BLBera's Beth's Reading in 2021 - Chapter 1

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BLBera's Beth's Reading in 2021 - Chapter 1

1BLBera
jan 1, 10:03am

Happy 2021! It has to be better, right?

This image is from Snow by Uri Shulevitz, one of Scout's favorite books.

My name is Beth. I love books – talking about them, writing about them, reading about them. I also love to read with my granddaughter Scout.

I am an English instructor at my local community college, so I am always looking for books I can use in my classes. I like to discover new writers.

I tend not to plan my reading, other than for my book club, which meets once a month.

2BLBera
Redigerat: jun 30, 11:34am

Currently reading

3BLBera
Redigerat: jan 1, 10:06am

4BLBera
Redigerat: jun 30, 11:42am

Read in 2021
January
1. Jazz* 💜
2. News of the World* REREAD
3. Those Who Knew
4. Square Haunting 💜
5. The Boy in the Field
6. Glass Town
7. A Running Duck*
8. Faces on the Tip of My Tongue*
9. Perestroika in Paris
10. When You Reach Me*
11. Earthly Remains*
12. Pride
13. Teaching about Race and Racism in the College Classroom*
14. The Skeleton Road*

February
15. The Death of Vivek Oji
16. My Time among the Whites* REREAD
17. The Nickel Boys*
18. Las mujeres en la química*
19. Paradise* REREAD 💜
20. Devil in a Blue Dress*
21. So We Read On*💜
22. Banned Book Club
23. The Vanishing Half*

March
24. Outlawed
25. Sing, Unburied, Sing* REREAD
26. Summerwater 💜
27. The Jewels of Paradise
28. Love*
29. The Historians
30. Even as We Breathe
31. Hidden Figures*
32. American Delirium
33. Hardcore Twenty-Four*
34. Freeheit!*
35. What's Mine and Yours
36. How Beautiful We Were 💜
37. Infinite Country 💜

April
38. Beheld
39. The Seed Keeper*
40. She Walks in Beauty*
41. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
42. The Liar's Dictionary
43. The New Jim Crow*
44. Faithful and Virtuous Night
45. The Western Wind
46. Death Comes to the School*
47. I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf
48. Death Comes to Bath

May
49. Klara and the Sun
50. The Dutch House REREAD
51. Exciting Times
52. Death and the Maiden
53. The Searcher
54. The War that Saved My Life*
55. Whereabouts
56. Ocean Prey
57. Jacob's Room Is Full of Books*
58. The Carrying*
59. To Die But Once
60. Gem of the Ocean
61. One Two Three*
62. Death on Tuckernuck
63. Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars*
64. Secrets of Happiness

June
65. A Is for Alibi*
66. Life in the Garden*
67. The Arsonists' City
68. The Scholar*
69. Of Women and Salt
70. Joe Turner's Come and Gone
71. Piranesi
72. The Feast of Love*
73. Unsettled Ground
74. All My Pretty Ones*
75. Castle Shade
76. No One Is Talking About This
77. The Center of Everything
78. The Blood Promise

*from my shelves

5BLBera
Redigerat: jun 30, 11:44am

6lisapeet
Redigerat: jan 1, 10:38am

Happy New Year, Beth! I have Square Haunting in the pile and I’m eager to hear what you think.

7BLBera
jan 1, 11:04am

Happy New Year, to you, Lisa. I'm about halfway through Square Haunting and am enjoying it. Right now I'm reading the section on Jane Ellen Harrison, and I'd like to learn more about her. She sounds remarkable.

8Caroline_McElwee
jan 1, 11:21am

Happy New year Beth. Hoping it will be a good reading vintage for you.

9BLBera
jan 1, 11:29am

Thanks Caroline!

10ELiz_M
jan 1, 11:32am

Happy 2021! I love the image in >5 BLBera: and given that all of your favorites from 2020 are books pulling at me from my library-wishlist (possible moving to a to-buy list), I'm looking forward to seeing what you're reading this year.

11BLBera
jan 1, 11:35am

Happy New Year to you as well, Liz. When I look back, I did have a great year of reading. It was hard to choose favorites.

13AlisonY
jan 1, 12:56pm

Happy new year, Beth. Looking forward to your 2021 reads and reviews.

14dchaikin
jan 1, 2:34pm

Uri Shulevitz wrote one of my favorite books to read with my children (a few years ago, now), How I Learned Geography. It's autobiographical about his time as a child during WWII, spent as a refugee in some obscure part of the USSR. Hope you enjoy Jazz - it's a little harder to read than her earlier works, I think. At least I struggled a bit with it. Happy New Year!

15BLBera
jan 1, 3:19pm

>13 AlisonY: Thanks, Alison. Let's hope 2021 is a good year for reading.

>14 dchaikin: I do like Shulevitz's geography book. My son, especially, loved it. So far I am enjoying Jazz; I've read quite a bit of Morrison and love her language.

16AnnieMod
jan 1, 6:28pm

Hi Beth, I love the picture at the top of your thread. :)

Happy new year!

17BLBera
jan 1, 6:42pm

Thanks Annie. It's from one of my granddaughter's favorite books.

18kidzdoc
jan 2, 5:29am

Happy New Year, Beth! That is good news about the books that will enter the public domain this year. I've wanted to read Arrowsmith for some time, but haven't gotten around to it.

19BLBera
jan 2, 7:51am

Hi Darryl. It will be interesting to see what people do with the books that are newly in the public domain.

20markon
jan 3, 3:57pm

Waving hello & Happy New Year. Thanks for posting the link about public domain day.

21BLBera
jan 4, 9:01am

Thanks Ardene. It will be interesting to see what people do with all these works.

22BLBera
jan 5, 6:01pm


1. Jazz

In her foreward to Jazz, Toni Morrison says, "I wanted the work to be a manifestation of the music's intellect, sensuality, anarchy; its history, its range, and its modernity." Later she talks about how jazz takes from everywhere -- "gospel, classic blues, hymns -- and made it her own."

Her comments about jazz -- and the entire novel -- reminded me of James Baldwin's great short story, "Sonny's Blues." The last three pages contain some of the best descriptions of music ever written. It's too long to copy in its entirety, but a couple of sections reminded me of Jazz. This is a description of Sonny and his band playing in a Harlem night club: "The dry, low, black man said something awful on the drums, Creole answered, and the drums talked back. Then the horn insisted, sweet and high, slightly detached perhaps, and Creole listened, commenting now and then...Then they all came together again, and Sonny was part of the family again...Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard."

The instruments playing separately, then coming together, with variations on the theme make up the story of Jazz. The music is also like New York City, which has bits from many sources. To this wonderful place, Joe and Violet come from Virginia. For a while they are happy with the possibilities the city offers, but then Joe has an affair with a younger woman, Dorcas, whom he later kills. But Dorcas isn't the only woman to be the victim of violence. In a chapter, Morrison gives us variations of the theme as she recounts other stories of women being assaulted.

Then, Joe's story chimes in, when Morrison takes us back to Virginia. We learn about Joe's and Violet's pasts. Morrison mentions the world "choice" often in the novel. Many of the characters acted in an effort to make a choice. As Violet says, "What's the world for if you can't make it up the way you want it?" Many call her crazy, but I think Morrison wants us to look at Violet and think about her question.

The novel wasn't wholly successful. Toward the end, Morrison inserts a character, Golden Grey, who never really fits. But, all in all, a good start to my 2021 reading.

23sallypursell
jan 5, 7:35pm

>5 BLBera: Wow, great graphic!

24sallypursell
jan 5, 7:38pm

Happy New Year! Stopping by to say that and set up a star for the year. Good start.

25BLBera
jan 5, 7:50pm

Thanks Sally. Happy New Year to you as well.

26AlisonY
jan 7, 8:02am

>22 BLBera: Hmm. I appreciate your honesty on this one - I don't think it would be for me.

My first introduction to Morrison was with the amazing Beloved. I'm starting to feel like I need someone to give me a warm fuzzy feeling that I haven't peaked and started with her best work. The Bluest Eye didn't work for me in Q4 - too many obvious 'think about this as you read' references, and it sounds like there's some of that in Jazz too.

27BLBera
jan 7, 9:03am

Hi Alison: I think Beloved is my favorite Morrison novel although you might also like Song of Solomon; that is also excellent. The last two I read, Tar Baby and Jazz didn't work as well for me. The Bluest Eye was a first novel, so I make allowances for that. She certainly returns to the theme in Sula and God Help the Child, more successfully, I think.

28AlisonY
jan 7, 10:48am

>27 BLBera: Thanks - that's useful. It's a pity sometimes to peak with an author's best in your first introduction to them....

29rocketjk
jan 7, 1:09pm

Happy New Year and happy reading in 2021. I read Jazz quite a while ago and enjoyed it very much. Of course, I've loved all the Toni Morrison novels I've read. Cheers!

30BLBera
jan 7, 1:39pm

>28 AlisonY: That is true, Alison. I'm often disappointed after reading a novel I loved by an author. The problem with writers like Morrison (read Nobel Prize winners) or other writers in the canon is that we tend to give them a pass on work that isn't necessarily great. If you are interested in reading more Morrison, there are a few of us who will be reading Paradise in February. I've only read that one once, years ago and the thing I most remember about it is that I thought it was weird. So, join in if you are interested.

>29 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. Happy New Year to you.

31AlisonY
jan 7, 3:32pm

>30 BLBera: I would normally have said yes to the group read, Beth, but I bought a load of books recently and I feel I need to work through those first before I buy any more (I don't own a copy of Paradise).

32BLBera
jan 7, 7:33pm

Sounds good, Alison. I know what you mean. I really want to read from my shelves this year.

33dchaikin
jan 8, 1:04pm

>22 BLBera: I loved “Sonny's Blues”. Interesting the comparison. Even though i’ve read Jazz, details don’t stand out. And I liked but didn’t love it.

>26 AlisonY: I don’t want to repeat anything Beth said, but i do think Morrison was a better writer before Beloved than after. One thing Beloved constrains more than most of her other books is Morrison’s open anger. She was an angry writer who blended that anger into different themes. Sula, which is dark throughout, Song of Solomon and Tar Baby are partially so successful because she is playful with that anger. She toys with the reader and forces us to see this anger while entertaining us too. It’s...well it can be ... special. Beloved is beautiful (and dark) but on a different mind track.

>30 BLBera: hope you enjoy Paradise. I remember this better than Jazz - especially that opening line.

34BLBera
jan 8, 2:08pm

>33 dchaikin: Morrison worked very hard on her opening lines. She talks about that frequently.

35raton-liseur
jan 9, 6:52am

>22 BLBera: I only read A Mercy from Toni Morrison and found it a difficult read. Your review made me think about this author, but I dont' know if I should read more from her.

36AlisonY
jan 9, 8:07am

>33 dchaikin: Will keep an open mind then, Dan. Which is good, as I'd like to explore more Morrison.

37BLBera
jan 9, 9:19am

>35 raton-liseur: I don't think A Mercy is Morrison's best novel. But everyone's taste is different, and she may not be a writer you admire. I thought of her later novels that God Help the Child was perhaps the most accessible, so you might try that if you are interested in another work by her.

>36 AlisonY: Alison - You might try God Help the Child.

38raton-liseur
jan 9, 10:09am

>37 BLBera: Yes, I should try another title, I'll think about it. Thanks for the recommandation, that's a novel I had not heard about.

39AlisonY
Redigerat: jan 9, 11:23am

>37 BLBera: Noting that one....

40BLBera
jan 9, 2:14pm

>38 raton-liseur:, >39 AlisonY: I LOVE recommending books to people who are interested. :) My students are generally not big readers.

41dchaikin
jan 10, 5:09pm

>35 raton-liseur: A Mercy was my least favorite Morrison. I listened on audio and it just seems to drone on and on.

42raton-liseur
jan 11, 2:20am

>41 dchaikin: Ok, you are all making me considering more and more seriously giving her another chance! BLBera recommands Paradis. What would you recommand?

43markon
jan 11, 7:52am

I think her earlier works are more accessible? easier? Not sure what word I'm looking for here. I'd recommend Song of Solomon or Sula.

44BLBera
jan 11, 10:24am

>41 dchaikin: A Mercy isn't one of my favorites, but it's one that I've only read once, so I might, at some point, want to revisit it.

>42 raton-liseur: I think Sula or The Bluest Eye would be good ones to try. They are both pretty accessible.

>43 markon: Thanks Ardene. I'm not sure Song of Solomon is one I would start with although it is one I love.

Recommendations are so tricky!

45raton-liseur
jan 11, 12:46pm

>44 BLBera: These are not the most famous title, so it's interesting that you recommand them as an entry point in Morrison's work. I won't give it a try right away, but I'm noting those recs and will use them some day. Thanks!

46BLBera
jan 11, 2:02pm

>45 raton-liseur: You are welcome. Good luck.

47BLBera
Redigerat: jan 12, 5:45pm


3. Those Who Knew is set in an unnamed Caribbean island and it explores the culpability of those who keep secrets. Novey, like in her interesting novel Ways to Disappear, plays with the novel genre again here and tells the story in short chapters, with excerpts from plays and journals as well. The novel is also surprisingly timely.

When she was a college student, Lena protested with Victor, now a senator, with higher political aspirations. Then, one night, Victor assaulted her. Lena didn't tell anyone and distanced herself from him. The novel begins with the appearance to Lena of the ghost of another young woman involved with Victor. Did he kill her? What is Lena's responsibility? What is the ghost trying to tell her?

I like Novey's style, and there is a lot in this short novel; it reminds me of the Dominican Republic although it could be any Caribbean island with the disparity between the haves and have nots and the political unrest.

48dchaikin
Redigerat: jan 12, 7:39pm

>42 raton-liseur: if you only read one book it should Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. 🙂 I would suggest trying Song of Solomon and seeing if it works for you.

49raton-liseur
jan 13, 5:03am

>48 dchaikin: Nice one-book recommandation! I keep noting and will have to decide if I try again soon or latter.

50RidgewayGirl
jan 13, 11:36am

>47 BLBera: I picked this book up on a whim in December. Thanks for reviewing it! I'm looking forward to reading it.

51BLBera
jan 13, 12:42pm

>50 RidgewayGirl: I'll watch for your comments, Kay. I think I would describe Novey as quirky. She reminds me a bit of Lydia Millet, who does interesting things with her novels.

52RidgewayGirl
jan 13, 1:34pm

>51 BLBera: Lydia Millet is a favorite author of mine. Going to move Those Who Knew closer to the top of the pile.

53lisapeet
jan 13, 2:12pm

>51 BLBera: Another big Lydia Millet fan here, so I'll note that one. Library's got it, so that's a good thing.

54BLBera
jan 13, 6:58pm

>52 RidgewayGirl:, >53 lisapeet: OK, so now I want to qualify my comments. I think Millet has more weight than Novey, but I find her quirky stories in line with Millet's. Novey isn't afraid to throw in a little magical realism.

I'll be interested to see what you think.

55BLBera
jan 13, 7:11pm


4. Square Haunting

I love this - a brief history of five remarkable women who all lived in Mecklenburgh Square, though not simultaneously. The women were H.D., Dorothy Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power, and Virginia Woolf. I was not familiar with Harrison and Power and learned things about the other women. I also compiled quite a list of things I want to read.

H.D.
"Across her work, H.D. was seeking new ways to understand a simple fact: that women have always been shaped by expectations of how they should behave, and thus have been denied the freedom to discover and know themselves as they might want to be."

I would like to read: Bid Me to Live, Sea Garden

Dorothy Sayers
I'm more familiar with Sayers, having read her Wimsey novels, but Wade draws interesting parallels between Sayers' quest to be taken seriously as a writer and her character Harriet Vane's insistence on independence.

Jane Ellen Harrison was a scholar who had an insatiable curiosity. She left Cambridge in middle age to start a new career, to learn Russian! She learned eleven living languages and five dead ones. I'd like to read her memoir.

I'd also like to read Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirlees, Harrson's companion of many years.

Eileen Power changed the way we study history, by looking at ordinary people and how they lived. She campaigned for the League of Nations, convinced that "entrenched stereotypes and unchallenged assumptions of cultural superiority lead to misguided, ignorant, violent politics."

Virginia Woolf
The section about her makes me want to revisit her work. I do have Three Guineas, which she worked on while living in the square, to that may be one that I pick up soonish.

56lisapeet
jan 13, 9:03pm

> 55 That was one of my many pandemic purchases—glad to hear you liked it. I'm looking forward to it.

57BLBera
jan 13, 10:51pm

You'll love it, Lisa.

58AlisonY
jan 14, 3:48am

>55 BLBera: That sounds fascinating. Adding it to my WL.

59japaul22
jan 14, 7:12am

>55 BLBera: that was an immediate purchase! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

60BLBera
jan 14, 8:39am

Enjoy Alison and Jennifer. I'm trying to remember who recommended it. I first heard about it here on LT.

61AnnieMod
jan 14, 11:57am

>60 BLBera: https://www.librarything.com/work/23991649/conversations might jog your memory (if they touchstoned it...)

62BLBera
jan 14, 1:17pm

>61 AnnieMod: Thanks Annie. I usually just wait until someone takes credit. :)

63BLBera
jan 15, 1:51pm



5. The Boy in the Field
I really enjoyed this novel, principally for the warm portrayal of the siblings' bond. Matthew, Zoe, and Duncan Lang are walking home from school one day when they find an injured boy in a field. This event drives the narrative, as we see how finding the boy affects each of the children. The story, told from each of the children's points of view, reveals how the event impacts each of them.

At the end, the novel jumps forward in time to show the siblings as adults -- perhaps satisfying our curiosity, but this device always seems contrived to me, somehow lazy.

Still, all in all, I really enjoyed this affectionate portrait of a family.

64NanaCC
jan 15, 3:57pm

Happy New Year, Beth. I’m just getting started browsing through the threads. You are off to a good start.

65BLBera
jan 15, 5:55pm

Thanks Colleen. Happy New Year to you as well. I hope 2021 is a better year for you.

66arubabookwoman
jan 16, 12:04pm

>63 BLBera: I read that at the end of last year and liked it a lot, I think for basically the same reasons as you—they were all such nice people. Not perfect, but good and trying. I thought she did a really good job in the parts from Duncan’s POV illustrating how he viewed the world through an artist’s eye.

67BLBera
jan 16, 1:12pm

I knew I remembered seeing positive comments, Deborah. It is nice to read about a family where the people care about each other. I think Duncan was my favorite as well - I really liked the reactions of the family members when he wants to find his birth mother.

68dchaikin
jan 16, 2:49pm

>55 BLBera: oh, enticing. I vaguely remember a review here sometime in the past. But this time i’m writing down in my list

>49 raton-liseur: well, I guess you could choose just one. : )

69BLBera
jan 16, 6:25pm

>68 dchaikin: I heard about it here first as well.

70dianeham
jan 17, 6:56am

>63 BLBera: i read that last year do and really liked it.

71BLBera
Redigerat: jan 17, 10:09am


6. Glass Town is a graphic novel centered around the juvenilia of the Brontë. I enjoyed this imaginative telling of some of the story of Angria, Gondal, and Glass Town. I am not as familiar with these stories as with the Brontë's novels. Greenberg has told a story about the children and how they came to imagine Gondal and Angria with their assorted characters.

Greenberg also wrote The One Hundred Nights of Hero, which I enjoyed. She uses the graphic format to great advantage here as well. In Angria and Gondal, there is color and movement on the page with action and lots of characters, while the events that take place in Haworth are monochromatic and much quieter.

Brontë fans will enjoy this.

72BLBera
jan 17, 10:08am

>70 dianeham: Hi Diane. Have you read others by Livesy?

73dianeham
jan 17, 2:53pm

>72 BLBera: Not yet. I got The Flight of Gemma Harding from Santathing this year but haven't started it yet. Have you read any others?

74BLBera
jan 17, 3:42pm

I've read a few. I did like The Flight of Gemma Harding. I'll watch for your comments.

75BLBera
jan 18, 11:12am


7. A Running Duck is a first novel, a thriller. Gosling certainly kept me turning the pages with an fast-moving plot with plenty of twists and turns. Written in 1978, it is a bit dated, especially the gender roles.

Claire Randell unknowingly meets a hit man, who then targets her to protect his identity. She is placed under police protection with Mike Malchek in charge. As with many thrillers, character is not the main focus here. To give her credit, Gosling does try to complicate the character of Malchek, but generally the characters seem more like stock characters than real people.

It definitely suffers in comparison with the wonderful Faces on the Tip of My Tongue.

76sallypursell
jan 18, 9:22pm

>75 BLBera: Is there a reason to compare those two? I don't know either one, so I don't understand the comparison. They don't seem similar.

77BLBera
jan 18, 10:26pm

There is really no comparison, Sally. It's just that the writing is so beautiful in the story collection, with great characterizations, that a thriller suffers in comparison.

78sallypursell
jan 18, 10:28pm

>77 BLBera: Oh, okay. I understand. Random thought, really. I don't like thrillers very much.

79BLBera
jan 19, 7:36am

I'm generally not a huge fan either. And maybe I wasn't in the right mood. Thrillers can be good vacation reads.

80BLBera
jan 20, 7:31pm


8. Faces on the Tip of My Tongue is a wonderful collection of stories. The collection tells linked stories of solitary people, mostly in rural France. The translation is very good; I never felt any awkward phrasing that I sometimes find in translations. In fact, I felt I got a clear sense of the author's style.

Pagano's ability to evoke setting is amazing. In one short story, "The Lake's Favorite," she recalls summers spent at a lake: "I would return and curl up on my towel in the meadow, seeking the half-heat of siesta time and the distant company of my cousins, their cries muffled by the grasses that traced around me the shape of my body..."

One of my favorites was "Glitter," about library books: "Now I knew that when I filled my bag with all the books I'd borrowed, I was also borrowing traces of lives. Traces of other people's reading and, with them, little pieces of their lives, their lives at the moment of their reading, their lives shortly before."

Recommended.

81BLBera
Redigerat: jan 23, 5:30pm


9. Perestroika in Paris is difficult to categorize. If you have been wanting to read a book about a horse who wanders away from her stall and ends up making friends with a dog and a raven in the middle of Paris, your wait is over. As I was reading, at times I thought it was a bit -- cute -- but I kept reading. I wanted to find out where everyone would end up.

Raoul the crow was my favorite. So, enjoyable but not for everyone.

82lisapeet
jan 23, 5:37pm

>81 BLBera: Hmmm, not sure if it's for me but not convinced it's not, either. I like sentient animals in books if they're done well.

83BLBera
jan 23, 6:03pm

She does do a good job with creating personalities for the animals, Lisa. I think this is very much a book you have to be in the mood for. I thought it was fun, and there are some great observations about how unobservant people are, not to notice a horse running around in the center of Paris.

84BLBera
Redigerat: jan 24, 10:34am


10. When You Reach Me is a Newberry winner that I read for one of my library challenges. This novel is a love letter to A Wrinkle in Time, the protagonist's favorite book.

Miranda, a sixth grader, carries A Wrinkle in Time with her everywhere and ideas from the novel permeate the story, from discussions of time travel to a retelling of the story to a local storekeeper.

The novel is narrated by Miranda and told to an unnamed "you," the author of anonymous notes that Miranda receives. Stead keeps us wondering about the author of the notes until the end. But as Miranda worries about the notes, we also glimpse the everyday life of a six grader living in New York City, the fears and dangers that exist, as well as the sense of neighborhood.

This is excellent young reader fiction.

85BLBera
Redigerat: jan 26, 6:33pm


11. Earthly Remains is a bit of a departure for Guido Brunetti. He is ordered by a doctor to take off two weeks from work. He admits to feeling burnt out, so he agrees. Paola's aunt has a home on an island in the laguna, so Brunetti packs to spend two weeks in solitude. There is a lovely bit when he tries to decide what books to take.

He spends his days rowing with the caretaker of the house. Almost half the book is dedicated to this and to environmental concerns. Then, when the caretaker drowns, Brunetti's vacation is over. Is it an accident? Suicide? Murder? Brunetti feels compelled to investigate.

One thing that is never resolved is his burn out. Will he stay on the job?

I missed Paola and her cooking in this one.

86AnnieMod
jan 26, 6:35pm

>85 BLBera: Yeah - i missed that as well. But I still liked that one a lot :)

87BLBera
jan 26, 6:37pm

Yes, Annie, I am almost guaranteed to like the Leon books. I still have a few to catch up with.

88AnnieMod
jan 26, 6:51pm

I had started reading the early ones in order again - they are interestingly different after so many years. :)

By the way - if you can catch any episodes of the German series based on the books, they are extremely well done as well :)

89BLBera
jan 26, 8:58pm

Thanks Annie. I'll have to check them out.

90sallypursell
jan 26, 9:22pm

>85 BLBera: Why doesn't a doctor ever tell me to take a vacation!

91BLBera
jan 26, 9:29pm

Hi Sally - :)

92sallypursell
jan 26, 9:35pm

93BLBera
jan 29, 9:58am

Happy Friday, Sally.

94BLBera
jan 29, 10:10am


12. Pride

I really liked Zoboi's novel American Street and wanted to see what she would do with Pride and Prejudice in the hood. She begins: "It's a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it's a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it's not just the junky stuff they'll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night's trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go."

All in all, the reimagining of Pride and Prejudice set in Bushwick with a Dominican-Haitian family of five girls, including seventeen-year-old Zuri (Elizabeth), was well done. I liked that Zoboi adapted the story to fit the setting; she wasn't a slave to the events of the original. And while doing so, she also manages to comment on gentrification and the lost opportunities of kids living in poverty.

When an abandoned property is remodeled and a well-to-do black family moves into the neighborhood, Zuri sees it as one more step to the loss of her neighborhood. The two sons of the family are good looking, but seem stuck up. They are from another world, a world that Zuri, who has rarely even left her neighborhood, can hardly imagine.

But I am not the audience for this novel. It is a young adult novel, and I found it hard to get too caught up in a seventeen-year-old's falling in love. Still, well done, and I hope it interests people in the original.

95BLBera
jan 29, 3:35pm


13. Teaching about Race and Racism in the College Classroom

Obviously, this is going to be interesting only to people who teach about race, so I'll limit my comments.

Good book about the rewards and pitfalls of teaching about race in a college classroom. Kernahan is a professor of psychology and teaches classes on race. She uses her own experience as well as extensive research to discuss what works and what doesn't. I really like that she includes practical advice that would work across the curriculum.

96BLBera
jan 31, 5:45pm


14. The Skeleton Road
I love this kind of thought-provoking mystery that doesn't provide easy answers. In this novel, McDermid makes us see that it's not always easy to decide what is just.

Karen Pirie is in charge of cold cases, so when a skeleton is found at the top of an abandoned building, it is her case. She has no idea that the investigation will lead her to Croatia and the war crimes tribunal.

Pirie isn't the only one investigating a crime. Several people accused of war crimes have been murdered, just as they are about to be arrested.

The two investigations cross, and the investigators will have to try to solve both a cold case and cases where many people think the murder was justified.

I thought this was a standalone and now see there are several other books in the Karen Pirie series. I will have to check them out.

97NanaCC
feb 1, 6:39pm

>96 BLBera: I had put the first book in this series on my wishlist thanks to Vivienne. Thank you for the reminder, Beth.

98BLBera
feb 1, 7:59pm

You are very welcome, Colleen. How are you? I hadn't read the first two because I thought The Skeleton Road was a standalone, but I'll look for more in the series.

99NanaCC
feb 2, 11:15am

>98 BLBera: I’m doing fine, Beth. Thank you for asking. I had my first Moderna vaccine yesterday, and will go back in about a month for the second. So I guess starting to feel somewhat less stressed even though I know we have a long way to go.

100BLBera
feb 2, 2:10pm

Great that you got your first vaccine, Colleen. And at least we have adults in charge now.

101RidgewayGirl
feb 2, 4:32pm

>99 NanaCC: That's exciting news! I didn't realize how important that was until my father got his first jab and I felt the stress just lift off of me. He gets his booster shot on Monday.

102BLBera
feb 3, 2:45pm

Hi Kay. :) I agree; I was so relieved when my parents got their first shots.

103BLBera
feb 5, 8:34am


15. The Death of Vivek Oji

It's tricky to start a novel with the death of the main character, but Emezi carries it off successfully. She does this by constructing carefully the lives of Vivek and his family, from the moment of his birth. Kavita, Vivek's mother, has many questions about how he died, so we follow along with her as she searches for answers.

In this way, the novel is really the story of Vivek's life. Vivek is always different, and Emezi shows how society can limit choices, stifling identity, and fracture families. I'll think about Vivek for a long time.

104BLBera
Redigerat: feb 7, 11:58am

16. My Time among the Whites
I just finished a reread of this. I'm using it in a class this semester. I loved Capó Crucet's novel Make Your Home among Strangers, which is obviously autobiographical.

This memoir in essays talks about being a first-generation college student, growing up in Miami among Cubans, and teaching. "Imagine Me Here, or How I Became a Professor" is a great essay about with privilege.

It will be interesting to see what my students think of it.

105BLBera
Redigerat: feb 7, 1:05pm



17. The Nickel Boys is a novel about a reform school, but it is based on a real place, the Dozier School. This short, but powerful novel is explicit about the abuses and torture that take place here, and I doubt Whitehead exaggerates.

The novel focuses on two boys: Elwood Curtis is a good student, on his way to college classes when he is mistakenly sentenced to the Nickel School, revealing how precarious existence is. At the school, he befriends Turner, who is savvier about the way the world works for black boys. The story of these boys and how they try to exist in a world that denies their humanity is inspiring.

I will think about this and come back to it.

106raton-liseur
feb 8, 6:23am

>103 BLBera: >104 BLBera: and >105 BLBera: Three really interesting reading in a row. I might add some to my wish list. Thanks for those reviews.

107lisapeet
feb 8, 8:11am

I've had the last two for ages and am looking forward to both of them—especially the first, which I've heard such good things about across the board.

108BLBera
feb 8, 10:39am

>106 raton-liseur: You are welcome.

>107 lisapeet: I am so impressed with everything I've read by Capó Crucet, Lisa. Have you read her novel? I recommend it. If you read My Time among the Whites, you will see that it is autobiographical. In one of her essays, she discusses her family's reaction to the novel. Her father wanted her to state a disclaimer before each of her readings.

109lisapeet
feb 8, 12:45pm

>108 BLBera: I haven't read it, but I'll keep an eye out for it now.

110BLBera
feb 8, 2:53pm

It's Make Your Home among Strangers. I loved it. I haven't read her short story collection yet, but that is on my WL.

111BLBera
Redigerat: feb 15, 10:13am


19. Paradise
In an essay about paradise, Morrison says that implicit in the definition of paradise are exclusivity and eternity -- but "earthbound eternity, rather than eternal afterlife...Thus, paradise, as an earthly project...has serious intellectual and visual limitations."

Her task, she says is to "write religion-inflected prose narrative," to make "the experience and journey of faith fresh."

In addition to the religious aspects Morrison admits that she is interested in all-black communities. So, in her novel Paradise, she creates Ruby and places it next to the Convent, "a raceless" community. She claims that by eliminating racial codes in the Convent, she provides herself "with an expanded canvas," to explore more than Black-White conflict.

She accomplishes this in Paradise. While there is a lot to explore in this novel, I see a couple of main conflicts. The first is religious, related to the idea that one can produce a paradise on earth. People are imperfect, and the idea that by reinforcing and repeating the creation story and by excluding outsiders, that Ruby will remain a haven, is impossible. We already see, as the story begins, that young people want to leave and that children are born deformed and dying. The Oven, which once served a purpose, has become a golden calf, an idol that is not worshipped by the younger members of the community.

The other conflict is gender-related. Women are subject to their husbands. The Convent is attacked because it's a community of women, ungovernable and unknowable by the men of Ruby. The men know women of Ruby take refuge there and the men fear losing their power.

There is so much more one can discuss: the names, the numbers, the whole mythology behind the creation of Ruby.

The one part I didn't like was the last chapter. It seems like Morrison feels she has to provide some kind of closure, which doesn't work for me. I think she should end the novel after the "Save-Marie" chapter.

This ranks in achievement with Beloved and Song of Solomon, my personal favorites. It is a lovely, complex novel that I will no doubt revisit.

112japaul22
feb 15, 10:19am

I'm right with you - Beloved, Song of Solomon, and Paradise are my stand-out favorites of the Morrison novels I've read.

113dchaikin
feb 15, 11:15am

thought provoking review. I found Paradise very challenging and finished it feeling a little exhausted. 🙂 There is quite a lot going on. This is the book where I learned of the Tulsa riots (although I don’t think they are directly referenced in the book. Certainly they cast a shadow over it.)

114BLBera
feb 15, 11:24am

>112 japaul22: I am going to reread the rest as well, but I think they are minor novels in comparison with the "big three," Jennifer.

>113 dchaikin: Thanks. Paradise certainly gives the reader a lot to think about. I've only read it twice, but I think I will revisit it at some point. I've found that rereading Morrison's novels is rewarding. Yes, the Tulsa riots are referenced, giving the citizens of Ruby another reason to close ranks.

115baswood
feb 15, 4:33pm

>111 BLBera: I read Paradise six years ago and although I thought the writing was good I did not like the books at all. I felt it was confused and with the added layer of mysticism it did not work for me.

116BLBera
feb 15, 4:53pm

Morrison isn't for everyone, for sure. I loved Paradise because there is so much to think about. I'll read it again at some point.

And, if we all liked the same books, it would make for fairly dull discussions.

117BLBera
feb 19, 8:44am


20. Devil in a Blue Dress is a noir mystery set in LA in 1948. Mosley pays homage to Hammett and Chandler in this story of Easy Rawlins. Easy is Black and has recently been laid off. Worried about paying his mortgage, he takes a job to find a white girl. Death, violence and run-ins with the police ensue. The plot is complicated with lots of twists and turns.

One thing I really liked was the way that Mosley reveals the racism of the time; he does a good job of weaving it into the story without being pedantic about it.

I'm glad I finally picked this one up.

118AnnieMod
feb 19, 12:13pm

>117 BLBera: I really need to put this series higher on my list of "next series to pick up when I catch up with the ones I had started"...

119BLBera
feb 19, 1:36pm

It's a pretty quick read, Annie. Very noirish, if you like that style.

120AnnieMod
feb 19, 2:33pm

>119 BLBera: Oh yes, it is straight up my alley - which is why it had been on my long list for a long time - ever since I read Mosley's All I Did Was Shoot My Man in his other long series (in 2012? Oh my...) - I liked the writing style when I got used to it and both series had been on my list...

121NanaCC
feb 19, 3:32pm

>117 BLBera: I enjoyed this one too, Beth. I’m not sure why I didn’t read the next one. Once FictFact disappeared, I think I started losing track of my series. I’ll have to see if I can get it.

122BLBera
feb 19, 5:15pm

>120 AnnieMod: I'll watch for your comments when you get to it, Annie. As I said, it was a pretty quick read.

>121 NanaCC: I think I have a couple more on my shelves, Colleen. I miss FictFact as well although I do appreciate the series feature on LT.

123AnnieMod
Redigerat: feb 19, 5:33pm

>122 BLBera: >121 NanaCC:

I use https://www.fantasticfiction.com/ for my series monitoring -- they send notifications for new books from authors you follow and you are restricted to 200 authors but... it works for me. And you can mark up to 15,000 books as read which is more than enough to actually see visually what I still have to read from an author. And for older ones, they are usually less prone to someone reordering all of your series because they did not know what they are doing or moving books somewhere just because... I love LT but crowd projects do have some drawbacks.

>122 BLBera:
My library has it so I just added it to my "grab next time" list. Although it may take a few weeks - I have a lot of books out at the moment.

124BLBera
feb 19, 8:31pm

Thanks for the info, Annie. I'll check it out.

125BLBera
feb 21, 8:38am


21. So We Read On

I loved this book about The Great Gatsby, but it's for people who either love the novel or love reading about books.

Corrigan, a book reviewer on NPR and a Georgetown English professor, has an enthusiasm for Gatsby that is contagious. I'm not sure I agree with her that it's the great American novel, but she does make a strong case: "I don't know how he did it, but Fitzgerald wrote a novel that shows me new things every time I read it. That, for me, is the working definition of a great book: one that's inexhaustible."

Mixed with her close reading of the novel, she talks about Fitzgerald's life and the publication history. It may surprise people that when the novel was published in 1925, it didn't sell well and was not well received critically. By the end of Fitzgerald's short life (he died in 1940), it was out of print.

Corrigan's account of her search through literature anthologies in the Library of Congress sub basement was one of my favorite chapters. She details her research to find how Gatsby was revived to become a staple in high school curriculum. She even visits her old high school to sit in on classes to see how contemporary students react to Gatsby. At the beginning of her book, she says the novel is wasted on high school students. I'm inclined to agree, but after she visits the high school classes, she isn't so sure anymore.

I've read Gatsby several times and taught it. I will read it again and will probably get more from it after reading this book.

126NanaCC
feb 21, 10:53am

>125 BLBera: I might make a point of rereading The Great Gatsby this year, Beth. It has been many years since I read it, and it deserves to be read again. This book sounds interesting. I might get to it as well. Making note of it.

127BLBera
feb 21, 11:13am

Thanks Colleen. I know the Corrigan book has a fairly small audience, but I like her writing, and I do love to read literary criticism/history.

When I reread The Great Gatsby as an adult, I appreciated it much more than when I read it in high school.

128NanaCC
feb 21, 10:31pm

>127 BLBera: That was my reaction to Great Expectations. I enjoyed it so much more as an adult. I didn’t quite get the humor when I was in high school.

129BLBera
feb 22, 7:15am

Hi Colleen: I suspect that is true of many of the books we read in high school.

130AlisonY
feb 22, 7:18am

I wonder has Caroline from the 75ers seen this post on the Gatsby book - she rereads The Great Gatsby regularly as one of her favourite books.

131BLBera
feb 22, 12:24pm

Caroline has seen my comments and I think will be reading it soon, Alison. I think she will appreciate the book even more than I did.

132BLBera
feb 23, 7:01pm


22. Banned Book Club

This is a graphic novel set in South Korea, mostly in the 1980s. I found it disappointing, expecting something like Reading Lolita in Tehran. There was actually very little about the book club, which was mostly where the students planned their protests.

With the exception of the protagonist, the characters were not well developed, and the plot seemed disjointed; there were a lot of protests. Other plot lines weren't really developed.

Perhaps my expectations were too high.

133markon
feb 24, 11:37am

>125 BLBera: Thanks for the comments. The great Gatsby is one of the books that I "should"get to and never do. It's a shame since it is fairly short.

134BLBera
feb 26, 9:40pm

>133 markon: I waited a long time to reread Gatsby; I was not impressed when I read it in high school. I think it's wasted on high school kids although Corrigan does make somewhat a case for continuing to use it in high school. I know my college freshman have never responded particularly well to it.

135sallypursell
feb 26, 11:33pm

>134 BLBera: I never really felt I "got" Gatsby. I've read it at least twice. I didn't understand its importance and I didn't like the characters. It just went past me.

136BLBera
feb 27, 8:56am

Hi Sally - It's lucky we don't all like the same things. I think Gatsby is the type of book that doesn't appeal to everyone.

137BLBera
Redigerat: feb 28, 8:24pm


23. The Vanishing Half

I loved this novel. It tells the story of twin sisters, who end up taking very different paths in life. They grow up in a Louisiana town where light skin is valued. Indeed, Black people who have darker skin are not encouraged to settle there. This is the opposite of Ruby in Toni Morrison's Paradise, which I recently read. Stella, one of the sisters, leaves her twin Desiree behind and disappears into the world of Whites, passing. One of the strengths of the novel is the complex portrayal of the cost of passing.

The novel drew me in from the first page, starting with Desiree's story. Then, Bennett fast forwards ten years, and we get the story of Desiree's daughter, Jude. I found her story less compelling, wanting more of Desiree. The structure Bennett uses is, for me, a major drawback to the novel. I would have liked to see the women's stories more integrated, a more difficult way to structure the novel for the writer, but it would have worked better for me than the separate parts that moved back and forth in time.

Still, a worthwhile, fascinating novel with lots to think about.

I'm currently reading Outlawed, a dystopian Western with women at its center, and I'm loving it.

138AlisonY
feb 28, 2:49pm

>137 BLBera: Oh that sounds fascinating. On to the list it goes.

139BLBera
feb 28, 2:59pm

It is certainly thought-provoking, Alison. The cost of passing is explored, showing the complex issues involved.

140AnnieMod
feb 28, 5:09pm

>137 BLBera: I had this one staring at me from a pile of books on the floor... Need to get around to it :)

141Nickelini
feb 28, 6:33pm

I have to read Vanishing Half for my book club this month. I thought I'd read Passing first, just for the comparison, and since I already own it.

142BLBera
feb 28, 6:37pm

>140 AnnieMod: I'll watch for your comments, Annie.

>141 Nickelini: That's a good idea, Joyce. It's been years since I read Passing; I hope to reread it soonish.

143dianeham
feb 28, 7:35pm

>137 BLBera: your touchstone for Outlawed didn't look right.

144japaul22
feb 28, 9:29pm

I'm still waiting for my turn to get The Vanishing Half from the library. Long wait for this one! Pretty sure I've only seen positive reviews. I also have Outlawed on my wish list but it sounds a little outside of what I'd usually read, so I'll look forward to your review.

145BLBera
feb 28, 9:38pm

There was a long wait for The Vanishing Half, Jennifer. I ended up buying it because it was a book club selection. Outlawed is giving me a lot to think about; North has turned the Western on its head.

146japaul22
feb 28, 9:46pm

>145 BLBera: I don't usually do westerns or even dystopia that often, but the review I read sounded SO intriguing. It has quite a long wait already, too, so I went ahead at requested it.

147BLBera
feb 28, 9:52pm

I do love a good dystopian novel, Jennifer, Westerns, not so much. I am enjoying this. There is a long wait for it, so I have to return it this week. I also loved North's America Pacifica, another, very different, dystopia.

148BLBera
mar 2, 4:54pm


24. Outlawed is a feminist dystopian Western. So, obviously it won't appeal to everyone. I found it to be original and thought-provoking.

The novel is set in 1895 in a United States that has disintegrated after a Flu epidemic. It has turned into a bunch of city states ruled by superstition. Women who can't get pregnant are at risk of being branded witches and either hung or hounded out of their communities. And it's not just barren women who are at risk; any kind of "deviant" behavior is targeted.

Ada, the narrator, is the 18-year-old daughter of the town midwife. When she doesn't get pregnant after being married a year, her in-laws kick her out, and her mother sends her away to a convent.

Ada is a great character, lively and curious, and she wants to know what causes barrenness. She has no patience for the superstition and misinformation that currently abounds. She wants to learn the science, the facts. The thirst for knowledge leads her to an outlaw life with the Hole-in-the-Wall gang.

North's idea of using a Western to show the breakdown of society after a pandemic is brilliant. The setting lends itself to this story, which shows how fragile rights are in a patriarchy guided by superstition instead of education.

149BLBera
Redigerat: mar 5, 9:17am


26. Summerwater
Sarah Moss is wonderful at creating atmosphere, setting a scene. In Summerwater, we are immersed into a sodden summer at a small resort on a loch in Scotland. Isolated, rundown, and no cell coverage all combine to make the wet, cold weather miserable for many of the vacationers.

Told in a stream of consciousness from various vacationers, each chapter builds on he previous one until we get a pretty complete picture of the resort and the people who are staying there.

I love the style, the stream of consciousness that takes us into the minds of the middle-aged mother who dithers about taking the only key with her on her early morning run: "...or leave the key meaning that she can't lock the door and there are three beloved souls sleeping undefended in the woods, or at least two beloved souls and one mostly tolerated one."

Or the teenage girl who is bored to the point of being suicidal: "In America, she knows, you can get the police to shoot you just by acting a bit weird with your hands in your pockets, which is a bummer if you're a weirdo with cold hands but must save suicidal people a lot of time and trouble."

We also meet an older couple, a newly engaged couple, and families, as well as immigrants who make up the cabins, all watching each other and thinking their thoughts.

I love this little novel. I need to go back and read Moss's earlier work.

150lisapeet
mar 5, 9:32am

>149 BLBera: Oh good, I have this one on the virtual shelf. I forget, did you read Ghost Wall? I liked that one, but haven't read any of her others yet.

151BLBera
mar 5, 9:42am

I loved Ghost Wall, Lisa. I recently read Cold Earth, which I didn't like as much although it was still very good. Summerwater is a short book, but it's not one I wanted to rush through. I did laugh out loud in some of the chapters.

152BLBera
mar 5, 1:32pm


27. The Jewels of Paradise is an audiobook by the author of the Guido Brunetti series. The reader was very good; I liked her accent and her pronunciation of Italian names was excellent. But she couldn't totally redeem what is a pretty dull story.

Caterina Pellagrini is a musicologist who takes a job examining two trunks of papers belonging to composer Agostino Steffani. The men who hired her are distant relatives of the composer and want her to look for any indication of who should be the heir to these letters. As Caterina reads through the documents, she realizes that the men think there is treasure involved.

It's a good premise, but the novel is mostly Caterina going to work, sitting at a desk, reading letters from other clergy or musicians talking about the latest gossip. When she gets tired of reading, she gets something to eat or walks to the library for more information. Then she goes home, reads, and goes to bed. Next day, repeat.

My attention tended to wander. If I had been reading it on the page, I would have skimmed large sections.

This is nowhere near as good as the books in the Brunetti series. There's no character development and little action to distract from that fact.

153AlisonY
mar 7, 9:42am

>149 BLBera: It's ridiculous that I've not read any Sarah Moss titles yet. Right - onto the wish list this one goes.

154Nickelini
mar 7, 1:59pm

>149 BLBera:
I'm looking forward to Summerwater. I read somewhere that she originally wrote both it and Ghost Wall to be parts of a much longer novel, but then decided to separate them and make them rather different from each other.

155BLBera
mar 8, 10:22am

>153 AlisonY: I've liked everything I've ready by Moss, Alison. Which one do you think you'll start with?

>154 Nickelini: That is really interesting, Joyce. I can't see how they would fit together, but it might make for an interesting novel.

156BLBera
mar 8, 7:47pm


28. Love is the story of two women, but it is also about class, gender and race. The friendship of Heed and Christine becomes twisted by the "love" of their parents and divisions of class that seemingly can't be overcome.

I liked the way Morrison structures the story; she starts at the end, revealing events until we arrive at the beginning of the girls' friendship. Each chapter has a one-word title that relates to Bill Cosey, the presence at the center of the novel even though he is long dead. Although prosperous, he is still Black and has to compromise with the white authorities.

Morrison sprinkles comments about race through the novel, showing how everyone has a careful eye on whites. Christine also spends time in the Civil Rights movement. She finds few possibilities for women there, however.

This is an interesting novel. It does suffer in comparison with Paradise.

157AlisonY
mar 10, 3:50am

>155 BLBera: No idea on the Moss first book question, Beth - definitely open to suggestions.

158lisapeet
Redigerat: mar 10, 7:45am

>154 Nickelini: OK, now I definitely need to read the new Moss book to see how that would work.

159BLBera
mar 10, 9:30am

>157 AlisonY: Hi Alison. If you like creepy, try Ghost Wall. If you want something lighter, try Summerwater.

>158 lisapeet: Hi Lisa - Yes, I've been trying to figure out how she would put the two together.

160BLBera
mar 10, 10:05am


29. The Historians is a good thriller, different, though, from what I was expecting.

I really liked Wolf Winter and was looking forward to this novel, set in WWII Sweden. I expected a novel about the difficult aspects of neutrality, more about the Swedish war experience. Instead, this is a thriller centered on the murder of a student, which just happens to occur during the war. Britta had been part of a close circle of friends. When Laura discovers her body, she feels compelled to find out what happened to Britta. It turns out that Britta's death is connected to something much bigger than a single death.

This was a page turner, but I doubt it will stick with me.

161japaul22
mar 10, 10:19am

>156 BLBera: I'm looking forward to discussing Love. There were a few things, especially surrounding Junior, that I'm not sure I fully understood.

162SandDune
mar 10, 1:11pm

>149 BLBera: We are reading Sarah Moss’s Night Waking for our next RL book club read. I loved Ghost wall too but haven’t got around to Summerwater as yet.

163BLBera
mar 10, 1:50pm

>161 japaul22: I look forward to some discussion as well, Jennifer.

>162 SandDune: I'll watch for your comments, Rhian. I do have a copy of Night Waking and was thinking I should read that one next.

164BLBera
Redigerat: jun 7, 9:44pm

Women's Prize 2021 Longlist
Because of You by Dawn French
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Luster by Raven Leilani
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Summer by Ali Smith
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

165raton-liseur
mar 11, 12:31pm

>148 BLBera: Outlawed sounds intriguing and something I could enjoy reading. I'm noting, thanks.

166BLBera
mar 11, 1:33pm

>165 raton-liseur: You are welcome.

167AlisonY
mar 12, 6:31am

>159 BLBera: Noting! Thanks.

168BLBera
mar 13, 11:48am

I'll watch for your comments when you get to them, Alison.

169BLBera
mar 13, 1:41pm


30. Even as We Breathe is set in Cherokee, North Carolina, as WWII is ending. It is the story of nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah, a young Cherokee man who is trying to find his place in the world during a summer filled with loss.

This is a wonderful, quiet, novel with lovely descriptive writing that offers a keen sense of place; I can smell the smoke from the fires and hear the sounds of the forest.

Told from first person point of view, Cooney is a likable young man for whom we are cheering throughout the novel.

Wonderful first novel. I will definitely watch for more by Clapsaddle.

170NanaCC
mar 13, 4:03pm

Just peeking in to see what you have been reading, Beth. I see a few that I’m noting. Will I get to them? Only time will tell. I can’t seem to catch up.

171BLBera
mar 13, 4:08pm

I know exactly how you feel, Colleen. By the time I get to books recommended here, I forget who recommended them.

172NanaCC
mar 13, 4:10pm

>171 BLBera: When I add a book to my wishlist, Beth, I try to add the name of the person who prompted me to do it in the Comments section.

173lisapeet
mar 13, 5:42pm

>172 NanaCC: That’s a really good idea.

174BLBera
mar 13, 6:43pm

>172 NanaCC: That is a really good idea.

175japaul22
mar 14, 8:42am

>169 BLBera: Added this one straight to my library hold list. Thanks!

176BLBera
mar 14, 10:14am

You are welcome, Jennifer. I loved it.

177BLBera
mar 14, 11:01am


31. Hidden Figures
I saw the movie before I read this book, and so I wasn't expecting all the technical information that Shetterly includes. I tried the audiobook and it worked really well; if I zoned out on some of the engineering parts, I didn't miss the biographical information. If I had read a paper copy, I probably would have done a lot of skimming.

It's interesting to me sometimes how books read in proximity create a kind of synergy. I recently read Love by Toni Morrison and am also reading The New Jim Crow. Together with this book, I am increasingly pessimistic about our ability to move beyond racism in this country. We have a long way to go.

The women Shetterly writes about are exceptional, and their lives are an inspiration. It makes me wonder about all the lost potential because of racism.

178ELiz_M
Redigerat: mar 14, 11:16am

>177 BLBera: A black economist has recently become recognized for her demonstration of this in one specific area - she investigated the number of patents filed by African Americans from 1870-1940 and discovered after the number of patents fell with the passing of "separate but equal" laws and especially after the Tulsa Race Massacre. "It's generations of lost wealth for black Americans and also for the entire country. The U.S. lost out on more than 1,100 inventions from black inventors."

I learned about this on some NPR podcasts:
https://www.npr.org/2020/06/25/883233406/black-economists-research-finds-a-blind...

179BLBera
mar 14, 12:59pm

Yes, Liz - I recently heard something on this topic, the lost money, not the patents. It is unbelievable that we can't get past this.

180markon
mar 14, 1:49pm

>169 BLBera: Book bullet! This sounds wonderful, onto my wish list it goes.

I've read one of the women's prize titles (Piranesi). Am interested in the two you've read and Detransition baby.

>177 BLBera: I am increasingly pessimistic about our ability to move beyond racism in this country. We have a long way to go.

Racism is so interwoven in our economic system, and it's not something that's easily changed.

181lisapeet
mar 14, 5:38pm

>169 BLBera: Also meant to say, this sounds really good.

182AlisonY
mar 14, 7:02pm

>169 BLBera: Yep, got me with that one too. Sounds great.

183BLBera
mar 14, 7:14pm

Hi Lisa and Alison - It is really good.

184BLBera
Redigerat: mar 18, 7:24pm



32. American Delirium asks us what we value and how we find truth. Set in an unnamed city, the novel has the dreamlike quality we often find in magical realism. The city is emptying, deer are attacking humans and outnumbering them, and groups of people are leaving their homes and families to find themselves in nature.

González follows the stories of three people: Vik, Beryl, and Berenice. At first the stories are separate and parallel, but as the novel progresses, we see more connections among the stories. Vik is an immigrant, a taxidermist who works at the natural history museum; Beryl is an aging ex-hippie; and Berenice is a nine-year-old girl who wakes up one morning to find that her mother has deserted her.

All of the characters are searching for meaning in their lives and ways to survive in a place that seems more challenging every day.

I really liked this novel. González has an original, well-constructed story. This is also very funny in places, albeit a dark humor. This is her first novel to be translated, but I look forward to reading more of her writing.

185BLBera
Redigerat: mar 20, 1:12pm


34. Freeheit! is a graphic novel that tells the story of the White Rose, a group of students who protested the Hitler regime via a series of leaflets. They were all caught and executed.

The leaflets are included in translation at the end of the novel, and they seem very timely. The second leaflet says, "If at the start this cancerous growth in the nation was not particularly noticeable, it was only because there were still enough forces at work that operated for the good, so that it was kept under control." We can certainly apply this to our present situation and learn that we must always stand against what is wrong, even if it doesn't seem like a serious threat.

The drawings are wonderful, grainy and noir, which seems appropriate for the subject.

The text could do more to put the students' motivations and lives in context. There seem to me to be a lot of gaps. Of course, the audience of this novel is middle school, so the amount of explanation may be appropriate for that age group.

186BLBera
Redigerat: mar 23, 6:33pm


35. What's Mine and Yours
I loved this novel that follows the lives of two families over about twenty-five years. Coster has a gift for bringing life to her characters. Jade Gilbert has a son while she is still in high school. Ambitious, she has to fight for every achievement and to overcome tragedy while also making sure her son grows up strong. Lacey May Ventura has three daughters and when her husband Robbie goes to jail, she has to make hard choices to protect her girls. While the two mothers are almost neighbors, they are worlds apart in many ways.

The two families deal with issues of race, addiction, and segregation, all of which are woven seamlessly into the story.

The one thing I didn't like about this novel was the way Coster structures it. She jumps back and forth in time and moves from one character to another, at times making the story hard to follow. Chronological order would have served her much better. Then she could have moved among the various stories without making the reader look back at the beginning of the chapter for the date.

This is a strong second novel that follows Halsey Street, which I also loved.

187japaul22
mar 23, 6:56pm

>186 BLBera: oh good! I received a Book of the Month subscription for my birthday from my sister, and this was my choice for March. I haven't gotten to it yet, but I'm glad to know you liked it and I'll keep the timeline comments in mind.

188BLBera
mar 23, 7:44pm

Hi Jennifer - It will be interesting to see if the structure bothers you as much as it did me. Still, very worthwhile. Did you read Halsey Street? I think I may have liked that one even better.

189BLBera
Redigerat: mar 28, 5:49pm


36. How Beautiful We Were is Imbolo Mbue's second novel, after the wonderful Behold the Dreamers. In this sprawling novel, she stays in an unnamed West African country and addresses the abuses of American corporations and corrupt governments.

In the fictional village of Kosawa, people want only to be allowed to live as the Spirit commands them. Instead, after oil is discovered under their land, an American company arrives and commences to drill and pollute the water and land surrounding the village. The novel covers the fifty-year struggle of the people to clean up the land.

Mbue uses a variety of narrators, including a chorus-like group from the village who are children at the beginning of the novel. This works surprisingly well. The other narrators are various members of the Nangi family. The focus on one family gives us characters to care about.

Towards the end of the novel, the author seems to rush through the years, a hazard when so much time is covered. I would have preferred that she end it earlier. The last sections read too much like a summary.

Overall, though, a powerful novel that I will be thinking about for a long time. I can't wait to see what Mbue comes up with next.

190sallypursell
mar 28, 6:08pm

>184 BLBera: This novel by González sounds good, but I have one objection. Speaking as one, I don't think most hippies are ever "ex"; we just stay hippies. Otherwise, I would fit that description, "aging ex-hippie", but I don't. Hippie-dom is a state of mind, not a set of behaviors, I don't think.

191BLBera
mar 28, 9:49pm

I think Beryl is no longer in that state of mind, Sally, so ex fits. I understand what you mean, though.

192BLBera
mar 30, 3:36pm


37. Infinite Country tells of the of one family, and in their lives, we can see the story of many immigrants.

Mauro and Elena grow up in a Colombia torn with violence. Coming from poor families, they realize there is no way for them to prosper. They go to the United States on tourist visas to check it out and then decide to stay. They endure low-paying jobs, terrible living conditions, and think about returning to Colombia, but then they have two more children.

When Mauro is deported, he leaves his wife and three children behind, telling them to stay. Two of the children are citizens, and Elena always feels the stress of their divided family. The children also feel the pressure. Karina, the oldest, who isn't documented, says, "I remember wondering what it must feel like to belong to American whiteness and to know you can do whatever you want because nobody you love is deportable." The children have no defense against school bullying.

This family's story shows the difficult decisions that undocumented immigrants face every day. It's a powerful story.

193BLBera
apr 2, 9:31am


38. Beheld is an historical novel set in Plymouth in the early days of the settlement. Mainly told from the perspective of two women, we get a clear picture of a hard, cheerless, violent life.

194sallypursell
apr 2, 11:46am

>191 BLBera: Ah, I see. Thank you for the clarification. I have never understood people like this; why change? I have managed to be a hippie and still go to college, get married, have children, have a career which was satisfying, and retire with adequate income.

195AlisonY
apr 4, 4:21pm

>193 BLBera: Did you like Beheld? I'm sure it's on my wish list.

196BLBera
apr 4, 4:42pm

I did like it, Alison, although not as much as some others did. I think it suffered in comparison to the novels I read before it. Still, it is good historical fiction and gives one a good picture of the unforgiving Puritans.

197BLBera
apr 8, 10:27am



39. The Seed Keeper

I loved this story about a Dakota woman, Rosalie Iron Wing. When Rosie is twelve, her father dies, and she is placed in foster care. This happens before the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) is passed, so Rosie is taken away from everything that is familiar to her.

The story travels back and forth in time, also visiting the tragedy of the "Sioux Uprising" of 1862, after which 38 Indigenous men were hung, in the largest mass execution in the US. There are monuments in some cities that commemorate the lives of the settlers lost.

The title is about the seeds that the Dakota preserved season to season. It also shows how they managed to live in harmony with the land. It questions our use of genetically altered seeds, pesticides, etc. However, the novel isn't didactic. The stories of the land blend seamlessly with Rosalie's story. She is a great character.

I think gardeners would especially love this story.

198BLBera
apr 8, 10:35am


40. She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey through Poems

I have enjoyed Kennedy's other collections, poetry for children, and this one was good as well. In her introduction, she explains that the collection began when friends send her poems to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. She says, "To me, that's the gift of poetry -- it shapes an endless conversation about the most important things in life."

She has divided the collection into various life stages, from falling in love, to marriage, work, and death. There are a variety of poets represented as well, from Lord Byron to Elizabeth Bishop. This is worth savoring, and I will revisit the collection, which is also beautifully designed, with black and white photos of flowers throughout.

199BLBera
apr 14, 7:45pm



41. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is an accomplished first novel that had me laughing out loud at times. The novel starts with a winning ten-year-old Grace narrating. When one of the neighbor ladies on the Avenue disappears, Grace and her best friend Tilly decide that the only way to keep the Avenue safe and bring Mrs. Creasey back is to find God. They devote the hot summer days to visiting the various neighbors in the search.

Cannon alternates Grace's point of view with those of the neighbors, revealing a troubled neighborhood with secrets and sadness. Kids' narration doesn't always work, but I liked it. I thought that Grace's perspective lent the right amount of levity to what otherwise might have been a darker story.

One of Grace's observations about the police visiting her house: "I thought I would like a job where inquiring about everyone else's private business was considered perfectly routine."

I don't want to create any spoilers, but Jesus does make an appearance in an unusual place.

200Nickelini
apr 14, 10:25pm

>199 BLBera:
I've had that for a few years and it's slotted in for this summer. So glad to hear more positive comments on it.

201BLBera
apr 15, 8:32am

Hi Joyce: I know that some people don't like the naive narrators, but I think it works here, for the most part.

202BLBera
Redigerat: apr 18, 11:00am


42. The Liar's Dictionary is an original little book that will appeal to those who love words. It asks us whether it's really possible to define words -- definitively.

The story follows two story lines: lexicographer Peter Winceworth, who is working on the Swansby's Encyclopaedic Dictionary and present-day intern Mallory who is working to help digitise the unfinished Swansby. In the course of her work, she begins to find several made-up words.

The plot alternates between the two timelines, and like all stories with this structure, it runs the risk that some stories are more interesting that others. That is the case here. It took almost half the novel for me to become interested in Winceworth's story. The second half of the novel was much better. This is a first novel, though, and I expect that Williams will improve the pacing and structure in future novels.

This is a clever look at language and meaning, and I will look for more work by Williams.

203BLBera
Redigerat: apr 18, 11:13am



43. The New Jim Crow is a must-read. Alexander's exhaustive research clearly shows the inequality of the US criminal justice system. Some of the eye-opening statistics: "More African American adults are under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began." Alexander walks the reader through the process, starting with the leeway police have to stop and search people, to the district attorney's freedom to add charges to convince people to plead guilty to lesser charges. I am shocked at how the courts have whittled away at our fourth and fourteenth amendment rights.

The book is dense, but worth the time.

204lisapeet
apr 18, 12:09pm

>202 BLBera: My best reading buddy really loved her short story collection, Attrib.. I'm looking forward to both of them.

205kidzdoc
apr 19, 2:01pm

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep sounds very interesting. I'll keep an eye out for it.

I have The New Jim Crow on standby, and I plan to read it later this year.

206BLBera
apr 19, 2:11pm

>204 lisapeet: I was wondering about her short stories, Lisa. I'll look for them. I think you will like the novel as well.

>205 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. The New Jim Crow is definitely a must read. It took me a while as it is very dense, but I read bits every day for a couple of months.

207rocketjk
apr 19, 3:28pm

>205 kidzdoc: & >206 BLBera: The New Jim Crow is on the list of books about African American history and racism in America I've been gradually reading through, so I'll be getting to it sooner rather than later. Next up for me on that general topic, though will be The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. My wife just read it and is encouraging me to read it soon so that we can discuss it.

208BLBera
apr 20, 8:32pm

>207 rocketjk: I'll watch for your comments on that one.

209BLBera
apr 20, 8:39pm


44. Faithful and Virtuous Night is a recent (2014) collection of poems from Louise Glück. I love this collection, filled with stories of sleepless nights watching lights and wandering. Glück presents a sense of melancholy that is beautiful, with just the right words.

Many of the poems are quite long, but one of my shorter favorites:

A Work of Fiction
As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow envel-
oped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real?
To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette.
In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would
see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood awhile in the
dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently de-
string me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now;
which the stars could never be.

She makes a perfect observation and then moves on, in the end to encompass the world. Lovely.

210lisapeet
apr 20, 10:47pm

>209 BLBera: Oh, click.

211BLBera
apr 21, 7:55pm

It is pretty wonderful, Lisa. I returned it to the library today and picked up another collection by Glück.

212dchaikin
apr 22, 12:52pm

Enjoyed the poem.

>203 BLBera: The New Jim Crow was such an eyeopener for me. I had no idea, and I was stunned that this could happen right in the open without my realizing it or understanding it - until it was laid out here. For that reason I feel it’s one of the most important books i’ve “read” (I used audio) and one I have to imagine it would be nice if every American would read or.

213japaul22
apr 22, 1:07pm

>212 dchaikin: I agree with Dan! I read The New Jim Crow back in 2012. I still consider it one of the most influential books I've read and recommend it widely.

214BLBera
apr 23, 12:27pm

>212 dchaikin: Glück is amazing, Dan. I was shocked at how the courts have removed protections regarding search and seizure and equal protection.

>213 japaul22: I'm glad I finally read it, Jennifer. I already lent it to a friend!

215BLBera
apr 25, 10:12am


45. The Western Wind is excellent historical fiction. It's 1491 in the small English village of Oakham. Lent is approaching, and the village's richest resident is missing and assumed drowned in the raging river. The priest, John Reve is called on to prove the death is accidental in order to protect his parish.

Harvey creates a wet, cold, muddy village, with wonderful descriptions of the dark, dreary days. Much of the action takes place in the church's makeshift confessional, where Reve listens to the villagers confess their sins, and we get a clear picture of the limits of fifteenth century village life.

The novel has an interesting structure; Harvey starts on Shrove Tuesday and goes back in time four days. It sounds odd, but works really well.

I'll read more by Harvey.

216BLBera
apr 25, 10:17am


46. Death Comes to the School is an entertaining mystery that continues the Kurland St. Marys series. In this one, the school teacher is found murdered, and Sir Robert, as magistrate, investigates. As usual, his wife Lucy becomes involved.

This is a lighthearted, undemanding series. I'll continue to follow The Kurland adventures.

217lisapeet
Redigerat: apr 25, 10:32am

>215 BLBera: I've had this one for ages and really need to get to it, since it's a period and setting that I've been drawn to lately. Looking at the LT recommendations (does anyone else do this to get a sense of the book's general vibe?), I see a bunch of stuff that's also on my shelves or my ereader that I've been dying to read. Damn work.

I always get Samantha Harvey mixed up in my head with Samantha Hunt and Rebecca Hunt.

218BLBera
apr 25, 10:36am

Hi Lisa - Great minds. I'm trying to visit some threads on LT this morning before grading. Three weeks left!

I think you will love The Western Wind; it had been on my WL for a long time, and I finally requested a copy from the library. If you like historical fiction, this is for you. She creates such a clear picture of the wet, cold and dreariness of the days approaching lent. The use of the confessional to give the reader a glimpse into the lives of the villagers is very clever as well. It's the best historical fiction I've read in a while.

I haven't read anything by Harvey, so this is a new-to-me writer.

219lisapeet
apr 25, 10:38am

I have two others of hers, Dear Thief and The Shapeless Unease, but haven't read them either. This is an ongoing theme of my life.

220BLBera
apr 25, 12:41pm

Lisa, if it's any consolation, you are not alone. 🙂

221Nickelini
apr 25, 1:52pm

>219 lisapeet:
I have two others of hers,. . . but haven't read them either. This is an ongoing theme of my life.

I resemble that comment!

>215 BLBera: The Western Wind sounds super interesting. This is a new-to-me title and author.

222BLBera
apr 25, 9:44pm


47. I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf is a fun collection of cartoons about readers and writers that book lovers will enjoy. I know I heard about this here on LT, but I don't remember where. Anyway, this is fun to page through.

223bragan
apr 27, 2:50pm

>202 BLBera: Well, there's another one that's going on my wishlist. How can I resist a novel about words?

>222 BLBera: It might have been from me! I read that one last year, I think.

224BLBera
apr 27, 4:07pm

>221 Nickelini: Hi Joyce - Yes, we all suffer from a surplus of books and authors. I thought the writing in The Western Wind was amazing. I felt the cold rain and mud as I read this.

>223 bragan: I'll watch for your comments, Betty. It wasn't perfect, but the word stuff was a lot of fun. Alternating storylines are hit and miss with me.

Well, thanks for putting the Snider on my radar. It was very enjoyable.

225BLBera
maj 1, 6:37pm


49. Klara and the Sun

Klara is an AF, or artificial friend. As the novel opens, Klara is waiting to be chosen. When a young girl, Josie, chooses Klara, Klara finds herself in a trouble household. Josie is very sick and may die.

Ishiguro chooses to write the story from Klara's point of view, a risky choice, but he manages to do a brilliant job. Amazingly, we see the world from Klara's eyes, as she describes the "boxes" she sees and how people are a series of shapes, until her brain can sort them out. People are categorized by their dogs or clothing: "raincoat man" and "dog leash woman."

While Klara is curious and likes to observe, there are limitations to her abilities. As the novel progresses, we see that Klara, as aware as she is, will never be wholly human. There is something missing. That, I think, is at the core of Ishiguro's novel, the question of what makes us human.

226BLBera
Redigerat: maj 7, 8:49pm


When I first read The Dutch House last year, I had these comments:
50. The Dutch House kept me turning the pages. It seems that it is very plot driven, maybe more than others of Patchett's. While I loved much about the novel, especially the relationship between Danny and Maeve, I think the choice of Danny as the narrator kept me at a distance. Danny is very detached. Besides those two characters, the others didn't seem as vivid, and I found Andrea to be a bit of a caricature. Still, a solid novel, and I zipped through it to finish it as my last January read.

I reread it for my book club, and this time I listened to Tom Hanks read it. I felt a much deeper appreciation for Danny, and actually liked the book a lot more. Interesting. I look forward to our discussion next week.

227NanaCC
maj 7, 11:29pm

>226 BLBera: I really enjoyed The Dutch House read by Tom Hanks. Interesting that you liked it more on audio. I’ve found that there are some books I’ve listened to where I wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much in the print version. Will you report back about the book club discussion?

228dchaikin
maj 8, 8:20am

>226 BLBera: Tom Hanks was wonderful and I can’t imagine the book in any other way than his voice. Interesting to see your comparison.

229BLBera
maj 8, 10:19am

>227 NanaCC: Hi Colleen - When I first read it, I was bothered by Danny as the narrator. I am not sure why now. Somehow listening made him more likable or relatable? It will be interesting to see if anyone in my book club listened to it.

>228 dchaikin: He was a wonderful reader. I will look for more audiobooks read by him. Have you listened to anything else he's read?

230BLBera
maj 8, 10:19am

>227 NanaCC: Hi Colleen - When I first read it, I was bothered by Danny as the narrator. I am not sure why now. Somehow listening made him more likable or relatable? It will be interesting to see if anyone in my book club listened to it.

>228 dchaikin: He was a wonderful reader. I will look for more audiobooks read by him.

231dchaikin
maj 8, 10:49am

>229 BLBera: no. But I would be more than happy to listen to him read almost any book.

232BLBera
Redigerat: maj 8, 11:36am


51. Exciting Times
Ava is an Irish expat living in Hong Kong. She is teaching English for pay that barely covers her rent. She meets Julian, an English banker in a bar and soon moves in with him. Then she meets Edith, and her life becomes more complicated.

Told in first person, at first I enjoyed Ava's sarcasm: "Like shark's teeth, teachers dropped out and were replaced. Most were backpackers who left once they'd save enough to find themselves in Thailand. I had no idea who I was, but doubted the Thais would know either." But Ava keeps both the people in her life and the reader at a distance, so I began to find her monologues tedious. It might also be that I am over reading about twenty-somethings finding themselves?

Dolan does have a way with words though and I enjoyed the bits about language. The writing allowed me to get through the novel. I'll look for her next one.

233BLBera
maj 11, 3:44pm


52. Death and the Maiden is the final novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. This one focuses on Adelia's daughter and takes place after Henry II's death. In the earlier books, Henry was a dynamic presence and I missed him. I also missed Adelia; Allie isn't as interesting as Adelia is, so although I did enjoy one last visit to this world, the earlier novels are better.

234BLBera
maj 14, 12:24pm


53. The Searcher tells the story of retired policeman Cal Hooper. After his retirement and divorce, he has moved to Ireland. As he works on his dilapidated cottage and tries to get to know the small town, he is drawn into a search for a young man who disappeared. A younger sibling of the missing man asks Cal to use his skills to find Brendan.

French does a good job building the tension as Cal tries to search, knowing that he is disadvantaged by his unfamiliarity with the people and the place. The setting is wonderfully described. It makes me want to return to Ireland.

235BLBera
maj 15, 9:08am


54. The War that Saved My Life
I loved this prize-winning novel for young readers. The protagonist, ten-year-old Ada, is a great character. Ada is born with a club foot. She lives in one room with her little brother Jamie and an abusive mother. Mam confines Ada to the room, so Ada's life experience is limited to what she can see from the window.

When London's children are evacuated as the war is beginning, Ada escapes with her brother to the country and there finds a new life. She is stubborn, prickly and mistrustful, but over the course of the novel, I admire her more and more.

I wonder if the abuse might be scary for some young readers, but I will definitely pass this on to Scout. I think, though, if she does read this, she is going to want a pony.

236BLBera
maj 17, 8:42am


55. Whereabouts is a slim novel about the life of a single woman as she goes about her life. It reads like a journal with lots of short entries: "On the Sidewalk," "In the Office," and "In my Head." Indeed, much of the novel is in her head.

This is very different from Lahiri's other novels. It reminds me very much of The Friend. This would not be for people who want a plot.

Still, the writing is elegant. Lots of simple sentences, but the language is effective. I find it interesting that Lahiri wrote it in Italian and translated it to English.

237BLBera
maj 17, 8:50am


56. Ocean Prey is the latest Lucas Davenport novel. I miss the Minnesota setting, and I wonder if the series is getting a little tired...

Still, Sandford does keep one turning the pages.

In this entry, Lucas is called to help find some drug smugglers who killed three Coast Guards. There's a lot of the usual: kicking down doors, interrogations, etc. I thought it was about 100 pages too long. Not one of the best of this series.

It may have suffered in comparison with the Lahiri. :)

238BLBera
maj 17, 9:08am


57. Jacob's Room Is Full of Books is subtitled "A Year of Reading," but Hill could have added a year of bird watching and daily observations. She comments on the weather, bookshops, and book prizes, among other things. I loved it! Any book lover would appreciate her comments on not being able to settle on a book, checking out the shelves in a vacation rental, and being disappointed after rereading an old favorite.

Hill doesn't mince words, yet she is not malicious. I did laugh out loud as I read about her Christmas preparations, choosing books for various family members. Suddenly, set apart in a separate section of text, she asks, "Has Donald Trump ever read a book?" Something we've all wondered...

Some choice bits: "Most great books yield their full meaning slowly."

"One book leads to another is the rule of life..."

"We all have massive gaps in our reading. Which is good, we need gaps -- for the pleasure of filling them."

"Reading is magic. Books are magic. It starts when we are shown pictures books and realize there is another world beyond the everyday one we know."

I like that the books she mentioned are included in a list at the end. I added several to my WL.

I loved Howard's End Is on the Landing as well and hope she does another.

239NanaCC
maj 17, 10:08am

I’ve never read any of the John Sanford books. Hmmm. The fact that you are reading them makes me wonder if I should start.

Jacob’s Room sounds like fun. Adding to my wishlist.

240Yells
maj 17, 10:46am

>236 BLBera: I just finished this one as well. It really was a big departure for her, wasn't it? I just listened to a podcast about it (Books and Authors BBC 4) that you might want to check out. They talked a little bit about the Italian aspect.

241BLBera
maj 17, 11:16am

>239 NanaCC: I started the John Sandford because they were set in Minnesota. Some of the early ones were pretty violent, so I almost stopped. Sandford was a journalist, and he knows how to pace a story, so that saves some of them for me. Also, I do like that his character has changed over time -- and for the better.

I think you'll like Jacob's Room Is Full of Books.

>240 Yells: Thanks, I will check out the podcast.

242BLBera
maj 19, 8:49am


58. The Carrying

The first stanza of "Sway":
What is it about words that make the world
fit easier? Air and time.

In this collection, Limón does make the world "fit easier." She combines her close observations of the world with her inner life and relationships to make sense of life. Powerful stuff.

243BLBera
maj 22, 12:47pm


60. Gem of the Ocean
This is the first play in August Wilson's series of ten plays set in the twentieth century. It is set in 1904 in Pittsburgh. The characters are struggling with the idea of freedom; despite Emancipation, they are not finding that their lives are easier. Set in Pittsburgh, Aunt Ester, a two-hundred-year-old woman provides refuge to people in trouble.

I would love to see this performed. There are lots of long monologues, but I would like to see it staged.

The work set in the teens is Joe Turner's Come and Gone, so that will be the next one I read.

244BLBera
Redigerat: maj 23, 8:27am


61. One Two Three is an excellent character-driven novel. The title refers to Mab, Monday, and Mirabel Mitchell, triplets born in the town of Bourne after Belsum Chemical plant turned Bourne's river bright green. The pollution of the tap water turned the town into a place filled with cancer victims and children with birth defects. As the owners of Belsum return sixteen years later, intent on reopening the plant, the sisters decide they must act. This is the story of the poor and powerless fighting for their right to a healthy environment.

As the novel begins, the triplets are sixteen. They tell the story, each sister in turn. And each sister's voice is distinct. One, Mab, escaped the effects of the chemical. She seems like a normal teenager. Two, Monday, wears only yellow and is on the spectrum. She has trouble with figurative language: "I did not write anything in my essay because there is no point in doing my homework, but if I were going to do my homework what I would have written is 'Emily Dickinson means for me, the reader, to be confused. I am. So she has done her job. And so have I...' Mrs. Lasserstein says I am being too literal, but there is no such thing as too literal. Literal does not come in degrees. That is like being too seventy-seven point four." Three, Mirabel, is wheel-chair bound and speaks only through a voice synthesizer. Because she can only move one hand, she does things slowly, giving her time to think and observe. She is brilliant.

The sisters' and the town's story is compelling, and as we read, we are cheering for all the challenged people of this damaged town.

245dianeham
maj 23, 1:23am

One Two Three
>244 BLBera: your touchstone went to a different book.

246BLBera
maj 23, 8:28am

247BLBera
maj 26, 1:00pm


63. Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is a first novel and it shows.
The premise is that actress Iolanthe Green disappears and her dresser, Anna Treadway, decides to search for her.

First, the strengths: Emmerson has created a great group of interesting, complex characters.

But, the plot and setting really let me down. There is a lot of running around and searching, but it is hard to see, until close to the end, what Anna's motivation is. And I still don't understand the motivation of Aloysius or Hayes. And I get no real sense of the time or place. Supposedly the novel is set in 1965, but apart from a mention of the Beatles, I don't get any feeling for the time. I like novels that are firmly rooted in place and time.

So this was disappointing although not without promise.

248BLBera
maj 29, 11:18am


64. Secrets of Happiness
In this novel, Silber follows several tangentially related characters through their lives. One asks, "Who knew where happiness comes from?" No one really answers the question, except that money certainly doesn't buy happiness. In fact, the wealthiest people in the novel seem to be the most miserable.

There are many references to Buddhism, but Silber isn't pushing any doctrine. Instead, she shows several characters -- some more likable than others -- who are all living their lives in the best way they can.

I really liked this novel, or collection of connected stories; each person has a distinctive voice, and it was fun to discover the connections among them.

249lisapeet
maj 29, 1:40pm

>248 BLBera: I really liked this one too. She does such a nice job of telling the stories and letting the reader make their own associations—and those are open-ended as well. Just a well-written, well thought-out book.

250BLBera
maj 29, 6:06pm

I remember that you also liked it, Lisa. And one story just led to another; there was such a nice flow.

251BLBera
jun 2, 9:03am

65. A Is for Alibi is the first in the Kinsey Millhone series. I started the series years ago and am returning to them from the beginning. I appreciate the homage to Chandler and Hammett. Millhone is a modern version of the hardboiled detective, and Grafton's style is fittingly terse and to the point.

Kinsey talks directly to the reader, drawing us into her world. In this first novel of the series, she begins by telling us she recently killed someone, and it bothers her. Then, she tells us about being hired to clear a woman convicted of killing her husband. Kinsey walks us through the day-to-day tasks involved in her work.

This was better than I expected. I look forward to see how the series progresses.

252NanaCC
jun 2, 11:35am

>251 BLBera: I’m glad you liked this one, Beth. I really think they keep getting better. My next is S. Grafton avoided going to a big “chunkster” as some of the series authors seem to have done. I’m looking at you Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling. They are all a reasonable length.

253BLBera
jun 2, 1:32pm

After starting the series, Colleen, I'm motivated to continue. I have a few of the ebooks and some physical copies that would be good to read and move to other homes.

254BLBera
Redigerat: jun 3, 9:48am



66. Life in the Garden
I'm probably not the intended audience for this book, but I love Lively's writing, and I enjoyed reading her thoughts about gardens. She discusses gardens in art and in novels, gardens as an indicator of class, and allotments, to mention a few of her topics.

As I read, I often had the urge to look up the flowers she discussed, or the paintings she described.

I especially liked her chapter on time and order: "Gardening, you escape the tether of time, you experience the elision of past, present, and future."

And I LOVE the cover.

I am looking for a new home for this book; if you would like my copy, PM me your address and it's yours.

255Nickelini
jun 3, 10:24am

>254 BLBera: what a beautiful book! That cover is gorgeous

256lisapeet
jun 3, 10:33am

>254 BLBera: I won't take you up on that because I have an e-galley, but wow that's a lovely cover.

257BLBera
jun 3, 6:05pm

>255 Nickelini: Hi Joyce - I know we shouldn't judge a book..., but this is very nice. The chapter divisions are also floral, in ink drawings.

>256 lisapeet: I thought of you as I read, Lisa, because I know you garden. It found a good home. :)

258BLBera
jun 7, 2:17pm



67. The Arsonists' City
I really liked Salt Houses and was anxious to try this latest novel from the Palestinian American writer Hala Alyan.

Idris and Mazna move from Beirut to California right after their wedding. They leave behind a country in the middle of a war and their families. They raise three children in the US: Ava, Mimi and Naj. As the novel begins, Mazna is pressuring her children to go to their house in Beirut for the summer. Idris wants to have a memorial service for his father and to sell the family home.

After the initial story, Alyan jumps back to the summer when Mazna and Idris meet. I felt there was too much back story -- this made the novel overly long and diluted the focus. Is Alyan writing a novel about the complicated history of the Middle East, specifically Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians? Or is she writing a novel about immigrants and their first generation children? Or is it a family saga?

I loved the characters, the description. I am just not a fan of the back-and-forth chronology -- more and more writers seem to use this device, and I think it's really hard to do well and effectively.

Still, I'm not sorry I read it.

259dchaikin
jun 7, 4:21pm

>258 BLBera: i’m not a fan of long inserted backstories either. I always assume they will be short, then get impatient to return to the incomplete story they interrupted, and then find that the backstory was most of the book … and so that means I impatient for the most important part.

260BLBera
jun 7, 5:34pm

>259 dchaikin: That's a great description of what happened here. This could have been two separate novels.

261BLBera
Redigerat: jun 12, 8:31pm


68. The Scholar is the second in the series, following the very excellent The Ruin. In this one, we get further background on Cormac Reilly and meet more of his colleagues. His partner, Emma, discovers the victim of a hit and run and calls Cormac. She becomes involved, and Cormac finds himself fighting to prove her innocence.

This is a well-plotted story although I figured out who the girl was and a central part of the mystery. I will definitely look for the next one.

Adrian McKinty gets a shout out here as well. I must get to his series as well.

262BLBera
jun 12, 8:43pm


69. Of Women and Salt
This excellent first novel follows the women in two families with very different immigration stories. One family originates from Cuba and the other from El Salvador.The Cuban women were able to pursue residency fairly easily, while Gloria, the Saladorean woman was deported twice.

The novel follows several generations of the families, and we see that even an easy immigration, doesn't guarantee an easy life. We also see the sacrifices that mothers are willing to make for their daughters.

I can't wait to see what Garcia does next.

And what a cover!

263NanaCC
jun 12, 10:59pm

>261 BLBera: I have this one waiting for me on my audible account. I’m glad you liked it.

>262 BLBera: I do like that cover. The story sounds interesting. I’ll add to my list.

264BLBera
Redigerat: jun 13, 9:53am


70. Joe Turner's Come and Gone

This play is set in 1911, and people still remember slavery. Blacks are migrating to the North to escape violence of the South. Set in a Pittsburgh boarding house, each boarder is searching for something. Bynum, a conjure man, tries to help people find their "song." Without their song, Bynum claims that people will never find what they're looking for. The feelings of displacement and search for belonging are evident in many of the characters.

265BLBera
jun 13, 10:03am

>263 NanaCC: Hi Colleen - I hope the series continues to be as good.

266RidgewayGirl
jun 13, 12:17pm

>262 BLBera: Well, nuts. I was visiting the island's little independent bookstore last week, when I was on vacation on Edisto and it came down to Of Women and Salt and a book of short stories by Ann Beattie. I'll keep my eye out for another copy.

267BLBera
jun 13, 12:19pm

>266 RidgewayGirl: I think you would love it, Kay. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you can get a copy.

268BLBera
jun 13, 8:22pm


71. Piranesi

I know some here on LT have really loved this novel. While I didn't love it, there were many things I admired about it.

I looked at some of Piranesi's etchings to get an idea of the inspiration for the novel.

I really like the vivid world that Clarke creates. The voice of the narrator is really well done as well. The descriptions of the sound of the sea, the statues, and the halls of the House are captivating. The narrator explains his world in great detail, making it believable.

The idea of parallel worlds is intriguing, and I liked the twist at the end. So, overall, thumbs up. However, if fantasy isn't your cup of tea, you should probably pass on this one.

269markon
jun 14, 3:55pm

Intrigued by your read of the August Wilson plays. Seems like a good way to get some historical perspective.

Glad to hear you enjoyed the McTiernan mysteries. I read the first two earlier this year.

270BLBera
jun 14, 7:05pm

>269 markon: I've taught The Piano Lesson and Fences many times, but I hadn't read all of Wilson's plays, so I decided to do that this year. He is a great writer and has a wonderful sense for dialogue.

271BLBera
jun 18, 8:26pm


72. The Feast of Love

My book club had mixed feelings about The Feast of Love. Some people didn't like the narrative structure, while others didn't care for the lack of plot.

I liked the way Baxter set up the novel; he starts out with the writer Charlie Baxter walking late at night. Charlie runs into an acquaintance, Bradley, and Bradley tells him a little about his first wife, telling Charlie he should write a book about love. The novel progresses with different characters' love stories, and the author disappears, leaving only the stories.

I liked the stories, the humor, and the narrative structure. There is a film based on the novel, and I watched it; it's very true to the novel. I enjoyed it.

This was our first face-to-face meeting for a year and a half, so while we did discuss the novel, we also caught up with each other.

272lisapeet
jun 19, 11:11am

>271 BLBera: I've had that one on my shelf for years, and I love Charles Baxter... I really should get to it.

273sallypursell
jun 19, 12:06pm

>272 lisapeet: Is it a modern Boccacio? I've never read Baxter, that I know of.

274BLBera
jun 19, 12:35pm

>272 lisapeet: It had been on my shelf for years as well, Lisa, and I'm glad I finally got to it. I had only read some of his short stories, which I liked, but I was surprised by how much I liked this novel. Good, descriptive writing.

>273 sallypursell: Sally - I hadn't thought of Boccacio, but yes, I can see the comparison. I was more focused on The Midsummer Night's Dream part because that's what Baxter claimed inspired him.

275sallypursell
jun 19, 9:57pm

Oh, The Midsummer Night's Dream, yes, that makes sense.

276BLBera
jun 20, 11:47am



73. Unsettled Ground
This is a wonderful character-driven novel that deserves its place on the Women's Prize shortlist.

The description makes the novel sound grim, but it is not. Jeanie and Julius Seeder are twins. When their mother Dot dies, they suddenly realize how ill-equipped they are to face the world and how much Dot protected them. They are fifty-one and still live in the cottage in which they were born. Dot managed the money, there is no bank account, and Jeanie can't read. Julius picks up various day jobs to keep his phone charged.

The novel follows them as they try to navigate the changes caused by their mother's death. We see how easily people, especially people who are poor fall through the cracks and become invisible, yet there is something inspiring about their efforts, and I found myself cheering them on.

Fuller shows us the value of the lives of Jeanie and Julius, people who would be invisible to many.

277Nickelini
jun 20, 12:32pm

>276 BLBera:

I've heard of this, of course, but I didn't really know what it was about. Sounds super interesting.

278japaul22
jun 20, 12:33pm

>276 BLBera: This is one that stood out to me on the Women's Prize shortlist that I had already added to my wishlist. Glad to know that you enjoyed it!

279BLBera
jun 20, 2:41pm

>277 Nickelini: Some have found it to be darker and more depressing than I did. While it is difficult to read about poverty, I found it, in the end, hopeful. And I loved the characters and writing.

>278 japaul22: I'll watch for your comments, Jennifer. I have read varying opinions on this one.

280BLBera
jun 20, 2:46pm

74. All My Pretty Ones

This is a reread long overdue. It's an intense collection with focus on death, illness and relationships.

281RidgewayGirl
jun 20, 8:44pm

>271 BLBera: I've had a copy of The Feast of Love on my shelf forever. I'll definitely pull it down now. It sounds great.

>276 BLBera: I'm reading this now because when the Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced, it was the only one I hadn't read. I'm really enjoying it. I skipped your review for now -- I'll circle back once I've finished it.

282BLBera
jun 20, 9:28pm

I'll watch for your comments, Kay.

283BLBera
jun 21, 5:34pm


75. Castle Shade
In this story Holmes and Mary go to Transylvania to help Queen Marie figure out who is threatening her daughter. Of course, neither believe in vampires, but someone in the village is trying to make it seem as though something supernatural is walking at night...

Entertaining story.

284wandering_star
jun 23, 9:11am

>238 BLBera: Ooh, didn't know there was a follow-up to Howard's End is on the landing - will look for that!

285BLBera
jun 23, 11:19am

>284 wandering_star: I really enjoyed it. I wish she would do another one.

286BLBera
jun 23, 10:19pm



76. No One Is Talking About This is a clever, original novel that examines how removed we become from real life, the more time we spend in the "Portal."

Lockwood's unnamed protagonist becomes famous for asking, "Can a dog be twins?" Her life is lived on the portal and her days are spent photoshopping bags of peas into historical photos or posting random photos. She has a great following and travels the world to discuss the portal.

However, a real-life event makes narrator realize that life on the portal isn't real life, that the concerns that drive popularity are flimsy at best: "Every day their attention must turn, like the shine on a school of fish, all at once, toward a new person to hate. Sometimes the subject was a war criminal, but other times it was someone who made a heinous substitution in guacamole."

Lockwood's style reminds me of Jenny Offill, with short, seemingly random paragraphs. Yet, in the end, it all fits together.

287BLBera
jun 27, 4:36pm


77. The Center of Everything

I love this novel. Harrison is great at creating quirky, memorable characters. I really cared about Polly Schuster, the protagonist who is recovering from a brain injury after a bike accident. Her memory and concentration are erratic, and her mom Jane insists that Polly is remembering events that never happened.

The novel's narrative structure reflects the way Polly's brain is working, moving back and forth from the present, one week in July, back to a memorable year in her childhood. The back-and-forth structure works well here.

I love the humor and the setting, Livingston, Montana, as well.

288BLBera
jun 28, 6:00pm

78. The Blood Promise

In this Hugo Marston novel, Hugo is asked to babysit a US senator (think Trump) at some minor negotiations. Of course, there are complications, and after the senator claims someone entered his room while he was asleep, the meetings are suspended. Hugo must try, diplomatically, to investigate. His investigation leads him to a robbery-murder in another country house, and from there, events race to the finish.

This is an entertaining series with a great setting, and this novel is not as gory as the previous one. Some interesting historical elements appear as well.

289NanaCC
jun 29, 9:34am

>288 BLBera: You put this series on my wishlist a while ago, Beth. I had forgotten about it.

290BLBera
jun 30, 11:03am

I'm always happy to add books to others' lists, Colleen. This is a good series so far.
Den här diskussionen fortsatte här: BLBera's Beth's Reading in 2021 - Chapter 2