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Laura (lauralkeet)'s attempt at spontaneity - Part 3

This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s attempt at spontaneity - Part 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Edited: Aug 18, 10:16am Top

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

Edited: Jul 21, 9:55am Top

Series Progress

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 😢

Edited: Jun 2, 10:59am Top

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.

Edited: Jun 2, 10:59am Top

This thread is now open for business!!

Jun 2, 11:27am Top

Happy new one!

Jun 2, 11:37am Top

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 :(

Jun 2, 11:46am Top

>6 figsfromthistle: thanks figsfromthistle!

>7 katiekrug: Me too, Katie. Even the most amazing spreadsheet can't work that kind of magic.

Edited: Jun 2, 12:42pm Top

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?

Jun 2, 12:16pm Top

>9 raidergirl3: You should now have an email from me, Elizabeth.

Jun 2, 12:31pm Top

Can you share the Google sheet with me, too? I think you have my email but let me know if not!

Jun 2, 12:45pm Top

>11 katiekrug: Your wish is my command, Katie!

Jun 2, 2:13pm Top

>2 lauralkeet: I don't like that "zero" there in the Sharyn McCrumb column. Let's make 2019 the year that changes, whattya say?

Jun 2, 2:40pm Top

Happy New Thread, Laura!

Jun 2, 2:50pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura.

Jun 2, 2:50pm Top

>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.

Jun 2, 7:32pm Top

>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.

Jun 2, 7:34pm Top

Happy Sunday, Laura. Happy New Thread. Ooh, I loved There, There. I hope you feel the same.

Jun 2, 7:57pm Top

>18 msf59: Hiya Mark. My husband bought There There recently, on the strength of a recommendation from someone we'd only just met. But the recommender said he was telling everyone he knew to read it, it was that good. And lo and behold, Chris read it and really liked it, so now it's my turn.

Edited: Jun 2, 9:54pm Top

>17 lauralkeet:

(You can say you're reading it for the AAC, Laura. McCrumb is one of the suggested Wild Cards.)

Jun 2, 11:41pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura.

Jun 3, 7:16am Top

>20 laytonwoman3rd: Ah yes, the AAC wild card! Not that I need an excuse, but I do like checking off the odd box now and then.

>21 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul!

Jun 3, 12:39pm Top

Happy new thread!

Edited: Jun 3, 12:43pm Top

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.

Jun 3, 12:55pm Top

>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.

Jun 3, 3:58pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

Jun 3, 8:17pm Top

Thanks Darryl!

Jun 4, 5:41am Top

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.

Jun 4, 6:45am Top

>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.

Jun 4, 10:14am Top

Happy new thread Laura! I look forward to seeing your thoughts on There there.

Jun 6, 8:49am Top

>1 lauralkeet: I like the Philly pix. So nice to see what a resident admires. A very historically interesting city.

Jun 6, 9:23am Top

>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.

Jun 9, 9:21am Top

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.

Jun 9, 10:46am Top

Great review of There There, Laura. I'll be on the lookout for it.

Jun 9, 11:37am Top

>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.

Jun 9, 6:23pm Top

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).

Jun 9, 8:19pm Top

>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?

Jun 10, 1:32pm Top

>33 lauralkeet: I think I may have to revisit There There after your terrific review. I started it but was put off by the lack of connection among the stories. It looks like I might not have given it enough time.

Jun 11, 8:38am Top

Hi Laura!

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.

Jun 11, 8:48am Top

>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!

Edited: Jun 11, 1:02pm Top

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.


Jun 11, 1:27pm Top

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.

Jun 11, 3:30pm Top

>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?

Jun 11, 6:50pm Top

>33 lauralkeet: I wonder if I would be confused or pick up the connecting nuggets? Hmmmmm..... it sounds very good at any rate Laura.

>41 lauralkeet: You see. I probably would've sailed right by all that lol.

Edited: Jun 12, 3:51pm Top

>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.

Jun 13, 8:25am Top

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.

Jun 13, 10:14am Top

>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*

Jun 13, 5:14pm Top

>47 laytonwoman3rd: And with that Linda, I refer you to your apt post in >20 laytonwoman3rd:

Jun 14, 10:36am Top

Jun 16, 9:46am Top

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.

Edited: Jun 16, 10:28pm Top

>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.)

Jun 17, 6:50am Top

Sandy, you're too kind. Thumbs are always appreciated!

Jun 17, 7:05am Top

Morning, Laura. Good review of There, There. Thumb! I loved the book too. I liked Rules of Civility a bit more than you, but I agree, he really stepped up his game with Gentleman.

Jun 17, 7:35am Top

After I read and loved A Gentleman in Moscow, I put Rules of Civility on my TBR list. Maybe I'll take it off . . . Sounds like I've already read his best one.

Jun 17, 9:41am Top

>53 msf59:, >54 japaul22: Hi Mark and Jennifer. If Amor Towles publishes another novel I'd be likely to read it, just because his writing definitely improved by the time he wrote *Gentleman*. I guess he deserves another chance. 😀

Jun 19, 4:31pm Top

>41 lauralkeet: We have A Gentleman in Moscow for my next RL book club read. It's been on the shelf for ages, so glad of an excuse to read it.

Jun 20, 7:33am Top

>56 SandDune: I hope you enjoy it, Rhian!

Jun 20, 1:27pm Top

34. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O ()
Source: On my Kindle

Linda (laytonwoman3rd) is nothing if not persistent. After much prodding nagging encouragement, I finally started Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad” mystery series set in Appalachia. This first novel was published in 1990 and set in 1986. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is apprehensive about his upcoming twentieth high school reunion, especially because he’s been asked to present a plaque commemorating classmates lost in Vietnam. One of those classmates was his older brother, Cal.

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.”
“A what?”
“It’s a cross between a photocopier and a teletype. You can send a copy of a document across country in about a minute. Carla’s office has one, of course, but we’re a shoestring weekly. We’re lucky to have a Xerox machine. You ought to ask the county to buy one for the sheriff’s office.”
“I doubt we’d have much call to use one,” said Spencer. “Just go ahead and read it out to me over the phone.”

Oh fax machines, those modern marvels! Just wait ...

Jun 20, 2:50pm Top

>58 lauralkeet: the comments about the fax machine made me laugh.... I’ll keep this series on my radar.

Jun 20, 4:05pm Top

>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.

Jun 20, 5:46pm Top

>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.

Jun 20, 7:46pm Top

>58 lauralkeet: Bwahahaha hello 1986.

Edited: Jun 21, 9:44am Top

>58 lauralkeet: tee hee. I love those things when I'm reading/rereading and older novel Laura.

Jun 21, 11:47am Top

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.

Jun 21, 6:52pm Top

>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!

Jun 21, 9:09pm Top

>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.

Jun 23, 3:16pm Top

>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.

Jun 23, 4:00pm Top

>67 EBT1002: Linda will be so happy, Ellen! 😀

Jun 24, 10:03am Top

>58 lauralkeet: That has been sitting on top of one of my piles as well. Maybe this summer?

Jun 24, 10:30am Top

>69 BLBera: go for it! Summer is a great time to start a new series.

Jun 26, 8:24am Top

>58 lauralkeet: I really enjoy McCrumb's books.

Jun 27, 2:33pm Top

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.

Edited: Jun 27, 4:06pm Top

>72 lauralkeet: I'm really going to have to nudge this up the pile. So much LT love for it, Laura. Thumbed.

Jun 27, 5:44pm Top

>72 lauralkeet: Great review of The Great Believers. Big Thumb! I have a copy, home from the library and plan on getting to it soon.

Sweet Thursday, Laura. Thank you so much for keeping my thread warm, while I was out east, checking out battlefields and nature, and yes, indulging in a few beers.

Jun 28, 10:27am Top

I'm happy to see another Great Believers fan, Laura. It's still one of my favorite reads this year.

Jun 28, 12:10pm Top

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.

Jun 28, 1:12pm Top

>73 Caroline_McElwee: it's worth a nudge, Caro.

>74 msf59: Welcome back, Mark!

>75 BLBera: The Great Believers has received so much praise around here, Beth, all well deserved.

>76 kidzdoc: Darryl, it was a 2019 Pulitzer finalist. Hopefully the Booker judges will also see its merit.

Jun 28, 7:40pm Top

>72 lauralkeet: Ahhh The Great Believers was just such a wonderfully important book. I have to say I think it was a better book than the Pulitzer winner, The Overstory, which I also loved Laura. It never occurred to me that it might qualify for the Booker at this point.

Jun 28, 8:07pm Top

The Great Believers was apparently released in the UK last June, which unfortunately would make it ineligible for this year's Booker Prize.

Edited: Jun 28, 9:37pm Top

>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!

Jun 28, 9:55pm Top

In other news, I am waiting for two books which are in transit to my local library, including the new Jackson Brodie novel.

Me too!😀

Jun 28, 10:16pm Top

>80 lauralkeet: Thank you for the reminder about the new Jackson Brodie, Laura.

Jun 28, 11:09pm Top

Another fan of The Great Believers and is was such a great one for book group discussion! Jackson Brodie, huh?.....

Jun 29, 7:55am Top

>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!

Edited: Jun 29, 8:18am Top

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.

Jun 29, 8:37am Top

>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.

Jun 29, 6:18pm Top

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.

Jun 29, 6:55pm Top

I need a little Angela Thirkell to cure my grumpiness, so I started Miss Bunting this afternoon.

Jun 30, 9:07am Top

>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.

Jun 30, 9:34am Top

>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.

Jun 30, 9:48am Top

I too am a huge Lively fan, Laura. Her late husband was my tutor at Warwick University back in the day.

Jun 30, 9:48am Top

Wishing you a lovely Sunday by the way. xx

Jun 30, 3:18pm Top

Hi Paul, thank you for visiting! How cool that you had a direct connection to Ms. Lively.

Edited: Jun 30, 11:59pm Top

>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...)

Edited: Jun 30, 4:07pm Top

>91 PaulCranswick: That is totally the coolest thing! What subject was he tutoring for you, if I may be so nosy to ask?

Jun 30, 4:36pm Top

"I need a little Angela Thirkell to cure my grumpiness" Just the thing, I imagine!

Edited: Jun 30, 5:47pm Top

>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!

Jun 30, 6:01pm Top

>97 lauralkeet: Thank you so much! May you never regret encouraging this line of thought!

In case you haven't read Dancing Fish and Ammonites, you might like to try it. It's Lively's memoir of sorts and wonderfully philosophical.

Jun 30, 6:40pm Top

Thanks for the rec, Sandy!

Jun 30, 9:55pm Top

>87 lauralkeet: I don't own that one Laura and probably won't seek it out. I've enjoyed the three Livelys I've read: How It All Began, Moon Tiger and The Photograph.

Jul 1, 6:42am Top

>100 brenzi: Bonnie, I agree you can take a pass on that one. But I would recommend Heat Wave, Family Album, and Cleopatra's Sister.

Jul 5, 12:54pm Top

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.

Jul 6, 9:45am Top

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.

Jul 6, 10:44am Top

>103 lauralkeet: That's a very inviting review. I have a "secondary" book list started, as an addendum to my WL (which is dauntingly long now), so A Change of Time is appropriately added.

Jul 6, 1:17pm Top

>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.

Jul 6, 8:47pm Top

>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.

Jul 6, 9:58pm Top

100 pages into The Great Believers. It has been excellent. But, you knew that all ready, right? Grins...

Jul 7, 8:01am Top

>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.

Jul 7, 11:04am Top

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*

Jul 7, 12:17pm Top

>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.

Jul 8, 4:55pm Top

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.

Jul 8, 7:08pm Top

>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.

Jul 9, 2:01am Top

>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.

Jul 9, 7:57am Top

>112 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy, I would definitely recommend reading in order!

>113 Berly: Ah, now I get it Kim. I'm glad you're a fan!

Jul 9, 9:37am Top

Jul 9, 10:01am Top

>114 lauralkeet: Thanks for this.
Lucy (sibyx) says the same and humoress was brilliant with a poll thingy. Who knew?!

Jul 12, 12:30pm Top

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.

Edited: Jul 12, 1:27pm Top

Red Notice
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.

Jul 12, 12:56pm Top

>118 lauralkeet: - The image doesn't appear for me, so can you supply the title? Enquiring minds.....

Jul 12, 1:28pm Top

Sorry Katie, I forgot about the d**n image issues. I added the title to >118 lauralkeet:. It's Red Notice, with a subtitle: "A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice."

Jul 12, 1:34pm Top

>118 lauralkeet: oh I really liked that one Laura.

Jul 12, 1:37pm Top

>120 lauralkeet: - Interesting. I know of Browder from Twitter. Apparently, he is no friend of Putin.

Jul 12, 1:41pm Top

>121 brenzi: that's a very good sign Bonnie, thank you! I have to say, I started it yesterday and zipped through the first 60 pages or so, which was very encouraging. It does read like a thriller or crime novel.

>122 katiekrug: hmm, yes I could imagine how that would be the case.

Jul 12, 1:53pm Top

>118 lauralkeet: That book, Red Notice looks pretty interesting.
I like espionage reads, and biography / memoir is great. I used to be a great Len Deighton fan, but kind of outgrew all the 60's cold war stuff.

Jul 12, 2:17pm Top

Hi Laura - I heard a fascinating podcast with Preet Bharara interviewing Bill Browder. I'm definitely interested in Red Notice - thanks!

Jul 12, 3:00pm Top

>124 SandyAMcPherson:, >125 vivians: I'm glad to see the interest! I will, of course, be sure to post a review when I've finished the book.

Jul 14, 12:27pm Top

>95 SandyAMcPherson: Jack Lively taught political science, Sandy.

Have a lovely and lively Sunday, Laura.

Jul 14, 3:29pm Top

>117 lauralkeet: I have not read the books, Laura, but I did see the film versions and they were excellent.

Jul 15, 7:05pm Top

>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.

Jul 15, 7:31pm Top

>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.

Jul 17, 7:46am Top

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.

Jul 17, 2:00pm Top

>131 LizzieD: there are just too many books, amirite?

Jul 17, 2:01pm Top

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.

Jul 17, 2:06pm Top

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.

Jul 17, 6:39pm Top

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: First story: a mother and her young child are murdered. Second (parallel) story: a mother living with her adult child, who has serious behavioral issues. Oh gee, let me guess whodunnit. After about 100 pages it definitely seemed like it was heading that way, as the adult child continued to behave more and more erratically. So I did something I never do, and flipped to the second to last page. Sure enough, there he was, admitting to the murder.

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.

Edited: Jul 17, 6:55pm Top

>135 lauralkeet: Weird novel, isn't it? Not that I've read this series.
Why would an author do that anyway? I mean, what's the point of a mystery series if there's no mystery or suspense-excitement?

I liked your use of the spoiler tags. I better use them in my reviews going forward, huh?

Jul 17, 6:57pm Top

>136 SandyAMcPherson: our recent discussion on your thread inspired me, Sandy!

Jul 17, 6:58pm Top

>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.

Jul 17, 7:08pm Top

>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.

Jul 17, 7:11pm Top

>139 lauralkeet: OMG you mean it wasn't about adoptions!

Jul 17, 7:48pm Top

>140 brenzi: Hahahaha Bonnie!

Edited: Jul 18, 10:07am Top

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!

Jul 18, 7:53am Top

>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 laziness efficiency, waiting until I have books to return before picking up the new book. But I'm also hoping my hold for The Nickel Boys comes through by then.

Edited: Jul 19, 3:44pm Top

I bought The Nickel Boys, so there's no pressure for me with that one.

Jul 19, 1:00pm Top

I hope you enjoy Big Sky, Laura. I'm happy you didn't have to wait TOO long for it. I also loved Where the Crawdads Sing, so you have some good reading ahead.

Enjoy your weekend.

Edited: Jul 20, 8:58pm Top

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!!

Edited: Jul 20, 9:15pm Top

>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!

Jul 21, 9:53am Top

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.

Edited: Jul 21, 10:08am Top

Happy Sunday, Laura. Hooray for Big Sky. I am starting the audio tomorrow, narrated by Jason Issacs. Yah! I would also like to recommend a book to you- If You Want to Make God Laugh. I just reviewed it too and I think it would be your cuppa.

Edited: Jul 21, 11:18am Top

>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.

Jul 21, 11:15am Top

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.

Jul 21, 9:24pm Top

>148 lauralkeet: Well as if I ever thought you wouldn't like Big Sky Laura lol.

Edited: Jul 24, 6:07pm Top

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.

Jul 26, 5:48pm Top

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.

Jul 26, 6:52pm Top

>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.

Jul 26, 11:14pm Top

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.

Edited: Jul 27, 7:53am Top

>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.

Jul 27, 8:24am Top

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.

Jul 27, 8:42am Top

>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.

Jul 27, 10:45am Top

>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.

Jul 27, 4:15pm Top

>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.

Jul 28, 1:41pm Top

>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.

Jul 28, 5:21pm Top

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!).

Jul 28, 10:53pm Top

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.

Jul 29, 2:31pm Top

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.

Jul 31, 1:04pm Top

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.

Jul 31, 1:09pm Top

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!

Jul 31, 1:19pm Top

>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.

Edited: Jul 31, 3:46pm Top

>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.

Edited: Aug 2, 7:11am Top

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.

Aug 2, 7:36am Top

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.

Aug 2, 9:33am Top

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?

Aug 2, 11:58am Top

It's both funding and the lack of readers who want anything more than N. Sparks and his ilk. They buy what will circulate.

Aug 2, 1:46pm Top

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!

Aug 2, 3:13pm Top

>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!

Aug 2, 3:31pm Top

>167 lauralkeet: July was a good month for you, Laura. Can't wait to see what you think of The Nickel Boys. I hope to read it before school starts.

Aug 4, 9:49am Top

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.

Aug 4, 10:07am Top

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.

Aug 4, 12:11pm Top

>166 lauralkeet: I’ve added Mrs Everything to my wishlist based upon your comments, Laura. I also remember reading a few of her first books years ago, but haven’t read anything since. Your comments about The Nickel Boys are pushing me to push this one further up the wishlist.

Aug 4, 12:51pm Top

>178 katiekrug: thanks Katie! I don't use Twitter but I agree Jennifer Weiner does a good job with Instagram.

>179 NanaCC: I hope you enjoy Mrs Everything, Colleen. And definitely make room for The Nickel Boys in your reading, it's a winner.

Aug 4, 8:39pm Top

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.

Aug 4, 9:11pm Top

>181 sibyx: Hi Lucy! I'm trying to be mindful of the cover situation but I forget about it more often than I care to admit. But that's a great tip. I just "grabbed my own" for the Thirkell, so hopefully you can now see the cover in >2 lauralkeet:.

Edited: Aug 4, 9:22pm Top

Yes! At >3 lauralkeet:, right? Peace Breaks Out.
It's taken me awhile to adjust to this change -- and to find this superfast workaround that is bearable. I only resort to the above when there is no member-uploaded cover already there.

Aug 5, 3:54am Top

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!

Aug 5, 6:58am Top

>183 sibyx: right, I linked to the wrong post. The Peace Breaks Out cover is posted at >3 lauralkeet:. I'm glad it worked, and thanks again for the tip.

>184 PaulCranswick: Hi there Paul! I hope your reading rebounds in August as well!

Aug 5, 11:58am Top

Good review of The Nickel Boys, Laura. Thumb from me. I'll definitely be reading that one.

Aug 5, 12:23pm Top

>186 jnwelch: you'll love it Joe, I'm confident of that.

Aug 5, 7:04pm Top

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.

Aug 5, 8:14pm Top

>167 lauralkeet: Awesome job reading 10 books in a month!! Woot, woot!!

>177 lauralkeet: So glad you liked this Nickel Boys -- I have that one in my lineup, but will probably wait a while since he is coming to Portland next May and I will want it fresher in my memory.

Aug 5, 9:01pm Top

Congrats on your July reading, Laura. You go girl! Good review of The Nickel Boys. Thumb. I loved the book too.

Aug 5, 9:13pm Top

Hi Bonnie, Kim, and Mark, and thanks for sharing the love for The Nickel Boys. Bonnie, for some reason this book had greater impact on me than The Underground Railroad. It might be because it was based on real events.

Aug 6, 10:03am Top

>177 lauralkeet: BB for me. Looks to be a fantastic read!

Aug 6, 12:06pm Top

>192 figsfromthistle: oh good! I hope you like it.

Aug 6, 12:09pm Top

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.

Aug 6, 5:20pm Top

>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.

Aug 6, 5:45pm Top

>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.

Aug 9, 1:20pm Top

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.

Aug 9, 1:23pm Top

>197 lauralkeet: - Adding to my list...

Aug 9, 8:55pm Top

>198 katiekrug:, >199 Caroline_McElwee: hooray! I'm glad the AAC finally got me to read it; it's been languishing on my Kindle for 5 years.

Aug 9, 11:09pm Top

>197 lauralkeet: Hooray! I'm glad you got around to it as well. And you other two....>198 katiekrug:, >199 Caroline_McElwee:...giddyup.

Aug 10, 9:16am Top

>200 lauralkeet: >201 laytonwoman3rd: my copy landed on the mat this morning Laura and Linda, so will probably start it Monday, I've two books to finish this weekend.

Aug 10, 6:07pm Top

>197 lauralkeet: Loved that one too Laura.

Aug 10, 6:34pm Top

>203 Caroline_McElwee: that's great, Caro.

>204 brenzi: I'm not surprised, Bonnie!

Aug 10, 10:16pm Top

Nice review of A Lesson Before Dying, Laura. I hope to get to it at the end of this month.

Aug 11, 7:29am Top

>206 kidzdoc: I'm sure you'll appreciate it, Darryl.

Aug 11, 8:32am Top

>197 lauralkeet: I will have to get to A Lesson Before Dying, Laura. I just picked up Miss Jane Pittman, so I will start with that one. Sadly, I have not read Gaines before.

Aug 11, 8:55am Top

>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.

Aug 11, 10:34am Top

Good review of A Lesson Before Dying, Laura. Adding it to the WL.

Aug 11, 11:27am Top

>210 jnwelch: that's great Joe! I'm happy to spread the love.

Aug 13, 9:52am Top

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.

Aug 13, 10:07am Top

>212 lauralkeet: - Sounds good. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Edited: Aug 13, 10:27am Top

>212 lauralkeet: I read that one earlier this year...Gellhorn was a treasure, and more people should read her stuff. Thumbed your review.

Aug 13, 10:36am Top

>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!

Aug 13, 10:38am Top

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!

Aug 13, 10:39am Top

>216 laytonwoman3rd: Whew! Crisis averted. 😀 Happy to help!

Aug 14, 3:28pm Top

>212 lauralkeet: This does sound good, Laura. I'll have to look for it.

Aug 14, 8:19pm Top

>212 lauralkeet: Yep, sounds pretty darn good to me. I'll look for it Laura. Great review.

Aug 15, 6:34am Top

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!

Aug 15, 8:13am Top

>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.

Aug 15, 2:10pm Top

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.

Aug 16, 9:10am Top

Just stopping by to say hello.

Aug 16, 11:56am Top

Me, too.
What >223 sibyx: said...

I'm off another trip this afternoon and will miss my LTaddiction of Talk thread reading

Aug 16, 12:47pm Top

>223 sibyx:, >224 SandyAMcPherson: Hello Lucy and Sandy! Thanks for stopping by and keeping my thread warm.

Aug 18, 10:13am Top

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.

Aug 18, 12:52pm Top

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?

Aug 18, 2:42pm Top

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.

Aug 18, 3:35pm Top

>227 laytonwoman3rd: yes it is, Linda. His books make me slow down, in a good way.

>228 Caroline_McElwee: I hope you enjoy them, Caro!

Aug 18, 4:09pm Top

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.

Aug 18, 5:52pm Top

>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.

Edited: Aug 19, 11:16am Top

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.

Aug 19, 12:21pm Top

Hi Laura - my book group read these two a couple of years ago. They work really well as companions.

Aug 19, 12:22pm Top

Vivian, I'm pretty sure you're one of the LTers who recommended it on my thread last year!

Aug 19, 8:37pm Top

>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.

Yesterday, 6:34am Top

Oh, I *loved* A Moveable Feast when I read it in college! I hope you do, too.

Yesterday, 6:55am Top

>232 lauralkeet: I did the same thing, and the same order, Laura and this makes a wonderful pairing. I never did get to her follow-up, after The Paris Wife, though.

Edited: Yesterday, 9:05am Top

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!

Yesterday, 9:13am Top

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.

Yesterday, 11:19am Top

>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!

Edited: Yesterday, 2:54pm Top

>232 lauralkeet: Another fan of A Moveable Feast Laura, which I reread this year. I liked the Paris Wife too, and wandered that part of Paris the Hemingway's lived in, when I was there last time.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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