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.

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2019

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

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Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 10:00am

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
72. Spiderweb - details
73. Fenny - details
74. The Alice Network - details
75. Red at the Bone - details

76. Girl, Woman, Other - details
77. Naamah - details
78. The Odyssey (Emily Wilson translation) - details
79. The Captive & The Fugitive - details
80. The Outcast Dead - details
81. Guiltless - details
82. Know My Name - details
83. Tonight You're Dead - details
84. The Magnificent Spinster - details

Nov 2, 2019, 12:17pm

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: Dec 30, 2019, 10:00am

Edited: Nov 2, 2019, 12:19pm

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, 2019, 12:19pm

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, 2019, 12:19pm

Okay, this thread is open for business!

Nov 2, 2019, 1:06pm

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, 2019, 1:17pm

Happy new thread, Laura!

Nov 2, 2019, 1:29pm

>4 lauralkeet:

Just droppin' by to cheer you on.

Nov 2, 2019, 1:42pm

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

Nov 2, 2019, 2:05pm

Happy New Thread, Laura!

Adding more support for your reading mojo. :-)

Nov 2, 2019, 3:06pm

Happy New Thread Laura!

Nov 2, 2019, 5:37pm

Happy new one!

75 is not that far away :)

Nov 2, 2019, 5:58pm

>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, 2019, 8:50pm

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

Nov 2, 2019, 9:05pm

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

Nov 2, 2019, 11:53pm

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, 2019, 7:56am

>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, 2019, 9:47pm

Happy new thread, Laura. xx

Nov 4, 2019, 8:06am

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, 2019, 10:41am

>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, 2019, 4:35pm

Happy new thread!

Nov 4, 2019, 9:13pm

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, 2019, 9:29pm

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, 2019, 7:32am

>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, 2019, 12:46pm

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, 2019, 12:17pm

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, 2019, 1:05pm

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, 2019, 6:40pm

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, 2019, 6:44pm

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, 2019, 8:24pm

>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, 2019, 8:29am

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, 2019, 8:36am

>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, 2019, 1:04pm

>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, 2019, 2:26pm

>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, 2019, 3:50pm

>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, 2019, 7:57am

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, 2019, 8:04am

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

Have a lovely Sunday.

Nov 10, 2019, 8:30am

>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, 2019, 9:14am

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

Nov 10, 2019, 10:00am

No apology necessary Mark, and yes she does!

Nov 10, 2019, 10:20am

>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, 2019, 10:37am

>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, 2019, 11:03am

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, 2019, 12:32pm

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, 2019, 12:33pm

>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, 2019, 3:31pm

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, 2019, 4:38pm

>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, 2019, 7:31am

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

Nov 12, 2019, 8:05am

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, 2019, 8:17am

>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, 2019, 11:15am

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, 2019, 1:47pm

>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, 2019, 6:17pm

>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, 2019, 6:40pm

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

Nov 16, 2019, 9:36am

72. Spiderweb ()
Source: On my shelves

Stella is recently retired from her career as an anthropologist, in which she studied societies both in the UK and in more “exotic” climes. When she moves to a cottage in a rural village, she can’t help analyzing the people and their social norms. She learns a great deal through casual conversation with the shop owner and the postman, and has ample opportunity to observe the troubled family that lives just down the lane. Richard, the widowed husband of her university friend Nadine, lives nearby. He seeks her company and offers unsolicited advice about assimilating into the community, but Stella is fiercely independent and keeps him at arm’s length. Not surprisingly, she remains somewhat apart from village life.

Stella’s memories -- of the time at university with Nadine, her career, and romantic relationships -- often occupy her thoughts, and serve to fully develop Stella’s character. The narrative also shifts periodically to the family down the lane, and a situation that is clearly escalating behind closed doors. The problem is, the reader can see what’s coming, which lessens the dramatic effect of the event when it occurs. Penelope Lively is best at character development and creating complex linkages between characters and events. There’s just not enough of that in this novel. It’s a good solid read, but not exceptional.

Edited: Nov 16, 2019, 10:11am

>56 lauralkeet: I liked your review of Spiderweb ~ I also found the story somewhat truncated.

Penelope Lively is indeed brilliant (imho) in writing philosophical overviews of her characters' lives. For my tastes, I wanted a bit more fleshing out of Stella's incentive to ruralize: what motivated a well-travelled anthropologist to bury herself in such an isolated and perhaps rather less intellectually-stimulating community?

Was there a context that I didn't quite grasp? Perhaps Lively was illustrating what it is like to age and that one has to change societies as you grow older.

Nov 16, 2019, 10:08am

Great comments on Spiderweb, Laura. I read it a while ago and don't remember much, so obviously it isn't one of my Lively favorites.

Nov 16, 2019, 12:45pm

>57 SandyAMcPherson:, >58 BLBera: Hi Sandy and Beth!

*bangs gavel on table*
I hereby call to order this meeting of the Penelope Lively Appreciation Society! Sandy, I agree she is a brilliant writer. After reading a few of her books, I ended up buying without question when I found copies in used bookshops. Spiderweb was one such acquisition. You raise a very valid point about Stella's motivation for moving to the village, which was not clearly articulated. If indeed Lively was exploring ideas about aging, she could have fleshed that out further as well.

I would be interested to know -- from both you and Beth -- which one of Lively's books is your favorite?

Edited: Nov 16, 2019, 7:29pm

>59 lauralkeet: Re which one of Lively's books is your favourite?

I'm like you, Laura. When I see Penelope Lively's books at the bookshop where I generally have trade credit, I buy them. I have 3 unread, since a library cascade keeps happening around here (I wonder how that comes about? Oh yeah, BBs!)

Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir
How It All Began

City Of The Mind

Perfect Happiness (in progress as a re-read, because I never wrote a review)
The Photograph

Family Album

TBR shelf
Judgement Day
Next to Nature, Art
Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived

I had to read City Of The Mind twice to really appreciate it ~ more complex than I originally realized.

Dancing Fish and Ammonites is a top notch fave of mine, re-read at least three times, now. The title is different in the UK, for those who wondered if this is different to Ammonites and Leaping Fish.

I've been looking for Beyond the Blue Mountains so I don't have to rely on the public library's copy. They (the PL) have become dreadfully cavalier about discarding books if they're not checked out much.

Not that I'm saying BtBM suffers from that, but other classics in the literary genre have been sent to the library book sales which I refuse to attend (I can't stand mob scenes and I don't like library copies anyway for my personal library).

Edited to add that, no I don't have Moon Tiger or The Road to Lichfield. Too difficult for me to read; plus the topics were very distressingly close to the bone to enjoy. I do appreciate from others that they are excellently written.

Nov 17, 2019, 7:45am

>60 SandyAMcPherson: thanks for the thoughtful post, Sandy. I can see that I need to get hold of Dancing Fish and Ammonites. I, too, loved How it All Began; I gave it 4.5 stars and gave the same rating to Cleopatra's Sister.

I discovered Lively through Moon Tiger, when I was on a quest to read all of the Booker Prize winners. I have a special fondness for it since it led me to a now-favorite (or favourite!) author.

Nov 17, 2019, 8:25am

I'm another Lively fan! I own most of her books and tend to horde them because they never disappoint.

Nov 17, 2019, 8:26am

>61 lauralkeet: Ha ha ha ~ I loved your little poke at my spelling of favourite.
Us Canjuns, eh?

I've never seen Cleopatra's Sister in the library so I could read a bit of the narrative (I call it "tasting the story" to decide if I want to take the book home). After reading some reviews. I'm still not so sure that I want to go through the angst of Howard and Lucy's situation. Some types of suspense and danger feel too real to me, or I identify too closely with the situation and I seem unable to cope with the story. A sign of excellent writing of course.

Nov 17, 2019, 9:11am

>62 katiekrug: I was hoping you'd stop by, Katie, because I know you are also a fan. I don't have any more of her books on my shelves now, which makes me a little sad. Which books have you enjoyed the most?

>63 SandyAMcPherson: I couldn't resist the poke, Sandy. 😀 And I like your phrase, "tasting the story."

Nov 17, 2019, 10:38am

I loved Cleopatra's Sister as you did. I remember liking Moon Tiger but I read it as a teenager so need to do a re-read. The Road to Lichfield was also good but, again, I read it ages ago. This year, I read Going Back which was published as a children's book originally (IIRC) but which has a lot to say along her usual themes of time and memory.

Nov 17, 2019, 11:03am

I love the Lively love! How It All Began, Moon Tiger, The Photograph and Making It Up were all stellar for me. As I look at the Livelys on my shelf, I must pick up one to read soon. It's been a while.

Nov 17, 2019, 2:42pm

I guess >66 BLBera: meant Making It Up, yes?

Here's a great review, which reminds me, I must keep my eye peeled for my own copy. I left it off my list at #60 because it isn't on my shelf, and I read it before I decided I would catalogue my library loans on LT.

Nov 17, 2019, 6:45pm

>67 SandyAMcPherson: Touchstones can do silly things sometimes, can't they?

I like the sound of Making it Up. She has a knack for exploring connections, or consequences of actions, and showing how they ripple out like a stone dropped into a pond. I've often reflected on my own life and thought, what if I'd done B instead of A?" I can imagine Lively's own ruminations, expressed through her excellent way with words, would make for good reading.

Nov 17, 2019, 7:02pm

>68 lauralkeet: what you said,

That's exactly why I like reading Lively's work. It has illuminated many situations, in my own life where I am amazed how I leapt down the fork in the road without even considering looking for a different choice.

I'm determined that Making it Up be on my Christmas WL and maybe I won't have to scour bookshops all over Western Canada for a copy...

(And yes, touchstones totally used to defeat me until someone told me how to find the right one.)
I suspect >66 BLBera: may have forgotten to check that the right one appeared. I've done that many times: commented and then noticed later that I had to do an edit... or else some eagle eye like RD posts the correct touchstone. I hope Beth wasn't taken aback at my post.

Nov 18, 2019, 8:55am

>68 lauralkeet: I think you would like it, Laura. To be honest, since we were talking about Lively, I didn't even check the touchstones, something I frequently forget to do, actually. Oh well, you all knew what I meant, right?

Nov 18, 2019, 9:08am

>70 BLBera: Of course we did, Beth! I'm loving this discussion of a shared favorite author.

Nov 18, 2019, 9:25am

I know there are plenty of fans of The Crown around here, so please indulge this little bit of shameless promotion. My daughter Kate, an entertainment writer, had advance access to Season 3 and is writing recaps of each episode (with spoilers). They are all in one post so you can read about each episode as you watch: The Crown Season 3 Binge Club

Nov 18, 2019, 12:27pm

Thanks for the tip on your daughter Kate's blog, Laura! We're fans of The Crown, and that will be wonderful to visit. I bookmarked it. We're still finishing up Season 1, but we'll get there!

Nov 18, 2019, 12:53pm

>72 lauralkeet: - Cool! Bookmarking it so I can make my way through as I watch...

Nov 18, 2019, 11:20pm

Hi Laura. I'm enjoying the meeting of the Penelope Lively Appreciation Society. I have only read a couple:

Dancing Fish and Ammonites and Moon Tiger both of which I absolutely loved.
I have How It All Began on the shelves but have not yet read it.

The meeting is making me think I'll join in the acquisition frenzy. Heh.

I am sitting here this very moment watching an episode of season 2 of The Crown. I am a huge fan; P and I are making our way through the first two seasons in anticipation of season 3 which I believe "dropped" yesterday.

>72 lauralkeet: Very cool. I'm also bookmarking it although I want to avoid the spoilers. :-)

Nov 19, 2019, 7:31am

>72 lauralkeet:, >73 jnwelch:, >74 katiekrug: Hi Joe, Katie, and Ellen! Kate has worked for Refinery29 for about 3 years, and while some of her assignments are banal pop culture stuff (e.g, about the Kardashians), she also gets some plums from time to time. Getting to watch The Crown before it drops is a plum in my book!

Nov 19, 2019, 1:46pm

Over on Katie's thread, there's some chatter about year-end book lists. Today LitHub published its Best of the Decade. I feel a bit silly admitting I hadn't yet realized the decade was coming to a close. I'm sure there "decade in review" stuff published ad nauseum in the coming weeks.

LitHub's lists are interesting and comprehensive: best novels, best translated novels, nonfiction, essays, poetry, you name it. So far I've only looked through the list of novels and, like many such lists, it's full of books I've read and books I've never heard of.

Have a look and let me know if anything stands out for you.

Nov 19, 2019, 3:05pm

>77 lauralkeet: - I've only looked at the list of novels, but I can't fault their taste since Train Dreams was included (and Salvage the Bones!). Looking forward to exploring the other lists...

Nov 19, 2019, 5:36pm

>77 lauralkeet: Well, I've read five of the novels on that Best of the Decade list, have 2 more on my shelves, and a couple on my wishlist. Still there are some there I don't recall having heard about, so guess what I'll be doing...

Nov 19, 2019, 6:42pm

Best of decades lists and Tournament of Books long list out at same time? I’m list-ecstatic!

Nov 19, 2019, 6:55pm

I have a love/ hate relationship with the lists that come out at this time of year. On the one hand, I love seeing them and seeing what I've already read and what I'd like to read. On the other hand, I feel doomed that there are so many books that I'll probably never get to....ever.🤷‍♀️

Edited: Nov 19, 2019, 7:08pm

>72 lauralkeet: This is awesome! Go Kate! I have not started season 3, but I will make sure to circle back and check out her review(s).

>77 lauralkeet: I love this. I really like Lit Hub. I have read 12 of the first 20 and I am tickled to see Goon Squad leading the pack. Love seeing Train Dreams & The Overstory on there too. I have read 10 on the second list. Homegoing should have been on the first list and closer to the top, IMHO. I may have put News of the World higher too. Where is A God in Ruins, A Brief History of Seven Killings & A Constellation of Vital Phenomena? Just askin'...

Nov 19, 2019, 9:11pm

>77 lauralkeet: Love the lists Laura but - the translated books aside it is an extremely americanised list.

Both that and the fact that my reading is always a couple of years behind due to reading speed and availability of books here my stats against the list is pretty dismal:

Translations Owned 8 Read 1
Non-Fiction Owned 4 Read 1
Memoirs Owned 1 Read 1
Poetry Owned 0 Read 0
Short Story Owned 3 Read 1
Debuts Owned 4 Read 0
Best of Best Owned 15 Read 4

So of the 95 books I own 35 and have read a mere 8.

Particularly sad on the poetry list. It will of course be a good source for me to go and look for and buy new books!

I will be - of course - doing my own lists. Based on my own reading before the year is out.

Nov 20, 2019, 6:56am

Hi everyone, I'm loving the "list" discussion! I've only read 4 of the top 20 novels: The Tiger's Wife, Salvage the Bones, Outline, and The Underground Railroad. Of these, Salvage the Bones was my favorite. I have one more (The Overstory) queued up on my Kindle. There are a few on that list that I have no desire to read, like A Little Life.

I am happy, although not surprised, to see My Brilliant Friend on the translated list.

Paul, you make a good point about the "Americanised" nature of these lists, which is unfortunate but come to think of it, most of LitHub's content seems aimed more at the American reader. I love the idea of making your own lists!

Nov 20, 2019, 7:23am

Morning, Laura. I am glad I read A little Life, but, my GOD, was it grim. Possibly one of the most painful books, I have ever read. Taking a pass, is a very good idea.

I really appreciate, any ALA help, my friend. It should be a great time.

Nov 20, 2019, 11:23pm

>84 lauralkeet: Poor Canadian writers, so many outstanding authors seem to get short shrift in these lists.
We are, after all, a country with a population an order of magnitude smaller!

(Maybe I should not say anything... now the population on Talk is going to suggest 'that for which I have no time' ~ making a list)...

Edited: Nov 20, 2019, 11:51pm

Hi, Laura! Good Grief! I've just come from Lucy's thread to say that if you haven't read the D. Dunnette Lymond series, you should stop everything else until you do! I recommend these as heartily as I did Dance to the Music of Time. Really!
Now I'm going back to see what this Lit Hub thing is. I have news for them though; this decade isn't over until the end of 2020.

Nov 21, 2019, 7:54am

>85 msf59: Mark, I heard enough about A Little Life when it was all the rage to know it wasn't for me. Of course, then I see it on A LIST and it makes me wonder all over again. Thanks for strengthening my resolve!

>86 SandyAMcPherson: I agree with you about Canadian writers being overlooked, Sandy. My own knowledge of CanLit is pretty weak overall, but I've read some good stuff and know that it deserves more recognition.

>87 LizzieD: this decade isn't over until the end of 2020.
Well ya know Peggy, I wondered about that. Shouldn't a decade begin with the year ending in "1," not "0" ? I guess LitHub just jumped the gun.

And I have duly noted your hearty recommendation. You have never steered me wrong, and *Dance* remains one of the most memorable works I've ever read.

Nov 21, 2019, 5:35pm

>88 lauralkeet: I gave up on A Little Life after about 200 pages. Could. Not. Do.

I'm a fairly big fan of Canadian authors and have read some little known writers and enjoyed them immensely. I just picked up Elizabeth Hay's memoir All Things Consoled. I loved her Giller Prize winning Late Nights on Air. I also recently acquired Wayne Johnston's First Snow Last Light, the last book in his fabulous Newfoundland Trilogy. There are many other little known Canadian authors I follow and love. I don't know why they aren't as well known as they should be.

Nov 21, 2019, 6:13pm

Heh I planned to start the Dunnett series in January and read one book a month.

Nov 21, 2019, 8:58pm

Thanks to you for posting the Lit Hub lists link. I have the site bookmarked, along with three-dozen other sites that fit in the "Books" category. Ha. I just keep adding, not culling.

Nov 21, 2019, 9:08pm

>89 brenzi: good for you reading all that CanLit, Bonnie!

>90 brenzi: oh yeah? It looks like there are 6 books in the series so that would be January-June right? I also see the Kindle editions are reasonably priced. Would you like a reading buddy, Bonnie?

>91 weird_O: I live to serve, Bill. 😀

Nov 21, 2019, 9:24pm

I'm pumped to see several mentions of Canuck writers (and one or two I haven't read but keep thinking, gotta read that).
My totally enjoyable romp in this summer's CanLit reading was Michael Skeet's A Tangled Weave. I have the e-book from Early Reviewers. There are certainly some flaws in the execution of the plot, but I was quite happy to motor on through. It was fun.

I read the first book in this set afterwards because I wanted to understand Book 2's premises. I thought the themes in this pair great ideas and hope he has a third coming out. Each of the books are bound to be quite different as a supporting character takes over as protagonist.

OK, that was a bit off-topic. Back to my perusal of the book lists.

*whispers* Sssh ~~ I don't think I'll be racing out to read any of the 2019 Giller books. Just going by the synopses (if that's the correct plural). Although Ian William's win with Reproduction actually sounds very intriguing.

Nov 22, 2019, 12:49pm

>90 brenzi: That series has long been on my list, Bonnie, so I may join you!

Nov 22, 2019, 1:39pm

>93 SandyAMcPherson: Ssh ~~ I don't think I'll be racing out to read any of the 2019 Giller books.

Don't worry Sandy, your secret is safe here. I'd hate for the authorities to come storming in and revoke your passport or something.

>94 vivians: ooh, it looks like we have ourselves a little group read! Woot!

Nov 22, 2019, 1:39pm

73. Fenny ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection

Ellen Fenwick, aka "Fenny," accepts a summer position as a governess working in Italy for an English family. The setting is magical, and having become quite fond of the child in her care, she accepts a permanent position with the family. The novel opens in 1933 when fascism is just beginning to take hold, but the expatriate community is in a state of both ignorance and denial. The first part of this book takes us up to 1939, and Fenny’s life is filled with new experiences, personal growth, and heartbreak.

Then the book shifts abruptly to 1945 and beyond. Lettice Cooper provides minimal detail on how Fenny spent the war years; I can only guess she wanted to focus on the life of an independent woman before and after the war. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to buy into the post-war section (roughly the last third of the novel). New characters were insufficiently developed and the plot felt rushed. Some aspects were predictable and others seemed preposterous. This book got off to a good start, but ultimately fell short of my expectations.

Nov 22, 2019, 6:10pm

>92 lauralkeet: >94 vivians: ok then we're on our way💁🏼‍♀️

Nov 23, 2019, 10:18am

>77 lauralkeet: Cool list. I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad - nice to see that on the list.

Nov 23, 2019, 4:02pm

The Captive and the Fugitive, Vol 5 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, is really two books in one volume. Although I don't plan to "count" this book until I finish all of Vol 5, I'm happy to report that I've now read through The Captive (559 pages). Like the previous books in this work, there's a lot of internal monologue and not a lot of action. In a nutshell, our narrator Marcel keeps his girlfriend Albertine in his parents' apartment and is constantly battling jealousy over lovers she may or may not have now,or have had in the past. He dithers over whether to stay in the relationship or break it off, and behaves in a creepy and controlling manner with her. Meanwhile, another major character, the Baron de Charlus, gets his social comeuppance and is effectively banished from his slice of society.

The Captive ends with Marcel deciding to break things off with Albertine, only to learn the next morning that she has already packed up and left. Serves him right.

The Fugitive is 373 pages long and I'm hoping to finish by the end of the year. I've been reading 10-15pp/day, so that's still achievable at this point.

Nov 23, 2019, 5:24pm

>99 lauralkeet: Love the review, especially, liking that comment, Serves him right..
The fellows all sound like utter creeps.

Nov 24, 2019, 7:24am

>100 SandyAMcPherson: Thanks Sandy. I didn't set out to write a review of The Captive but I guess I kind of did, didn't I? And while the fellows in Proust might sound like creeps, the "society dames" don't fare much better.

Nov 26, 2019, 7:13am

Another year-end book list! I always enjoy this one:
New York Times Notable Books 2019

I've only read 6 of the fiction titles (counting my next book, Red at the Bone, which I'm sure to finish this year), but I think that's slightly more than in recent years. I feel like I've been paying more attention to LT recommendations this year which has led me to reading more new books.

Nov 26, 2019, 7:59am

>102 lauralkeet: Thanks for linking to that! I love those lists but often forget to check them out without some LT prompting. I've read or am on my library waitlist for 9 of them. Isn't it crazy how many excellent books are published every year? Even following so many people's reading on LT, I haven't even heard of about half of these!

Nov 26, 2019, 9:24am

My favorite year-end list is the NPR Book Concierge, which should be out any day now! *crosses fingers*

Nov 26, 2019, 9:48am

>103 japaul22: I had the same reaction....I was amazed at how many of the titles on that list were completely unknown to me. So, thanks for sharing, Laura, I've been wondering what in the world I'll find to read in the coming year...

Nov 26, 2019, 10:08am

>103 japaul22: I wasn't aware the list was out either (their 10 best came out last week, but I didn't realize this list would follow so quickly). My husband came across the Notable Books list over our first cup of coffee today, and I pounced on it.

>104 norabelle414: ooh, yes I really like that one too Nora.

>105 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I really fell short in the nonfiction department and there's lots of interesting-looking nonfiction on the list as well. Yeah, I'm not worried about finding something to read.

Nov 26, 2019, 4:47pm

So impressive that you're reading In Search of Lost Time! What a big project to take on. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Not one for me so far, but I like your comments.

Nov 26, 2019, 5:31pm

>102 lauralkeet: I will keep the list Laura and am sure that a number of those titles will inhabit my reading over the next few years.

Edited: Nov 26, 2019, 5:36pm

>107 jnwelch: Joe, if I remember correctly Jennifer (japaul22) read the entire work a couple years back. She went through them non-stop, whereas my energy flagged just after the halfway point. My husband started re-reading it with a study group and that made me realize I wanted to finish what I started.

>108 PaulCranswick: always happy to contribute to your TBR, Paul.

Nov 27, 2019, 10:17am

>102 lauralkeet: I love these lists! I've added a few to my WL.

I do love the NPR list at the end of the year as well.

Nov 28, 2019, 6:46am

>102 lauralkeet: Well thanks Laura, I now have 7 more books on my wishlist!

I have 9 of these (read 1), including Samantha Power’s The Education of An Idealist which a friend has bought me for xmas at my request (not to be read until then!). She (Samantha, not my friend) appeared in a docu about the Obama years, and made an impression, as I don’t doubt she does everywhere.

Edited: Nov 28, 2019, 7:50am

Happy Thanksgiving, Laura. Have a great holiday with the family.

>102 lauralkeet: Wow! Terrific list. Funny, I feel like I keep up with the new books through the year, (thanks to LT and my many ARCs) but then I see a list like this and I am brought back to reality. I have read 8 of the fiction titles, but it blows me away how many I had not even heard of. I just finished The Revisioners, which I recommend to you. Only 5 of the NF, including Midnight in Chernobyl, which I am nearly finished with and has been outstanding. I also have The Yellow House lined up for December. Whew!

Nov 28, 2019, 8:06am

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one adding books to my wish list with reckless abandon. And then Amazon sent me a promotion yesterday, for a $5 eBook credit if I spent $20. Yay!

>112 msf59: Mark, I know what you mean about being brought back to reality by these lists. When I'm with some of my RL book club friends whose lives have not been touched by LT, I feel like I'm much more "in the know" about literature. Lists like this keep me from getting too cocky, I guess.

Nov 28, 2019, 8:42am

"Lists like this keep me from getting too cocky, I guess." LOL! You got that right! I think the reality is, there is no way to keep up, a stream of promising books keeps drifting along, so we just do our best. It always blows me away, when people have a problem with finding what to read next. That ain't me, babe!

Nov 28, 2019, 9:25am

Well said, Mark.

And Happy Thanksgiving to you, and all others here who are celebrating! I'm in the midst of cooking today but will be popping in from time to time.

Edited: Nov 29, 2019, 2:53pm

Way back at the beginning of your thread, you got me with your review of Olive, Again. WLed.

And thanks for the 100 Notable books list by NYT.

Happy day after. Hope you have lots of leftovers!! 1) Because they are yummy and 2) because then you'll have more time to read! : )

Nov 29, 2019, 8:47pm

>114 msf59: "I think the reality is, there is no way to keep up, a stream of promising books keeps drifting along," Isn't that a wonderful thing to think about, when there are people out there pronouncing the death of the book all the time? I know the publishing world ain't what it was, and authors struggle even more than ever to get their work into our hands, but still look how many of them succeed.

Nov 30, 2019, 8:13am

74. The Alice Network ()
Source: On my Kindle

I finished this book a few days ago, and with the busy-ness of the Thanksgiving holiday I haven't felt like writing a review. I enjoy learning about little-known parts of history like, in this case, a woman-led spy network during World War I. Sometimes the fictional characters inserted into the history seemed a bit of a stretch, and there were a few too many coincidences placing them in the right place at the right time. But they kind of grew on me, and the author's afterword explained some of the choices she made, which left me with a better impression of the novel as a whole.

Hmm, still not much of a review, but it's all you're gonna get LOL.

Dec 1, 2019, 10:29am

Small book haul:

Amazon kindly sent me an offer: spend $20 on eBooks, get a $5 credit towards more eBooks. And I kindly took them up on their offer!

Dancing Fish and Ammonites was inspired by all the Penelope Lively love upthread. The Lymond Chronicles is a "box set" (beautifully packaged in an invisible digital box, I suppose), containing the first three volumes in this series. Again thanks to LT chatter, Bonnie and I will be reading this series beginning in January.

Now, what should I spend my $5 credit on? I have 21 days to decide ...

Dec 1, 2019, 3:44pm

>119 lauralkeet: beautifully packaged in an invisible digital box Bwahahaha

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 8:48pm

75. Red at the Bone ()
Source: Library loan

Red at the Bone is a beautiful, moving portrait of a family. Iris gave birth to her daughter Melody when she was only 15 years old. When the book opens, Melody is making an entrance at her Sweet Sixteen formal. Through short, lyrical chapters set in different points in time, we learn about Iris’ early relationship with Melody’s father, Aubrey, and Iris’ dogged determination to pursue a college education despite the responsibilities of motherhood. We see Iris’ parents, Sabe and Po’Boy, moving from disappointment in Iris’ pregnancy to deep, abiding love for their granddaughter.

Jacqueline Woodson writes with a poetic style that flows effortlessly across the page, delivering a story packed with emotion whether describing the love between two people, or the tragedy and loss the family faced over the years. Just beautiful.

Dec 1, 2019, 8:46pm

The bar is open! I'm throwing a little party to celebrate reading 75 books for the first time since 2011. French 75 cocktails for everyone!

Dec 1, 2019, 10:32pm

Congrats on 75, Laura!

And thanks for celebrating with one of my very favorite cocktails :)

I loved Red at the Bone, too.

Dec 1, 2019, 10:45pm

Yay for reaching 75. I think LT 75-ers are the best for keeping flagging readership up and greased.

Dec 1, 2019, 10:49pm

Hurray!! And very nice reviews. : )

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 11:11pm

>119 lauralkeet: As for the $5 credit, are you truly seeking input?
Can you pre-order a new release, like Return of the Thief? Or does the credit have to apply to an immediate spend?

I just bought (used but like-new) A House Unlocked and had a wee peek at it this afternoon when I'd finished The Bedlam Stacks. I'm going to save it for later because of aforementioned library holds. It was published in 2001 and this copy is a hard cover with a pristine dust jacket!

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 6:40am

^Congrats on hitting our magic number, Laura! Yippee! I am not sure I will get to Red at the Bone before year's end but I would like to. I have also had an ARC of The Alice Network for a long time now. I may try to bookhorn that one in as well. I hope you had a good weekend.

ETA- I also have a copy of Dancing Fish and Ammonites. Let me know when you are going to read it.

Dec 2, 2019, 9:49am

>123 katiekrug: Katie, I have you to thank for making the French 75 one of my favorites as well! Around the time of my retirement party in 2017, you were singing the praises of this wonderful beverage, so I used the party as an excuse to try it. My life was forever changed. 😉 That, and it seemed an appropriate choice for making my goal.

>124 SandyAMcPherson:, >126 SandyAMcPherson: Thanks Sandy! And to be honest, I probably don't really need help figuring out how to spend my credit. It does have to apply to an immediate spend (not a pre-order). But I have a list of books I've seen around these threads that I'd be interested in buying (vs. getting from the library), so I'll throw a dart at it and make my selection.

>125 Berly:, >127 msf59: Thanks Kim and Mark!

Dec 2, 2019, 10:14am

>128 lauralkeet: - Happy to help :)

And I am embarrassed to admit I totally missed the 75 connection. Duh.

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 11:42am

>129 katiekrug: Ha! Well, okay, full disclosure: I went searching for an image to commemorate "75" and in the midst of images for I-75 and various other 75s, there was the cocktail. So, it didn't really occur to me either until prompted.

But now, I really want to have a French 75 again soon!

Dec 2, 2019, 10:26am

Dec 2, 2019, 3:16pm

>121 lauralkeet: Congratulations on reaching 75, Laura!

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 4:43pm

Congrats on finishing 75, Laura!

Dec 2, 2019, 5:51pm

>132 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita!

>133 jnwelch: Sorry everyone for letting the bar run dry. Thank goodness Joe stopped by to replenish our supplies. Cheers!

Dec 2, 2019, 6:55pm

Congrats on 75! And I'd love to join you and Bonnie in January for the first in the Lymond Chronicles!

Dec 2, 2019, 7:09pm

Unsurprisingly we both liked Red at the Bone Laura only your remarks are much more cogent. I have no idea what French 75 is but I wish I did.

Dec 2, 2019, 8:49pm

>135 vivians: that's excellent Vivian!!

>136 brenzi: Bonnie, a French 75 is a cocktail made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Yum!

Dec 3, 2019, 5:45am

Happy 75, Laura!! Woot!!

Dec 3, 2019, 8:11am


Dec 3, 2019, 9:02am

Thanks Amber & Lucy! I love that pupper!

Dec 3, 2019, 9:34am


Dec 3, 2019, 12:16pm

Thanks Jim!

Dec 4, 2019, 7:27am

I wondered how I had missed so much in only a couple of days. Congratulations on reaching 75. And I might try that cocktail sometime when we're out.

Dec 4, 2019, 9:46am

Congratulations on reaching 75 reads Laura.

Dec 4, 2019, 12:53pm

>143 dudes22:, >144 Caroline_McElwee: welcome to the party, Betty and Caro!

Edited: Dec 4, 2019, 1:09pm

The Odyssey

I need to warble long and loud about the 2017 Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey. My husband and I decided to take a Coursera course on Greek and Roman Mythology (syllabus). The Odyssey is the first book in the course. The professor uses the 1996 Robert Fagles translation, which we have on the shelves, but we also bought this new one. It is beautifully written and reads almost like a contemporary novel. Here are the opening lines from each translation:

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove--
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will--sing for our time too.

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered on the sea, and how he worked
to save his life and bring his men back home.
He failed, and for their own mistakes, they died.
They ate the Sun God's cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.

Now, I read The Odyssey ages ago, even before the Fagles was published. I was young and reading on my own without an instructor or secondary sources to guide me. I remember that it was a bit of a slog. This experience is completely different, and absolutely delightful. Wilson is the first woman to translate this work and was recently awarded a Macarthur Fellowship. Count me as a fan.

Dec 4, 2019, 1:33pm

>146 lauralkeet: I took that Coursera course a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot. I thought Fagles was fine at the time but I read Wilson last year and enjoyed it a lot more.

Edited: Dec 4, 2019, 1:54pm

>146 lauralkeet: With Wilson in hand, I would be happy to read Fagles' translation... just the very thing to learn what an older way of speaking actually meant.

Count me in as a ~ now if only someone would rewrite some of Shakespeare's plays this way,
I'd finally feel edgeukated.

Dec 4, 2019, 2:36pm

>147 norabelle414: I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the course, Nora. We aren't too far into it yet but we like it so far. His lectures are packaged into 10-15 min segments which makes it easy to watch a little or a lot, depending on our schedule and attention span.

>148 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy. I, too, could use a little help with Shakespeare! I enjoy reading his stuff but it takes a lot of concentration. I find attending a play (or watching an adaption) a bit easier once I get into the language.

Dec 4, 2019, 5:45pm

>146 lauralkeet: Yes! I'm a big fan of the Emily Wilson translation, too, Laura. I love your comparison of its opening with the Fagles translation. I actually have always liked the Fagles translation, and Stanley Lombardo's, too, but Emily W's is my favorite by a wide margin now.

She is working on an Iliad translation, and said a year or so ago that she expected it to take about 5 years. Can't wait!

Dec 4, 2019, 6:10pm

>27 lauralkeet: The Women of the Copper Country is now on my tbr pile.
All good wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Dec 4, 2019, 9:02pm

>150 jnwelch: five years?! Well, I'm sure I'll buy it, whenever it comes out. Thanks for the info, Joe.

>151 Whisper1: I'm happy to add to your TBR pile, Linda!


Tonight we went to a holiday party with an open bar. What did I order? A French 75, of course!

Dec 4, 2019, 10:39pm

>149 lauralkeet: I really liked the professor (I checked your link and it's still the same one), but I had some problems with the grading system for essays and technically failed the course. (Hopefully Coursera has fixed the problem in the intervening 6 years.) But I didn't really care because I was just taking it for fun! I think it really expanded my understanding of ancient Greece a lot.

Dec 5, 2019, 6:35am

Sweet Thursday, Laura. I will dig into The Alice Network today. If you are ever in the mood, for a short story collection, give Sabrina & Corina, a try. I loved it. Fresh, new voice.

Edited: Dec 5, 2019, 8:08am

>153 norabelle414: Nora, we really like the professor, Peter Struck, too. He's currently head of the classical studies department at UPenn and a strong advocate for online learning. Emily Wilson is also at UPenn; in fact, she's doing an event for major donors at The Rosenbach sometime soon -- a dinner for like 10 people. Wouldn't that be amazing?! The Rosenbach draws on UPenn faculty a lot for their programs, so I live in hope of someday rubbing elbows with Emily or Peter.

>154 msf59: Hi Mark, and thanks for the rec!

Dec 5, 2019, 11:30am

>155 lauralkeet: I saw Emily Wilson at the National Book Festival with Madeline Miller and they were both so delightful. Wilson has a penchant for cool sneakers which I find very charming.

A book podcast I listen to, Overdue, did a long series of episodes discussing Wilson's translation in detail, and since they are Philly-based they recorded an in-person chat with her at the end. It's very fun, especially because the hosts approached it as casual readers.

Dec 5, 2019, 11:33am

I heard about the French 75 cocktail around here somewhere before....I need to find one. Perhaps on my birthday...

Edited: Dec 5, 2019, 1:07pm

>156 norabelle414: That podcast rang a bell, and I went off to search. Both hosts went to Kenyon College. My daughters also went there (not at the same time as the hosts), and as a result we hear about "Kenyon things" through the college. They promoted this podcast in its early days and I'm pretty sure I listened to a few episodes but I was on podcast overload at the time. I might have to track down those Wilson/Odyssey episodes though. Thanks for the tip!

>157 laytonwoman3rd: You might've heard about the French75 from Katie, Linda. She's the one who corrupted me introduced me to it.

Dec 5, 2019, 1:37pm

>158 lauralkeet: The series was called "Stop! Homer Time" and the first episode was on May 31, 2018. If you want to skip straight to the chat with Emily Wilson at the end, that episode was on May 17, 2019.

Dec 5, 2019, 2:09pm

Dec 5, 2019, 5:42pm

>146 lauralkeet: I read the Fagles, Laura, and loved it.
Congrats on reaching 75 -- and with a wonderful book, too!

Dec 6, 2019, 6:54am

>161 BLBera: Thanks Beth! For once my library's timing was perfect, delivering Red at the Bone when I was on the brink of reaching 75. Yay!

Dec 6, 2019, 8:17am

Congrats on reading 75 books!

Dec 6, 2019, 8:40am

>155 lauralkeet: Hey, I know him (Peter Struck)! He and I were at OSU briefly at the same time (I was a grad student, he was a faculty member). Super nice person.

Dec 6, 2019, 8:44am

Congratulations on reaching 75, Laura! Well done.

Dec 6, 2019, 10:07am

congratulations on 75 reads Laura. I liked Wilson's translation too.

Dec 6, 2019, 10:31am

>164 scaifea: Wow, what a small world!

And thanks everyone for the enthusiasm about achieving my reading goal!

Dec 8, 2019, 1:26pm

>77 lauralkeet: Late to the party but I had also not realized that the best-of-the-decade lists would start. Oh boy! Lists!

>146 lauralkeet: Oh my, thank you for posting those two opening sets of lines. I have the Emily Wilson edition and have not yet decided when I will read it. It's so cool to see those translations side-by-side. And your Coursera course sounds interesting. I have looked at those and just can't do them while I'm still working. BUT --- in 32 months or so I will be looking for things like that to keep my mind engaged!

Adding to the hearty congratulations on reaching 75 books this year!

Dec 8, 2019, 1:29pm

>77 lauralkeet: I love the opening to the LitHub piece about the best novels of the year:

"Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can."

Dec 9, 2019, 7:21am

>168 EBT1002:, >169 EBT1002: Hi Ellen! Thanks for stopping by and your congratulatory comments. I'm also glad you like the lists, they are one of my favorite year-end bookish things.

I understand your reluctance to start the Coursera course. For what it's worth, it's packaged in bite-sized pieces. There are 10 "weeks" of content (but of course you can take as much time as you want), and I think only 2-3 weeks deal with The Odyssey before moving on to other works. Each week is made up of several lectures, which tend to be only 10-20 minutes long. I'm finding it a nice companion to my reading, watching the relevant lectures after reading a chunk of the book.

Edited: Dec 10, 2019, 10:44am

76. Girl, Woman, Other ()
Source: Thanks to Vivian (vivians) for passing this along to me. Next stop: Mark (msf59). LTers are the best!

Girl, Woman, Other was completely unknown to me until being nominated (and then winning/sharing) the 2019 Booker Prize. And it’s one of the most interesting and inventive books I’ve read this year. Bernardine Evaristo explores the many ways of being a black woman today through twelve memorable characters, each living a very different experience in terms of socioeconomic class, nationality, education, gender identity, sexual freedom, marriage, and so on.

The novel is structured as a set of linked short stories, each describing the life of one woman. The stories are presented in groups of three, with direct connections between those women (e.g.; mother-daughter, or childhood friends). Additional connections emerge as the novel moves towards its conclusion. I was so immersed in the rich detail of each life story, that I didn’t see these additional links until they were made plain, making for many pleasant surprises. The epilogue tied up the one remaining loose end -- that I had completely forgotten about -- in a most satisfying way.

Dec 10, 2019, 9:55am

>171 lauralkeet: - Looking forward to this one, Laura. It's waiting patiently on my shelf... :)

Dec 10, 2019, 10:12am

>171 lauralkeet: That sounds terrific, Laura. Noted. And thumbed.

Dec 10, 2019, 10:44am

Great review of Girl, Woman, Other, Laura. Looking forward to it. Did you receive my PM, with my address info?

Dec 10, 2019, 11:40am

>171 lauralkeet: - And onto my recommended list it goes.

Dec 10, 2019, 12:45pm

Hiya Katie, Linda, Mark and Betty! I love it when I book I've enjoyed ends up on someone else's TBR.

>174 msf59: Mark, at about the time you posted this message I was at the post office sending the book! I left you a PM before seeing your post here.

Dec 10, 2019, 8:01pm

>171 lauralkeet: I don't know if I'll get this one in before the end of the year Laura but you've really piqued my interest.

Dec 11, 2019, 7:30am

>177 brenzi: Glad to hear it, Bonnie! I don't think you'll say that about the next one though ...

Dec 11, 2019, 7:30am

77. Naamah (DNF)
Source: On my shelves

Naamah, a feminist reimagining of the Noah’s Ark story, is the kind of thing I normally like. Take a well-known tale, tell it from a woman’s perspective, and challenge the patriarchal view of the original story -- and I’m in. When done well, as in Madeline Miller’s Circe or Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, these books are a joy to read. Sadly, Naamah doesn’t measure up and I had to abandon it.

The book started off well. Naamah is a pragmatist, making sure the ark is built to withstand what is to come. She questions a God who would decide to wipe out the civilization they created. She advises her sons and their wives not to have sex on the ark, because they don’t know how long they will be living there and the ark is no place to raise a child. It’s difficult enough dealing with animal reproduction.

But soon, the story becomes disjointed, with too many threads and, dare I say it, too much sex. I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but the author seemed to rely heavily on these scenes to keep the reader engaged. Between these scenes and Naamah’s strange encounters when swimming in the waters, I lost the will to go on.

Dec 11, 2019, 7:33am

After that, I need a "reading cleanse". Time for a little Ruth Galloway, I think.

The Outcast Dead

Dec 11, 2019, 4:09pm

>180 lauralkeet:, ah yes, nothing like cleansing the reader's palate!

Although this episode in the life and times of Ruth Galloway is not one of my 4 or 5 star reads, it contained no eyeroll scenarios, which I was quite happy to do without!

Dec 11, 2019, 5:07pm

>179 lauralkeet: Oh, Pfui....I wanted that to be a good one. I know exactly what you mean: "I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but the author seemed to rely heavily on these scenes to keep the reader engaged." That's what happened to Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series. The first one or two were good reads--the product of vivid imagination grounded on research. But then they just turned sensational and pointless, in my opinion.

Dec 11, 2019, 8:32pm

>181 SandyAMcPherson: That's good to know, Sandy. I'm not too far along and my eyes are still firmly in their sockets and I'm glad to hear they will most likely stay that way!

>182 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, that's a series that used to catch my eye, and yet I never acted on it. It probably falls into the "so many books ..." category now especially with your comments about the books becoming "sensational and pointless." Fortunately I'm not lacking for reading material.

Dec 13, 2019, 11:52am

78. The Odyssey ()
Source: On my shelves

I can't believe how quickly I zipped through this book, thanks entirely to Emily Wilson's amazingly fresh translation. As a work, The Odyssey has been reviewed to death and I have nothing new to say. I'll just direct you to my comments upthread (>146 lauralkeet:) for a sense of the translation. If you're thinking about reading this book, it's worth springing for this translation vs. whatever dusty tome you might have on your shelves.

Dec 13, 2019, 5:20pm

>184 lauralkeet: Yay! If you're thinking about reading this book (The Odyssey), it's worth springing for this translation vs. whatever dusty tome you might have on your shelves. Yes! She does such a great job - having us zip through this one is remarkable, isn't it.

Dec 14, 2019, 11:44am

>185 jnwelch: I couldn't agree more, Joe.

Dec 14, 2019, 11:45am

79. The Captive & The Fugitive ()
Source: On my shelves

The Captive and The Fugitive are the fifth and sixth parts of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In The Captive, our narrator (also named Marcel) keeps his mistress Albertine in his apartment like -- you guessed it -- a prisoner, tormented by jealousy over lovers she may or may not have now, or have had in the past. He dithers over whether to stay in the relationship or break it off, and behaves in a creepy and controlling manner with her. I don’t want to reveal plot points, so will simply say this situation is resolved at the end of The Captive. In The Fugitive, Marcel has to deal with the consequences of this resolution.

Alongside this predominant storyline, other now familiar characters appear and either suffer socially or find their status elevated. The pompous and flamboyant Baron de Charlus gets his comeuppance and Marcel’s childhood love, Gilberte, makes an advantageous marriage.

Like the previous books in this work, there's a lot of internal monologue and not a lot of action. Proust analyzes, in depth, the feelings and motivations of Marcel and others at various levels of the social hierarchy. I have one volume left to read and am interested to see how this all wraps up.

Dec 14, 2019, 1:23pm

Hi Laura - congratulations on hitting 75 books!

I can pretty much guarantee that I'll be buying the Emily Wilson translation just from what you've said and from reading the first few lines. I am still buying way more than I'm actually reading. I haven't read the Fagles one but bought it in Switzerland 10 years ago and have it on the bookshelf. (And I like the part of the Fagles translation I read, but I think it needs more uninterrupted time that I have had for the last decade!)

Dec 14, 2019, 2:35pm

>188 cushlareads: well hello Cushla! It's always nice to see you and I'm glad you're finding a bit of time to visit the threads. I hope you are able to get hold of the Emily Wilson translation, but also agree with you that it's best to read The Odyssey when you have the time. Good luck!

Dec 14, 2019, 2:42pm

Last night we went to a "Bibliococktails" thing at the Rosenbach -- essentially a literary-themed cocktail party held about once a month. This month the literary theme was Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. We mingled, had nibbles, listened to a recording of Thomas reading the story, and indulged in the evening's specialty cocktail:
Snow Every Christmas
1oz Jameson
0.5oz Laphroaig
0.5oz Fino Sherry
0.75oz Lemon juice
0.5oz Orgeat
0.5oz Vanilla syrup
Egg white
Club soda
It wasn't too bad, but the Laphroaig kind of overpowered the drink. Rum-laced eggnog was also on hand, so we enjoyed a bit of that as well.

Ho ho ho!

Dec 15, 2019, 9:30pm

Hi Laura,
Left a message --- where you probably fell asleep on those cushions waiting for quilt photos, back about 2 weeks ago!

Dec 15, 2019, 10:11pm

>190 lauralkeet: And how did you enjoy Thomas's reading? I love it, but of course my very favorite version is the long-ago TV special with Denholm Elliot. It's on YouTube, if you've never seen it.

That cocktail has way too many ingreediments...and none of 'em particularly Welsh.

Dec 15, 2019, 11:54pm

>170 lauralkeet: Hmm, that makes the Coursera course sound manageable. Maybe I'll think about that after all.

I'm glad you enjoyed Girl, Woman, Other. It's definitely among my favorites of the year. And I have The Outcast Dead queued up for vacation reading these next couple of weeks. (yay!)

Dec 16, 2019, 6:54am

>191 SandyAMcPherson: You'll see that I commented on your thread, Sandy. Thanks for the nudge!

>192 laytonwoman3rd: I need to watch the TV special, Linda. It's readily available, I've just never gotten around to it. Thomas' reading was lovely. And I agree with you about the cocktail. But since admission to the event included two drink tickets, I wasn't going to complain. 😀

>193 EBT1002: I know you can't wait for vacation, Ellen. I'm glad you have some good reads queued up.

Dec 16, 2019, 8:38am

80. The Outcast Dead ()
Source: On my Kindle

Another fine Ruth Galloway mystery. Ruth unexpectedly finds herself in the limelight, appearing in a television program about the burial site of a notorious Victorian murderer. Meanwhile, the police are investigating a series of child abductions, one of which strikes perilously close to home. Ruth has no professional connection to the crimes, but cares deeply about the people involved. This book is rich with character development. Ruth continues to juggle work and motherhood, always questioning whether she’s doing it right. Her brother Simon comes for a visit and the reader gets more insight into Ruth’s family. The police force includes a new member, Tim, a recruit from the Blackpool force featured in the previous book, requiring everyone to adjust to shifting team dynamics. But perhaps best of all, detective Judy Johnson takes center stage and begins a new storyline with interesting potential for future books.

If you like mysteries that emphasize characters over the crime, you’ll love the Ruth Galloway books.

Dec 16, 2019, 9:23am

>195 lauralkeet: Nice review, Laura.

You hit all the high points without having to use spoiler tags. Something I seem to rely on quite heavily when I'm chattering away about the RG saga.

Dec 18, 2019, 8:12am

The Wilson sounds wonderful! I've read Fitzgerald and . . . someone way earlier and then Fagles and every time it is more accessible and lively. So the Wilson goes on the WL!

Dec 18, 2019, 9:05am

>196 SandyAMcPherson: Oops Sandy, I read this the day you posted and forgot to reply. It's so difficult to write reviews for a mystery, let alone a series, so as not to spoil it for others. I'm grateful for the spoiler tags because sometimes I have to resort to them.

>197 sibylline: You'd love it, Lucy!

Dec 19, 2019, 12:28pm

81. Guiltless ()
Source: On my Kindle

In this third installment in the Sandhamn Murders series, Viveca Sten has hit her stride. Sandhamn is a small island in the Stockholm Archipelago, a popular summer destination with few year-round residents -- an unlikely setting for so much violent crime, but then that’s the way these series usually work.

The investigation is focused on remains found in the forest several months after a young woman’s disappearance. Detective Thomas Andreasson is on the case, and the circumstances behind the crime require assistance from other experts in Stockholm. Thomas’ friend Nora Linde is on the island with her sons, and the case serves to occupy her thoughts with something other than the relationship crisis that hits her at the beginning of the novel.

There’s also a parallel storyline of a boy and his abusive father, set nearly a century earlier. This is interesting in its own right, with plenty of dramatic tension. The connection with the present-day murder investigation is a believable twist integral to solving the crime. And just as things are wrapping up, Sten drops a huge cliffhanger that guarantees I’ll move swiftly on to the next book.

Dec 20, 2019, 2:49am

>171 lauralkeet: Book bullet, thank you very much!!

>195 lauralkeet: I really need to try the Ruth Gallaway series. I have WL the first I just need to get my hands on them!!

Dec 20, 2019, 9:31am

>199 lauralkeet: Yes! A BB series I think.
A new author for me, too. Probably a series to start in 2020.

Dec 20, 2019, 9:34am

>199 lauralkeet: - I think I have the first in this series on my Kindle. Must get to it (famous last words...)!

Dec 20, 2019, 9:42am

>200 Berly: you're welcome Kim! And as for Ruth Galloway (singing in my best Siren Song voice), I've found the Kindle editions to be fairly inexpensive.

>201 SandyAMcPherson: Yay!

>202 katiekrug: I bet you do, Katie -- I got the first one in one of those Amazon promotions where they offered something like a dozen free books. The first Sandhamn was one of them.

FWIW, the first Sandhamn book is a good introduction, not amazing, but now as you can see the series is growing on me.

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 10:09am

Know my Name | The Magnificent Spinster | Tonight You’re Dead

A couple of days ago I started reading Know my Name, a memoir by Chanel Miller, the victim of sexual assault by the "Stanford Swimmer" in 2015. It is amazingly well written and deserves all of the accolades it has received. But it is INTENSE. I can normally push my way through difficult content but despite being repeatedly drawn to this book, at the halfway point I've realized it is weighing on me.

I decided it would be better to read it in smaller doses, alternating with something light and easy. Yesterday I started The Magnificent Spinster, which has been on my shelves for yoinks. It's interesting but not the brain candy I crave right now.

My best option appears to be the next Sandhamn novel, Tonight You’re Dead, which I'll start later today.

Dec 21, 2019, 6:21pm

Greetings to my fellow biblio-geeks! It has been a privilege to chatter here with you.

A winter solstice is the moment in time when the Earth's tilt away from the Sun is at its maximum and the Sun's maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. Thus the ice crystals form magical lighting effects ~

Sundogs and a sunrise on the Winter Solstice

Dec 21, 2019, 9:55pm

>204 lauralkeet: Sounds to me like you need some Margery Sharp, or Angela Thirkell...

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 11:03pm

>195 lauralkeet: Oh good. I have that one on my kindle for sometime on this vacation. I'm glad it's another good one.

Dec 22, 2019, 8:14am

>205 SandyAMcPherson: That's lovely Sandy, thank you!

>206 laytonwoman3rd: I thought about Thirkell, since I have a few of her books on my shelves but then realized I would be reading out of sequence which just would. not. do.

>207 EBT1002: I just love the Ruth Galloway series, Ellen! I'm glad you do too.

Edited: Dec 22, 2019, 8:25am

>205 SandyAMcPherson: LIKE!

Morning, Laura. Happy Sunday! I am on a audio waiting list for Know My Name. I saw her on 60 Minutes a couple of months ago and was very impressed on how she expressed herself.

I hope everything is fine, with you and your family.

Dec 22, 2019, 12:52pm

>208 lauralkeet: Yes, that's my problem with her too. I have several of her titles that I have picked up at used book sales, but so many gaps in the sequence...

Edited: Dec 22, 2019, 7:25pm

>210 laytonwoman3rd: I need to find three Barsetshire titles in order to close my current gap in the series, but then once I've read them there will be another gap to fill. This is not a bad problem to have, but I haven't been doing much used book-shopping lately. I might need to actively acquire them, if for no other reason than to have on hand for situations like I'm in right now.

That said, Tonight You’re Dead is serving its purpose!

Dec 22, 2019, 4:55pm

>199 lauralkeet: Hmmm I somehow have the first in this series on my Kindle Laura. Do I want to start another series??? I just started the Dr. Siri series so seemingly the answer would be no. But who knows. It's always possible that in a delirium of not knowing what to read next I'll read that one lol.

Dec 22, 2019, 6:26pm

>212 brenzi: ha ha ha Bonnie, I wonder if you snagged that book in the same Kindle deal that I did?! (see >202 katiekrug:, >203 lauralkeet:)

Dec 22, 2019, 6:39pm

^Did you miss me up there? Sad face...

Dec 22, 2019, 7:26pm

>214 msf59: oh no! I'm sorry Mark, I did see you in >209 msf59: but failed to respond. Bad Laura. My daughter saw Chanel Miller at the Glamour Woman of the Year awards and was blown away as well. I think Chanel is only about a year older than Kate (I think that's another reason that reading the memoir is so difficult).

Dec 22, 2019, 7:49pm

>204 lauralkeet: I really enjoyed The Magnificent Spinster when I read it Laura. I've loved many of Sarton's books, Plant Dreaming Deep is my favourite of her biographical books; though I'm not sure I'd have got on with the woman herself.

Dec 23, 2019, 8:24am

>216 Caroline_McElwee: I'm glad to read your positive comments on The Magnificent Spinster, Caro. I've had it on my shelves for ages, I think in response to some blog or podcast raving about Sargon. I found it used and thought, why not? But there's not much in the way of ratings or reviews here on LT.

Dec 24, 2019, 8:04am

Or in other words, Happy Christmas! And have a great New Year as well.

Dec 24, 2019, 8:18am

Have a great holiday, with the family, Laura!

Dec 24, 2019, 11:51am

Thank you Rhian and Mark, and same to you!

I'll be lurking here more than posting over the next couple of days, and then joining the craziness that is the new 75 group for 2020.

Dec 24, 2019, 5:51pm

Happy Holidays, Laura!

Dec 25, 2019, 1:49am

Merry Christmas, Laura!

Dec 25, 2019, 9:17pm

Thank you for keeping me company in 2019.......onward to 2020.

Dec 25, 2019, 9:17pm

And belated congratulations, Laura, for passing 75!

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 8:26am

Hello to new visitors Joe, Ellen and Paul! I hope the holidays have been good to everyone. My daughters arrived Saturday evening and we've been enjoying family time. We had our annual Christmas Eve brunch at a French bistro-style restaurant that is bustling and fun any day of the week and even more so on Christmas Eve. I'm terrible about getting family photos taken so I was happy our server was willing to oblige. After brunch we went skating at City Hall where they have an outdoor rink from November through February, and in the evening we went to a Candlelight Christmas Eve service.

Christmas Day was spent opening presents and eating too much. Chris and I don't usually give each other books at Christmas, since we buy plenty of them throughout the year; however this year I gave him a cookbook I knew he was coveting and he gave me a knitting book from my Amazon wishlist. Yay!

This afternoon we're going to see Little Women. My daughters will return to NY either Friday evening or Saturday.

Dec 26, 2019, 10:36am

Sounds like a lovely Christmas, Laura.

I want to see Little Women but I might have to go by myself. I did see the new Star Wars on Christmas Eve, so The Wayne "owes" me (except not really because I enjoy the Star Wars movies...).

Dec 26, 2019, 10:41am

>226 katiekrug: And it's no fun to go to a movie with someone who isn't enjoying it the way you are...

Dec 26, 2019, 11:03am

>227 laytonwoman3rd: - Exactly. I might just treat myself to it and lunch out one day next week.

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 11:40am

Hi Katie & Linda. I don't think Chris is particularly interested in seeing Little Women either! Kate saw an advanced screening and has written about it for work, and insisted we all needed to see it and in fact her father is doing his patriotic (patriarchal?) duty because the film is being largely overlooked by the male-dominated awards nomination processes. So we're going en famille. At any other time I'm sure I'd have to ask a friend to see it with me, or go solo!

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 3:18pm

calm and I could use some friends over here in this new joint...

The 2020 Group is up!

Dec 26, 2019, 11:46am

>230 drneutron: Hey Jim! I just read your post on Amber's thread and joined immediately. It will be a few days before I create my thread but I'm excited to see the annual craziness starting.

Everyone else: what are you waiting for?!

Dec 26, 2019, 2:30pm

Beautiful photo, Laura! Hope you had a lovely day - sounds like a perfect one to me. We tried to see Little Women in the city with my mother, but all the seats were sold out.

Dec 26, 2019, 2:35pm

>231 lauralkeet: Poisonally, I was waiting for my houseguest to go home! I'll be working on my own thread, and the AAC Challenge thread now that I'm free.

Dec 27, 2019, 12:14am

I got the second Ruth Galloway book from my LT SS! So I think I will treat myself to #1 using Kindle. : )

Best wishes this holiday season!! See you in 2020!

Dec 27, 2019, 9:49am

>234 Berly: Hi Kim! I'm sure you'll enjoy the Ruth Galloway books. Thanks for the greeting!

Dec 27, 2019, 9:50am

82. Know my Name ()
Source: Library loan

In January, 2015 a young woman was sexually while attending a party at Stanford University. The assailant was a first-year student on a swimming scholarship. The victim, Chanel Miller, remained anonymous until recently, known to the public only as “Emily Doe.” Know my Name is Miller’s deeply personal account of the assault, the aftermath, and the legal process that finally came to an end in 2018.

This is one of the most intense and emotional books I have ever read. Miller writes with a strong, authentic voice and doesn’t mince words. She begins by describing her experience waking up on a gurney after the assault, her body’s condition, and the gradual realization of what happened to her. This is horrific and difficult reading, made even more so by Miller’s candor about the impact of this traumatic event on her mental and emotional health and her relationships with important people in her life.

While reading this memoir, I was compelled to keep going, but the emotional impact was palpable. I had to force myself to take breaks, reading smaller segments in order not to be overwhelmed. That this happened to me, a reader with no personal connections or experience, says a lot about what it must have been like for Miller, and what it must be like for any victim of sexual assault.

In the latter part of the book, Miller turns her attention to more recent cases of sexual assault involving high-powered public figures like Harvey Weinstein and the 45th President of the United States. She describes the evolution of public discourse and opinion, and her hopes for the future. It’s worth noting that Miller has twice been recognized as one of Glamour’s women of the year: first in 2016, as Emily Doe, and again in 2019 as herself. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Chanel Miller, and hope she continues to be a voice for change.

Dec 27, 2019, 10:04am

Hello Laura. Just lurking about the threads, absorbing the good holiday vibes. That force is good here. :-)

Dec 27, 2019, 1:09pm

>236 lauralkeet: I'm not even going to *try* to read that one, but I do recognize its importance and worth, right alongside its author's. Nice review!

Dec 27, 2019, 1:19pm

Thanks Amber. I totally understand shying away from a book like Know My Name. I probably wouldn't have sought it out either, but read a NYTimes review written by Jennifer Weiner and she made it sound so compelling I just had to request it from the library. She didn't steer me wrong, but you definitely have to know what you're getting into.

Dec 27, 2019, 5:53pm

I almost forgot to report back on the new Little Women film, which we saw yesterday. Well, it was absolutely wonderful. Rather than follow the novel's chronological path, Greta Gerwig starts later in the story, when Jo is trying to make her way as a writer. The film moves around chronologically, gradually building both the stories of the sisters' childhood and their young adult lives, ultimately converging on the main tragic event in the novel (I assume most know this, but just in case: Beth dies) and then showing how the family moves on from that point.

Gerwig also introduces a sort of "meta" element of a story within a story, as it becomes clear Jo is writing the book that becomes Little Women. And the entire cast is terrific too!

Dec 27, 2019, 6:59pm

>236 lauralkeet: This sounds like a tough read Laura but I'd still like to give it a try. So it's on my Overdrive list now.

Dec 27, 2019, 7:23pm

You have a lovely family, Laura. It sounds like you are having a great holiday. I hope to see Little Women next week. I read the NPR review, and they mentioned the skipping in time.

Know My Name sounds intense. I want to read that. It sounds like it might be a good choice for the women's memoir class I sometimes teach.

Dec 27, 2019, 8:56pm

I also saw Little Women this week and really loved it. I liked how starting at the end set up the romances a little better. And Amy was much more developed as a character than any other movie I've seen. This adaptation was also more complete in terms of staying true to the book, even lifting some dialogue line for line. The feminist angle was definitely added, but I liked it, and I think it was true to Alcott's personal experience from what I've read, even if it wasn't true to the book.My main complaints were with the Professor - I didn't think he was very developed, and I didn't quite buy Amy as a child. Having the same actress play her as a child and an adult didn't quite work for me, though I did love the actress. She just didn't seem young enough in the early scenes.

I just found out there was a PBS/BBC series made recently that I'd like to check out. Have you seen that one?

Dec 27, 2019, 10:05pm

Hi there Bonnie, Beth and Jennifer!

>241 brenzi:, >242 BLBera: Know My Name is an amazing memoir, worth reading if you think you can handle the subject matter. Beth, I think it could make for very interesting classroom discussion, although it's scary/sad to think there could be someone in the class who has lived through similar trauma and would be unable to take part.

>243 japaul22: great analysis of Little Women, Jennifer. I read the book once in my teens and again as a young-ish adult (translation: years ago), and I remember enough to know the movie was reasonably true to the book but not enough to identify the lifted dialogue. That's pretty interesting. I really liked Florence Pugh, who played Amy. I think she's a relative newcomer so I hope we see more of her.

Dec 28, 2019, 1:07pm

83. Tonight You’re Dead ()
Source: On my Kindle

I am really enjoying this series! The plots and character development just keep getting better. This time, Thomas Andreasson finds a link between two seemingly unrelated deaths and before you know it, he’s dealing with a potential serial killer and racing to find them before more lives are lost. There are also flashbacks to the 1970s in the form of diary entries, which allows the reader to know just a little more than Thomas does. Alongside the mystery are some interesting developments in both Thomas’ life and that of his friend, Nora Linde, who also contributes her characteristically minor but essential tidbit to the investigation. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Dec 28, 2019, 1:20pm

Good review of Know My Name, Laura. I've been reading about it and her; what a horrible thing happened to her. Her courage and strength are impressive.

Thanks for the comments on the Little Women movie. We hope to see it this weekend. Great cast.

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 11:22pm

I haven't been able to decide about seeing the film Little Women but now I'm thinking we'll add it to our new year's plans.

>236 lauralkeet: Excellent review and that is definitely going on my wish list.

Like you, I have joined the 2020 75ers, of course!!!, but I won't start my new thread until Wednesday.

Dec 30, 2019, 9:58am

>246 jnwelch: Hi Joe, I just saw your comments about Little Women over on your thread! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Although so far it's been ignored by the major awards, apparently it did quite well at the Box Office. Here's hoping Oscar gives it a nod.

>247 EBT1002: Yes Ellen, do go see it! And I can't recommend Know My Name highly enough. I know you deal with campus sexual assault issues so it will "land" on you in some different ways.

Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 12:21pm

84. The Magnificent Spinster ()
Source: On my shelves

At seventy, Cam decides to document the life of her dear friend Jane Reid (the eponymous spinster), who has recently passed away. She decides to write it as a novel rather than a biography, since there are gaps in her knowledge of Jane’s life. So The Magnificent Spinster is a novel-within-a-novel, revealing as much about Cam as Jane. The two met when Jane was a young teacher and Cam, one of her students. Jane was an inspiring teacher and mentor, and also friendly with Cam’s mother who volunteered at the school. Later, their relationship evolved into a close friendship, with each woman supporting the other through life’s journey.

I’m not sure what to make of this book, which I picked up on a whim several years ago and left to languish on my shelves. The premise is interesting, but ultimately I wasn’t as fascinated by Jane as Cam was. May Sarton used major political and world events to anchor her story (both world wars, the Spanish Civil War, McCarthyism, the Kennedy presidency, and so on), but I grew weary of the characters’ diatribes on the state of the world.

In the end, this was a “just okay” sort of read. And now it’s no longer languishing on my shelves, so there’s that, I guess.

Dec 30, 2019, 10:02am

It looks like that will be my last completed book of the year. It might appear as if I'm going out with a whimper rather than a bang, but wait! I'll post my year-end review tomorrow, and it's been a pretty good year. So don't y'all go running to the 2020 group just yet, okay?

Dec 30, 2019, 12:17pm

I'm still here, Laura. I think I might finish a couple more things yet.

Dec 31, 2019, 7:07am

>249 lauralkeet: A few thoughts about how you ultimately perceived The Magnificent Spinster ...

I wonder if the story would have "felt" different had you read it at the time you acquired the book?
This is something of a rhetorical question, of course. However, it is also a situation I've been encountering and I'd love to bounce my analysis around with folks who come up with very similar descriptions after reading a languished book.

I wearied of characters in a recent book (When Will There Be Good News?) to the point I didn't even add it to my library catalogue. Admittedly, it sat on my TBR shelf for a very long time *and* I hadn't read the preceding novels in the series. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps there's a "best by" date about certain books. That the time to read a particular author, title, or series passes and (for me) ~ I've moved on to other interests/preferences, ruminations or something.

It kind of bothers me that I go off a book and maybe I'm just reading it at a transient difficult time for whatever reason. I hate abandoning a potentially good read. Does this make sense? Or do I just need more coffee this morning?

Dec 31, 2019, 9:17am

I think that's a very valid point, Sandy. This has definitely happened to me with contemporary fiction, where I acquire something based on hype. If I don't read it right away and the buzz dies down, I end up with a different impression of the book. Now I try to acquire contemporary fiction when I'm ready to read it, and I find some books fade into obscurity, never acquired or read.

The Magnificent Spinster is not contemporary fiction, but I remember acquiring it because of a podcast or blogger or some such singing the praises of May Sarton. I didn't ask myself "what is the best May Sarton novel for me to read?" Instead I grabbed the first one that presented itself to me.

So yeah: I agree with you. But have another cup of coffee on me, just in case. ☕️

Dec 31, 2019, 9:20am

2019 Year in Review

Looking back on 2019, I’d say it’s been a pretty great year of reading. Not only did I achieve 75 books for the first time since 2011, I actually achieved a personal best of 84 books read this year. That’s an average of 7 books per month, but July and December were the high points, with 10 and 9 books respectively. March and April clocked in at 5 each. And I have no idea why these highs and lows happened!

I also feel pretty good about the quality of my reads, which is way more important than the numbers. On average, my books were about 340 pages long. 76% were books written by women (just a bit higher than normal). 33% of my reads were library loans, up from only 13% in 2018 when I was still figuring out how to work within the Philadelphia library system (faithful visitors will be familiar with my litany of complaints about slow hold fulfillment).

I can’t resist a good graph

My ratings skew towards the high end, averaging 3.7 every year since 2011. Only two of my 2019 books earned a 5-star rating, which I save for those truly “unforgettable” books. More often than not, these 5-star reads are also books that made me cry! As you can see, my book ratings cluster around 4 or 4.5 stars. Like many 75ers, I think this comes from being part of this community, where we value really good literature. The recommendations and discussion here have led me to great books I never would have found on my own, and made it easier for me to abandon books that just don’t cut it.

My Top 5 of 2019 includes the two 5-star titles, and three 4.5-star books that came closest to achieving 5-star status:

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
Becoming, by Michelle Obama

Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

And that’s a wrap! I'll be hanging around here today in the event anyone wants to chat about year-end stuff. See you next year on my 2020 thread!

Dec 31, 2019, 9:30am

Nice wrap-up, Laura! I agree that how you end up feeling about the quality of your reading at the end of the year is way more important than the number. I was better this year at letting myself not finish books if they weren't doing anything for me. But I still had a lot of pretty average books. Must do better!

Dec 31, 2019, 10:55am

>254 lauralkeet: I am so into graphing data! Love your wrap up.

>255 katiekrug: the quality of your reading at the end of the year is way more important than the number
Absolutely! i was only managing to let go of the unsatisfying reading towards the last third of this year. I think discussions on talk helped with that.

Dec 31, 2019, 11:57am

Love your end of year round up! I also find that my quality of books seems to go up all the time. Both because of LT reviews and because I know my reading preferences better. Looking forward to your 2020 reading!

Dec 31, 2019, 12:28pm

>255 katiekrug: Thanks Katie, I'm glad you liked my little wrap up

>256 SandyAMcPherson: And I'm happy to have found another graph fan -- Hi Sandy!

>257 japaul22: Hi Jennifer, I just starred your 2020 Club Read thread so I can do a better job of following your reading in the new year!


On the subject of reading quality, I totally agree it's more important than the numbers (I came to terms with that over the past few years, when I was nowhere close to 75). I could do a better job abandoning books. Right now I tend to abandon a book if it's going to be less than 3 stars. But I wonder, if I took a really close look at my 3-star reads, are there ones I should have just put back on the shelf?

Jennifer, also makes a really good comment about better knowing one's reading preferences. LT conversations have really helped me with that, and I'm now much better at absorbing media buzz critically before choosing books. Funny thing though, there are still toooo many books out there waiting to be read!

Dec 31, 2019, 12:37pm

Love the stats and your analysis of your reading habits. I totally agree that, with the help of the LT community, I find better reads now and so my ratings skew more towards the 5 than the 1. And, like you, I am much more likely to abandon books that don't work for me. Off to star your new thread!

Dec 31, 2019, 12:50pm

Stats Queen👸

Dec 31, 2019, 2:10pm

>254 lauralkeet: Nice wrap up, Laura. The Great Believers will be on my "best of" list as well. Becoming made it last year. :)

My ratings also tend to be at least three stars. I think one of the reasons is that by now, I can figure out what will appeal.

Dec 31, 2019, 2:23pm

>254 lauralkeet: Great list, Laura. The only one I have not read, is Know My Name. I am waiting for the audio to come in from the library. I have been on the list, for weeks. I am going to have to pick 5 fiction and 5 NF, for my Best Of. Out, of 160-plus books read- that is still going to be a chore. The Great Believers should make the cut.

Dec 31, 2019, 3:02pm

>259 Berly: Hiya Kim, I look forward to seeing you over in the 2020 group!

>260 brenzi: *takes a deep bow*

>261 BLBera: Thanks Beth, we clearly have similar taste in books.

>262 msf59: Mark, is Know My Name narrated by the author? I would be impressed if she did, because I think it would be very difficult to do without losing it. The book is sooo intense but well worth reading. I look forward seeing your "best of" list.

Dec 31, 2019, 7:48pm

Good taste, right? :) Happy New Year.

Dec 31, 2019, 9:21pm

>264 BLBera: the best, Beth! Happy New Year to you too.