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Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 in 2020 - Part 1

75 Books Challenge for 2020

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Edited: Jan 14, 11:50am Top

Cecilia Beaux, 1855-1942 (self portrait) | Portrait of Ethel Page, 1890

In 2019 my thread-toppers were iconic Philadelphia buildings. In 2020 I’d like to highlight Philadelphia artists and their work, beginning with a new-to-me artist, Cecilia Beaux:
The elegant portraits of Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) found unanimous critical acclaim in Philadelphia, Paris, and New York. Her modern style of painting combined the best of academic training, European sophistication, and experimentation. Beaux successfully negotiated the gender separatism of the late nineteenth century while she gained international renown, allowing her to become the first full-time woman instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Source: Art of Cecilia Beaux, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Happy New Year! I'm Laura, and 2020 is my 12th year with the 75 Books challenge. I'm in my late 50s, retired, and living in Philadelphia with my husband Chris, our two dogs, and a cat. We have two adult daughters, Julia and Kate. In 2019 I made the 75-book goal for the first time in years, but I’m here more for the people and book recommendations than for the numbers.

I don’t have any specific reading goals for 2020. I’m in two RL book groups, which obviously has a bearing on what I read each month but other than that, I read what I feel like reading. One of the best things about my 2019 reading was jumping on books recommended by my LT pals, reading them right away rather than putting them off for “someday.” So there will be more of that this year, I’m sure. At the same time, I try to read enough books from my shelves to offset the new ones that come in, but that’s pretty much a lost cause. I also like making steady progress on my series, and staying current with new series releases. I might dip into the odd challenge or group read now and then.

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 5 (books 69-84)

Books completed (click on “details" to jump to my comments)
1. Falling Slowly - details
2. The Game of Kings - details
3. Homegoing - details
4. Tin Man - details

Edited: Jan 4, 10:11am Top

Series Progress

Active series as of January 1:

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

Series completed/current in 2020:
* tbd

Series started in 2020:
* The Lymond Chronicles

Series abandoned in 2020:
* tbd

Edited: Jan 14, 11:50am Top

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 6:48pm Top

Long-Term Project: reading Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, serially
I've signed up for a group read facilitated by the program director at The Rosenbach (but not a Rosenbach-sponsored event). We'll be reading Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, serially, over 19 months as it was originally published. We started in December 2019 and will finish in June 2021 😮!! Each month participants will receive a PDF of that month’s installment. The goal is to only experience the same part of the story each month that was read by Dickens’ first readers, and see what it’s like to experience one of Dickens’ novels in small increments over a year a half. (P.S. if this sounds like fun to you, PM me and I can get you connected to the group read on Facebook).

Course: Blueprints for Healing: Toni Morrison and the Balm of Black Women Writing
I'm taking this course at The Rosenbach. We'll meet monthly for 4 months beginning in late February. The class will be taught by a Philadelphia Poet Laureate Emerita and another local poet/writer. The description reads:
As a novelist, essayist, and author of children’s books, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison (1931-2019) unapologetically wrote the Black experience into a tradition of American letters that often rendered it invisible or caricatured. As a book editor and professor, she nurtured the careers and stories of other Black writers. Her eleven novels reconstruct and reimagine cultural memory in the face of slavery, violence, poverty, and migration. With lyrical beauty and cinematic vision, Morrison’s work unearths and alchemizes the epic stories buried beneath personal and generational trauma. This course will explore counternarratives of trauma and healing in Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved as well as three novels by Black women writers influenced by Morrison’s life and work: The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara, Corregidora by Gayl Jones, and Meridian by Alice Walker. These groundbreaking novels uniquely underscore the political and spiritual struggles of Black women in search of freedom throughout different time periods in U.S. history. Alongside spirited and weighty discussion of the books and related film and video excerpts, students will delve into their own narratives through poetry and letter writing.

I'll post updates on this thread as things get underway.

Dec 29, 2019, 8:17pm Top

Looking forward to meeting new artists, and getting updates on your long project and course Laura.

Dec 29, 2019, 8:26pm Top


Both the Little Dorrit project and the Rosenbach course sound interesting, Laura. Look forward to your thoughts on both!

Dec 29, 2019, 9:46pm Top

Welcome back!

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 10:07pm Top

Hi Laura, I'm dropping my star but I won't really be visiting until I'm done managing the end of 2019. :-)

Dec 29, 2019, 10:17pm Top

Hi, Laura! - Happy New Group and Thread. :)

Dec 29, 2019, 11:15pm Top

Hi Laura! Looking forward to keeping up a bit better in 2020.

Your Little Dorrit read sounds fun but I am not disciplined enough for that! I'd either binge read too much or not be able to keep up, and after 2019 it'd be much more of the latter...

Dec 30, 2019, 1:51am Top

Little Dorrit is in my Top 3 Dickens. My RL Book Club used to read a longer book over our 3 month summer hiatus, and one year I chose Little Dorrit for us to read. (I’d read it before). More than half loved it, a few didn’t like it, and the rest didn’t read it. I felt good making a few Dickens converts though.

Dec 30, 2019, 4:36am Top

Hi Laura, I'm here to read your stories!

Dec 31, 2019, 5:31am Top

Best wishes for 2020!

Dec 31, 2019, 9:14am Top

Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2019, 12:40pm Top

Dec 31, 2019, 12:52pm Top

Wishing you 12 months of success
52 weeks of laughter
366 days of fun (leap year!)
8,784 hours of joy
527,040 minutes of good luck
and 31,622,400 seconds of happiness!!

Dec 31, 2019, 3:49pm Top

I’ve got you starred, Laura. I’m looking forward to another good year.

Dec 31, 2019, 4:03pm Top

Happy New Year Laura!

Dec 31, 2019, 4:14pm Top

Happy New Year Laura. I'll love seeing how you do with Little Dorritt. Intriguing.

Dec 31, 2019, 6:04pm Top

Happy reading in 2020, Laura!

Dec 31, 2019, 7:44pm Top

Happy New Year Laura. May it be full of bookish treats.

Edited: Jan 1, 8:24am Top

And Happy New Thread, Laura! Looking forward to spending another bookish year with you!

Jan 1, 2:07am Top

Dropping a star, so I can fiollow you!

My 2020 75-book challenge thread is here

Hope this year has great reading times for you.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:27am Top

Happy new year Caroline, Katie, Jim, Ellen, Liz, Cushla, arubabookwoman, Diana, Paul, Kim, Colleen, Rhian, Bonnie, Anita, Mark, and Sandy!

Whew! I hope I didn't miss anyone up there. This is such a crazy time of year I decided to wait until Jan 1 to acknowledge everyone. Thanks for stopping by, dropping a star, etc. Here's to great reading in the year ahead!

Jan 1, 9:27am Top

Currently Reading

Falling Slowly | The Game of Kings

I started reading the Brookner on Dec 30 and dove into the first of the Lymond Chronicles yesterday. Brookner is, as always, nice quiet fiction. The Game of Kings looks like it will be a rollicking saga; right now I'm just trying to keep all the characters straight as Dunnett builds her world.

Jan 1, 10:30am Top

Happy New Year, Laura. Your course on Black Women writers sounds wonderful. Please do tell us about it.
I look forward to following your reading in 2020.

Jan 1, 11:39am Top

Hi Laura! I just noticed several Viveca Sten mysteries on sale for Kindle. Fust thought I'd let you know...

Edited: Jan 1, 12:41pm Top

>26 BLBera: I'll definitely share more about the course here, Beth. The first session isn't until Feb 22. I'll read the first book, Beloved, in early February.

>27 katiekrug: Thanks Katie! As it turns out, I'm up to date on the Viveca Sten books, at least all the ones that have been published. There's one available for preorder.

It's a great sale -- everyone should run madly to Amazon and stock up!

Jan 1, 12:41pm Top

>25 lauralkeet: What a good start to your reading year, Laura. Is this your first Dorothy Dunnett? I first read Game of Kings as a teenager and have been re-reading the Lymond series and then House of Niccolo ever since.

Jan 1, 12:44pm Top

>29 CDVicarage: yes it's my first, Kerry. Not too long ago, LizzieD was singing the praises of the Lymond Chronicles, and a few of us decided to read them in early 2020. The books do seem to have a very strong following!

Jan 1, 12:47pm Top

>30 lauralkeet: I might join in, but my next book isThe Disorderly Knights so I'll wait till you catch up!

Jan 1, 12:54pm Top

Happy reading in 2020!

Jan 1, 1:25pm Top

>27 katiekrug:, >28 lauralkeet: when we ordered the Viveca Sten books earlier,
Laura, I’m not sure the 7th book was available. If it was, I missed it, but just downloaded it now.

Jan 1, 1:31pm Top

>28 lauralkeet: - Just went and got the first three. Just what I need - another series.

Edited: Jan 1, 1:32pm Top

>31 CDVicarage: Excellent, Kerry!

>32 banjo123: Hi Rhonda, thanks for stopping by!

>33 NanaCC: You're right, Colleen. My first one was a freebie, and then I think I downloaded just a few more. Once I decided I was "all in," I went back to Amazon to stock up again and by then, there was a 7th book. And an 8th coming later this year -- woo hoo!

>34 dudes22: ha ha ha Betty, I love it. We are a bunch of enablers around here. So I have to ask, have you read the Ruth Galloway series? The first book is The Crossing Places. You're welcome. 😀

Jan 1, 1:38pm Top

>35 lauralkeet: - No - not that one yet. I need to take less book bullets, not more. I'll have to check them out. I'm trying to cut down on series, not get more.

Jan 1, 1:57pm Top

>35 lauralkeet: for $1.99 each, who can resist. ;-)

Jan 1, 2:34pm Top

You guys are brutal. I now have all seven Viveca Sten books on my Kindle. One was 1.99 all the rest were .99. But worse than that is that I have another series to read. Gah!!!

Jan 1, 2:42pm Top

>36 dudes22: Well, just add Ruth to your "next series to start when I'm ready for a new series" list. You DO have that list, right?!

>37 NanaCC: No kidding! I didn't pay much for mine -- no more than $4.99 each -- but $1.99 is a real deal.

>38 brenzi: $0.99? Wow, that's better than I thought. Think how much money you saved, Bonnie!

Jan 1, 2:43pm Top

What are you talking about? If I hadn't read this thread I'd have spent $0.00

Jan 1, 2:50pm Top

>40 brenzi: I have a feeling you would have jumped on the Viveca Sten bandwagon one of these days, Bonnie! But don't let a shiny new series distract you from The Lymond Chronicles!

Jan 1, 3:48pm Top

Happy New Year, Laura!

I'll look forward to learning more about (new to me) artist Cecilia Beaux this year.

Jan 1, 4:21pm Top

Happy New Year, Laura! I'll echo others to say that the course on Black Women Writers looks really interesting. You get to engage in some wonderful activities there in Philly. And it's so cool that you share with the rest of us!

Okay, I don't even know about Viveca Sten but I just went and bought the first five in the series. I figured I was willing to spend $6 without any sense of whether I will like her but I stopped there. The enthusiasm around here is infectious!!

Jan 1, 4:26pm Top

>43 EBT1002: Yeah, sure is!

I just went online and put in a PL request for some Viveca Sten myself!

Jan 1, 6:20pm Top

>42 jnwelch: Hi Joe, HNY back at ya! I have a few other little-known (even to me) Philly artists queued up for my threads. It's kinda fun to research these kind of things.

>43 EBT1002: Ellen, we've now been living in Philly for 2 years and while there are drawbacks to being in a large urban setting, there's no doubt we have found more to do, more things that fit with our somewhat obscure and snobbish interests, than we had access to before.


And as for the Viveca Sten love, I'm glad to see so many of you jumping on the bandwagon. Be sure to blame thank Katie (>27 katiekrug:) for mentioning the deal here!

Jan 1, 11:12pm Top

Ha!! I am another Viveca Sten buyer!! I had book#1, but added to the collection. I sincerely hope there is going to be a group read at this point...

Katie? Laura?

Jan 2, 6:48am Top

>46 Berly: Hey Kim, I'd love to see a bunch of new Viveca Sten fans reading the series en masse. I've already read the first 4 in the series but would be happy to join in for later books!

Jan 2, 12:42pm Top

Well, I see my work here is done.

*dusts off hands*


Jan 2, 5:34pm Top

Hope 2020 is kind to you!

Jan 2, 5:55pm Top

>48 katiekrug: I hope you get some kind of kickback, Katie! :-D

Jan 2, 6:24pm Top

>49 ChelleBearss: Thanks Chelle!

>50 EBT1002: Hmm, if she does I hope she'll share it with us!

Jan 3, 11:09am Top

Hi Laura...
An html settings help question:
On my profile, I am not seeing 2020 added to "my groups". The 2019 one is there, but I have no memory that *I* added it. Was it automatic?

Haven't found a wiki on this but probably because I'm using an ineffective search string.

Edited: Jan 3, 12:48pm Top

>52 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy, did you actually jon the group? Because I think in this group, you can create threads and post and all that without actually being a member. That's not true of all groups, but pretty sure this one works that way.

Jan 3, 6:18pm Top

Laura, Happy New Year! Viveca Sten, huh? Haven't heard of her, but I'll take a look. Have fun reading and knitting this year.

Jan 3, 6:41pm Top

Hi Judy, and happy New Year back at ya. Thanks for stopping by!

Jan 3, 6:44pm Top

Hi, Laura. Nearly a 100 pages into Girl, Woman, Other and I am all ready solidly hooked. I am also nearly done with Red at the Bone, which is equally as wonderful. Might as well, go big, in the New Year, right?

Jan 3, 11:19pm Top

P found the Viveca Sten novels on her kindle (we share kindle content) and she got immediately hooked.
It's a bit weird when I download something and within 24 hours she is the one with the time to read it! :-)

Jan 4, 8:33am Top

>56 msf59: Those are a couple of fabulous reads, Mark. Your year is off to a great start.

>57 EBT1002: Welcome to the the Sandhamn fan club, P! If it weren't for the murders (!!), I'd like to visit Sandhamn one day. Has P discovered Ruth Galloway yet?

Jan 4, 10:10am Top

1. Falling Slowly ()
Source: On my shelves

Beatrice and Miriam are middle-aged sisters whose lives haven’t turned out quite as they had hoped. Beatrice, the eldest, never married and pursued a career as a pianist. She achieved moderate success but was ultimately forced into an early retirement. Miriam married to escape her family, and the marriage ended after 5 years. She seems content with the single life and her work translating literature, until she is suddenly swept up into an affair with a married man. On the surface she accepts the limitations of the arrangement, but fails to see the consequences and missed opportunities. As time goes on both women begin to feel the effects of aging (which is sad in and of itself since they are only in their 50s), and they are incredibly isolated and lonely. The overall effect is stifling.

Anita Brookner conveys an astonishing amount of emotion through brilliant and understated writing. This book fell just short of others I’ve read, due mostly to the very abrupt way she tied up the storylines at the end.

Jan 4, 10:25am Top

I have all the Sandhamm books ready to read, having read all the available Ruth Galloway ones last year.

Jan 4, 11:11am Top

>47 lauralkeet: >48 katiekrug: ChelleBearss and I are going to read Viveca Sten's first book sometime later in January or beginning of February.

Anybody else who got sucked in by Katie and Laura's enthusiastic gushing about the series and Kindle pricing, feel free to join us!

Jan 4, 11:15am Top

>61 Berly: - Fun! I am terrible at follow-through on things like this, but if I will make a note, and if I feel like a mystery when y'all start, I'll join in.

Edited: Jan 4, 11:15am Top

>60 CDVicarage:, >61 Berly:, >62 katiekrug: Yay for all the Sandhamn reading!

Jan 4, 1:42pm Top

Hi Laura. Your class on Toni Morrison et al. sounds fascinating. I took several literature classes at Missouri State years ago and loved the experience. I’m also intrigued by the temptation of a “rollicking saga”. My library has zilch by Dunnett but I can order them from another library. Will this be an official Group Read or just a group reading the same book? I must say that your leadership on The Portrait Of A Lady years ago was excellent. I got so much more out of the group experience than I would have reading it on my own. Hint hint...

Happy reading in 2020.

Jan 4, 1:57pm Top

>64 Donna828: Hi Donna! *waves*

At this point, Bonnie (brenzi) and I are reading the first Dunnett, The Game of Kings and PM-ing each other as we go. I'm not sure how "official" this will be. We discussed the idea of creating a thread, and agreed we wanted to see how we each got on with the first book, and whether any others started reading it. Your comments on that other group read are very kind, I'd forgotten all about that (although I remember the book pretty well!)

Jan 4, 2:45pm Top

>65 lauralkeet: I'm interested to hear what you think of The Game of Kings. I read it a year or two ago and ended up not liking it enough to continue the series. I'm not sure why - I think it's just hard for any historical fiction to measure up to Sharon Kay Penman's work for me. I hope you enjoy it!

Edited: Jan 4, 4:15pm Top

>66 japaul22: Jennifer, it took me longer than expected to get into The Game of Kings. It helped to clear my head of the Anita Brookner I was reading at the same time. Now I can really concentrate on Lymond et al. I'm enjoying the story itself as well as the intellectual challenge of unfamiliar language and history.

And since I'm reading this at the urging of one Peggy (LizzieD), and have the first three books on my Kindle already, I also ordered a book she recommended over on her thread today: The Dorothy Dunnett Companion, an "essential A-Z companion to Dorothy Dunnett's brilliant Lymond Chronicles and the first five novels in the House of Niccolo series." This book will be worth having by my side to help make sense of all the historic, literary, and other references in these books.

ETA: I haven't read any of Sharon Kay Penman's work yet. Should I? where would I start?

Jan 4, 4:24pm Top

>66 japaul22: Hmmmm this makes me think I should read Sharon K. Penman at some point.

Oh good, I'll need you to direct me to that Portrait of a Lady thread later this year when I read it Laura.

Jan 4, 4:29pm Top

>68 brenzi: Bonnie, the "Conversations" link on the book page is your friend! I know it might be hard to believe, but there aren't all that many conversations about Portrait of a Lady (LOL) so you will very quickly see a series of threads from the 75 Books in 2011 group. Apparently we decided to break the book down into blocks of chapters; here's the first thread, for Chapters 1-11.

Okay, so this was indeed a long time ago but I have absolutely no recollection of facilitating this group read!

Jan 4, 4:35pm Top

>69 lauralkeet: Favorited🤗

Jan 5, 12:20am Top

>58 lauralkeet: Oh yes, I introduced P to Ruth Galloway and she is fan. She has so much more time for reading than I do, I try not to foist things upon her that I really want to be able to read. She is an avid reader but with a narrower band of interest than I have. I'm pleased when she discovers a new series that interests her as I do worry about the boredom of being retired in this incredibly boring little town while I have work to both stress me out and keep me engaged.

We talked today about the extreme boringness of this town. It takes the cake, really it does. But we did go to the cinema this afternoon and very much enjoyed Little Women. Dinner out and now we're watching episodes of The Dr. Blake Mysteries. We need to plan a trip to the city.

>61 Berly: I also succumbed to The Big Sale and I will join in if it's late January or (even better) early February.

Jan 5, 8:16am Top

>67 lauralkeet: >68 brenzi: I LOVE Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction. I've read all of her historical fiction books. They are LONG and detailed but I fly through them because her writing is clear and moves along. She stays very true to what is known of history at the time and makes the characters come to life. The Sunne in Splendour is a stand-alone about Richard III. That's where I started. I also loved her Welsh trilogy that starts with Here Be Dragons.

I've tried lots of other historical fiction, but for me she is the best at making those far-away time periods come to life with accuracy and inventiveness at the same time.

Jan 5, 8:46am Top

>71 EBT1002: Ellen, I can sympathize with your current living situation. Before moving to Philly, we lived in a semi-rural area where there was really nothing going on. Restaurants, shopping, movies all required a long drive. We loved our house, the acreage it was on, and the birds and wildlife that visited regularly. But once our kids were grown the extreme boringness was more than we could handle. Of course, every place you live has its pluses and minuses. Living in the city now, we really miss nature and have to intentionally seek it out, even planning short getaways to escape the city and get out into that extremely boring countryside.

>72 japaul22: Thanks for the recommendations, Jennifer!

Jan 5, 9:12am Top

>71 EBT1002:, >73 lauralkeet: I am so not a city gal. I loved when we had a semi-rural place to live but continuous employment was too big a problem, so we're in a larger centre now.

One thing that really helped in Pullman (WA) was that the University had a fascinating number of classes I could attend for free (I was an associate temporary faculty researcher). I met a lot of like-minded people and developed a social group through the textile arts community and a lovely socialization with the Latah library in Moscow (ID).

Just saying... not everyone's 'cup of tea' of course. I certainly missed good restaurants although we had many satisfying meals at a place that has since closed (I couldn't remember the name and nothing was familiar when I looked online).

Jan 5, 9:25am Top

>74 SandyAMcPherson: Good points, Sandy. Before we moved we considered moving to a small college town for all the reasons you state. It may not be ideal for Ellen, who actually works at the university, but I'll let her comment on that.

Jan 5, 1:26pm Top

I can sympathize as well, Ellen. Not much happens here, either.

Jan 5, 2:09pm Top

Happy 2020 reading!

Jan 5, 3:11pm Top

>67 lauralkeet: >68 brenzi: >72 japaul22: Definitely read The Sunne in Splendour. I didn’t think I liked historical fiction, but I was totally blown away by this book. I have a few of her other books on the TBR shelf, but haven’t gotten to them yet.

Jan 5, 5:26pm Top

>78 arubabookwoman: I've added The Sunne in Splendor to a "read someday" list I keep on my library's website. It's full of LT recommendations!

Jan 5, 6:26pm Top

>73 lauralkeet: "...every place you live has its pluses and minuses." True, that.

>74 SandyAMcPherson: Yes, Pullman has much to offer. Once my work takes off again in the next week or so, I will not face boredom at all as I will easily be working 50 hours a week and almost all of it stressful, but my retired partner might. She's doing a pretty good job of finding things to keep her busy, though. I think we just miss the ease with which we could, for example, hop on the bus and go to the Market, shop a bit, go out for Pho, and be home in a couple of hours.

In terms of restaurants, the transition from Seattle to Pullman is about as radical as it gets. We could never eat at every restaurant in Seattle even if we had the time and the money. Pullman has a couple of decent restaurants and Moscow adds to it but it takes more effort not to tire of the same-old-same-old. Our current favorite is a place called South Fork. Happily, P also really enjoys cooking so that helps with food enjoyment. And she has the time to experiment with new recipes! :-)

I think my personal boredom is exacerbated by being unable to run regularly. That has always been my go-to activity for stress management and an overall sense of well-being in the world. My achilles tendon/heel injury seems to be healing but the weather is not conducive to running year-round.

I am also adding The Sunne in Splendour to my SPL "read someday" list.

Jan 5, 9:53pm Top

>67 lauralkeet: >72 japaul22: >78 arubabookwoman: >79 lauralkeet: >80 EBT1002: This thread is easily becoming the most dangerous thread on LT. So in an odd turn of events, I can't find that book at either of the library systems I use. Not as a Kindle book or an actual print book or an audio book. Zilch. So I guess I won't be able to put that The Sunne in Splendour on my list after all.

Just kidding. I'll get the Kindle book from Amazon when the time is right. 900+ pages will be a pretty big commitment so I don't see it happening anytime in the next few weeks but at some point.

Jan 6, 6:42am Top

900+ pages eh? I hadn't noticed that. I mean, I'll still read it but I might think about getting the Kindle edition as well. And like you, Bonnie, I'll want to slot it in when I am up for that level of commitment. Our man Lymond is sufficient for now.

Jan 6, 6:53am Top

Morning, Laura. I hope you had a fine weekend. I am putting the book in the mail today.

Jan 6, 7:13am Top

>83 msf59: Thanks Mark!!

Jan 6, 8:14am Top

I downloaded The Sunne in Splendour to my kindle last night. I don’t have plans to read it right away, but with all the warbling I figured it had been sitting on my wishlist for far too long. If it’s on my kindle I might actually get to it.

Jan 6, 9:04am Top

>85 NanaCC: I'll watch for your thoughts whenever you get to it, Colleen.

Jan 6, 9:29am Top

Looking good in here, Laura. I'm trying to avoid BBs but not successfully. Just added The Starless Sea to my library WL (seen on Jim's thread).

Jan 6, 1:09pm Top

Once you start The Sunne in Splendour I can almost guarantee you won’t want to put it down. It reads very fast. Several RL friends I recommended it to, including one who is a very slow reader, had this reaction to it—once started, couldn’t put it down.

Jan 6, 2:44pm Top

>88 arubabookwoman: agreed! I know seeing a book that long is off-putting, but really, they read very fast!

Jan 6, 5:56pm Top

>87 SandyAMcPherson: this place is riddled with BBs, Sandy. There's no escape! For example ... >88 arubabookwoman:, >89 japaul22:: stop it, you two!!!

Jan 9, 12:17pm Top

2. The Game of Kings ()
Source: On my Kindle

It’s 1547, and as the first line states, Francis Crawford, Master of Lymond, “is back.” He’s been in prison for reasons not immediately revealed, and is now living the life of a swashbuckling outlaw, appearing unannounced and often in disguise to influence political events between Scotland and England. The English are keen to arrange a marriage between two child monarchs: Edward VI (son of the notorious King Henry VIII), and Mary Queen of Scots. The Scots aren’t having it, which has led to repeated armed conflict at the border. Lymond’s role and motives are unclear: whose side is he on, anyway? Can we, the readers, trust him? Would he be the hero of this story if we couldn’t? Well, maybe.

The Game of Kings is the first of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, and Dunnett expects a lot from her readers. First, there’s the history, which is clearly well-researched but not provided as background. And then, there are characters. So. many. characters. Lymond is clearly fictional, as is his family and many of his cronies, but plenty of historic figures play important roles in the story. And finally, through Lymond, a well-read polyglot, Dunnett infuses the story with literary references, songs, and sayings, often in French or Latin.

But don’t be put off by these complexities. Readers who are willing to invest effort into understanding these elements will be rewarded with a rollicking story, filled with so many twists and turns that I often had to re-read passages to figure out what just happened. But it was fun! Just trust me, and start reading this series.


I am grateful to Peggy (LizzieD) for enthusiastically recommending these books to me, citing them as one of her all-time favorite series. She introduced me to Dance to the Music of Time with a similar level of enthusiasm, and it became one of my favorites as well. I am also thankful for her recommendation of The Dorothy Dunnett Companion, an A-Z guide to the Lymond series. I didn't receive my copy until I was near the end of The Game of Kings, but it was hugely valuable in understanding more about the novel's historic figures and I look forward to having it by my side for the remaining books. Oh, and IT HAS MAPS. I love maps.

Edited: Jan 10, 2:45pm Top

>91 lauralkeet: it is donkey's years since I read a Dorothy Dunnett novel Laura. I remember enjoying it, not sure why I didn't carry on. Something to add to my list..

I had to go in search of the origin of 'donkey's years'


Jan 9, 4:56pm Top

>92 Caroline_McElwee: I am so glad you posted the origin information, Caro! Honest to God I've always wondered. Here's the short version for those who don't feel like clicking:
It describes the phrase as a "punning allusion to the length of a donkey’s ears and to the vulgar pronunciation of ears as years."

So now I have a follow-up question: what makes "years" a "vulgar" pronunciation?

There's also a theory that "yonks" (another phrase meaning a very long time) is derived from "donkey's years".


Bonnie and I will be reading the second Lymond book in February for anyone who wants to join in!

Jan 9, 6:17pm Top

>91 lauralkeet: Excellent review Laura. You hit on all the important points. I have to admit I hardly looked at the companion book. I was too engrossed in the book by the time I got it. I will start looking at it before we start the next book. I love having maps to refer to. I can't tell you how many times I looked back to see where they were traveling to during the course of the book.

Jan 9, 6:26pm Top

>93 lauralkeet:

Probably the Cockney habit of transposing vowels and consonants, which is most commonly rendered in writing via the misuse of 'h':

"'E 'ad some hawful 'abits", for example.

We actually tend to say "donkey's yonks" here, pseudo-rhyming slang?

Jan 9, 6:35pm Top

I love knowing the origin of "donkey's years"! Thanks.

Jan 9, 7:50pm Top

>94 brenzi: I know what you mean, Bonnie!

>95 lyzard: that makes sense Liz. Maybe it's the word "vulgar" that struck me. I tend to think of "vulgar" as something similar to profanity. I guess in this case they just means low-brow, or unrefined.

>96 RebaRelishesReading: pretty cool, huh Reba? I love language.

Edited: Jan 9, 9:13pm Top

I've got another wonderful woman painter from the same period for you to add on. Emily Sartain the first director of what is now the Moore School of Art and Design. Had quite the affair with Eakins, never married and was very successful in her career.

She painted this portrait of my great-aunt (born 1884):

My great aunt was a wonderful character. Did not marry. (had two proposals). Was the first woman to cross the US as a passenger in a very small airplane. Indefatigable person, mad gardener, good horsewoman, converted to Episcopal to be fashionable but continued to attend Quaker Meeting. I love it that she kept her spectacles on!

Jan 9, 9:18pm Top

>98 sibylline: What a great story, Lucy and she looked a handsome lady.

>91 lauralkeet: I remember reading and enjoying that one too. I can't remember why I haven't read the next one yet.

Edited: Jan 9, 9:28pm Top

Got so excited about the women painters that I forgot to say how excited I am that you are reading The Lymond Chronicles. They are so utterly suberb! I listened to them -- the reader of the second one was insanely good.
I have two books that help explain everything too. It's a bit like reading Pynchon or Joyce in that you have to look things up every second, study maps, and so on. The second one, anyway, is one of my favorites. No, wait, they are all my favourites.

Jan 9, 9:34pm Top

>1 lauralkeet: What an incredible idea -- to highlight Philadelphia artists! I can't wait to follow your threads. Did you go to the Barnes Museum when we attended the Philadelphia meet up?

Jan 10, 6:57am Top

>98 sibylline: Lucy, that is an amazing story! Thank you for sharing the portrait with us. It's great to know about other Philly artists too.

>99 PaulCranswick: Paul, if you feel any urge to read the second Lycomb book, you can join Bonnie and me in February.

>100 sibylline: Yeah, secondary sources can be really useful. When reading Dance to the Music of Time, the hubs and I bought Invitation to the Dance which was a useful companion reference.

>101 Whisper1: Hi Linda! Thanks for stopping by. I have fond memories of meeting you at that Philadelphia meetup. As I recall, we went as a group to the Phila Museum of Art that day. We are now members there and visit frequently. They have excellent guided tours. I didn't visit the Barnes that time, but visited ages ago (donkey's years!!) when it was out on the Main Line. I need to visit again, now that it's moved into the city. It's a unique collection isn't it?

Jan 10, 7:07am Top

Morning, Laura. Happy Friday. I am looking forward to your thoughts on American Dirt, once you get to it. Love seeing what my LT pals think of it. I truly loved Girl, Woman, Other. What an amazing achievement.

Jan 10, 7:18am Top

Mark, I just saw your comment on Joe's thread, giving 5 stars for Girl Woman Other -- hurray! I'm glad to see you enjoyed it so much. I have a few books to get through before American Dirt, but am really looking forward to it. Watch this space!

Jan 10, 8:40am Top

>98 sibylline: Lovely family story! She sounds like a remarkable woman.

Jan 10, 9:20am Top

>91 lauralkeet: Congrats to you (and Bonnie) for terrific reviews and also for finishing so quickly. I'm loving it on audio but only have time for about an hour a day so it will take me a few more weeks. I've requested a hard copy from the library so that I can consult the character list and am thinking about looking for the companion book as well. I hope I'll be ready to join you in February for #2.

Jan 10, 9:53am Top

>91 lauralkeet: Although I have the companion books I rarely refer to them because I get so caught up in the stories that I can't stop. I've just looked at my reading dates for the last time I read the whole series and I averaged 3 to 5 days each book. Each time I read them I say to myself 'This time I will take them slowly', after all I know what happens...

Jan 10, 10:21am Top

>98 sibylline: I wonder if this Emily was related to the Emily I knew (and have paintings as well)? I kind of doubt it... but interesting overlap of names and careers. A lovely work of art, that one of your great aunt.

Jan 10, 11:54am Top

>105 thornton37814:, >108 SandyAMcPherson: Isn't that artwork wonderful? Sandy, it would be amazing if there were a connection between the two women.

>106 vivians: Yay! I'm glad you're in for February, Vivian.

>107 CDVicarage: Hi Kerry, I know what you mean about getting caught up in the story. 3-5 days per book is really impressive! But they are hard to put down, that's for sure.

Jan 10, 11:59am Top

>98 sibylline: Love the painting and story of your great aunt. She must have been delightful!

Jan 10, 12:45pm Top

The American Emily Sartain was a Philadelphian and one of a large family, so perhaps there is a connection? Her father was a very successful engraver. Here is her wiki entry: Emily Sartain .

I did know my great aunt although by the time I was 8-9 she was bedridden and she died in the mid sixties.

Jan 10, 1:04pm Top

Happy new year Laura!

>4 lauralkeet: Your reading projects sound very interesting - I've often wondered what it would be like to read Dickens as originally published (and whether I would remember what had happened in the previous month's instalment)!

Edited: Jan 10, 9:47pm Top

Little Dorrit: January 2020

For Heather (>112 souloftherose:) and anyone else who's interested, today I finished the January installment of Little Dorrit: Chapters V-VIII (we read the first installment in December). Ed Pettit, the group read facilitator, emails two PDFs each month. One is the original serial with all of the advertisements, just as the original readers encountered this novel when it was first published. These are available from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute: https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/dickens-novels/

Just like any modern-day glossy magazine, the ads threaten to overwhelm the text so while it's fun to flip through this version, I prefer the serialized text PDF which includes the serial cover and the two illustrations.

Chapters V-VIII represent about 40-45 pages of content. The December installment was pretty much an introduction to the novel's major characters, although it opens with two prisoners in Marseilles who you just know will reappear, but when and how? In Chapter V-VIII readers get to know Arthur Clennam and Amy aka Little Dorrit, two central figures in the novel. Amy works for Arthur's mother (an interesting character in her own right, what a horrible person!), and Arthur becomes rather fascinated with Amy. In these chapters we learn Amy's back story and we see what happens when Arthur tries to get a bit closer by following her home from work one day.

P.S. If you'd like to join the group read, which takes place via email and on Facebook, just PM me and I'll get you connected.

Jan 12, 12:42am Top

>91 lauralkeet: What a great review and recommendation for a time when I am ready for that kind of commitment, Laura! Perhaps in about 32 months. :-) I will certainly get The Dorothy Dunnett Companion when the time comes. It sounds like it would be invaluable.

In the more immediate, I am intrigued by A Dance to the Music of Time. I will investigate. Peggy is, as you say, a reliable book bullet instigator.

I love the insight into the phrase "donkey's years" which I will now start using when the opportunity arises.
>97 lauralkeet: "I tend to think of "vulgar" as something similar to profanity. I guess in this case they just means low-brow, or unrefined." Yes, that is what I was thinking, as well.

Edited: Jan 12, 8:28am Top

>114 EBT1002: sounds like you're already building your retirement reading list, Ellen! A Dance to the Music of Time is another large work, made up of 12 novellas. But novellas are short, so don't be put off by it!!

Jan 13, 5:29pm Top

3. Homegoing ()
Source: Library loan
This was a re-read for an upcoming book club meeting. I first read this book in August 2016, and thought I'd just re-post my review, but I realized I didn’t formally review it. What follows is a bona fide review, taken from comments on my 2016 thread and insights from this re-reading.

We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story, too. (p226)
In Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi brings suppressed voices to life by following the lineage of two half-sisters born in eighteenth-century Ghana. The sisters never meet, and their lives take very different paths: one marries a British officer involved in the slave trade, and remains in Africa. The other is caught, imprisoned in the British officier’s dungeon, and sent to America to live in slavery.

Slavery’s legacy has profound effects on the eight generations that follow. Those remaining in Africa are still touched by the slave trade, and by war and the oppressive effects of Colonialism. The descendants of slaves experience generations of racism and oppression and struggle to survive in a culture where they are constantly at a disadvantage.

The novel’s structure, essentially a collection of linked short stories, works very well. Each chapter covers one person in the lineage, in chronological order from one generation to the next. Even though there are huge gaps in time between generations, there are also connections, making the narrative feel seamless. The result is a rich tapestry of voices heard all too infrequently in literature -- illuminating and highly recommended.

Jan 13, 5:31pm Top

>116 lauralkeet: Nice review. I really liked it too.

Jan 13, 8:05pm Top

>116 lauralkeet: An outstanding review in fact 👍
I especially believe that the quote (p.226) is very significant. It has the power to draw attention to injustice and thwarted history.

I would get so twisted out of shape reading that book, but it should be a book bullet for the strong.
I spent some time today hunting up something in one of Solnit's books. I always take hours to calm down ~ she's a helluva fine writer. Redundant at times, but also has important messages to publicize.

OK. I really came here just to lurk. Funny how that didn't happen.

Jan 13, 8:19pm Top

>102 lauralkeet: There still is a lot of controversy regarding the move of The Barnes to center city. It was in the will of the man who founded the Barnes that it stay just where it was! I like the collection, but there are way too many Renoirs for my liking.

It was such a great meet up in Philadelphia. It was great to meet you!

Jan 13, 8:19pm Top

>116 lauralkeet: Thumbed your excellent review Laura. In an odd turn I actually rated that a little lower than you...4.5 stars. But I certainly liked it. A lot.

Jan 13, 8:48pm Top

>118 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy, I'm glad you didn't lurk after all. That quote jumped out at me on this re-read, making me say "yeah, that's what this book is all about!" I missed it on my first reading. I rarely re-read books but those new insights are a good reason to do so.

>119 Whisper1: It was great wasn't it, Linda? I remember the controversy about the Barnes moving, we were living in Chester County at the time. I actually think the increased media coverage due to the controversy was what made us aware of the Barnes in the first place and caused us to visit! The collection is really idiosyncratic especially in the way it's displayed. I feel like some of that was lost on me. But it was worthwhile in any case.

>120 brenzi: Bonnie, I kept the rating I gave this book in 2016, although the book didn't hit me with a "whomp" this time like it did then. I attribute that to it being a re-read, that I knew some of what would happen, etc. etc. The re-read would be more of a 4.5 which is still pretty darn good.

Jan 13, 9:41pm Top

>116 lauralkeet: Homegoing is still sitting on my shelves--I really should rescue it some time soon! Great review. Thumbed.

Jan 14, 10:51am Top

Laura, I’m so glad Homegoing stood up well to a second read. I learned the hard way to just pick up and read it again when my book group chooses something I’ve already read. When I tried to wing it several years ago, I only remembered highlights, and our group really digs into a book.

I finally got my copy of The Game of Kings from another library system. I will be tagging along after you, Bonnie, and Vivian if I continue after reading the first one. I may have to break down and buy the remaining books.

Edited: Jan 14, 11:32am Top

>123 Donna828: Donna, I seem frequently find myself in the position of already having read the book my book group selects. For the most part I'm okay with that. If I've read the book within the past year I usually don't re-read and so far that's been okay. In the case of Homegoing, it had been 3.5 years and it's a book I recommended so I figured I'd better refresh my memory! It's not like I'm opposed to re-reading in principle, but, you know: too. many. books.

And I'm delighted to see you'll be starting The Lymond Chronicles soon!

Jan 14, 11:49am Top

4. Tin Man ()
Source: Library loan, recommended enthusiastically by Katie (katiekrug)

And Ellis remembered thinking he would never meet anyone like him again, and in that acknowledgment, he knew, was love. He could see his mother concentrating on Michael’s words, how enraptured she was. And when he stopped, she bent down and kissed him on the head and said, Thank you. Because everything she held on to and everything she believed in came together in that unexpected moment. The simple belief that men and boys were capable of beautiful things.
What a beautiful book this is. Ellis and Michael meet when they are twelve years old, both reeling from hardship at home. They become inseparable and eventually their relationship turns into something more, something that cannot be fully realized, and eventually their lives move on independently. But neither Ellis nor Michael ever truly let go of this first love. Sections narrated by each man piece together a profoundly moving story of love, friendship, the power of art, and the staggering impact of loss. Exquisitely written, tissues required.
And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.

Jan 14, 4:50pm Top

>125 lauralkeet: Aha.......I could say I told you so but I'm not that kind of knowing book snob Laura hahaha.

Jan 14, 5:57pm Top

>126 brenzi: No, in fact you were pretty understated over on your thread! You said the language was stunning but suggested the book might not "hit" me in the way it did you. But it hit me, that's for sure.

Jan 14, 6:50pm Top

>125 lauralkeet: That's a lovely review of Tin Man, Laura. Thumbed.

Jan 14, 8:57pm Top

>127 lauralkeet: I just didn't know if it was just one of those books that effects me differently than others. The reviews don't really show the enormous impact of the book that you obviously felt and appreciated Laura.

Jan 14, 9:17pm Top

>25 lauralkeet: As I enjoy "nice, quiet fiction" I really need to read some of Brookner's books this year.

>116 lauralkeet: >125 lauralkeet: I already have both of those in the BlackHole, so I get to dodge those BBs!

Jan 15, 5:46am Top

Morning, Laura!

I'm adding Tin Man to my list - it sounds wonderful.

Jan 15, 6:47am Top

Good morning Joe, Bonnie, Stasia and Amber! Once again, Katie is our reading muse. Her warbling about Tin Man had me running to request it from my library. I'm so glad that I did.

Jan 15, 8:34pm Top

I'm another fan of Homegoing. I got a copy of Tin Man from the library. The weather this weekend is supposed to be horrible, so maybe I can sit and cry over it. :)

Jan 16, 6:10am Top

>116 lauralkeet: I loved this novel Laura, and am delighted her next novel is due out this year.


Jan 16, 6:55am Top

>133 BLBera: I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend indoors, Beth. I am sure you'll love Tin Man.

>134 Caroline_McElwee: that's great news, Caro! Thanks for sharing the details; I look forward to reading Gyasi's latest.

Edited: Jan 16, 7:00am Top

>116 lauralkeet: Hooray for Homegoing, Laura! Great review too. Thumb! I remember it being my favorite novel, in 2016, just inching out The Underground Railroad. I can't wait to see what she delivers next. I also really enjoyed Tin Man, but want to revisit that one.

Jan 16, 7:01am Top

>136 msf59: Good morning Mark! FYI, I'm now reading American Dirt and hoo boy is it intense. It may have entered my dreams last night, which is not good but I can't seem to put the book down either. Thanks for sending it to me, my friend.

Jan 16, 10:36am Top

Delurking for the moment to "warm up".
Glad to see you are reading voraciously despite the busy threads!

Jan 17, 10:34am Top

>125 lauralkeet: Ooo, I have this one on the TBR, and I can't remember how it came to my attention. Sounds like I need to shuffle it up nearer the top!

Jan 17, 11:47am Top

>138 SandyAMcPherson: The threads are a bit nuts at the start of the year, aren't they, Sandy?! I've had curb my desire to be "caught up" ALL THE TIME and budget my LT time so I get some other stuff done. You know, like actually reading.

>139 lycomayflower: Oh yes, Laura, do! It's a short novel and so immersive it could be read in a weekend.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2020

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