Benita's Big Bad Book Pile 2021

Conversazioni2021 ROOT CHALLENGE

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Benita's Big Bad Book Pile 2021

1benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 25, 6:49pm

Once again I will attempt to rid my shelves of books that have been sitting around for a very long time. I had a super successful year of ROOTing last year due to the extended Covid lockdowns so I surpassed my goal of 60 books and actually read 106 ROOT's last year. I don't think that we will have all of that time at home in the coming year so I am going to keep my goal for 2021 at a sensible level. I am going to aim for 62 ROOTS - books off my shelf - in 2021.

The books I will be reading will be anything purchased or added to my list before December 31, 2020. The eligible books can also be recorded books. I will add titles to this posting when I finish them and a short review below as I get time to write it. I will be leading the La Serenissima & Dordogne mystery read along challenge and will participate in the Non-fiction category challenge led by Suzanne. I will also monitor and participate in the British Author Challenge and the American Author Challenge when I can. Using these challenges was an effective way for me to get books off of my shelves so I am going to continue to use them as a motivation tool in the coming year to move books off my shelves.

I will use this first spot to index my ROOTS for the year.

1. Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner - sound recording - January 2, 2021
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling - sound recording - January 3, 2021
3. Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman - January 10, 2021
4. Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes - January 11, 2021
5. Night Country by Melissa Albert - sound recording - January 17, 2021
6. Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman - January 24, 2021
7. Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - January 26, 2021
8. Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares - January 26, 2021
9. Island of Sea Women by Lisa See - sound recording - February 4, 2021
10. Almost A Woman by Esmeralda Santiago - February 5, 2021
11. Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom by Stephen J. Adler - February 8, 2021
12. Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker - February 12, 2021
13. My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary - February 14, 2021
14. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
15. Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry - sound recording - February 23, 2021
16. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling - sound recording - February 28, 2021
17. Jim Crow's Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision by Peter Irons - March 2, 2021
18. Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker - March 7, 2021
19. Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock - sound recording - March 12, 2021
20. A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell - March 13, 2021
21. By It's Cover by Donna Leon - March 17, 2021
22. Immigrant Architect: Rafael Guastavino and the American Dream by Berta de Miguel - March 18, 2021
23. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem - March 20, 2021
24. Turkish Lover by Esmeralda Santiago - March 22, 2021
25. Travels With Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life by Daniel Klein - March 27, 2021
26. Henna Artist by Alka Joshi - sound recording - March 28, 2021
27. Falling in Love by Donna Leon - April 2, 2021
28. Black Diamond by Martin Walker - April 5, 2021
29. River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon - April 20, 2021
30. Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - sound recording - April 24, 2021
31. Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists by Tony Perrottet - April 25, 2021
32. Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson - April 27, 2021
33. Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - April 30, 2021
34. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - sound recording - May 7, 2021
35. Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan - May 10, 2021
36. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling - sound recording - May 16, 2021
37. Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds by Rachelle Bergstein - May 19, 2021
38. Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes - May 23, 2019
39. Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield - May 28, 2019
40. Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley - sound recording - May 30, 2021
41. Crowded Grave by Martin Walker - May 31, 2021
42. Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson - sound recording - June 6, 2021
43. Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon - June 10, 2021
44. Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Life by Richard Ellis - June 13, 2021
45. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman - sound recording - June 14, 2021
46. French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain - June 17, 2021
47. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - June 22, 2021
48. Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh - sound recording - June 26, 2021
49. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo - June 28, 2021
50. Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo - July 4, 2021
51. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten City by Greg Grandin - July 9,2021
52. Boat People by Sharon Bala - July 15, 2021
53. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough - sound recording - July 21, 2021
54. Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson - July 21, 2021
55. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire - July 23, 2021
56. Builders by Daniel Polansky - July 25, 2021

2connie53
Dic 30, 2020, 7:03am

Hi Benita. Happy ROOTing!

3rabbitprincess
Dic 30, 2020, 8:57am

Welcome back, Benita! Challenges are such a good motivator to get books off the shelves.

4Jackie_K
Dic 30, 2020, 10:33am

Looking forward to seeing what you read this year, Benita. I'm doing the Non-Fic challenge too - Suzanne always picks such interesting categories.

5mstrust
Dic 30, 2020, 12:36pm

Happy ROOTing!

6cyderry
Modificato: Dic 30, 2020, 7:25pm

Yeah! You're here! Good reading in 2021!

What's your goal?

7This-n-That
Dic 30, 2020, 11:10pm

Have an enjoyable year of reading and ROOTing.

8Miss_Moneypenny
Gen 1, 2:10pm

Happy New Year! Glad to see you back!

9benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 4, 11:11am

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner
My first recorded book of last year (2020) was Book 1 - The Thief - in the Queen's Thief series - and it was Book 5 was the first recorded book of the year in 2021. This is a great series. It has complex characters and is full of intricate plot lines and intersecting story arcs. This one is no exception.

The heroes of this story are Costas (who appeared in the previous book of the series) and Kamut, the slave, who appeared in another of the books in this series. In this book Costas is sent to rescue Kamut and bring him back to Attolia so that he can provide valuable intelligence to the King of Attolia and so that he can gain his freedom. How they get back and the tale of the journey makes the book.

Even with all of the right elements in place for a bang up story, this isn't the best in the series. But I am sure that it will grow on me as I find myself already thinking about some of the threads in the book that are unresolved.

The narrator for this series is very good, and I will eagerly listen to the next in the series.

10benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 11, 1:34pm

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
My second recorded book of 2021 was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling. I have never read the Harry Potter series, so I got Book 1 from the library last year and listened to it while driving back to Kansas for Christmas. I decided to continue that tradition with book 2 and so listened to it while driving through rain, sleet, and snow this Christmas. It is entertaining, but I found the writing, plot, and characterization simplistic. It made me wonder why this series was such a hit? It is not nearly the quality of several other children's fantasy series such as the Wrinkle in Time series,Books of Beginning series, or Septimus Heap, which were all written for children of that age.

11MissWatson
Gen 5, 9:11am

Welcome back and happy reading!

12humouress
Gen 9, 7:12am

Happy New Year Benita!

I threatened (on Joe's thread in the 75 Book Challenge group) to follow you if you set up a thread. So, since you have one here, I should stick to my word :0)

13benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 11, 1:32pm

Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
This is a DaVinci Code style thriller for Young Adults. It wasn't that interesting or exciting to read, but I think that is because I did not find the plot to be that original at this point in time. However, if I were a YA reader it would probably be an exciting book to read. It is set in Prague and takes the reader through the history of the Kingdom of Bohemia and Moravia and through some of the major historical sites close to Prague. It does not explain the Hussite Wars and that is a major part of the story.

I read this book because of the Czech connection (my ancestry is almost 100% Czech) and I did find that part interesting. However, I just never could connect with the characters or the plot, so this book fell flat for me. It did have great cover art. The silhouette of the Prague skyline inside the pupil of the eye was outstanding and is very intriguing. Defiantly a hook to get you to read the book.

14humouress
Gen 11, 3:08am

>10 benitastrnad: I noticed what you said about the Harry Potter books on the January thread. I stayed away from it initially because of all the hype but then my husband bought me the fourth book. They are certainly fun but I couldn't work out what made them stand out from other children's fiction but, having come to it after all the hype, I found it difficult to analyse them objectively.

Well, if you work it out, let me know :0)

15Caramellunacy
Gen 11, 6:59am

>13 benitastrnad:
A shame you didn't enjoy the plot - that said, based on the Czech/Prague connection, I may end up picking this up. I very much enjoyed Prague the time I managed to visit and would love to armchair travel there right about now!

16benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 11, 2:51pm

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes

This is a children's book about Rhodes pick of the best classical music out there. He uses accessible language and the style of his writing is ultra withit modern. The illustrations in this book are outstanding. The illustrator has chosen a collage approach. Each page is a patchwork of different pictures and font styles that make a cohesive hodgepodge. The colors used are amazing and very bright and bold and this combined with the mixture of font sizes and styles makes it visually appealing. The text is also appealing and could easily be read aloud. Each composer comes with a playlist of the music the author discusses in the text and the playlist is free on the website given in the book. This would be a great book to use in a classroom. Kids would totally love it.

17benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 19, 11:14am

Night Country by Melissa Albert This is book 2 in the Hazel Wood series. For an sophomore book it is good, but as is generally the case, not as good as the first book in the series. Book 3 will be published later this week and I will read it just to see if it is a return to form or not.

The plot for this novel is split between the world where Alice is living and the world where Ellery lives and all the worlds he explores. Ellery becomes a Traveler, while Alice stays at home where she is embroiled in a series of mysterious murders and becomes the prime suspect. The subplot of this novel is about storytelling and who gets to tell the stories. Does the author get to control the story once it has been created?

I listened to this book, and the narrator does a good job. However, since the novel was told in alternating chapter points-of-view, it probably would have worked better to have two narrators for this book. It works the way it is but it would have been clearer to the listener who was telling what part of the story if there had been two narrators.

18justchris
Gen 19, 2:29am

>10 benitastrnad: I have Thoughts about that. An orphan boy who is unloved by his family, a mysterious destiny, unsuspected magical talents and entre to a whole new magical world? I think most every kid at some point dreams about their family not being their real family, about being special and different. Kinda like playing the lottery and dreaming of being a winner, but for kids. Not to mention the nostalgic cozy those-were-the-days approach to English boarding school tradition. What's not to love? /s

I appreciated the imaginative details of the magical world. And the lovable heroes (and their coming of age/growing up over the course of the series). But the writing was pedestrian at best, and plenty of people have given better critiques than I could of the various bigotries embedded in the text and worldbuilding. The closing postscript of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was terribly schmaltzy, and I really didn't like the info dump climax scene--weak writing from my perspective. I really didn't like that she raises big issues like racial purity/ethnic cleansing, major ongoing oppression and exploitation of other species, slavery, etc and then just hand-waved it all away as unimportant as long as the status quo was restored and "everyone" lived happily ever after.

>16 benitastrnad: Sounds very interesting. I know that classical music as a genre encompases multiple centuries and many countries, with many trends and transformations across all of that, resulting in a very heterogeneous field of work. Yet to me, as a relatively ignorant listener, it feels monolithic. That book sounds like a great antidote to my ignorance.

19benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 25, 10:44am

Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman

I finished reading Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman. I picked this book to read for this month because it won the American Bar Associations Silver Gavel Media Awards back in 2010. This is an award that is given to honor outstanding work by those who help improve comprehension of jurisprudence in the United States. Awards are given to books, news broadcasts, newspaper stories, movies, blogs, etc. Selecting a past winner of this award has been something that I have done for the Nonfiction Challenge for the last three years. Each winner I have read has been worthwile.

I had heard about this book when it was published but the length of it, 513 pages, kept me from reading it. However, the events of the last years and the importance that conservatives have put on getting conservative judges appointed to fill court vacancies made me think that I should do more reading about how the system works and why so many people think it is failing. In short, I wanted to know how we got to now. That led me to this book.

Basically, this book is a history of the US Supreme Court from 1930 to 1960. It is about the judicial philosophies of four Supreme Court Justices. All were appointed by FDR because FDR wanted judges on the court who would advance his political aims. Each of the four men were selected because they had proved themselves valuable to FDR in political ways by finding legal arguments that would advance FDR's New Deal laws. The four justices were, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, and Robert Jackson. Two of the three were Solicitor Generals and then Attorney Generals of the U.S. before they were appointed. Black was a senator from Alabama who was a progressive and had voted to advance New Deal policies while in the Senate. Only one, Frankfurter, was an academic, but he was also heavily entwined in New Deal legislation and in the political inner circle in Washington, D. C. Three of the four men had political aspirations. By that, I mean that three of them wanted to run for President.

Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned was that people serving on the Supreme Court did not see themselves as holding a lifetime appointment. They saw it as a stepping stone to higher office, whereas, we now, tend to see appointment to the Supreme Court as the highest job in the land. For instance, Chief Justice Charles Evens Hughes, was appointed to the Supreme Court twice. Twice. He resigned the first time so that he could run for President in 1916. He was then appointed as Chief Justice in 1930. Also surprising was that, while all of them started out as "liberal" - meaning that they supported New Deal ideas, laws, and initiatives, two of them ended up being judicial conservatives, while two of them became judicial liberals, with one, Douglas becoming more and more liberal due to his emphasis on individual rights over those of the states. Douglas was the only one of the four who was not trained in Eastern establishment law schools. He was from Yakima, Washington, and he laid much of the ground work for environmental laws, even going so far as to say that inanimate objects such as rock and rivers have a right to exist and that these rights shouldn't be ignored.

Lastly, all four of these judges believed that all Supreme Court decisions are political. Politics, for them was inseparable from the interpretation of the law. Justice was a different matter. Politics is personal, and while all four of these men came onto the court with different goals and objectives, they all ended up as judicial enemies. (scorpions, in a bottle - hence the title.). Only Black and Douglas remained on personal speaking terms by the 1950's and even that was tenuious.

I also learned that appointment to the Supreme Court was always a political matter. No president took selecting a judge lightly and always considered their political aims when making a selection. What has changed, is Congress. Congress now is so closely divided that it slows down appointment to judgeships to the extent that it now impedes the ability of the courts to implement and interpret laws. This is why the down ballot elections are as important as is the vote for president. That seems to be something that the present day electorate doesn't seem to understand.

This book was a very accessible academic book. It had extensive notes and indexing, but it read like a story. I would class this book as narrative nonfiction - whatever that is. Anybody who has an interest in history or what's to know how we got to now, should read this book. At times it was engrossing and at times infuriating, but it was always informative, instructive, and, I believe, important and timely.

20benitastrnad
Modificato: Feb 6, 5:51pm

Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
I read this book for my real life discussion group. It is a retelling of the Illiad from the women's point-of-view. The main character in it is Brisies. She is a princess from one of the minor cities that owes allegiance to Troy. It is conquered by Achilles, Odysseus, and Agamemnon. Is sacked and all the women taken into slavery. Brisies is given as a slave to Achilles as a reward for his military prowess.

Barker has written about war before and in fact won a Booker Prize for her trilogy on WWI. She does not stint on details of the bloody act of warfare nor about the post-traumatic effects of all that blood and displacement. She is very good at the details of both of these aspects of war. The point of this book seems to be about the effects of war on the non-combatants who get caught up in war. it becomes the dominating thing in their lives. They are given to men that they don't know, their children ripped from them, and are forced to live and work for these men. They create a camp that is more like a town. They have children and raise them. They produce food and clothing for the men, and nurse them when they have clashes and battles. Eventually, all of the women find a niche and a way of living. They all know that it is a precarious life because at any time the fortunes of war can leave them adrift again.

Our book club chose to read this book because we had read Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller last year and had a very good discussion about it. For me, Silence of the Girls did not have the same spirit as did Achilles. The approach the author took was more traditional, in that men are men and women are possessions and subject to the desires of men no matter if those are sexual or purely questions of dominance. It was very detailed about the life of the women and the world they created, but somehow it lacked the warmth that I wanted in this book. That may have been on purpose so that the author could leave the reader with the feeling of the cold reality of war.

21benitastrnad
Modificato: Gen 26, 2:36pm

Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

I read about this novella on some list somewhere and found that it was reprinted as a New York Review of Books Classic. The Gorgas Library copy was lost so it was automatically requested for me through Inter-Library Loan. The copy came from SUNY - Albany.

This was a strange book. It seemed to be a retelling, or perhaps, the first version of an Island of Dr. Moreou book. It is about the slow disintegration of a person who is in isolation from himself and from others. It was very depressing, but was an original slant on an old tale about the quest for immortality.

24benitastrnad
Modificato: Feb 8, 5:23pm

Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom by Stephen J. Adler

This book was written in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles where all the white officers that beat him were acquited. This happened even though there was video tape evidence that was very clear about what happened, leaving the public dumbfounded about the verdict. This verdict then became a touchpoint for some serious talk about the inadequacies of juries and how the jury system was producing inequities in the judicial system.

Trial by jury is one of the few rights that is specifically named in the American Constitution and it is in danger because judges and lawyers don't think it works very well. Often the American public doesn't think it works well either. The author analysis four different types of trials and walks the reader through them. Social science research is brought into the picture as well as post trial interviews with the jurors. The author lets the reader see what the jurors were thinking and why they voted the way they did. In the end, the conclusion is that the jurors did not fail the system. The judges and lawyers fail the jurors.

The last two chapters of the book are filled with potential solutions to the problem. I ended up marking entire pages with sticky notes. The author proposes that courts should be more jury friendly. Instructions given to the jury should be given at the beginning of the trial rather than the end - that way it would not be so easy for lawyers to confuse jurors and jurors would be able to sift out what is superfluous and concentrate on what is important. Jurors should be allowed to take notes. They should be able to ask Judges questions about points of law.

Perhaps the most important thing the author recommends is that jurors not be excused for mundane reasons. The idea of a jury is to have a cross section of people and that is not happening in the current legal setup. Juries are overwhelmingly made of people who have little education and the research shows that they are easily overwhelmed in a court room setting. Jury rooms should be made more comfortable. Instead of stuffing them into small over crowded anterooms, Juries should have rooms that are nicely appointed and are comfortable with adequate heating, cooling, and ventilation. (Most jury deliberation rooms don't have this.)

In many ways this was an amazing book and should be read by everyone who is a citizen of the U. S. If I ever serve on a jury I will know much more about what my rights as a juror are and will know to ask for the ability to take notes, ask for written transcripts of important testimony, and ask the judge questions about points of law.

I highly recommend this book. It isn't long and it is written in accessible language. The author takes the time to explain legal terms and procedures. Sometimes he even goes back deep into English history to explain judicial customs and law.

25Caramellunacy
Feb 9, 5:17am

>24 benitastrnad: This sounds like a great book! I may have to grab this.

26mstrust
Feb 10, 10:25am

I've been on a jury, just once, but my experience was as pleasant as jury duty could be, and pretty interesting.
We waited for selection in two connecting rooms with comfortable chairs, a tv playing a movie, donuts and coffee, vending machines, water, and lots of people brought books and laptops, so there was a quiet section. Not bad at all. I wouldn't choose to be there, but it wasn't bad.
I was picked for the jury and we deliberated in a comfortable room. We were also allowed to ask questions of the judge through the bailiff, which we did. I wouldn't say that any of my fellow jurors were uneducated anymore than I think they'd describe me that way. The issue we had in deliberating was that two people wanted to disregard the law and the judges instructions and just find the defendant innocent because they felt sorry for him.
If you get on a jury, you'll be treated very well overall. Really, the court staff couldn't have been nicer, because they realize you don't really want to be there but you have to be :-D.

27cyderry
Feb 10, 1:25pm

>24 benitastrnad: Sounds like a very interesting book and I thought I'd try to get it, but it's not at the library, not at B&N, and Amazon only has a used hardback for $143.65! I think I'll have to wait until it can be found for a lower price.

28benitastrnad
Feb 10, 5:29pm

>27 cyderry:
Try Alibris. That is where I got my copy. I haven't looked to see if they still have copies available, but they might. It is an older book - published in 1994, so you shouldn't have to pay so much for it. Alibris.com

29benitastrnad
Modificato: Feb 13, 3:03pm

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

I read this book for the La Serenissima & Dordogne mystery challenge here on Librarything. It is the first in the Bruno Courreges series of police detective mysteries. The mystery group is reading it to contrast with the Guido Brunetti series set in Venice. This series is set in the Dordogne are of France and the life style there is very different from that of Guido. I am not sure if this book is a murder mystery or a food and wine book with a murder mystery thrown in on the side. It was a fun light read and I enjoyed it. In the evenings I found myself wanting to indulge in a bit of Bruno before turning out the light.

Because this is the first book in the series it took the author some time to get the story going, but when he picked up the murder mystery the story moved along much faster. I do appreciate that the author is giving the reader a good picture into the region and the lifestyle of the place. That allows us to live vicariously through Bruno and get to know the place on an intimate level.

The murder mystery is fairly straight forward. It is a revenge killing that harks back to World War II and the issues of collaboration and resistance. In the countryside of France there were many resistance groups supported by different ideological groups. There were also collaborators who provided information to the Germans and to the Vichy French government. This book is about the Resistance and the Vichy French government and their collaborators.

It is also a book about the modern day issues of ethnicity and religion in France. The murder victim is an Algerian Muslim who served in the French Army from 1944 until he retired. The issues of the North African French and their integration into modern France play a part in this novel.

I certainly want to read more about Bruno and the life in the Dordogne. I can't wait for the next one in the series.

30benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 7, 7:53pm

My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary. This was the second memoir of children's author and Newbery winner Beverly Cleary's. I read the first one in 2019 and wanted to read the second, but it wasn't in our library. I ordered a used copy of it from Alibris and it came from a high school in Ohio. I started reading these memoirs because at a Tuscalloosa Wine Club meeting Yamhill, Oregon was the appellation of one of the programs. I recognized the name because I knew that Cleary was from there. In fact the title of her first memoir was Girl From Yamhill.

Part two of her memoirs starts with her leaving home after high school graduation to go to community city college in California. She already knew that she wanted to be a librarian and that she needed to get out of her mother's house. Her Aunt offered to have her stay with them in their home in Southern California so Cleary took them up on the offer. That is where this memoir starts. It follows Cleary from community college in SoCal through her years at Cal-Berkley, then library school at the University of Washington, into her first years as a librarian, and ends with the publication of her first book Henry Huggins. It basically covers the years 1934 - 1955.

After I finished the book, I took the time to look Cleary up in Wikipedia because I didn't recall seeing her obituary in any of the library publications. To my surprise, as of 2021, she is still living. She is now 104 years old and lives in a retirement home in California.

This memoir, like the first, is written for children and is very easy reading. Cleary takes time to explain things that would be different or odd for children to understand when the book was published in 1995 and I appreciate that. I enjoyed the book, but I don't think that children would. I also don't think that modern children would understand how odd it was for a woman to have a professional job and a career back in the 1940's and 1950's. Even odder was the fact that Cleary didn't quit working when she married. Her problems with her mother are universal and I think that many tweens would understand that.

I think this book was written appropriately for her intended audience, but as an adult, I would have liked a bit more meat on it.

31benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 7, 8:05pm

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. I read this book for my real life book discussion group. It will be the subject of our March discussion. Rape seems to be the theme for our book discussion group this year. Rape in the book about Troy and rape in this title.

This book was a frank discussion of the subject of rape. Especially rape in a college or university setting and the link with sports. It was a bit of a surprise as the author makes no attempt to sugar coat the problem and he points out the fact that much of the problem has to do with combing raging hormones with alcohol. A good portion of the book was about the link between the conduct of male sports scholarship recipients, the ranking of the teams - in this case football, and violence, and particular violence against women. Krakauer offers no solution to the problem, he simply exposes it.

The other part of the book is about how these cases are prosecuted and it is clear that he thinks that the county attorney's office had been mishandling rape cases. The police and the prosecutors were not sympathetic to the victims or their families and often placed the blame for the rapes on the victims themselves. He points his writing pen in the direction of one person in particular and according to what is in the book, he is probably correct in his assessment of this person and their willingness to prosecute these cases. In my opinion that is the kind of conduct that needs to stop. It is the same kind of police thinking that has allowed the racial and sexist policing that we currently have to flourish.

There is much food for thought in this book. In particular the link between alcohol and rape. It is clear that the consumption of alcohol by college students is at the root of the problem. It leads them to make poor decisions. It is also clear that to most college age males that women are objects of conquest and should be treated as such. The statistics the author quotes at the beginning of the book are staggering and should be enough to scare parents with college age girls into keeping their daughters at home and out of school.

32benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 7, 8:12pm

Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. I listened to the sound recording of this work of historical fiction. This was a very thought provoking novel for young adults, but it also had some problems. Most YA's don't come into reading a work of historical fiction with enough historical knowledge to make sense of the events portrayed in these novels. That is the problem here. Few YA's know anything about the Albigensian Crusades or about life in the Middle Ages in Southern France. I am glad that Berry wrote this novel and I appreciated what it was trying to do but I am not sure that YA's would do so. I think it might be especially misunderstood or simply ignored in this time in history because religion, and things religious, are looked on with such favor by a large segment of the population.

The story is told by different people with differing points-of view, and most YA's don't have the reading skills set to interpret this kind of writing. I thought it worked well, but I am an exceptional reader. I think that the author wanted to focus on the religious mystical part of the story and on that aspect of Medieval life, but I think that she failed. Medieval mysticism got lost in the shuffle of the story.

I loved the characters and Botella is a remarkable literary creation.

I short, I think this was a good work of historical fiction with a good plot premise but it suffered from confused execution.

33benitastrnad
Mar 1, 12:12am

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling. simple plot with way to much time spent on building backstory. I think these books were so popular because they were so simple and some of the first wave of fantasy for kids. But that is because people with children who would appreciate these books had not read books by Madeline L'Engle or Susan Cooper.

34benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 25, 4:49pm

I finished reading Jim Crow's Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision by Peter Irons and really liked this book. This book was another American Bar Association Silver Gavel winner - in 2003. It deserved the win. It is a powerful book.

Two thirds of the book is a concise history of each of the five school desegregation cases that went to the U. S. Supreme Court in the years 1951 - 1953, the arguments made to the court, and the immediate aftermath of the decision. The last third of the book is devoted to the subsequent decisions made by the Supreme Court in the years 1973 - to the present, and the results of those decisions - resegregated schools. This book was not an eye-opener for me. As an educator I already know the results of these decisions, but it did show a light back to the past illuminating the trail of how we got to now. It is a sad tale.

There are tragic heroes in this book. Thurgood Marshall lived and served long enough on the Court to see all of the work he and other reformers had done come to naught. Nixon is also a tragic hero. Nixon sold the Republican party to the reactionary segregationists of the South and the U. S. is still paying that price. I am not sure that we will every manage to move that rock. Nixon is also a tragic hero - he was so wrong in his philosophy and so right about implementing it.

At the end of this book the author revisits each of the school districts that filed those cases. Only one, has any semblance of an integrated school system. That is the school district in South Carolina where the public high school enrollment resembles the population of the area and the white school is the shabby run-down building with dropping enrollment. The other four schools are resegregated. The author makes the case that the fight over busing is what killed the idea of integration and he delves a bit into the politics of Nixon and Ford and why they would not stand up to the anti-bussing polemists. He also points out that Eisenhower did not make a move to support the court ordered desegregation until he was sure that he had popular support to do so. If some of the Northern states had voiced opposition to what was going on in Little Rock, he would never have ordered troops into the city. In fact, he didn't the first time students tried to enter the school. He waited until he was forced to do so by public opinion.

The author of this book has been criticized in the past for producing poorly written and poorly edited books. I did not find that to be the case with this book. It was very readable with only the last three or four chapters harder to get through due to the dense amount of statistics the author brings to bear on his conclusions.

I am sure that Ronald Regan rued the day that he nominated Sandra O'Conner to the Court, just as Eisenhower did when he appointed Warren as Chief Justice. She wasn't as conservative as Regan thought she was and in the later desegregation cases she found herself squarely in the middle of the Court. In many ways this book backed up what I have thought for a long time - the U. S. Supreme Court had one bright shining moment in the liberal sun while it was under the guideship of Earl Warren, and since the election of Nixon we have been totally in the dark clutches of conservatism. This book, and other reading about the Supreme Court this year, has made me wonder how the judges on the Supreme Court from 1950 to 1970 had the courage to make the decisions that they did? These men were legal and moral giants, who often had feet of clay. Nevertheless, they persisted and we are the better for it.

35benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 15, 11:58am

Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker
This is book two in the Bruno Courreges series and it is as much fun as the first in the series. For a cozy mystery series this one is filled with recipes and descriptions of food and wine enough to make your mouth water. I find myself curious about why so many mysteries are really about food, drink, and culture? Guido Brunetti is overly concerned about food and now Bruno. This series well serves to make people want to go visit the Dordogne region of France.

This second book serves to point out that all is not well with the region. The problem is the same all over the world - the migration of young people to the cities in pursuit of jobs. Well, better jobs. Or what is preserved to be better jobs. People don't seem to understand that you can make a good living being the local plumber, electrician, or tire repair guy. It seems that my little hometown of Munden, Kansas has the same problem as most of the Dordogne. Added to the problems of the Dordogne is the influx of tourists. That is one thing that Kansas doesn't have to deal with. Tourists simply drive right through it on their way to somewhere else. Apparently not true in France.

A second issue that kept coming to my mind as I read this book, was are the British tourists really that wealthy? The book was published in 2009 - well before Bexit and in this book, it is the British who have all the money. The citizens of the French countryside are poor in comparison. This makes me wonder if all countries view their neighbors and partners as being more wealthy than they are?

Both of these questions are cultural questions and perhaps the disguise of a mystery book is a way to explore these problems?

The mystery in this book, was no mystery. It was easy to see who done it about a third of the way through the book. The fun in reading this one, was just in exploring the food and drink that was consumed throughout the pages.

36connie53
Mar 9, 2:40am

Hi Benita. Just popping in to see what you have been reading.

37benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 15, 12:06pm

Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. Sound recording.
I listened to this book and have to say right-off-the-bat, that this was an excellent recorded book. It was done with a cast of characters and each of them got their part in the story right. Great job - Listening Library.

Of course, it helps that the readers had a good plot from which to work and this plot was very good. This is a debut YA novel and the author did an excellent job. On the surface it appears to be just another book about over-wrought teenage angst and rebellion, and it is, but it is dealt with in a realistic manner.

This is also the rare book about indigenous people's in Alaska and the Yukon, and it manages to blend the experiences of teens from both indigenous cultures and white culture in a very realistic manner. I can see why this book was included on the ALA YA Best Books list and was a finalist for the Morris Award. Good job.

38benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 14, 11:37pm

A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell

I really enjoyed A Question of Upbringing. It is one of those books where nothing happens but everything happens and you get a great picture of what this young man's life was like. You can live it right along side of him. This is an excellent example of a descriptive novel at its best.

39Henrik_Madsen
Mar 15, 11:01am

>38 benitastrnad: Nice review. Do you plan to read all of the A Dance to the Music of Time series?

40benitastrnad
Mar 15, 12:07pm

>39 Henrik_Madsen:
eventually. I am in no hurry to do so. I have other series to finish reading first.

41benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 21, 11:52am

By It's Cover by Donna Leon. This is book 23 in the Guido Brunetti series and once again it is a journey into the Venetian world that is truly enjoyable even if it is a murder mystery. This one is set in the world of rare books and a rare book thief. Since the incident described in this book closely parallels one that happened at the University of Alabama Libraries this novel was of special interest. I enjoyed the book, but did find the ending to be rather abrupt. I prefer my books to have some sort of denouement or epilogue.

42benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 28, 12:04pm

Immigrant Architect: Rafael Guastavino and the American Dream by Berta de Miguel. this is a children's picture book that just came into the library. It caught my eye because it was about an architect and I didn't recognize the name. It turns out that this Spanish immigrant and his son (also named Rafael) was the team who did the interior arches of many famous buildings all across the U.S. This is a very interesting book and I hope that someday someone will write an adult biography of these two men. I would love to read it.

43benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 28, 12:11pm

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. I read this book for my real life book discussion group. It is our April 2021 selection. Lionel Essrog is an orphan who was taken in and cared for by a small time Brooklyn Hood. The Hood gets murdered and Lionel sets out to find the murderer and avenge his friends death. He eventually solves the crime but the hook is that Lionel has Tourette's syndrome. This is a compulsion disorder and this disability affects his relationships and his work life.

The strength this story is the descriptions of Tourette's that the author writes and how these compulsions manifest themselves in Lionel's life. He describes what it feels like for Lionel to have to control and tamp down these irresistible urges on a continuous basis. The author also highlights Lionel's coping strategies. At times it can be a bleak picture, but at times it is very hopeful. I don't know which is a bleaker picture - becoming a small time mob player or carrying around the burden of Tourette's all your life. It is also hopeful in that it shows that Lionel is able to function and have a life so all is not completely bleak.

This mystery is very well done.

44benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 22, 4:26pm

Turkish Lover by Esmeralda Santiago

I finished reading the third book in Esmeralda Santiago's series of memoirs - Turkish Lover. I started reading this series of memoirs last year when the lockdown started for the COVID pandemic. The story captured my interest enough that I wanted to read the other two books in the series. Besides, I am a completist and wanted to finish the series. I read the second book in the series last month and decided that while events and people were fresh in my mind I would read the third one for the comfort reads for the LT Nonfiction challenge this month.

The best of the memoirs is the first one. Esmeralda is the most likable and understandable in that first book. For much of the second book she is a spoiled teenaged brat. In this book, she is a wandering woman who can't figure out what she wants and wants other people to get it for her. In the course of reading all three memoirs I kept wanting to shout at her that she should just grow up, everything is not always about you. She whines about how she is discriminated against because she is PuertoRican and yet that very fact has given her the privileges she has - like an education at Harvard.

In this part of her memoir the author is very honest about her relationships and her lack of resolve in figuring out what to do with or about the men in her life and I do admire this honesty. She writes about her longing to return to Puerto Rico and at the very end of this book she does so. This volume takes her from New York City to Lubbock, Texas to Syracuse, New York and finally to Boston. On this journey we get to understand her education - not only from school, but from all the other parts of life in general.

I don't think that there will be another book by this woman, as according to Wikipedia, she had a severe stroke in 2008 that affected her ability to speak and read which has slowed her writing output considerably. Nothing by her has been published since 2011.

The writing in each of the memoirs has been excellent and her honesty about herself and her life is to be applauded. If you want some insight as to the life of new immigrants I highly recommend the first book in the series When I Was Puerto Rican, and maybe that memoir will capture your attention, as it did mine, and inspire you to read the other two memoirs.

45benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 29, 4:13pm

I had started reading Travels With Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life by Daniel Klein. This one is a bit of a cheat for me. I actually started reading it a year ago as part of my personal "short books" challenge. I had gone through my collection and started reading every book I had that was under 200 pages in length. This book is 162 pages. It is not only a short book - it is a little book. By that I mean that the paperback version of it is only atone 5 inches high - so it is more square than rectangular in shape. Quite an attractive package, I must say.

I had read the reviews of this book years ago and they had stayed with me so I expected great things from it. I was disappointed - enough to note that fact, but not enough to say that this was a total waste of time. I think my disappointment stems from the fact that this is more philosophy than travel and I was hoping for the later. Like this author, I harbor thoughts of spending an extended amount of time on Hydra so I wanted to learn something about the island. That is not what this book is about.

This is a work of philosophy. It is an exploration of the thoughts and writings of Epicurus and a few others dealing with old age. In particular how do we deal with Old Age and the impending Old Old Age, as the author has dubbed that stage of life. The author, at the time, he wrote this book in 2012 was 73 years old. He uses the book to expound on the virtues of being retired and having the time to think about things. The time to slow down and Be.

This is the kind of little book a person should keep on the bedside table once they turn 60 years old and refer to it when needed. It helps a person to appreciate the good things about growing old and to learn to let go of those things that were so important at one time, but can turn into bitter burdens in old age.

46benitastrnad
Modificato: Mar 30, 1:00pm

Henna Artist by Alka Joshi I got this book as an ARC at, what is likely to be the last ALA conference. It as the winter conference of 2020 in Philadelphia. The title and cover caught my eye. I am a henna aficionado. There was a time in my life when I got a henna design every year to mark my birthday, so this title intrigued me. Later it was selected as a Reece Witherspoon Book Club selection so I knew it was likely a good book. A month ago, it was suggested as a title for the Travel Book Club to read, and I instantly said that was a title that I wanted to read. It is now on our list. Our public library had the recorded version of the book, so got it and started listening to it.

The recorded version of this book is excellent. The narrator is outstanding. The accent is exotic, but easy to understand. The plot is interesting and has twists and turns that cause the reader to want to shout to Lakmeshi and warn her of what is coming. The writing made me love some characters and hate others. I loved Laksmeshi's patience and willingness to work for what she wanted. I didn't like Radha at all. She was indeed the Bad Luck Girl because she was thoughtless and heedless of how her actions would affect other people. She had it all and threw it away and took others down with her. This book is going on my best of the year list. It is the first work of fiction to do so.

I hope this author continues to write books this good. I will certainly read her next book in hopes that it will be as good as this one was.

47connie53
Modificato: Apr 3, 6:15am

>45 benitastrnad: That sounds really interesting, Benita.

Happy Easter to you and yours!

48benitastrnad
Modificato: Apr 4, 9:31pm

Falling in Love by Donna Leon. This mystery novel returns to the scene of the first novel in the Guido Brunetti series (24 books before this one). The scene is the Teatro La Fience with the object of the murder mystery the same Opera singer featured in the first novel. This novel tells the reader more about the importance of opera to the city of Venice while still containing a good mystery. This is another good entry in this series.

49benitastrnad
Modificato: Apr 26, 2:34pm

Black Diamond by Martin Walker. This is the third book in the Bruno, Chief of Police mystery series. I read this one for the LT Mystery series challenge I host. This year it is titled La Serenissima and Dordogne Challenge. This entry in the Bruno series have food at its center. It's about truffles and illegal immigration from China into France using the Vietnam connection, because the French are easy to fool and think that all Asian looking people are Vietnamese.

As with all the Bruno books, history is important. In this case it is the French ties to Vietnam and Algeria. Since many French confuse Vietnamese and Chinese the Chinese people smugglers use this to promote and encourage Chinese to illegally immigrate to France, and through the EU agreements, from there to the rest of Europe. This mystery is more complicated than the previous books in this series and it is clear that Walker is growing as an author. He is getting past the introduction of his character and setting and moving into more intricate plots.

The best part of this book is the description of the truffle industry in France. There are detailed descriptions of truffle hunting and selling and the development of truffle plantations. The author outlines how trees in the French forests are being inoculated so that they will can be hosts to truffles. This practice started in the 1960's and has enabled France to meet the worldwide demand for this very expensive gourmet ingredient. The problem is the more they produce the more the demand grows. This part of the novel turned out to be the Red Herring in the plot but I wish it could have been the major ingredient in the plot because I found this ingredient fascinating.

50benitastrnad
Modificato: Apr 26, 4:10pm

River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon. Is it travelogue? Is it environmental essay? Is it reconstruction of historical journeys in the same vein as Kon Tiki? That is the question. The answer is that this book is all of those things.

This was a long book about a long journey. Due to the episodic nature of the book it did not feel like it was a extraordinarily long book. It was so easy to read because each of the episodes was basically one days travel, which made it easy to pick up and read for a few minutes and then put down and come back to at a later time.

Basically, the book is about a 16 week journey that the author took starting from New York City's Hudson River all the way across the northern part of the U.S. by water. There was only about 25 miles of the journey that the author could not do by some sort of boat. Of course, he had many dams he had to portage around, but most of the journey was accomplished on his boat named Nikawa. Nikawa translates to River Horse in the Osage language, hence the name of the book.

The author started planning the trip about 2 years before he and one trusted friend, who he names Pilotis, made the journey. The first step was planning the route down to each days travel. The next step was finding the boat. It had to be a shallow draft boat due to the depth of the waters in the upper Missouri. He found the boat, purchased it and was ready to make the trip.

The book was written in short episodic style journal entries that made it easy to read. It was a true travelogue in that it traced the journey from beginning to end pretty much through these daily entries. He also brought in history and historical accounts of others trips across the continent - everybody from Henry Hudson to Prince Maximillian and Karl Bodmer the painter in 1832. At times he would vent his frustration with the crazy riverine and riparian laws that abound in the U.S., and these often were very good environmental essays about the state of affairs in many parts of the U.S. This left him plenty of room to write commentary on the state of the land, w water, and wildlife los seen, or not, along the way. The author turned out to be a powerful advocate for rivers, wildlife, and keeping things natural that includes demolishing dams and restoring rivers to a natural stream flow.

51benitastrnad
Modificato: Apr 26, 12:58pm

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This is the way to end a series. It has a bang up huge big battle for the climax and then a long quiet denouement, plus epilogue, that allows the reader to find peace with the ending. Of course, I would expect nothing less from an author who spent twenty-fiver years writing the series. All that thought and planning counts. It makes a cohesive story that flows from book to book, even though the books are not all about the same person. It makes it easy for the reader to get caught up in the larger story and see the plot in a cinematic way.

The Narrator for this series has been excellent. He adds to the character and flavor of the novels. For me he is a good part of the reason why I like this series so much. I hope to hear more from him in the future.

I also hope that Turner writes more books that are so thoughtfully planned and executed as this series has been. It has just enough fantasy that it instills belief in the reader who can let go of convention and step outside themselves for a short time. It also sounds plausible and realistic and historically possible - if Greeks had guns at Thermopylae. A reader can't go wrong reading this series. It has action heroes and heroines in spades and is well written to boot.

52benitastrnad
Modificato: Apr 25, 10:36pm

Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists by Tony Perrottet. This turned out to be a combination of modern and ancient travelogue. Perrottet stumbled across and account of Marcus Aggrippa's huge map of the ancient world on which all the great tourist sites of the ancients were laid out and he was fascinated. He started looking at the ancient accounts of travelers from the Roman world, in particular the travel account written by Pausanias. It is the only ancient guidebook that has survived to the present day.

At first the author and his wife intended to follow Pausanias's route through Greece and end their trip with that. They started out in Rome and then traveled to all the major tourist sites in Greece that were mentioned in Pausanias. Of course, that led them to Turkey and the Greek cities of Ephesus, Pergamum, and Symrna. Once there it was on to Troy and from there the trail led to the greatest of all Roman holiday trips - Egypt. The last third of the book was about the Roman fascination with Egypt and how wrong the Romans got the history and religion of Egypt. It turns out that the Romans were fascinated by the funerary customs of Egypt along with their mummification rites. They were also enthralled with the worship of Sobek - the crocodile god. The Egyptians had created an entire city devoted to this cult in the Faiyum Oasis. The city was named Crocodilopolis and was one of the must see's on the Roman tourist list for Egypt. The author says that the Egyptian priests had developed tourist spectacle to rival those found in Las Vegas hotels. His description of the place made it seem to be an impossibility - but it wasn't.

The author states clearly at the end of the book that this work was not intended to be a scholarly account. Nevertheless he takes great pains to quote from Roman and Greek authors from the Pax Romana and his has an extensive timeline and source list. He also has a glossary of Who's Who at the end of the book.

This was not the more scholarly type of travel book that I was expecting. It is a rather light hearted take on ancient tourism and what is left of those sites for the modern traveler. Some of the places are changed beyond recognition and some are simply not there anymore due to the active geology of the Mediterranean and the desertification of parts of Egypt.

53Caramellunacy
Apr 26, 5:19am

>52 benitastrnad: That sounds like a fun project - and also lovely armchair traveling.

54humouress
Apr 26, 3:17pm

>52 benitastrnad: >53 Caramellunacy: It does sound like fun; I'm almost tempted.

55benitastrnad
Modificato: Maggio 3, 12:08pm

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
This book had the misfortune to be published about the same time as another book about the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky and I think that resulted in both books losing a reading audience. I have not read the second novel yet, but plan to do so, and can make a better comparison of the two at that time.

I liked this novel, but thought it had a very very abrupt ending. I like novels to have a denouement that lets the reader know what happened to the characters and they are then able to make their own inferences about why the characters ended up that way. This novel didn't do that. It went directly from the big climatic scene to a short denouement that didn't seem to fit the events as related at the end of the novel. In short, I didn't think that the ending fit with the novel.

The other problem I had with this book was that I don't think that the author had a clear idea of what she wanted to write about. Was it the beginning of the independent woman? Cussy Mary had a domineering father who didn't want her to work and thought her salvation would be in having a husband. Cussy Mary didn't think so. Cussy Mary had a domineering father who didn't want her to work because it hurt his pride and implied that he couldn't provide for her. Was that what this novel was about? Was her father trying to keep her honor intact making this a book about forcing women to bear the burden of family honor? Was it about her weak and feeble attempts to break free of this life through her employment? It appeared to me that she was the main bread winner in the family. The pay the librarians received was enough for Queenie and her family to live off of, so was this a novel about Cussy Mary's failure to move out and life on her own since she had her own income? The reader never knows because the author never really lets the reader see into Cussy Mary's head. This doesn't make sense to me as a reader, because we already know that Cussy Mary is a woman of gumption simply because she went out and got a job in order to help. If she had that much fortitude her constant giving in to her father don't make much sense. This leaves the reader confused as to Cussy Mary's motivations.

Cussy Mary worked with a bunch of traditional minded women who saw their salvation in marrying well. Was this a novel about a bunch of jealous harpies? Was it a novel about a bunch of narrow minded people full of prejudices since the preacher and the townspeople all had their hatred so deeply embedded? Was it a novel about men wanting to throw their superior power around using rape as a weapon?

Cussy Mary was colored. In this case colored meant she was born with a congenital defect. Was it a Helen Keller type fairy tale/allegory? Was it a fable about the evils of vanity?

This was also a novel about how desperately poor this area of Kentucky was with deaths from disease caused by malnutrition. Was this a fine example of misery porn? And we can't forget that woven into this was the fight for coal miner's rights and the repression of unions.

Lastly, was this a novel about prejudice? Since Cussy Mary was colored and the rules of employment in the WPA forced some hiring of minorities it brought about a kind of change that the citizens of that part of Kentucky were unwilling to accept.

Buried within all of these conflicts that were a reflection of daily life in Eastern Kentucky but the problem is that for the reader it all got overwhelmed in the larger story. I am usually an advocate for editing and tighter plot lines and writing, but in this case I think this book could have benefited from more explanation and a more well rounded backstory and ending. I would not have minded if this book had had another 25 -50 pages. I think this was a fine novel that will bring home to people why Robert Kennedy's visit to Eastern Kentucky 40 years after the events of this book was such a transformative experience for him. I can imagine that the area had hardly changed in those 40 years. It is also a way to explore the roots of the very deeply intrenched attitudes of the people in this region of the U.S.

The author succeeds in drawing a picture of the severe poverty endemic to the area. She also shows the severe ignorance that is the result of poverty of education as well as of the means of living and she did it with compassionate finesse.

56benitastrnad
Maggio 1, 10:32am

Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I finished reading this 2018 Newbery Honor book and I wonder why this was so highly regarded in 2018? I don't think this story is going to age well. It is basically a retelling of a medieval tale and the motivations of the characters is not clear. Modern children are going to have a hard time relating to the belief system of that time and will regard this book as a fantasy rather than medieval morality play. Teachers will have to do too much work to set the stage for the story and in the end it probably won't be worth it. In the end I think that teachers, parents, and children reading it will give up on it. I think this is a Newbery clunker.

57cyderry
Maggio 1, 12:48pm

>55 benitastrnad: anxious to hear your opinion.

58connie53
Maggio 3, 7:46am

>57 cyderry: That sounds really interesting, Benita.

59benitastrnad
Maggio 8, 2:59pm

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. This is book 4 in the author's Grishaverse books. It is not a part of the earlier trilogy. It is the first in a duology. At this point in time McLure Library has 10 titles by this author in the collection and 9 of them are checked out. I think that is because the Netflix TV series has proved to be popular. I hope it is a testament to the stories and the world that Bardugo created, as I enjoyed the first three books she wrote and so far her output shows no sign of slowing.

I wasn't sure that I liked this book when I started reading it. It is set in a different place in the Grishaverse with totally different characters and few hooks to the previous three books. However, about halfway through the book, things took off and I was hooked. I do think that there is far too much back story in this novel and some parts of that backstory could have waited for another book because they caused this novel to drag. This was a fun read and ended up being part steampunk, part magical fantasy, and all action. Fun stuff!

60connie53
Maggio 9, 8:00am

I need to read something by Leigh Bardugo soon. I've heard many good things about them. I have 8 of her books on the digital shelves. So maybe sometime this year.

61benitastrnad
Maggio 9, 2:56pm

>60 connie53:
I would start with book 1 in the Greishaverse which is Shadow and Bone. I think it works best to read them in the order they were published. I know that the Netflix series is blending the books together so that the timelines mesh but it would be impossible to read them that way.

62benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 2, 12:36pm

Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
I have had this book on my shelves since I joined LT back in 2008. I have read other books by him in the meantime, but this one just never sang to me loudly enough to get my attention. I decided it was time to read it since the May nonfiction challenge topic as Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. This book fit into the vegetable category. (just in case you were wondering.)

This book made quite a splash when it was released and it caused me to dish out the money to buy the paperback at an ALA conference sometime in the early 00's of this millennia when it came out in that format. The book proposes some intriguing ideas about evolution and co-evolution of both plants and humans. He asks the question who is using who and comes up with some very different answers that what was accepted in the past. Pollan looks at four different plants and examines how they evolved to meet the needs of the humans who bred them and thus altered them, but how this proved to be as advantageous to the plants as it was to the humans. The four plants were the apple, tulip. marijuana, and the potato. Each plant has become more successful because of its involvement with humans, while the humans, in turn, have exploited them as well,

The author also focuses in on the specific quality of each plant that caused it to be desired by humans and led humans to artificially select genes for this trait that alter the plants significantly. That quality in apples was sweetness, tulips was beauty, marijuana was intoxication, and potato was control.

This was an excellent book with complex ideas about biology and philosophy intertwined and explained in an easy to read manner.

63benitastrnad
Maggio 17, 1:56pm

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Ho-hum. I listened to the Jim Dale recorded version of this book while driving back to Kansas. I had hopes that the quality of the series would improve with the more writing that the author did. It improved - in length, but little else. This book could have used a steely and determined editorial pen. Neither were in evidence in this book. The author simply spends too much time explaining EVERYTHING! This book could have been 200 pages shorter with a better editor. Plot was overwrought and the writing style was simplistic. Good children's book. Good narrator - if exaggerated at times, but enough that I stayed with it and didn't ditch it halfway across Missoury.

64cyderry
Maggio 17, 2:09pm

>63 benitastrnad: I know it was long, but many the details in the book are important for the future.

65benitastrnad
Modificato: Maggio 17, 2:48pm

>64 cyderry:
I hope that is the case. I think that the problem is that I took too long to read these. They are old hat by now and very cliched. Sort of like reading Jane Eyre. The book itself has become a trope. However, part of the reason why I waited to read/listen to these was the fact that they are so long. It is the same problem I have with the Outlander series. I read the first 5 and every time I look at the new ones I really don't want to invest that much time in them - so they sit there. I suspect this will be my last Harry Potter because I just don't want to invest the time in the books because they just get longer.

66cyderry
Maggio 17, 6:57pm

>65 benitastrnad: I felt that way about the Outlander series and I only read the first one!

67benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 11, 1:12pm

Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds by Rachelle Bergstein
I read this book for the LT Non-Fiction Challenge. The May topic was Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. This was for the Mineral category.

I enjoyed most of this book. I think it is more of a history of the diamond industry than it is a biography so I think the title is misleading. It is a good overview of the world of diamonds and full of fascinating information. I was surprised to learn how prevalent synthetic diamonds are and how afraid of it many of the traditional gem dealers are. The part about the diamond mines in Australia was also of interest. I had no idea that Australia was such a huge producer of gem quality diamonds.

This is a short book. The book was formatted in a large type with lots of white space between lines. I think the publisher was trying to make this look like it was a more substantial book than it really was.

The copy of the book Brilliance and Fire I have has 375 pages total in it. However, about 100 pages of it is notes and index. That tells me that the book is documented extensively, and along with the formatting led me to the conclusion that some of this was an attempt to make the book seem like it was a more substantial work than the content contains. I do think that there is value in this book, as the tidbits of information about various diamonds, gem dealers, and jewelry designers was very interesting. In short, this is a good lead-in for those who want to know more about the connections between jewelry, culture, and politics.

68benitastrnad
Modificato: Maggio 23, 11:39pm

Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

I finished reading Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. It is a totally different book than Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. If you liked Book Woman, I would say that you are going to like Giver as well. They have totally different plots. Giver emphasizes the lives of the women who live in that part of Kentucky and the building of the coal miners unions. It is a more traditional story about the "good" librarians standing up to and fighting the "evil" coal mine owners. It is filled with interesting characters and even though the plot is straightforward it kept me interested. I became fully invested in the characters, so I can say that it is just as good as Book Woman - just with a different slant. Giver is a longer book - by about 100 pages, but I think well written. If you liked Book Woman, I would say that you are going to like Giver as well.

I think it is unfortunate that both books were published in the same year and about the same time. Readers would have a tendency to think that they would be plotted about the same way. That isn't the case. Both books are really good reads. Some might say that Book Woman is "misery porn" in that it is one of those books that features an exotic rare disease or medical condition, but even though it is the bleaker of the two novels I think it is a good read. Giver is classified as "women's fiction" and not nearly as bleak as Book Woman. Both labels work against the novels as they both are good books and illustrate the problems with labeling, tagging, genrifying, or classifying books. Sometimes those tags are erroneous or exclusionary in that they cause people to overlook books that might be great reads for them.

69benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 13, 11:32pm

Mauve: How One Man Invented A Color That Changed The World by Simon Garfield I read this book for the LT Non-Fiction Challenge. The June topic is Discoveries and this book is all about discovery. I took this book home with me and had time to get started on it early. It is a book that has only 250 pages with about 20 pages of references and notes, so it didn't take long to read once I started.

This is a book that a former Associate Dean at the UA Libraries read back in the early 00's and recommended it to me. I put it on my list and then forgot about it. I dug it out of my title list for the Non-fiction Challenge. William Perkin is the English chemist who discovered in 1859 that coal tar could be synthesized to make a dye that produced the color mauve. What he discovered was how to make synthetic dye's and this discovery changed the world by giving us "better living through chemistry." It was the first time that chemistry was used to discover a commercial consumer product and once the process of experimentation and documentation of the different trails of experiments was proven to be able to produce useful products the second stage of the industrial revolution began. At first Perkin was reviled by many chemists because he became a rich man due to his invention, and after he established the factory to produce the mauve dye, his dye gave him the financial means to spend the rest of his life doing purely experiment research chemistry. His invention allowed him to be a "gentleman" (or in this case a peer because he was Knighted for his discovery) chemist which was seen as being a more noble thing the doing chemistry for financial gain.

This book was copyrighted in 2000 and it seemed a bit dated. It is not narrative nonfiction. It is more on the scholarly side of the reading scale, but it was informative and I understand why my friend wanted me to read it back in 2004-5.

70benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 11, 1:28pm

Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

This is the last book in the Flavia DeLuce series. Or so Bradley says. He is retiring and won't write any more. I listened to the recorded version and, as always, Jayne Entwhistle is perfect for reading this series. This is a fine way to end the series. More of the same except that Flavia is growing up and maturing. It shows in the story. She is becoming more responsible, but it is clear that the heavy lifting of investigation is done by Dogger. Flavia is more the chronicler in this novel. It was a very entertaining way to pass the miles.

71benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 11, 1:34pm

Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

This was another good entry in the Bruno, Chief of Police series. I am reading this series for the LT Mystery Read-Along and it is the August book. These are so much fun to read that I am reading ahead. This entry in the series deals with the prehistoric caves located in the Dordogne region. Of course, there is a murder that is associated with an archeological dig in the area and Bruno gets involved. The mystery itself takes some surprising turns and while it does deal with terrorism it also deals with the mixed ethnicity of the area. This time it is Basque combined with the left-over resentments from WWII. It all makes for a really good mystery full of food, love, and culture.

72benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 6, 11:56pm

Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson

I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it right on the heels of the first three books in the Girl of Fire and Thorns series. But since this is a new release and I read that series years ago, this has to do. Fortunately, this book is almost a stand-alone so it imperative to have read the original trilogy. Even so, I kept trying to figure out the connections to the earlier story and couldn't so just gave up and listened with pleasure to the unfolding story on its won merits.

73benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 15, 10:20pm

Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon

I took some time and looked back on some of the things I had written about the Guido Brunetti series when I first started reading them and I have to say that after 25, and still counting, novels I am feeling much more generous to Ms. Leon and her fictional creation. I am coming to like Guido much more than I did when I first started reading these books. Perhaps he has become the "comfortable old shoe?"

In this mystery once again we find Guido manipulating his boss and investigating a cold case that turns into a new murder case when one of the people who has information about the cold case is murdered. It is also interesting reading about what Guido is reading and what moral and ethical dilemmas that he and his friends find themselves involved in while doing battle against the forces of corruption. And, of course, there is always Venice. And the food of Venice.

74benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 17, 12:10pm

Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Life by Richard Ellis

I read this for the June category in the LT Nonfiction Challenge here on LT. The category was Discoveries. This book was all about discoveries - especially those in the last hundred years. The book was published in 2005 and there are parts of it that are dated, but still it is worth the time spent to read its 220 informative pages.

This book was chocked full of all kinds of information about marine life of all kinds. It read like an encyclopedia, but a very well written encyclopedia. It is even formatted like an encyclopedia with double columns just as encyclopedias had. Each chapter was short enough to make reading the dense text pleasurable and informative without being boring, but long enough to be a quick survey of the topic. It is perfect for an overview of the subject but not so long that it got boring or too academic.

It was also a blunt book, in that the author simply says at the end that marine life at all levels of the food chain are on the edge of extinction. He warns that fin fisheries are unlikely to ever recover, so the world's oceans will NOT be the source of protein now or in the future. The author does a great job of making people who eat fish feel guilty about eating anything that comes from the ocean except for farmed fish. I eat at Long John Silver's once a year and I think it is time for me to end that practice. I am feeling a bit self-righteous about eating fish. I stoped eating fish, except for one day a year, after I read Mark Kurlansky's book on Cod almost 20 years ago.

75benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 24, 7:34pm

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

I went to bed a bit early last night and finished listening to Vincent and Theo before I went to sleep. The narrator of this book did an excellent job. I was impressed with this book. It was written for a Young Adult audience so it is not the definitive work on Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. It is a biography of their lives as brothers, so it doesn't center on Vincent's art, but rather on art as a way of life for both brothers. The subject of the mental illness in the family is dealt with honestly and openly as is the fact that Theo died from syphilis. YA readers are going to have questions about both the mental illness and the sexually transmitted disease so teachers or parents are probably going to get questions about both and should be prepared to deal with them. This is a good look at the Belle Epoch Parisian art scene. I learned much about the Van Gogh family. For instance, they were middle class and all fo the children in the family received good educations. Vincent Van Gogh was fluent in three languages - Dutch, English, and French. In many ways it was a remarkable family and it is that family life that was centered on in this book. I can understand why this book was highly recognized by the ALA when it came out. It is a sensitive portrait of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother and how that relationship was the defining relationship in Vincent's life.

It was a very well done YA biography. This book was a Prinz Honor Award winner and that is highly unusual for a work of nonfiction. It is a biography of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh told through the letters that they sent to each other. Unfortunately, we only have the letters from Vincent to Theo. Those from Theo to Vincent were lost after Vincent's death. What we have is due to the diligent preservation efforts of Theo's wife. It is a different perspective on the lives of the two brothers and well worth the time to read it.

76benitastrnad
Modificato: Giu 17, 12:04pm

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain
The books by this author are so much fun. They are on the borderline of humor, romance, and chick lit. They are also short and so they are a form of mind candy for me. There is lots in these books that deal with French culture and life. This book is set in the present but is about a group of people who in the 1980's were members of a rock band in the mode of Eurthymics, etc. They had made a recording and submitted it to a record company. 33 years later the letter telling the band members to contact the record company finally arrives at the address of one of the band members. This sets off a search to contact all of the members of the band and the reader finds out what has happened to each one of the members in the subsquent years. It is a fun ride. The book is full of laugh-out-loud spots while at the same time skewring the French political and cultural scene getting digs in at everything from art to politics. Great fun to read.

77humouress
Giu 18, 12:16am

>76 benitastrnad: Darn - book-bulleted. The library doesn't have French Rhapsody but it does have The President's Hat.

78benitastrnad
Giu 18, 1:54pm

>76 benitastrnad:
The President's Hat is a good one. It is the first one of Laurain's books I read. It is a short book, but so much fun. I am sure you will enjoy reading it.

79MissWatson
Giu 22, 6:29am

>76 benitastrnad: Sounds like a perfect summer read...

80benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 1, 6:20pm

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This is book 5 in the Grishaverse and like all of the books this one is a great magical adventure. It is a long book at 550 pages, but it is full of grand adventure. This book takes up where Six of Crows left off and continues the story of Kaz Brekker and his crew of misfits and thieves. All of the main characters are flawed but the reader ends up hoping that all of them will work through their various problems and that they will beat the bastards at their own game. Great fun.

81benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 1, 7:19pm

Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

I listened to this book and I love the narrator - Nancy Wu. I would listen to this woman read anything. She is great. The book takes up the story of Mariko where the first book - Flame in the Mist - left off. The duology is set in a fictional kingdom that resembles feudal Japan. It is full of swords and sorcerers, adventure, and characters with which you can relate. There is some ambiguity in the story and that allows the readers imagination to wander. That's to the good. Another good YA fantasy novel from this author.

82benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 1, 7:25pm

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

This is book 6 in the Grishaverse and like the others it is a great magical adventure ride. The author returns the story to Ravka and the Grisha and their king. The king is damaged due to his encounter with the Darkling in the original trilogy. Now the readers get to find out what happens to him and his crew as they try to rule and keep Ravka free. There are lots of twists and turns in this first book and I can't wait to read the second in Nikoli's story. I hope that the author continues to write about this world as there are many great stories to be told. Telling the back stories in a separate novel would help to cut the excessive length of these books. This one clocked in at 550 pages and took me a solid week to read. Like so many of these series books, as the series progresses the length does too. It would seem logical that the publisher would cut the size of the book instead of letting the author continue to increase the number of pages. This leads to bloated stories and this one was on the verge of a bloated novel.

83connie53
Lug 5, 7:10am

Hi Benita! Trying to visit all ROOTers threads on this rather rainy day. You may have read on my thread about Peet's situation. I was so busy with hospital visits and other stuff I only took time to post on my own thread. I see you have been reading a few by Leigh Bardugo I'm now reading Het negende huis and liking, not loving it. That may be caused by the fact that I don't read a lot on my reader but love to read my own paper books!

I hope you are doing fine!

84benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 6, 6:55pm

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

I am almost finished with this series. This is book 7 in the Grishaverse and it was a bang up ending with a lead-in to the next book in the series. I will probably read the new book when it comes out because all of these books are great good rides. They are full of excitement, adventure, and interesting characters. This entry in the series was a good way to end the story of Nikolai and his quest to be King of Ravka. The novel had plenty of plot twists and had a bang up ending with a denouement that I liked - even if it was a lead-in to the next entry in the series. I am reassured that there will be another book in the Grishaverse series. I highly recommend these books to people who like to read YA fantasy.

Like the previous book Rule of Wolves suffered from excessive story lines resulting in a novel that is 608 pages when it could have been 500. There was too much back story and too many characters and it is easy to see that all of this leads to more and more pages that are superfluous. The author could tell the various backstories in other entries in the series and not junk up the main story lines of the current book if they did that.

85benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 9, 6:17pm

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin

I confess that I started this book a month ago because it was the July reading selection for my real life book discussion group, but then I realized that it would fit into this category. I found this book interesting but also frustrating. It was interesting because it was about building the ideal town and farm. Henry Ford had some very Transcendental philosophical ideas and he used them as the basis for designing and building a town and farm on a tributary of the Amazon River that would provide rubber for his cars. He thought that the company would gain a steady supply of rubber while bringing civilization to the dark region of the Amazon. In 1927 Ford Motor Company started building the rubber plantation named Fordlandia to meet those diverse needs. The story of that effort was very interesting.

The book was frustrating in that it was really not that interesting to read. The historical event was filled with fascinating historical characters, not the least of whom was Henry Ford himself, but none of these people came alive in the story. The author had an interesting story to tell, but he kept the tone academic and this made the reading of it stilted and wooden. It just dragged in many places. At times it seemed like a borderline screed about the foibles and folly of Henry Ford, his obsessions with an idealized village life, his misbegotten ideas about the evils of labor unions, his insistence on transplanting Midwestern styles and values, and most of all, his invention of the impersonal industrialized factory worker. As a reader I felt that the author kept beating the same drum over and over and the effect was to make the book boring in many places. The Epilogue was a fascinating essay and succeed in getting my attention and keeping it even though it said the same thing about Henry Ford and Fordism that the author had been saying for the 350 previous pages.

The book has so many interesting pieces and parts that I don't want to say it was totaling boring, but I wish that the author had spent more time on these pieces and parts and less time on how Henry Ford kept making the same decrees and sending forth his edicts and giving the reader the philosophical background on each one, over and over.

So, least I make the same mistake, I will say, that it is an amazing story and one that has much in it on many many levels. It is totally worthwhile reading, but it isn't a work of nonfiction that is going to keep you reading far into the night because it is impossible to put down. This book can be put down and the danger in this might be that you won't pick it back up. You should.

86benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 15, 3:34pm

Boat People by Sharon Bala

I finished Boat People by Sharon Bala late last night and this one was easily my best work of fiction for this year. This book was the 2019 Harper Lee Legal Fiction Award winner. That award is given yearly by the University of Alabama Law School to the work of fiction that best depicts lawyers at work. This novel is about the MV Sun Sea Incident that took place in 2010 in British Columbia (Canada). That was an old merchant ship that had almost 500 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees on board. The Canadians allowed the refugees to land and then kept them in detention while the case for declaring them political refugees was adjudicated. This novel was heart rending and insightful and looked at both sides of the issue of immigration. There were large sections of it that outlined in detail the reasons for the fear that dangerous criminals and political radicals were on the ship. It took years to sort out the mess because so many of the refugees had no identification and could not establish their identities beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt. This novel excelled at explaining how the Canadian system of adjudication works and how these refugees fit into the larger scheme of Canadian immigration throughout history. It was easy to see how this novel won the Harper Lee Award because of this detailed by interesting explanation.

This book is my real life discussion group book for August. The reason we selected it is because we are living in Alabama and wanted to support the Harper Lee Award. I hope that other LT'ers will read it because it is just a darn good book. While it does make political statements about immigration, it is just a darn good book. Bala won several Canadian awards but I think LT'ers should read it because it is a Darn Good Book!

87benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 21, 2:36pm

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Why do people like books about crazy people? Especially books about weird crazy people? This book is about an obsessive person in love with another obsessive person. Add in drug addiction, and a creepy supernatural element and you have the makings of a fine movie - unh, book. I have discovered that I am not a big fan of the unreliable narrator type of mystery and I certainly don't like psychological thrillers. They do creep me out to a degree but this one wasn't that surprising in its plot twists and turns. I have figured out most of the plot about a third of the way into the book, and even the slightly creepy ending didn't surprise me as I had that figured out as well. This book is a very popular psychological thriller and I am having some trouble understanding why. I rated this book as average, but many people rate it much higher. Oh well - on to the next book.

I listened to this book and the narration was very good. It as done with a cast of readers and I enjoyed listening to both of the female narrators. They made a rather mediocre book tolerable.

90benitastrnad
Modificato: Lug 25, 6:58pm

Builders by Daniel Polansky
This book is part of my "short books project." I started this last year before I was locked in at home. The idea was to read the short books or novellas that were being published by Tor.com (since morphed into Tordotcom) I had learned about these books at the summer ALA conference from the year before and decided to read as many of them as I could. When I got locked down I expanded the project and started picking up other novellas. This is one of the Tordotcom books that we had in the library. It turned out to be a fun read. The author uses animals in the place of humans and in so doing he can play around with all of the spaghetti western tropes that can be imagined. I says he was inspired by the work of Sam Peckinpah and it shows. The use of animals as characters enables the author to play off of the animal traits and strengths and this allows the reader to visiualize Clint Eastwood as - a mouse? Who would have thought? It seems super silly but it works. Lots of blood and guts - but it works.