Laura (lauralkeet)'s attempt at spontaneity - Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s attempt at spontaneity - Part 2.
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Independence Hall, Philadelphia
The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell is located nearby.
Source: National Park Service
Hello all, I'm Laura and this is my 11th year with the 75 Books challenge. I'm in my mid/late-50s (it’s a transition year LOL), and live in Philadelphia with my husband Chris, our two dogs, and a cat. We have two adult daughters, Julia and Kate. I retired in 2017 and to my surprise am now reading fewer books than when I was working. It’s been a while since I made the 75-book goal, but the people and book recommendations here are the best.
In 2019 I’m trying to make more spontaneous reading choices. My RL book groups will determine two of my reads each month, but I’ve given myself permission to “opt out” if a selection doesn’t appeal. Other than that, I want to let my mood guide me, whether that’s reading books from my TBR pile, making progress on my series, or reading with an LT group like the 75 Books American Author Challenge or the Virago Modern Classics group Reading the 1940s theme.
Besides reading, I spend a lot of time knitting and have a knitting thread in the Needlearts group; stop in and say hi sometime!
My 2019 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-13) | Part 2 (books 14-30) |
Books completed (click on “details" to jump to my comments)
31. There There - details
32. Rules of Civility - details
33. Mr Skeffington - details
34. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O - details
35. The Great Believers - details
36. Consequences - details
37. Miss Bunting - details
38. A Change of Time - details
39. The House at Sea's End - details
40. Manon of the Springs - details
41. Red Notice - details
42. Hell Fire - details
43. Big Sky - details
44. A Room Full of Bones - details
45. Where the Crawdads Sing - details
46. Mrs Everything - details
47. The Nickel Boys - details
48. Peace Breaks Out - details
49. A Lesson Before Dying - details
50. A Stricken Field - details
51. Closed Circles - details
52. Hannah Coulter - details
The above snapshot is a view of my active series as of June 1, sorted on the "progress" column.
RIP FictFact, a website many of us used to track progress on selected series. I have attempted to use Google Sheets to create a dashboard similar to the FictFact version posted on my previous threads.
Series completed/current in 2019:
* Matthew Shardlake - April
* Kristin Lavransdatter - May
* Jackson Brodie - July
Series started in 2019:
* Kristin Lavransdatter
* Ruth Galloway
Series abandoned in 2019:
* Inspector Sejer, after reading 12 of 13 books 😢
Re-posted from my previous thread
30. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross ()
Source: On my Kindle
Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy set in 14th century Norway, and follows the life of a strong, independent woman. The first volume covered Kristin’s childhood and marriage; the second, her life as a mother, bearing seven sons and managing a large agricultural estate. The Cross is the third and final volume in this epic work. Kristin is in her late 30s, and considered beyond reproductive age. In the previous book, her husband Erlend lost his land holdings, and they now live on Kristin’s family estate. Her oldest sons are in their late teens, and ready to assume the responsibilities of grown men, but will not enjoy the inheritance they might have once expected.
This novel sees Kristin coping with tensions in her relationship with Erlend, and with the prospect of “losing” her sons to marriage and families of their own. Simon Darre, once betrothed to Kristin but now married to her younger sister, is always waiting in the wings to provide Kristin support when needed. It’s clear his feelings for Kristin have never gone away, and while Kristin can’t help thinking of the life that might have been, she also knows her rather unstable life with Erlend has suited her better than a life with steady but rather boring Simon.
The church figures prominently during this time period, and people are often judged harshly for what is seen as “immoral” conduct. Kristin herself was a victim of this, having defied her father’s choice for a husband, sleeping with Erlend before marriage, and deceiving everyone with a lavish wedding even though she knew she was pregnant. Now, while she is respected in the community, her morals are always suspect.
As the book progresses, the lives of all principal characters play out in interesting and unexpected ways. Kristin’s inner strength kept her going through hardship and personal tragedy, despite pressure to conform to church and community norms. Her story ends in a way that surprised me, but which on reflection seems fitting. Kristin Lavransdatter will stay with me for some time.
Happy new thread, Laura!
I've enjoyed your comments on Kristin Lavransdatter and will try to get to the trilogy soon (famous last words.....)
I'm impressed with your Google sheets tracking. I thought of doing something similar, but whatever I do, I'll miss the automotic updates when new series books are published :(
I knew i’d Be able to count on you to somewhat solve the FictFact problem. (Appropriate because I found FF thanks to you)
Can you share the page with me? Then I’ll save a copy and add my own stuff, right? Do you have my email?
Can you share the Google sheet with me, too? I think you have my email but let me know if not!
>2 lauralkeet: I don't like that "zero" there in the Sharyn McCrumb column. Let's make 2019 the year that changes, whattya say?
>4 lauralkeet: Kirsten Lavransdatter is a series that does hold up over the years. I must have read them in the 60's as the first serious historical novels I encountered - they were on my parents' shelves, and later in my 30s when they were much more comprehensible to me. As I haven't read them in the last 20+ years, perhaps a re-read (of the same old shoe polish stained volumes) is in order.
>13 laytonwoman3rd: okay, okay, you're the boss!!! Actually, I do enjoy reading lighter fare in the summer months so why not start a new series? My library has some of the Ballad novels but not the first one, so I just ordered it for my Kindle. Happy now?
>14 jnwelch:, >15 BLBera: Hi Joe & Beth! Thanks for stopping by.
>16 quondame: Now that you mention it Susan, I am surprised I didn't read Kristin Lavransdatter growing up. It's definitely a work my mom would have enjoyed, and in my teens I raided her bookshelves all the time. I could definitely envision a re-read someday, too.
Happy Sunday, Laura. Happy New Thread. Ooh, I loved There, There. I hope you feel the same.
(You can say you're reading it for the AAC, Laura. McCrumb is one of the suggested Wild Cards.)
I just read your excellent review of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy on your last thread, Laura, and thumbed it. I thought about reading it more than once, but had never been strongly tempted until reading your review. On Kindle seems like the way to go - I remember it as a bit of a whopper.
>23 drneutron: thanks Jim!
>24 jnwelch: Ha, Joe, looks like I got ya with that one. I love it when that happens. The trilogy is indeed a whopper; Amazon says the paperback edition is 1168 pages. The Kindle edition doesn't have pagination, only the location number, which is a bit of a pain but I still preferred it to carrying a physical book around.
Happy new thread, Laura!
When I joined LT in 2008 Kristin Lavransdatter was the first book I bought and read because of being recommend on LT. So it is special to me, I might consider a reread after reading your reviews.
>28 FAMeulstee: Anita, I became aware of *KL* pretty early in my my LT membership (I joined LT in 2007). It seemed like everyone had read it but me! I was intrigued but put off by the length, because I thought it was a single volume. So it took a while, but I eventually got around to reading it myself.
Happy new thread Laura! I look forward to seeing your thoughts on There there.
>1 lauralkeet: I like the Philly pix. So nice to see what a resident admires. A very historically interesting city.
>30 Sakerfalcon: Hi Claire! So far I'm really enjoying There There. For the unfamiliar, the book is about the urban Native American community, set largely in Oakland CA. The structure is interesting. There are about a dozen characters with their own chapters, and eventually the connections between them emerge.
>31 SandyAMcPherson: I'm glad you like the pix, Sandy. We've lived *near* Philly for more than 30 years, but have lived in the city for only a year and a half. For the most part, we don't experience the history on a day-to-day basis (and we steer clear of the touristy spots during peak periods). But there are definitely iconic buildings and some very interesting history to be found. For example, here's an article about an early shipyard buried under what is now a parking lot:
What to do about Philadelphia’s buried colonial riverfront? Developer moves cautiously
I find this stuff fascinating.
31. There There ()
Source: On my shelves
The wound that was made when white people came and took all that they took has never healed. An unattended wound gets infected. Becomes a new kind of wound like the history of what actually happened became a new kind of history. All these stories that we haven’t been telling all this time, that we haven’t been listening to, are just part of what we need to heal. Not that we’re broken. And don’t make the mistake of calling us resilient. To not have been destroyed, to not have given up, to have survived, is no badge of honor. Would you call an attempted murder victim resilient?
There There is a magnificent debut novel about the Native American community. Not the Native Americans of colonial American history, but the modern urban Native American. It is set in Oakland, California where, as in other parts of the country, ancestral land has been buried by pavement and real estate development. As Gertrude Stein wrote, “There is no there, there.” Each chapter is narrated by one of about a dozen characters. Orvil is a teenage boy secretly learning Indian dance from YouTube videos. Jacquie is a middle-aged recovering alcoholic whose grandchildren are being raised by her sister, Opal. Dene recently received a grant to film Native Americans’ personal stories. Edwin is an unemployed college graduate who spends hours in his bedroom, addicted to the internet. And so on. Every single person has felt the impact of poverty, addiction, or violence, and sometimes all three. There is a lot of heartbreak, and a tiny bit of hope.
The characters' narratives could get confusing, but tiny details begin to connect their stories in pleasing “aha moments.” Everyone is converging on the Great Oakland Powwow, some to help organize the event, others to discover their heritage. The Powwow leads some characters to connect with each other. But there are also some “missed connections” left for another time, because it soon becomes clear that something significant will happen at the Powwow that will have a lasting impact on the entire Native American community. It is somehow fitting that Tommy Orange leaves some of that impact unsaid, enabling the reader to imagine the possible futures for these people.
>13 laytonwoman3rd: >17 lauralkeet: and >20 laytonwoman3rd:
I carried my copy of If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O to Taiwan with me. Did not get to it, so I carried it back with me. I intend to read it this summer!
Hi Laura and Happy New Thread!
>33 lauralkeet: I have gone back and forth on this one. You have convinced me that I need to add it to my wish list.
There There looks like a good read.
FYI none of your book covers are showing up for me -- it appears one can't simply load up an amazon cover, one has to upload it into LT as a grab and from there choose to use it. It then appears with an LT gobbledy line (http etc).
>34 kidzdoc: Darryl, I think you'd really like There There, so I hope you are able to read it sometime soon.
>35 EBT1002: Hi Ellen, let's have a race to see who reads Peggy-O first!! I honestly do hope to get to it this month.
>36 sibyx: Ugh, the cover image thing is nuts. I'm afraid I don't have the oomph to go back and fix all of mine. I don't quite understand the root cause, but doesn't it seem like a problem the LT Gods would try to fix?
I never took advantage of FactFict, but love the idea of your spreadsheet! I just created an Excel template and look forward to many happy hours getting my series status into a visual format.
Rules of Civility is a great read.
>38 vivians: My husband read There There before me, and tipped me off to possible confusion, which was helpful. The connections were often little nuggets that made me say, "wait, what?" and then I'd flip back to another character's chapter to see if I had it right.
>39 karenmarie: look forward to many happy hours getting my series status into a visual format.
Oh yes, that's very satisfying Karen. You're in good company!
I'm currently reading Rules of Civility for one of my book groups. This is Amor Towles' debut novel and I know it gets a lot of love around here. I really liked his second book, A Gentleman in Moscow.
BUT. I found two factual errors, on consecutive pages. And now I can't unsee them:
* Page 126: The stamps on the envelope were English. One was the head of a statesman engraved in purple and the others were motorcars engraved in blue.
Nope. English postage stamps always have an image of the current reigning monarch. A quick bit of Googling verified this was the case in 1938, when this book is set.
* Page 127: In a nutshell, the letter described how Tinker and Eve, having decided to drive along the coast from Southampton to London...
Oh come on. Towles couldn't even look at a map? Southampton is indeed on the coast, but London is about 80 miles northeast of Southampton and decidedly inland.
A Gentleman in Moscow was one of my all-time favorites, and I can't count the number of times I recommended it to people. But.....I read Rules of Civility when it first came out and was very underwhelmed. I remember being completely annoyed that it was set in 1938 and was about a group of young people living in NY, yet there was no mention whatsoever of the roiling political upheavals throughout the world. Even so, I'd most certainly read whatever comes next.
>41 lauralkeet: - Oh, dear. I did love RoC (haven't read A Gentleman... yet), but I have a vague recollection of thinking the Southampton-London thing was just wrong. The stamp issue would have passed me by :)
Towles is on Twitter and seems very responsive - shall I ask him why the shoddy mistakes?
>42 vivians: Vivian, thanks for your comments. I've been feeling underwhelmed, especially because I can't help comparing it to A Gentleman in Moscow. And you make a good point about the unrealistic "bubble" around the characters in Rules of Civility.
>43 katiekrug: Katie, I'm not on Twitter but if you want to stir the pot go right ahead!
>44 brenzi: Bonnie, you're a smart cookie; I'm confident you'd pick up the connections. They were nuggets in a good kind of way. The author doesn't hit you over the head with them but rather rewards you for paying attention. I actually wonder if I caught all the references or if some passed me by.
32. Rules of Civility ()
Source: My local library
What a disappointment. I really wanted to like this story of Katey Kontent, a plucky young woman making her way in 1930s New York. When Katey and her friend Eve meet handsome, dashing Tinker Grey, they find themselves in a new and more affluent social circle. New contacts also provide Katey with a path out of the steno pool into publishing, and the means to live in her own apartment instead of a boardinghouse.
Okay, so that’s a good start, right? But oh, the writing: it’s dreadful. My irritation began with Towles’ overuse of elaborate similes, e.g., “four blondes sat in a row comparing notes like a conspiracy of crows on a telephone wire.” Character development was lacking; even the main protagonists seemed like paper cutouts conforming to stereotypes, and the large supporting cast was even more shallow. The storyline was too loose and lacked emotional depth. Once I started spotting errors in the text it was all over. Someone’s hair was “tussled” (not “tousled”). There were factual errors regarding the design of English postage stamps, and the “coastal” drive from Southampton to London.
This was Amor Towles’ debut novel, and it shows. His second book, A Gentleman in Moscow, is so much better. Skip this one and read that instead.
>46 lauralkeet: On the basis of your review and the errors you've pointed out, I think I shall relieve myself of that volume without reading it. I remember it was pretty popular around here a few years ago, and I picked up a used copy with good intentions. But I trust you, and I have a few other things to read. *ahem*
33. Mr Skeffington ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
As Fanny Skeffington is recovering from a serious illness, she imagines a visit from her former husband. They were married only five years; after multiple instances of infidelity she divorced him. He’s been out of her life for more than twenty years, but Fanny finds it hard to banish him from her thoughts. To make matters worse, Fanny’s fiftieth birthday is just weeks away, and she’s having a difficult time coming to terms with this milestone. Fanny sees herself unchanged from the young, beautiful socialite of years past, and to prove it she decides to visit her past lovers.
Not surprisingly, Fanny is in for a bit of disappointment. Fanny’s lovers include a university student, a wealthy older man, and a humble clergyman serving the poor. Surprises abound, on both sides of each relationship, and Elizabeth vonArnim describes each encounter with her characteristic wit. While Fanny never quite accepts her loss of beauty and social status, she begins to understand how her life has fallen short of ideal. The ending is both surprising and satisfying, but leaves the reader wondering whether she has completely learned her lesson.
>50 lauralkeet: Intriguing review/synopsis.
I'm almost afraid to even look at my WL, let alone add to it! But your commentary certainly pulls me in.
(edited: Went to the review page just now, and 'up-thumbed' yours. 👍 It has the nuances I like in reviews.)
34. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O ()
Source: On my Kindle
Linda (laytonwoman3rd) is nothing if not persistent. After much
Then duty calls: one of Hamelin’s newest residents, a semi-retired folk singer, begins receiving threatening postcards. The situation escalates, and evidence indicates a possible Vietnam War connection. When it appears the events in Hamelin might be connected to another case, Spencer finds himself working with Knoxville police on an investigation.
I’ll be honest: I was able to guess “whodunnit,” and would have preferred a more complex mystery. But there was still a surprising twist, and I really liked Spencer and his staff, who I presume will return in future books. I will definitely continue with this series.
The award for best unintentionally hilarious passage goes to this conversation between Spencer and a local journalist. Remember, this is 1986:
McCullough sighed. “I wish we had a fax machine.”
Oh fax machines, those modern marvels! Just wait ...
>58 lauralkeet: the comments about the fax machine made me laugh.... I’ll keep this series on my radar.
>46 lauralkeet: Reading your review I am glad I skipped Rules of Civility.
I had similair problems with A Gentleman in Moscow. The most annoying to me was calling back two Borzois on a hunt. It would work with many other breeds, but not with these dogs. And a few other faults I don't recall immediately.
>59 NanaCC: Colleen, if I know Linda she will help keep it on your radar too! I wonder if her ears are burning?!
>60 FAMeulstee: ugh, Anita, I don't know enough about dog breeds to have spotted that one, but you certainly do! I'm sorry to see Towles' fact-checking issues continued in his second book.
>58 lauralkeet: tee hee. I love those things when I'm reading/rereading and older novel Laura.
Bonnie & Caro, I'm glad you enjoyed that little flashback. When I started reading the passage I thought it was going to be humorous, like the journalist ribbing the sheriff. But that wasn't it at all, and it totally cracked me up.
>58 lauralkeet: I'm glad you caved in and began this series, Laura, and especially glad you enjoyed Pretty Peggy-O. It isn't the best of the bunch, by far. What I love most about McCrumb's novels are the people in them, so I know what you mean about the mystery being uncomplicated---it isn't often a real brain teaser to figure them out, and sometimes I don't even try. I just ride along. Spencer and his staff do return in nearly every one of the series, one way or another.
The 1980's thing is fun...the Sue Grafton novels are like that too. Purposely planted firmly in the pre-tech era. Some of the situations would be solved way too easily if everyone had a cell phone!
>65 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I'm looking forward to reading more of the Ballad series. For some reason, my library didn't have the first one, but there are several in their catalog, possibly even the complete series so I'm set for a while.
>40 lauralkeet: It sounds like There There is best read in actual book form (not eBook) so that flipping back and forth is easier.
>58 lauralkeet: Oh my, I love that excerpt! I have been kind of carrying If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O around for the past couple of months, saying I'm going to, you know, read it. I'll add it to my July plans.
>58 lauralkeet: That has been sitting on top of one of my piles as well. Maybe this summer?
35. The Great Believers ()
Source: My local library
“The thing is,” Teddy said, “the disease itself feels like a judgment. We’ve all got a little Jesse Helms on our shoulder, right? If you got it from sleeping with a thousand guys, then it’s a judgment on your promiscuity. If you got it from sleeping with one guy once, that’s almost worse, it’s like a judgment on all of us, like the act itself is the problem and not the number of times you did it. And if you got it because you thought you couldn’t, it’s a judgment on your hubris. And if you got it because you knew you could and you didn’t care, it’s a judgment on how much you hate yourself.”
Chicago, 1985: the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. A group of friends are gathered to remember Nico, who recently died of the disease. It was a scary and confusing time. The virus came seemingly out of nowhere, its impact swift and fatal. Most government institutions, employers, and society as a whole shunned the gay community. With the exception of his younger sister Fiona, Nico’s family deserted him; his friends had to keep their grief private. Yale Tischman was one of Nico’s friends and remained close to Fiona after his death. Yale and his partner Charlie have been together, and monogamous, since before the virus became known, which gives them a sense of security. Yale works for an art gallery and is currently negotiating a complicated bequest of some paintings currently belonging to Fiona’s aunt. But the losses in Yale’s circle are only beginning.
Fast forward to 2015. Fiona runs an AIDS thrift shop and is trying to locate her estranged daughter Claire, believed to be in Paris with her young daughter. While staying with an old friend who had been part of the Chicago gay community 30 years earlier, Fiona begins to process her memories and how those times shaped her and affected her relationship with Claire.
Through alternating chapters, author Rebecca Makkai shows the devastating and far-reaching impact of the AIDS epidemic. She doesn’t hold back; her depiction of the confusion and silence surrounding the disease, the lack of treatment options, and the widespread stigma and fear is both realistic and emotional. While I was completely drawn into this book, I had to set it aside several times to process my feelings. This is a profound novel, highly recommended.
>72 lauralkeet: I'm really going to have to nudge this up the pile. So much LT love for it, Laura. Thumbed.
I'm happy to see another Great Believers fan, Laura. It's still one of my favorite reads this year.
Nice review of The Great Believers, Laura. Its high praise from so many readers makes me curious to see if it makes this year's Booker Prize longlist.
The Great Believers was apparently released in the UK last June, which unfortunately would make it ineligible for this year's Booker Prize.
>78 brenzi: Bonnie, you get credit for inspiring me to request The Great Believers from my library. Your thoughts on the book convinced me this was one I needed to read. I had a far less direct connection to the subject matter than you did, but the book still managed to stir up some buried memories and emotions.
>79 kidzdoc: ah, that's a shame Darryl.
In other news, I am waiting for two books which are in transit to my local library, including the new Jackson Brodie novel. I just saw a notice on Facebook that my branch will be closed until July 8 due to some issues in the building. Dammit!
In other news, I am waiting for two books which are in transit to my local library, including the new Jackson Brodie novel.
>80 lauralkeet: Thank you for the reminder about the new Jackson Brodie, Laura.
Another fan of The Great Believers and is was such a great one for book group discussion! Jackson Brodie, huh?.....
>81 brenzi: I hope your library books arrive quickly, Bonnie. My library branch suffered some extensive rain damage not too long ago, and I suspect this latest closure is related to that. I wish they had a plan to re-route the book deliveries, but that is not the case. Ah well, I have plenty of reading material to tide me over, if need be.
>82 NanaCC: Happy to help, Colleen! 😀 I put my name on the library list some time ago, pre-publication, so my name was pretty close to the top. I'm in a similar spot with the new Inspector Gamache coming out in August.
>83 Berly: Kim, the Jackson Brodie books are a series by British author Kate Atkinson. The last one was published in 2010, and to be honest I didn't think there'd be more, so I'm pretty excited about it. If you haven't read any of these, I recommend reading them in order. The first book is Case Histories and it's excellent!
Too bad about the Towles -- I will try it but cautiously. I did wonder, when I acquired it, why I heard so little about it . . .
I've loved every von Arnim I've read!
Re posting the book cover images -- when you add a new book be sure you take the step, when you are on the book's main page, of Choosing a New Cover -- then pick a Member Uploaded cover and bingo. Nothing direct from Amazon (or anywhere else, as far as I can tell) loads up here anymore. There are other ways, but that seems to be the simplest. Now and then, with an older book, that won't work. It seems most LT "fixes" make things harder to do - like the whole touchstone thing, so irritating.
>85 sibyx: thanks for the tip, Lucy. I will pay more attention to that going forward. The weird thing is, I can see all of my cover images on this thread, and many of them are links to Amazon images, not member covers. It baffles me why they are visible to some LTers but not all.
36. Consequences ()
Source: On my shelves
Penelope Lively is known for character-driven novels featuring strong women, with storylines advanced through a series of seemingly minor connections where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. By its very title, Consequences promises to deliver on this formula, but unfortunately the execution doesn’t achieve the excellence of Lively’s other novels.
The biggest problem with this book is Lively’s attempt to capture three generations in a mere 258 pages. The story opens with Lorna and Matt, a young newly-married couple living in the British countryside during World War II. Matt is a talented and promising artist. They have a daughter, Molly. Just as I was getting to know these characters, Molly is suddenly an adult and soon has a daughter of her own. And again, just as I began to care about Molly, the focus shifted again to her daughter, Ruth.
For the most part, the eponymous consequences -- which would seem to be a way for Lively to do her usual “thing” with connections -- fall short. The lone exception is a tiny breadcrumb left by Lorna, which resurfaces later in a very satisfying way. Consequences ultimately left me feeling frustrated and a bit grumpy.
I need a little Angela Thirkell to cure my grumpiness, so I started Miss Bunting this afternoon.
>87 lauralkeet: I am a huge Lively fan and have this one on my shelves, Laura. It sounds like it misses her usual excellence. I'll probably pick it up at some point, but I have others I'll read first.
I've been meaning to give Thirkell a try, especially if she is a cure for grumpiness.
>89 BLBera: Hi Beth, yeah, I too am a huge Lively fan and will read anything of hers without question. I snapped this one up in a used bookshop last year, and have another on my TBR. I guess they can't all be winners.
I discovered Angela Thirkell through the Virago Modern Classics group. Her novels are set in a 20th Century version of Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire. She occasionally references his settings and characters (who are supposedly ancestors of some of her characters), but mostly her books are just light satire about English village life and society. She will occasionally "satirize" other ethnicities, which I don't care for at all. Fortunately these are more sidetracks than central plot elements.
I too am a huge Lively fan, Laura. Her late husband was my tutor at Warwick University back in the day.
Hi Paul, thank you for visiting! How cool that you had a direct connection to Ms. Lively.
>87 lauralkeet:, While Consequences didn't leave me grumpy etc., I can well-understand that this novel's style was irritating.
In my review, I wrote that "...quickly moves through various lives and not detailing much of any one character, despite the regret that there was more to know. It is a style some readers might find irritating..." . The style didn't bother me as much perhaps because I liked that philosophical overview of life's ramifications in terms of the experiences that one generation's decisions could have on the next or even subsequent ones.
I think the theme of events influencing family relations over time was better illustrated in Lively's How it All Began. We, the readers, bring so much of our own experiences to a story ~ how it individually affects us and our thoughts on the narrative can be so varied. I value what you thought for the simple reason that, when you were candid about how the story struck you, I realized that yeah, I feel that way about some of Lively's other work. The Photograph especially comes to mind. It was as if I suddenly had permission to voice that thought!
(I hope this comment isn't too woo-woo to be posted here...)
>91 PaulCranswick: That is totally the coolest thing! What subject was he tutoring for you, if I may be so nosy to ask?
"I need a little Angela Thirkell to cure my grumpiness" Just the thing, I imagine!
>94 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy, your comments are most welcome here and not at all "woo-woo"!! I adored How it All Began. At the time, I had only read Moon Tiger, which I liked a lot, but reading How it All Began turned me into a confirmed Lively fan. While I have enjoyed her other books, I keep hoping another one will have the same spark.
>96 laytonwoman3rd: it's working so far Linda!
37. Miss Bunting ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Miss Bunting is the fourteenth of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels and like the other books, is a comedy of manners set in a fictional English country town. Set near the end of World War II, the townspeople have felt the war’s impact. Jane Gresham is raising her impish young son single-handedly while living with uncertainty about her husband, who has gone missing in the Pacific. Robin Dale returned from military service with an artificial foot. While he found work teaching in a primary school, the prolonged absence of men means the pipeline of new students has dwindled.
And yet day-to-day life can be surprisingly normal, providing Thirkell with ample opportunity to poke fun at English culture and customs. Her stories are often set in motion by the introduction of new characters, or well-known characters in new and different situations. In Miss Bunting, a governess is engaged to tutor a young girl for the summer, and a wealthy businessman and his daughter rent rooms from a lonely widow. Their days are filled with small-town rituals like church services and meetings of community organizations. These, along with Sunday lunch and afternoon tea, provide amusing satire of the English class system. Even though it seems like nothing much really happens, Thirkell’s characters and the way they interact with one another make for fun reading.
38. A Change of Time ()
Source: On my shelves
In this lovely, quiet book a woman reflects on her life following her husband’s death. Told in diary entries, we watch the husband’s rapid decline in hospital, and then see how the woman begins to adjust to living as a widow. We slowly piece together details of her life story: how she became a teacher, men she loved and lost, meeting her husband, and the ups and downs of their married life. But this story is far from linear. Some diary entries are simple narratives of her day, others recount memories from her past. Tiny details are dropped like breadcrumbs, but slowly the woman takes on shape and depth and the ending feels completely right.
Set in early 20th-century Denmark and translated from the Danish, there is a certain restraint to the language that makes for wonderful reading. There is as much said as not said, challenging the reader to pay attention and read between the lines.
>104 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy, happy Saturday to you. Lately I find myself drawn to stories of older women (I guess that's because, you know, I are one). This one came to me courtesy of my husband's subscription to Archipelago Books, a small press that publishes exclusively literature in translation. I read an enticing blurb about it, and knew I had to read it sooner rather than later. I'm glad I did.
>103 lauralkeet: There you go again reading between the lines and making connections Laura lol. That said, this sounds like my kind of quiet book which I'd almost forgotten I loved because I've been reading too many mysteries lately. I love Archipelago books but haven't read one in a few years so I'll have to search for it.
100 pages into The Great Believers. It has been excellent. But, you knew that all ready, right? Grins...
>106 brenzi: There you go again reading between the lines and making connections Laura lol
Ha, that's funny Bonnie, I was totally unconscious of this "trend" in my reading. But I do l love those kind of books.
Chris has a yearly Archipelago subscription, which guarantees you 12 books but they tend to come 2 or 3 at a time, based on their publication schedule. It's a bit like collecting Viragos I guess. The editions look very pretty on the shelves and there's no hurry to read them, but we've been pleased with the ones read so far.
>107 msf59: I am not surprised, Mark. I have Bonnie to thank for "making" me read it, but I am so glad she did.
Interesting that you're mentioning Archipelago Books just now, as I was digging through my Africa/Asia/India box of TBRs (yes, yes...I know) and pulled out the copy of The Bottom of the Jar I acquired somehow a few years ago on the recommendation of rebeccanyc. I have struggled with the temptation to subscribe to their books, and given that the A/A/I box is accompanied by boxes labeled American Fiction, British/Canadian/Australian, and Non-fiction, (not to mention the Women's Writing shelf, the Virago shelves AND box, the memoirs shelf, the short-story shelf and the mystery/suspense/thriller shelf) all vying for my reading time, I have resisted so far. *sigh*
>109 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, rebeccanyc was my conduit to Archipelago also! I gave Chris a gift subscription for Christmas 2017; he was not familiar with Archipelago at that point. And then he chose to renew it. So it's not MY temptation, it's HIS. Just sayin'. 😀
And a related story about pretty books: yesterday my daughter shared details of a recent book haul, thanks to a gift card received from a friend. She bought the third book in Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy and commented that while she wasn't in the mood to read it right now, she was motivated primarily by the desire to get the edition that matched the previous books, because she couldn't stand the thought of finding it unavailable later. That's my girl.
39. The House at Sea’s End ()
Source: On my Kindle
I’m really enjoying this series “starring” Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist, and Harry Nelson, a Detective Chief Inspector in Norfolk. This third volume sees Ruth, now a single mother, struggling to balance the demands of work and family. These mysteries always involve Ruth being called in to evaluate a set of bones that turned up somewhere, and this directly or indirectly leads to a crime. In this case there were two investigations -- one involving World War II, and the other a recent set of suspicious deaths. Another solid entry in the series.
>111 lauralkeet: Question re the Ruth Galloway series,
I'm waiting for Book#2 (library request), but wouldn't you know it, A room full of bones has arrived for pick up sooner than The Janus Stone.
Is this a series that keeping to the reading order (Book published date) is rather important?
I think there may be a lot of spoilers if I read ahead very far. Although the mystery might not be affected, it is evident that Ruth's personal situation undergoes numerous changes throughout the series. Often, the storyline tension is disrupted by knowing the plot through the backstory in a later book.
I've been avoiding potential spoilers by not reading the reviews, so if you could indicate that it is probably more fun to read in order, that would be appreciated.
>84 lauralkeet: What I meant, was, oh...Another Jackson Brodie? I have to get my hands on it! Which I have and I read it already. : ) Love the series and I just started watching the show. Perfect summer time fun.
>114 lauralkeet: Thanks for this.
Lucy (sibyx) says the same and humoress was brilliant with a poll thingy. Who knew?!
40. Manon of the Springs ()
Source: On my shelves
Manon of the Springs and its prequel, Jean de Florette, are set in the Provençal countryside of the 1920s. We recently watched the film adaptation of the first book, in which two farmers conspire against a newcomer to sabotage his efforts. I read the second book to see what would happen next. Manon, Jean de Florette’s daughter, was a child in the first book but is now a young woman living a somewhat reclusive life. One day she overhears a conversation that makes her aware of the earlier sabotage, and she sets out to exact revenge. From this point the tragedy takes on Shakespearean proportions, with a surprise reveal at the end that exposes the waste and pain brought about by fear and competition.
A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin's corruption
Amazon dropped this on my doorstep the other day, causing my husband to raise an eyebrow. "That doesn't look like your kind of book," he said. Well, yeah, he's right. It's for one of my book groups, and the woman who recommended it described it as a fascinating page-turner. We'll see -- it's too early to tell.
>118 lauralkeet: - The image doesn't appear for me, so can you supply the title? Enquiring minds.....
>120 lauralkeet: - Interesting. I know of Browder from Twitter. Apparently, he is no friend of Putin.
Hi Laura - I heard a fascinating podcast with Preet Bharara interviewing Bill Browder. I'm definitely interested in Red Notice - thanks!
>95 SandyAMcPherson: Jack Lively taught political science, Sandy.
Have a lovely and lively Sunday, Laura.
>117 lauralkeet: I have not read the books, Laura, but I did see the film versions and they were excellent.
>127 PaulCranswick: thanks Paul. We spent Sunday and today in New York, first meeting some friends visiting from out of town and then spending time with our daughters who live in Brooklyn. Although it was super hot, we had a great time.
>128 msf59: Mark, we now have a DVD of *Manon* and plan to watch it soon. I really liked the first film too.
>127 PaulCranswick: Thanks for that snippet of info.
Enjoyed some interesting history of the Professor when I delved into random links about his work.
I found some free previews of his book, Democracy. And on Google Books, there was a very scholarly review of Jack Lively. He seems like the type that UK society could be using right now, with his thoughts on democracy and liberal values.
What a lot of satisfying reading you're doing, Laura! I wish you a happy time with Jackson Brody. How can it be that I read and loved the first one and never got to #2???? I have to live forever; that's all there is to it.
41. Red Notice ()
Source: On my shelves, a recent purchase for book club
I was skeptical when this book was chosen for my book group. Subtitled, “A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice,” this is not my usual genre. So I was surprised when I found myself caught up in a fast-paced thriller that was hard to put down. Browder left Wall Street for Russia just after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was young, brash, savvy, and in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of Russian economic conditions to create an enormously successful hedge fund. But after exposing Russian corruption, Browder found himself on the wrong side of the government, up to and including Vladimir Putin. As the situation escalated, a member of Browder’s team was arrested and ultimately murdered. Shaken to the core, Browder redirected his personal energy towards relentless pursuit of justice.
The workings of Putin’s regime are legendary and yet also masked by confusing intrigue. Red Notice makes it clear that what occasionally appears in the news is not just the stuff of legend, but something very real. And while Browder doesn’t seem like the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with in real life (too much raw ambition), I couldn’t help but admire the ways he used his power and reputation to investigate the Russian government, gain access to US and UK government decision-makers, and work the diplomatic and legal systems to achieve his goals. But at the same time, he lives in a constant state of danger and takes countermeasures to ensure his own security, including publishing this book. As he wrote, “If I’m killed, you will know who did it.” While that statement took my breath away, it also gave me a new respect for those who risk their lives to fight wrongdoing.
Hell Fire | Big Sky
At last, my local library branch has reopened, and two holds came in to land. Hell Fire is #12 in the Inspector Sejer series and while my interest in this series has waned since I started it 4 years ago, I've nearly read them all and would like to call this series "done." And then there's Big Sky, the new Jackson Brodie, which I'm super excited about. I'm going to read Sejer first and then reward myself with Jackson Brodie.
42. Hell Fire (DNF)
Source: My local library
Well, that was quick. And very disappointing. The cover blurb promised two parallel stories which "intertwine in a heartbreaking conclusion." Well yeah, it would have been heartbreaking if it wasn't so freakin' obvious from page 1. If you want to know more, read on:
I'm so annoyed, especially because something similar happened in the previous book. In that one, Fossum was very clear about the murderer's identity, and the reader just had to watch Sejer figure it out. That was kind of dissatisfying, but this book was far worse. There's one more book in the series but I think I can stifle my completist tendencies and put this series behind me.
>135 lauralkeet: Weird novel, isn't it? Not that I've read this series.
Why would an author do that anyway? I mean,
I liked your use of the spoiler tags. I better use them in my reviews going forward, huh?
>136 SandyAMcPherson: our recent discussion on your thread inspired me, Sandy!
>133 lauralkeet: I was glad to have the Magnitski Act explained in detail Laura. I'd heard of it before reading the book but never knew any details about it.
>138 brenzi: Me too, Bonnie. Somehow I missed all of that when it happened. After finishing the book, I was curious about where things stand today and did a little Googling. It was chilling to read that Browder was the main topic of the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting. I just hadn't connected these dots at all.
I've made it to the top of the queue for Big Sky too. Will pick it up tomorrow. I'd better put everything else aside and read it, because I assume I won't be able to renew it. Unfortunately I've also been notified that Conversations with Jay Parini (which I recommended for purchase by our library system) is finally available. I was promised I'd be first in line for it once it was processed. I don't imagine there will be a big demand for that one!
>140 brenzi: Ha! Right, Bonnie.
>141 vivians: Hi Vivian!
>142 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I started reading Big Sky last night and was reminded how much I love Atkinson's writing. It's mostly character development at this point and too early to tell where the story is going, but I'm enjoying it. I hope you're able to bookhorn it in along with the Parini. I certainly understand the stress of multiple library books all at once. I just received notice of another book hold (Where the Crawdads Sing), which I'm going to let sit until I finish Big SKy. This is partly about
I bought The Nickel Boys, so there's no pressure for me with that one.
I'm glad you loved The Great Believers, Laura. After I gush about a novel, I do worry that others will read it and wonder "what was she thinking??" (Even though I know different strokes and all that).
I haven't yet read Big Sky (I'm behind on the Jackson Brodie series but the good thing about that is I still have a few of them ahead of me). Wait. Is Big Sky a Jackson novel? I will check.
You may remember that I loved Where the Crawdads Sing. I know some folks had quibbles over a couple of stretches of the imagination but I just loved it. You may need to leave a bit of your credibility-gauge at the door, so to speak.
I'm sorry the Karen Fossum series declined so badly at the end. It is one I have kept meaning to start but now I'm not so sure I don't have enough other things to keep me occupied!!
>144 laytonwoman3rd: Good move, Linda. I understand the pressure of managing multiple library loans. Why do they always seem to come in at the same time? I recently bought a book for a book club meeting in August, and I keep putting it off in favor of newly-arrived library holds. Fortunately this book club doesn't meet until mid-August so I still have plenty of time.
>145 BLBera: thanks Beth. I had to wait longer than usual because my library branch was closed to deal with a building emergency. I thought they were going to re-route holds to another branch, but apparently that was only for the holds that were already in the building. Anyway, all is well now and I'm nearly finished with Big Sky, which has been a lot of fun.
>146 EBT1002: Nice to see you, Ellen! I expect to finish the Atkinson tomorrow and pick up *Crawdads* from my library on Monday. I will remember your comments about my credibility gauge!
43. Big Sky ()
Source: My local library
It’s been nearly a decade since we last saw Jackson Brodie, and he’s left the police force for work as a private detective. His life has settled down a bit, and he’s on relatively good terms with his teenage son Nathan and the boy’s mother, Julia. While investigating a case of marital infidelity, Jackson finds himself peripherally connected to a series of events involving murder, a present-day sex trafficking ring, and a decades-old case of child molestation focused on two notorious public figures. The mysteries twist, turn, and intertwine in compelling ways.
Kate Atkinson excels at plot development, successfully keeping all these plates spinning, and the action moving at a fast pace. At the same time, Atkinson gives us complex and memorable characters. Both the principals and the “extras” are interesting, sometimes comic, and you want to know more about them. As an added bonus, characters from previous novels resurface, and the ways they have matured over the years add much to the story. I was especially happy to see Reggie, who was a child in When Will There Be Good News?
This was brilliantly crafted and a lot of fun. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Jackson Brodie.
>149 msf59: ooh, Jason Isaacs narrates the audiobook? How cool is that? I bet he'll be a great companion on your route.
And THANK YOU for the book rec, it looks amazing. I just added it to my library wishlist. There are currently no holds but I can't fit it in right this moment so I will have to come back to it. Sooner rather than later, I hope.
Adding my hooray for Big Sky. Was isn't it great to see Reggie again? Hmm, Jason Isaacs doing the audio? I may need to start thinking about audio re-reads.
>148 lauralkeet: Well as if I ever thought you wouldn't like Big Sky Laura lol.
44. A Room Full of Bones ()
Source: On my Kindle
This is the fourth Ruth Galloway mystery, and has layers of complexity that were not present in the earlier books. First, a museum curator is found dead just before the public opening of an ancient coffin. Then there’s a second dead body that seems like an unrelated case, but is it? At the same time, the museum has come under criticism for holdings taken from Australian native populations, which introduces some social issues, and the story of the coffin’s occupant is also an interesting surprise. And finally, there’s the ongoing development of Ruth, Harry Nelson, and other members of their respective circles. All of this kept me guessing as to the nature of the crime(s) and, of course, “whodunnit.” These books are fast reads that provide a lot of enjoyment, and you can’t beat that.
45. Where the Crawdads Sing ()
Source: My local library
At the age of 9, Kya finds herself living alone in the coastal North Carolina marshlands, having been abandoned by her mother, father, and brother. She fends for herself, living off the land and making a small amount of money by selling mussels to a shopkeeper at the marina. She avoids contact with the townspeople and anyone who comes looking for her, except for Tate, a boy a few years older. Tate teaches Kya to read and together they explore the marshland’s flora and fauna. He becomes her first love but eventually leaves for college.
In a parallel narrative set several years later, officials are investigating the suspicious death of Chase Andrews, the town’s favorite son and former high school quarterback. As the narratives converge the reader learns more about Chase as seen through Kya’s eyes. All is certainly not what it seems.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a hugely popular debut novel, in its 45th week at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller list at the time of this review. And while I enjoyed this book, it didn’t live up to the hype. I’d been warned of the need to suspend disbelief, especially regarding Kya’s ability to survive on her own and not end up in foster care. I was actually okay with that part. But not only did Kya learn to read, she somehow managed to become a well-known biologist despite a complete lack of formal education. And some aspects of the writing didn’t work for me. The author was inconsistent in her use of dialect: while most of the town’s white population (including Kya) spoke perfect schoolbook English, Chase’s speech was inexplicably littered with southern vernacular. There was a side plot involving poems which I found a distraction. And the book ended with a sweeping dénouement that should have been accompanied by dramatic orchestral music.
Despite my issues with this book, if you can accept if for what it is, it makes for a pleasant summer read.
>154 lauralkeet: Wow. Panned. Totally. Haha. Well, yes I agree it's s a bit of a fairytale. One that I fell for hook, line and sinker lol. I can't say I disagree with anything you say Laura. All very valid points. Yet somehow I loved it. Oh well, luckily there's always another book to read when you finish one you don't care for. Thankfully.
Hi, Laura! As you know, I'm just beginning *Room/Bones*. I definitely need to spend more time with it....
I didn't read *Crawdads* when my mom had it from our book club. Somehow, the writing didn't look like something I could tolerate for a whole book, and you have just confirmed my decision a bit. I think I can safely skip this one.
>155 brenzi: Bonnie, I feel bad because your glowing review was the tipping point for me to request it from my library. And actually I have such mixed feelings! You'll notice that despite my complaints, I gave it 3.5 stars. The story was engaging and my suspension of disbelief held for a long time before things started to pile up.
>156 LizzieD: Ooh, enjoy Ruth #4, Peggy! I tend to take my time reading series but I keep squeezing Ruth in between other books. Those books are so enjoyable.
My current book is Mrs Everything, which I started yesterday. Jennifer Weiner has written tons of books, which could generally be classified as "women's fiction." I haven't read a single one of them. So why this one? Well ...
Several months ago Jen came to one of my book group's meetings, as "herself" not as "the author Jennifer Weiner." She was delightful and engaging. We hoped she would become a regular member, but her book was in the final stages of publication and I suspect the demands associated with that were too great. We joke about the time she came to book group, because it was at her suggestion that we read the excellent but very long These Truths, and she never came back to talk about it with us.
Since that time I've paid more attention to Jen and appreciate her outspoken feminism, which includes tangling with Jonathan Franzen, and excellent but far too infrequent New York Times op-ed pieces. Here's how the NYT Book Review described Jen's latest book:
Balancing her signature sense of humor with a new (to her novels) political voice, Weiner tells the story of the women’s rights movement and the sexual awakening of a woman coming of age at a time when being attracted to women would keep her at the fringes of the world she was raised to join.
A couple weeks ago, Jen appeared at the Free Library of Philadelphia as part of her book tour. Our book club went as a group and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We learned the book is based in part on her own mother, who came out when Jen was an adult. So of course we decided to read Mrs Everything for our August meeting. Not that Jen will be there, of course ... but still.
>154 lauralkeet: I feel like there's a thing that happens where people who read a book that is hugely popular on the front end love it and those that read it later often don't. I wonder if it's that the first people that read it are the "right readers" for it because they don't choose it based on the hype as much and later readers read it because they feel they have to? Or maybe it's a reaction to high expectations?
Certainly doesn't hold true all the time, but I feel like I hear it (and have personally experienced it) a lot on LT.
>159 japaul22: A valid observation...
Another perspective I've had from time to time ~ readers that are receiving free books to review occasionally (if not 'often') amp up the positive reviews which generates hype.
I think some very poorly-written/poorly-edited work has received 4 and 5 stars. I don't see that on LT so much as on other review sites. Certainly there's always personal taste to consider, but really, some online book reviews are almost like shills for an author's work.
>159 japaul22: I think you're right about that, Jennifer. I requested this book from my library quite some time ago, and then my name came to the top just as I was leaving town for a couple of weeks. So I had to re-request it and wait even longer. Meanwhile, the book kept hanging out at the top of the NYT bestseller list, which is sometimes but not always a barometer of quality. Reviews from LT friends carry more weight. But still, I think coming to it so "late" had an impact.
>160 SandyAMcPherson: I've seen that phenomenon as well, Sandy.
>154 lauralkeet: Great comments, Laura. I did love the book, but I read it awhile ago, before all the hype. I often find myself disappointed when I expect great things. One huge quibble that I had was the ending. I would have thought it a better book if it had left some ambiguity and ended right after the trial. I agree about the poems. They were pretty mediocre and didn't add at all.
Hi Beth! I'm glad you enjoyed *Crawdads*. I share your quibble about the ending, I kind of liked the ambiguity and now let's all go back to living our lives, okay? And just to elaborate on the poems: I feel like this might be a first-book issue. Meaning, the author had lots of ideas and was determined to work them all into this book. It might be an interesting element to include in a different book (and with better poems, lol!).
Hi, Laura. That's it for me except to say that I enjoyed your comments about meeting J. Weiner. I've often been tempted by her, so maybe now, I'll yield next time.
I’m with Bonnie on Where the Crawdads Sing, Laura. Lots of suspending disbelief needed, but I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I loved the nature writing.
I know the impact being unable to suspend disbelief can have though. I can’t read the Flavia de Luce books; at 12 years old she’s just too precocious for me.
46. Mrs Everything ()
Source: On my Kindle
Sisters Jo and Bethie Kaufman grew up middle-class and Jewish in Detroit, raised by their mother after their father’s early death from a heart attack. While coming of age in the 1960s, Jo realizes she is gay, Bethie is the victim of sexual abuse, and their mother is emotionally unavailable, preferring to sweep such difficult matters under the metaphorical rug. Both girls can’t wait to escape their stifling home environment by going to college, where Jo enjoys the freedom to be herself and Bethie goes wild. Over the next forty years the sisters’ lives take some interesting turns, as both navigate life as a woman in an ever-changing society. Jo marries immediately after college, having come face-to-face with some of the realities of being an independent woman -- let alone a lesbian -- during that period in history. Bethie’s path through adulthood is more circuitous, but the long-term impact of abuse is obvious. Despite their differences, each sister is there for the other when she most needs it. Through Jo, Bethie, and the generations who follow them, we see the ways in which women’s lives and options have changed, and the ways they haven’t. Towards the end of the novel, the characters are watching televised coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention with such optimism and hope. Jennifer Weiner doesn’t need to tell us how that all worked out. It’s a brilliant way to show how progress can be so easily and quickly eroded.
For me, this story began as “a novel about sisters, one of whom is gay,” and successfully reinforced the importance of sisterhood and family ties. But it was also a more sophisticated exploration of women’s roles in society, and a book with such well-developed characters that I was sad to say good-bye at the end. I loved this book and heartily recommend it to any woman who has experienced the growth of feminism, women’s empowerment, and LGBTQ rights since the 1960s.
Miss Bunting | A Change of Time | The House at Sea’s End | Manon of the Springs | Red Notice | Hell Fire | Big Sky | A Room Full of Bones | Where the Crawdads Sing | Mrs Everything
Well, that's July all done and dusted. Ten books! What the hell? In the 10+ years I've been tracking my reading, this is only the third time I've read 10 or more books in a month. I'm not even sure why, unless it's due to the heat and staying inside more to read. Anyway, it was a great month of reading. Bring on August!
>166 lauralkeet: A BB, for sure.
I especially was drawn to the view that the maturation of feminism may be part of the narrative.
Yes, July is indeed 'all done and dusted'. I probably read way more this past month than usual since we stayed home for various reasons. It was quite the literary journey for me.
>168 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy, I don't know if you read >158 lauralkeet: where I quoted a relevant snippet from the New York Times, but I'd say Mrs Everything is a very different type of book for Jennifer Weiner, and I hope she continues to take on meaty themes. She is approaching 50 and her first book was published 18 years ago, so perhaps she's beginning to bring that rich life experience to her work.
Re: maturation of feminism, what I think she did was place the characters into the feminism of the time, showing how that affected their lives, and continuing to do that with each passing decade.
Peace Breaks Out | The Nickel Boys
After finishing Mrs Everything, I quickly picked up Peace Breaks Out, #15 in Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire series. These are light, satirical, comedy of manners books. But then I received the long-awaited email from my library, for The Nickel Boys. Both my husband and I want to read this one, so I set Ms. Thirkell aside after 4 chapters. I have a feeling light, satirical fare will be welcome after finishing The Nickel Boys, which is very good so far.
Good morning, Laura! Here we both are right here, right now - a rarity for me. I'll be eager to hear your reaction to *NB*. I guess I could ask our local library to buy a copy. Otherwise, they won't have it.
Anyway, I wish you a happy day.
Hi Peggy! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm sorry to hear your lib doesn't have a copy of the new Colson Whitehead. Not to put too fine a point on it, but do they consciously avoid the themes in this book? Or is it more a matter of library funding?
It's both funding and the lack of readers who want anything more than N. Sparks and his ilk. They buy what will circulate.
I've been on the hold list for Nickel Boys "forever" and am still way down the list. Eager to hear your thoughts. Have a good weekend!
>173 LizzieD: that makes sense, Peggy. Boo hoo for you.
>174 vivians: Vivian, I put my name on the hold list a couple of weeks before it was released. I'd heard a little buzz around LT, and then I was in my dentist's waiting room and saw Colson Whitehead on the cover of Time Magazine. I read the article and requested the book right away! The hold list wasn't too awfully long but once I got to the #1 position it seemed to take forever!
47. The Nickel Boys ()
Source: My local library
Elwood Curtis’ parents left him in the care of his grandmother at a young age, but through her steady, nurturing hand he grew into a hard-working teenage boy, encouraged by his teacher to enroll in college-level courses while still in high school. But on the way to his first college class, Elwood is implicated in a possible crime and, this being the 1960s and Elwood being black, he is immediately sent to the notorious Nickel Academy, a boys’ reform school.
Nickel is modeled on the real-life Dozier School for Boys in Florida, which committed unconscionable abuses for over a century. In recent years, survivors have shared their stories, and unmarked graves have been found in parts of the school grounds. A team from the University of South Florida excavated the sites and made DNA matches for many Dozier boys who had simply disappeared. Like Dozier, Nickel Academy is unsparing in its cruelty, with staff routinely carrying out beatings, rapes, and killing for even the smallest infractions.
Once at Nickel, Elwood works hard to earn points for good behavior that can help him earn an early release. But he cannot escape the arbitrary cruelty, experiencing it personally and witnessing its impact on countless others. Elwood is luckier that some: considered trustworthy and low risk, he is assigned duties that allow him to see the “free world” outside Nickel. But working alongside his friend Turner, Elwood is also exposed to Nickel’s corruption and its impact on the boys, especially the black boys. His strong sense of right and wrong compels him to action that he hopes will bring justice.
Towards the end of the novel, the narrative begins shifting between Elwood’s time at Nickel and the present-day, offering a glimmer of hope for a survivor of such horrors. But Colson Whitehead doesn’t let readers off that easily. As with his previous work, he shows not just the realities of racism in America, but our tendency to ignore both the acts and the lessons we can learn from them.
Hi Laura - I enjoyed your comments about Jennifer Weiner and her new book, which I am looking forward to reading. I have read some of her earlier books and enjoyed them, but didn't enjoy more recent ones as much. I wonder if she herself was getting a bit tired of writing in the same strain ("lighter," "domestic" fiction). She's great on Twitter and IG, too.
I wish the Thirkell covers showed! I am finding that all I have to do, if there isn't a member uploaded cover, is click on the book image on the main page, load that in the Grab your own spot and it will automatically become a librarything image and will appear here. It's another step and irritating but perhaps it enhances security in some mysterious way?
Congrats on ten books! That is usually my monthly goal -- which I mostly meet and try to exceed a little in the vain hope of reaching 150.
July was a great reading month for you Laura, well done. I wish I could say the same for myself as it was my second worst reading month ever with only 2 books finished.
I'm hoping for a good August!
Good review of The Nickel Boys, Laura. Thumb from me. I'll definitely be reading that one.
Excellent review of The Nickel Boys Laura. Not as impactful a book as his previous one but certainly an important one and a good read.
Congrats on your July reading, Laura. You go girl! Good review of The Nickel Boys. Thumb. I loved the book too.
48. Peace Breaks Out ()
Source: On my shelves
It’s 1945, and the end of the war is nigh. The people of Barsetshire have been struggling with air raid drills, evacuations, food rationing, and “the war effort” for so long, they can hardly envision how to function in a post-war world. Any day now, peace will be announced and cause all kinds of headaches. The trains might not be running, and shops will be closed, making it difficult to prepare the day’s meals. Well, that’s Angela Thirkell’s satirical take on it anyway. But even as VJ Day approaches, there are still church services every Sunday, a Bring and Buy Sale being planned, and a large cast of characters going about their daily lives pretty much as usual.
This novel, the fifteenth in the series, brings together several families and characters we’ve met before. Everyone is getting older, which puts them in new situations. Characters who were once children are now adults and getting into romantic entanglements, and as in many of the Barsetshire novels as they visit for Sunday lunch, a game of tennis, or a walk in the countryside, it’s just a question of who ends up with whom. If I have one criticism of this book, it’s that the cast of characters was so large, it was a while before I could keep everyone straight, and I had to consult secondary sources to refresh my memory on the family relationships. But other than that, it was an enjoyable way to pass the time.
>194 lauralkeet: I really need to get back to these books. I enjoyed the ones I’ve read. But I only read the first seven, so have quite a few to go.
>195 NanaCC: Colleen, the only unread Barsetshire books that I own now are #s 19 and 27. So I guess I'm on a hiatus until I either stumble on them or actively seek them out. My money is on the latter, but for now I'm happy to turn my attention to a couple of other series.
49. A Lesson Before Dying ()
Source: On my Kindle
This is a beautiful, quiet book about a teacher who is asked to counsel a young man on death row. Jefferson was a bystander during an armed robbery and, as the only survivor, was eventually (and unjustly) convicted of murder. The teacher, Grant Wiggins, feels ill equipped for his task but bows to pressure from the boy’s godmother and his own aunt. On Grant’s first visits he is largely ignored, but establishes rapport with the white deputy who escorts him to Jefferson’s cell. And then, Grant slowly begins to penetrate Jefferson’s shell. Jefferson has a profound impact on Grant as well, bringing additional meaning to the book’s title. A Lesson Before Dying is a moving account of the power of love and community.
Nice review of A Lesson Before Dying, Laura. I hope to get to it at the end of this month.
>208 msf59: same here, Mark. I was familiar with Jane Pittman (from a TV adaptation eons ago), but didn't realize he wrote it. I might need to read it someday.
50. A Stricken Field ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Martha Gellhorn was an American journalist who served as a war correspondent for most of her 60-year career. As she wrote in the afterword to A Stricken Field, “I had no qualification except eyes and ears; I learned as I went. In 1938, I became a foreign correspondent as well, again because I was on the spot. My qualification was that I had spent most of my life since 1930 in Europe, involved in politics the way a tadpole is involved in a pond.”
Gellhorn left Europe in January 1939. A Stricken Field represents somewhat of a catharsis, spilling her “accumulated rage and grief” by sharing her experience in Czechoslovakia. Mary Douglas, an American journalist clearly modeled on Gellhorn herself, arrives in Prague shortly after the Munich Agreement, which ceded a portion of Czechoslovakia to Germany in an attempt to avoid war. But this resulted in refugees being expelled from Prague to face concentration camps, prison, or death in their countries of origin. The situation becomes more personal when it directly impacts Mary’s friend Rita, and Mary attempts to use her journalist credentials to influence government officials.
This is an intense, dramatic, and ultimately sad book. It’s also difficult to read today, when the world is dealing with a myriad of refugee crises with so many obstacles in the way and seemingly no end in sight. A Stricken Field is well-written, but perhaps not for everyone.
>212 lauralkeet: I read that one earlier this year...Gellhorn was a treasure, and more people should read her stuff. Thumbed your review.
>213 katiekrug: it's a worthwhile read, Katie.
>214 laytonwoman3rd: Thanks Linda! I read Gellhorn's Liana earlier this year; both books were my choices for the Virago Group topic-of-the-month. I'm so grateful for these themes/topics that encourage me to trawl through my VMCs to choose relevant books. I've been meaning to read Gellhorn for ages!
Also, your review brought to my attention the fact that I hadn't noted in my catalog that I have read the book, nor posted my review (such as it was), or penciled the completion date inside the front cover of the book as I try always to do. So thanks for that!
>212 lauralkeet: Yep, sounds pretty darn good to me. I'll look for it Laura. Great review.
Morning, Laura. Sweet Thursday! We going to PA this weekend, but on the Pittsburgh side. We are attending a Cubs/Pirates game on Saturday. I have never been to that fair city.
BTW- I am currently reading The Women of the Copper Country and I recommend it. MDR has done it again!
>218 BLBera:, >219 brenzi: Hi Beth & Bonnie, hopefully there are copies out there somewhere. My edition is a Virago Modern Classic and I'm not sure how it came into my hands. For a while there was a lot of book swapping going on in the Virago Group, with people giving away duplicates. But it also might have been a used bookshop find. And perhaps there are other editions.
>220 msf59: Mark, I'm glad to hear such good things about the latest MDR. I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.
51. Closed Circles ()
Source: On my Kindle
The second Sandhamn Murder Series novel is set about a year after the first. Once again Sandhamn is heaving with people on their summer holidays, and the Royal Swedish Yacht Club is holding one of their largest and most popular events. Suddenly, just as the starting gun sounds for the race, a prominent yacht club member is shot and killed. Police officers Thomas Andreassen and Margit Grankvist are assigned to the investigation.
As part of the investigation, Thomas asks his childhood friend Nora Linde to advise on some financial matters related to the case. Nora is struggling with her own issues, namely conflict with her husband Henrik on how to handle some inherited property. In the previous book, Nora gave up a job opportunity in another town for the sake of Henrik’s career, and resents him taking control of the property decision. This subplot further develops Nora’s character, and it’s clear she will continue to be part of this series as it moves forward.
The mystery itself was a little more complicated than in the first book, and Viveca Sten uses a classic misdirect to keep readers from solving the crime too soon. I admit I figured out where the author was going, but not how all the pieces fit together, so this was still a satisfying read.
What >223 sibyx: said...
I'm off another trip this afternoon and will miss my LTaddiction of Talk thread reading
52. Hannah Coulter ()
Source: On my shelves
Wendell Berry’s Port William novels are quiet stories set in Port William, a fictional rural Kentucky community near the Ohio River. The Coulter, Feltner, and Beechum families lead simple lives working the land, bound together by a deep commitment to the land and the place. No one is trying to get to “a better place”; they are already there.
Hannah Coulter is written a bit like a memoir. Hannah, well into her 70s, relates her life story and the story of Port William as she observed it. Born in 1922, she experienced the early loss of her mother, but was raised by a loving grandmother. World War II brought more loss to Port William, including Hannah’s first husband Virgil Feltner. After the war she married Nathan Coulter, who experienced war horrors of his own. Together they work the land, raise a family, and care for extended family and the community.
Besides the obvious impact of war, Wendell Berry makes it a turning point in Port William and in American life. Post-war America brought a new emphasis on college education which, accompanied by technological change, created a fundamentally different world. While Port William remained a rural farming community, many of its children left for college and did not return.
Reading Hannah Coulter, as with other Port William novels, I found myself drawn into the Port William “membership,” feeling as if I actually knew the characters and were part of their story. While there are occasional funny stories that could only happen in a small rural community, the tone is mostly philosophical and contemplative, causing me to consider my own very different surroundings and life choices, and how I can better model respect for the land and love for others.
I love Wendell Berry, and have not read nearly enough of his work. "No one is trying to get to 'a better place'; they are already there." It's marvelous to spend time there, isn't it?
Nice review. I have the Port William novels in the Library of America edition. I think they will go into the Autumn reading pile. I've read his essays and poetry, but not his fiction so far Laura, so looking forward to that.
Hi Laura. Your comments about Where the Crawdads Sing did not surprise me. I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it, though. You had a good July. I was setting my my new thread and realized that I only read five books in July. One of them was The Luminaries but still, I wonder when was the last time I read only five books in the middle month of summer???
>197 lauralkeet: I want to reread A Lesson Before Dying. I remember loving it but I don't remember much else.
In two weeks I'll be visiting my sister in North Carolina and four months from today we fly to Kauai for ten days. I look forward to what I know will be two reading-conducive vacations!
I hope you are doing well, my friend.
>230 EBT1002: Ellen, I was glad you warned me about suspending disbelief. That helped a lot!
And yes, things are pretty good chez moi. We are gearing up for a trip ourselves. We fly to Budapest Tues Aug 27, spend 3 days there, 3 in Vienna, and 3 in Prague. I'm excited! I have my vacation reading all figured out and everything is on Kindle which really makes a difference in the luggage department. We try to avoid checking bags and have been successfully used roomy backpacks from Everlane, even for trips of more than a week. You have to be judicious with both books and shoes, though.
A Moveable Feast | The Paris WIfe
Last September, I picked up a copy of A Moveable Feast while visiting Paris, because of course! LTers recommended The Paris Wife as a companion read. Per the book description, this novel "brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway out from the formidable shadow cast by her famous husband. Though doomed, the Hemingway marriage had its giddy high points, including a whirlwind courtship and a few fast and furious years of the expatriate lifestyle in 1920s Paris."
Yes please! I'm going to read these back-to-back, and I started A Moveable Feast last night.
Hi Laura - my book group read these two a couple of years ago. They work really well as companions.
Vivian, I'm pretty sure you're one of the LTers who recommended it on my thread last year!
>232 lauralkeet: I'll be interested to see how this works out for you Laura. I've had both of those books on my shelf for quite awhile.
Oh, I *loved* A Moveable Feast when I read it in college! I hope you do, too.
Greetings Bonnie, Amber, and Mark!
I'm really enjoying A Moveable Feast. And I didn't realize it at the time, but when we were in Paris last year we stayed near the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is near where Hemingway lived and some of the cafes, streets, etc. are familiar names from our wandering.
I haven't read much Hemingway (just The Old Man and the Sea), so I was only familiar with his "voice" from the movie Midnight in Paris, which I loved. Some of Hemingway's lines in the movie seem to be taken directly from this book, as does Gertrude Stein's character, so that's how I "hear" them as I'm reading.
I'm glad to see so much support for my companion read!
I read A Moveable Feast after The Paris Wife and appreciated Hemingway a little more that way. If you are annoyed with Hemingway and want to dislike his masculinity more, then read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I loved both the books about the women in Hemingway’s life.
I loved Midnight in Paris too.
>239 raidergirl3: If you are annoyed with Hemingway and want to dislike his masculinity more...
HA! Oh yes. I don't think Ernest and I would be friends. It looks like my library has that book so I've put it on my endless list!
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