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Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 in 2020 - Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 in 2020 - Part 1.

This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 in 2020 - Part 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2020

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Edited: Mar 31, 12:04pm Top

Dox Thrash, 1893-1965 (self portrait) | Defense Worker, 1941

In 2020 I’ll be highlighting Philadelphia artists and their work. This thread stars Dox Thrash, an especially relevant choice since February is Black History Month.
Dox Thrash (1893-1965) was an accomplished draftsman, printmaker, watercolorist, and painter, whose art reflected his experiences as an African American in Philadelphia. His dignified representations of African Americans in his portraits, genre scenes, nude studies, and landscapes deeply resonated with the black community in Philadelphia and earned him national acclaim.

In 1937, Thrash joined the Philadelphia Fine Print Workshop. His investigations of materials and techniques led him to invent the Carborundum printmaking process. With the help of colleagues Hugh Mesibov (b. 1916) and Michael Gallagher (1898-1965), he discovered that roughening the surface of a copper plate with Carborundum, a gritty industrial substance normally used to prepare lithographic stones, produced a wide range of rich tones and smoothly modeled forms. Thrash coined the prints he created “Opheliagraphs” in honor of his mother.
Source: Art of Dox Thrash, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Welcome to my second thread! I'm Laura, 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 2020 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-8) |

Books completed (click on "details" to jump to my comments)
9. The Woman in Blue - details
10. Queens' Play - details
11. Ladysitting - details
12. A Woman of No Importance - details
13. Meridian - details

14. Tracks - details
15. Such a Fun Age - details
16. Time Regained - details
17. The Mirror and the Light - details
18. Saint Mazie - details
19. The Disorderly Knights - details

Edited: Mar 26, 1:06pm 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:
* In Search of Lost Time - March
* Wolf Hall Trilogy - March

Series started in 2020:
* The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett
* Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich

Series abandoned in 2020:
* tbd

Edited: Mar 31, 12:07pm Top

Edited: Feb 3, 12:19pm 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.

Edited: Feb 3, 12:23pm Top

We had a great time on our Caribbean cruise. On this ship the rooms were larger than our previous cruises, with a queen bed and a roomy sitting area. Our room had a balcony; although it wasn’t large enough to sit outdoors we could open sliding doors for fresh air. In St Maarten we docked next to a Disney ship. Windstar’s Star Legend is 440 ft (134 meters) long, but looks like a toy boat by comparison:

For us, the flora and fauna are the main attraction of these islands. We aren’t interested in the jewelry/watches/duty-free booze shops that are commonly found in large ports like St Thomas and St Maarten. So we took advantage of some Windstar excursions: kayak/hike/snorkeling in St Thomas, and catamaran sailing with snorkeling in St Barts and Jost van Dyke. On the hike in St Thomas we came across a huge colony of hermit crabs, hundreds of them such that you had to watch your step. They were surprisingly fascinating to watch. The snorkeling was fun in all three locations. We saw schools of colorful fish, rays, and squid. Some people saw turtles but I didn’t (😢)

Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, population less than 5000. It has a strong Irish presence and history, albeit for a rather ugly reason: in the 17th century the British sent Irish to the island as slaves. In 1995 a volcanic eruption buried the capital city. The area has recovered and a new capital city established, but the volcano is still active and there’s an exclusion zone which is uninhabitable and not safe for travel. These shots were taken about an hour apart as the sun was setting. In the first one, you can get an idea of the volcano’s impact: the brown areas show where the volcano destroyed vegetation.

St Barts
St Barts (Saint Barthelemy) is a French overseas territory with a very wealthy population of around 10,000. Like most of the islands we visited, it was pummeled by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but unlike the other islands St Barts refused aid (in their case, from the French government). The people living there had sufficient resources to rebuild on their own, and the island had a ready-made labor force: the local population includes about 30% Portuguese who generally work in the construction trade. There’s a small town in the harbor that feels very European, with cafes and nice (but expensive) restaurants and bars. We didn’t actually visit any of them, since meals were provided on our ship. Here’s a view of the harbor taken in the afternoon, and a sunset photo. A Facebook friend pointed out the cloud formations kind of mirror the ship, how cool is that?

Jost van Dyke
Jost van Dyke is part of the British Virgin Island and is the smallest island we visited (population around 300). There’s not much here but a dive shop, a small grocery, and a few bar/restaurants. Our catamaran/snorkeling guide described the logistics of daily living, like taking a boat to another island to stock up on groceries in bulk. There’s a primary school on the island but a ferry takes older kids to/from school on a different island (I think St. John, but can’t remember for sure). The catamaran trip took us to an area with lots of coral and fish, and then to the picturesque Sandy Cay which looks just like your classic deserted island. Here’s the tiny harbor and Sandy Cay:

Finally, no cruise is complete without towel animals in your stateroom. Every day the housekeeping team left a different animal in the room. My faves were the dog and the frog:

Feb 3, 12:29pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura, and thanks for sharing the pics from your vacation!

When I did a cruise up the Nile, we also got towel animals, but it was always the same animal (a monkey). I guess the towel artist was still in training :)

Feb 3, 1:01pm Top

Oh, your cruise looks just lovely. Hope you're sun-soaked and refreshed!

Feb 3, 1:13pm Top

Happy new one!

>5 lauralkeet: Lovely photos

Feb 3, 3:01pm Top

Happy new one!! Your pictures are making me nostalgic--I went to St Thomas when I was about 16. Loved it!! I have never been on a cruise, but I think I'd like it...a lot!!

Feb 3, 3:40pm Top

Happy New Thread, Laura. Love the vacation photos and lovely descriptions of each island. We are not big cruise people, but this sailing version does sound nice and these locales look wonderful. Anyone point out any cool birds?

Feb 3, 4:49pm Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 3, 5:55pm Top

Hi there Katie, Anne, figs, Kim, Mark, and Jim! Glad to see folks are enjoying my rather long post.

Mark, we aren't "big cruise people" either (and there was some discussion about this on my previous thread so forgive me for repeating). This was our third cruise, but they've all been with Windstar. We love the small ships. There were only 204 passengers on the Star Legend, and we met two very nice couples that we tended to do things with.

Feb 3, 6:25pm Top

Wonderful pictures of your cruise Laura. Makes me want to rethink the whole cruise thing.

Feb 3, 6:30pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

>1 lauralkeet: I like the artwork. I have never heard of this particular artist, I must admit. My knowledge of art is severely lacking, sadly.

Feb 3, 8:43pm Top

>13 brenzi: thanks Bonnie

>14 alcottacre: Stasia, I hadn't heard of Dox Thrash either. My art knowledge isn't especially deep either, and had to go hunting for Philadelphia-based artists. It's kind of fun to learn about them.

Feb 3, 9:31pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura. I love the topper.

Your course sounds fabulous; please do report once it gets started.

Thanks for sharing your photos - the ship seems like it is a manageable size, and the islands all look lovely. I haven't been to any of them. My Caribbean experience is limited to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix.

Feb 3, 9:50pm Top

Happy new thread, Laura.

Love the topper and the idea that comes with it.

Very much enjoyed your cruise photos and reportage.

Feb 3, 10:10pm Top

Hi Laura--thanks for visiting my brand new thread. Your course sounds amazing and so does your cruise. Gotta love towel animals!

I am curious whether your ship was able to dock in Jost Van Dyke or whether you had to get there on a smaller boat. We did a sailing trip to the BVI many years ago and I remember the harbors being very small--it is hard to picture a big ship docking.

Feb 4, 5:58am Top

Happy new thread, Laura!

Your trip sounds so wonderful! I really hope I can get Tomm to go on a cruise at some point...

Edited: Feb 4, 8:11am Top

>16 BLBera: Hi Beth! The course starts Feb 22, and meets one Saturday a month for 4 months. And yes, I will definitely report back!

>17 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul, it's always nice to see you here!

>18 AnneDC: Anne, the larger ports (St Thomas and St Maarten) have docks for cruise ships but the smaller ports do not. Instead, the ship drops anchor in the harbor. Smaller boats (called tenders) take passengers to shore. They operate continuously while the ship is in port, so you can come and go from the ship anytime you like.

>19 scaifea: Hi Amber, it was definitely fun. As opposed to A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. DFW's essay is about being on one of the larger ships. There are some similarities which we laugh about, but for us the small ship is the way to go.

Edited: Feb 4, 8:27am Top

My book group met yesterday afternoon to discuss Homegoing, which I reviewed on my previous thread, here. I originally read the book shortly after it was published, and was the one who recommended it for discussion, so I was a mixture of hopeful and nervous about how the discussion would go. The woman who had volunteered to host the meeting had also read it and loved it, so I knew she would be in my corner LOL. But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The first woman to share her opinions talked about how reading Homegoing was transformative for her, in terms of learning about slavery, the African experience, and how that has shaped present-day African Americans. Everyone was impressed with Yaa Gyasi's writing and her ability to pull of the complex construction of this novel.

We discussed a New York Times review, which criticized the modern-day portrayals of African Americans as shallow, checking all the stereotypical boxes as compared to the African characters and culture, which is rich and deep. One book club member said she thought that was exactly Gyasi's point, to show how African Americans have been marginalized in this country. Wow, I hadn't thought of it that way, and it was very interesting.

And then ... well, of course someone brought up the recent American Dirt controversy, and wondered whether any of the issues raised about the author were relevant here, since Yaa Gyasi was, in fact, raised in the United States? In other words, can an American author write about African culture? We had a super interesting discussion that affirmed an author's right to write about whatever they want to write about, and acknowledged that said writing needs to be well-researched and accurate. I also pointed out one of the other dimensions of this controversy, which is marginalization of Latinx (and other) identities in the publishing industry. Most had not heard that part of the argument yet. It was a very lively conversation and also very open-minded and respectful.

This was one of our better book club meetings. Great stuff.

Feb 4, 9:04am Top

>21 lauralkeet: - Sounds like a great meeting. And I'm glad Homegoing was a winner. I love it, too.

I also pointed out one of the other dimensions of this controversy, which is marginalization of Latinx (and other) identities in the publishing industry. Most had not heard that part of the argument yet.

This is interesting to me, since that's a lot of the main thrust of arguments that I've heard, but I've been following a lot of it on Twitter from the people raising concerns, rather than relying on secondary sources/articles. I do think coverage of the controversy is being simplified into "some people are mad a white lady wrote about Mexican migrants" which then morphs into the idea that some people are arguing no one is allowed to write outside of their own experience (I'm seeing it a lot on LT even) which is, of course, nonsense. I've increasingly found the whole thing frustrating. I'm glad your group had a good discussion of it.

Edited: Feb 4, 11:07am Top

Hi Katie! Of my two book groups, this one has a higher percentage of "serious readers" who follow the literary scene. That said, the majority were primarily aware of the "simplified controversy" you described, which they thankfully all dismissed as nonsense as well. Since this issue blew up while I was on vacation, and I was not doing deep dives into anything other than Caribbean waters, I missed out on some of the coverage and LT discussion. I've caught up as best I can and was glad to be able to share some of the broader issues (i.e., about the publishing industry) that I learned from following the topic here on LT.


And now for some BREAKING NEWS:
My neighborhood has a new indie bookstore!! Harriet's Bookshop is on a mission to "celebrate women artists, women authors, and women activists."

People, this is literally 2 blocks from home. I missed the grand opening because we were traveling, but it looked amazing on Instagram. I stopped in this morning and had a nice chat with the owner. I still need to pick up two books for my course and she thought she could get them for me and I'm happy to support this shop. I couldn't leave empty-handed either of course, so on Jeannine's recommendation I bought Ladysitting by Lorene Cary, who's local and teaches at UPenn. Here's the blurb, which sounds enticing:
Lorene Cary's grandmother moves in, and everything changes: day-to-day life, family relationships, the Nana she knew--even their shared past. From cherished memories of weekends she spent as a child with her indulgent Nana to the reality of the year she spent "ladysitting" her now frail grandmother, Lorene Cary journeys through stories of their time together and five generations of their African American family. Brilliantly weaving a narrative of her complicated yet transformative relationship with Nana--a fierce, stubborn, and independent woman, who managed a business until she was 100--Cary looks at Nana's impulse to control people and fate, from the early death of her mother and oppression in the Jim Crow South to living on her own in her New Jersey home. Cary knew there might be some reckonings to come. Nana was a force: Her obstinacy could come out in unanticipated ways--secretly getting a driver's license to show up her husband, carrying on a longtime feud with Cary's father. But Nana could also be devoted: to Nana's father, to black causes, and--Cary had thought--to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Facing the inevitable end raises tensions, with Cary drawing on her spirituality and Nana consoling herself with late-night sweets and the loyalty of caregivers. When Nana doubts Cary's dedication, Cary must go deeper into understanding this complicated woman. In Ladysitting, Cary captures the ruptures, love, and, perhaps, forgiveness that can occur in a family as she bears witness to her grandmother's 101 vibrant years of life.

I'm so excited about the shop and this book!

Feb 4, 12:08pm Top

Thanks for sharing photos and report of your cruise. I do love cruising I'm afraid. It's such a comfortable way to get to out-of-the-way places.

Feb 4, 1:21pm Top

How great to get a bookshop only 2 blocks from your home. I think I'll be putting Ladysitting on my recommended list. Sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Feb 4, 1:29pm Top

Oh, Lorene Cary! I haven't thought about her in ages. We read her Black Ice in high school, and it was excellent.

Great to have such a cool shop open close by. Also, dangerous.... *grin*

Feb 4, 2:18pm Top

Wow, Laura, what an interesting thread you've got going here.

Not to say others' aren't, just that mid-winter in the Canadian North, and omg, I want to be in Jost van Dyke (British Virgin Islands) ~ the cruise idea has never appealed but the places you visited look delicious.

>23 lauralkeet: I'm also pumped about the indie bookshop and have e-mailed the info to friends and relatives who are 'Stateside' as we say.

Feb 4, 3:27pm Top

>21 lauralkeet: That sounds like a very satisfying book group meeting Laura. I'm looking forward to rereading that novel, and to the new one later this year.

>23 lauralkeet: Ha, I'd have been surprised if you had come out empty handed. I'll be looking forward to hearing about new discoveries you have made.

Feb 4, 3:36pm Top

>23 lauralkeet: What great news! But so dangerous.....I wouldn't be able to resist stopping in daily! It's been years since we've had a bookstore nearby.

Feb 4, 5:17pm Top

>24 RebaRelishesReading: No need to apologize for your love of cruising, Reba! It's a very relaxing way to travel.

>25 dudes22: Hi Betty, I'm interested in the themes Ladysitting explores so I have high hopes for it.

>26 katiekrug: This is my first Lorene Cary, Katie. I'm glad she has your endorsement.

>27 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy! I sure wouldn't mind being marooned on Jost van Dyke.

>28 Caroline_McElwee:, >29 vivians: Caro & Vivian, the one reason I'm less worried about "bookshop danger" is that -- at least for now -- the inventory is small and closely curated. If she carried all the latest bestsellers I'd be in there every other day.

Feb 5, 6:30am Top

>20 lauralkeet: Oooh, I love that DFW essay (because of course I do)!

>21 lauralkeet: What a fantastic-sounding book club group! And yay for intelligent and respectful discussions, eh? I admit that I've not taken part in the AD talk here because I haven't read the book (and don't really intend to), but I've been a little surprised at how weirdly heated it became. It *has* had me pondering the sort of balance needed for someone outside whatever community they're writing about to maintain between hard work in the research department and a very hefty amount of respect for the subject and the people involved. Still, given a choice, I'd go for reading someone in the Own Voices category first, I think, for reasons. So yes, absolutely folks should write about whatever they want to write about, but we as readers most definitely can choose not to read it, and I think editors should use their powers more wisely in deciding what to pick up and promote and what to say no to, too. (Welp, that was a bit of a unintelligible ramble. Apologies. It's early and I'm not braining at full capacity just yet.)

>23 lauralkeet: Aaaand that's awesome! I'd be in some serious trouble, though, if we had a bookshop just two blocks away. When I started looking for a part time job, the nearest B&N was hiring but Tomm said, "Oh, hell no - you'd never see your paycheck!" And that was a fair point...

Feb 5, 7:00am Top

Morning, Laura. Your Homegoing book discussion sounded like a real winner and no one stormed out and left early? Grins... I am looking forward to Gyasi's new novel, later in the year. Such a good talent.

I also loved A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. A classic.

Feb 5, 7:34am Top

Oh I'm so jealous of the new bookstore in your neighborhood. Every couple of years we do a weekend in Philly, I'll have to check it out the next time we go!

Feb 5, 7:52am Top

>31 scaifea: Your ramble was totally intelligible, Amber, and well put! Also, my daughter worked at a B&N one college summer. It was right after the first Fifty Shades novel was published (I'm not going to dignify that book with a touchstone LOL). She came home one day appalled at having to spend time constructing a display of said book and fielding innumerable questions from patrons about it. She was expecting a more erudite customer base, I think!

>32 msf59: and no one stormed out and left early? Grins ...
Grinning back at ya, Mark. Not bad for a group of old white women, eh? I, too, am looking forward to Gyasi's next book.

>33 japaul22: Great idea, Jennifer! Philly could use a few more indie bookstores so this is a welcome addition.

Feb 5, 7:53am Top

>21 lauralkeet: Very interesting, Laura. I hadn't drawn any parallels between Homegoing which I read and really enjoyed and American Dirt which I haven't read.

I remember one of the criticisms raised by a couple of the disgruntled critics were regarding Suburban housewives misconceiving the issues in their book clubs. Surely the whole point of widening the scope of the issue is that all demographics and groups can discuss and take something from fiction - good, bad or indifferent. I'm glad your book club seems to lay some of those prejudices - because that is what they are - to rest.

Feb 5, 7:54am Top

>35 PaulCranswick: Amen to that, Paul! Looks like we were posting at the same time but yeah, we're on the same page here.

Feb 5, 2:30pm Top

>21 lauralkeet: That does sound like a wonderful book club discussion, Laura.

>23 lauralkeet: Lucky you to get a new bookstore so close! My nephew just got a job in St. Louis, and I told my sister I would be up for a trip to visit him sometime. She mentioned that she noticed an indie bookstore close to his apartment and thought of me. :) So, I guess a visit to my nephew is in order...

Feb 5, 9:40pm Top

Great Book Club discussion although I haven't made any connections between Homegoing and American Dirt Laura. I'm looking forward to Yaa Gyasi's new novel too.

Feb 6, 2:56pm Top

Happy Newish Thread, Laura!

I love the idea of a cruise on a smaller boat, and yours looks great.

Thank you for your description of your book club meeting - so interesting. Like Katie, I was surprised some of your members weren't aware of the feeling among Latinx authors that they're marginalized in the publishing industry, and wouldn't get the publicity that American Dirt has gotten. That and the mistakes/inadequate research in American Dirt are the two main criticisms I've heard.

You said it up there somewhere - I'm all in favor of authors writing about whatever they choose, but if you're going to cover another culture, make sure you're scrupulous in your research, and editors should be looking out for whoppers, too. Also, authors like Urrea, Herrera and Angie Cruz deserve better than they've gotten from the publishers.

Feb 6, 6:48pm Top

Love the comments and photos of the Caribbean islands. Having been born and raised on Aruba, we kids often captured and kept for a day or two a hermit crab or an iguana as a pet. Now, I understand boa constrictors accidentally imported from South America are a problem there.

Feb 6, 11:29pm Top

Wow, what a great travelogue, Laura! I like the towel animals -- I did not know about them.

>23 lauralkeet: Oh my, congratulations! I am so envious. Enjoy that new bookshop in your neighborhood!

I don't have anything to add to the discussion about American Dirt and the controversy. I agree with Joe in >39 jnwelch: and with Amber in >31 scaifea:. Authors have a right to write whatever they want. I also want them to represent responsibly, whether its another culture or another time in history -- think of all the times we complain about a work of historical fiction if inaccuracies occur. I want publishing companies to publish and promote works by diverse authors and I want us to read them.

So, I guess I didn't have anything to add but I felt compelled to chime in with my "what they said" comment. Sorry. You may be wanting to move on to other topics by now. :-)

Feb 6, 11:31pm Top

>39 jnwelch: I had forgotten about Signs Preceding the End of the World which I read in 2015 and gave 4 stars. I'm glad to be reminded; it was a really good read.

Feb 7, 6:18am Top

Happy new thread Laura. Your cruise pics are gorgeous, love those sunsets

Feb 7, 6:47am Top

A big hello to Joe, Deborah, Ellen, and Adrienne!

It sounds like we are all of similar minds regarding American Dirt. And it's great you've all enjoyed the travel photos. It was a lovely trip.

Deborah, despite your LT name I didn't realize you'd grown up on Aruba. I was fascinated by the hermit crab colony we saw on our hike, and especially learning some of their ... er ... habits. Apparently "decaying matter" is a mainstay of their diet so if an animal dies it doesn't take long before it's gone. Wild, huh?

That's your fun fact for today, everyone. I started the second Francis Lymond book at bedtime last night, Queens' Play, and got through the swashbuckling beginning before turning of the light. Looks like I'm in for another fun ride.

Feb 7, 3:10pm Top

A belated happy new thread, Laura.

I read with interest your cruise comments and loved the photos.

Ladysitting is now on my wish list and I'm envious of a book store 2 blocks away from you. That is totally excellent.

Feb 8, 8:11am Top

>45 karenmarie: Hi Karen! Thanks for stopping by. I hope to read Ladysitting this month so I'll have more to say about it soon.

Feb 8, 8:11am Top

9. The Woman in Blue ()
Source: On my Kindle

The eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series is set in Walsingham, a Norfolk village known for religious shrines and a popular destination for pilgrims. DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the murder of a young woman, a patient at a drug rehab facility. Ruth reconnects with a university friend, who is attending a conference in the area. Hilary, an anglican priest, has been receiving threatening letters from someone who clearly objects to women in church leadership. Ruth encourages her to share the letters with the police. Then a second woman is murdered who bears some resemblance to the first, and there’s reason to suspect the letter-writer might also be the murderer.

I liked the change of setting in this novel, both the location and the connections to the church, priesthood, and lenten rituals. Similar to an earlier book set in Blackpool, moving outside of Ruth’s immediate neighborhood provides an opportunity to center the crime in a new environment where new themes can be explored. Several new characters also came on the scene and while I suspected one of them was likely the perpetrator, Elly Griffiths kept me guessing up to the reveal. I’m glad I still have a few more books left to enjoy.

Feb 8, 8:30am Top

I'm curious about the smaller boat cruise and motion sickness. I get motion sick even on the very large cruise ships so I'm afraid these smaller boats would not work for me. What was your experience?

Feb 8, 8:58am Top

Jennifer, I'm not prone to motion sickness, so I might not be a good judge. I've heard that passengers feel the rocking of smaller boats more than the large ones. I've traveled on ships large and small and don't feel a thing. For what it's worth, there was no evidence of other passengers in distress, either.

Feb 8, 9:29am Top

>47 lauralkeet: - I remember liking that one more than the two or so that came before it. I had felt like she was in a bit of a rut.

Feb 11, 6:26pm Top

>47 lauralkeet: That is my next Ruth Galloway but I'm going to finish Red Bones, third in the Shetland series, first. I feel like I'm spending much of 2020 reading series, more than I have in the past few years. I chalk it up to the need for stressful-life reading.

Feb 11, 6:58pm Top

>50 katiekrug: I agree with you, Katie. Books 6 & 7 were too similar for my taste.

>51 EBT1002: Ellen, I find series are great for de-stressing, or as a break between heavier books. Nothing wrong with that!

Feb 12, 11:14am Top

I was waiting for The Lantern Men to come down in price a bit but I might just have to buy it this weekend as Elly Griffiths is appearing in Waterstones in Durham on Saturday and I just happen to be going to Durham on Saturday!

Edited: Feb 12, 10:34pm Top

>53 CDVicarage: Ooh lucky you, Kerry! I hope you'll report back.

Feb 12, 7:01pm Top

I have The Lantern Men teed up as my next audio book, Laura. Hopefully I’ll get to it soon.

Feb 12, 7:36pm Top

Homegoing was already in the BlackHole, but I now have it on hold at the local library.

Congratulations on the bookshop down the street! I would probably be wandering down there daily - and getting in lots of trouble, I have no doubt.

Feb 13, 7:32am Top

>55 NanaCC: Colleen, I think that's the last book in the series, at least for now, right? I always find coming to the endt rather bittersweet.

>56 alcottacre: Stasia, so far I'm doing pretty well living with a bookshop nearby. Mostly it just makes me happy to walk past it, which we do on our first dog walk every morning. Fortunately the shop is closed at that time of day!

Feb 13, 1:13pm Top

>57 lauralkeet: I was wrong, Laura. The Stone Circle is next. That means I have another one left.

Feb 13, 1:18pm Top

PSA: Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is the best. thing. ever!

On Tuesday morning I requested two books through ILL. One of them is already available for me to pick up! And I get to keep it for a month! Wow. I've complained before about the Philadelphia library system's slow process for managing holds. It can take weeks for an available book to travel from one branch to another. So I had calibrated my expectations for ILL accordingly. I'm still waiting on the second book, so maybe this first one was found somewhere nearby. But still: pretty cool.

For the curious, the books deal with traditional ethnic knitting techniques. I'm working on a knitting certification program, and one requirement is a report on this subject.

Feb 14, 6:11am Top

Woot for ILL!! Such a wonderful system.

Feb 14, 6:38am Top

I know, right? This is the first time I've ever used it, at this library or any other.

Feb 14, 7:12am Top

>61 lauralkeet: I discovered ILL in grad school and haven't looked back since. Lots of the books on my lists are not easily available other than through ILL, too. When we lived in WI, that library system didn't let patrons submit the requests directly and instead had a form to fill out and hand in to the librarian who handled ILL requests. I made so many that, once they got to know me, they just gave me special access so that I could submit my requests directly online. I like to think it's because they loved and trusted me, but in actuality I think I was making that particular librarian work into overtime every week...

The Columbus Metro Library system gives direct access to their patrons, but the system I work for does not. So, when we moved here I started having my ILL requests sent to the closest CML library, which is in the next town over, but now that I work for our own library system, I can submit my requests myself and have them sent to work. So nice.

Feb 14, 7:20am Top

That's great, Amber! Philadelphia allows patrons to submit them online, although I had to hunt for it on their website. I'm glad you have special privileges!

Feb 14, 7:51am Top

Rhode Island is so small that(I think) all the libraries in the state are part of the ILL system so ILLs come in very quickly (assuming they're available) and there is usually at least one book available. Except for the newest, most popular books when you might have to wait.. We also have direct access to putting requests in online.

Feb 14, 1:46pm Top

>64 dudes22: Betty, your library system might offer an ILL service that reaches beyond their service area. That's what this was, for me. The book I picked up today came from Bethlehem, PA which is a couple hours away and not part of the Philadelphia system. Theoretically, I think the books can come from libraries anywhere in the US. It's a completely different request system than the one I use to get books from Philadelphia library branches.

Feb 14, 1:55pm Top

Our library's ILL policy sucks:

Reference librarians can arrange loans of materials that are not available in the Chatham County Public Library system.

•ILL service is available to patrons age 16 and older whose accounts are in good standing.
•Materials less than six months old are not eligible for ILL.
•We cannot guarantee availability, arrival date, or loan period.
•A $4.00 per item postage charge is collected when you pick up the item. (If a requested item is not available, you will not be charged. However, if you do not pick up a requested item, you are still responsible for the $4.00 fee.)
•Lending libraries may charge an extra fee for articles, microfilm, or hard-to-find books.
•You may have up to three (3) outstanding ILL transactions at one time.
•Patrons agree to pay all charges for lost or damaged ILL items.
•Fines for overdue ILLs are $1.00 per item, per day, with no grace period.
•Renewal requests must be made at least three (3) days before the due date and are not guaranteed.

Feb 14, 4:50pm Top

>66 karenmarie: well, that's not much different from the Philadelphia policy, Karen. A few differences:
- Materials cannot have been published within the last 12 mos.
- Most requests are filled free of charge
- Most are due in 3 weeks, although this is at discretion of the lending library.
- Fines for overdue ILLs are $2.00 per item, per day *

What bothers you most about your library's policy? As a first-timer, I'm interested in others' experience with ILLs. Plus, it's fun to talk about libraries. 😀

* today the Philadelphia library system announced it is eliminating late fees, but I suspect that does not apply to ILLs.

Feb 14, 5:16pm Top

>59 lauralkeet: I wish ILL here worked so expeditiously. It takes FOREVER to get anything from ILL at my local library. I think they sit on the requests forever before they actually request the books.

One of the coolest ILL loan books I ever had came from the Pentagon library. I thought that was awesome, lol.

Feb 14, 5:28pm Top

>68 alcottacre: Stasia, I think it helped that this one didn't have far to travel. I have another outstanding request and am interested to see how long it takes. But since it's a book on knitting, I don't expect the Pentagon to have it!

Feb 14, 5:43pm Top

>69 lauralkeet: You never can tell - maybe the Pentagon is full of secret knitters? lol

Feb 14, 6:44pm Top

>65 lauralkeet: - ha! ha! No place in RI is a couple of hours away. I think that's why our ILL encompasses the whole state.

Feb 14, 7:01pm Top

>71 dudes22:: DE state is also small enough to allow for books to be borrowed from any library. I often get books from the other two counties.

Feb 14, 9:54pm Top

>72 annushka: Hi there almost-neighbor! I lived in Delaware for about 15 years, and worked there for more than 30 (we moved across the state line into PA, but still within commuting distance of Wilmington). We moved to Philly after I retired.

Feb 14, 10:05pm Top

>67 lauralkeet: Frankly, I’ve never used it, having never absolutely needed anything enough to pay $4 to borrow a book, but I looked it up and was surprised at the expense, restrictions, and expensive fines.

Our County Librarian is trying to get the Board of Commissioners to agree to eliminate adult book fines – they’ve already eliminated fines for all students in the county school system. The branch librarian tells me that it would ‘cost’ $20K in lost revenue but more items would be returned and interest in the library increased.

Feb 14, 10:09pm Top

>73 lauralkeet:: Hello neighbor! I'm right outside of Wilmington. Used to work in Philadelphia - commuted for 10 years until I found a job closer to my home.

Feb 14, 10:10pm Top

>74 karenmarie: some of the press around the change here has been about the library as a community resource, and wanting to be able to serve everyone. They are "welcoming back" patrons who are unable to use library services due to owing fines. Apparently all fines on patron accounts have been forgiven, no matter how much or how long they've been overdue.

Feb 15, 9:25pm Top

Keeping a library book for a month is wonderful. I agree about ILL; I can use it via my university library and it makes pretty much anything available to me. Honestly, I've not checked on the policies around late returns, etc. But I haven't used ILL through my public library, only the library of the university where I'm employed.

Seattle Public Library eliminated late fees on January 1 of this year. They forgave the $2 I owed them. As I understand it, fines are ineffective at motivating borrowers to return "on time," and wanting to encourage library use by all, regardless of financial status. I don't think it played into the decision, but the dollars went to the city's general fund so they didn't directly support the library. Here in Pullman, we still have fines and the fines go to the city's general fund.

Feb 15, 9:55pm Top

>75 annushka: Hi annushka, my husband commuted to Philly in the 1990s. We lived near the I-95 Marsh Rd exit, so it was an easy commute relatively speaking. Going against the primary traffic flow also helped.

>77 EBT1002: Ellen, another ILL fan! It's great you can use it through the university. Nice perk!

Feb 16, 3:09pm Top

>78 lauralkeet:: Commute from the Marsh exit of I-95 used to be easy back then. Not so much anymore - too much traffic both directions.

Feb 17, 9:48am Top

Thanks for the ILL reminder! I rarely use it and forget about it. However, I just used it to request a copy of Still Waters that wasn't available at my library.

Feb 17, 10:12am Top

Most libraries which eliminate fines send out a reminder. If it is not returned within a certain frame of time, the user is billed for the item. (Of course, the bill is cancelled if the item is returned.)

ILL: Most academic libraries do not charge because most items borrowed through ILL are things not owned needed for research. The library does not want to penalize someone for a potential collection deficiency. Many public libraries charge enough for the return postage on an item.

Feb 17, 10:42am Top

>80 BLBera: I'm glad you were able to get your hands on a copy, Beth.

>81 thornton37814: That's good to know, Lori. Thanks!

Feb 17, 10:59am Top

Happy new-ish thread!

Feb 17, 3:27pm Top

>83 ChelleBearss: thanks Chelle!

Feb 17, 3:28pm Top

10. Queen’s Play ()
Source: On my Kindle

In 1550, Mary Queen of Scots was just 8 years old and living with the Queen Mother at the court of France’s King Henri II. She was betrothed to the the King’s eldest son Francis to unite France and Scotland under Henri. However, the political landscape was quite volatile. Scotland and England had been at cross purposes for some time, and England was actively seeking to control Ireland. France had a similar desire to expand their realm; in 1550 France and England were in the midst of negotiating peace. In the midst of all this political maneuvering, there were factions who wanted to remove Mary from the Scottish throne.

Concerned for Mary’s safety, her mother engages Francis Lymond to come to the French court specifically to protect Mary. Lymond, disguised as the secretary to an Irish prince, uncovers a plot to poison Mary. His efforts to foil the plot and bring the perpetrators to justice unfold over more than 500 pages. As with the previous book, there’s a huge cast of characters, and enough plot twists to make your head spin. And just when you think you’re figuring things out, the good guys turn out to be bad guys or vice versa.

I enjoyed this book, but found it dragged a bit compared to the first novel. Lymond identified the man behind the poison plot pretty quickly, and the chase took too long, with a diversion to go after his accomplice. But I’m enjoying the history, and the way Dunnett places her characters in the middle of actual events, so I’ll be reading the third book soon.

Feb 17, 7:59pm Top

I agree with you that it dragged Laura. I thought maybe that was because I understood from the get go what was going on unlike the first novel where I was scratching my head a lot. I'm enjoying the books and learning a lot too but I think she could've probably cut out at least a hundred pages.

Good review.

Feb 18, 3:56am Top

>85 lauralkeet: I always feel this one is a bit out kilter with the rest but it includes so much that is important for the rest of the series...

Feb 18, 7:54am Top

>86 brenzi: I'm glad I'm not the only one Bonnie.

>87 CDVicarage: Ooh, now there's a teaser, Kerry. The second book included some characters from the first, and made some references to others, and I liked that continuity. Now I'm eager to see what happens next!

Feb 18, 8:37am Top

Hi, Laura. Just checking in. I hope you are doing well and the books are treating you fine. I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count this past weekend, which is always fun. Sorry, you don't have the room for bird feeders.

Edited: Feb 18, 7:04pm Top

^I hope you had a lovely day, Laura!

Feb 18, 7:13pm Top

Hey Mark, two visits in one day wow! Thanks for the birthday warble. It’s been a nice day. I met up with my weekly knitting group and they presented me with a giant slice of chocolate cake. The hubs and I are going out to dinner, but not until tomorrow due to other things on the calendar today. So the party will continue!

Feb 18, 8:00pm Top

Happy birthday, Laura!

Feb 18, 10:11pm Top

Thanks Paul! It's been a good day.

Feb 19, 2:46am Top

Slightly late, but hope you had a happy birthday!

Feb 19, 6:43am Top

Thanks Rhian!

Feb 20, 11:31am Top

Laura, I’m adding my belated birthday wishes. I hope you wandered down to your local indie bookstore and treated yourself to something special. My library is within walking distance but bookstores require wheels. We have two recently opened Ed independent bookstores which is two more than we’ve had for quite awhile. I’m excited about both of them. Your cruise looked marvelous and your book group sounds like a winner. I’m all caught up now.

Feb 20, 3:07pm Top

Thank you Donna! As a matter of fact, I did pop into that bookstore on Tuesday. I had ordered a couple books I need for my upcoming course so I stopped in to pick them up. I also bought a small notebook. We'll be doing a bit of writing in class (more like journaling, from the sound of it) and I needed something suitable for that.

Edited: Feb 21, 9:49am Top

Hi Laura, just lurking away here after a trip to Vancouver area (B.C.).

I'm envious of all you folks that already have access to Elly G's latest (The Lantern Men). Our library has it listed but they haven't got it actually stocked yet. It doesn't even show as in processing. I asked my local branch about it and appear to be 8th in the queue!

We have a very ineffective ILL because the Saskatchewan public library hasn't an ILL agreement with many libraries in the "consortium". We have the lamest, bloody-minded PL director in our city, too. I'd not mind if she was fired...

Feb 21, 11:33am Top

Hi Sandy, welcome back! I just returned from picking up my second ILL from the library; so far I'm pleased with our system. I'm sorry yours is so poor! I hope you manage to get your hands on The Lantern Men soon. I still have a few RG books to read before I'm ready for that one.

Feb 22, 10:32am Top

A belated Happy Birthday to you, Laura!

Wishing you a great weekend.

Feb 22, 6:24pm Top

>100 karenmarie: Thanks Karen!

Feb 22, 6:25pm Top

11. Ladysitting ()
Source: On my shelves, a recent purchase

Ladysitting takes place during the last year of Lorene Cary’s Nana’s life, when health issues required Nana to move from her house in New Jersey to Cary’s family home in Philadelphia.
Nana had worked so hard to hold on to the ways we know ourselves as adults: we breathe on our own, toilet ourselves, move about of our own volition, communicate with others, fix and eat food, handle money, live where we choose. She’d been struggling each day to succeed.

In one night she’d lost it all. (p. 30)
Lorene and her Nana were close; they spent most weekends together during Lorene’s childhood. Still, sensitively negotiating Nana’s changing care needs proved to be a considerable challenge. Lorene had her career as an author, professor, and found of the Art Sanctuary, an organization focused on fostering and promoting black art through programs and performances. Lorene’s husband Bob was an Episcopal clergyman, which also made demands on Lorene, as did her role as mother to two daughters on the cusp of adulthood.

Nana moved into a room in the Rectory, fully equipped with a hospital bed. Several other adjustments were made in the home to facilitate her care. The rhythms of church life provided routine and solace for Nana. Initially, Nana received hospice care, but when her condition improved nurses were hired to spend time with her each day. Throughout this memoir Lorene and her family weather the ups and downs, as does Nana who refuses to go gentle into that good night.

Anyone who has cared for an aging relative will be able to relate to Lorene’s story. The narrative rambled a bit at times, but I think it was also reflective of the challenges Cary faced in trying to manage all aspects of her life while simultaneously dealing with the hugely disruptive process of caregiving, and the varied emotional responses of other relatives.

Feb 23, 8:32am Top

Course Update: Blueprints for Healing: Toni Morrison and the Balm of Black Women Writing

Yesterday was the first session in this four-part course taught by a Philadelphia Poet Laureate Emerita and the current Poet Laureate. The course explores "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."

There were 16 women in our group, most of whom are black or women of color. We began by listening to an excerpt from Beloved, read by Toni Morrison which really brought the text to life. We then discussed the structure of the novel and how that structure relates to the process of recovering from trauma. We did a reflective exercise, had small group discussion about some passages in the book, and ended with a 10-minute writing exercise that encouraged us to explore feelings about events in our own lives.

It was much more introspective than I thought it would be, but in a very good way. It was a lovely, meditative way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Feb 23, 8:44am Top

>103 lauralkeet: - Wow, that sounds excellent, Laura. I look forward to hearing about future sessions.

Feb 23, 9:05am Top

>103 lauralkeet: This sounds awesome, Laura. Looking forward to following along in class, with you. I hope to read at least one or two Morrison titles a year and her audio narrations are heaven sent.

Feb 23, 11:15am Top

>104 katiekrug: >105 msf59: Happy Sunday, Katie & Mark! I'll be sure to report back on each session. We'll be discussing Alice Walker's Meridian on March 14.

Edited: Feb 23, 8:53pm Top

Catching up -- Loved your photos from your trip. Today it is in the 40's and sunny or they would have been unbearable to look at!

A bookshop in your neighborhood! Wow!

I listened to all the of Lymond books -- all of the readers were superb. The Irish reader of Queen's Play was so good that I loved that one especially, also, believe it or not, probably that is the most light-hearted of the lot and that scene in the water feature at the end priceless! Can't remember his name now, but loved that the elephant handler is one of Lymond's clever Scottish cronies!

Feb 23, 12:26pm Top

>107 sibylline: hi Lucy! So nice to see you here. I've been lurking on your thread, guess I really should pipe up now and then. I love your thoughts on Lymond and agree wholeheartedly with your spoilery comment!

Feb 23, 5:13pm Top

>103 lauralkeet: Sounds fascinating, Laura.

Feb 23, 6:46pm Top

>103 lauralkeet: That sounds excellent, Laura. And happy belated birthday. Many happy returns.

Feb 23, 7:02pm Top

>109 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul! I really enjoyed it.

>110 BLBera: and thanks for the belated wishes, Beth. It's always nice to keep the party going.

Edited: Feb 28, 10:08am Top

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an excellent piece on Harriet's Bookshop, the new shop near my house. The short video is well worth watching too:


Feb 29, 1:13pm Top

12. A Woman of No Importance ()
Source: On my Kindle

A Woman of No Importance is the fascinating story of Virginia Hall, an American woman who worked with the British Special Operations Executive, a World War II espionage organization. Hall brushed aside her family’s expectations that she would marry well and play a traditional female role in society; instead, she went to England and in 1941 became the first woman assigned to duties in France. Living in Lyon, the center of the French resistance, Virginia became expert at organizing efforts to supply weapons, rescue downed airmen, and provide safe houses. As her knowledge and personal network grew she was able to take on increasingly complex missions and assume leadership roles. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention she did all of this with a disability -- a prosthetic leg -- that would have prevented the average person from even considering this type of work.

Not surprisingly, Virginia had to contend with bias and discrimination. She could often run circles around her superiors. She did not receive promotions and pay increases commensurate with those of male colleagues. And at the end of the war, when Virginia returned to the US as part of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and later the CIA, her track record was barely acknowledged and she was relegated to traditional female roles.

Virginia was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government, was made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), and received the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States. And yet, this decorated heroine’s story is barely known here in the US. I am grateful to Sonia Purnell for telling the story of such an inspiring woman.

Edited: Feb 29, 8:20pm Top

Cuthbert!! I loved that book, Laura. She was absolutely amazing. Especially the trek through the Pyrenees!

Feb 29, 9:13pm Top

Hi there, Laura! Trying to get back in the LT swing of things. I think you wanted to be in on reading Louise Erdrich's Tracks?? And we are up to six of us ready for a read in March, so I set up a thread. : )


Also happy belated bday--mine was the 21st!

Feb 29, 9:57pm Top

>114 brenzi: oh yeah Bonnie, I loved that she gave her prosthetic leg a name!

>115 Berly: I'm definitely in, Kim! I've already been over to visit the thread. And the book is up next for me, just as soon as I finish my current read, Meridian by Alice Walker.

Mar 1, 4:11pm Top

>113 lauralkeet: She was an amazing woman, Laura. One would think she would at least get a stamp or something.

Mar 2, 6:55am Top

>117 BLBera: I agree 100%, Beth.

Edited: Mar 2, 6:58am Top

13. Meridian ()
Source: On my shelves

I read this for my class and I liked it, but am not sure I understood it at a deeper-than-surface level so I'm not going to attempt a review. This book description is pretty good though:
Meridian is a poignant and powerful story of the American South in the 1960s and of one woman who risks her life for the people she loves. Meridian Hill, a courageous young activist, creates peace and understanding by dedicating herself heart and soul to her civil rights work, touching the lives of all those she meets even when her health begins to deteriorate. With the old rules of Southern society collapsing around her, Meridian fights a lonely battle to reaffirm her own humanity, and that of all her people.

Mar 4, 7:39pm Top

>103 lauralkeet: That sounds like a wonderful class, Laura!

I'm glad you're joining us for the group read of Tracks. I was thinking I'd read it later in the month but I think I'll get going as soon as I return home to Pullman (where I left it).

Mar 4, 7:52pm Top

>120 EBT1002: Hey there Ellen, thanks for stopping by. I'm about halfway through Tracks (touchstones not cooperating right now), and really enjoying it. I'm sure you will too, once you are back home and able to get your hands on your copy.

Mar 5, 8:22am Top

Hi Laura!

>102 lauralkeet: Our library has Ladysitting, so I can put in a request when I’m not overwhelmed with library books and some new shiny books I want to read right away. Good review.

>103 lauralkeet: Fascinating. Glad it was such a good start to the course.

Mar 5, 8:35am Top

Good morning Karen! Thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to my next class session on March 14 which I only just realized is next weekend. Sooner than I thought, yay!


In other news, the hubs and I are going on a "date" this afternoon to get our shingles vaccines (first shot). I am not looking forward to this.

Mar 5, 10:08am Top

Hi, Laura.

I thought The Woman in Blue was a particularly good one in the Ruth Galloway series, too. I hope Elly G. does more of that - placing her in different environments.

Mar 6, 12:25am Top

The Woman in Blue is next for me in the Ruth Galloway series. I'm glad to hear it's a good one!

Edited: Mar 6, 12:34pm Top

>124 jnwelch: I like it when Elly travels, too, Joe. It mixes things up a bit in a pleasing way. Louise Penny does that with the Gamache novels too. Sometimes they are in Three Pines, sometimes in Montreal or elsewhere.

>125 EBT1002: I haven't found a bad one yet, Ellen!

Mar 7, 12:46am Top

Good morning Laura, checking back in and wishing you a lovely weekend :)

Mar 7, 1:35am Top

Happy weekend! My plan is to read Tracks this weekend. : )

Mar 7, 8:03am Top

>127 Deern: Hi Nathalie! Hope your weekend is a good one as well.

>128 Berly: Go Kim! I hope to post my review sometime today.

Mar 7, 12:39pm Top

14. Tracks ()
Source: On my shelves

Set in early 20th Century North Dakota, Tracks is a portrayal of an Ojibwe community on the brink of crisis. Traditions, land, and livelihood are all threatened by government policies and the white people charged with carrying them out.

Chapters are narrated alternately by Nanapush, a community elder, and Pauline, a woman barely coping with the effects of trauma and loss. Pauline’s chapters are told in real time, while Nanapush’s chapters are stories being told, several years later, to his granddaughter, Lulu. Their narratives often present the same or overlapping events from their radically different perspectives. Another significant character is Fleur, a strong and self-sufficient woman who has chosen to live apart from most of the community. She is the subject of considerable suspicion, rumor, and gossip, but also much loved by Nanapush and others.

The encroaching presence of white people is like a drumbeat underneath the main storyline. Over the novel’s twelve-year timeline this drumbeat becomes louder, as the native community is suddenly expected to pay fees and taxes to hold onto their land, and as the lumber industry begins destroying natural resources.

The non-linear structure of this novel requires the reader to piece together fragments in order to understand the broader story, while also realizing the narrators may not always be the most reliable. It’s a rich tale that whetted my appetite for reading more of Erdrich’s work.

Mar 7, 12:48pm Top

Tracks was only my second book by Louise Erdrich. A couple of years ago an LT friend sent me The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and I really enjoyed it. It was a pleasant surprise to see some characters from that book in Tracks. I had to get *Last Report* off the shelves and compare the family trees to confirm they were the same people, and now I have a bit more of their back story. I love that.

LT tells me these two books are part of Erdrich's "Love Medicine" series, which also includes Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, The Bingo Palace, and The Painted Drum. I've added that to my series tracker. I'd also like to read The Round House, which won the National Book Award in 2012.

Any other Erdrich fans out there? Recommendations please!

Edited: Mar 7, 2:49pm Top

What series tracker? Did you find a replacement for the other one whose name escapes me? Or do you mean your own invention?

I've read a lot of Erdrich including the Love Medicine series plus several others. My favorite one is still Love Medicine and if you choose to read that I might join you because it's been at least 20 or 25 years since in read it Laura.

ETA: I also loved Plague of Doves which I read back in 2009 about as much as Love Medicine

Mar 7, 2:57pm Top

I believe I own The Round House but I haven't read it yet, or any of Erdrich's books. The one you just reviewed sounds very appealing.

Mar 7, 3:08pm Top

>5 lauralkeet: The images of your cruise are incredible!

Mar 7, 4:26pm Top

>132 brenzi: Oh Bonnie, I didn't mean to get your hopes up. I'm just referring to the spreadsheet I created when FictFact shut down (which you can see in >2 lauralkeet:). It isn't smart enough to let me know when new books come out, but it's doing the job when it comes to knowing how many / which books I've read in a series.

>133 japaul22: Jennifer, I thought I was the last person on the planet to read Erdrich. That's what I love about LT, we are always introducing one another to new books, even when they are books published some time ago.

>134 Whisper1: Linda, it was a very nice trip and luckily took place before all the coronavirus hullabaloo, so we traveled worry-free.

Mar 7, 6:29pm Top

The Round House (five stars) and Plague of Doves (four stars) are both very good reads. Oh, I'm a huge fan of Erdrich so I'm just going to say that about all of them.

The Bingo Palace is my lowest-rated Erdrich with "only" 3.5 stars. And I was just going back and checking, realize that I have not yet read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. I'll have to rectify that!

Mar 8, 8:43am Top

Morning, Laura!

I've only read her The Round House, but I did love it tons.

(Side note: I love it when someone here asks for bookish (or any other sort, really) advice and this group *delivers.* How wonderful is this place?!)

Mar 8, 8:47am Top

>136 EBT1002: Thanks for the recs, Ellen.
>137 scaifea: Also good to see another thumbs up for The Round House; maybe that's the one I should read next.

And I totally agree with you about this group, Amber. This is a very special corner of the internet and I couldn't live without it!

Mar 9, 8:42am Top

I've got three of Erdrich's books book in my to-be-read pile. I guess I need to get to at least one of them. I didn't realize that some of them are considered a "series". Tracks is not one I have but sounds like a good one.

Mar 9, 2:40pm Top

>139 dudes22: Betty, there's a group read of Tracks going on elsewhere in the 75 group, and over on that thread Ellen (EBT1002) characterized the books more as linked or interconnected, rather than a linear series. Recurring characters & settings, related themes, that sort of thing -- but not books that have to be read in a particular order.

Mar 11, 1:35am Top

>138 lauralkeet: I have read two books by Louise Erdrich - The Antelope Wife which I didn't much enjoy and The Round House which I really rated.

Mar 11, 6:39am Top

>130 lauralkeet: Good review of Tracks, Laura. Thumb! I need to get to this one. I have read many of her books and still have a lot to catch up on. I also have The Night Watchman waiting in the wings.

Mar 11, 6:48am Top

>141 PaulCranswick: good to know, Paul. The Round House seems to be well loved around here.

>142 msf59: Thanks Mark. Erdrich is nothing if not prolific. I wonder whether she's ever been an AAC author?

Mar 11, 9:45am Top

Yikes, I'm suddenly dealing with a book avalanche:

Such a Fun Age | The Mirror and the Light | The Disorderly Knights | Time Regained

After finishing Tracks last week, I decided to start the next book in the Lymond Chronicles, The Disorderly Knights, while I was waiting for my preorder of The Mirror and the Light. The Lymond books are long and require concentration to keep up with the plot twists, so I knew I would have to decide whether to set it aside to read the new Mantel.

Yesterday The Mirror and the Light arrived. BUT THEN ... my friend loaned me her copy of Such a Fun Age, which we are both reading for an upcoming book club meeting. The book club doesn't even meet until late April so normally I wouldn't start the book now, but I need to return it to her in the next 2 weeks because she wants to pass it along to her daughters when she visits them later this month.

My first thought was well, I'll start The Mirror and the Light anyway and buy my own copy of Such a Fun Age if I need to. But last night I decided to take a peek and read just a few pages ... and I was totally sucked in.

So now my plan is to read Such a Fun Age followed by The Mirror and the Light, and then return to The Disorderly Knights which I set aside at a good stopping point. I'm also still reading the last volume of Proust, 10-12 pages/day, and should finish later this month.

Whew. That's the month of March sorted.

Edited: Mar 11, 10:50am Top

>144 lauralkeet: I'm beginning to dread the infamous book cascades... the half-read novels and biographies have an aura of reproach where they sit piled up on my reading shelf. I'm convinced they mumble and complain together in the night, whilst inveigling abandoned reads from off the other shelves to join them.
How else to explain the growing pile?

Edited: Mar 11, 2:58pm Top

Guess who showed up very early in The Mirror and the Light, Laura? A young Lady Margaret Douglas. I love when something like that happens.

Mar 11, 3:16pm Top

I just read Such A Fun Age! Can't wait to hear what you and your book club think of it. : )

Mar 11, 3:25pm Top

>145 SandyAMcPherson: that's a great mental picture, Sandy!

>146 brenzi: well whaddaya know, Bonnie?! I wondered if there might be connections between The Mirror and the Light and the Lymond books. That's very cool.

>147 Berly: So far so good, Kim, and I can tell it will spark plenty of discussion.

Mar 11, 11:32pm Top

Enjoy your book avalanche, Laura! Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors. Plague of Doves was not one of my favorites. I would say read Love Medicine, Bingo Palace and The Master Butcher's Singing Club next if you enjoyed Tracks -- many of the same characters and same setting.

Mar 12, 7:55am Top

>149 BLBera: Thanks Beth! I love that there are so many great books of hers to choose from.

Mar 12, 11:44am Top

>144 lauralkeet: ha, glad you have March sorted Laura. I've decided a total reread of Mantel will have to wait until Autumn.

Mar 12, 1:17pm Top

That's a valid approach, Caro. There's a lot of merit in re-reading the first two books. I'm just too impatient I guess!

Mar 12, 3:15pm Top

Well, probably like everyone else we are hunkered down here in Philadelphia. Public events that were on our calendar for the next couple of weeks have been cancelled (chamber music concerts, Toni Morrison course, author events at the library). Even the choir I sing with is going to attempt some sort of virtual rehearsal.

I normally do my food shopping towards the end of the week, and my usual routine is delivery from Whole Foods plus an in-person visit to Reading Terminal Market. I decided I'd skip the in-person shopping and order everything from Whole Foods this week. However ... as of a few minutes ago when I submitted my order, the first delivery window I could get is Saturday morning 8-10am. I guess I'm not the only one who had this idea. There's nothing to prevent me shopping in person, other than a desire to avoid a potentially crowded store, but I'm okay to wait for the delivery. It will be interesting to see whether everything I ordered will be in stock.

Mar 14, 1:05am Top

I hope your order arrives, great that supermarkets offer that kind of service. Here, they don‘t which is a problem for older people who should try and find someone to do the shopping for them.

Mar 14, 12:28pm Top

>154 Deern: Hi Nathalie, thanks for the visit. I agree supermarket delivery is a good thing. My order arrived on time, although not surprisingly several items were out of stock. In many cases the shopper was able to substitute a different brand, so I ended up receiving about 2/3 of my order. Not too bad, considering.

Mar 15, 12:04pm Top

15. Such a Fun Age ()
Source: Borrowed from a friend

At 25, Emira Tucker hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to do with her life, and makes ends meet by babysitting for the Chamberlain family three days a week. One evening, under some unusual circumstances, Emira finds herself the subject of threatening racist accusations about her relationship with 3-year-old Briar Chamberlain. A bystander, Kelley Copeland, captures the incident on video and sends it to Emira in case she wants to take action (she doesn’t).

A few days later Emira runs into Kelley, they have dinner, and their relationship quickly deepens. Meanwhile Alix Chamberlain, Briar’s mother, is mortified by how Emira was treated and takes it upon herself to become Emira’s friend, crossing all sorts of employer/employee boundaries. These characters provide a platform to explore issues of race and class through a story that is both complex and believable.

Debut author Kiley Reid masterfully portrays different types of “woke” white people who want so badly not to be racist, and don’t realize the myriad of tiny ways they mistreat or marginalize the black people they interact with. I found this book very thought-provoking, with much that could be unpacked in a discussion group.

Mar 15, 1:00pm Top

>156 lauralkeet: ouch, book bullet there Laura.

Mar 15, 1:30pm Top

>156 lauralkeet:, >157 Caroline_McElwee: This book has received a lot of press in the US, landing immediately on the NYT Bestseller list and it's been in the top ten for nine weeks. I was worried it might not live up to the hype, or be deficient from a literary perspective. I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.

Fun fact: Kiley Reid lives near us somewhere and goes to our gym. We occasionally see her there, or in a nearby cafe. Although I'm too shy to say anything to her, I wonder what this sudden rise to fame feels like. I mean, she worked as a babysitter and draws on that experience for her novel. It wasn't that long ago. And now, she's even been on The Daily Show. I enjoyed her interview with Trevor Noah: click here to watch.

Mar 15, 5:05pm Top

I love the idea of a book avalanche! Since we are hunkered down I've kind of got one going here too.

Louise Erdrich is a superb writer, glad you are enjoying her work. I have one on my TBR shelves. (Notice, not a shelf . . . )

Edited: Mar 15, 5:29pm Top

>159 sibylline: Lucy, I'm hunkered down with Hilary Mantel at the moment and then will move on to the third Lymond book. Lots of hunkering hereabouts! I'm glad you are also not short of reading material.

I think it's time I unmasked the wonderful LTer who introduced me to Erdrich -- it was YOU! Remember when you sent me a few books back in early 2018?

Mar 15, 8:56pm Top

>156 lauralkeet: - Good to hear this one lives up to the hype. It's been on my radar but hadn't made it to my WL until your review.

Mar 15, 9:35pm Top

>156 lauralkeet: Well somehow this one completely escaped my attention but it sounds like a good read so I will look for it Laura. It received a a lot of press?? Heh, I don't know where I've been.

Mar 16, 6:56am Top

>162 brenzi: I probably saw more press than some because she's a local author, but there's been a surprising amount of national coverage for a debut author. The book was released in late December and there was an immediate gush of reviews (NYT, NPR, etc.) and Reese Witherspoon selected it as her book club pick in January.

Mar 16, 11:08am Top

>156 lauralkeet: Hi Laura - I've heard a lot about this one and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. And nice to have a local celebrity! I actually suggested it to my book group but they've chosen American Dirt instead.

Mar 16, 11:20am Top

>158 lauralkeet: Oh dear -- BB struck! I hadn't heard of it either but it sounds most interesting so onto the wish list it goes.

Mar 16, 2:27pm Top

>164 vivians:, >165 RebaRelishesReading: Vivian & Reba, I'm more than happy to add to your TBR!! Of course now I'm nervous ... what if you don't like it? Well, I guess worse things could happen or, actually, are happening in the world right now.

Edited: Mar 17, 8:44am Top

>156 lauralkeet: - It sounds like a great book club book if we could get enough copies. I think I'll definitely think about it for the next time I'm the hostess.

ETA: Already 200 holds at the library. YIKES! Can you say - 6 months? probably

Mar 17, 8:59am Top

>167 dudes22: Yeah, there's a long hold list at my library as well. I was glad I could borrow it from a friend. I'm looking forward to the book club discussion, assuming it goes ahead. We might do something virtual. It's not until April 30, so we have time to consider our options as the situation develops.

Mar 17, 9:02am Top

Hi, Laura. Good review of Such a Fun Age. I have requested that one on audio. How is the Mantel coming along? I am sure it is terrific.

Mar 17, 11:33am Top

>160 lauralkeet: Did I indeed! So glad you like her work.

Mar 17, 11:43am Top

>169 msf59: Mark, I'm loving The Mirror and the Light. I'm about 1/4 of the way through it. I *should* have tons of time to read but I keep getting distracted by other things.

>170 sibylline: Lucy, Erdrich is one of those authors I always saw on used bookstore shelves, but never actually followed through on reading. I'm so glad to be acquainted with her now. Thanks again.

Mar 17, 5:44pm Top

>153 lauralkeet: The internet shopping here is crazy! Usually I place my order on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and then get a delivery slot for Friday evening. This week I tried to book a slot this thing Sunday morning and nothing available at all for nearly two weeks.

Mar 17, 5:47pm Top

>172 SandDune: Whoa. That's incredible. On the one hand I won't be surprised if that happens here, but on a more positive note I saw something about Amazon (who owns the Whole Foods supermarket chain and offers delivery to Prime members) staffing up and even paying their employees more during this time.

Mar 17, 9:45pm Top

>173 lauralkeet: Amazon also just announced that they're prioritizing medical supplies and household items at their fulfillment centers amid the coronavirus outbreak through April 5.

Mar 18, 8:12am Top

>174 karenmarie: yes I saw that too, Karen. My dog's new Nylabone either qualified as a priority household item or it was shipped just before this went into effect, because it was delivered yesterday. She's a happy pup.

Mar 18, 3:21pm Top

Great comments on Such a Fun Age; it sounds like a good one. I loved the interview as well. Thanks for posting the link. It's great to watch something not virus related.

Mar 18, 3:50pm Top

>176 BLBera: I'm glad you liked the video, Beth and I hope you enjoy the book if you decide to read it.

My book group is scheduled to discuss Such a Fun Age at the end of April but we are talking about having a virtual meeting sooner, once everyone has read the book. Our March meeting was cancelled on us, because we had planned to attend a library event with Bernardine Evaristo that is no longer happening.

Mar 18, 4:11pm Top

Laura, I had Such A Fun Age home from the library but I ran out of time to read it so back it went. Story of my life. Ha! I will wait until the hoopla winds down and try again. Who knows when our library will even reopen? Lucky for me, The Mirror and the Light is home with me to keep me out of trouble.

So, did your second class get canceled like everything else? I sure enjoyed your thoughts on the first one. How cool that our Poet Laureate is teaching the class. I hope it can resume in one form or another.

Mar 18, 6:59pm Top

>178 Donna828: Yes Donna, my second class was cancelled. The instructors proposed extending the next session (4/18) by an hour to discuss two books. Whether we will be able to meet then is anybody's guess. I hope they will consider holding a virtual session. Meanwhile, they sent us all some work to do on our own since we will not have as much time for Meridian as originally planned. I'll post an update here when I've finished my homework.

Mar 19, 11:56am Top

Hi Laura. Just delurking once again, as I wend my way through countless threads that have filled to overflowing.
I'm planning on beating back my fabric stash as a compensation for enforced home-stay.

Enforced by ourselves as a protective measure, that is. Once, long ago I had a serious bout of pneumonia that scarred my bronchial tubes, so I was under strict advice for the family doctor to let The Man do all necessary shopping and he's been told to arrange things so that there's only 1 store run in a 2-week time period.

Mar 19, 11:57am Top

That sounds like a wise plan, Sandy. Thanks for stopping by!

Mar 19, 12:29pm Top

So many great events being canceled! I know that's not a big deal in the grand scheme, but still, disappointing. I am busy learning how to keep in touch with my students and teach virtually. We'll see how that goes.

Mar 19, 3:56pm Top

I know, Beth, I'm feeling disappointed too. We had a busy calendar of chamber music concerts which were cancelled through March and I suspect more cancellations are coming. Annual fund-raisers for arts organizations are also being cancelled. The lost revenue will really hurt these non-profits. And let's face it, most businesses are taking a hit right now.


On the plus side, many businesses are getting creative.

Our gym rolled out live online classes that require little to no equipment, and nothing you can't improvise on your own (using a bag of dog food instead of weights, that kind of thing). Of course, they want people to keep their memberships active. I want to stay active, so I'm willing to give this a try. My first experience this morning worked reasonably well.

Many restaurants are offering takeout or delivery, and I'm aware of at least one "special occasion" restaurant that is taking orders for a 3-course dinner for two (takeout). I might have to check that out. We'll probably take advantage of other takeout services as well, both for variety and to support them during such tough times.

Edited: Mar 21, 7:54am Top

A friend told me today that BBC Radio 4 is serializing (or should I say serialising) The Mirror and the Light. Narrated by Anton Lesser, who is a fabulous actor, here's the main page:

It appears there are 5 episodes so far, with 20 more to come. If I wasn't more than halfway through the book already, I'd certainly consider this option!

Mar 21, 7:05am Top

^I hope you and the family are doing well, Laura. It will be a eerie drive into work this morning...

Mar 21, 7:55am Top

Thanks for that, Mark! We all need to support each other these days, and every little bit helps.

Mar 21, 3:53pm Top

Hi Laura,
Help request... my LT login isn't working.

I usually open a new tab on the same browser, when I want to simultaneously look at my member gallery to snag links. However, the log in keeps being denied. I didn't have any trouble a couple hours ago, so I have no changes to my computer system.

Any ideas who I should contact? Or what else to try? I'd hate to log off to restart because then I have *no* way to access LT at all to say "Help!"

Mar 21, 4:27pm Top

Sandy, I sent you a message with some questions to see if I can help troubleshoot this.

Mar 22, 8:00pm Top

HI Laura. I'm stopping by to see how you and your family are doing during these crazy times.

Mar 22, 10:14pm Top

Hello Linda! We are all doing fine so far, healthy and staying home. Thank you for asking!

Mar 23, 11:28am Top

How's everyone doing?

We spent the past week at home except for dog walks and venturing out to get food (a combination of takeout meals and grocery curbside pickup).

As of 8am today, Philadelphia is under a Stay at Home Order. Residents are required to stay home except for "Essential Personal Activities" which include getting food or medical supplies, healthcare, caring for family members, reporting to work if you do an "essential" job, leaving for educational, religious, or political reasons, activities related to health and safety, or engaging in outdoor activities. Although today is rainy I'm grateful for that last bit.

I've been trying to stay active by joining workouts led by our gym using Zoom, and YouTube-based workouts on a stationary bike. I hope these offset the effects of increased baking. 😀

Grocery shopping is still somewhat of an experiment, trying to find the best way to get it done. This week, I decided not to use Whole Foods delivery via Amazon Prime, because a big banner on their website says "Inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand." Yeah ... okay ... but there's no indication of the delivery window until you check out. I realized I didn't really need the kind of specialty items WF carries, so I used another supermarket's curbside pickup service. It worked GREAT, both in terms of product availability and the pickup process. This morning I placed a delivery order with Reading Terminal Market, my favorite source for fresh meats and produce, and was pleased to see it will be delivered tomorrow morning. I also ordered 5lbs of coffee from LaColombe. Priorities!!

And yes I'm reading! I'm nearing the end of The Mirror and the Light, which is so so good. I'm also very close to finishing the last volume of In Search of Lost Time. And then I'm going to read something light before returning to the third Lymond Chronicles, which I started earlier this month.

Mar 23, 2:19pm Top

>191 lauralkeet: Glad your grocery pick up went well. I've only been able to fill in our blank spots by going out during "senior shopping". I ordered for delivery a week ago yesterday, was assigned a delivery time of last night, day later got a confusing message that sounded like it might be cancelled, got three later confirmations and the order continued to be listed as "pending" with the same delivery time of 7-9 p.m. last night. We were up until 11 but nothing arrived. The order, however, was moved from "pending" to "old orders". I was hoping to use the service to get fresh milk and veg during the isolation period but guess that's not going to work :(

Mar 23, 3:28pm Top

>192 RebaRelishesReading: oh that's too bad, Reba. My daughter had a mishap with Whole Foods/Amazon in Brooklyn last week (which is what made me wary about using them here). The ordering and shopping went as expected, but delivery was delayed and delayed and then ... cancelled. She couldn't get a good explanation from Amazon, and the records now say it was cancelled at customer request. So annoying! I hope you're able to find a solution for fresh milk and eggs.


We also subscribe to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) which offers a lot of flexibility -- you can modify the contents of the weekly box, or add to it. They are really doing a great job during this crisis, and I've shifted a little more of my fresh produce and egg buying to them.

Mar 23, 7:29pm Top

>191 lauralkeet: I hope these offset the effects of increased baking. 😀

Yup, I know *exactly* what you mean! My idea of homemade bread slightly backfired. It is disappearing at about twice the rate we normally consume...

Mar 23, 8:02pm Top

I had the same trouble ordering for pickup and delivery. Especially frustrating since I couldn't tell availability until AFTER I took the time to enter all my items. Oh well.

Son made dinner last night and daughter is on for tonight. It's a great opportunity to learn to cook a little!!

Mar 23, 8:23pm Top

Stay well, Laura. My classes start again next week, and I think I will be busy then, but in the meantime, my house will be cleaner than it's been in a while :) I also may finish some samplers and hooked rugs...And read some books.

Mar 23, 8:29pm Top

>195 Berly: Exactly. I tried a smaller order with a different store -- they won't do delivery at all at the moment but didn't tell me until I had inputted everything that there were no pick-up slots available. I think I'm just going to brave the senior shopping hours every week or so (I know that's not available to you).

>196 BLBera: Real-life classes starting again next week? Really!?

Mar 23, 9:04pm Top

>194 SandyAMcPherson: ooh, bread! That's nice, Sandy. My baking has been more of the cookie variety. The good news is, we have learned we can ration them when we want to.

>195 Berly:, >197 RebaRelishesReading: Kim & Reba, it would be so much better if the grocery websites had something on their landing page that told you the current earliest delivery date!

>196 BLBera: Beth, you're doing virtual teaching, right? I'm impressed you've been cleaning your house. I haven't been motivated to do that yet. Although I did rearrange a closet and wash my dog's stinky blanket.

Mar 23, 9:38pm Top

>198 lauralkeet: Okay I want to know your secret!
I absolutely do not handle cookie rationing at all well...

Mar 24, 8:01am Top

>199 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy, I'm afraid it's nothing more than force of will, and an awareness that once they're gone, they're gone. My baking ground to a near-halt once our nest was empty, because we realized how quickly we would consume sweets if we had them in the house. We prefer to go to a coffee shop where we can have just one thing and go home. But that's not an option now, and our sweet tooth (teeth?) must be sated. So if we can ration the cookies, then we have cookies around for a longer period of time.

That said, I just realized we ate the last of the brownies last night, and are now out of cookies. Ack!

Mar 24, 8:21am Top

Hi Laura!

I'm not baking if/until I can't get store-bought sweets. I have lots of flour, sugar, and butter in the freezer, and Crisco, chocolate, nuts raisins, and etc. to do some baking. Having said that, I might buy homemade cheesecake ingredients when we go grocery shopping this weekend. If, of course, they're in stock. Our grocery store has been amazingly well supplied so far.

Mar 24, 12:31pm Top

The classes will be virtual, Laura, which will be much more work than face to face. Cleaning is something to do when I am tired of reading, sitting, being at home...

Mar 24, 1:24pm Top

>198 lauralkeet: absolutely it would be great if grocery stores could post an honest statement of what to expect on the web site before you start shopping!! But on a happier note, friends who live near us went to senior shopping at the same store I did last week and were able to buy TP, Kleenex, EGGS, apples, lemons and...wait for it...a 4-pack of Wipes!!! No butter though :( I had two partial packs of wipes when this started and planned to buy another one if I could find them. I haven't seen them anywhere but also find I'm not using that many since we aren't going out so guess we're OK like it is.

Mar 24, 3:38pm Top

Hi Laura, You got me with a couple of books: A Woman of No Importance I think I may have read about somewhere else but your review got it on my list. Such a Fun Age looks like a must-read.

I've never tried grocery order/delivery, and this does not seem like the best time to start:) Jealous of your ability to get delivery from the Reading Terminal Market! We still have a dairy delivery service (we had a milkman growing up - same thing) and so far they are still delivering. That's my weekly source for milk, half and half, eggs, butter, etc.

Mar 24, 4:08pm Top

Hi Karen, Beth, Reba and Anne! Thanks for stopping by, now more than ever the LT community is one of the things keeping me sane.

Today's victory: I. FINISHED. READING. PROUST. !!!!

This was a very long-term project, and one that I set aside for a couple of years midway through. In the next day or so I'll try to write a review of the last book, with impressions of the work as a whole.

Mar 24, 4:43pm Top

Congrats on making it through the Proust!

Mar 24, 7:43pm Top

Thanks Katie!

AND ... drum roll ... I also finished The Mirror and the Light. 5 stars of amazingness. Review to come soon.

Mar 24, 7:49pm Top

Congratulations on reading Proust! I'm excited to hear your thoughts on it.

Also glad to see that you finished and love The Mirror and the Light. I'm about a third into it.

Mar 25, 7:07am Top

Yay Laura! What a wonderful accomplishment.

Mar 25, 7:38am Top

"I also finished The Mirror and the Light. 5 stars of amazingness."

^Great to hear, Laura. Glad to see your update from Monday and glad to hear you are both making the best of it. Sue and I are continuing to work, so every day kind of feels like a Saturday, on my commute.

Mar 25, 8:12am Top

Good morning Jennifer, Karen, and Mark. Lately I've been starting my day with about 10 pages of Proust, and it felt weird not to do that this morning. But seeing my LT friends first thing in the morning always gets my day off to a good start!

Mar 25, 8:19am Top

There is often a sort of empty feeling for me after finishing a long book. I still miss reading Proust.

Mar 25, 8:25am Top

Jennifer, you could always read it again. 😀 My husband read it a few years before I started, and he's now re-reading it with a discussion group. He says he's enjoying it even more because he understands the structure of the work as a whole, and is noticing details in the early books that he just didn't know to pay attention to the first time around.

Mar 25, 9:32am Top

>205 lauralkeet: Woah! Proust?!
I'm intimidated by the very thought.

Re cookies (#200), I don't bake cookies at all anymore. You remember that old advert: the "bet you can't eat one"? Yeah.
The Man took over because he loves cookies and is way better at restraint. However, I seem to be a little immune to his baking because he likes crisp textures so unless I'm in a comfort-food mindset, I can leave them be. As long as I don't start... then I'm a goner and want 6.

Looking ahead, I'm reading off the e-reader a lot more these days. And to think I complained a bare 10 days ago about my library book cascade. I started a new series (not at No. 1) by Kate Ellis, with the Joe Plantagenet character.

Mar 25, 12:33pm Top

>214 SandyAMcPherson: then I'm a goner and want 6.
Yes, that's usually my problem, too, Sandy. I can totally relate!

Edited: Mar 25, 12:35pm Top

16. Time Regained ()
Source: On my shelves

Time Regained opens with Marcel visiting Combray, the village of his childhood which figured prominently in the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. He has reconnected with his first love, Gilberte, who is now married to one of Marcel’s best friends. Soon, World War I is upon them and the narrative shifts to the impact of war on the village, on Paris, and on the society in which Marcel circulates. Much later (in the novel as well as in Marcel’s life), he attends a party and encounters many people he doesn’t recognize. This is not because he doesn’t know them, but because Marcel has been absent and everyone has aged considerably. And besides aging, some have fallen in the social hierarchy while others have made astonishing moves up the ladder.

Analysis of society, and the motivations of individuals, is a central theme throughout the work. In this volume, Marcel also reflects on how memories of the same event can vary widely from person to person, and how decisions or actions that seem inconsequential can have long-term effects:
But the truth, even more, is that life is perpetually weaving fresh threads which link one individual and one event to another, and that these threads are crossed and recrossed, doubled and redoubled to thicken the web, so that between any slightest point of our past and all the others a rich network of memories gives us an almost infinite variety of communicating paths to choose from.
And finally, as Proust closes a circle by connecting back to the first pages of In Search of Lost Time, I began to grasp the genius of this work. I say “began” because I sense that more insight can be gained by re-reading Proust from time to time. Will I do so? Only time will tell. For now I am perfectly happy to have read it once.

Overall Impressions
It has taken me nearly 6 years to read In Search of Lost Time. I began reading in April, 2014, and by May 2015 had finished the first three books. I remember feeling like I really needed a break, but I didn’t think I would end up letting 1.5 years pass before reading book 4. Another 2 years ticked by before I decided “it’s now or never,” and committed myself to reading books 5, 6 and 7.

This work can’t be skimmed; it requires concentration and reflection. My approach was to read 10-15 pages per day, guided by a blog from 2010 where the author read the entire work over a one-year period. The blog was useful, if for no other reason than to break things down into bite-sized chunks, and sometimes I found the interpretation interesting. Sometimes I was bewildered. But the last volume was very satisfying, as I finally began to see what Proust had been trying to do all along. I’m really glad to have finished this but also, to be honest, happy to be done!

Mar 25, 6:34pm Top

Amazing, Laura. Instead of an apocalypse accompanying the pandemic, you finish Proust! Hmm.Congrats.

Mar 25, 7:12pm Top

Wow. Six years. Now that is a real reading project Laura. I know I have the entire thing on my Kindle and I always thought I might read it but I grow more skeptical every day. I'm really struggling with concentration right now.

Mar 25, 9:05pm Top

>217 BLBera: To be fair, Beth, 99.99999% of my Proust reading took place before the pandemic. At the beginning of March I realized I could finish in about 3 weeks if I just kept up my 10-15pp/day pace, and that was a surprising motivator.

>218 brenzi: Bonnie, I wouldn't recommend starting something like Proust right now. I'm struggling with concentration, too, and that is sure to influence my reading choices.

Mar 25, 9:19pm Top

>214 SandyAMcPherson: Only 6, Sandy? In my reality, that is showing admirable restraint.

Mar 26, 12:18am Top

>219 lauralkeet: I am definitely into the lighter reads right now. No Proust for me!! (Impressive on your end!)

Mar 26, 7:57am Top

Saint Mazie | The Disorderly Knights

Speaking of lighter reads (Hi Kim!), after finishing the Mantel I was absolutely not ready to dive back into The Disorderly Knights (the third Lymond novel). Shout out to Katie (katiekrug) who recently recommended Saint Mazie as an easy, enjoyable read. I actually have this book, and it was the very same Katie who made me buy it during our Philly LT meetup a couple of years ago. It's a better fit for my current reading mood.

I'm taking a "wait and see" approach with The Disorderly Knights. Bonnie (brenzi) and I started reading these together, and she just bailed on this one because its complicated storyline required too much concentration. I might be in the same boat, as I was having some difficulty following it before I set it aside, and that was in some other lifetime before all this pandemic crap. I'll try a few pages and see how I get on, but I see a potential "DNF" looming.

Mar 26, 8:11am Top

>213 lauralkeet: As soon as I finished Proust, I felt like I would want to reread it. I'm pretty sure I will some day. As you said, the ending just puts a whole different spin on the book and Id love to read it again with that in mind. And even though I loved it overall there were long stretches that I lost interest and I'm sure I missed tons.

Congrats again on finishing!

Mar 26, 8:26am Top

Woot for Mazie!

Mar 26, 9:36am Top

>223 japaul22: there were long stretches that I lost interest and I'm sure I missed tons.
EXACTLY ... all those long party scenes. And then you realize, oh those might have been important. Yeah, maybe someday. And thanks for the congrats.

>224 katiekrug: Thanks for the rec, Katie. Although I slightly freaked out when the Spanish Flu arrived and they all had to take preventive measures. I was like, am I going to have to abandon this? Fortunately that plot point passed quickly.

Mar 26, 9:38am Top

>225 lauralkeet: - Ha! I don't even remember that part :-P

Mar 26, 1:04pm Top

17. The Mirror and the Light ()
Source: A recent purchase (pre-ordered)

Henry’s eyes are on his portrait of himself, massive, on the wall of the chamber. His own eyes consult the image of his master. “What should I want with the Emperor, were he emperor of all the world? Your Majesty is the only prince. The mirror and the light of other kings.”
When I received my pre-ordered copy of The Mirror and the Light on the day it was released, I dropped pretty much everything to read it. I’m so glad I did; it was totally worth the 8-year wait (the previous book, Bring up the Bodies, was published in 2012). Set during the reign of King Henry VIII, Bring up the Bodies ends with the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536. This third and final book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy begins immediately after, and I do mean immediately. This rather gruesome start is very effective at dropping the reader right into the middle of the story so you don’t miss a beat.

At this point in history, Thomas Cromwell was at the height of his career, serving as Master Secretary to the King and Lord Privy Seal -- not bad for a commoner from Putney. But what do those titles mean, in practical terms?
Somewhere--or Nowhere, perhaps--there is a society ruled by philosophers. They have clean hands and pure hearts. But even in the metropolis of light there are maddens and manure-heaps, swarming with flies. Even in the republic of virtue you need a man who will shove up the shit, and somewhere it is written that Cromwell is his name.
Cromwell is a busy man, managing the dissolution of the monasteries and quelling the uprisings that followed, fending off potential threats from France and the Roman Empire, and -- most significantly for this novel -- engineering Henry’s next marriage, to Anne of Cleves. This strategic and initially promising match turned disastrous the moment Henry set eyes on Anne, and he held Cromwell responsible. This was just the opening his political opponents needed, and thus began Cromwell’s downfall.

This book is much longer than its predecessors, but so well written that I couldn’t put it down. Despite a very large cast of characters, it was fairly easy to keep track of who’s who (and Mantel includes a helpful reference). The characters are richly detailed, and the reader gets to know them so well they can actually spot the tiny details foreshadowing the betrayal of Cromwell. And those same tiny details are used to brilliant effect in showing Cromwell’s internal failings. A man formerly on top of his game would suddenly lose focus in a meeting, or forget to handle some small but strategically important matter. The final pages are, like the rest of the novel, told from Cromwell’s perspective which, given the outcome, is a literary feat unto itself.

To fully appreciate this book you have to have read the first two in the trilogy. So please, go do that and then immediately read The Mirror and the Light.

Mar 26, 2:43pm Top

Congrats on Proust, Laura. I love that you persevered and also love that you're glad it's over!

Another shout out to Katie who provided a suggestion for a good but light read, Evvie Drake Starts Over. Next up for me is The Mirror and The Light and I can't wait.

Mar 26, 2:48pm Top

>228 vivians: - I feel so loved :)

I found out today that my aunt in Texas heeded my recommendation for Saint Mazie and is also enjoying it.

Mar 26, 2:55pm Top

>228 vivians: ooh yes I saw that recommendation too, Vivian. I have some other light fare on my shelves which I really *should* prioritize over a new purchase.

>229 katiekrug: you are a one-woman book recommendation engine, Katie!

Mar 27, 3:23am Top

>230 lauralkeet: Fine. Skip me. See if I praise your Proust reading again. (Well, I might anyhow. It is impressive.) ; )

Mar 27, 6:40am Top

Great review of The Mirror and The Light! Big Thumb! I hope to get to it, in the next month or two. Congrats also, on the Proust. I would love to tackle that one of these days.

Mar 27, 8:23am Top

>231 Berly: Oh no Kim, I'm so sorry!!! It looks like I missed Karen, too. Shame on me!!! I beg your forgiveness ...

>232 msf59: Thanks Mark. The Mantel is so good, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Mar 27, 1:42pm Top

18. Saint Mazie ()
Source: On my shelves

Saint Mazie is a novel based on the life of Mazie Phillips-Gordon, who earned her nickname as an advocate for the homeless in New York City at the time of the Great Depression. Told through the lens of a diary discovered after her death, the novel describes Mazie’s childhood and coming of age on the streets of New York, where she lived with her older sister Rosie. They live on the edge of poverty, but as a young adult Mazie gets a job working the ticket booth at a seedy movie theater, and ultimately becomes manager and owner of the theater. Sitting in the ticket booth every day, Mazie becomes a neighborhood figure and, inspired by friendship with a nun, decides to share some of her relative prosperity to help others.

Interspersed with the diary entries are short snippets of interviews with people who knew Mazie back in the day, or present-day figures with historical knowledge. The reader never knows exactly who is conducting the interviews and research into Mazie’s life, and although I have a guess, it’s really not important to the story. The structure worked for me, and I enjoyed the character development. This was a good, solid read that suited my need for light entertainment.

In the acknowledgements, the author cites as inspiration an essay, Mazie, published in The New Yorker in December, 1940. I found this just as fascinating as the novel.

Mar 27, 3:43pm Top

>234 lauralkeet: This sounds good, Laura. I am almost done with The Night Watchman and will have to choose what to read next.

Mar 27, 3:56pm Top

^^ What Beth said although I am finishing a different book. LOL

Mar 27, 3:59pm Top

>235 BLBera:, >236 Berly: Is it a race?! I'll watch your threads to see what your next books are.

Meanwhile, I returned to The Disorderly Knights, resuming at Part 3, which makes up the last half the book. Parts I & II were very confusing -- new setting, lots of new characters, complicated battles -- but in Part III we are back in mid-16th Century Scotland and it's much easier to follow. So I haven't given up on it yet.

Mar 27, 6:08pm Top

>222 lauralkeet: Just looked at the Saint Mazie write up page. What a wonderful gem of a book.A BB in fact.

Mar 27, 6:54pm Top

>234 lauralkeet: - Glad it hit the spot for you, Laura. I really love Attenberg (though I think I've only read 2 of her novels so far; I follow her on Twitter so probably have an inflated sense of "knowing" her and her work...).

Mar 27, 8:12pm Top

>227 lauralkeet: The characters are richly detailed, and the reader gets to know them so well they can actually spot the tiny details foreshadowing the betrayal of Cromwell.

That was one of the best parts of the narrative, wasn't it Laura. Terrific review. I wish I was still reading that book. Lol.

Mar 28, 8:22am Top

>238 SandyAMcPherson: I'm delighted to add to your TBR, Sandy!

>239 katiekrug: That's funny, Katie, but I know what you mean. I have that same weird feeling about Kiley Reid, for no other reason than she lives *somewhere* in our neighborhood and we've spotted her at the gym and in a coffee shop.

>240 brenzi: Hi Bonnie! It sure was one of the best parts of a book filled with best parts.

Mar 28, 12:30pm Top

Hi, Laura. I'm so impressed you read the whole In Search of Lost Time. I've yet to try it, and I'm not sure I ever will.

Great review of The Mirror and the Light. Thumbed!

Mar 28, 2:32pm Top

>227 lauralkeet: yay, glad it was the icing on the trilogy cake Laura (just looked at the rating for now) - at the moment it is scheduled for autumn, but I might do the trilogy read a bit earlier.

Mar 28, 2:54pm Top

>242 jnwelch: Joe, I don't think I would ever have read Proust if my husband hadn't already done so. It was a combination of encouragement and healthy competition that did it.

>243 Caroline_McElwee: I'm sure you'll enjoy The Mirror and the Light whenever you get to it, Caro. You're in for a treat.

Mar 28, 6:49pm Top

Healthy competition is always good. :)

Mar 28, 6:57pm Top

You got me with Saint Mazie. I predict my mood will be wanting easy, enjoyable reads for awhile.

Congrats on finishing the Proust - wow!

Mar 28, 9:18pm Top

>245 BLBera: I agree, Beth!
>246 AMQS: Hi Anne! I hope you enjoy Saint Mazie.

Mar 28, 9:22pm Top

>227 lauralkeet: Prediction:

Hilary Mantel becomes the first person to win three Bookers in 2020.

Stay safe, Laura. xx

Mar 29, 8:21am Top

>248 PaulCranswick: that would be amazing, Paul!

We are doing well chez nous, doing our best to stay safe and healthy. I'm sure you are doing the same -- thanks for visiting!

Mar 31, 3:26am Top

I am needing to go back and read Wolf Hall which I never read for one reason or another although I have read Bring up the Bodies.

Mar 31, 8:24am Top

>250 SandDune: well Rhian, no time like the present eh? What can I say except that Wolf Hall is very good. But you knew that already, I'm sure. 😀

Mar 31, 12:04pm Top

19. The Disorderly Knights ()
Source: On my Kindle

In this third book in the Lymond Chronicles, our hero Francis Crawford travels to Malta and becomes involved with the Knights of St John, a Catholic military order. Led by a tyrannical Grand Master, the group finds themselves defending Malta and then battling the Turks in Tripoli. This action forms the first half of the book, and I admit I almost gave up on it. The setting, the myriad new characters, the complicated battle scenes that were impossible to visualize, were all doing my head in. But I set the book aside, and when I picked it up again a week or so later I found the action had returned to Scotland and familiar characters reappeared. Lymond decides to form his own Knights of St Mary’s, a mercenary army which he plans to train to defend Scotland and possibly other parts of the world. The new army is seeded with a few Knights of St. John, and which seems promising but ultimately leads to a serious conflict between leaders. On the way to the inevitable showdown other characters develop in some very interesting ways, and the reader learns some things about Lymond that he doesn’t yet know himself. The ending is quite open-ended, leaving me wondering just what will happen next.

These novels are long and rich with historic detail, requiring considerable concentration. I plan to keep reading this series, but need to put some space between each volume so as not to get overwhelmed.

Mar 31, 10:27pm Top

Roaming the threads!
I'm leaving messages here and there, to let folks know we're okay, The Man and I.
I definitely needed a break from the barrage of info shooting into my eyeballs off this website as well as the news feeds.

My equanimity has started on some recovery, but I need to be more mindful how susceptible I am in reacting to emerging viral news.

Mar 31, 11:30pm Top

It's a bit of a risk but I think I'll save The Mirror and the Light for retirement, at which time I will reread the first two and then read that in close proximity. Since I had set my cap at August 2021 for retirement and it's likely that the next 6-18 months in higher education will be lived in totally new territory, I expect the months to fly. It's certainly not a boring time.

I hope you and yours are safe and well, Laura.

Apr 1, 7:11am Top

>253 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy! Thanks for stopping by; I like that Snoopy graphic it's pretty much on point. I agree about taking a break from the news. After a really down day last week I cut back and it has helped.

>254 EBT1002: Ellen, I like your idea of reading the Mantel trilogy when you retire. Just one more thing to look forward to! And I'm sure you are right about how the time will fly. These are unprecedented times.

My family is all safe and well, thanks for asking. I plan to start a new thread later today so I will post a "life update" there.

Apr 1, 12:26pm Top

My new thread is up. Just follow the continuation thingy below!

This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 in 2020 - Part 3.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2020

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