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Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 book holiday extravaganza (aka Part 5)

This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s attempt at spontaneity - Part 4.

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Edited: Nov 11, 3:32pm Top

Philadelphia City Hall and Dilworth Park Skating Rink
Source: Curbed Philly

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) | Part 3 (books 31-55) | Part 4 (books 56-68)

Books completed (click on “details" to jump to my comments)
69. Disappearing Earth - details
70. The Women of the Copper Country - details
71. Olive, Again - details

Nov 2, 12:17pm Top

Series Progress

Active series as of September 1:

The above snapshot is a view of my active series sorted on the "progress" column.

Series completed/current in 2019:
* Matthew Shardlake - April
* Kristin Lavransdatter - May
* Jackson Brodie - July
* Inspector Gamache - October

Series started in 2019:
* Kristin Lavransdatter
* Ruth Galloway

Series abandoned in 2019:
*Inspector Sejer, after reading 12 of 13 books 😢

Edited: Nov 2, 12:19pm Top

75 is in sight!

During my early years on LT I seemed to have no trouble reading 75 books a year.

And then my pace dropped off. Some might say oh, were you busy with work back then? Well, no. I honestly think knitting is the culprit! I learned to knit in 2012 and this new hobby began eating into my reading time, but in a good way. I’m both an avid reader and knitter now.

The difference between my highest year (81) and lowest year (59) is not as dramatic as it appears. When you break it down, it’s about 2 books per month. Last year I came really close to 75. But in 2019, barring some dreadful unforeseen circumstances, I’m going to do it! As of November 1, I’ve read 68 books and surely I can read at least 7 in the next two months.

Woo hoo!

Edited: Nov 2, 12:19pm Top

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted about this reading project. I know you’re all on tenterhooks, LOL. Anyway, I’m still moving along at about 10-15pp/day and have read 347 pages (of 936) in The Captive & The Fugitive. As with the previous volumes, the narrative is pretty much an internal monologue. Marcel, having brought Albertine to live with him, analyzes their relationship, his waxing and waning attraction to her, and his eternal jealousy. It seems that once he has something he no longer wants, he no longer gets satisfaction from it. Albertine has been referred to as a captive several times by now (in case anyone thinking the “invalid,” Marcel, was in fact the captive). Marcel frets obsessively over whether Albertine is lying to him about her whereabouts, and whether she perhaps favors women over men. He waffles over breaking up with her, but so far has not acted on this. He’s kind of a creep, really.

Nov 2, 12:19pm Top

Okay, this thread is open for business!

Nov 2, 1:06pm Top

Hiya! I love your topper (as always). You are a good "advert" for Philadelphia. I should think seriously about making it a destination.

Have some happy reads and especially remember (as I kept reminding myself) 75 is only the number between 2 others...

Nov 2, 1:17pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

Nov 2, 1:29pm Top

>4 lauralkeet:

Just droppin' by to cheer you on.

Nov 2, 1:42pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura!
Nice to see optimism regarding 75. Yes, you can :-)

Nov 2, 2:05pm Top

Happy New Thread, Laura!

Adding more support for your reading mojo. :-)

Nov 2, 3:06pm Top

Happy New Thread Laura!

Nov 2, 5:37pm Top

Happy new one!

75 is not that far away :)

Nov 2, 5:58pm Top

>7 SandyAMcPherson: I'm glad you like the topper, Sandy. We've only lived in the city for two years (previously we were in a suburb about an hour's drive away), and I have enjoyed getting to know Philly better. One of our new Christmas traditions is skating on Christmas Eve day, usually following a hearty brunch. I was in the vicinity of City Hall yesterday and noticed they already have the skating rink up and running and I started feeling festive!

And hello to Katie, Linda, Anita, Joe, Rhian and figs -- I didn't expect a cheering section but I'm delighted to have one!!

Nov 2, 8:50pm Top

Outdoor skating is awesome (when it's warmer than say -10 (oC, that is).

Nov 2, 9:05pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura. And yes, you will reach 75!

Nov 2, 11:53pm Top

You can definitely make it to 75, Laura! And I love your spreadsheet in >2 lauralkeet:. I need to find time to make one to replace FictFact, which I miss dreadfully.

Nov 3, 7:56am Top

>15 SandyAMcPherson: it is definitely fun, Sandy, and fortunately our temps don’t dip that low very often.

>16 BLBera:, >17 EBT1002: Hi Beth and Ellen! Despite telling myself the numbers don’t matter, I’m ridiculously excited about reaching 75 again after all these years.

Nov 3, 9:47pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura. xx

Nov 4, 8:06am Top

Happy New Thread, Laura! I see no reason why you won't hit our magic number! You can do it. I had a good bird outing yesterday, adding a couple of lifers, to boot. Not so easy anymore. I am off today too, so I plan on venturing out. Looks to be a nice late fall day.

Nov 4, 10:41am Top

>17 EBT1002: I'm echoing Ellen in loving your spreadsheet, Laura. I've replaced FictFact with a handwritten notebook but it's totally inefficient.

Nov 4, 4:35pm Top

Happy new thread!

Nov 4, 9:13pm Top

Hiya Paul, Mark, Vivian and Jim! I've been away for a couple of days visiting my daughters, so I'm a little slow to catch up and return greetings here. Thanks for keeping my thread warm.

Nov 4, 9:29pm Top

Until this year, I had consistently read fewer books than I read when I was working. Of course the past few years I was in and out of book funks on a regular basis. Even last year I only read 70. But this year, since I've started reading audio books I will read more than 100 which I would've never believed.

>4 lauralkeet: 🥴 That graph lol.

Nov 5, 7:32am Top

>24 brenzi:
Until this year, I had consistently read fewer books than I read when I was working.
This is interesting. You'd just think it would be the other way around, right? But wow Bonnie, 100. That's beyond my imagination!

That graph
Tee hee. I mean, once you have a spreadsheet, you gotta do something fancy with it, right? I have both annual spreadsheets for each year, and a "trends" spreadsheet with just the totals (books, pages, ratings, etc.) for each year. I like to look back on the trends from time to time but this was the first time I did anything with the data.

Nov 5, 12:46pm Top

69. Disappearing Earth ()
Source: Library Loan

Disappearing Earth is a mystery of sorts, with an unusual structure more like connected short stories. The setting is also unusual: the Kamchatka peninsula off of far eastern Russia. The book opens with the abduction of two young girls; the reader is given a few details about the kidnapper, but not enough to go on. A typical mystery would then introduce local law enforcement and the girls’ family, and the investigation would begin identifying clues. Instead, each chapter of Disappearing Earth is about a different character, and most of the characters have tenuous links to the mystery. For example, a young woman at university begins to blossom and finds new love, while worrying about how she will handle her controlling hometown boyfriend. There is no apparent connection to the kidnapping; the woman is not even aware of the case. But through these stories, author Julia Phillips creates the world surrounding the girls and their abductor.

For most of this novel, I wondered whether solving the mystery was even the point. I liked reading about the remote Kamchatka peninsula and its culture, as well as the people who experience all of the same joy, sadness, doubt, and fear as people everywhere. However, I wasn’t really invested in the characters who were sometimes interesting, and sometimes annoying or shallow. But Phillips won me over in the second to last chapter, when linkages between certain characters were made clear and the novel moved urgently to a satisfying conclusion.

I recommend this book for its unique structure more than the murder/crime angle.

Edited: Nov 8, 12:17pm Top

70. The Women of the Copper Country ()
Source: Library Loan

In the early 1900s, the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company was one of the most profitable copper mines in the United States. But they got there on the backs of their workforce, comprised almost entirely of immigrants, who were seen as expendable by the “real American” mine owner, James MacNaughton. While C&H prided itself on building a company town that provided housing and amenities for its workers, MacNaughton’s top priority was worker productivity. He had little care for the dangerous nature of the work and the inevitable injuries and fatalities.

Enter Annie Clements, the wife of a miner and a natural leader. When a miner is killed while working with the new “one man drill,” Annie mobilizes the women into a force for change. They begin holding daily marches, asking “what price copper?” by calling attention to the many lives lost in pursuit of profits. Their activism built support for unionization, which ultimately led to a strike. The way the strike unfolded, its impact on management and miners alike, and the way in which the strike came to an end, make for fascinating reading, all the more so since the story is told almost entirely from a female perspective.

Mary Doria Russell is known for writing meticulously researched historical fiction, and this is yet another example. Since women’s stories are less well documented, she often had to infer or extrapolate, but the Author’s Note helpfully acknowledges where this was required. Russell’s characters are well developed, and the story is well-paced, especially in its portrayal of the dramatic events which ultimately ended the strike. I can’t say enough about this book: just go read it, already!

Nov 8, 1:05pm Top

I'm reading Disappearing Earth right now and I agree that it reads like short stories, at least in this beginning part that I've started. So far I like it though - we'll see if it comes together enough to satisfy me.

I also have The Women of the Copper Country on a library waitlist and am looking forward to it. I've never read Mary Doria Russell because I haven't been attracted to her novels with a Western vibe.

Nov 8, 6:40pm Top

Yep MARY Doria Russell really knows how to do historical fiction Laura. My favorite remains A Thread of Grace but they're all very good.

Nov 8, 6:44pm Top

Hooray, for The Women of the Copper Country! Good, review, Laura. I am so glad you loved it. I think we also had similar feelings about Disappearing Earth.

Edited: Nov 8, 8:24pm Top

>28 japaul22: Jennifer, I hadn't read any MDR either but was eventually convinced by trusted LTers to read Doc. I don't go in for "western" lit either, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

>29 brenzi: Hm, maybe I'll have to give A Thread of Grace a try one of these days, Bonnie.

>30 msf59: Hiya Mark! Disappearing Earth was another LT-inspired read for me. Warbling credit for that one goes to Beth (BLBera).


I started reading Olive, Again yesterday and am lowing it!

Nov 9, 8:29am Top

Mary Doria Russell also did a couple of science fiction books which were her first two - The Sparrow which was actaully her first novel and Children of God which followed it. She seems to be able to do different genres equally well.

Nov 9, 8:36am Top

>32 dudes22: Hi Betty! I shied away from The Sparrow for ages, because I don't really care for sci-fi. But then as mentioned above, I'm not a fan of western novels either, and I liked Doc. So I decided I really *should* read The Sparrow, and did so earlier this year. I liked it but haven't felt drawn to the sequel. I found it interesting, though, that the cover of The Women of the Copper Country refers to Russell as "New York Times bestselling author of The Sparrow". That was her debut novel, and yet seemingly the one she is best known for.

Nov 9, 1:04pm Top

>33 lauralkeet: - I didn't like the sequel as much as I did The Sparrow. I still need to read the follow-up to Doc and am hoping to get to TWOCC next year.

Nov 9, 2:26pm Top

>31 lauralkeet: Thanks for giving me credit, Laura. I heard about it from someone else... LT is funny that way. I look forward to The women of copper country. I am on the waitlist for Olive Again. Luckily, I have a couple of books to read while I wait for it. :)

Nov 9, 3:50pm Top

>34 dudes22: I haven't read the followup to Doc either, Betty. So many books!

>35 BLBera: Oh yes, LT is indeed funny that way, Beth. And sometimes a book is getting so much chatter it's hard to say which person tipped me over into "all right, already, I guess I'll read that!"


My library branch just announced it will be closing for 3 weeks (Nov 15 - Dec 9) to repair their elevator. Nooooo ! They've made arrangements for routing holds to another branch, but their choice was inconvenient for me so I logged into the system and chose a slightly less inconvenient option. I *know* this branch has a lot of physical plant issues that need to be addressed, and they wouldn't close unless they absolutely had to, but this is I think the third closure this year (the first two were unplanned). They've scheduled a short community meeting about it this week; I might go to hear what they have to say. I also think I'll avoid placing any new hold requests until they have reopened. It's not like I don't have any books lying around vying for my attention.

Nov 10, 7:57am Top

Happy Sunday, Laura. I am very glad to hear you are going to read The Sparrow. It is an excellent book. I also want to read A Thread of Grace, which a few of my LT pals, really love. I have a copy too.

Boo, to the library closing. Hopefully it does not disrupt you very much.

Nov 10, 8:04am Top

>27 lauralkeet: That one must go on my hitlist, Laura.

Have a lovely Sunday.

Nov 10, 8:30am Top

>37 msf59: Mark, I've already read The Sparrow, back in September. I wanted to bookhorn it in before *Copper Country*. It was good, if not my usual genre.

>38 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul! Happy Sunday back at ya. I hope you enjoy *Copper Country* whenever you get around to it.

Nov 10, 9:14am Top

"I've already read The Sparrow, back in September." Sorry! Duh!! MDR rules!

Nov 10, 10:00am Top

No apology necessary Mark, and yes she does!

Nov 10, 10:20am Top

>36 lauralkeet: Well that's a bit off Laura. Especially in winter when maybe more reading gets done. Can't they rent somewhere nearby and run a partial service? Harrumph.

I admit, I hardly use the library, but I'd hate to know it was out of action. I lived in the local libraries as a child and teenager.

Nov 10, 10:37am Top

>42 Caroline_McElwee: Can't they rent somewhere nearby and run a partial service?

Well, in some respects that is what they are doing. Holds are being re-routed to another branch which is just 1.5 miles away, and I think they might also shift some of their other programming there as well. There's a second branch about 1.5 miles in the other direction, and my house is situated between these two branches so while I have a preference, I can actually go to either one.

Nov 10, 11:03am Top

My library is changing it's catalog and so all on line services (including placing and receiving holds at any branch) are unavailable between November 7-13. I thought that was bad! But you have it much worse. Hopefully they stick to their schedule!

Nov 10, 12:32pm Top

Hi, Laura. Good review of The Women of The Copper Country. You convinced me; I'm adding it to the WL.

I thought her two sci-fi ones were good, but wasn't drawn to the western ones. I haven't tried her historical fiction, and this sounds like a good place to start.

Edited: Nov 10, 12:33pm Top

>44 japaul22: all online services ... are unavailable

Oh! The horror!! I never go to the library just to browse, I guess in this era of online shopping I prefer to "order" my books. So I feel your pain, Jennifer.

>45 jnwelch: Oh, I hope you like it, Joe!

Nov 11, 3:31pm Top

71. Olive, Again ()
Source: Library Loan

In this follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout once again uses a series of connected short stories to bring readers one of the most memorable characters in literature. Headstrong, outspoken, and yet also incredibly insecure, Olive is now in her 70s. Her first husband, Henry, has passed away and Olive has a distant relationship with her only son. She refuses to admit to loneliness, but slowly gives in to overtures of friendship from widower Jack Kennison. Olive learns to love again and initiates reconciliation with her son and grandchildren. In other stories we meet residents of Crosby, Maine, whose lives may barely touch Olive’s but are part of the larger tapestry of this novel. Themes of aging, love, and loss run like a current through this book. I admire Strout’s ability to stir up a swirl of emotions with her evocative writing. Here are just three examples:
When his wife was dying, she was the one who was furious. … And the last thing she said to him was: “I hate you because I’m going to die and you’re going to live.”
As he glanced up at a seagull, he thought, But I’m not living, Betsy. What a terrible joke it has been.
and this:
The truth is that Olive did not understand why age had brought with it a kind of hard-heartedness toward her husband. But it was something she had seemed unable to help, as though the stone wall that had rambled along between them during the course of their long marriage--a stone wall that separated them but also provided unexpected dips of moss-covered warm spots where sunshine would flicker between them in a sudden laugh of understanding--had become tall and unyielding, and not providing flowers in its crannies but some ice storm frozen along it instead. In other words, something had come between them that seemed insurmountable.
and this:
And it came to him then that it should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people, that the choices they made to keep themselves from that gaping darkness were choices that required respect.
There is an arc to the stories in this novel; time passes, and aging continues to present Olive with emotional and physical challenges. Her loneliness--often self-imposed--never quite goes away, but the final story is both bittersweet and uplifting.

Nov 11, 4:38pm Top

>47 lauralkeet: Just briefly glanced at your review. I’ll come back after I’ve read it. I saw the 4 1/2 stars...that’s good enough for me. I’m looking forward to this one. ;-)

Nov 12, 7:31am Top

>48 NanaCC: I am pretty confident you'll like it, Colleen. Enjoy.

Nov 12, 8:05am Top

Good review of Olive, Again. Big thumb! Glad to see my book pals have enjoyed this one, as much as I did. Did you read Anything is Possible? If not, it is another excellent collection of linked stories.

Nov 12, 8:17am Top

>50 msf59: Good morning Mark! Yeah, I've been a Strout fan for a while and have read most (all?) of her books except for The Burgess Boys and Abide with Me. No good reason for that, just haven't done it so maybe I should? Have you (or anyone else here) read those two?

Nov 12, 11:15am Top

I have read The Burgess Boys. It is a good enough read, just not one of her best, IMHO. I still have not read Abide With Me.

Edited: Nov 12, 1:47pm Top

>46 lauralkeet: I feel your pain, re the library closing. When we had to do that to complete our renovations last year, we put it off as long as possible, and then naturally it dragged on longer than we had hoped, but we did have the advantage of having a separate building (the Children's Library) right next door where holds could be picked up, etc. And, btw, I know it doesn't seem necessary when we have this amazing reading community deluging us with suggestions, but browsing in the library is still fun for me. I would not have discovered Barbara J. Taylor (2) otherwise, and that would have been a shame.

Nov 12, 6:17pm Top

>47 lauralkeet: Glad to see you enjoyed Olive, Again Laura. I'll get to it eventually. I've read all of her other books so I'm sure I'll read this one.

Nov 12, 6:40pm Top

>54 brenzi: and I'm sure you'll love it, Bonnie.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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