Beth's Books 2023 (BLBera) - Part 2

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Beth's Books 2023 (BLBera) - Part 2

Redigerat: jul 2, 9:45 am

Rooftops of Lisbon

I am Beth, a recently retired English instructor. I read eclectically, mostly fiction, with essays and memoir and poetry also in the mix. I have certainly expanded my reading horizons here.

I generally don't plan my reading, but right now I am enjoying a collection of essays by Margaret Atwood and since I have many of her early books on my shelves, I might do a year of Atwood in 2023. Otherwise, I have some shared reads with other LT members and belong to a real-life book club. I would like to read more from my shelves this year, but those shiny new library books are SO tempting.

Please feel free to lurk or post. I do read everyone's threads but don't always post.

Redigerat: dec 7, 9:54 pm

Currently Reading
I usually have a fiction, nonfiction, and poetry book going at once.

Redigerat: jul 2, 10:02 am

Favorites of January to June 2023

jul 2, 9:55 am

Read in 2020 - first half
1. Portrait of an Unknown Lady
2. The Consequences of Fear*
3. Network Effect 🎧
4. Little Big Bully*
5. The Man Who Could Move Clouds
6. Wintering*
7. Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces*
8. A Dangerous Business
9. A World of Curiosities
10. Twenty and Ten
11. Super-Infinitive
12. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair*
13. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
14. Twisted Twenty-Six 🎧
15. Your Duck Is My Duck*

16. The Light Pirate
17. The Word Is Murder*
18. The Sacrifice of Darkness
19. Burn This Book*
20. Horse
21. Cold Cold Bones
22. The Inquisitor's Tale*
23. The Bandit Queens
24. Midnight at Malabar House
25. Notes of a Native Son*
26. Dinosaurs
27. A Lethal Lesson

28. The Lions of Fifth Avenue*
29. A Field Guide to Getting Lost*
30. Sharks in the Time of Saviors*
31. H Is for Homicide*
32. A Concise History of the Hawaiian Islands
33. Ex Libris*
34. The Alice Network*

35. Memphis
36. Who Owns the Clouds*
37. I Have Some Questions for You
38. Old Babes in the Wood
39. A Killing of Innocents
40. The Constant Rabbit*
41. Just the Plague
42. The Great Enigma*
43. Quarrel & Quandary*
44. Stone Blind*
45. Trespasses
46. The Dog of the North
47. The Faraway World

48. Pod*
49. Homecoming
50. A Ladder to the Sky*
51. The Marriage Portrait*
52. Trace Elements*
53. Dark Angel
54. Cursed Bread
55. Blood Substitute*
56. The Last Remains
57. Devotions*
58. How to Live or A Life of Montaigne*
59. Black Butterflies*
60. The Hero of this Book*
61. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret 🎧

62. Independence
63. Why Mermaids Sing*
64. Where Serpents Sleep*
65. A Town Called Solace*
66. Early Morning Riser*
67. Schooled in Death*
68. The Bookwanderers*
69. Death Comes Knocking*
70. Death Sends a Message*
71. Everything Under the Sky*

* From my shelves

Redigerat: jul 2, 9:59 am

jul 2, 5:11 pm

Happy new thread, Beth. I hope you feel fairly well settled in Germany now.

jul 2, 8:00 pm

Thanks Kay. I am not in Germany, but I am back home from my trip to Spain and Portugal.

jul 2, 8:05 pm

Love the topper photo and can't wait to hear about your trip!

Redigerat: jul 2, 8:10 pm

Ha, sorry, Minnesota is several miles west of Germany. Will you post some pictures of your trip?

jul 2, 8:19 pm

Rooftops of Lisbon

jul 2, 8:20 pm

Neighborhood street in Elves, Portugal

jul 2, 8:21 pm

Amphitheater in Mérida, Spain.

jul 2, 8:22 pm

Statue of Cervantes in a Toledo square.

jul 2, 8:24 pm

Huge cemetery in the center of Lisbon. We saw a lot of newer graves from 2020 and wondered if they were from COVID. Amazing statuary.

jul 2, 8:29 pm

Sevilla cathedral

jul 2, 9:28 pm

Beautiful photos! And it looks like you had gorgeous weather. It has rained for what seems like weeks here. Is it just your compositions, or were there few people out and about?

jul 3, 1:28 am

It was really hot most of the time, Lisa. A lot of the photos had my family in them, but my daughter doesn't like to post photos of Scout on social media, so I chose photos of places. I got lucky in some of the photos, but there were a lot of tourists.

jul 4, 10:10 am

72. Nefertiti
I found the novel compelling, with the day-to-day details about life in ancient Egypt, along with the account of the life of Nefertiti. I didn't know anything about her; Moran does a good job of putting her life in context, albeit fictionally, and it was a fascinating time. The author has done her research, but she doesn't make the novel seem like a research paper. Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti's sister, was the narrator, and she was a good choice. She could comment on her sister and the times.

I will look for some non-fiction about this period in Egypt.

jul 4, 1:45 pm

Thank you for the pictures! Did Scout enjoy her first taste of Europe?

jul 4, 2:00 pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: You are welcome, Kay. Scout did enjoy her trip, I think, but she missed her friends and pets. It was interesting to see what caught her attention.

jul 6, 10:29 am

73. Leave the World Behind
In this novel by Rumaan Alam, Clay and Amanda and their two children are renting a luxurious, remote house on Long Island. They are settling in when there is a knock on the door, and the owners, Ruth and G.W., appear, driven out of the city by a blackout. They are seeking refuge in their own home. The novel describes the relationships that form between the two families.

Alam creates a sense of menace that permeates the novel, even as he details day-to-day family life. His writing is descriptive and poetic, as in this description of the woods: "There were bugs, dun-colored toads holding still, mushrooms in fantastical shapes that seemed accidental, the sweet smell of rot, inexplicable damp." He does, though, have a tendency to list things, which becomes very noticeable as the novel progresses.

Still, overall, a good novel that questions what we owe to other people.

Striking cover.

jul 6, 12:06 pm

Love all the photos! Looks beautiful (and hot).

jul 6, 5:47 pm

Is it hot in Germany, Ursula? The lowest temps in the three weeks we were there were in the mid 80s.

Redigerat: jul 14, 8:30 pm

74. The Poisonwood Bible
My book club met to discuss this novel, and we had a great discussion. For many, this was a reread. Some listened to Kingsolver read it, and said the audiobook was well done.
It was my first time reading it, but this is a novel so filled with ideas that it is one I will return to. The Poisonwood Bible is an indictment of colonialism, but Kingsolver also wants us to think about the actions of those whose intentions are good, aid workers and missionaries. How do we know our way is better? But this isn't a polemic; it's a compelling story about the Price family, told in the voices of the mother Orleanna and her four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. What is wonderful about the novel is that each voice is distinct; I never had to look back at the name at the beginning of the chapter to know who was speaking. And this is really hard to do.

Obviously, Kingsolver's experience in the Congo helped to add that air of authenticity.

Wonderful novel.

jul 15, 8:05 am

>25 BLBera: It's a while since I read this, but I remember enjoying it. I think it took me a while to get into it, though, which is perhaps why I've not read anything else by her yet.

jul 15, 8:31 am

>26 AlisonY: I have read quite a few books by Kingsolver and I really like her. I loved Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Flight Behavior and her latest Demon Copperhead is amazing. I had picked this one up years ago and it didn't keep my attention, so I put it back on the shelf. I think you are right that it takes a while to get into it and it is very dense, lots going on, so is demanding. I'm glad I finally got to it, though.

jul 16, 1:03 pm

I know someone was discussing Hemingway recently, and then I came across this interesting essay about him.

jul 17, 3:21 am

>28 BLBera: Thanks Beth. Interesting for me as I recently finished a Hemingway.

jul 17, 7:27 am

>28 BLBera: Interesting article, definitely! Thanks for sharing that.

jul 17, 11:44 am

>29 AlisonY: Hi Alison - It was your thread where I saw the comments on Hemingway. I love it when I see articles related to recent discussions.

>30 ursula: It gave me a different way of looking at Hemingway, Ursula.

jul 17, 3:23 pm

>28 BLBera:

I must reject the idea that Hemingway was in any useful way an "environmentalist", nor does a preference for wild nature make him a naturalist. His hunting record speaks for itself and the information on what depredation people like him have left behind is abundant.

As for the rest, I have to wonder again how quickly people forget, because I'm not seeing anything new in that essay? That Hemingway was protesting his masculinity a tad too loudly was observed often while he was still alive. So were his so-called feminine traits like the love for art and quickness to tears. Rather than a "macho, masculine writer", I'd say he was only a notoriously wannabe "macho, masculine". The psychological burden of insecurities and self-recrimination in the end got to him. Not a lion or marlin too early.

Redigerat: jul 17, 9:49 pm

Sorry for "cereal posting", but I forgot (I plead ageing-related deterioration of faculties :)) the main thing I meant to say, answering the title question from my POV... Why don't we, in the 21st century, think more about Hemingway's politics? Or is that a stupid question to ask of comfy liberals? Regarding gender, race and sex Hemingway was no better than any 19th century dinosaur; this much was clear to any woke woman or Black person even a century ago. His take on gender was ridiculed up and down the Main Street and it's common, not rare, to find speculations that he was a closeted homosexual. Whatever. In the 21st century we're better informed and more sophisticated about these themes, that's a given.

But his support for the working class, sympathy for Spanish republicans and, most crucially, support for the Cuban revolution--now there's a much more interesting, urgently RELEVANT, but, in contexts like this one on LT, commonly willfully ignored topic.

jul 19, 8:38 am

>32 LolaWalser:, >33 LolaWalser: I haven't read a lot of criticism about Hemingway or biography, really, so the essay was interesting to me. As any with any writer, he is difficult to put into a box. As I read, I was thinking more from the #MeToo perspective and think he wouldn't fare well in today's market...

Redigerat: jul 19, 12:33 pm

>34 BLBera:

I apologise for my lack of tact in making it sound like a recrimination, I just meant to draw attention to an important side of Hemingway that is usually deliberately obscured.

It's interesting re: MeToo etc. Just this morning I noticed on The guardian website the article about the UN report on gender equality, issued in June, that finds 9 out of 10 people globally still hold misogynist prejudice of the rankest kind--from it being okay that women should go uneducated and underpaid, to a quarter approving the beating of wives. There has been zero progress since the previous report in 2014. ( )

I think you are right Hemingway would have trouble placing his attitudes in today's market, but I think that's due more to a fluke--the fact that educated women make up the majority of readership.

jul 19, 1:13 pm

No apology needed. I think dead misogynistic white men also get a bit of a pass...

jul 20, 3:46 pm

Ha, true. But that's par for the course, men always get a pass. A little fuss, then a bigger fuss about "cancellation", then back to normal.

jul 23, 10:40 am

76. Ghosts of Spain
This is an informative and wide-ranging book by journalist Giles Tremlett. Topics range from the silence about the Civil War to corruption, to flamenco. Tremlett also visits various regions in Spain and discusses claims to autonomy, principally in the Basque and Catalonia regions. The book was written fifteen years ago, so I wonder how he would update it. In his afterword, written in 2008, he does raise some questions. I wonder how he has answered them. This is a good introduction to modern Spain.

Redigerat: jul 24, 4:37 pm

77. Nightbloom by Peace Adzo Medie is the coming-of-age story of two Ghanaian girls in the last part of the twentieth century. Akorfa and Selasi are very different, and while they are inseparable as children, their lives diverge, and as the novel ends they are in very different places. In the first section, we hear Akorfa's story and see her explanation for the rift with Selasi. Then, in part 2, we get Selasi's point of view. They are both fully developed characters, and we see how their personalities develop over time. I like that there is not one version of the story; Medie allows her characters to tell their stories and the readers can draw their own conclusions.

Through these compelling stories, Medie explores contemporary Ghana and reveals the importance of family in Ghanaian society, a place with no other real safety net. Yet, there are downsides to family as well. Women are second class citizens, and there is little protection for the most vulnerable when the family breaks down. In the stories of Akorfa and Selasi, we see the precariousness of the lives of the girls.

This is a fascinating novel that looks at a variety of experiences in Ghana. The cover is beautiful.

jul 24, 6:15 pm

>39 BLBera: This sounds really good - I put it on my library wish list.

jul 25, 1:09 am

>39 BLBera: It does sound interesting and yes, the cover is beautiful!

jul 28, 1:13 pm

78. The Memory of Animals
I've loved the other books by Fuller that I have read, Unsettled Ground and Swimming Lessons, so I was anxious to read this novel. It's a pandemic novel; the narrator Neffy tells about the ten days she spent in a unit that was testing a vaccine for the virus that is devastating the world. Neffy is twenty-seven, an unemployed marine biologist and deeply in debt. She sees volunteering as a way out of her current difficulties.

She is joined by Rachel, Piper, Yahiko, and Leon, other volunteers. Leon has invented a "Revisiter," a device that enables some people to relive memories. The device is an effective way of introducing Neffy's back story. I love Neffy; she is a well rounded empathetic character that I really care about.

Overall, I really liked this novel. I do wonder if Fuller tries to introduce too many things into it -- the questions about ethics in animal and medical research, the revisiter, and a pandemic. And I dislike the device of skipping ahead multiple years in the last few pages, which Fuller uses. Still, I am happy to have picked this up.

jul 30, 9:58 pm

79. The Secret Adversary
This is the first Tommy and Tuppence book, and it's very entertaining. The mystery is lighter than Christie's other mysteries although equally well plotted. In this Tommy and Tuppence, lifelong friends meet up after WWI, at loose ends and looking for work. They decide to form a partnership for adventure. They stumble into a plot to overthrow the government.

I listened to this and the audiobook is OK although some of the accents were a bit off. August is Christie month in my book club and I will try to pick up a couple of others featuring Poirot and Miss Marple. I read these years ago but have little memory of them -- beyond the fact that I could never guess the villain.

jul 31, 10:00 am

80. Portraits in Fiction
This book originated in a lecture Byatt gave and discusses "portraits" in both painting and in written fiction. Byatt discusses description and the use of portraits in her own work as well as work by Zola, Balzac, and Murdoch, to mention a few. I really appreciated the inclusion of the portraits she discusses.

This little book is thought-provoking. A couple of the quotes that stuck with me:
"Writers rely on the endlessly varying visual images of individual readers and on the constructive visualizing work those readers do This is the reason, I think, why I very distressed to find publishers using photographs of real, identifiable people to represent my characters on the covers of novels. It limits the readers' imaginations." -- This bothers me as well.

"What a novelist can do, which is difficult for a painter, is convey what is not, and cannot, be known about a human being."

I think anyone interested in art and literature would enjoy this.

jul 31, 3:24 pm

81. The Midnight News
Although Jo Baker's new novel The Midnight News is set during the Blitz in London, it is not just a WWII novel. Charlotte Richmond, the protagonist, is estranged from her family, and as the novel progresses, we learn why. Her brother Eddie died at the beginning of the war, and Charlotte became a "nuisance" and was committed by her father. When her best friend dies in the Blitz, Charlotte suspects foul play, while friends and family think she is having a breakdown. Charlotte wants to avoid being committed again, and this is tension that runs through the novel. Besides the fear and uncertainty of the nightly bombing, Baker also shows the the roles of women are limited and anyone straying from the acceptable finds herself criticized -- or worse.

I really liked this -- an interesting twist to the Blitz novel.

aug 1, 9:19 am

>44 BLBera: That sounds very interesting. Added to my tbr.

aug 1, 8:19 pm

I enjoyed it, and it's very short.

aug 4, 9:45 am

Great quote from When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"Over the years I have collected so many books that, in aggregate, they can fairly be called a library. I don't know what percentage of them I have read. Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read. This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books. But it has caused me to ponder the meaning they have for me, and the fact that to me they epitomize one great aspect of the goodness of life."

aug 4, 11:49 am

82. Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop
Well, I've added Alba Donati's bookshop to my bucket list after reading this memoir. It covers about six months of the day-to-day life of her bookstore in the small town of Lucignana. She includes book orders, stories of visitors, and lovely descriptions of the area she lives in. There are some book lists as well. One of the most interesting aspects is how the community is involved in the book shop. She sees it as a way to revitalize her community. I hope she succeeds.

aug 4, 2:14 pm

>48 BLBera: I love that. Thanks!

aug 4, 7:04 pm

>48 BLBera: me they epitomize one great aspect of the goodness of life. Wonderful!

aug 8, 9:40 am

83. 33 Minnesota Poets
As with any anthology, there were poems I loved and poems that left me cold. One thing that disappointed me is that this anthology, published in 2000 did not include any writers of color. After reading the essays from A Good Time for the Truth and learning about the marginalizing experiences many of the writers have had in Minnesota, I would hope that anthologies like this can be more inclusive and mindful.

Some of the poets were familiar (Joyce Sutpen, Michael Dennis Browne), while most were new to me. It was nice to discover some new local poets, especially Ethna McKiernan and Mary Kay Rummel.

aug 13, 9:46 am

>44 BLBera: Your review of Portraits in Fiction reminds me of What We See When We Read. Have you read it? If not, I would highly recommend it. The author, Peter Mendelsund is a book jacket designer, and he delves into that exact issue: how readers visualize what they read. He uses fantastic examples too.

>45 BLBera: The Midnight News sounds interesting. I have not read anything by Jo Baker.

>48 BLBera: Yes!

aug 13, 12:05 pm

Thanks for the recommendation, Lisa. I've added What We See When We Read to my WL. It sounds like one I would like.

>48 BLBera: I knew this would resonate with my fellow LTers. :)

aug 13, 10:07 pm

84. Victory City is an epic story of a lost civilization. It draws from Hindu mythology and has a sense of the magical, which is often associated with mythology. It's the story of Pampa Kampana, who is possessed by the goddess Pampa as a child and given certain magical powers, including extreme longevity, which she comes to see as a curse. In her long life, she sees the rise (which she facilitates) and fall of the great city Bisnaga. The city lasted for two centuries (14th-16th), a time of constant change.

The story is told in Pampa's own words from a manuscript discovered buried in the ruins of the forgotten city. I found this framing device worked well. Through Pampa's story, we see her utopian vision for Bisnaga. Unfortunately, utopias never seem to last.

Rushdie gives us a lot to think about; many of the ideas about history, gender, religious tolerance, and power are still relevant. I really enjoyed this magical tale although I think I will have benefitted from more knowledge of Hindu mythology.

aug 14, 8:23 am

>53 labfs39: Ooh, What We See When We Read looks interesting! Adding to my TBR!

aug 16, 12:20 pm

85. El Viento Conoce Mi Nombre is a short novel about child refugees, starting with the Kindertransport in WWII. As I began the novel, I found the story of Samuel Adler fascinating, but then Allende skips to the mid 20th century with the story of Leticia Cordero, a refugee from El Salvador. From there she moves on to the present day and Anita, an eight-year-old Salvadoreña separated from her mother. This is a short novel, and the fact that Allende has so many different storylines means that she ends up summarizing vast swathes of the characters' lives, and a lack of character depth.

Good topic, but it would be more powerful if focused on one character in more depth.

Redigerat: aug 17, 9:08 pm

86. Not the Ones Dead
I really enjoy the Kate Shugak series, and this latest is a good one. It is post COVID in the Park, and changes are coming. Deaths have opened up some private property within the Park, and outsiders are appearing in Niniltna. A suspicious fire in a landmark, a midair small-plane collision, and hikers' complaints about being warned away from paths by military men combine to make Kate Shugak curious about what is happening. Is the plane crash an accident? Is the fire arson? The investigation reveals a troubling presence in the Park.

Well-paced with the regulars all present, a satisfying read. The Alaskan setting, as always, is wonderful.

Redigerat: aug 19, 3:19 pm

Finally catching up with your thread, Beth—what good reading! A lot of those are on my virtual pile, and a few others will be headed there now, especially Portraits in Fiction, which looks like it's right up my alley... especially because then I get to use ekphrasis somewhere in my review. An opportunity to write "ekphrasis" should never be wasted.

And gorgeous photos of your trip! Thanks for posting them.

aug 19, 4:40 pm

Enjoy Portraits in Fiction and the related ekphrasis, Lisa. :) Our trip was fun; it was so nice to be able to travel again.

aug 24, 9:45 am

87. The Sun Walks Down is an excellent historical novel, that showcases the Southern Australian desert.

In 1883, during a dust storm, a small boy gets lost in the desert. The novel is set during the week that the search for Denny occurs. With the various viewpoints, McFarlane is able to capture the people of the town and family. But the setting is the star here. The cover manages to beautifully capture the color and the heat.

I will look for more from McFarlane.

aug 24, 11:01 am

>61 BLBera: Ooh, that looks good. I love a strong setting. On the list it goes.

aug 24, 2:20 pm

88. When I Was a Child I Read Books
In this thought-provoking collection of essays, Robinson's Christianity informs her views. She discusses human nature, evolution, the Old Testament, and there's a lot to consider. Underlying her discussions is also the conviction that ignoring the humanities in education is a mistake that leads to sloppy thinking. I read some of the essays twice, and I think I could go through many of them again. In one essay, she says that her style owes more to Cicero than to Hemingway, and her long sentences with multiple clauses certainly supports this assertion.

This isn't an easy or quick read, but it is rewarding, and I think it would be a good discussion book. It certainly leads to my book club selection for September, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time

Redigerat: aug 25, 12:35 pm

89. The Last Beekeeper
This dystopian novel follows Sasha Severn, the daughter of the "last" beekeeper. After bees become extinct, the food supplies diminish, plunging the world into famine and chaos. As the novel opens, Sasha, now twenty-two, is returning to her childhood home to find answers about her father's imprisonment. When she arrives, she finds squatters and works to settle in with them so she can find not only answers but also a place to belong.

Although the world in the novel isn't as developed as in some dystopian novels, I enjoyed the journey of Sasha. The novel does offer more hope than many dystopian novels.

sep 1, 6:57 pm

90. Uncaged
91. Outrage
92. Rampage

These three YA novels show a group of teens fighting against an evil corporation. The audiobooks are well done, and were good to listen to while cleaning out my attic. Shay and Odin Remby are orphans in Portland, Oregon, foster care. Odin is on the autism spectrum and a computer genius. When he gets involved in an animal rights group and breaks into a lab (Singular) experimenting on animals, he and the group find more than animal experimentation, and corporate security starts to hunt them down to silence them.

The trilogy requires a huge suspension of disbelief, and while the main characters are teens, I wasn't sure I would label this YA. There is a fair amount of violence. Still, teens may like the young protagonists and the action.

sep 8, 10:26 am

93. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time
This short book is based on a series of lectures by Jesus scholar Marcus Borg. I wouldn't have picked up this book if it weren't a book club selection. I found parts mildly interesting, especially the discussion of the historical Jesus, what we really know about his life. Borg points out, "...the gospels are not straightforward historical documents but are the developing traditions of the early Christian movement put into written form in the last third of the first century."

On the whole the book reinforced my idea that anyone can use the Bible to suit their ends and that it shouldn't be taken literally.

If you are interested in scholarship about Jesus, you might enjoy this. I am curious about the discussion...

sep 8, 7:02 pm

>66 BLBera:

I think this is the first time (that I notice, which is a big caveat) that someone's book club picked a book with religion as a topic. As you say, could be an interesting discussion! Although, I suppose most bookclubs, like this group, are largely homogeneous...

sep 8, 9:49 pm

>67 LolaWalser: It was a good discussion with quite a variety of religious beliefs and experiences.

sep 9, 12:20 pm

94. Shock Wave
According to LT, I read this in 2011m but I had no memory of it. The audiobook is well done, and Sandford's straightforward style with plenty of action makes it easy to listen to while cleaning closets.

Virgil Flowers is a BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) agent for rural southern Minnesota. In this book, he's asked to investigate a bombing at a construction site in a small town. The site will be a PyeMart (Walmart by another name) and the building will destroy many of the small businesses in the town, so there are plenty of suspects.

The mystery is well-plotted and fast-paced, and Virgil is likable overall. It's an entertaining listen that I will no doubt not remember much about in a few months. Still, it's nice to find a series of audiobooks that work well. Note: I do have to ignore the sexism and macho posturing, but I find that in most thriller-type books written by men.

Redigerat: sep 13, 7:35 pm

95. Artemisia
I have been working with an Italian art historian on her English. Her specialty is Artemisia and Caravaggio, so I wanted to learn more about these artists.

This graphic novel is beautiful, and I appreciate that four of Artemisia's paintings are reproduced here. Artemisia was born in Rome and lived from 1593-1653, not an era known for equality of the sexes. Her father was a painter and found that Artemisia, his only daughter, was the only child who was talented. This made for a difficult life for Artemisia, who couldn't even buy her own paints and canvases. But she persisted, and painted some powerful work: Judith and Her Maidservant, Judith Slaying Holofernes, and Susana and the Elders are shown in this book. She did not shy away from controversial topics.

This is a good introduction to her life. My only complaint is that the font was hard to read.

sep 14, 4:03 am

>70 BLBera: Nice! I saw Judith Slaying Holofernes at the Uffizi. Awesome to see it in person.

sep 14, 10:07 am

Hi Ursula - Yes, it is always great to see pictures in person after reading about them. Next time I see my art historian friend, I am going to ask her to talk about Judith, and what she admires about it. Next, I am reading Francine Prose's biography of Caravaggio. I am stuck in Italy for now.

sep 14, 10:11 am

96. In the Margins is a collection of essays that are based on lectures. In them, Elena Ferrante discusses her writing process, influences and challenges, and some of her novels. Among other things, she mentions the problems of finding her voice when she was exposed mostly to male writers: "...the female 'I' who writes -- has had an arduous journey." She also talks about balancing inspiration and order.

I think people interested in her writing and in Ferrante will appreciate this volume.

sep 14, 1:59 pm

>70 BLBera: Coincidentally, I was in Chicago last week and saw the Caravaggio exhibition at the Art Institute that included Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes.

sep 14, 2:13 pm

>74 RidgewayGirl: Cool, Kay. I am looking forward to reading about Caravaggio; he was mentioned in Artemisia, very influential, especially to her father.

sep 14, 2:20 pm

97. Mad River
This is another Virgil Flowers book, an audiobook. In this one, Virgil is tracking some spree killers through southwestern Minnesota. Think Bonnie and Clyde. As he investigates, he discovers that the case might be more complicated than he first imagined. Feelings among law enforcement grow heated and the body count goes up.

The audiobook is well done, and the plot is fast paced. I like that this one also raises some questions about justice. What happens when you know someone is guilty of murder, but there's no proof? And, is it OK to take justice into your own hands?

I'll continue with these.

sep 17, 11:36 am

>68 BLBera: That speaks to the civility of your book club well. Once upon a time (2010?) I would have thought that would be a given, but now I'm always surprised when a group of different people can get together and talk religion or politics or race.

Beth, have you seen Katy Hessel's The Story of Art Without Men? It doesn't go in depth into any of its artists, but it's such a great overview, kind of chatty like her podcast and very readable.

sep 17, 1:47 pm

Lisa - the Hessel is on my WL. I've been thinking I should probably buy it; it's one I would probably want to keep.

My book club is pretty civil; we can agree to disagree about books without hard feelings. That's one reason we have lasted 20 years, I think.

sep 21, 1:29 pm

98. Take What You Need
Idra Novey's novels are quietly thoughtful, and I have loved all of them, especially Ways to Disappear. Her latest, set in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia, is another good one.

Jean is Leah's stepmother. After Jean left Leah's father, he didn't allow Jean to see Leah, and they have become estranged. The novel is their story, told in alternating chapters. Jean has remained in the dying town of Sevlick, living on a street filled with deserted houses. Yet, she has never let her subscription to her art magazine lapse, and she has filled her house with sculptures, her "Manglements." She is inspired by Agnes Martin and Louise Bourgeois. Leah has left, spending her time trying to get over what she sees as Jean's betrayal.

Jean is the star of the story. Her life shows that art can exist anywhere and be created by anyone. And despite the fact that she lives in such a dreary place, she finds fulfillment. As she says, "Why had it taken so long to figure out, what kind of careful work would bring a happiness so full and deep that doing it just one minute without falling off a ladder would feel like a gift?"

If you enjoy character-driven novels, you might want to give Novey a try. I think she deserves more recognition.

Redigerat: sep 21, 1:37 pm

99. Fortune and Glory is another Stephanie Plum mystery. In this one, Stephanie is helping her Grandma look for the treasure that her late husband left keys to. It is also being sought by his gangster friends. There are the usual miscues apprehending fugitives and problems with Stephanie's love life. Evanovich does try to complicate Stephanie's character, but I think it's too late for that.

The audiobook is good, but I found this mediocre.

Redigerat: sep 23, 6:46 pm

100. French Braid
This was a reread for my book club. When I first read the book, I gave it four stars and commented:

Anne Tyler is a master with families. In this novel, she gives us the Garrett family, Robin and Mercy, and their three children, Alice, Lily, and David. This short novel spans the years from1959 to the present day, but each person gets enough attention that we feel like we know and care about everyone. No matter how far apart the family grows, we know, "This is what families do for each other -- hide a few uncomfortable truths, allow a few self-deceptions. Little kindnesses."


I agree with my rating and look forward to discussing it. The second time around, I have more questions about the character of Mercy. It should be a good discussion.

Redigerat: sep 23, 6:53 pm

101. Break Blow Burn
The subtitle of this book is "Camile Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World's Best Poems". The book has a copyright of 2005, and Paglia's choices are interesting; known as a feminist scholar, Paglia has chosen only six women among the twenty-eight authors represented here. There is heavy representation of dead white guys. Missing are poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück, to mention a few notable omissions.

Still, for those interested in reading and understanding poetry, this is a good introduction. Paglia pays close attention to language and structure, and gives context to the poems. Her writing is clear, not academic-speak. So, while I might question some of her choices and assertions (Is Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" "possibly the most popular and influential poem composed in English since Sylvia Plath's 'Daddy'"?), this is a good collection, rewarding to people dipping their toes into poetry.

sep 23, 7:32 pm

I for one don't think Paglia is a feminist. She is thoroughly imbued with what I call "dick worship" and has made overtly misogynistic statements, too many to ignore. That she found most inspiration in dead white men, and with such a startling gender imbalance, isn't surprising if you've read her screeds on women as inferior to men in invention, imagination, ambition etc. She hectored women as needing to be more like men, which included dismissing the notion of rape culture and date rape. According to her, women must expect to be sexually assaulted as a routine side-effect of existing in the world, AND they must not "whine" about it.

Since she shamelessly exploits shocking statements for attention, I'm not sure how much weight one ought to give to her professed distaste for female genitals as ugly (the dick is beautiful, tho'), especially since she poses as a lesbian. Nevertheless, she published that and a number of other lesbophobic stuff (lesbians tending to be on the left and disproportionately represented among people fighting for social justice the hardest is a big problem for Paglia). As a woman-loving-woman myself, I can't express sufficiently the contempt for the very idea and the favour-currying this low creature sought to buy with it.

A certain type of wannabe-"intellectual" dudebros and gay misogynists adore her, which speaks volumes too.

sep 23, 9:30 pm

>83 LolaWalser: I haven't read or heard Paglia "hector" women, so I when I describe her as a feminist, I am following descriptions of her in reviews and her own description of herself. I need to read more of her writing. In Break Blow Burn, I did not see homophobic stuff.

sep 24, 3:21 pm

102. 11/22/63
This was my first novel by Stephen King, and I admit I was disappointed. The premise, traveling in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination, was interesting, and I was anticipating a good read. Instead, I found it a slog. The narrator, Jake, spends hundreds of pages detailing the daily life of the Oswalds. I think with some judicious editing, the book could be half as long ( it's almost 800 pages!), and tell the story in a more coherent way.

I will meet with my LT buddies to discuss soon and will report on our discussion.

sep 24, 4:01 pm

Oh, this is not the best Stephen King novel. I haven't read a ton, but I loved The Stand! I recommend it if you have the stomach for another. It is also very long, but I thought it was well-paced.

sep 24, 4:36 pm

I think King has been largely unreadable since he got famous enough to not be edited; is there anything since -- oh, let's say The Green Mile -- that isn't bloated and needing to be cut by 20%?

Redigerat: sep 24, 8:05 pm

>84 BLBera:

Everything I mentioned, as far as I recall, was published in Sexual Personae and Vamps & Tramps. Her dismissal of date rape and victim blaming in particular was also widely reported on and widely addressed in dozens of newspapers and magazines.

I haven't seen her self-describe as a feminist but I do on occasion see others calling her "renegade" this or that, apparently labouring under the delusion that any loudmouth or brassy girl-bossism has something to do with being a feminist.

Whereas, this is the woman who wrote that the patriarchy invented the Pill and thus did more for women than feminism ever did (I'm paraphrasing from memory, but that's the gist). You can see where one might look askance at the label.*

In Break Blow Burn, I did not see homophobic stuff.

Paglia is specifically lesbophobic, just like she is specifically misogynistic. She adores gay men.

A few of her remarks:

"Lesbians, said a lesbian friend wearily to me, are "program heads": "They need the structure. They have all the answers." Hence lesbians' omnipresence in the social-welfare industry. Rejecting the father's competitive system, they substitute another that they imagine is based on female "caring" and "compassion" but is, in dismal effect, repressive, totalitarian, and hostile to art and dissent. The same friend memorably said to me long ago that lesbianism is caused by either "too much tit or not enough."

"I want to cry out to these young girls: Stop! Think! . . . For heaven's sake, don't fall down the rabbit hole of the lesbian scene. You will never escape, and your talent will wither on the vine. Your energy will be wasted and absorbed in repetition without progression. Women alone are Spenser's Bower of Bliss, enclosed, comfortable, and dangerous."

"Visionary idealism is a male art form. The lesbian aesthete does not exist. But if there were one, she would have learned from the perverse male mind."

Sorry that this is so long, I just wanted to show that my opinion was grounded on facts, not a randomly conceived animosity. The one time I met her she was quite charming and had she been, for instance, a prof of mine when I was a teenager, it's dead certain I'd have idolised her. I mean, no wonder, as a teenager I was filled to the gills with internalised misogyny and, just like Paglia, actually looked up to an array of straight and gay male woman haters.

ETA: *(a longer example of the tone Paglia uses when she talks about feminism) Whuffle whine+wheeze+snuff+sniffle: The annoying, scratchy sound made by weepy feminists as they lament the sufferings of women and, houndlike, sniff out evidence of male oppression in literature, art, and the media. Some compare it to the rustle of Victorian crinoline skirts. Others speak of a badmintonlike spank and whoosh. Still others think of a jumbled feathery flapping, as in the attic torture of Tippi Hedren in "The Birds". Of a feminist theorist: "She whuffled her way to the top." Of a feminist conference: "The room overflowed with whufflers." Of a feminist lecture: "The whuffling was unbearable."

sep 24, 9:37 pm

>86 japaul22: I will have to think about it, Jennifer. I don't know if I want to spend more time on him. I did note the title your recommended though.

>87 KeithChaffee: Editing always makes things better. :)

>88 LolaWalser: Thanks Lola. I know Paglia has been very controversial, but I haven't read other things by her. Thanks for posting/explaining.

sep 26, 10:06 am

103. Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles is part of the Eminent Lives series, brief introductory biographies of outstanding artists, writers, etc. Since much is unknown about Caravaggio's brief life, Prose wisely spends much of the book discussing his painting. The inclusion of colored plates add to her discussion of the paintings, and she gives context to his work. I feel I now have some understanding of what to look at/for in his paintings. This is a very accessible introduction to Caravaggio and anyone at all interested in his art will appreciate it.

okt 3, 9:41 am

105. Deadline

This is another entertaining audiobook in the Virgil Flowers series. Virgil starts by investigating a series of dognappings, which leads to the discovery of a big meth lab. His investigation is complicated by the murder of a local journalist and by efforts to keep the dog owners from vigilante justice.

Redigerat: okt 3, 12:03 pm

Not to flog the horse that Lola so effectively flattened, but when I read your review in >82 BLBera: I gasped to see Paglia described as a feminist, when she made her career protecting the patriarchy. I think the "feminist" label was applied to her because she was an outspoken woman in a time when that meant feminism. I was a philosophy undergrad at the time and there were even fewer women in philosophy than there are now. I thought Paglia might be someone to pay attention to until I read a few of her articles, which inevitably boiled down to "girls are just not that great, except me, who hangs with the men" in substance. The article I most remember most vividly was one where I agreed so whole-heartedly with her at the start and was so disappointed with both her reasoning (poor) and her conclusion (frankly, misogynistic). At the time, I was more offended by the lazy arguments than the misogyny (it was the early 90s). I'll have to go find it, just to see if it still makes me angry.

okt 3, 3:04 pm

>92 RidgewayGirl: I need to read some of these things by Paglia.

okt 5, 12:22 pm

I have Sexual Personae on my shelves - I dare not read it now.

okt 5, 2:04 pm

I also have it on my shelf. You could give it a try. I might, just to see. One of the blurbs says, "Paglia makes more outrageous claims in her first 20 pages than most academics dare in a lifetime." So, maybe try those first 20 pages?

okt 8, 11:26 am

106. The Windeby Puzzle
Scout and I read this novel together. She is interested in bog people, and Lois Lowry bases the story on the discovery of a 2000-year-old bog body in northern Germany. It was discovered in 1952 and thought to be a thirteen-year-old girl who was killed. However, later with more advanced science, the body was determined to be a sixteen-year-old boy who probably died of natural causes.

Lowry alternates the story with the history. She begins with the finding of the body and explains how it piqued her imagination. She imagines, first, the life of a girl Estrild, living in the Iron Age. After Estrild's story, Lowry explains learning that the Windeby body was really a boy, so she wrote another story centered on Varick, an orphan boy in the same village.

Scout liked the book, especially Estrild because as Scout put it, "She wasn't Miss Perfect." She also liked the pictures that are included and the history.

okt 8, 4:00 pm

>96 BLBera: Sounds like a great find, since you both enjoyed it and it has history.

Wonder if my library has it . . .

okt 9, 8:05 am

>96 BLBera: I love that you and Scout still read together. My niece and I are now on our third Galaxy Zack book. She loves them, and they fit well with our space theme, so I'm going with it, despite my desire for something else. :-)

okt 9, 9:59 am

>97 markon: It was a nice mix of history and fiction. I liked how Lowry explained how she came up with the story.

>98 labfs39: Scout loves being read to, Lisa. And I enjoy it so much. Now, we have to choose our next book.

okt 9, 3:07 pm

107. The Whalebone Theatre
I loved this debut historical novel, and as I read the last pages, I was sad to leave the Seagrave family.

In many ways, this is a coming-of-age story. The novel follows the three Seagrave siblings, Cristabel, Flossie, and Digby from their childhoods to early adulthood, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1945. The parents and stepparents of the children are all scarred by WWI, so the children grow up largely unsupervised, free to exercise their imaginations.

The characters of all the children are well developed although Cristabel is my favorite. From the time we meet her at age four, she is a formidable person.

The novel is told mainly in chronological order, and Quinn does a good job of portraying both the years after WWI and the war years. The novel is long but the events move along, so I never felt it was a slog. This is remarkable since it is a first novel.

If you like historical fiction, this might be for you.

okt 9, 4:00 pm

>100 BLBera: Great! I'm a historical fiction over and I have this one, so I'm looking forward to it.

okt 9, 7:39 pm

It was so good, Lisa.

okt 23, 11:11 am

109. The Art of the Wasted Day
Patricia Hampl is a poet and her writing and description are lovely; this book on the importance of thought will appeal to readers and thinkers.

It is always surprising to me how reading very different books often reveals connections. Earlier this year I read How to Live about Montaigne, and when I picked up Hampl's book I realized that much of her contemplation is inspired by Montaigne. She even describes her visit, or pilgrimage?, to his tower. I appreciate her book more after reading that first book about Montaigne.

Hampl also mentions others who have removed themselves from the mainstream, among them the "Ladies of Llangollen," and then, in Zadie Smith's new novel, The Fraud, one of the characters mentions the Ladies. Amazing.

Some quotes from The Art of the Wasted Day that resonate with me:

"So many books I keep meaning to read. I move the titles from one to-do list to another. I don't bother listing Proust anymore."

"...the final page of any novel is a destination, the creation of form offering the illusion of inevitability, the denial of chaos. We don't love novels because they are like life, but because they are unlike it -- deftly organized, filled with the satisfaction of shape."

"The job of being human is not figuring things out, but getting lost in thought."

okt 23, 2:25 pm

>103 BLBera: I'd pick that up for the title alone. I think of a purposefully wasted day the way some folks probably dream of luxury cruises or five-star meals... it's an aspiration.

okt 23, 10:41 pm

>104 lisapeet: Amen - her point is that not doing something isn't necessarily wasted time. But we all seem programmed by those to-do lists. :) I think you would like this. Do you want my copy?

okt 24, 9:07 am

>105 BLBera: Oh, thank you for the offer! Only if you're looking to deaccession in the first place, otherwise I'm happy to library it up.

okt 24, 12:50 pm

It was in my giveaway box, Lisa, so I will send it to you.

okt 24, 1:00 pm

110. The Fraud
I am still thinking about Zadie Smith's latest novel, but some initial thoughts.

It is very different from her previous novels -- it's based on real people: the novelist William Ainsworth, his cousin Mrs. Touchet, the Tichborne Claimant, and his servant Andrew Bogle, to name a few. After reading it, I can see parallels with today. The Claimant was wildly popular with the disposed, despite lots of evidence against his claim. The hysteria of his supporters and willingness to disregard facts remind me of a current e-president.

The short chapters with titles are reminiscent of serials, which were popular at the time.

Even after slavery was abolished in the UK, fortunes were still made on Caribbean plantations, and ex-slaves had few possibilities to rise from poverty. Women had no rights either and the only possibility open to them was marriage.

I didn't love this but it gave me a lot to think about and I look forward to discussing it with my fellow LTers.

okt 25, 8:26 am

>107 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! No hurry, of course.
>108 BLBera: I've heard so much about this one, and even the more lukewarm responses haven't kept me from wanting to read it. The combination of Smith's smarts and the time period and subject are enough to get me there. I have a galley and will get to it one of these days, sooner than later.

okt 27, 10:29 am

It's in the mail, Lisa.

I liked the new Smith, but it isn't one of my favorites. I do like that she is trying new things.

okt 27, 10:34 am

I have been meaning to talk about my trip to the Iowa City Book Festival. I saw two writers this time; it was a short trip. One was Eskor David Johnson who read from his debut novel Pay as You Go. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. The other writer I saw was Ayana Mathis, who read from her second novel The Unsettled. I bought that one. Both were engaging speakers, and I was happy to hear them.

Next week I'll attend the Literary Arts Festival in Portland, and I am really looking forward to that, and to the possibility of seeing some LTers while I am there.

okt 27, 12:40 pm

>110 BLBera: Thank you! Looking forward to hearing your report from Portland.

okt 27, 12:48 pm

>111 BLBera: Oh, have so much fun in Portland! I went last year and it was a great experience. I hope you don't get rained on the entire time like I did! And the coffee really is better out there.

okt 28, 10:35 am

>112 lisapeet: You are welcome, Lisa. I am always happy to find good homes for my books.

>113 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. I am looking forward to it.

okt 28, 10:43 am

111. The Best American Poetry 2013
I really like this collection of 75 poems. There is a mixture of familiar poets (Louise Glück, Adrienne Rich, Sherman Alexie and new-to-me poets. Author biographies follow, pointing me to collections from authors I would like to read more of. This is a good series, and I'll pick up these collections as I come across them.

From "Endpapers"

The signature to a life requires
the search for a method
rejection of posturing
trust in the witnesses
a vial of invisible ink
a sheet of paper held steady
after the end-stroke
above a deciphering flame

okt 29, 11:38 am

112. The Vaster Wilds
Lauren Groff's new novel is lovely, descriptive and poetic, and while I loved it, it won't be to everyone's taste.

The novel tells the story of a servant girl who escapes an early colonial settlement into the wilderness. As she struggles to survive, we learn about her past, how she has arrived in the New World, and what precipitates her departure from the fort. In some ways, this is a coming-of-age story as the girl learns about herself and the world around her.

Groff puts us in the mind of the girl as she labors to survive. Somehow, Groff is able to keep up a constant tension that kept me turning the pages -- would the girl survive, and how? You have to follow along the journey to find out. I quite enjoyed it.

okt 30, 10:04 am

113. The Puppets of Spelhorst
This is another wonderful book from Kate DiCamillo. It follows five puppets -- a girl, a boy, an owl, a king and a wolf (with very sharp teeth) on their adventures. DiCamillo has the ability to give her characters, puppets and people distinct personalities. I look forward to more puppet adventures. Julie Morstad's illustrations are also wonderful.

This is a Halloween gift for Scout, who loves DiCamillo. She is currently reading Raymie Nightingale. The puppets book might be a little young for her, but she will appreciate the humor.

nov 6, 2:49 pm

The Portland book festival was so much fun. Besides books, I got to spend time with some LTers, which is always a good time. I did come back with a loaded suitcase and backpack. I know people will ask, so my acquisitions are:
Opinions Roxane Gay
The Future
America Fantastica
Cross-Stitch Jazmina Barrera
What You Need to Be Warm
The Greatest Invention
To Free the Captives
Emperor of Rome
Light in Gaza
So Many People, Mariana
That Time of Year
The Lost Journals of Sacajewea
A Man of Two Faces

I saw Viet Thanh Nguyen speak with Tommy Orange. It was fantastic. Orange had great questions for him and didn't use any notes. He was super prepared.

Then I saw Debra Magpie Earling and Justin Torres, and again the moderator was really good, and they had a great conversation. I bought Earling's book; she did some interesting things with the formatting, so I look forward to reading that. Berly also bought it, so we expect to do a shared read (are you listening Ellen) soon.

I really wanted to hear Tracy K. Smith, but I was starving, so instead I had some lunch with Banjo and Banjo Jr. Banjo Jr. saw Roz Chast and said she was hilarious. Chast, Tim O'Brien, and Viet Thanh Nguyen were all at the same time, so it was a hard choice.

In the afternoon I saw Naomi Alderman, who spoke with Omar El Akkad, and it was a great conversation. Alderman is very funny. I started reading her new book as I was waiting, and I can't wait to get to it.

The last authors I saw were Patrick DeWitt and Lydia Kiesling who talked about the characters in their new novels. The moderator wasn't very good, so this was a little disappointing although I liked both Kiesling and DeWitt.

It was really fun. Everything is well organized and other than too many choices, I don't have any complaints.

nov 6, 5:31 pm

Sounds great. Will have to put going to that on my travel wish list.

nov 7, 9:48 am

It is a book lover's dream, Alison. I am so glad I went.

nov 7, 9:58 am

114. Cat's Eye
Elaine Risley is an artist, back in Toronto, where she lived as a child, for a retrospective of her work. This novel is another retrospective, as Toronto triggers memories of her childhood, especially the period when she was bullied by three other girls. One of them, Cordelia, has reappeared in Elaine's life from time to time, and Elaine is hoping to see her again, if only to find out why she was a target. Although in the end, I think the painting has helped her survive and get past the bullying.

I loved learning about Elaine and seeing her life unfold. Her earlier childhood, spent in the woods while her father studied insects is especially vivid, and I wonder how much of Atwood's life is entwined with Elaine's story.

Atwood's writing is wonderful -- she has described masterfully a body of paintings so that I feel as though I have seen the works. The post WWII setting is shown in detail, giving the reader a clear sense of the time.

Wonderful novel.

nov 7, 10:14 am

115. Deep Freeze
This is another satisfying audiobook that continues the story of Virgil Flowers. In this novel, Virgil returns to Trippton, Minnesota, the site of Deadline, which is one of my favorites in the series. Virgil is called away from his vacation to investigate the murder of a forty-year-old bank president. But, his boss also assigns him a side job assisting a private investigator from LA. She is in Trippton to serve cease and desist papers to a Trippton woman who is altering and selling Barbie dolls. Mattel isn't happy.

Some of the characters from Deadline appear again, and as always, Virgil's investigation is entertaining. The audiobook is well done.

nov 7, 10:19 am

What You Need to Be Warm
Neil Gaiman wrote the poem based on what thousands of people told him about home. He gave the poem to the UN HCR, the UN Refugee Agency and it was illustrated by various artists, with the proceeds going to aid refugees. It's a lovely book, illustrated in black, white, and orange. The artists' comments on their inspiration are fascinating. I was happy to contribute to a good cause.

nov 7, 2:51 pm

>123 BLBera: I think I saw a poster about that book two weeks ago when I was in London but did not understand what it was about. This is a heartwarming project.

nov 7, 3:46 pm

I'm glad you had fun at the festival. I went last year and had a great time and am a little jealous of you going this year. I would definitely have loved to see Roz Chast.

nov 7, 4:03 pm

>108 BLBera: I have Fraud my TBR list - I have to read with audio. I won’der how well the short sentences will work out when narrated.

nov 7, 8:36 pm

>124 chlorine: It's worthwhile, I think.

>125 RidgewayGirl: Kay, I am so glad I went. I would have loved to see Chast, but she was on the same time as Viet Thanh Nguyen. Difficult choices.

>126 kjuliff: The chapters are short; it shouldn't matter too much in the audiobook.

nov 8, 5:30 pm

>118 BLBera: That sounds heavenly, Beth! What a great lineup. Who were the LTers you met up with other than Banjo (and Ellen, with whom I went to a Portland meetup at Powell's years ago)?

nov 8, 5:59 pm

>128 labfs39: Berly was the other one. Ellen couldn't make it.

nov 10, 4:53 pm

The Lost Library is an engaging book for young readers that centers on Mortimer the cat; Evan, a fifth grader; and Al, the ghost librarian. When a mini free library appears in the park on Evan's route to school, he is surprised to find that the books are from the library that was destroyed by fire many years ago, and that one of them had been checked out by his father. His father's weird reaction to seeing the book leads Evan to discover that there is a mystery surrounding the library fire, and he becomes determined to find the solution.

I think young readers will enjoy this. The audiobook is well done.

Silence, a story of Catholic missionaries in seventeenth century Japan, raises a lot of questions, not only about the missionaries, but about the nature of faith.

I read this for my book club and it did lead to a good discussion. And while readers did not love the book, they found it interesting. The style reads like a newspaper report, and the first few chapters are written in the first person in the form of letters from Sebastian Rodrigues, one of the missionaries. We get a pretty thorough idea of his fears and doubts. Then, in the middle of the book, the point of view changes to third person.

Some questions raised about the book -- questions about the contrast between Spanish missionaries in South American and the Portuguese missionaries in Japan. Using religion as a colonizing force. The question of what faith is.

nov 12, 1:13 pm

119. The Raging Storm
This third Matthew Venn mystery is well-plotted and another strong entry in the series. The setting is the star here. As one would expect from the author of the Shetland series, Cleeves is a master at description, and her north Devon town of Greystone is windy and stormy and isolated, making me feel as though I were there.

Matthew Venn is called to Greystone to investigate the murder of a famous adventurer, Jeremy Rosco. Rosco is found naked in a boat off Scully Bay in the middle of a storm. From the beginning, Venn is puzzled by the crime, unable to understand why Rosco's body is staged, and who would have motive to kill a man who has been gone from the region for years. The plot is intricate, and I didn't guess the culprit or the motive at all.

I look forward to the next book in this series, and I hope that the second and third books will be televised.

nov 13, 3:19 pm

That sounds like a great time, Beth! And I love what you picked up.

nov 17, 10:28 am

It was really fun, Lisa. And I see that Justin Torres just won the National Book Award for fiction!

nov 18, 6:55 pm

120. Tom Lake
As the pandemic emerges in 2020, Lara Nelson's three grown daughters are back home on their cherry farm in northern Michigan. When her daughters learn that their mother once dated a famous movie star, they ask for the story, and so, as they pick cherries, Lara tells of her summer with a theater company at Tom Lake. She was Emily in Our Town.

I really enjoyed this novel. The way Patchett sets up the story works really well. Lara's girls are the same age she was during her time at Tom Lake, and they can't understand how she could leave acting behind with no regrets. So, besides learning about Lara's past, we learn how our desires and priorities change with time.

nov 18, 7:00 pm

121. System Collapse

Murderbot is still on the planet where it was almost killed in Network Effect, and things are getting more complicated. The B-E
corporation ship has arrived, and Murderbot, along with ART and its crew, are trying to help the colonists avoid being enslaved by the corporation.

Kevin Free returns to do the narration of the audiobook, and this is another entertaining story. And I am not a big science fiction fan!

nov 19, 3:02 am

>135 BLBera: This is the first review I read about System Collapse, thanks!
I'm so glad ART is in it. :)

I think I'll do a full re-read of all the series before getting this one. I'll probably start reading Artifial Condition today or tomorrow to compensate for a bad book I'm currently reading and I'll have the pleasure of meeting ART for the first time all over again. :)

nov 19, 10:49 am

>136 chlorine: ART is great fun, so I am glad it seems to be a part of the ongoing Murderbot story.

nov 19, 11:09 am

>136 chlorine: Snap! I've also decided to do a full re-read before reading System Collapse and started Artificial Condition a couple of days ago before getting side-tracked by other new books.

nov 19, 11:12 am

>100 BLBera: I'm just now starting to catch up on the happenings of CR and your review of The Whalebone Theatre makes it sound like it would be right up my alley so onto the wishlist it goes.

nov 19, 11:22 am

I think The Whalebone Theatre is a great piece of historical fiction, Rhian. I even saved my copy to dip into again.

nov 25, 2:23 pm

122. The House of Doors
I've always admired Somerset Maughm's stories, with their ability to immerse the reader in a certain time and space. The ones that have stuck with me are the ones set in Malaysia. Tan Twan Eng's new novel, The House of Doors has the similar quality -- as I read I inhabited Malaysia in the early 20th century, before WWII.
The novel is reportedly inspired by Maughm's story "The Letter, " which isin turn inspired by a true story. As Maughm says in The Summing Up, "Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can scarcely distinguish one from the other." I always enjoy seeing how artists take inspiration from life or other works and make something new. In this novel, Tan has taken ideas from "The Letter," and made something new.
Most of the story of the novel revolves around Lesley and Robert Hamlyn, who host "Willie" Somerset Maughm for a couple of weeks in 1921 in Penang. While Maughm is visiting, Lesley tells Willie stories about her marriage, about Ethel Proudlock, and about Sun Yat Sen, who also spent time in Penang. These stories show us the cultural divides present in Penang, and the societal restrictions on sex, race, class. They also show us the power of stories, how stories help us remember and make sense of our lives.
Recommended. Now I also want to revisit more of Maughm's work.

nov 25, 3:46 pm

>141 BLBera: I enjoyed your review. I reviewed The House of Doors recently. You can see my review HERE.

I now reading The Other Side of Silence which also tells a story abought Maugham. It’s a good read. Not the calibre of HoD, but worth reading especially for Maugham fans.

nov 25, 6:24 pm

>141 BLBera: I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Loved your review and how you were able to bring in your Maugham reading. I've never read Maugham, but Eng left me wanting to.

nov 25, 8:00 pm

>142 kjuliff: Thanks for the link to your review.

>143 dchaikin: Maughm's stories are amazing.

nov 25, 8:09 pm

>144 BLBera: I think I picked the wrong Maugham. book to start with - Of Human Bondage. It was so long and books I’d been waiting for started coming off hold at my library. But I’m intrigued now and think I’ll start with some of his short stories.

nov 26, 2:54 pm

>145 kjuliff: Hi Kate, I read Of Human Bondage in high school and want to reread. His stories are great. I have a couple of his shorter novels on my shelf as well.

nov 26, 3:09 pm

>146 BLBera: For a novel I was thinking of A Moon and Sixpence as I’ve always been interested in Gauguin. It’s only 7 hours on audio.

nov 27, 8:44 am

>147 kjuliff: That is one I would like to read as well.

nov 27, 8:59 am

123. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
This collection of essays is heartbreaking and really hard to read, yet it is important that these stories be told and witnessed. As I read, I thought about how much we need to change our culture, and how we need to work harder to protect children; many of the writers were raped or assaulted as children by people they should have been able to trust. Any many weren't believed when they told their stories.

It is a good collection with writers who have had a wide variety of experiences. Just prepare yourself; it's not easy reading.

nov 28, 10:01 am

124. Alias Emma
Alias Emma is a thriller that introduces spy Emma Makepeace, and while it is an entertaining read, ultimately it reminds me why thrillers are not my chosen genre. Plot often triumphs over character, and that is certainly the case here. The plot is a familiar one; Emma must get someone to safety, crossing London before morning. The challenge is to avoid the CCTV cameras.

Glass keeps us turning the pages, making for an entertaining read, and fans of thrillers may like this one. So, if you are in the mood for a thriller, it is refreshing to see a woman spy. I probably won't remember much about this in a few months.

nov 28, 10:11 am

I just started a collection of essays by Siri Hustvedt, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women. At 500 pages, it will probably take me into next year. The first section is a collection of essays about art exhibits, but she also is very interested in science and concerned that science and art don't always talk to each other.

A few quotes from the introduction:
"The fragmentation of knowledge is nothing new; but it is safe to say that in the twenty-first century the changes of a genuine conversation among people in different disciplines has diminished rather than increased."

"Two central claims I make in this book are that all knowledge is partial, and no one is untouched by the community of thinkers or researchers in which she or he lives."

"To one degree or another, every person on earth is both a beneficiary and a victim of scientific invention. It does not follow, however, that reading history, philosophy, poetry, and novels or looking at works of visual art or listening to music does not also transform people's lives, both for better and for worse. Although such changes may be less tangible, it does not render them less real or somehow inferior to the effects of technology. We are all creatures of ideas."

I will probably make notes on this collection as I read.

nov 28, 12:54 pm

>151 BLBera: this sounds terrific

>149 BLBera: goodness. These are all personal rape stories? Sounds like seriously rough reading.

nov 30, 12:52 pm

>152 dchaikin: The first two essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women are very good. Hustvedt is so smart, and I love both her essays and her fiction.

Not that Bad was definitely a tough read.

nov 30, 12:57 pm

125. So Late in the Day is a great collection of three stories by Claire Keegan. As far as I am concerned, she can keep writing short stories and novellas forever.

In these stories, she manages to reveal character and show us one moment in his or her life. In "So Late in the Day," we meet Cathal, and though the story is told from his point of view, we get a pretty accurate view of him as he considers various life events. "The Long and Painful Death" provides us with a wonderful, tongue-in-cheek view of the writing process, while "Antarctica" takes a very dark turn.

I love the cover, but it doesn't really reflect the various settings of the stories. Still, it is striking.

Redigerat: nov 30, 1:04 pm

126. Holy Ghost
This is another good audiobook in the Virgil Flowers series. In this one, Virgil goes to the town of Wheatfield, Minnesota, to investigate a shooting. The small town had been dying until a recent sighting of the Virgin Mary in the local Catholic church. Virgil has to discover whether the shootings are related to the sighting and what the motive is. I liked this one because the culprit isn't revealed until close to the end. It kept me guessing.

dec 2, 6:29 pm

Ooh, several short story book bullets taken there. Keep them coming.

dec 2, 7:06 pm

>154 BLBera: Yes the short story Antarctica was a shock for me as all the previous Keegan books I’d read had an edge to them, but were more gentle in overall tone. I read it as part of her Antarctica collection. I think it was the first in that collection and I wondered what I was in for. But the rest of the stories were more her usual style. I did however think that the Antarctica short story was very good, and hope to read more Keegan in that vein.

dec 2, 7:48 pm

>156 AlisonY: I'll do my best, Alison. Jhumpa Lahiri has a new collection of short stories, and I hope to get that from the library soon.

>157 kjuliff: I think I have another Keegan collection. I need to take a look.

dec 2, 9:49 pm

>158 BLBera: Antarctica was my favorite collection, then Walk the Blue Fields. She’s a good short story writer and some of her novels are very short.

Redigerat: dec 2, 10:20 pm

Have you read Small Things Like These and Foster, her novellas? They are just lovely.

dec 3, 3:35 am

>160 BLBera: yes I have. I think I’ve read every piece of fiction she’s written. She’s one of my favorite writers. Very consistent.

dec 7, 9:52 pm

128. Night Watch is really good historical fiction. It's impossible to write a plot summary without spoilers, so I'll just say it follows a group of women affected by losses of the Civil War. The novel moves between 1864 and 1874, and we see the long-term trauma caused by the war. Most of the novel takes place in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a real place. Phillips has done a lot of research, and we see excerpts from Dr. Kirkbride's writing about caring for the mentally ill, as well as photos from the time. The asylum is a monument today.

There are some descriptions of rape really hard to read.

I like the way Phillips reveals character, as we learn more about the pasts of the various characters.