Jennifer's 2021 Category Challenge (japaul22)

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Jennifer's 2021 Category Challenge (japaul22)

1japaul22
Redigerat: jan 26, 1:03pm

Hi everyone! I am very ready for a brand new year that will hopefully be better than 2020! I've stopped counting how many year's I've done the category challenge, but I think since 2010. Simple categories that truly reflect my reading goals have been working best for me. I read about 80 books a year, so I made my categories to match up with that number.

ETA: I've decided it makes more sense this year to put books in every category they fit in. And my prescribed numbers will be a minimum. It's bothering me to read a 1001 book that also fits my Black American or Native American reading and not be able to put it both places.

This year will be as follows:

1001 books to read before you die: 18 books - this would get me to 350 read!

Off the shelf nyrb or persephone publications: 7 books (I did a lot of buying and not a lot of reading from these publishers)

Off the shelf, general: 15 books (these can be bought at any time - even in 2021, point being to read the books I buy)
I'm going to replace this category with books by or about American Indian experience, Black American experience, and Reading Books by Women

New releases from 2020/2021: 25 books

Miscellaneous (nonfiction, audiobooks, random library finds): 15 books

2japaul22
Redigerat: sep 25, 8:51am

1001 Books to Read Before you Die

1 Americanah by Adichie
2 Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
3 House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
4 Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers
5 Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
6 Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
7 Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
8 Regeneration by Pat Barker
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18

Clarissa?
another James Baldwin Giovanni's Room
Strindberg
Hamsun
Zola, Therese Raquin
Effi Briest
Henry James, Wings of the Dove
Salmon Rushdie
Pat Barker trilogy
Testament of Youth
Cloudsplitter
Dickens
Thomas Hardy Return of the Native
Life and Death of Harriet Frean
Allende, The House of the Spirits
Carter, Nights at the Circus
THe Well of Loneliness
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Oroonoko
Night
Fingersmith
Asphodel by Hilda Doolittle
Murder must advertise
The Nine Tailors

4japaul22
Redigerat: okt 17, 8:18am

Books by or about Indigenous Cultures
1. Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
2. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
3. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
4. Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
5. The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

Braiding Sweetgrass
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee
Empire of the Summer Moon (on kindle)
There, There
Louise Erdrich
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Empire of the Wild
The Inconvenient Indian
Green Grass, Water Running
Seven Fallen Feathers
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
Ceremony
Killers of the Flower Moon and Mean Spirit
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Spirit Moves: The Story of Six Generations of Native Women
All the Real Indians Died Off
Brothers on Three
Velma Wallis Two Old Women
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee
Blood and Thunder
Even as We Breathe

Books by or about Black Americans
1. Americanah by Adichie
2. Kindred by Octavia Butler
3. Libertie by Kate Greenidge
4. The Vanishing Half
5. Coming of Age in Mississippi
6. All That She Carried by Tiya Miles
7. Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley
Devil in the Grove (on kindle)
The Vanishing Half
Americanah
Kindred by Octavia Butler

500 Great Books by Women (I've read only 58, even with the very high percentage of women authors I read every year!)
1. Kindred by Octavia Butler
2. Constance Ring by Amalie Skram
3. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
4. Testament of Youth
5. Coming of age in Mississippi

Corregidor
Ceremony
Nightwood by Barnes
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria
Constance Ring by Amalie Skram (norwegian)
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Well of Loneliness
Testament of Youth

7dudes22
nov 23, 2020, 3:08pm

Sounds like a good plan, Jennifer. You usually manage to push a few BB's my way so I'm looking forward to seeing what you read.

8NinieB
nov 23, 2020, 6:25pm

Welcome to 2021--your plan looks doable! Looking forward to following along.

9rabbitprincess
nov 23, 2020, 8:16pm

Welcome back and have a great reading year! Sometimes I think I should do a little British Library Crime Classics challenge because I keep buying them :D

10VivienneR
nov 23, 2020, 9:15pm

Looking forward to following along, I always like the books you choose. Happy reading!

11DeltaQueen50
nov 23, 2020, 11:25pm

I've placed my star and I am looking forward to seeing where your reading takes you this year.

12MissWatson
nov 24, 2020, 6:12am

This looks like an achievable plan. I'm looking forward to see what you read!

13pamelad
nov 24, 2020, 2:32pm

Simple categories are the go! Happy reading in 2021.

14hailelib
nov 24, 2020, 8:02pm

Good luck with your reading goals for 2021.

15Nickelini
nov 28, 2020, 9:59pm

Like you, I find NYRB and Persephone to be sooooo tempting to buy (for me, also Europa Edtitions)

16thornton37814
dec 4, 2020, 1:28pm

Welcome back. I keep debating reading Clarissa, but the size is so intimidating!

17katiekrug
dec 4, 2020, 2:04pm

I'll be following along again next year, Jennifer!

18japaul22
dec 4, 2020, 2:24pm

>16 thornton37814: Me too! I'm not convinced I'll actually tackle Clarissa, but I'm getting closer.

>17 katiekrug: Good to see you here!

19markon
dec 8, 2020, 9:20pm

Simple is often best. Have a good reading year!

20Tess_W
dec 13, 2020, 7:33pm

Good luck with your 2021 reading!

21lkernagh
dec 31, 2020, 6:01pm

I spy a question mark beside Clarissa. ;-) I don't blame you. That one was a year long read for me. One piece of advice I can offer is to not commit to trying to follow the diary entries by day.... read at your own pace. Wishing you a wonderful reading year in 2021!

22japaul22
dec 31, 2020, 6:17pm

>21 lkernagh: You do spy a question mark! I actually got Clarissa for Christmas and seeing how big it is makes me feel even more like it's not the time. Maybe later in the year.

23japaul22
jan 2, 7:57am

Off the shelf (1/15)

Academy Street by Mary Costello
I've started 2021 with a wonderful, concise, emotional novel. Academy Street follows the life of Tess Lohan, from the death of her mother when Tess is six, through her old age. Tess is born in Ireland and immigrates to America when she is in her 20s. Costello describes Tess's life - both her internal character and her outward connections with others - in a series of what I would call vignettes of her life. Large time periods are skipped and events don't always seem completely explored, but in spite of this, or maybe because of it, I got to know Tess inside and out in just 179 pages.

I must have heard about this book on LT, so I will do everyone a favor and continue highly recommending it! It's one you can read in a day, and you'll be glad you did.

Off to a great start!

Original publication date: 2014
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 179 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Christmas present
Why I read this: off the shelf

24katiekrug
jan 2, 9:31am

>23 japaul22: - I absolutely loved Academy Street when I read it a few years ago. So spare and beautiful but with a lot packed in.

25Crazymamie
jan 2, 9:32am

>24 katiekrug: What she said. I read it because Katie recommended it, and I also gave it the full five stars.

26japaul22
jan 2, 9:46am

>24 katiekrug: I must have added it to my list after your review! It was a Christmas gift from my wishlist. Thank you!

27japaul22
jan 3, 12:24pm

>4 japaul22: I've decided to amend my categories to reflect some more targeted reading that I'd really like to do this year. I had a category of 15 books from my shelves, and honestly, I don't need a ton of help here. I've been good about reading from my shelves and good about buying books that I read quickly, so I don't need the push of a category this year. Instead, I really want to read books by or about American Indians and Black Americans. I definitely started more targeted reading by Black Americans when the Black Lives Matter protests were at their height this past year, and I'd like to continue it. At the same time, I've had a growing interest in discovering more about American Indians. If anyone has books suggestions in that area, I'm all ears! I have some ideas, but I'm woefully unversed in the topic.

I've rounded out the replaced category with 5 books from a book I've owned for a few years called 500 Great Books by Women. It's a really great list that was put together in the 1990s. I already read a lot of books by women, but I'm interested in exploring this list to broaden my reading. There are many books and authors I've never heard of included in this book.

So we'll see how it goes. I've not included topics this narrow for quite a few years, so we'll find out if I like it or not!

28katiekrug
jan 3, 12:37pm

I look forward to following your revised categories, Jennifer, especially the American Indian reads. I've had Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Empire of the Summer Moon on my TBR forever. Maybe you'll inspire me!

29RidgewayGirl
jan 3, 12:50pm

>27 japaul22: I'm not going to comment on your outright bragging about how you read so responsibly from your own shelves, because I'd only be telling on myself, but I like the new category. : )

Books by Native Americans/First Nations authors I've enjoyed in the past few years have been There There by Tommy Orange, The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, The Break by Katherena Vermette and Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline.

30rabbitprincess
jan 3, 1:05pm

I'll throw in a recommendation for Thomas King: The Inconvenient Indian and Green Grass, Running Water are my favourites of his.

Also Seven Fallen Feathers, by Tanya Talaga, and Five Little Indians, by Michelle Good.

31japaul22
jan 3, 1:10pm

>28 katiekrug:, >29 RidgewayGirl:, >30 rabbitprincess: See, this is why I need this category! I've read absolutely none of these suggested books, though several have been on my mental TBR list. I'm excited!

32katiekrug
jan 3, 1:47pm

I just saw that the Kindle edition of Empire of the Summer Moon is on sale today. Kismet!

33DeltaQueen50
jan 3, 1:52pm

As it has your, Katie and Mamie's recommendations, how can I resist adding Academy Street to my wishlist!

34Crazymamie
jan 3, 2:18pm

>27 japaul22: I love your amended category. Empire of the Summer Moon is excellent.

I read Devil in the Grove a few years ago, and it is also excellent. The March GNs are fabulous.

Last year I read Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, and I learned a lot and loved how it was organized. Written by two women, and I added a lot to my TBR.

>29 RidgewayGirl:, >30 rabbitprincess: Making a note of these, so thank you!

35japaul22
jan 3, 2:38pm

>32 katiekrug: thank you! Purchased!

>34 Crazymamie: Great suggestions, thanks! Devil in the Grove is also on sale today for kindle, so I bought it too!

36NinieB
Redigerat: jan 3, 3:56pm

>27 japaul22: 500 Great Books by Women is such a good reading guide! It has led me to some excellent books, such as Annapurna: A Woman's Place, Coonardoo, The District Governor's Daughters, Clay Walls, Yes Is Better than No. While I wish they hadn't limited themselves to books that were in print when they published, that limitation did I think push them to select some books that are not well known.

37japaul22
Redigerat: jan 3, 5:20pm

>36 NinieB: I'm glad to hear you like it! I haven't spent a ton of time with it yet, but I've looked at it enough to know that it has some really interesting books and authors included that I haven't heard of. There aren't many comprehensive lists of women writers that I've seen, so I'm glad this book exists! I read an interesting book by Elaine Showalter called A Jury of her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx in 2010 that I should also look at again. I like that 500 Great Books by Women has at least some international writers included.

I will make a note of the books you mentioned. I haven't read any of them.

38ELiz_M
jan 3, 10:42pm

>27 japaul22: I also have this book as a resource -- I love the many lists in the back grouping the entries by genre, geography, publication date, etc.

I highly recommend Ceremony, a rare five-star read for me. I also recommend paring the well-written mystery Mean Spirit with the nonfiction Killers of the Flower Moon. L. Erdrich's former husband (not a Native American and has a troubling history) wrote a novel I very much enjoyed: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (if you can get past the author's personal history). For a memoir/personal history angle, there is Spirit Moves: The Story of Six Generations of Native Women and for more academic, modern take, I learned a lot from "All the Real Indians Died Off" and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans. I can't make any recommendations, but there seems to be more Native American poets than prose writers. I assume Joy Harjo is a good entry point there.

39japaul22
jan 4, 8:11am

>38 ELiz_M: thank you! Great suggestions and I haven’t read any of them. Maybe my American Indian reading will be a longer project than just 2021 . . .

40japaul22
jan 5, 7:22pm

"Other" category

The Book of Not by Tsitsi Dangarembga

The Book of Not is the second in autobiographical fiction trilogy by Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga. I absolutely loved the first book, Nervous Conditions, for its authentic voice, look at Zimbabwean culture, and feminist voice. Unfortunately, I didn't think this sequel was quite as successful.

In this book, Tambu, the main character, goes off to her next level of schooling, one of the best high schools in the country, which is mainly populated by white Rhodesians. There she deals with racism but also run-of-the-mill girlfriend drama and academic pressures. She is searching for her identity and torn between responsibilities to her country and culture and her desire to escape to a better life.

While these typical teenage dramas are playing out, the country is going through serious war and violence as the native people try to oust the white colonist. Tambu is involved and there are some brutal scenes of her family's experience, but she seems to remain on the outside of the violence and the focus stays on her high school experience.

While I still liked this book and will read the next in the trilogy, it was definitely less enjoyable for me. I felt like the writing was a bit overdone and the focus was more narrowly on Tambu. I missed some of the characters from the first novel.

Original publication date: 2006
Author’s nationality: Zimbabwean
Original language: English
Length: 246 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, continuing the trilogy

41RidgewayGirl
jan 5, 8:40pm

I picked up a copy of Nervous Conditions with my Christmas gift card thanks to your review last year and I'm looking forward to reading it.

42BLBera
jan 5, 9:50pm

I have Nervous Conditions on my "read soon" list, Jennifer. Great comments on the second book.

For Indigenous books, Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors. For nonfiction, I loved The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee and Rez Life. The first one, especially gives a great overview and is not stodgy. Treuer is a good storyteller. Leslie Marmon Silko is wonderful, and, of course, our poet laureate Joy Harjo. I love Sherman Alexie's writing, but his personal behavior is pretty horrible.

Susan Power's The Grass Dancer is wonderful and Linda Hogan's books are great as well.

43japaul22
jan 12, 8:14am

Another for my "other" category, though it could have fit in my American Indian reading - I'm going to save that category for books more specific to the topic.

The Age of Homespun by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her writing often attempts to illuminate the every day lives of those living in the Northeast region of early America, and this book fit that theme. In it, she explores eleven everyday objects that have survived hundreds of years and uses them to study everyday life, cultural trends, political issues, and many other topics. As with all of her books, the focus is on women's lives, which are often not documented to the same extent as their male counterparts.

One of the tenets of this book is that women's "wealth" was typically in moveable objects: linens, kitchen items, small furniture, items of clothing, and decorative luxuries. Men's wealth was in land, business, and education. As such, studying the objects presented in this book is a study of women's lives. The objects studied were created between 1676 and 1837 and include items like an Indian basket, spinning wheels, a pocketbook, a decorative cupboard, a linen tablecloth, and silk embroidery. The items lead to explorations of the settlers interactions with the local Indians (some of the objects are made by Indian women), how women spent their days, what genealogical records leave out about women, the methods of fabric making, spinning as a a political act so as not to rely on England's manufactured goods, and many more topics.

I was interested and excited that there was so much focus on Indian culture (specifically the Abenaki people) in this book, because one of my focuses this year is going to be on reading more books by and about American Indians. This unintentionally fit that category, so it was a good way to start my reading year.

Ulrich's writing won't be for everyone; her style is not the popular narrative nonfiction prevalent today. The writing is scholarly and dense, though I found I got in a pretty good rhythm with it and was able to get immersed in the topic. I suspect her book, A Midwife's Tale, will always be my favorite, but this is a close second and one I would like to read again some day. There is so much information that it was impossible to absorb it all in one reading.

Original publication date: 2001
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 481 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, favorite author

44katiekrug
jan 12, 8:21am

>43 japaul22: - Sounds fascinating.

45thornton37814
jan 12, 8:29am

>43 japaul22: I saw that one on my TBR list when I looked through it the other day. I like Ulrich too, and I suspect I added this one after I read another one.

46japaul22
jan 12, 1:42pm

>44 katiekrug: >45 thornton37814: It's a really wonderful book when you're in the mood for something scholarly and detailed.

47japaul22
jan 15, 6:44pm

New Releases:

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Jack is the fourth book in Robinson's series about characters from the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa. This novel explores the prodigal son, Jack, whose behavior was such a source of drama and gossip and grief in the other books. Jack, who is white, is basically homeless, an alcoholic, has had a stint in prison, and then meets a young Black woman who he falls in love with. Like Jack, Della is also the daughter of a minister and is living on her own in St. Louis as a teacher.

Their relationship is unlikely to me, and I had a hard time figuring out why they would have been attracted to each other, especially on Della's end. This is the 1950s, so there is really no way they can be together as a mixed-race couple. Jack is depressed, poor, and drinking too much. Yes, he is intelligent and kind but I can't imagine Della even discovering that beneath his poor, sad exterior.

Robinson's writing is, as always, beautiful and observant. Her writing is subtle and complex. So I did love this book, but I didn't like it quite as much as her other novels. I think Jack's story works better as a catalyst for conversations and character reactions in her other novels. When explored on its own, I thought Jack wasn't quite as interesting of a character as I found him when he was more mysterious and distant in the other novels.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 306 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: a favorite author

48katiekrug
jan 16, 7:27am

The reviews I've seen for Jack on LT have been pretty similar to yours, Jennifer - a bit mixed. I've only read Gilead so far...

49thornton37814
jan 16, 10:31am

>47 japaul22: I'll be reading that one sometime this year.

50katiekrug
jan 20, 11:43am

Jennifer, are you working today?!?!?

51dudes22
jan 20, 11:45am

>50 katiekrug: -I've been watching to see if I could see her.

52japaul22
jan 25, 7:26am

>50 katiekrug:, >51 dudes22: I'm so sorry - I lost track of my own thread. Thanks so much for checking in! I think I'm navigating things differently with the Talk changes and I didn't even see that I had any comments over here. On my Club Read thread, I posted this when I got home on Jan 20.

I'm home from the Inauguration swearing in ceremony and it was a wonderful day! It was very different than years past (this is my fifth Inauguration - GW Bush, 2 for Obama, Trump, and now Biden). It was so odd to not have a crowd there, on the platform or on the Mall. I missed the energy and definitely missed the applause as people are announced and speeches are given. We accompanied Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, both of whom were wonderful to work with - very gracious and professional. It was cold and windy, but not the worst I've done in terms of weather. It's a long day (our report time was 0345), but in a normal year as soon as the ceremony is done, we are bussed over to our spot in the parade, march the parade, and then we go to play at an Inaugural Ball, usually wrapping up around midnight. Today, because of coronavirus restrictions, we only did the swearing-in ceremony. So I'm tired, but it was much easier than a normal year.

It was very special to me to be seated just 20 feet below the swearing in of the first female VP. It will be one of my more memorable jobs.

53japaul22
jan 25, 7:49am

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I finally got around to reading Adichie's 2013 novel that explores the experiences of Nigerian-born Ifemelu and Obinze, and I'm so, so glad I did. Ifemelu and Obinze grow up comfortably upper middle class in Nigeria, but have to contend with the challenges of living in a developing country. When they are in college and the teachers continually go on strike, they begin seriously looking for ways to leave. As a female, Ifemelu is able to get a visa to America to live with her aunt fairly easily. Getting a work visa is not as easy. Obinze, as a male in the post-9/11 world, is unable to legally emigrate. He ends up briefly in London and then back in Nigeria.

Ifemelu is the focus for most of the book. She becomes successful in America writing a blog about race. She writes about how she never thought of herself as Black until she came to America - Black doesn't exist in Nigeria. She writes about the differences between Non-American Blacks and American Blacks. Her words are powerful and honest and entertaining - as a good blog should be. I was immediately struck by how her observations line up with Isabel Wilkerson's book, Caste. Though Americanah is a novel, it felt like real life observation of how the American Caste system is implemented and how it affects all of us.

Amidst these observations and experiences with race in America, the UK, and Nigeria, life happens. Ifemelu has various relationships, jobs, and family drama. Through it all, she thinks about Obinze, her first love. When she moves back to Nigeria, the question is whether she and Obinze will still love each other and whether life will allow them to be together.

I really loved this novel. For me, the most successful parts were the revelations about race and the immigrant experience. Also about the different lifestyles in Nigeria, America, and Great Britain. I was less interested in the romance between Ifemelu and Obinze. That took just a little bit of the glow off of this novel for me, but I still highly recommend it. I'll read anything Adichie writes. I think she's a wonderful writer.

Original publication date: 2013
Author’s nationality: Nigerian and American (dual citizenship, I believe)
Original language: English
Length: 588 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books, books about Black American experience for category challenge

54katiekrug
jan 25, 10:27am

>52 japaul22: - Oh, wonderful! Thanks for sharing :)

>53 japaul22: - I have Americanah on my Kindle and will get to it. Eventually...

55dudes22
Redigerat: jan 25, 12:40pm

>52 japaul22: - That does sound special. I thought it was a wonderful ceremony.

ETA: I can remember some of those "O-dark-thirty" show up times. Glad they're in the past.

56rabbitprincess
jan 25, 6:30pm

>52 japaul22: So exciting!!

57BLBera
jan 25, 9:04pm

I loved Americanah as well, Jennifer. Great comments.

58japaul22
jan 30, 7:44am

New Releases (2/20)

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

I've read both of Stuart Turton's mystery novels now, and I've detected a pattern. :-) Turton writes highly entertaining but over-complicated plots. His first book, 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was a clever mystery with a sort of time warp where the main character keeps waking up in different bodies on the same day trying to solve a mystery to get out of the cycle. The Devil and the Dark Water is set on a 1600s merchant ship and involves the Devil, hidden cargo, and greed.

What I liked about this book was the pace, the setting, the captivating characters. What I didn't like was the overly complicated solution to the mystery and that the characters seemed too modern for their 1600s setting. I softened on this last point when I read Turton's afterward where he explained that he purposely did not write this as a historical mystery. He used the setting and idea to create his mystery and characters and then easily threw out any historical details that didn't serve his conception. It made me feel better that this was purposeful.

I like Turton's writing and his plotting is very creative. It's just good to know going in that he really enjoys these overly complicated plots that require some suspension of belief to enjoy. I suspect I'll read whatever he writes next - his writing is just so entertaining.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 480 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: like the author, wanted something fun

59rabbitprincess
jan 30, 10:34am

>58 japaul22: I liked that author's note at the end, too. Of the two, I preferred Evelyn Hardcastle for its sheer originality, but I am definitely going to read more by him. He just seems to be having so much fun creating these complex worlds.

60dudes22
jan 30, 11:24am

>58 japaul22: - I'm glad you mentioned his note about the setting. I'm glad I'll know that when I get to this book.

61japaul22
jan 30, 12:31pm

>60 dudes22: I wish I'd read that note at the beginning, because the whole time I was thinking that the characters were way too "modern" for the time period. But at least that was addressed at the end!

62Crazymamie
jan 30, 2:24pm

>58 japaul22: I did not know he had another one out. I liked his first book, and you make an excellent point about his overcomplicating things. Adding this one to The List.

63japaul22
jan 31, 5:14pm

>62 Crazymamie: This one has an extremely different setting, but I think you'll still know it's the same author.

64japaul22
jan 31, 5:15pm

Books by/about American Indians (1/5)

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

This is an informative nonfiction account of the clash between Texas settlers and the Comanches in the 1800s. I learned a lot about the Comanche way of life and why it was never going to mesh with the lifestyle of white settlers. In a nutshell, the Comanche were nomadic, following the buffalo herds and ranging over hundreds of miles, and the white settlers wanted to farm and graze cattle. Though the Comanches were skilled fighters and horsemen, they were vastly outnumbered by the American army and also didn't understand the end goal of Americans until it was too late.

The subtitle of the book highlights the life of Quanah Parker. Quanah was a mixed blood Comanche. His mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was famous for being violently abducted by the Comanches from her family's Texas settlement. She was nine years old. She was adopted by the tribe (they often kept and assimilated girls her age, though killing anyone else they encountered, because they would be able to bear children later and they badly needed to grow their tribe). Cynthia Ann, by all accounts, fully adapted to the Comanche way of life. She married a Chief and Quanah was one of her sons. In her adulthood she was "rescued" and forced to reenter American life, to which she never readapted. Quanah's story in this book feels incomplete to me. Though he ended up being considered the last Comanche chief (even that is complicated to say because the Comanche were made of smaller bands that really had little to do with each other), little is known about his time as a Comanche before surrendering and moving to a reservation. At that point, he became famous and developed into a skilled negotiator for his people, though there was only so much he could do. I was more interested in his earlier life.

I was a little uncomfortable with the ways this author chose to describe the Comanche. He uses words like "primitive", "Stone Age", "irredeemably hostile", "remarkably simple". He also dwells often on how they never had any sort of agriculture - is that truly the mark of a civilized society? I guess his judgment is true in ways, and was used as a comparison to other contemporary American Indian tribes which might also be fair. But it still troubled me and I wondered if the author was really coming at this from a fair, unbiased angle.

I'll be curious as I read more by and about American Indians if my criticism of this aspect changes.

All in all, an interesting and engaging history.

(And now I see it was a Pulitzer and National Book Critics Circle finalist - maybe I'm being overly sensitive . . . )

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 388 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: topic of interest

65japaul22
jan 31, 5:29pm

New Releases (3/20)

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

There are many, many reasons why I would never have read this book if it hadn't been gifted to me by a good friend this Christmas.

1. It has a super-modern cover that strikes me as "male" and "trying too hard" (even though it's pink)

2. It's short stories which I don't like.

3. They are described as being about love.

4. The title is stupid.

5. The cover talks about how the author writes some tv show that sounds awfully annoying.

HOWEVER, I actually really enjoyed this. I'm having a hard time admitting it. The stories are quirky and creative (words I also usually would not associated with a book that I enjoy) but don't lose the everyday observations that I enjoy in a book. The stories are memorable. The pacing of the story order was great. I read it in a couple days and was always looking forward to what the next story would bring. I might even suggest this to a couple of friends who I think would like it.

I guess I shouldn't always judge a book by it's cover!

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 242 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: gift from a friend
Why I read this: gift from a friend

66katiekrug
feb 1, 10:04am

>65 japaul22: - It's always nice when a book surprises us (in a good way!).

67japaul22
feb 6, 9:07am

NYRB off the shelf (1/7)

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
Modern Library put this book on its list of "100 best novels of the twentieth century". I am perplexed. This is an odd story of an English family living in Jamaica in the early 1900s. When they experience a hurricane, the parents decide it's a good idea to send their young children (all under 10) back to England on a ship by themselves. The children set off on a ship which is promptly overrun by pirates. This sets them on a strange, sometimes violent, dangerous voyage.

I was disengaged a lot of the time from this. I guess it was an adventure story, but it didn't grab my attention. I would often read a couple of pages and then think, wait, what just happened?! And go back to reread some unbelievable chain of events. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this. It seems to be a book that many people love. It just wasn't for me.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 279 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased nyrb edition
Why I read this: nyrb off the shelves

68japaul22
feb 10, 12:07pm

Fits both Black American and 500 books by women categories

Kindred by Octavia Butler
This book has been on my mental TBR list for quite a while, and I'm kicking myself for not getting to it sooner! Butler is a great writer. In this novel, she takes an unbelievable premise and turns it into an absolutely believable and complex look at slavery.

Dana, a Black woman living in the 1970s, is recently married to Kevin, a white man. They move into a new home, and strange things begin happening. Namely, Dana is repeatedly sucked into the past, 1815 Maryland, to the slave plantation of Tom Weylin and his son, Rufus. She appears to be sent back in time to save Rufus every time his life is in danger. And she is only sent back to the present when her life is in danger. Dana comes to realize that Rufus is an ancestor of hers and a free black woman (child when she first meets her), Alice, will be mother to her ancestral line. With every trip back to 1815, Dana experiences first hand what it was like to be a slave and some of the complexities and powerlessness of slave life.

I thought this book was very successful. Though the premise is fantastical, the brutal realities that are explored take the book right back down to earth.

It's hard to believe this was first published over 40 years ago.

Original publication date: 1979
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 264 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: on my TBR list for a long time

69dudes22
Redigerat: feb 10, 3:06pm

I've had Butler on my mental TBR for a while also. Every time someone posts about a book of hers, I think "I really should get to that". This one sounds like a good one.

70japaul22
feb 14, 8:39am

For my 500 Great Books by Women category (2/5):

Constance Ring by Amalie Skram

Constance Ring is a 1885 Norwegian novel that explores the limited, powerless life of a young married woman. Constance's first marriage happens when she is still a very young woman to a husband 20 years older than her. At first things are ok, but she is increasingly disgusted by him and refuses any intimacy with him. She is young and beautiful and her husband tries everything to make her open to him, but in the end he turns to their also young and beautiful maid. When Constance finds out she considers divorce, to the horror of her family. They understand her situation and expect her to accept it.

Constance's second marriage starts slow, but she grows to love her husband. Discovering his past lovers, though, ruins her trust and love. Her last lover also betrays her, which is the final betrayal she can handle.

I thought this was a really good novel that explores the double standard imposed on women. Constance simply can't accept that men are allowed to indulge their sexual desires with any woman at any time and people simply accept it or pretend not to see it. She feels badly for the women of a lower social stratus who are even more powerless than she is. She feels betrayed that men she is married to and/or loves would indulge in these sexual relationships without love, whether it occurs before her relationship with them or during. And she seems to only partially ever awaken to the joy of physical intimacy with any of her lovers because of these thoughts and feelings.

I found this book in the 500 Great Books by Women that I've been exploring this year. I've read a bit of Norwegian literature (well, of what is available in English translation) and I hadn't heard of this author. I'm glad I read it and recommend it to readers who enjoy this era and topic.

Original publication date: 1885
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian translated to English by Judith Messick
Length: 289 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased used copy
Why I read this: 500 great books by women

71MissBrangwen
feb 14, 8:57am

>70 japaul22: Thank you for introducing us to this novel! I've never heard of it before (I'm not sure I ever read anything Norwegian), and I'm adding it to my wishlist.

72japaul22
feb 14, 9:44am

>71 MissBrangwen: Oh good! It fits in the tradition of Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, etc. though I wouldn't say it as quite as sweeping of a novel. I do hope more people give it a try. There is only one other review on LT besides mine that I just added, though 114 people have it in their library.

73MissBrangwen
feb 14, 10:12am

>72 japaul22: I‘m not sure when I‘ll get to it, but I‘ll certainly write a review when I do!
It appeals to me precisely because of that tradition, but also because it‘s not that lengthy! ;-)

74labfs39
Redigerat: feb 16, 7:02pm

Chiming in on Native American reads:
-Sherman Alexie, Absolutely True Story... I agree that it's a good one
-Louise Erdrich: She's quite prolific, and I haven't read a fraction of her books to say which are best, but I did like The Round House (National Book Award 2012) and her YA series beginning with The Birchbark House (National Book Award finalist)
-Michael Dorris, The Broken Cord, memoir about his adopting a three year old Sioux boy with fetal alcohol syndrome (one of the first unmarried men to adopt in US). The book was influential in Congress passing legislation about warning pregnant women of the danger of drinking. Dorris and Erdrich were married for a while.
-Canadian Joseph Boyden's novel, Three Day Road was good, about two Cree men in WWI and the difficulties of returning home from war. Although Boyden is not of First Nations himself, his books seem to be well-researched and written.

75japaul22
feb 17, 4:12pm

>74 labfs39: Thank you! I will add these to my list!

76japaul22
feb 17, 4:12pm

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
A recent review by nickelini of this book made me want to pick it up. I've committed to reading some books by Native Americans this year and this is written by a First Nations member. It has great detail about this Anishinaabe community trying to save some of their traditions and get back to their roots. It actually tied in surprisingly well to a nonfiction book I'm reading called Braiding Sweetgrass. A lot of Native American traditions especially regarding respect for the land are described in both.

This novel is a little hard to describe, but it's basically an apocalyptic suspense/thriller. The community is in northern Ontario and suddenly, as winter is beginning, they lose power and cell service. At first they believe it is just a fluke and will be repaired. But then they learn that it is not just their community that has lost power. They need to decide how, together or apart, they will survive the winter.

I really liked this. The setting is great, both in terms of the location and the cultural setting. I will say that it wasn't quite as "thrilling" to me as it was set up to be. I wasn't really surprised by any of it and I thought something even more dramatic would happen than what actually did happen. But, overall I'd still recommend it.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: Wasauksing First Nation
Original language: English
Length: 224 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: caught my eye, Native American reading

77japaul22
feb 17, 4:31pm

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I'm sorry to say that though I love and admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I didn't think this book was very good. The problem with it is that it is a compilation of not her writing, but her speeches. And speeches don't translate very well to reading in my opinion.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 370 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: purchased several RBG books after her death

78japaul22
feb 17, 4:36pm

Regarding one of my categories, I need to confess my ignorance of best practice in the naming of what I call Native American or American Indian. I only heard the term "First Nations" recently, but I think it's how Canadians and maybe Australians refer to original inhabitants of their regions? In the U.S. we've moved from Indians to Native Americans to American Indians, and I'm not even perfectly certain which is most accepted currently. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to improve my understanding of this!

79spiralsheep
feb 17, 5:19pm

>78 japaul22: I think it depends on context. My Native American friends are all middle aged or older and they frequently refer to themselves verbally as Indian, or NDN, or indigenous, but their internal affiliation is to their families and tribes / nations not some artificial "American" category (and wider cultural or linguistic or diplomatic affiliations can also cross US / Canadian national or state borders). I suspect younger people, and especially those growing up in cities, are more likely to feel pan-nationalism (like pan-Africanists were mostly diasporan or city folk) and use terms which reflect that.

My Indian friends from India who have strong tribal or clan affiliations also feel those more strongly than their wider national Indian identity (yes, I know that wasn't what you were asking but it's relevant imo because tribal and state boundaries not coinciding causes similar problems all over the world).

I find it best to listen to how people refer to themselves in differing contexts and try to respect that, but of course it makes generalisations difficult (which is possibly a good outcome).

80pamelad
feb 17, 5:36pm

>78 japaul22: The term First Nations has come into use only recently in Australia. I thought it was an American term. Aboriginal people here write about themselves as Aboriginal with a capital A.

I've been lurking in your thread, Jennifer, but haven't commented because we don't have many books in common this year. Not surprising, since it looks as though we're both sticking close to home. I'm trying to read more Australian writers this year, particularly indigenous writers.

81labfs39
feb 17, 6:27pm

First Nations is used in Canada, and also in the Pacific Northwest of the US.

82dudes22
feb 17, 6:42pm

>76 japaul22: - I just recently purchased Braiding Sweetgrass after seeing a review in the Book Pages pamphlet that the library distributes each month. I'm looking forward to seeing what you say and have it on my agenda for later this year.

83japaul22
feb 17, 7:15pm

>79 spiralsheep: All good points. I agree that it's best to honor individual preferences. But it does make knowing which term to use when writing difficult. Hopefully as long as I'm aware and open to comment or correction it won't be a problem for anyone!

>80 pamelad: Interesting. I think it, like Lisa says >81 labfs39: must be where the term started being used.

>82 dudes22: I will have a lot to say when I write my review of Braiding Sweetgrass. It's a wonderful book, but needs to be read slowly and when you're in the right mood. More to come on that . . .

84BLBera
feb 17, 7:45pm

>78 japaul22: Hi Jennifer - Indigenous is what some of my friends now prefer. But, it probably does depend on age.

85BLBera
feb 17, 7:46pm

>79 spiralsheep: Indigenous is what my friends prefer now, but it's OK to ask. Preferences vary.

86spiralsheep
feb 18, 5:57am

>85 BLBera: Yeah, I can't imagine my friends switching from e.g. Rosebud to Indigenous except for pan-nationalist political conversations (mostly with people descended from recent, e.g. less than 500 years, immigrants) but I can see how it's more generally a very useful term.

87This-n-That
feb 18, 2:14pm

>77 japaul22: Thanks for posting your thoughts on My Own Words. I didn't realize it was just a compilation of her speeches so I think I'll skip it and seek another RBG related book. Any recommendations?

88katiekrug
feb 18, 2:25pm

I was also going to suggest "indigenous" as an imperfect term that I don't think causes offense?

89japaul22
feb 18, 3:53pm

>84 BLBera:, >88 katiekrug:, >86 spiralsheep: Indigenous seems like a good option. Definitely, if I were speaking to someone personally, I would know their personal preference. This is more for speaking about a group of people generally.

>87 This-n-That: I loved a short but thorough book about RBG called The Notorious RBG. I also recently read Free to Be Ruth Bader Ginsburg which was also good. I have a few more on my shelves that I will hopefully get to later this year.

90japaul22
feb 25, 8:37am

Indigenous Reading (3/5)

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass is a collection of essays exploring Indigenous relationships with plants and the earth. Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and also a botanist who teaches at traditional American universities. She explores the differences in how her Indigenous culture and the typical American culture teaches interaction with their environments. This book flipped a lot of narrative for me; even from our earliest origin stories, our cultures have a different relationship with the world. The Christian origin story of being shut out of the garden of Eden and of having the earth provided for our comfort and use is a huge contrast with the reciprocity involved in most Indigenous origin stories. My writing of that is hugely over-simplified, so please don't take offense. There isn't any culture-bashing here, even when the author takes a hard look at choices we've made as a nation. Kimmerer takes 385 pages to provide context and examples of how we can all treat our earth better - benefitting the plants and animals here and also benefitting ourselves in a reciprocal relationship. She has many essays on specific plants and how, seemingly by design, our responsible use can benefit both the plant and the human. I learned so much about sweetgrass, maples, strawberries, leeks, and many more native plants.

I highlighted hundreds of passages in this book. Some books change your point of view and thinking for the better and this one definitely verbalized a perspective that I was ready to hear. I loved Kimmerer's sentiment that everyone is Indigenous to some land. As a nation of immigrants in the U.S. and Canada (her focus areas) we should strive to create an indigenous mindset to our current land by learning about our national landscape and how we can live in a reciprocal relationship with the mutual environment that we share with plants and animals.

Certainly, there aren't easy answers here. We are a transient population. It's hard to connect with the land when you move through multiple diverse regions. It's hard to connect with the environment when you live removed from green spaces. It's hard to connect with plants when they are endangered from our actions. I think it's best to look at this book as a way to inspire a desire to connect with our environment. By spending time in it, I think most people will naturally want to protect it. I will say that one of the few highlights of this pandemic has been the incredible amount of time I've spent in our local woods behind our house with my two young boys. We've spent countless hours hiking through barely navigable paths, splashing in our creek, scrambling over rocks, looking at mushrooms and weird bugs. And they've spent countless more hours playing - masked :-) - with a small group of friends creating a whole world back in the woods. I feel lucky that we ended up living in an area that is both incredibly suburban and beautifully wooded.

I highly recommend reading this book. It's a slow book, a challenging book, and an uncomfortable book at times, but it really challenged my perspective in a good way and the ideas will definitely now make up a part of my worldview.

Original publication date: 2015
Author’s nationality: Citizen Potawatami Nation
Original language: English
Length: 385 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: came up in searching for books on Indigenous culture

91dudes22
feb 25, 9:35am

>90 japaul22: - I was going to skip your review as I usually do when there's a book I have that I haven't gotten to yet, but this time I decided to read it and I'm glad I did. I'm really looking forward to getting to this some time this summer when I can sit outside and enjoy it.

92japaul22
feb 25, 9:45am

>91 dudes22: no spoilers for a book like this, and it's probably good to know a little of what to expect. I did find that I needed to read it slowly. Too much at once and I stopped connecting with it. I also will admit that I got a little fatigue with the message by the last few essays, hence the 4.5 stars instead of 5.

I hope you enjoy it and I'll be curious to hear what you think of it later in the year! Sitting outside to read it is a perfect idea.

93japaul22
Redigerat: mar 2, 5:55pm

New Releases

The Push by Ashley Audrain
The review I read about this new page turner billed it as a new "it book" that everyone would be reading. (Think Gone Girl) I'm not quite sure I agree, but it was engrossing and kept me guessing til the end.

The book centers on toxic mother/daughter relationships - 3 generations of them. There is some child abuse, which almost made me put the book aside, but I realized that the abuse is part of what makes the narrator's version of events unreliable and it wouldn't be the same book without it. The mother/daughter tension, this book also has the "did I give birth to an evil child?!" theme.

This is not great literature, but it was engrossing and I loved (though that's not really the right word for it) the ending.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 385 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: book with buzz

94katiekrug
mar 2, 1:51pm

>93 japaul22: - I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds intriguing.... Off to the library website!

95Nickelini
mar 2, 4:26pm

>93 japaul22:
I'm pretty sure the author is Canadian. She's getting lots of press in Canada at any rate, and being claimed as one.

Is the book set in the US?

96japaul22
mar 2, 5:55pm

>95 Nickelini: You're right! I looked it up and she lives in Toronto. I read it on my kindle and often miss author bios and such in that format. You know, I don't remember noticing where it took place. It seemed like "any American city" to me, but I guess it was "any Canadian city". :-) Besides being a city setting, it didn't have a strong sense of place to me. Now I wonder if I missed some details that should have clued me in that it was set in Canada.

Thanks for pointing out that error!

97Nickelini
mar 2, 5:58pm

>96 japaul22:
Makes sense . . . I was wondering because this book is on my radar, but I have a pet peeve about Canadian authors setting their books in the US for no real reason (I'm looking at you, Shari Lapena). Still on my radar, then!

98japaul22
mar 2, 6:13pm

>97 Nickelini: Now I really want to know if she had a location in mind for the setting! Might need to do some googling since I already lost the kindle book back to the library.

99japaul22
mar 5, 6:49pm

New releases (5/25)

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit
When reading William Bradford's account of Plymouth colony, Nesbit noticed that he never mentions his first wife, who died by falling off the Mayflower once they were in harbor of the new land, or his second wife who came over to join him after he was widowed. In fact, there are really no women mentioned at all. So this novel, set in 1630 Plymouth, gives a voice to Alice Bradford, the second wife, and also to Eleanor Billington, a woman who came on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and has earned her freedom by the time the novel begins.

The novel is told from several points of view, but only the female characters get to speak in first person. There is drama about dispersal of land, which leads to a murder. And this also brings up gossip about the death of William Bradford's first wife. There is also lots of conflict between the "chosen" puritans and the colonists who came along without the same religious convictions.

Not a lot happens in this novel, but I liked how the author tries to explore some different aspects of what this early colony might have actually been like, instead of the more reverent and idealized version of events that we, as Americans, are often taught.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: LT review (thanks, Laura!)

100japaul22
mar 6, 8:09pm

Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope

I liked this standalone novel by one of my favorite authors. The plot of Orley Farm centers around a 20 year old disputed will. At issue is whether a codicil that granted Orley Farm, one small portion of the estate, to the only infant son of a second marriage was forged by this baby's mother, Lady Mason. When Lucius Mason grows up and tries to kick a tenant off his land, this tenant discovers old documents that throw doubt on the codicil being authentic. A new trial ensues.

The crux of this book is the ethics of defense lawyers defending clients that they know or assume to be guilty. Also, of course, forgiveness, redemption, and fairness even when the fair outcome doesn't benefit the parties we might wish based on personality.

I really liked this one and I think the strong focus of the plot might make it a more memorable one of Trollope's novels for me. I believe this is the 18th novel I've read by Trollope.

Original publication date: 1861-2
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 458 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: LT group read

101MissBrangwen
mar 7, 11:02am

>99 japaul22: That sounds like a very interesting read, thank you for bringing it to my attention!

102japaul22
mar 10, 10:05am

Love by Toni Morrison

In Love, Morrison slowly reveals the relationships of multiple women with each other and with a successful Black man and hotel owner named Bill Cosey. The women are his child-wife, his granddaughter, and his daughter-in-law. At heart of the novel is everyone's relationship with the deceased Bill Cosey, but more importantly to me, their relationships with each other. Cosey's wife, Heed, and his granddaughter Christine are the same age and were friends before Cosey took Heed as his wife. Their relationship is central to the book.

This is a brief novel, only 200 pages, and there are still things I didn't quite understand. I'm hoping our group discussion will help me sort some of it out. I also felt that, because it was brief, though Morrison put in some larger cultural issues like the Civil Rights movement and correctional/prison systems, those didn't get explored as deeply as she explores greater societal issues in other novels.

I also was a little perplexed by the title. I don't see much Love in this novel - more abuse, jealousy, and possessiveness. Maybe it was ironic.

I always enjoy and respect Morrison's writing, but this novel will rank in the middle for me. It's no Beloved, or Paradise, or Song of Solomon.

Original publication date: 2003
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 203 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: paperback purchase
Why I read this: LT group read

103japaul22
mar 18, 11:33am

1001 books (2/20)

Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane

Effi Briest is a German "wife committing adultery" novel. I seem to have read a lot of these - Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Constance Ring, etc. This novel has some similarities to these others, but some important differences. Effi is an extremely young wife, only 17, who is youthful, exuberant, and loves the outdoors. Her parents marry her to a 40-something year old man who is kind, but striving for career advancement and lives in a boring, isolated village. Young Effi is lonely, bored, and trapped. She tries hard to "be good" and does respect her husband. Her affair doesn't seem based on real passion (unlike some of the above mentioned books), but I thought was more done out of desperation to find something exciting in life. And also just a result of her naivety. The affair is not dwelt on - in fact it's not even spelled out - and her husband doesn't find out until years later. But of course, a woman (even an 18 year old) must be punished, and no one will be surprised at the ending.

I liked the way this book was plotted and I really loved Effi. Fontane chose the right things to leave unsaid and created interesting and complex characters. I don't think it's quite as memorable as a novel as some of the classics in this category, but I would still recommend.

Original publication date: 1895
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German (translated by Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers)
Length: 217 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books, litsy #bookspin

104katiekrug
mar 18, 11:43am

>103 japaul22: - Sounds intriguing. I'd never heard of it...

105japaul22
mar 18, 12:38pm

I hadn't either - a good find on the 1001 books list. I'm also just sort of into reading "this novel" from all these different countries, largely written by men. It's interesting (and often maddening) culturally to read about women forced into marriages, whether by parents or because of lack of options, and then judged when they can't/won't conform.

106pamelad
mar 18, 4:43pm

>103 japaul22: I went to add this to my wish list, and it was already there. Must read it soon, particularly since it's short. Finding it hard to commit to long books these days. Adding Constance Ring, which I'd never heard of.

107MissWatson
mar 19, 4:04am

>103 japaul22: >104 katiekrug: It's a German classic and in my days everyone had to read this in school, when it was wasted on us. Fontane started writing fiction late in life, and his wry irony is usually lost on the young. This one has also been filmed several times, most famously by RW Fassbinder.

108japaul22
mar 23, 2:40pm

The Promise of the Grand Canyon by John Wesley Powell

Light on science, heavy on politics, I wasn't enamored of this book. John Wesley Powell himself is an interesting character. He explored the Grand Canyon through its famous Colorado River, a dangerous journey to be sure. The first journey turned into a fight for survival, with half of the party striking out on their own across the desert rather than facing more rapids, never to be seen again. The second journey finally focused more on the science and exploration, but I was never satisfied that it was really explained. How did he come to these large-scale conclusions about the earth's geologic history and formation? It wasn't discussed to my satisfaction. It's hard thing to explain, certainly, but I felt the author took the easy way out and instead focused on the trip itself and the people involved.

After Powell's exploration days are over, he begins making the argument with Congress that he should be funded to create a topographical map of the entire western region. He argues that this map will help explain where water is available and, more commonly, where it is not. The western United States is largely arid, and the story being handed out to settlers that it was a land of opportunity for farming was not the case.

While there were interesting aspects of this book, I kept wishing it had been done a little differently. I wanted more of the science and less of the personal relationships in this instance.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 365 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: interested in the topic

109japaul22
mar 27, 7:10pm

New Releases

The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura

I enjoyed this dual biography of sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to earn a medical degree in America in 1849. This was, of course, no easy road. Medical schools were not open to women so she had to fight her way in. But gaining the education may have been the easiest part, once you begin reading about her life trying to be recognized as a doctor. She encouraged her younger sister Emily to also pursue a career in medicine, partially to have an ally.

Elizabeth spent time in Paris, London, and America, finally opening a clinic for the poor in New York. Her beliefs in the benefits of hygiene, fresh air, and exercise above dubious medicines and harmful surgeries were definitely ahead of her time. She and Emily ran this clinic for decades. They later started a school for women to study medicine. Both had been against schools exclusively for women, believing they would be of lesser quality and preferring that women be allowed into the already existing schools available to men. Unfortunately, this wasn't happening, so they finally opened their own. Soon after the opening, Elizabeth departed permanently to London, first trying to continue her career (largely unsuccessfully) and then retiring to Scotland. Emily stayed to run the college.

Both sisters certainly paved the way for women to become doctors, not nurses or midwives only. This book was very readable and engaging and gives a good portrait of both women, Elizabeth predominantly. I've only skimmed the surface of what I learned from this book in this review.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased hardback
Why I read this: interested in the topic

110japaul22
apr 3, 2:57pm

1001 Books

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Allende's debut novel, written almost 40 years ago now, was my first foray into Allende's works. She is a gifted storyteller, and I was immediately drawn in to the story of the Del Valle and Trueba families. This is an epic work that follows four generations of the family through the political upheaval of the South American country where it is set. I assume it is set in Chile, where the author is from, though I don't think it was ever stated.

Allende writes vivid characters, and I loved most of the book. However, it is very long and covers a lot of generations, and there were certain times I was less engaged. I also was a little confused about the way she shifts point of view, sometimes being in 3rd person and sometimes from the first person point of view of Esteban Trueba, the patriarch of the family. At the end, she clarifies this split, but it bothered me as I was reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it made me want to read more by Allende to see how her writing has developed over the past 40 years.

Original publication date: 1982
Author’s nationality: Chilean
Original language: Spanish
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

111japaul22
apr 3, 3:12pm

New Releases

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Seeing that it's about lots of children dying in an epic blizzard, I shouldn't say this was a fun page turner, but it really was. It was compelling historical fiction with some good characters. I knew a bit about this topic, a blizzard in 1888 that popped up unexpectedly on the Nebraska plains, right as schools were letting out. The teachers, usually 15 or 16 year old girls, had to make hard decisions about how best to help their students survive.

The day of the blizzard was the first warm day after a below zero cold snap so everyone was out. People went to towns to stock up on supplies and children went to school dressed for weather in the 30s. In the afternoon, this blizzard popped up with no warning and hundreds of people died in the storm. Teachers often couldn't just wait out the storm in their school houses, because they were shacks with no insulation and not enough fuel. When school houses were damaged or collapsed, teachers had to try to get the students to safety. Some of these teachers made good decisions and some did not. This book focuses on two sisters teaching in different areas of the midwest and their success and mistakes.

Benjamin does a great job creating memorable characters and both describing the storm and its aftermath. She also focuses on the fact that many of these farmers on the plains were immigrants and explores the immigrant experience.

I really liked this. It's a fast read, not great literature, but a great story.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: topic caught my eye

112katiekrug
apr 4, 10:14am

>111 japaul22: - That one sounds good. A few years ago, I read a nonfiction account called The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin.

113DeltaQueen50
apr 5, 12:46pm

>111 japaul22: I also read the David Laskin book and so I am intrigued by this fictional version and have added it to my wishlist.

114japaul22
apr 5, 7:34pm

>112 katiekrug:, >113 DeltaQueen50: It seems a lot of people read Laskin's book from the comments on both of my threads!

115japaul22
apr 5, 7:34pm

Books by or about Indigenous peoples

Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Even As We Breathe is an impressive debut novel about a young Cherokee man who leaves his reservation to work at a hotel in nearby Asheville, NC. Taking place during WWII in 1947, The Grove Park Inn is housing high-ranking enemy diplomats, creating a tense atmosphere. Cowney isn't eligible to enlist, despite being the perfect age of 19, because of a foot defect he was born with. Cowney and a young woman named Essie both go to work at the Grove Park Inn, where they slowly develop a deep friendship. Their friendship is endangered when a little girl, the daughter of a diplomat, goes missing and, of course, Cowney is the first suspect because of his race.

Cowney is torn between Cherokee, his hometown, and the path he sees leading from Asheville to college and opportunity. But back home are his grandmother Lishie and his Uncle Bud, who have secrets that Cowney needs to learn to be able to move forward.

This book is beautifully written, with a well constructed plot and intriguing characters. I highly recommend it if you're looking for something quiet and reflective, but dramatic at the same time.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Original language: English
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: LT review (Thanks, BLBera!), Indigenous authors

116MissBrangwen
apr 6, 6:38am

>115 japaul22: Another BB from you! Great review.

117japaul22
apr 6, 7:54am

>116 MissBrangwen: Oh good! This is a new author who I think definitely deserves some attention!

118japaul22
apr 11, 12:22pm

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

This slim novel packs a lot in. It's early 1900s Russia, and a British family is living there, running a printing business. In the opening scene, we find that Nellie, the mother, has run off with the children, but gotten cold feet about bringing them and left them at a train station, carrying on to an unknown destination alone. Frank, the father, is left to deal with the consequences. He is also interacting with the shifting Russian politics and philosophies, and trying to find an acceptable governess at the same time.

While there were lots of interesting things going on, I still sort of lost interest a few times. The setting was a little too foreign for me to connect with, and the plot kept taking unexpected turns.

Overall, this was good, but not great for me. I imagine I will forget it quickly.

Original publication date: 1988
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 189 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

119japaul22
apr 12, 2:22pm

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Totally fun murder mystery, despite the obvious solution and some hard-to-believe character stupidity. I'll happily read more by Ruth Ware when I'm in the mood for a compulsive page turner.

Original publication date: 2015
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: whim

120japaul22
Redigerat: apr 14, 4:20pm

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

Something about this book hit just the right chord for me. Maybe it was the midwestern setting that I grew up in? Maybe it was the down-to-earth midwestern characters who are polite and kind but reserved and rarely say what they are really thinking? Whatever it was, I really loved it.

The story revolves around two sisters who have a midwestern falling-out (no dramatic scenes, they just stop speaking) over their father leaving all his money to the younger daughter, Helen, at the older sister's, Edith's, expense. Helen has fallen in love with beer and can now start up a brewery. Edith marries and has children, never really getting on her feet financially. She suffers loss and hard times, but in a quiet, accepting way.

The younger generation, Edith's granddaughter Diana, becomes the focus half way through the novel. Diana also falls into brewing beer and creates a craft brewery. You can see where this is going - things do end up coming full circle in the end.

I wonder if this book would have the same appeal to someone not from the Midwest? The small details about how midwesterners interact and the setting descriptions made me nostalgic for the region. For me, it was fantastic and I'll gladly read the other book that Stradal has out.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 349 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf

121japaul22
apr 20, 12:21pm

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

This book explores the ways birds exhibit intelligence and attempts to get the reader to see intelligence as not just a human (or primate) trait. Though our genetic trees branched off millions of years ago, both birds and humans have developed their own brand of intelligence.

I know very little about birds, and I've honestly always been a little intimidated by them - swooping around, those cold glassy eyes, hearing them but not seeing them - but we've spent so much time out in our local woods and our yard this past year, and I've gotten interested. This book was a good way to learn a little more, all in laymen's terms.

Ackerman explores how birds are adept at problem-solving, especially when food is concerned. She writes about their songs and calls and how they are learned, pointing out amazing feats of memorization. Of course, their amazing navigation skills are explored. And the ability of certain species to adapt to new environments gets a chapter as well.

Overall, Ackerman keeps a narrow view to focus on bird intelligence, which I think works very nicely. I will admit that I sometimes find the prologue of a book like this to be the most interesting part and get a little lost (or maybe bored) when each chapter goes into detail. But, I think most casual bird lovers or those interested in nature writing will enjoy this. I'm definitely looking at my backyard birds with new eyes.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 327 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf

122casvelyn
apr 20, 9:44pm

>121 japaul22: That's a BB for me! I love birds!

123japaul22
maj 5, 11:15am

The Executor and The Rector by Mrs. Oliphant
I couldn't help myself from joining a group read in the Virago group of Victorian writer Margaret Oliphant's Carlingford series. These first two installments are short stories, so I'm counting them as one book. The first story, The Executor, jumps right in to the reading of a will that surprises everyone. It has great characters who I hope will reappear in the subsequent novels. There was plenty of plot material to have spun this into a full novel. The Rector grabbed me less, but was interesting in that it explored whether the main character, Mr. Proctor, was truly cut out to be a minister.

I was impressed with the writing overall, and I'm looking forward to continuing this series.

Original publication date: 1861
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: about 100 pages total
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: group read

124japaul22
maj 5, 11:26am

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

In The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett explores what happens when external perceptions clash with internal perceptions. Twin light-skinned sisters who are raised as Black, escape from their small town. One disappears, deciding to "pass" as white and marrying a wealthy white man and having a white daughter. The other twin ends up marrying a dark-skinned man and having a dark-skinned daughter. This daughter meets and falls in love with a transgender man. In all of this, there is so much to think about regarding race and gender and how our preconceived notions and biases affect how we live our lives and interact with others.

I liked that Bennett accomplished all of this without a heavy hand or any "preachiness". I was glad that I had read Nella Larsen's book, Passing, which is an obvious influence on this novel. Overall, I'd say this novel lives up to the hype and I would recommend it.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 350 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: many positive LT reviews and sounded interesting

125japaul22
maj 5, 6:34pm

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade

Square Haunting is a group biography of five writers/academics connected by place, Mecklenburgh Square in London. They didn't all live there at the same time, but were all drawn to the location as a place where, as women, they could be in the middle of life and culture, but also have small place to call their own and focus on their work. The author devotes a section to each woman in the order that she lived in Mecklenburgh Square: the poet and author H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) who lived there from 1916-1918; the novelist Dorothy Sayers who lived there in 1920; academic of ancient history Jane Ellen Harrison who lived there from 1926-1928; economic historian Eileen Power who lived there from 1922-1940; and author Virginia Woolf who was there 1939-1940.

I loved reading about these women, who, across the board, struggled to balance the desire to be taken seriously in their fields with the hope of having a balanced and fulfilled life. There are many parallels to be drawn about the challenges they faced to have their work judged on equal footing with men. Overall, I thought this book was pretty successful, especially considering the challenging topic. Though these women had similarities, they weren't a circle and largely did not interact. Drawing them together through the location of Mecklenburgh Square worked very well for some of the women, but for others I thought the tie to place was less strong. Despite these few reservations, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the time period. I hadn't even heard of two of these women, and knew very little about H.D. and Dorothy Sayers. Viriginia Woolf I'm pretty familiar with, but the section about her brought some welcome new ideas about her life.

Francesca Wade, the author, seems fairly young from her bio, and I will read whatever she writes next.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 420 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased hardback
Why I read this: interested in the topic

126japaul22
maj 8, 2:26pm

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I'm always up for a Greek myth retelling, especially one focused on women. This book got off to a slow start for me until I realized the goal. Instead of focusing on one or a few women, Haynes is retelling pretty much a review of the whole Iliad and Odyssey focusing on the women involved. So unlike Madeline Miller's fabulous book about Circe, this feels like more of a survey than an in depth look at developing one or two female personas. At first I was really annoyed at all the characters and shifting around between points of view. But by the end, I appreciated what the author did and grew to really like it.

I think this work will work best (and maybe only work) for people who are pretty familiar with the story of the Iliad and Odyssey and other Greek myths. Haynes seems to assume that the reader will already be versed in the typical male/war focused stories.

In the end, I'll recommend this, but not as highly as Madeline Miller or Pat Barker's recent offerings.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: love Greek myth retellings

127pamelad
maj 8, 5:37pm

>126 japaul22: That's interesting. I read both Circe and The Silence of the Girls, but didn't get far with A Thousand Ships. Will try again.

128japaul22
maj 8, 6:22pm

>127 pamelad: I almost set it aside several times, but once I crossed the halfway point I started to accept what the author was going for.

129japaul22
maj 22, 8:04am

#33 The Doctor's Family by Mrs. Oliphant
My work schedule has really ramped up again as our area loosens covid restrictions. This has me behind on my reviews! Not much to say about this one - a novella about a brother pair and sister pair and their interactions. When the sisters arrive from Australia, we see Nettie taking care of her sister and her sister's children at the expense of her own life desires.

#34 Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Now this one I have more to say about. Detransition, Baby is, I believe, the first novel written by a transgender woman to be published by one of the top publishers. It also made the award list for the Women's Prize for Fiction.

This novel is important as it begins a conversation about what it's like to experience life as someone who is transgender. The plot in this novel revolves around a trio of women who contemplate raising a child together. Reese is a transgender woman (though the author uses the term transsexual a lot, which I thought was "out"), Ames/Amy is a man who spent several years as a woman and had a relationship with Reese during that time, and Katrina is a cis woman who had a relationship with Ames as a man that results in a pregnancy. It's all complicated, obviously, and very dramatic. Also, there is so much focus on what it means to "be a woman" and also about dynamics of sexual relationships.

This leads me to one of my observations about trying to understand transgender issues. I feel like there is a large non-binary movement right now that downplays gender and gender roles. But this book was all about gender roles and proving your womanhood or manhood, making gender even more important than I think it is in most heterosexual relationships that I know. That's tough for me. I prefer the thought of lessening the reliance on strong gender behavior expectations that goes along with the nonbinary movement. With a sense of humor, I will also admit that I had a hard time not getting caught up in the mechanics of sex and who had what parts. :-)

While I think it's awesome to have more voices out there and to have mainstream publishing diversifying what is published as normal, this book was not a wow for me in terms of the actual writing. The way it flips back and forth in time was annoying and inconsistent and some of the characters seemed more there to serve the author's desire to explain trans lifestyle and issues than to serve the plot of the novel. Maybe that's to be expected in a break-through novel like this.

I have no idea what a transgender person would think of this novel. It seemed very opinionated to me and I don't know if all of the opinions are currently accepted as the desired message. But overall, I think this is a book lots of people should read. It did open up a new way of thinking about what life is like for people who don't fit in the most typical lifestyles we recognize. And any book that does that is valuable to me.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 327 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: buzz

130japaul22
maj 29, 8:43am

Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers

Reading the nonfiction book Square Haunting has led me to try a few authors that I hadn't gotten to yet. Dorothy Sayers is one of them. This book comes in the middle of her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series. The reason I chose it is that it is on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

I enjoyed this and will say that of the Golden Age mystery writers, I think that Dorothy Sayers' writing craft stands out. But honestly, I thought the mystery was weak and I lacked connection with the setting of an advertising company. I think there was humor there that was too dated a hundred years later for me to really appreciate. I'd consider reading this whole series from the beginning for fun, but I'm not going to make it a priority.

Original publication date: 1933
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 339 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: interested in the author, 1001 books

131japaul22
maj 29, 1:34pm

Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
I did not have high hopes because I do not like the title and my copy has a terrible movie tie-in cover with an enormous picture of Kate Winslet on the front. I also knew it was told from the point of view of a small child, which never seems to work well. To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed this.

The narrator (age 5) and her sister, Bea (age 7), are dragged along on their hippie mother's adventure from London to Marrakech. In Marrakech, they are submerged in the culture as they tag along while their mother does what she wants and explores spiritualism. They are often hungry, dressed insufficiently, their health is seriously neglected, and they are put in dangerous situations as they follow their mother's whims. But, they also experience the beauty of the country they are in, enjoy the food, and meet some kind people along the way. Seeing Morocco through a five year old's eyes was a unique perspective and very effective.

Freud does several things right in this book. One is that though she does use the perspective of a five year old, she doesn't use a child's language. She does this just right, where you aren't annoyed by having to read little kid language, but you realize that the perspective is different than it would be from an adult (or even from the slightly older, more worldly sister). This book would have been absolutely intolerable to me if it was told from the selfish mother's point of view. Experiencing through the five year old's POV, who loves her mother, wants to please her mother, and just accepts what is happening as it comes, made the plot and all the mistakes the mother makes tolerable.

This is my second book by Esther Freud and I'm impressed. I'm going to continue reading her novels.

Original publication date: 1992
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 186 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased used copy
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

132NinieB
maj 29, 2:40pm

>131 japaul22: I've always wondered what the title of this book means. Would it be spoilerish to tell?

133japaul22
maj 29, 3:09pm

>132 NinieB: Not at all. It's addressed at the end of the first chapter and it's simply two words that the 5 year old narrator and her slightly older sister like. They create games out of it and chant the words sometimes. Just a silly young child thing. The words are referenced throughout the book.

Now there is a slightly darker side to them. When we first meet the characters they are in a van traveling from London to Morocco. It's the girls and their mother, a man named John who is obviously with the mother, but also his estranged wife who lays in the back of the van and refuses to speak or eat. The implication is that John has left her but is caring for her because she had a breakdown when he chose the girl's mother over her. The only two words the girls remember her saying are "hideous" and "kinky". It's fun to imagine what context she was saying those words in considering the situation.

Because it's all from the five year old's perspective, there is a lot of grown up stuff happening that you have to drawn conclusions about - part of the greatness of the book!

134japaul22
jun 6, 7:39pm

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
In 1933, Vera's Brittain's memoir of her life before, during, and immediately after WWI was published. The book is an incredibly moving account of what it was like to come of age during the Great War. There are three parts to the book. The first part tells about life for a young woman growing up in a Victorian household, and all of the pressures, expectations, and naivety that came along with it. It also sets the stage for Brittain's relationships with four young men, including her brother and her later fiancé, all of whom would serve in the war. In the second section, Vera enlists as a nurse. She works several places: London, Malta, and France. She shares many details of the work, the conditions, and the emotional and physical toll. This section vividly depicts what it was like to repeatedly "say goodbye" to loved ones and the stress of waiting to hear if friends and family had survived each battle. The third section is about the immediate aftermath of the war: how she deals with the losses she suffers, her views on international politics, and whether she desires to try to balance her work with marriage and children.

I really loved this book. Brittain's writing is honest and she doesn't shy away from sharing her grief or her opinions. She writes with great emotion without being overly dramatic, even in dramatic circumstances. I was sucked right in to her world. I particularly loved the first and second sections. The third lost a little momentum for me, with the views on world politics. It felt less personal. I also read in the afterward that the man she ended up marrying didn't want to be as big a part of the book as she wanted him to be. So that probably made it harder to write with the honestly and poignancy that she achieved in the first sections.

I put off reading this book for quite a few years because it is long, but I found it very readable and I'm glad I finally got to it. It's an important viewpoint of a woman who served in WWI.

Original publication date: 1933
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 661 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

135japaul22
jun 9, 8:44am

Nature's Best Hope by Doug Tallamy

Consider me converted to the idea that we need to restore native plants to our respective regions. Tallamy's book lays out all the reasons that native plants are important - vital - to our conservation efforts. This book is great because he convinced me that even my small yard can make a difference. Most books on conservation and environment leave me feeling completely overwhelmed and hopeless, but here is something that I can do that should help.

The crux of Tallamy's argument is that we need to stop thinking of nature as someplace we visit and create habitats in our own yards, workplaces, and common neighborhood areas. He talks about plants that support specific caterpillars that support specific birds and how that circle is the bedrock of a healthy environment. And it sounds doable. Replacing non-native ornamentals with native plants, reducing lawn, leaving leaf litter, and adding a small clean water source - these are things that everyone can do.

This book is not really a "how-to" book; it is a book to convince you and to give you the arguments to convince your neighbors. I did read plenty of reviews that complained about this. But, for me, I'd heard a little about the benefits of native plants but had never known all the reasons why they are so important. This book was an important step for me in really being able to name the benefits of returning native plants to our landscaping.

I highly recommend reading this book if you are new to this concept or want clearly laid out reasoning about why it's important.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 243 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: gift
Why I read this: interested in the topic

136NateHutt
jun 9, 8:53am

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.

137spiralsheep
jun 9, 5:18pm

>135 japaul22: This is basically how I manage the flowerbeds in my garden. If it's native and the bees like it then, provided I'm not allergic to it, it can stay. I've ended up growing some plants I never would've chosen but they look splendid.

Good luck with your re-wilding.

138japaul22
jun 10, 2:30pm

>137 spiralsheep: Glad to know it works for you! I'm excited to make some changes in our yard.

139japaul22
jun 10, 2:30pm

The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

The Once and Future Witches is a powerful book about women banding together and drawing on previous generations of women to improve their lives and fight against the men who try to control them. The three Eastwood sisters grew up knowing simple spells that every woman uses, housed in nursery rhymes and songs, but find their power is stronger than they realized when they face a powerful adversary. Their story of life in New Salem in the late 1800s, as the women there fight for suffrage, are blamed for witchcraft, and then discover that witchcraft can help them, was moving and clever. Alix Harrow has weaved together bits of nursery rhymes and old sayings that most people know to create an interesting, fast-moving plot with memorable characters. My complaint, though, is that it was so, so dramatic that it may have been a little too much for me. I think if she had slowed down and focused a little more tightly on fewer characters or plot-lines it would have been a better book.

This is fun and different and I do recommend it, but it isn't a perfect book.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 529 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: sounded fun

140dudes22
jun 11, 4:38pm

>135 japaul22: - Although I haven't read this particular book, Jennifer, I've read other things of a similar bent. There's a guy that writes a gardening column in the paper that occasionally talks about this. One of the things that makes it a little difficult is figuring out what is native and what has been introduced and is considered native although it might not be. And trying not to use those things that are invasive. Usually the local university and their Master Gardening Program can help.

141japaul22
jun 11, 5:17pm

>140 dudes22: I found a great native plants website for my state (Virginia) that has clear info and a pdf guide to download. I was excited to find good info for my specific region!

142japaul22
Redigerat: jun 17, 8:30pm

The Survivors by Jane Harper

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, even though there was nothing particularly new or innovative about it. The mystery involved a modern day murder that brings up connections to a missing girl from a decade earlier. It is set in Tasmania, and Jane Harper again does a good job having the setting be integral to the mystery.

This book perfectly fit my mood and I flew through it. I've read all of Jane Harper's mysteries and I hope she keeps writing more.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: Australian/British
Original language: English
Length: 379 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: like the author

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Meh. I didn't really enjoy this and skimmed the last pages. The story has potential. It revolves around the life of a free Black woman doctor in the mid through late 1800s and her daughter, Libertie. The mother wants her daughter to become a doctor like her, but instead she marries a man and moves to Haiti. Her life there is not as promised.

There were interesting attempts at themes about escaping from slavery, creating Black communities, how these communities could and whether they should interact with whites. But in the end, I found the writing clumsy and never connected to any of the characters. The plot sort of meanders and the voice of the narrator just wasn't believable to me.

I've read much better books that cover the same general time period and themes. But, this book has also been widely praised, so don't avoid it on my account!

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 332 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: BOTM selection
Why I read this: off the shelf

143pamelad
jun 17, 8:05pm

Jane Harper was born in the UK, lived both there and in Australia, and has Australian citizenship, so is not American.

144japaul22
jun 17, 8:26pm

>143 pamelad: sorry! I copy and paste those and often forget to change a category. I’m always impressed people read them since I think of that section as just for my stat keeping! I always think of Jane Harper as Australian because most of her books that I’ve read have a strong setting there. Thanks for noticing that mistake!

145pamelad
jun 17, 8:32pm

>144 japaul22: No worries!

146japaul22
jun 22, 7:27pm

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Anne Moody's memoir of her childhood and young adult years growing up Black in Mississippi is raw and honest and full of pain. Moody was born in 1940 in rural Mississippi. She grew up in poverty with a father who deserted her mother and then a mostly absent stepfather. She began working in service at a young age to earn money. A good student, Moody's education and drive are a large part of the book, but her need to make money is always present. She goes to college and starts working with the civil rights movement - participating in sit-ins and demonstrations and trying to stir up support among the Black population.

This book is hard to read for several reasons. Of course, Moody's life is a impossible-to-deny look at how hard life was for Black Americans in the 1950s and 60s. She pulls no punches talking about how all opportunities were denied for her and her family and everything was a struggle. Her language is coarse and angry at times, with lots of swearing, as is understandable considering what she was fighting against. She blames many different people for the lack of change - recognizing the systemic racism in government systems, questioning the efficacy of peaceful protest, calling out police corruption, and screaming in frustration at fellow Blacks who refuse to vote.

Her book is keenly observant and incredibly moving. It is not easy to read, but it is just as important today as it was when it was written in 1968. For me, it clearly shows why we are still where we are today. This was life in America just over 40 years ago.

Original publication date: 1968
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 434 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: on my list of reading by/about Black Americans

147spiralsheep
jun 23, 3:46am

>146 japaul22: That sounds very interesting. Good to hear women's voices from history directly.

148japaul22
jun 30, 5:00pm

New Releases

Outlawed by Anna North

The premise of this book is interesting and drew me in. It's the late 1800s in the American West, but it's set in an alternate reality. The Flu killed a large portion of the population and what resulted was a society where producing more people is key. Women are valued only for their ability to produce babies, and those who are barren are labeled as witches and persecuted. The main character, Ada, is run out of her town and is accepted into a group of outlaws based on her knowledge of midwifery and medicine.

Unfortunately, despite the clever premise, the execution was not to my reading taste. The plot was nonsensical and the characters didn't have any heart. Their relationships with each other didn't ring true. I quickly lost interest in the outcome and ended up reading just to finish.

This book has gotten a lot of great press and many people seem to have liked it. So if it sounds interesting, give it a go and I'll be curious to see what you think. But it was definitely not for me.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: positive reviews

149japaul22
jul 5, 5:02pm

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards

This book was a surprise. It sounds a little boring - an elderly man telling about his life on the island of Guernsey. But the time period, which spans early 1900s through the 1960s, and the unique setting of Guernsey, which changes from an isolated and unique island to a tourist destination that begins to lose its identity is fascinating.

Ebenezer Le Page describes his deep friendships beautifully and thoroughly, without being sappy or sentimental. He describes the beauty and uniqueness of the island itself without using travel guide language or much landscape description - instead describing how the locals interact with the terrain. He reacts to two world wars without creating a war novel, but by absorbing the deaths and German occupation into the story of Guernsey instead.

It's truly brilliant. The emotions underneath a matter of fact telling run deep. It's both a simple and complex narrative. I really loved it.

Original publication date: 1981, published posthumously, manuscript first seen in 1974
Author’s nationality: Balliwick of Guernsey (this is a tough one to decipher "nationality"!)
Original language: English with local Guernsey dialect incorporated
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: nyrb purchase
Why I read this: nyrb off the shelf, LT reviews

150japaul22
jul 5, 5:21pm

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

This one served its purpose as a page turner mystery, but had some flaws. It's a mystery, but you actually don't get a dead body til the end of the book and who is getting killed is part of the suspense along with the many people who have reason to commit the murder. The setting is fun, a remote island off the coast of Ireland, where a rising-star couple is getting married. The guest list, encompassing people from their various circles and times of life, brings up old secrets.

It sounds great and was pretty fun to read, but there were also some serious flaws. The main thing that bothered me was the timeline. It takes place within about 2 days, but Foley tries to have a "now" time right when the murder is happening, and then also circle back to various events. But those events aren't far enough away from "now" to be distinguishable and there are too many back and forths. And she doesn't just have "now" and then a linear story from 2 days ago leading up to "now". She jumps around within the 2 day lead up. It was annoying and I had a hard time getting past it. It felt like she was trying to mask some of the inconsistencies in her plotting but making the timeline confused.

So I'm ambivalent. I'd read another of hers if I need a "beach read" type book, but otherwise I'll pass.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 322 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: for fun, always looking for new mysteries to enjoy

151japaul22
jul 10, 1:42pm

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land is the story of four children who escape from a school for Indian children where they are being abused and taken advantage of in the 1930s. They travel down rivers in the Midwest, bonding to each other, and meeting a varied cast of characters, all of whom impact their lives in some way. It's a book full of life and love and helping each other through tough times. For all of those reasons, I really enjoyed it.

It also gets a bit sentimental, a bit predictable, and doesn't hit some of the big topics as hard as it could have. The treatment of Indian children ("Kill the Indian, save the child") and Native Americans in general is always in the background of the book, but it didn't take the foreground as strongly as I'd hoped it would. Only one of the four children is a member of the Sioux tribe. The others are white (or at least identify that way). To me, this book is more about childhood friendships, family, and finding your identity. While I liked that, it also disappointed me a little.

I'd be happy to read more by William Kent Krueger, but I won't be running to do so. This book would make a great movie, though.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 450 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: a review somewhere caught my eye

152dudes22
jul 11, 7:11am

>151 japaul22: - Sorry you didn't like this more. And I actually thought his first stand-alone Ordinary Grace was a better book.

153japaul22
jul 21, 10:59am

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

I loved this book about two adult children who find themselves completely unmoored when their mother dies. They are 51, but have remained dependent on their mother. An early tragedy of their father's death kept them bound to each other way past the point of a healthy relationship. Additionally, they find themselves completely without money or income when their mother dies.

As the book progresses, you learn more about their relationships with each other, what it's like to live in poverty, and several family secrets.

I loved Fuller's writing and look forward to reading more of her books.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 315 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: Women's Prize for Fiction short list

154japaul22
aug 6, 7:27am

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

The Song of the Lark is about a young woman, Thea Kronberg, growing up in the West who is a talented musician with dreams of success. She'll have to leave her town of Moonstone to be in the spotlight. She moves to Chicago and ultimately to Europe, but is still drawn to the beauty of the American West. The book is a portrait of an ambitious artist and the ups and downs of that sort of life.

I enjoyed this. I thought that Cather did a really good job exploring what it's like to learn a craft like being a successful professional musician. I found it much more realistic than other books I've read on this subject. I also liked that it wasn't overdramatic - this isn't a Thomas Hardy novel where everyone fails and/or dies. There's some sadness and nostalgia and typical life questions about whether chosen paths were really the best. But in the end, Cather does what I think is harder to write - creates a character with great depth and subtlety.

I don't think this novel stands out for me as much as My Antonia or O, Pioneers, but I would recommend if you enjoy Cather and haven't read this yet.

Original publication date: 1915
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 310 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle book
Why I read this: enjoy Willa Cather and hadn't read this one yet

155japaul22
aug 8, 8:20am

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

I seem to be drawn to books this year, both nonfiction and fiction, which have human-made ecological disasters at their heart. This novel is set in a future where a mass extinction is decimating non-human animal populations. At the beginning, I sadly had to look up whether the mentioned animals were nearing extinction because it felt true to me and I wasn't sure if the book was drawing on true current events or creating a dystopian future. :-(

This book follows Franny Stone, who has led a troubled, wandering life. She is apart from her husband, the one person in her life that she trusts and loves, trying to find one of the few remaining fishing vessels to help her follow the small population of arctic terns that still exists on their migration from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. Her dramatic past is slowly revealed as she connects with the sailors on the ship she finds.

I really liked this. It has it all - great characters, a fantastic setting, a political message, and adventure. I'm looking forward to reading McConaghy's next book, Once There Were Wolves, that was recently published.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 276 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased at Book No Further in Roanoke, VA
Why I read this: great reviews on LT

156dudes22
aug 8, 11:27am

>155 japaul22: - A good friend recommended this to me and I'm still hoping to get to reading it this year.

157JayneCM
aug 9, 6:06am

>155 japaul22: I had borrowed this one from the library but had to return it. A reminder I should borrow it again!

158japaul22
aug 10, 4:22pm

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley

I don't read a lot of Pride and Prejudice retellings or spin offs, but this novel was recommended by a friend and then I saw I signed copied in an independent bookstore that I visited while on vacation in Traverse City, MI. Molly Greeley lives there and so I felt I had to pick it up.

As this genre goes, this was really good. The crux of her story is that Anne de Bourgh was given laudanum as a baby and continued to have it administered as "medicine" into her teens. A governess finally awakens her to the fact that her illness is caused by her medicine instead of helped by it. The rest of the book follows what happens when her mind clears and she becomes part of the world.

I think this book works because it doesn't take much from Austen except Anne de Bourgh and her mother. Darcy and Elizabeth make appearances and are part of the story, but they aren't developed characters, so the reader is allowed to keep their own picture of those much-loved characters in their head. Most of the people Anne ends up interacting with are the author's own invention.

Some of the writing is a bit overdone and things work out a bit too neatly, but all in all this was enjoyable.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 357 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased signed copy at Horizon Books in Traverse City, MI
Why I read this: bookstore find

159japaul22
aug 12, 10:36am

The Life and Death of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

Another excellent book on all the ways humans are harming the environment they depend on. The Great Lakes (Erie, Ontario, Huron, Michigan, Superior) are 20% of the world's fresh water supply. The pollution that humans caused in the 1800s-1900s has largely been reversed, but now invasive species, often brought in ballast water from overseas shipping vessels, has rendered the lake almost sterile. The lakes have beautifully clear water, as I noticed on our recent vacation to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Sadly, in reading this book, I found that water as clear as these lakes' is not the sign of health. These lakes were naturally isolated from invasive species because of Niagara falls and so are ecologically immature when it comes to dealing with invasive species. The native species there have been practically decimated by alewives and mussels.

Egan discusses at length invasive species - how they are arriving and how we could stop their arrival. He also discusses pollution from farm runoff, how some of our ideas to improve the lakes have made things worse, future disasters waiting to happen, and simple (but expensive) ways to improve current practices. He also gets into the politics of who deserves access to this freshwater and what the ecological impact could be. This is an important book for all Americans and Canadians who live around the Great Lakes to read. Also, the wider implications of where we get our freshwater and how we can sustain it is important for everyone.

I thought this was a fantastic book. It reads well and seems well-documented. I highly recommend.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased kindle book
Why I read this: traveling in the region described and interested in books on environment

160japaul22
aug 16, 10:47am

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev translated by Richard Freeborn

I've never read anything by Turgenev, but I have read several other Russian classics. I was thrilled to see this novel is only 200 pages when I picked it up from the library. Fathers and Sons is the story that compares two generations, Arkady and Bazarov representing the younger generation who are nihilists. They supposedly believe in nothing. And then the book explores their relationships and their philosophical differences with their fathers and an uncle of Arkady's.

Well, that's what everyone says it's about. But to me it ended up being more focused on their love relationships and a dramatic ending, making it a bit more easy to read than I expected, but also a little less interesting. I think the politics/philosophy likely made a bigger splash if you were living in the time this was written.

I found this enjoyable and a much less dense read than many of the Russian novels I've read, but I also think that in the long run it will be less memorable.

Original publication date: 1862
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 201 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books, Russian classics author I've not yet read

161japaul22
aug 20, 3:37pm

Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist by Anne Boyd Rioux

On a recent vacation to Mackinac Island, I heard about a 19th century American woman author who was famous enough to have a statue dedicated to her and the novel she set on Mackinac Island, but who I had never heard of. I am no literary expert, but I do have a strong interest in the time period and in female authors, so I was embarrassed that I didn't know Constance Fenimore Woolson. My husband and boys had quite a good time making fun of me for not knowing her, by the way.

Anyway, I found this book in a bookstore on the island and purchased it. In reading it, I realized I had heard of her, but as a friend and companion to the more famous (male) author, Henry James. Through this book, I learned of Woolson's considerable talent as an author in her own right. Woolson approached writing with a need to support herself. She stayed single throughout her life, and her career was full of struggles trying to make it as a writer as an unmarried woman. Her first novel, Anne was very popular and sold well. It is typical of her writing in that it had a strong local American setting, Mackinac Island. It also is untypical of her later novels in that it has a "popular" feel - fast-moving plot, love story, mystery, and everything else exciting you can think of. If she had continued writing in this vein, Woolson might have been more successful monetarily because she would have better fit the mold of "woman writer" that existed then. But because she viewed her writing as a craft and wanted to write artistic works, her later novels weren't considered "women's books" but nor did they measure up to her male author counterparts - well, according to her male reviewers. Also, when women's novels were "rediscovered" in the late 1900s, Woolson's work again didn't fit the mold that this time female literary critics were looking for. Her books were often written from the perspective of male characters and didn't have the same focus on women's lives that other restored women authors did. Woolson's fame dwindled through her lifetime and certainly after her death because of all of these things.

I loved reading about her exhaustive approach to writing. When Woolson got an idea for a new novel she would begin with elaborate plot outline, detailed character descriptions, long conversations between characters, and extended scene-setting passages. She would fill multiple notebooks with this preparatory work before even beginning to piece the novel together.

Woolson was good friends with Henry James. She lived in Europe for most of her adult life and the two spent a lot of time together and had mutual friends. I was very happy, though, that the author keeps the focus on Woolson instead of the more famous James.

Woolson's life came to a dramatic end when she committed suicide while living in Italy. Her money issues, hearing loss, isolation, illness, and doubts about her writing ability combined disastrously with a genetic predisposition to depression.

I enjoyed learning about this new-to-me author and intend to read a few of her novels in the near future.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 391 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased on vacation
Why I read this: interested in the subject

162JayneCM
aug 20, 6:45pm

>161 japaul22: With a name like Fenimore, I thought she must be related to James Fenimore Cooper. Google tells me she was his grand niece.
I will have to look for some of her novels - it is always wonderful to 'discover' a new 19th century female author.

163japaul22
aug 21, 8:42am

>162 JayneCM: Yes, good catch! Using the name Fenimore on her books was even more known back in the 1800s and certainly didn't hurt.

164japaul22
aug 24, 2:24pm

The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey

One day, walking home from school, three siblings find a boy injured and bleeding in a field. This experience seems to result in individual growth, change, and secrets revealed within the siblings' family. I say "seems to" because sometimes I questioned whether this dramatic opening event truly impacted the family's subsequent decisions and changes. I felt that most of it was probably coming anyway. But, the boy does keep the story focused and also draws together the larger community, in a way.

The three siblings are teenagers who are finding love, discovering that their parents are real people who make real mistakes, and the youngest, who is adopted, begins searching for his birth mother. While I didn't particularly connect to the individual characters, I did think the book worked well as a whole.

Though this wasn't a stand-out book, I did enjoy it and would recommend.

Original publication date: 2020
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased on vacation in Cottage Books, Glen Arbor, MI
Why I read this: grabbed me while browsing the bookstore

165japaul22
aug 24, 5:08pm

In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
An illustrated sampling of words and phrases whose meanings are unique to a language and therefore illuminate something about the culture of the country. And about the cultures that don't include a word or saying that is similar.

It is a nice little book, but not thorough enough to be really interesting. Just a small sampling of examples.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: not sure - maybe British?
Original language: English
Length: 128 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: I don't remember where or why I bought it, but it was on my shelf

166japaul22
aug 29, 4:13pm

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

Davidson's debut novel is an ambitious family drama centered in a 1970s northern California logging community. The logging community is on the brink of collapse both because of conservationists who want to preserve the giant redwoods that are being cut down and also because they themselves are being poisoned by the spray used to make logging possible. This second issue is dwelt on more in the book because it is a double-edged sword. The community begins to realize that the spray that they were told is harmless to all but the thick weeds and brush that it kills is actually causing cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages. Unfortunately, they also see the poison as essential to their way of life and work as loggers. The community is at dangerous odds over whether or not to believe in the evidence that is right before their eyes.

To explore the environmental issues and the collapse of a way of life, Ash Davidson creates a cast of deeply-drawn characters. Families and friends who have been drawn together for generations in their small community react to each other and the issues at hand in wildly different ways, but all in believable ways. Rich is a 4th generation logger married to Colleen. They are struggling after Colleen has had 8 miscarriages and only one successful birth - their son Chub. Her gradual belief that their water is poisoning them creates danger for their family and a rift in their community.

I think this is an impressive debut novel. At the beginning, I was put off a bit by the harsh way of life and ultra-male logging community, but the book expands as it goes to include other points of view. The characters are so memorable, and I found myself not wanting to put the book down. It's the kind of book where you long for a happy ending and can't be sure til the very end if you'll get it (I won't spoil whether or not you do).

I don't think this book is perfectly executed, but overall I really loved it and definitely recommend it.
Another author that I'll now be following!

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 442 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: BOTM
Why I read this: BOTM off the shelf

167japaul22
sep 2, 12:08pm

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen

The Unseen takes place on a tiny island off the coast of Norway in the early 20th century, where the Barroy family lives and works. It is just the 5 of them: grandfather Martin, father Hans, mother Maria, their daughter Ingrid, and Barbro, Hans' sister. They have occasional contact with the small town on the mainland and Hans goes off to fish every winter. But Hans builds a quay on their island, which opens them up a bit more to interaction. And as Ingrid grows older, a wider life begins to intrude on the island and their world expands.

This book is very Scandinavian in tone. If you've read much Scandinavian lit, you'll know what I mean - spare sentences, hard work, little fun, weather that dictates life, interior, little dialogue. I love it. The characters end up being rich, though as a reader you discover them differently than you're used to in American and British books. I love the setting and learning the small details of life in this sort of location. And there is plenty of drama - it's just not presented dramatically.

This is the start of a trilogy that follows Ingrid, and I will definitely continue it.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased for kindle
Why I read this: review caught my eye

168japaul22
sep 4, 8:40am

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a DNF for me. I had put myself on the library waitlist after several readers that I work with recommended it highly, but after about 50 pages, it is just not for me. I thought the humor was silly and the translation made me feel like I'm reading subtitles. I know a lot of people loved this, but too many other things I also want to read.

Also gave a 30 second try to Beach Read by Emily Henry, also after a "real life friend" recommendation. I couldn't get past the the dedication "you are so perfectly my favorite person". I knew immediately this writer was not going to be for me.

169japaul22
sep 5, 3:39pm

Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon

My last unread Persephone from my shelves (I'll have to restart my subscription!) and this one is a bit of a departure for their catalog. It was published originally in the 1980s and is about a woman whose 6 year old son is abducted on his way to school. The book follows her journey through the trauma and her changing relationships. It also, of course, focuses on the investigation.

This book is a page turner and I thought the way the mother was characterized was believable. It isn't a stand-out book for me, though, and felt a bit dated somehow. All in all a good way to pass the time, but not something I think everyone needs to run out to read.

Original publication date: 1981
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 374 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased from Persephone
Why I read this: off the shelf

170japaul22
sep 12, 10:01am

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes is a novel that explores the life a fictional photographer, Lillian Preston. She strikes out on her own in the 1950s to try to make it as an artist. The book is told through catalog notes for a retrospective of her work. By naming each photograph, describing it, and telling what was happening in Lillian's life at the time, her daughter Samantha describes a life of a woman who pursued her art through many setbacks. The most dramatic moment and the event that made Preston infamous was when a gallery displays a series of photos centered around Lillian's young daughter Samantha, in which Samantha is partially nude. The most infamous of these is a picture of Samantha looking at her mother as she bleeds on a bed after an abortion.

The book explores what it was like to be a woman artist in a time when women were expected to take on the traditional role of mother and wife. While Lillian is untraditional, she's not necessarily trying to be, nor is she trying to change the world. She single-mindedly loves her art and chooses it almost every time over other people in her life and over money, food, comforts. She isn't callous, just focused and a bit blind to the effects on others. Of course, most of this wouldn't have been an issue if she wasn't facing the obstacles that being a woman artist came with in the 1950s.

The form of the book was interesting and I became very invested in the characters. I would highly recommend this book and I think it will be one of the more memorable that I read this year.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 326 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: LT rec

171JayneCM
sep 14, 9:26pm

>168 japaul22: Agree about Emily Henry - I don't think certain contemporary novels are for me. I have heard lots of rave reviews about People We Meet On Vacation as well but I don't think I'll go there!

172japaul22
sep 15, 2:08pm

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone is the story of a broken family trying to find peace in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1970s. Ernt, the father/husband, came back from Vietnam broken and mentally unstable from his experience as a POW. His wife, Cora, can't forget the man she knew before the war and stays with him through an abusive relationship. Their daughter, Leni, is growing up with only this as her example of a loving relationship. Leni, who arrives in Alaska as an 9 year old, becomes the focus of the story as she grows into a young woman who can survive the Alaskan wilderness. They live in a cabin with no electricity or plumbing and have to learn quickly how to survive the brutal Alaskan winters. The eclectic community around them accepts them and helps and teaches them. Leni falls in love with a local boy, Matthew. Of course, Matthew's father is hated by her own father. Nothing is ever easy in this book, to say the least.

Kristin Hannah seems to be a wildly popular author these days, and I can see why. This was the first book of hers that I've read and it's a page turner. It is plot driven, with characters you root for, and is somehow both comfortingly predictable and suspenseful at the same time. That being said, I think one of her novels was probably enough for me. Hannah's writing was too "movie-ish" for me. Lots of sweeping scenes and characters that you could visualize easily, but never quite seemed real or complex enough for me. It was a nice diversion and I would keep her other books in mind if a topic really intrigues me, but most likely I'm done.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 576 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: friend rec

173VictoriaPL
sep 15, 6:04pm

>172 japaul22: I really enjoyed The Nightengale by her but you have probably already heard of it. At least you read the book your friend recommended and can put it behind you.
This one is a BB for me! 😊

174japaul22
sep 15, 7:24pm

>173 VictoriaPL: I have heard of The Nightingale. When it came out, I definitely had "WWII fatigue" after reading too many novels set in the time period. I'm glad her books work for so many people - they are definitely entertaining! I hope you enjoy The Great Alone - it does have a fantastic setting.

175japaul22
sep 21, 12:13pm

The Land Breakers by John Ehle

The Land Breakers is a work of historical fiction following the lives of a group of American settlers in the late 1700s who attempt to create a life in the mountains of North Carolina. The first there are Mooney and Imy, who claim a remote piece of land. That same year two other families show up. The book follows this small community as they try to tame the land and create a space for human life in the wilderness. Whether or not they'll be able to come together as a community is constantly in doubt throughout the book.

I really liked this. It reminded me of some of the Scandinavian fiction I've read, like Growth of the Soil or Independent People. The people don't have a lot of time for talk - they are busy trying to survive. And the main interaction is between the individual and the wilderness. However, within that, the characters grow and you get to know them through their actions and fortitude (or lack thereof!).

One of my favorites so far this year.

Original publication date: 1964
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 344 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased nyrb edition
Why I read this: nyrb off the shelf

176japaul22
sep 25, 8:51am

Regeneration by Pat Barker

I've been looking forward to reading this for quite a while, but unfortunately I didn't connect to this WWI novel that explores the experience of several "shell-shocked" young men and their psychologist. The action all takes place away from the fighting, mainly in a home for men who are suffering from various degrees of mental debilitation as a result of their experiences at the front. The focus, and likely the inspiration for the book, is the experience of Seigfried Sassoon, a man known for his poetry about WWI and for speaking out against the massive loss of life which he began to believe was for no good reason. For this, he ends up briefly in a mental institution.

I'm not sure why I didn't connect to this. It has all the makings of a great book and is considered to be one by many. It has interesting characters and an important theme. However, I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it was just the wrong book for my current reading mood. Having read Testament of Youth, the WWI memoir of Vera Brittain, earlier in the year and absolutely loving it, I thought this would be a good complement.

Original publication date: 1991
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

177rabbitprincess
sep 25, 9:06am

>176 japaul22: I think I started reading this one but couldn't connect to it either. It's frustrating when you have a book you want to like but there's just something that isn't quite working.

The pairing of it with Testament of Youth sounds like a good match-up. I read somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of Testament of Youth over the past year, but I found the font in the Penguin edition hard to read, and it's a big book! Very interesting though, I agree.

178japaul22
sep 25, 10:51am

>177 rabbitprincess: yes! That penguin font was tiny for Testament of Youth!! I ended up making it work and did love the book. Thanks for sharing that you didn’t get into Regeneration either!

179MissWatson
sep 25, 10:54am

>176 japaul22: Same here. I kept wondering what I was missing.

180japaul22
sep 25, 3:02pm

>179 MissWatson: Interesting! I feel like I'd only seen positive reviews of Regeneration. I'm glad it wasn't just me who didn't connect with it.

181pammab
sep 25, 11:36pm

>159 japaul22: Really appreciate your review of a bunch of books recently, especially The Life and Death of the Great Lakes! I learned a bunch just from the couple paragraphs you wrote, and my interest is piqued (though I worry I'd just be saddened by having even more details). I suppose that sentiment goes for a lot of books...

182japaul22
sep 26, 11:33am

>181 pammab: Thanks! It is so true that the books I've read about the environment are disheartening. It seems even when we have good intentions (which is not often the case!) we can end up creating unintentional consequences. Frustrating, but I know I'll keep trying to educate myself on these topics.

183japaul22
sep 26, 11:33am

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
This was fun and just what I needed. A suspenseful page turner about a relationship between a psychoanalyst and his female patient who murdered her husband and refused to speak afterwards. Years later she is in a group home and still hasn't spoken. The psychoanalyst and narrator tries to uncover her story, connect with her, and discover what is true and false about the generally believed events.

This was a book I loved to be annoyed with. Another male narrator saving and speaking for the silent woman who should have been the main character. But, after all, I think that in this sort of genre I've found that I like to be a little annoyed and skeptical. As long as I'm turning pages, wanting to pick up the book, and at least a little bit surprised at some point along the way, I think I've gotten what I signed up for. In those ways, this book delivered and I'm glad I read it.

I can't read this sort of book all the time, but once in a while it's just fun to have a diversion.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: Greek/British? Not sure what he would consider himself
Original language: English
Length: 328 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: BOTM add on
Why I read this: for fun, and it was

184japaul22
okt 1, 1:21pm

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Oh, this book. Filled with important data pointing out the myriad ways that women have been neglected in building society around the world. And so depressing that it took me forever to read it.

Criado Perez is thorough. She explores not just the commonly known areas where women have been historically unplanned for, like medicine and the workplace, but also transportation, public toilets, the internet, refugee camps, and the list goes on and on. She ends with summing up her work into three themes that "define women's relationship with the world". One is the invisibility of the female body - neglecting to take into account the female body in medicine, technology, and architecture - and how it has led to injury, death, and a world where we just don't fit. Two is, ironically, the hyper-visibility of the female body. Male sexual violence against women and how we don't measure it and don't design spaces to account for it or limit it. And third, the unaccounted and unpaid care work of which women do more than their fair share. In our current world, "human" equals "male".

Her main solution to all of this is getting women in the position to be involved in decisions. To me, this seems undoubtedly correct, though I think part of that equation has to be getting men involved evenly in the unpaid care work at the same time. (Please, to all my male friends who are already there and doing their fair share, I see it and acknowledge it - my husband included!) I do love her last line:

"And so, to return to Freud's 'riddle of femininity', it turns out that the answer was staring us in the face all along. All 'people' needed to do was to ask women."

This is a book everyone should read, but fair warning that it isn't comfortable or easy reading.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 436 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: interested in the topic

185pammab
okt 2, 12:57pm

>184 japaul22:
Oh, I also found Invisible Women pretty depressing! It was piece of evidence after piece of evidence that even though we tell a story of progress, we're nowhere close to where many of us would like to be. It also made me question my perspectives a bit, because things don't seem too awful... but maybe I live in a bubble, or maybe I'm just not dreaming big enough.

186pamelad
okt 2, 5:40pm

>184 japaul22: Congratulations on finishing this. I was very interested in the idea of this book, but found the actual book too dry to grip my attention (which is almost non-existent at the moment, so perhaps this is an unfair judgement).

187japaul22
okt 3, 3:27pm

>185 pammab:, >186 pamelad: I'm guessing we all found the relentless statistics presented in the book hard to read - not just because of the topic, but also because it was a little boring to have so many stats presented. In the end, though, I felt that the final summing up really gripped me again and skewed me towards a higher rating than I would have given if I'd stopped half way through.

>185 pammab: I also do know what you mean about things not seeming too awful, but then again, I know I personally live in a pretty privileged situation. Plus I have a really awesome husband who is a full partner. I don't feel that I do more than my share of unpaid care work at all in our family.

188VivienneR
okt 5, 12:42pm

>184 japaul22: Excellent review! I've often thought along these lines (haven't we all) but no matter how much research and information is revealed, nothing seems to change much although I know there have been changes in my lifetime. Your review sent me looking for the book and happily I found it at the library.

189japaul22
okt 5, 1:43pm

>188 VivienneR: I think that too sometimes, but then even over my career there have been small changes that are impactful for women. We now have a dedicated space for women who are breastfeeding and need a place to pump - just 8 years ago when I was doing this, I'd sit on the floor in a storage room to pump. Then have to go to a bathroom to rinse out the pump parts and store my milk in an ice pack cooler. Having a room with a sink and fridge in our work space is a big deal (proud to say I spearheaded getting this done!). Also, when I had my babies, the Marine Corps gave women 6 weeks maternity leave at full pay. I very much appreciated the full pay (many American women don't get that), but 6 weeks was not enough. I was physically not ready to return to work, let alone ready to leave my 6 week old babies in daycare. But, needs must. Anyway, now women get 12 weeks paid maternity leave in the military, which is much more humane (though of course still not enough!). And fathers get 14 days paternity leave. The 12 weeks leave mentioned above is actually split into 6 weeks convalescent leave for a mother giving birth and 6 weeks caregiver leave. The caregiver leave can be used by anyone designated the "primary care giver". So there are situations where this could be the father, or adoptive parents also qualify (adoptive parents used to only get 10 days!!!). So, at least we are headed in the right direction though there is still a long way to go.

190japaul22
okt 5, 1:44pm

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

I was in just the right mood for this fanciful, slightly disturbing novel. It's hard to describe, but the gist is that Mr. Fox is a writer and his muse, Mary Foxe, comes to life (I guess?), inserting herself into his real marriage with Daphne Fox. The chapters that address the situation in the Fox household are interspersed with Mr. Fox's stories, which also tend to illuminate something that is going on in his real life.

I really enjoyed this, but I can see that it won't be for everyone. Actually, I don't think it would have been for me if I'd been in a different mood either, but I loved it.

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 324 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased in a used/independent bookstore in Roanoke, VA
Why I read this: cover caught my eye and I was in the mood for something different

191dudes22
okt 5, 2:52pm

>189 japaul22: - I was in the military when it was just 6 weeks and although I didn't have any children, I had plenty of friends who did. Some managed some extra time by saving their leave days but even that didn't make it enough. I've been retired for quite a while now but it's nice to know things are changing.

192japaul22
okt 5, 3:07pm

>191 dudes22: I did use some personal leave to extend my maternity leave. I think I added on about 2 weeks for each kid, giving me 8 weeks at home. It helped.

193VivienneR
okt 6, 1:49pm

>189 japaul22: Congratulations on getting changes for new mothers. I'm older and have seen so many changes since I was a new mother in the UK. I kept my pregnancy a secret knowing that as soon as it was discovered I'd be out of a job, which is exactly what happened. So yes, things change but very slowly. We have still to get some attitudes changed though.

194japaul22
okt 9, 1:42pm

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

The Seed Keeper is a beautiful novel that follows the life of a young woman of Dakhóta Native American descent, Rosalie Iron Wing, who is put into foster care after her parents die. Her journey to discovering her past and the past of her people is at the heart of the novel. Entwined with this, as in most of the Indigenous writing that I've read, is a respect and knowledge of the earth that we have unfortunately all but lost. Rosalie's memories of her father are predominantly of the Indigenous knowledge that he passed to her. As an adult, she learns more and more about gardening and farming and how to take only what you need from the earth. This relationship is complicated by her marriage to a white farmer, who she loves, but whose world view is very different from hers.

The book is framed with Rosalie's present day experiences and a flashback to her high school years leading up to middle age. There is also a voice of her great, great grandmother who tells the story of a battle between the Dakhótas and the white settlers. Her family story continues with the stealing of the children to go to a school for Indian children and describes all the ways these traumas have affective their communities. An additional voice of Rosalie's friend Gaby is included. Gaby is also a Dakhóta, but has a contrasting relationship with her heritage to Rosalie.

These competing timelines and voices are the only reason I'll knock a half star off of this book that I absolutely loved. I'm not sure Gaby's first person voice was totally necessary. And I'm not sure the Rosalie's story needed to be told in flashback. I did like the earlier story that was told alongside Rosalie's - that was very effective.

I'm so glad I read Braiding Sweetgrass early in the year because it really paved the way for me to understand more deeply what I've been reading this year from Indigenous authors. The Seed Keeper is a really wonderful book that addresses important history. It is emotional but not overly-sentimental, something that always turns me off. I highly recommend it and thank Beth, BLBera, for the recommendation.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: Dakota, Mdewakanton descendent
Original language: English
Length: 373 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book for kindle
Why I read this: fit my Indigenous book category

195dudes22
okt 9, 8:50pm

>194 japaul22: - I bought Braiding Sweetgrass way back in Jan thinking I would read it sometime over the summer while I was lounging on the deck. But I still haven't gotten to it. Now I'll take a BB for this and maybe I'll read them fairly close together.

196japaul22
Redigerat: okt 13, 8:43am

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A reread for me, I think the third time I've read this. Every time I find myself noticing something new. This time I was thinking the entire time of what the book would have been from May Welland's point of view. I would love to read a retelling of that - is there one??

For those who haven't read this, Age of Innocence follows Newland Archer, a young man on the cusp of marriage to May Welland and into the stifling, closed off New York society of the 1870s. When worldly, exotic (well, to their small circle) Ellen Olenska returns home to escape a bad marriage, Archer becomes enthralled. This is a love triangle but also a study of what happens when people are caught in a shifting society and whether they'll stick with the old rules or forge a new path.

The book is written from Newland Archer's perspective which wildly annoyed me the first time I've read this. Subsequent readings have made me so impressed with how Wharton manages to make this about the women, particularly about May, without giving them a direct voice.

I love this book and highly recommend it.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 168 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: one of my Collector's Library mini hardbacks
Why I read this: reread

197japaul22
okt 13, 8:43am

One more comment on rereads that I didn't want to include in the above review. I usually try to include 4-5 rereads per year and in 2021 this is the first one I got to. I find rereading very rewarding - I almost always get something new out of a book that I'm willing to reread. I also have a TERRIBLE memory for plot - really! - as in I almost never remember an ending until I've read a book multiple times. I remember themes, characters, and how a book made me feel, but never the plot. So this is sort of a reminder to myself that rereading 4-5 books per year, when I normally get to 75-85 total, is a small and worthwhile percentage of my reading.

198japaul22
okt 13, 8:56am

>195 dudes22: Just FYI, I personally needed some breaks with Braiding Sweetgrass. I flew through the beginning and then it started to feel a little repetitive. A break helped and I enjoyed the rest of the way. The chapters are almost like individual essays, so it works to split it up a bit.

199DeltaQueen50
okt 13, 4:25pm

>196 japaul22: I have really enjoyed every Edith Wharton book that I have read and I have been saving The Age of Innocence for when I need a 1,001 book that I know I will like. I suspect I will get to it next year.

200japaul22
Redigerat: okt 14, 12:08pm

All That She Carried: the Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles

I'm a sucker for women's history, especially that which is overlooked and undervalued. This book checked all of my boxes. It's a moving account of a common item, a cotton sack, that was kept through several generations of Black women, lost, and then found. It is currently in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The story is that Ashley, a 9 year old slave, was given this sack by her mother, Rosa, when Ashley was sold and the two were separated. The sack was embroidered by Ashley's granddaughter, Ruth, in the 1920s as follows:

My great grandmother Rose
mother of Ashley gave her the sack when
she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina
it had a tattered dress 3 handfulls of
pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her

It be filled with my Love always
she never saw her again
Ashley is my grandmother

Ruth Middleton
1920

In this book, Miles tries to uncover who these women were and their life story. Little is known or there to be discovered, as is not surprising, but she also explores each object include in the sack and why it might have been. She spends time delving into common life experiences of women who lived during the times mentioned. She also explores life for the unfree living in South Carolina.

This book pays homage to authors like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich whose work in The Age of Homespun takes a detailed look at women's lives through objects and craft, and to Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Braiding Sweetgrass for exploring the Indigenous and Black American connection to each other and land. These are two books I loved and was happy to make a further connection to.

This is a fascinating book and I highly recommend. I'm taking one half star off because there were a few places that I felt the book was just a bit over-written and padded to make up for the lack of information available, but it is a tiny complaint and wasn't an over-arching problem.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 377 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: read a review probably in the Washington Post and it attracted my attention immediately. I think it's currently a National Book Award Finalist for non fiction

201katiekrug
okt 14, 12:14pm

>200 japaul22: - I've had my eye on this one since I first heard about it. Nice review!

202japaul22
Redigerat: okt 17, 10:43am

Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley

My previous book led me to pick up Behind the Scenes, a memoir written by Elizabeth Keckley in 1868 about her life of enslavement, how she bought her freedom, and how she made a life for herself subsequently.

Keckley was born a slave in Virginia in 1818. The first part of her memoir details her life a slave - the splitting up of her family, the abuse she faced, included rape that led to a pregnancy, and how she strove to keep her dignity. She eventually was able to purchase her freedom through her skill as a seamstress, learned through being forced to keep her owner's family of 17 clothed. While she was in St. Louis with this family, she was able to earn $1500 with her seamstress skills to purchase her freedom and that of her son's. She moved to Washington, D.C. and began a seamstress business, sewing dresses for the most well-known women of the day, such as Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis who was soon to be President of the Confederacy. After the Lincolns came to the White House, she became Mary Lincoln's modiste and confidant. The two developed a close relationship - a friendship from Keckley's account. The middle of the book details her exclusive access to the Lincoln family. After Lincoln's assassination, she helps Mary Todd Lincoln sell some of her dresses to make money and the book becomes a bit of an exposé that Mary Lincoln apparently never forgave her for. She includes full letters written to her from Mary Lincoln. Unfortunately, this book seems to have hurt Keckley's reputation and she never financially recovered.

My feelings on this book are mixed. It's beautifully written and I want to know more. I want to know where she learned to read and write, how she managed to become so skilled as to be the best dress designer in Washington on her own, and more about the struggles and triumphs she faced personally. Unfortunately, a lot of the book is overshadowed by the Lincoln family, and especially by Mary Todd Lincoln's financial and emotional troubles after her husband's death.

I'm glad I read this because it's an important first person account of a woman's journey through and out of slavery and to personal success. But I think it's also good to know before you read it that Keckley's own intention in writing this was not just to tell her story, but also to give another view of the Lincolns. She does it well, but at 150 years removed, I personally wanted more of HER story - I can read about the Lincolns plenty of other places.

Original publication date: 1868
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 156 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: previous book led me to it

203japaul22
okt 19, 2:01pm

Night Waking by Sarah Moss

I'm a little embarrassed, but I'm going to differ with the bulk of LT and say I didn't particularly enjoy this novel by Sarah Moss. It's written very well and has an interested double plot line, but the modern-day characters really grated on me.

The plot centers around a family that goes to stay on their family island off the coast of Scotland where Giles, the husband, is researching puffins and Anna, the wife, is writing a book. They have two young children and Anna is overwhelmed with trying to balance her work life with her life as a mother. This is familiar to me as a working mom, and I'm sympathetic, but Anna drives me nuts. She's not getting any sleep, but she's also not insisting on any help from her husband. She's not breastfeeding an infant (something admittedly hard to pass off on dad), the kids waking her up are 7 and probably 2. Just wake up your husband and make him take a turn already! I just could not stop thinking about Invisible Women, the nonfiction book I recently read that talks a lot about the unpaid care work that women are expected to do. Anyway, Anna starts demanding more equal distribution of work at home by the end, but the beginning was so maddening that Sarah Moss kind of lost me.

Back to the plot . . . the family discovers the bones of baby while planting some trees and the mystery of this baby leads to discoveries about the island's history and Giles's ancestors. I liked all of this and thought it came together nicely, but it just wasn't enough to make up for my annoyance at the beginning.

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 375 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased used paperback
Why I read this: LT reviews

204Nickelini
okt 20, 1:37am

>203 japaul22:
Have you read Sarah Moss before? I think she's one of those writers who has grown over the years. I think her recent books are considered to be stronger than her earlier works.

205japaul22
okt 20, 8:42am

>204 Nickelini: I read Ghost Wall and liked it. I think being so put off by the main character is what made this not work for me. I'm ok with an unlikeable character, but I don't think Anna was meant to be unlikeable. I felt like we were supposed to feel sympathy for her and be rooting for her to get her life together and I wasn't there. I bought Bodies of Light with Night Waking and I'll read it for sure at some point.

206japaul22
okt 21, 7:43pm

Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Unreliable narrator nanny, haunted house, poison garden, creepy kids, and a mysterious death.

Sometimes it's fun to read something that comes with no expectations. I just enjoyed the ride.

Original publication date: 2019
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 376 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: for fun

207japaul22
Igår, 2:41pm

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert

Kolbert is an excellent writer about environmental issues. As Kolbert states in her summary, "this has been a book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems." The essays explore the situation with Asian carp in the Mississippi (something I read about in more detail in Life and Death of the Great Lakes), the efforts to stop New Orleans from sinking, the pupfish of Devil's Hole, cane toads and genetic engineering, and efforts to trap CO2 and stop or slow global warming, among others.

This book is readable, if worrying, and a good survey of different attempts being made currently to control/help/restore/fix the environmental mess we've made. It fit very well with my reading this year and gives a mention to the subject of my next book, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. It is not as good as Kolbert's previous book, The Sixth Extinction, which I remember as being much more in depth and scholarly. This is closer to essays or nature writing - still good, but not as thorough as I prefer.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 204 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased for kindle
Why I read this: interested in the topic, like the author