, if you didn't enjoy reading the first one then you probably won't with the second, either.

Feb 28, 3:14pm Top

>29 bell7: I'm with Foggi. I think I enjoyed the first book more than you (and unlike Nora, I was in it for the characters rather than the satire) so I don't think the rest of trilogy is going to knock your socks off more than the first.

Feb 28, 6:10pm Top

Hope you enjoy How Long 'Til Black Future Month. I just heard about that book and am curious about it.

Mar 1, 9:10am Top

>30 foggidawn:, >31 norabelle414:, >32 MickyFine: Thanks for your responses! I wavered between 3.5-4 stars. I was intrigued by the politics and social structure more than the characters like you, Nora, and while I liked it well enough while I was reading it (and, in fact, devoured the last 100 pages or so), most of the time I wasn't super-excited to pick it up again when I wasn't reading it. That being said, I'm picky about anything that could be remotely classified as romance and almost always they are going to top out at 4 stars for me (in an "I liked it but I wouldn't reread it" category). On the other hand, I really enjoy this type of story as a movie. So I have the movie on hold from the library and when it comes in, I'll try to compare my responses a little.

It's perhaps a little bizarre of me, but when I watch movies that *aren't* based on books I've already read and liked, my movie taste is completely different from my book taste.

>33 The_Hibernator: I'm enjoying it, so far, Rachel. I enjoy N.K. Jemisin's world-building in her longer fiction, and this carries over well into her short stories (which is fitting, since as she explains in the introduction, she's sometimes exploring a concept in a short form to see if it would work in a novel). They are fitting for their length, too, giving a taste without feeling cut off.

Mar 1, 9:15am Top

No other books finished to report, but I'm making good progress in 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than you Think. I'm just about at the halfway point and am enjoying time management from a working mom's perspective. It gives me hope that I could have kids someday and not lose sleep if I'm intentional about how I use my time.

I'm going to start a time diary on Sunday and attempting to keep it up for a couple of weeks to get a sense of how I typically use my time.

Oh, and part of the reason I didn't finish any other books in the last couple of days is because I took time to finish the collar on the sweater for my nephew. I'm hoping to spend some time this weekend sewing it up (as well as try out the InstantPot my landlords have, take down my Christmas tree, and do an overnight dogsitting stint on Saturday). I'm off today, going to run some errands, go to the eye doctors, and meet a friend for lunch. Followed by whichever of the above I feel like doing when I'm done, but probably nothing that takes a lot of visual concentration since my eyes will still be dilated.

Mar 1, 9:20am Top

>34 bell7: Books 2 and 3 are no where close to romance, if that helps? They're much more family dramas.
The movie made changes that moved the plot more toward romance, which I think was a good call. I don't think the satire would hold up to a 2hr movie.

Mar 1, 12:43pm Top

>35 bell7: Not to be preachy about it, but ORGANIZATION IS KEY when kids are involved. I can not be clearer than that and won't go into boring details. Organization = sanity for parents. (Not to be confused with regimentation!!!)

Mar 2, 12:21pm Top

>36 norabelle414: Maybe? I can also be really literal so sometimes satire goes a little over my head. And I have a feeling that if I'd read the book in two days instead of over the course of a week I'd have a different reaction. Definitely more of a case of who I am as a reader than any failing of the book.

>37 richardderus: Good to know! I'm actually... not a very organized person. People are surprised by this because I have a personality that appreciates order and rules, and I have learned to compensate in various ways. But I'm terribly absent-minded to the point where I will lose my purse or phone EVERYWHERE and before I discovered that Google calendar is a beautiful thing I was triple-booking myself for the same time frame and only realizing it the day before my commitments... That being said, I'm probably not looking to have any kids for another couple of years until after I can get a house, and then I'll probably be looking to adopt/foster school-age children so it could work with my career. Which will come with its own set of challenges.

Mar 2, 12:27pm Top

So far this is turning out to be much more of a relaxing weekend than a getting-everything-done weekend. Lunch turned out to be a longer conversation (but really fun time) than I'd expected, by which time I was nursing a headache from a combination of the eye dilation and having only half-caff weak coffee (I discovered this morning) rather than my full caffeine shot. I went to bed before 8 p.m. last night. Actually slept, woke up for maybe about an hour between 1:30-2:30 a.m. to read a bit and listen to an audiobook, then went back to sleep until 7:15. Still felt lethargic, which led to more reading and finally waltzing downstairs for coffee around 9.

The rest of the morning has been equally leisurely and I'm not apt to change that. I packed for my dogsitting job and did my monthly budget (this takes all of 5 minutes) so I feel sufficiently productive. I have some reading to do for my Bible study Monday and I do still want to sew together Matthew's sweater. I'll leave for dogsitting around suppertime tonight and spend the overnight at their place, either reading or watching Netflix. And I'll tackle the InstantPot on Thursday or Friday.

This does mean my Christmas tree is still up. Oh well.

Mar 2, 12:48pm Top

Hi Mary - Interesting thoughts about Crazy Rich Asians. It sounds like it would be a fun taking-some-time-off read and I'll definitely keep it in mind. I did not realize it was a trilogy, but I have only watched the movie. It would be fun to follow the characters further.

I thought the movie was light and great fun. I can't tell from your comments whether you've seen it.

It sounds like your leisurely weekend is actually packed with accomplishments.

Mar 2, 5:31pm Top

>40 streamsong: I hope you enjoy the trilogy if you decide to read it, Janet! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I put it on hold from the library and I think I might enjoy it more than the book. And thank you - I may not have taken my Christmas tree down, but I did finish that sweater, which is an accomplishment I'm proud of!

My parents are going down to DC in a couple of weeks, but I'm leaning towards mailing it down to my sister along with the dragon hat I knit Mia.

Mar 2, 5:43pm Top

February in review
12. The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
13. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
14. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (ARC - comes out in May)
15. The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
16. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
17. The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
18. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Books read: 7
Fiction/Nonfiction/Graphic Novels/Poetry/Plays: 6/1/0/0/0
Children's/Teen/Adult: 0/1/6
Library/Mine/Borrowed: 5/2/0
Rereads: 1

Standouts: Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors was hands down my favorite of the month

Thoughts: A bit of a slow down in my reading since January, but 7 books read is not bad in the shortest month of the year (I've read as few as 4 before). I read in stops and starts - slow reading, then a few fast titles, and slowing down again at the end. I also did a pretty good job of reading diverse books, with authors of Indian heritage, Pakistani, African American, and Asian American. I also read my first teen book of the year. All in all, I'm happy what I covered with my reading this month.

I'm off to go dogsit, and haven't decided what I'm going to do with my evening other than turning the Bruins on. I may catch up on threads or read 'til bedtime.

Mar 2, 8:21pm Top

>41 bell7: Nice knitwear

>42 bell7: Nice review of February

Hopefully great weekend. xx

Edited: Mar 3, 7:41am Top

>43 PaulCranswick: Thank you on both counts, Paul! I hope you're having a good weekend, too. Today I'll be out and about a bit more, and I'm hoping to get to a chess tournament my dad's in to say hi and watch for awhile. Speaking of stats, I meant to link to my spreadsheet that has some fun tracking and pie charts (I didn't set it up, just copied it from BookRiot). It does fun things like average out the number of pages I read a day and what percentage of all my reading is different genres or by POC authors. Anyway, I'll throw up a link when I'm home.

Mar 3, 8:53am Top

Mary dear, I just followed you on Pinterest...I'd suggest following my Food! board there because I have like a gajillion InstantPot recipes there.

Happy Snowday! I mean Sunday, heh, of course I do.

Mar 6, 5:54pm Top

>45 richardderus: Will do! I have a couple of library books out and have been trying out recipes. So far, barley salad (pressure cooked) and white bean soup have been winners. My food budget, however, won't be able to take in this many new recipes at once, so I will enjoy perusing your board over the next few weeks.

Mar 6, 6:01pm Top

19. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
Why now? It's been on the TBR list for awhile, and I decided it was time to activate the library hold and read it

We're all pressed for time and rushing around. At least, that's what a lot of self help books, online articles, and your brain would have you think. But author Laura Vanderkam challenges you to reassess that: even if you work a 50-60 hour week and get enough sleep there are enough hours to fit in what you want to do - we just have to be intentional about how we use them.

Suggesting keeping a time log, writing a list of things you want to do and start working your way through it, and looking at time management from a work and home perspective, Vanderkam perhaps has little new to say, but nonetheless I found it useful as I think intentionally about how I use my time. There aren't a lot of specific time management techniques, so there's ample room for you to decide how it will suit your own life. She's very much coming from the perspective of a working mother which, on the one hand, I liked because I felt assured I could, perhaps, have kids some day and not short myself on sleep. But it also meant that a lot of the "home" section was not applicable as a single woman, because much of her focus was spending time with spouse and kids. Some of her advice is very first-world, for example, if you don't like groceries or housework, outsource more of it. Much like budgeting, time management is about opportunity costs: if I do this, I can't do that. But we don't always think of it that way. As a result, the biggest takeaway from the book is simple: take back control. 4 stars.

I am keeping a time log this week, and may for a couple of weeks because I think my Bible study book Don't Waste Your Life is going to also ask for something similar in the coming weeks, and I figured I'd be prepared early for once. I'm holding on to the library book a little longer to show my group too.

Mar 6, 6:09pm Top

20. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Why now? It won the Printz award and Joe (jnwelch) and others warbled it like crazy

Xiomara writes in her journal, her poems and thoughts that she doesn't dare say allowed to her mother, especially. Her mother is deeply religious and wants Xiomara to be confirmed - but she isn't sure what she believes, and doesn't feel heard. In her notebook, however, she can speak all the thoughts she can't say aloud.

This free verse novel is really powerful, and I can definitely see why it's won the awards and acclaim it has. Xiomara's character really blooms her freshman year of high school, as her poems cover September to January, very much focusing on a new beginning for her and her family. It's a fast read, but there's so much from family ties to religion to first love and everything in between. Xiomara's voice is beautiful, and I guarantee you will cheer her on in her journey. 4.5 stars.

There is not much I can say that others have not already said better, and I can't say much specifics without giving away spoilers. I spent much of the story a little concerned about the attitude towards religion and authority figures in general, wondering if the author was going to put down her mother in the end (who, believe me, was not perfect), but the ending was much more nuanced and leaves a lot to talk about. It was hopeful and while it stays true to X's character that she's asking questions and figuring out what she thinks about the Catholic religion she's been raised in and her parents' rules, they're not just stupid people she has to fight against. And the English teacher is pretty wonderful.. Really, really impressive. I hope it's one our teens find on the shelf - so far, it seems to be a hit with adults and not one they pick up on their own.

Mar 6, 8:29pm Top

>48 bell7: I just finished this today, too, and my reaction seems very close to yours! Reading Xiomara’s struggles with religion was difficult for me, especially at the beginning of the book. For me, religion is joy, peace, and comfort, so reading about people who experience it as the opposite is almost painful. But I feel that Xiomara was, if not there, at least moving in that direction by the end. Great writing — I can definitely see why it won so many awards.

Mar 6, 9:42pm Top

>49 foggidawn: yes! And how her mom forced her to kneel down on rice in front of the Virgin Mary statue was definitely not part of my experience. But I appreciated that her friend Caridad was devout without being a caricature and really supported Xiomara as well even though they were so different. Also, the priest encouraging her questions and telling her mother that he didn't think she should be confirmed. It could've easily been just about the rejection, but instead it was really nuanced and, though hard to read for me in parts, very hopeful in the end. I only started it yesterday and didn't realize how much I'd started to care for the characters until I almost cried when her mom burned her notebook.

Mar 7, 9:35am Top

>50 bell7: Yes, I liked how the secondary characters were mostly pretty complex. Both the priest and the English teacher were really well done, and I liked Caridad, though I would have liked to have seen more of her. And yeah, the part you mentioned in your last sentence was really devastating!

Mar 8, 8:24am Top

>51 foggidawn: I'm going to recommend it to our teen librarian today and hopefully get it to circulate a little more with the teens in our town.

Mar 8, 8:38am Top

21. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Why now? It's a fantasy that's been on my radar since it came out a couple of years ago, and I requested the library e-book recently for my diverse reading, since the author is trans

Patricia, the unfavored younger child, goes out in the woods one day and discovers she can talk to birds who take her to a special Tree and tell her she's a witch, but then she stops understanding them and sees no evidence of magical abilities for years. She becomes friends with another school outcast in middle school, Laurence, who has created a time traveling watch that allows him to jump forward 2 seconds. Their unlikely friendship may be setting into motion forces that will bring science and magic to a head.

I don't know what I was expecting from the book, but somehow I think it missed my expectations. I think I somehow thought it would be epic in scope, but instead it felt more like a fable. Patricia and Laurence are really the only realized characters. Patricia's parents lock her in her room for punishment like fairy tale parents. One character is an assassin and wants to kill Patricia and Laurence before they grow up and ruin the world. The start is slow, focusing on middle school, and picks up after that - but events come suddenly, and years pass and are only ever mentioned as memories, making the pacing uneven. And because of that slow start, there's not much I can say to explain the actual point of the plot without giving away spoilers. 3 stars.

I just feel really...meh about this one. I kept reading, I was curious, but once I realized I probably wasn't going to love it I was past the point of no return (last night I was over 60% done according to my Kindle and was reasonably sure I could finish it - and did - that night).

Has anyone else read this one? I'd love to hear someone else's thoughts.

Mar 8, 9:43am Top

>53 bell7: I read that one a couple years ago. I enjoyed reading it but felt like it moved too quickly. It felt more like a long series of events than a structured novel. I thought it would have been better as a series of better-paced books than one short-ish book. I frequently find myself remembering bits and pieces of things that happened in the book (like the parliament of birds or Laurence going to the rocket launch) but it takes me forever to remember what book they are from because they don't have any connection to the story as a whole.

Mar 8, 1:48pm Top

>53 bell7: What I responded to positively was the two characters, and wasn't bothered by the caricatures because these are kids...no kid sees parents or adults outside the lineaments of caricature. The elemental battle between science and magic for ownership of the kids' inner lives was the main focus of the strand of pearls that's the structure. It's not a plot, that is obvious! But as a Scheherezade tale-strand, it's got charm to burn for me.

Mar 9, 4:03am Top

Dropping by to wish you a lovely weekend, Mary.

Mar 9, 9:28am Top

>54 norabelle414: Okay yeah, I had a really similar reaction to yours then. I felt like it could've been either a much more focused story or a series that really explored some of the concepts, but it never quite reach the scope where I felt much of a stake in the science vs. magic aspect.

>55 richardderus: I get that, Richard. I was left feeling like if everyone had just left Patricia and Laurence alone, there would've been no issue, no grand battle, and things would've just worked themselves out neatly because they could talk it through. But since everyone around them was all "you misfits shouldn't be together" most of the tensions were introduced that didn't necessarily have to exist. And yes, maybe I was looking for more plot and world-building, where it was really more of a tale-strand, as you say.

Not to say I wouldn't try another book by this author. I have The City in the Middle of the Night out from the library and on my nightstand now, as I am intrigued by the concept behind it.

>56 PaulCranswick: Have a wonderful weekend, Paul! Thanks for stopping by.

Mar 9, 9:59am Top

>57 bell7: Charlie Jane is a lovely person, and writes stories about what actual prices we pay for notional benefits. I hope this next read is more to your taste!

Mar 9, 10:01am Top

Just popping for a quick hello.

>47 bell7: I'm reading the premise of 168 Hours, and your comments. I suspect she's operating for a "normal" family template. Somehow I find it hard to believe that families in crisis situations have all that much time to "do what they want" if they are intentional about it. It seems like more and more of the folks I deal with can't plan their time because they are dealing with serious illness, emergencies, family members with addiction and/or mental health issues, etc.

Mar 9, 10:31am Top

Oh, and I remembered that you wanted to know about banana bread: https://www.whiskynsunshine.com/slow-cooker-banana-bread/
I use this recipe EXCEPT I use 6 bananas rotten-ripe, and pecans instead of walnuts; being a spice lover, 1/2t cinnamon and 1/2t allspice make it tastier. The sweetened condensed milk is crucial. Evaporated milk is okay, but the texture of the finished bread is different.

The Instant Pot version I tried has sour cream in place of sweetened condensed milk: https://www.simplyhappyfoodie.com/instant-pot-banana-bread/
I didn't like it as well, my YGC said it was okay but the texture wasn't as "toothsome." (I love that he uses those words!) Of course I added the same spices as well as pecans. I didn't make icing, as the lady does, since butter's entirely enough decadence on this stuff for me.

Mar 10, 7:27pm Top

>59 tymfos: Yes, I think it's set up for a middle class, American average kind of family. Now, that's not to say that tracking your hours wouldn't help if you were in a different situation, but you probably wouldn't have the same flexibility in choosing how to spend your time or the ability to, say, send out your laundry. The sort of principle of budgeting your time and calculating the opportunity the cost is the same with time management as it is with budgeting your money, and similarly a person in more of a crisis situation would be stretched thinner - this book doesn't really address that.

>58 richardderus: and >60 richardderus: Thanks, Richard, I think I will enjoy the next one! And thank you for the banana bread recipe - I will report back when I've had a chance to try it out, after I've purchased enough bananas.

Mar 13, 10:23am Top

22. The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
Why now? A former co-worker of mine wanted to read it after hearing about it on a podcast or some such, and I thought it would be interesting to read too. This was actually my second library borrow, as the first time I ran out of time - so it was on my list to read after getting back from vacation.

Not much is known about Hatshepsut and her rise to power, becoming regent and then king of Egypt after her husband (and brother) Thutmose II's death. Using extensive research and her knowledge as an Egyptologist, Kara Cooney attempts a biography of the woman, painstakingly piecing together her rise to power and eventual downfall.

Much of this, as Cooney herself explains in the introduction, has to be based on conjecture and best-guesswork, as we reconstruct history based on incomplete records - and, in Ancient Egypt, the tendency to erase the uncomfortable bits. As a result, the biography is peppered with hedges, "might have," "probably," "may have." She has to, and I'm not blaming her for that, but because of this and the repetitiveness of the book, it made it very difficult for me to keep track of what was known for sure and what was a guess. Cooney has a tendency to speculate on how people might have felt, several times asking a few questions in a row with the answer "We can never know." I just found that frustrating - don't speculate how Hatshepsut or her co-king Thutmose III felt, just tell me what you know. I found it very confusing and hard to follow because of this narrative style and the sheer number of things we don't know. Because Cooney is making some educated guesses, I was very unclear about what was in the records or not, and what was her conjecture with her particular focus on female power and interpretation of Hatshepsut versus what most Egyptologists believe to be true. For example, she is clearly reacting to early Egyptologist assumptions that one of Hapshepsut's advisors, Senenmut, was also her lover. She repeats over and over again that there is no proof. On the other hand, she assumes that Hapshepsut's daughter, Nefrure, married Thutmose III, yet at one point also explains the lack of evidence one way or the other, leaving me as a reader very confused by her adamance for one interpretation over the other when it seems to me, a general layperson, that there's just as much proof (or lack thereof) for both? I think in a month or two, reflecting on the book, I may be surprised to realize how much I did in fact learn, but unfortunately the reading experience was less than stellar. I kept having the impression that what she really should've written was a completely fictionalized historical fiction book instead. There just didn't seem enough for a history book here. 2.5 stars.

Kirkus gave this a glowing review, so what do I know?

Mar 13, 10:34am Top

>62 bell7: Ah, Kirkus is intentionally contrarian, so I wouldn't worry too much about what they say.

Mar 13, 1:19pm Top

>63 foggidawn: I'm with Foggi, I don't give Kirkus reviews much weight in my professional decisions and even less in my personal. :P

Edited: Mar 13, 1:57pm Top

Yay for The Poet X! I really enjoyed your and foggi’s comments on it. Particularly regarding her struggle with religion. I thought X’s questions and concerns were legitimate, and a highlight of the book for me. They mirror some of my own. And the burning of her notebook - devastating is a good word for it. I still feel it.

Mar 13, 3:01pm Top

>62 bell7: I myownself argue that, before about 1500, "history" is largely fiction for most of the world. Some records exist, and should be accepted as about as factual as it's possible to get when concrete matters (how many cattle X had, Z paid n bushels of corn in taxes) are their subjects. Any "history of" or "life of" material should be treated as about as accurate as a "ripped from the headlines" Lifetime/Hallmark movie of the week. There's a reason historians are taught that History means "his story."

Masculine article used advisedly.

Mar 13, 9:42pm Top

>63 foggidawn: and >64 MickyFine: Ha, yeah, that was at least half tongue-in-cheek, and the other 40% or so was to balance out my rather "meh" opinion. I kind of laughed when I saw how much that reviewer enjoyed it, actually - like, come on guys, usually you're good for at least one good zinger in an overall positive review. I'm in very good company with the other LT reviews, actually.

>65 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe! I can be a little sensitive to how religion is portrayed in books because my faith is important to me, so I really liked the nuanced way it was explored. X should ask her questions, absolutely. But it's done in such a way that I think someone who was Christian/Catholic could come away not feeling ridiculed. I haven't read many books that walk the line that finely, and it did such a good job. And yeah, that's a scene that stays with you, isn't it? I wholeheartedly recommended it to our teen librarian a couple of days ago, and I'm really hoping she'll read it or include it in her book club in the future.

>66 richardderus: Oh yes, ancient history is definitely problematic for any definitive his- or her-story book. I expected hedging and I got it. But it was difficult to read several sentences in a row that suggested three different ways Nefrure might've reacted when her mother died, for example. I would've preferred, "Here's what I think and why, based on my expertise as an Egyptologist and how I interpret the following records," with notes for me to follow if I wanted alternative points of view. More a stylistic choice than anything else, and it irked me *shrug*

Mar 13, 9:59pm Top

I have a couple of stories left in How Long 'Til Black Future Month. N.K. Jemisin is incredibly talented, and I like her short stories as well as her long fiction. I never did finish The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy and I'm thinking it's time I made my way through her collected works.

I started Year of Wonders for book club today. When I ran to Subway for dinner between work and choir practice, a family of four was in front of me taking a rather long time ordering, so I pulled it out and started reading in line to keep busy while I waited...both the dad of the family and the guy behind me wanted to know about what I was reading. Anyway, I didn't get very far but I'm hoping to read most of it over the weekend in any case.

Tomorrow is my last day of work for the week (I worked on Sunday), and on Friday the plan is to pick up the new prescription lenses for my glasses and attempt to make macarons for a get together on Saturday. Apparently they're really fussy cookies, so wish me luck (any advice from bakers?)!

Mar 13, 10:29pm Top

>68 bell7: - Not a baker, but I loved Year of Wonders :)

Mar 14, 8:50am Top

>67 bell7: Well put in the spoiler, Mary. I agree.

Mar 14, 9:14am Top

>68 bell7: I am a baker, but I've never attempted macarons. My mom was a pastry chef at a fancy French restaurant for awhile and even she says they're very difficult and take a lot of patience. Good luck!

Mar 14, 9:28am Top

>68 bell7: I've always been too intimidated to try macarons -- good luck! Maybe you will find they are less difficult than we all seem to think...

Mar 14, 10:44am Top

>69 katiekrug: I'm enjoying it so far, Katie! I had trouble sleeping this morning, so I'm already nearly a third of the way in. I'm going to have to slow myself down a little or I won't have any left to read over the weekend!

>70 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe!

>71 norabelle414: Well, that's a little scary, Nora...

>72 foggidawn: Haha, I don't know, foggi, I read through a couple of recipes and they look incredibly fussy. I need to weigh ingredients with a kitchen scale.

I am 90% certain she meant macarons because it's a French-themed luncheon, but if I totally goof up, they're all getting macaroons (which is how it's written on the sheet anyway so I can always claim ignorance...).

Mar 14, 11:13am Top

>73 bell7: I have made meringues -- if the macarons fail, those might be sufficiently French, and they are not too difficult!

Mar 14, 7:15pm Top

>74 foggidawn: Ooh, there's another good option!

Mar 15, 12:40pm Top

I had a friend in library school who took a class on making macarons from a fantastic local bakery, and it took her months of attempts to get a hang of the cookies. Apparently a lot of it is up to the aging of the egg whites. *shrug*

Mar 16, 10:25am Top

>76 MickyFine: months of attempts
Oh gosh... I can't speak to how the texture turned out, but it tastes good so it is what it is.

Mar 16, 10:30am Top

I found this recipe on Pinterest for coffee/salted caramel macarons. I couldn't find dulce de leche so instead of that, I used a salted caramel sundae topping I found and whipped it with butter for the filling. Here's how they turned out:

This was an incredibly involved recipe that started out with weighing the ingredients (the lady of the house has a kitchen scale for Weight Watchers so I used that, but had to convert ounces to grams for everything). I separated eggs. I used a candy thermometer to heat a sugar syrup to just the right temperature. I attempted to use a pastry bag and finally just got fed up and spooned the cookies out by the tablespoon. It took a couple of hours and the result was 14 cookies. I can't speak to the success of the texture, but they *taste* delicious and will have to do. I will happily go through my life never making them again, however ;)

Mar 16, 1:18pm Top

They look v impressive, but I can see why you wouldn't want to make them again given that level of faff!

Mar 16, 4:27pm Top

>79 charl08: They came out pretty delicious too, and there wasn't a one left at the luncheon today (I mean, there were only 14...). The lady organizing it said folks were raving and they may want the recipe. I handed her the original, since I won't need it.

I wouldn't say I'd absolutely never attempt macarons again... but I'd have to have a whole lot more time on my hands to devote that amount of work to such a small output. Give me mixing up a few ingredients to make a few dozen over that any day!

Mar 16, 4:35pm Top

23. How Long 'Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
Why now? I've enjoyed her books - the Broken Earth trilogy is amazing - and knew I wanted to read the recent short story collection when it came out. I had a hold on the e-audio and when it became available, I paired it up with the book and read a few stories a day over a couple of weeks.

N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and the Broken Earth trilogy, all three of which won Hugo Awards, now collects several short stories that would fall into either fantasy or science fiction.

I really enjoyed this collection, the variety in the stories, the inventiveness of the world-building and how well-crafted each was to feel like a complete story and not just an exercise for working out the kinks of one of her longer books. Jemisin writes a little in the introduction how she came to write short fiction, and I enjoyed that insight into her writing process as well. If you've already read some of her longer fiction and are a fan, this is a must read. And if you haven't and you're not sure, it's a great introduction into her style and worlds. It's really hard to summarize a collection: some stories were surprising, complex, others creepy. It was a fun ride and it makes me want to read more of her works. 4.5 stars.

Edited: Mar 17, 12:09pm Top

>81 bell7: Good to hear re How Long 'Til Black Future Month, Mary. I've got it on the WL, and you've convinced me that I'll have to get to it sooner rather than later.

Mar 18, 12:14pm Top

>78 bell7: Glad they turned out tasty! :)

Mar 19, 7:07pm Top

>82 jnwelch: I hope it lives up to your expectations, Joe!

>83 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky!

Mar 19, 7:14pm Top

24. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Why now? Book club choice for Wednesday

Young Anna Frith narrates events in her small English village in the years of 1665-1666 when they are visited by plague.

Black Death was a major scourge when there were huge advances happening in science and Reformation in religion, yet few really understood exactly how it was transmitted or what caused it. Basing her story on the true English village of Eyam, Geraldine Brooks explores how people react in crisis situations, the extremes of self-sacrifice or in turning on another. Was the plague really sent by God as a call to repentance? What role does faith have when the world is falling apart - and what if this isn't sent by God after all? This was gripping, intense reading, and my only real complaint was that Anna seemed just a bit to modern to be believable and the end, while it made sense for the character in one way, stretched credulity in my mind. 4 stars.

I think if I had read this, Brooks' first novel, before some of her other works I may have rated it higher. As it was, I found myself critical of things that I wonder if she may have written differently now that she has several books under her belt? Either way, it's a good read and there will be plenty to talk about tomorrow. I heard her talk at the National Book Festival a couple of years ago, and it's well worth looking up the video of that. When I'm home in a couple of days, I'll try to remember to post it.

Mar 19, 9:44pm Top

>78 bell7: I think they look fun! Maybe you just invented your own kind of cookie :-) I'm glad they tasted good!

Mar 21, 2:15pm Top

>86 norabelle414: Hehe... Maybe so, but if they ever get repeated it will not be by me ;) I did pass on the recipe, so maybe someone will be inspired.

Mar 21, 2:17pm Top

Here's that video I mentioned of Geraldine Brooks at the National Book Festival - she's talking primarily about the one book of hers that I have not yet read, The Secret Chord.

Mar 21, 2:25pm Top

Book club last night primarily discussed Year of Wonders, and we left about 15 minutes to briefly talk about Cutting for Stone because though the library was open that night, no one wanted to drive out in the snow to come talk about it. Impressions overall were that it was very bleak. Some people liked her description, one person commented that the use of older words ("mislike" stood out in my mind personally) made for slower going as she got into the rhythm of it, though another really liked that aspect of it. One woman described the ending as "a fairy tale" though all of us agreed that it wouldn't have made sense for Anna to stay at the village. None of us were surprised she left, just where she ended up. We talked a little about how much had changed since the Plague years, that antibiotics and medical care is completely different and there are so many daily conveniences we take for granted that none of these villagers would've had. A couple mentioned how much had changed just in their lifetime - at least one of our number did not have electricity where she lived for the first years of her life. I handed out a printout from a website I'd found about the real village of Eyam that had some nice photos of the graveyard and boundary stone, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the visual of that.

Then for Cutting for Stone, it took me a little while to come up with things to talk about because it had been over a month for most of us and perhaps even years for some of us who may not have reread it for the discussion. But we talked briefly about the twins being mirror images of each other, both as "mirror twins" and in personality, Marion's idealism being a bit of a downfall, the book dealing with universal human conditions and having an old-fashioned storytelling feel, and the significance of "cutting for stone" as the title and its various meanings.

Whew! I'm surprised we still managed to get through all that in about an hour.

Mar 22, 2:26pm Top

Glad to hear it was another excellent book club event. What's up for next month?

Mar 22, 8:05pm Top

>90 MickyFine: We'll be reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond. Two cheerful books in a row, right? Part of why I chose to read them in the spring...

Mar 22, 8:37pm Top

25. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Why now? It's been amazingly popular and only growing in number of holds at my library. A couple of my co-workers were raving about it, so I snagged our bestseller copy to read this week after the book club book was finished.

This intricately plotted story brings together events from 1952-1969, starting with young Kya left behind by her mother who can no longer deal with an abusive relationship. Kya soon learns how to navigate around her father and to fend for herself on the marsh. School is a failed experiment, but she's bright and passionate about the natural world around her. In 1969, a man's body is found in the marsh near a fire tower. He apparently fell or was pushed, but the absolute lack of any evidence - even his own footprints - are all the sheriff has to go on.

Wow. That's really all I can say. It took me several tries to come up with even a semblance of a coherent plot synopsis without spoilers. The story is beautifully laid out and information slowly unfolded to create a taut mystery at the heart of a story about people - loneliness, solitude, and what happens when a person is constantly left behind. I loved Kya and hurt for her as a child so much. I read the second half of the book practically in one sitting and stayed up late to find out what happened, what the tie between events of the 1950s and the murder investigation of 1969-70 finally was. Added to that, the language and description is pitch perfect. 5 stars.

Mar 22, 8:50pm Top

26. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Why now? I've read a couple of his books and enjoyed them; when I saw this one was available, I thought it would be fun to get a side character from Bud, Not Buddy's full story.

Deza Malone is a verbose and intelligent young lady who dreams of writing and is part of a close-knit black family living in Gary, Indiana. But the Depression has her father, along with most black men in their town, out of work, and the family soon finds themselves making huge sacrifices to make ends meet.

Blending humor and a strong heroine with serious topics of poverty and racism, The Mighty Miss Malone covers a lot of ground for such a short book. I liked Deza, and her growth over the year or so that the events take place. I was a little confused about her brother, Jimmie, as he's a few years older than her, yet she often seemed to treat him as a younger brother - I couldn't tell if he had some mental challenges or was just somewhat naive at times. There were a couple of plot elements I found less believable, but allowed the story to end on a hopeful note. 4 stars.

I'll admit, this one suffered a bit from being finished after Where the Crawdads Sing. The narrator of the audiobook, Bahni Turpin, is fantastic.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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