rosalita ROOTs around in 2021 - page 4

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Conversazioni2021 ROOT CHALLENGE

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rosalita ROOTs around in 2021 - page 4

Modificato: Giu 3, 11:49am

My name’s Julia, and I have too many books. Well, that’s not really possible but it’s fair to say I have too many books I haven’t read yet. Last year was my first year in the ROOTs group, and my goal was to read 36 books off my own shelves. I ended up reading 52, so that’s a win. I’ve upped my goal to 48 books this year, just 4 per month. We’ll see how that goes.

One of the problems with reading my own books is that I forget what I have. I hope the graphic at the top of this thread will help to guide my reading each month, although I’m not committing to following it exactly.

That’s enough of the blather — on to the books!

Modificato: Giu 29, 4:33pm

ROOTs read in 2021

1. Blue Heaven by C. J. Box.
2. The Silent Pool by Patricia Wentworth
3. Banker by Dick Francis.
4. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
5. The Silver Music Box by Mina Baites.
6. The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur
7. *Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball by Scott Simon.

8. *This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf.
9. Olive, Mabel & Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs by Andrew Cotter.
10. Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King.
11. Echoes by Maeve Binchy.
12. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.
13. Passing by Nella Larsen.

14. * The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline.
15. A Fatal Lie by Charles Todd.
16. * Long Bright River by Liz Moore.
17. The Father Hunt by Rex Stout.
18. The Benevent Treasure by Patricia Wentworth.
19. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout.
20. Odds Against by Dick Francis.
21. Quentins by Maeve Binchy.
22. The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot by Robert Arthur.

23. * Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne.
24. * Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey. DNF.
25. *The Cactus League by Emily Nemens
26. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
27. The Cost of These Dreams by Wright Thompson.
28. Poison in the Pen by Patricia Wentworth.

29. The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths.
30. The Survivors by Jane Harper.
31. *The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue.
32. Bonecrack by Dick Francis.
33. Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson.
34. *The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis.
35. *Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.
36. *The Duke & I by Julia Quinn.
37. A Keeper by Graham Norton.
38. A Perfect Storm, Christmas Past, The Battersea Barricades (three short stories) by Jodi Taylor.

39. The Chessmen by Peter May.
40. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson.
41. While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams.
42. Brighton by Michael Harvey. DNF.
43. Death of an Art Collector by Robert Goldsborough.
44. Murder in E Minor by Robert Goldsborough.
45. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King.

Modificato: Giu 29, 4:46pm

New acquisitions in 2021

1. West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (free ebook/Amazon Prime First Reads)
2. The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice (free ebook/Amazon Prime First Reads)
3. Fear of Food: A history of Why We Worry About What we Eat by Harvey Levenstein (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
✔︎ 4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (free audiobook/
5. Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)
6. They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
✔︎ 7. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (public domain ebook/Project Gutenberg)
✔︎ 8. Passing by Nella Larsen ($3.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 9. The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Wright Thompson ($4.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 10. Echoes by Maeve Binchy ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
11. Zone One by Colson Whitehead ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
12. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (paperback gift from Beth)

13. Afterthoughts 2.0 by Lawrence Block ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 14. A Fatal Lie by Charles Todd. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
15. Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
16. Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

17. The Safe House by Christophe Boltanski (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
✔︎ 18. The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths. ($12.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 19. The Lost Man by Jane Harper ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 20. Spring by Ali Smith ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 21. Quentins by Maeve Binchy ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

22. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 23. Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 24. The Chessmen by Peter May ($6.99 ebook/Kobo)
25. There There by Tommy Orange ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
26. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 27. Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson ($3.20 ebook/Kobo)
28. Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory by Martha Wells ($1.06 ebook/Kobo)

29. How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland ($2.99 ebook/Belt Publishing)
30. Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology by Martha Bayne ($2.99 ebook/Belt Publishing)
31. Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook by Martha Bayne ($8.01 paperback/Belt Publishing)
32. Red State Blues: Stories from Midwestern Life on the Left by Martha Bayne ($3.00 ebook/Belt Publishing)
✔︎ 33. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
34. Overlander: Bikepacking Coast to Coast Across the Heart of the Highlands by Alan Brown (free (redeemed VIP points/Kobo)
35. Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 36. Death of an Art Collector by Robert Goldsborough ($2.88 ebook/Kobo)
37. The Dragon's Teeth by Ellery Queen ($1.92 ebook/Kobo)
38. The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen ($2.88 ebook/Kobo)
39. A Writer Prepares by Lawrence Block ($7.48 ebook/Kobo)
40. Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. ($2.13 ebook/Kobo)
41. The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths. ($16.04 ebook/Kobo)

Note: ✔︎ indicates books that I have read, either this year or previously.

Modificato: Giu 3, 11:59am

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Modificato: Giu 3, 11:59am

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Modificato: Maggio 30, 12:08pm

Tentative May reading plans

2021 Read Your Bookshelf Challenge (May = A book geared towards children/middle grade) — well, this is convenient. The next entry in my re-read of The Three Investigators series, The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy, should fit well here.

TIOLI challenges
Deferred until later in the month when I have a handle on what I’m actually reading.

Shared reads

Library books
✔︎ The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis (I wanted to read this before watching the Netflix series)
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (I realized when McMurtry died recently that I’d never read his most iconic book)

Started in in a previous month
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (American history)
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (thanks, Beth!)

Other possibilities
✔︎ The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (historical fiction)
✔︎ The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths (mystery/Harbinder Kaur series 2/2)
✔︎ The Survivors by Jane Harper (mystery/suspense)

That’s 8 books, a more realistic goal I hope I can exceed.

Modificato: Maggio 3, 4:59pm

Well, apparently touchstones are pitching a hissy fit today, and only work in posts that start with the number 6 or some dang thing.

Anyway, welcome to my new thread. If you enjoyed that bit of petulant whining, you'll love it here!

Maggio 3, 5:27pm

Happy new thread!
I do enjoy a bit of whining, thanks!

Maggio 3, 5:42pm

>8 mstrust: Ha! Thanks, Jennifer.

Maggio 3, 7:34pm

Happy new thread, Julia!

Maggio 3, 8:29pm

>10 bell7: Thanks, Mary!

Maggio 4, 3:31am

Happy New Thread, Julia!

Maggio 4, 4:53am

Happy new thread, Julia!

Maggio 4, 7:01am

Morning, Julia! Happy new one!

Maggio 4, 7:10am

>12 connie53: >13 MissWatson: >14 scaifea: Thanks, Connie, Birgit and Amber! Happy to have you here.

Maggio 4, 8:54am

Morning, Julia, and happy new one!

I hope you love Lonesome Dove.

Maggio 4, 10:10am

>16 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! I feel confident I will love it — I enjoy Western lit quite a bit. I have no explanation for how I managed to miss reading this one for so long.

Maggio 4, 2:23pm

Happy new one!
(I've still not read Lonesome Dove. I'm attributing that to not being from the US, so not getting the memo.)

Maggio 4, 2:56pm

I haven't read LD yet, either. I chalk it up to convincing myself that I don't like westerns, despite the statistical evidence, which suggests that I've loved probably about 90% of the westerns I've read...

Maggio 4, 3:09pm

>18 charl08: Well, now you have the memo so get cracking, Charlotte! ;-)

>19 scaifea: Hmmm. Sounds like your attitude toward Westerns is similarly flawed as your attitude toward books about war, Amber ...

Maggio 4, 5:15pm

>20 rosalita: Exactly so, Julia, and I think they're both from the same source: I do indeed despise western and war movies. *shudder* But books are clearly different than movies (shocking revelation in these parts, I know).

Maggio 4, 6:44pm

>21 scaifea: Books different than movies, you say? That's just crazy talk.

Maggio 4, 7:27pm

Happy new one, Julia. I am waiting to get The Postscript Murders from the library. There's quite a list.

I haven't read LD either.

Maggio 4, 8:51pm

And a 5-star read for your latest completed book!? Always a good thing :)

Maggio 5, 7:39am

>23 BLBera: Hi, Beth. Ella Griffiths is on a short list of authors whose books I will actually buy when they come out, because I don't want to wait to read them. I think you'll like this one — it's good.

>24 LovingLit: Howdy, Megan. Jane Harper is just so good — highly recommended if you haven't read anything by her. I described her to a RL friend as "the Australian Tana French" — writers of mystery/suspense books whose writing is several cuts above the usual.

Maggio 5, 9:50am

Hi Julia, and happy new thread.

May's already an excellent reading month for you, I see.

Maggio 5, 6:19pm

Happy new one, Julia! I loved Lonesome Dove when I read it several years ago, despite my not loving to read westerns.

Maggio 6, 7:26am

>27 Crazymamie: I'm glad to get your endorsement of Lonesome Dove, Mamie!

Maggio 6, 3:59pm

I'm falling so far behind in writing reviews ... focus, Julia!

Maggio 6, 4:05pm

*taps foot*

*checks watch*

Modificato: Maggio 6, 6:17pm

Seriously, no wonder they try to eat us.

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • What I Left Out: Sharkpedo — Mary Roach is one of my very favorite writers. I first started reading her in the late 1970s in a magazine called Hippocrates, and she’s gone on to write a series of hilariously information science-based books since, such as Bonk, Stiff and Gulp. Another of those was Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. This article is a bit of fascinating info that she couldn’t fit into the book, about the U.S. Navy experimenting to see if it would be practical to use sharks as bomb-delivery systems. No, really. (via Undark)

  • Miscellany No. 90: @#$%*, Or, the Grawlix — And now we all know what you call that cluster of special characters used to substitute for a profanity. Or do we? They may more properly be called maledicta or perhaps obscenicons. Typography is fun. (via Shady Characters)

And in the real world:
  • Microsoft Is Changing the Default Office Font and Wants Your Help to Pick a New One — Look, I’d prefer to never have to use Microsoft Office again, but as long as I have a job in a Windows-loving world I submit. There’s nothing wrong with the current default font, Calibri, but if ever there was a company imbued with the spirit of “If it’s fixed, break it” it’s Microsoft. Anyway, my vote is for Tenorite or Grandview; though Skeena is the most appealing to me typographically it’s probably not suitable for long documents. (via The Verge)

  • I hope he washed his hands ...

  • Caterpillar Wars: Time to Pick Sides in Battle of Colin v Cuthbert — You might think a Swiss cake roll decorated to look like a caterpillar is an obvious enough design not to arouse possessive feelings, but you’d be wrong. That said, I am prepared to vote for whichever caterpillar cake arrives first on my doorstep (PM me for my postal address). (via The Guardian)

Maggio 6, 4:13pm

>31 rosalita: - I vote for Tenorite.

Now I'm off to buy a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls!

Maggio 6, 4:17pm

>32 katiekrug: I think you're right on Tenorite — Grandview is unobjectionable but bland.

And a great big YES! to Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls — I used to be a snob and only eat real Hostess Ho-Ho's but ever since Interstate Bakery went bankrupt and someone else bought the Hostess brand, you just can't get a good ho-ho when you need it. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Maggio 6, 4:19pm

You and your fancy Latin....

LD SCRs have been my favorite since childhood. I have a very specific way of eating them and WOE UNTO ANYONE WHO DARES MOCK ME. The Wayne learned this early.

Maggio 6, 4:37pm

>34 katiekrug: I always nibble the chocolate coating off, then eat the outer cake layer, then the layer of creme, repeat steps until gone.

But I'm sure your way is good, too. ;-)

Maggio 6, 4:51pm


Maggio 6, 4:58pm

>35 rosalita: - Step 1) Remove plastic overwrap, BUT NOT cardboard bottom. 2) Gingerly separate one roll from the other, being careful not to break chocolate shell on either. 3) Remove chocolate "rib" from bottom seam of roll and eat. 4) Unwrap chocolate shell from cake and eat. 5) Unroll cake. 6) Lick off cream. 7) Eat cake. 8) Pick up second roll and consume - as is - in 2 (3, if you are dainty) bites.

You can also reverse the order if you are too impatient to get the first taste of that chemical-chocolate-creamy goodness.

You're welcome.

Maggio 6, 5:02pm

>36 Jackie_K: Have you done a taste comparison, Jackie? I assume the M&S cake is superior but I want someone to conduct a proper taste test. And not just Colin and Cuthbert; apparently every supermarket chain has their own caterpillar cake. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Modificato: Maggio 6, 6:04pm

There is an *awful* lot of Latin getting thrown around and why wasn't I invited?! (I don't like maledicta as the proper term because dicta would more accurately refer to spoken, not written, (aka typed, I guess) words.)

Charlie is a *huge* fan of all things Little Debbie, but especially their brownies. I love the little 'fruit' pies (I'm not convinced there's actually any real fruit in them).

And I like Tenorite and Grandview, too.

Maggio 6, 6:19pm

>39 scaifea: I knew I could count on you to keep us on the true Latin path, Amber! Good point about maledicta that I would never have considered. I do like obscenicons, though. I'm glad you are joining Katie and I on #TeamTenorite. Have a LD "fruit" pie to celebrate!

Maggio 6, 8:20pm

I've never had a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll, but I have to take treats to my creative writing class next week, and they have to be individually wrapped, so I'm thinking it might be a good time to try. I did love Twinkies when I was a kid, but I haven't had one in years. Do they still make them?

I love Mary Roach. Bonk is one of the funniest books I've ever read. I got to meet her a few years ago.

Modificato: Maggio 7, 7:55am

>41 BLBera: Twinkies still exist, Beth, but just like Ho Ho's and Ding Dongs, they are not the same under new management. I will look forward to hearing your reaction to the LD!

So glad you are also a Mary Roach fan. She has a new book coming out soon: Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, about wildlife police.

Maggio 7, 9:03am

Hi Julia!

I love Little Debbie Christmas Trees, Easter Basket Cakes, and Nutty Bars.

The thing I noticed about the Cuthbert packaging is that it says Serves 12. Twelve?

Maggio 7, 9:04am

>43 karenmarie: Oooh, yes, the Nutty Bars are impossible to resist.

Maggio 7, 9:15am

>43 karenmarie: Hi Karen! How could I have forgotten about Nutty Bars?! I do think they might be my favorite.

Maybe Cuthbert serves 12 not-very-hungry six-year-olds? Certainly not any 12 adults that I know!

Maggio 7, 9:16am

>44 scaifea: Right?! Can't believe they didn't come up sooner. One thing about ordering groceries online is that I am much less tempted by snacky things, since I have to deliberately navigate to that page on the website instead of having a stack of them staring me in the face at the end of an aisle. Probably a good thing ...

Maggio 7, 9:48am

>46 rosalita: I...specifically navigate to that page every week. I could blame it on having a Charlie, but he doesn't eat the Nutty Bars and somehow they still manage to get ordered...

Maggio 7, 9:52am

So apparently I need to try a Nutty Bar. They never appealed to me when I could have Swiss Cake Rolls, but I feel I *may* be missing out... :)

Maggio 7, 10:00am

>47 scaifea: It must be so handy to have other people in the house to blame for the empty box of crackers being put back in the cupboard, and the sweets ending up in the cart! :-)

>48 katiekrug: I do think you owe it to yourself to try a Nutty Bar. FOR SCIENCE.

Maggio 7, 10:04am

You make a compelling argument.

Maggio 7, 11:09am

>43 karenmarie: >44 scaifea:, Nutty Bars are incredible and I am particularly partial to the Oatmeal Creme Pies as well.

Maggio 7, 11:23am

>49 rosalita: *snork!* YEP.

>50 katiekrug: FOR. SCIENCE.

>51 Caramellunacy: Oh, YES, we keep well stocked in Oatmeal Creme Pies, too!

Maggio 7, 12:01pm

Happy Friday, Julia! I love the discussion going on here. Twinkies always make me think of me Dad - he loved them, and my Mom used to buy them for his lunch. He would eat one at work, and leave the second in his lunch pail for me "to clean out". My mom did not know about this arrangement.

Craig and the kids love Nutty Bars - they have gotten MUCH smaller over the years. My own favorite is the Oatmeal Creme Pies. I used to love Ding Dongs the best, but sadly they do not taste the same since they stopped wrapping them in the foil wrappers. A few Christmases ago, the girls gave me a box of Ding Dongs which they had opened and removed from the clear plastic wrappers and hand wrapped in foil for me. This is true love, pure and unadulterated.

Maggio 7, 12:07pm

Now, I want to go and buy all of these and try them -- for science of course. I had a mom who baked and kept us supplied with cookies, so I never had the privilege of eating these things growing up.

Maggio 7, 12:15pm

>53 Crazymamie: - SO true about the foil-wrapped DIng Dongs being better than the plastic-wrapped ones, Mamie. And I love what the girls did for you as a gift.

Anyone else a fan of Drake's Devil Dogs? I remember loving those...

Modificato: Maggio 7, 12:57pm

>53 Crazymamie: What a sweet Twinkie memory, Mamie! Ding Dongs and the other Hostess treats don't taste the same since the new company took over the names. The chocolate isn't nearly as chocolatey, sadly.

>54 BLBera: Poor Beth, forced to eat homemade cookies. I weep for your deprived childhood. :-D

>55 katiekrug: I think Devil Dogs are an East Coast/Southeast thing, nowhere to be found in the Midwest or beyond. I remember having them when we lived on Long Island — they were great. Just like Tastykakes, dammit.

Maggio 7, 12:59pm

>55 katiekrug: Right?! My girls are da Bomb. Have you ever seen The Closer - the main character loves all this stuff we are talking about and she has a scene where she eats a Ding Dong at the end of the first episode in season one which is so fabulous.

I have never heard of Drake's Devil Dogs. Please to explain.

Maggio 7, 1:04pm

>57 Crazymamie: I deeply envied Brenda's snack drawer on The Closer.

Maggio 7, 1:09pm

>57 Crazymamie: - I haven't seen The Closer, but I may have to check it out :)

Devil Dogs are two long cakes with cream in between. Simplicity itself. Important to have cold milk on hand to have with it...

Maggio 7, 1:15pm

>58 Caramellunacy: Me, too!

>59 katiekrug: We love The Closer - especially the first season, which has a perfect story arc with the finale coming back on the pilot episode in such an awesome way.

OH! I missed out growing up - I think I would have loved those Devil Dogs.

Maggio 7, 3:52pm

>38 rosalita: I haven't done a strict Colin/Cuthbert taste test, BUT everything I've had from M&S that's been made of chocolate has been lovely, and every chocolate thing I've tried from Aldi really hasn't been lovely at all. I mean, I'd do a taste test to take one for the team, but I'm happy enough with my experience to date to come out for Colin. In fact it's my birthday next month, and I'm going to ask for a Colin cake.

Waitrose's caterpillar cake is called Cecil. Because of course it is.

Maggio 7, 4:27pm

>61 Jackie_K: I am very picky about my chocolate, Jackie, so I suspect I would come down on the side of Colin as well. Happy early birthday, and I hope you enjoy your Colin cake!

Maggio 7, 4:38pm

There's a fun thread over in the Book Talk group:
Name a book you irrevocably associate with a particular time and place in your life, that even rereading it cannot shake, and tell us your story. Maybe it's just one image, maybe it has no relation to the book's contents, but now you can't think of that title without the memory coming with it.

There are some really interesting responses, and I couldn't resist adding my own. Perhaps some of you will be inspired to add your own!

Maggio 7, 5:18pm

You've never seen "The Closer"? You must watch it. It is one of my favorite series ever.

Maggio 7, 5:20pm

>56 rosalita: Yes, Julia, I knew you would feel for me. I did buy some Little Debbies treats to take to my class and tried a Swiss Roll. Sorry, I think it's something you have to eat when you're a kid. I bought samples of the others as well. I'll try those in the coming days.

Maggio 8, 3:56am

Nearly all British supermarkets have their own versions of the Caterpillar cake so I don't know why M&S have picked on Aldi. I read a taste/quality comparison of them all and neither M&S or Aldi came out top

Here it is by Which

Maggio 8, 8:43am

Hi Julia!

The problem with Little Debbie products is that they are on the end caps. I can frequently avoid going down some of the middle aisles, and usually resist looking at the cookies if I need to go down that aisle for crackers (except for the once-or-twice-a-year Double Stuf Oreos breakdown), but I always see the LD stuff even if I don’t always get some.

I remember when Hostess Cupcakes were 8 cents for a package of two. And they tasted soooo good.

>57 Crazymamie: Her love of sweets is a pleasure to watch. Bill’s recording the series on our DVR to watch again. Have you watched Major Crimes, the spin-off series? There’s one episode where there is still a drawer-full of her sweets.

>63 rosalita: Thanks for the link!

Maggio 8, 2:57pm

>66 CDVicarage: Thanks for the link, Kerry. I wondered why they chose Aldi to pick on as well, but I read a comment somewhere that it's because it's a German company? Seems unlikely but what do I know?

>67 karenmarie: Yes, the endcap products are the most dangerous, Karen! And two thumbs up for Double Stuf Oreos. We are sisters in snack, I think. :-)

Maggio 10, 11:11am

So I may have bought a package of Nutty Bars yesterday, and inhaled them in the car while driving home from the gas station/convenience store.

Maggio 10, 11:38am

Atta girl, Katie! Based on your choice of the verb "inhaled," I gather you found them to your liking?

Maggio 10, 11:45am


Maggio 10, 12:11pm

(I'm having an oatmeal creme pie while cruising LT right now...)

Maggio 10, 12:21pm

Growing up on the West Coast, we had Hostess, but we also had Dolly Madison, which looked very similar but was slightly cheaper. Didn't matter for me anyway because my mother didn't buy us lovely things like that. We had a cabinet full of vitamins and rustic whole wheat bread. To get something good I had to go to my friend Brenda's house. She once accused me of going to her house to play just because her mom would always give me a Ding Dong :-D.

Maggio 10, 3:09pm

>72 scaifea: Look at Amber with her fancy oatmeal crème pie! :-)

>73 mstrust: I think I have seen Dolly Madison here in Iowa, but not back in New York unless I'm misremembering. I grew up in a completely lawless household where junk food, soda and white bread were the coin of the realm — sadly for my adult eating habits. And I'm sure your friend was perfectly lovely but who wouldn't go where the Ding Dongs are?!

Maggio 10, 8:01pm

Hi Julia. Are we still on for tomorrow?

Maggio 10, 9:17pm

>75 BLBera: As far as I know.

Modificato: Maggio 12, 6:22pm

The spirit of FDR is alive and well in President Biden’s
policies and his workspace.

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • The Troubles Are Not the North’s Only Story — Look, I love Adrian McKinty and I know lots of you do, too. His series of crime fiction featuring Catholic cop Sean Duffy facing suspicion from both sides of the sectarian line in 1980s Belfast is terrific. But this article makes a convincing case that there’s some great fiction coming out of Northern Ireland that isn’t just about crime generally or The Troubles, specifically. Apologies in advance for adding to your TBR pile. (via The Irish Times)

  • Free and Liberated Ebooks, Carefully Produced For the True Book Lover — I appreciate the venerable Project Gutenberg, which has been digitizing books in the public domain for 40-odd years. But the typography and formatting of their works is barebones, to say the least. Enter Standard Ebooks, which takes books from PG and other sources of (legally) free books and formats and typesets them in a way that takes advantage of modern technology. In addition to offering the books, they are always looking for volunteers to help with proofreading, formatting, and other tasks to whip the books into shape. (via Standard Ebooks)

And in the real world:
  • The Art in the Oval Office Tells a Story. Here’s How to See It. — For those who may not know, the Oval Office is the US President’s primary workspace in the White House. Each president can choose what artwork, wallpaper, furniture coverings, etc. that they want to have. This article is one of my favorite kinds: Behind-the-scenes logistics on what works of art Joe Biden chose and why, in comparison with his predecessors’ choices through the years. The graphic design of this article makes my heart sing with its clever use of overlay photography and other little stylistic choices that make the comparing easy and fun. This one ticks all the boxes for me. (via The New York Times)

  • Essay: Unmothering — I’m coming to this a bit late because Mother’s Day in the US has come and gone, but I really appreciated viewing the “childfree by choice” dynamic through the eyes of a woman of color. I am definitely not anti-children, but I am anti-having children because that’s what society expects you to do. I hope no one confuses this with not valuing mothers, because it’s the very opposite of that. (via Feminist Giant)

Maggio 11, 2:49pm

I also really enjoyed that NYT piece on the Oval Office. I should probably read "Unmothering" given my very strong feelings on the subject...

Maggio 11, 2:59pm

>78 katiekrug: It was really interesting, Katie. The author is Egyptian and she writes in the context of coming from a culture where motherhood is very much the default for women, who have little or no role in life otherwise.

Maggio 11, 3:00pm

>79 rosalita: - Just finished it. I appreciated the unique (to me) perspective, but also how some things cross cultural barriers.

Maggio 11, 3:08pm

>80 katiekrug: Yes, well said. Plus ça change and all that.

Maggio 11, 5:23pm

How great that ebooks are being cleaned up.

Maggio 11, 5:30pm

>77 rosalita: Thanks for the Ebooks link, Julia. I had seen these covers appearing in LT and wondered where they were from! I shall be making full use of this site.

Maggio 11, 5:31pm

>82 BLBera: I agree, Beth! Some of the Project Gutenberg ones can be pretty poorly formatted, with no table of contents or chapter breaks. Actually, come to think of it, some of the ebooks I've paid money for are pretty poorly formatted. It's always obvious when a publisher has just run Optical Character Recognition on a printed page to generate an electronic file -- you get weird words popping up out of nowhere because the software confuses 'ru' with 'n' and so on. It's really annoying to pay for poor quality work.

Modificato: Maggio 11, 5:34pm

>83 CDVicarage: The covers I've seen so far are lovely! I need to do some browsing and see what they've got. I have a number of public domain books on my wishlist.

Maggio 12, 3:37am

>77 rosalita: Thank you for that link!

Maggio 12, 7:54am

>86 MissWatson: You're very welcome, Birgit.

Maggio 12, 9:07am

Hi Julia!

>68 rosalita: Sisters in snack… I’m happy with that.

>69 katiekrug: Go Katie!

>73 mstrust: Yup, west coast, Hostess. My Little Debbie addiction is because I live in NC.

>77 rosalita: The Art in the Oval Office Tells a Story is absolutely fascinating. I loved it!

Maggio 12, 9:45am

Hi Karen!

I've scrolled through that Oval Office story multiple times just to look at the pictures. It's really fascinating to see how things changed over the years.

Maggio 12, 3:34pm

I got an email yesterday from Belt Publishing about their spring sale, where everything in their store is half off. You can see the results up in the May acquisitions list in >5 rosalita:

Maggio 12, 6:04pm

>77 rosalita: Hi Julia, I stopped by this morning and got so caught up in the links you provided that I forgot to pop back over and say hello. Hi and thanks for the enlightenment. Loved the Times piece and how it was done.

Maggio 12, 6:24pm

>91 Copperskye: That happens to me all the time, Joanne — I follow a link from somewhere and that leads me to somewhere else and before I know it I've forgotten to go back to the original page! In fact, that's how I get a lot of the links I post. :-)

I'm glad you and others enjoy the links. It's nice to be able to share the interesting stuff I stumble on with other people.

Maggio 16, 5:36am

Hi Julia, Happy Sunday to you!

Maggio 16, 7:54am

>93 connie53: Thanks, Connie! I hope your weekend was a good one as well.

Maggio 17, 9:37am

The new season is nigh! I've come to wish you good luck. I've been dumped back into Rundle B, so I understand if you can't speak to me anymore. Oh, the shame of it!

Maggio 17, 2:39pm

>95 katiekrug: Oh, carp! I just realized I didn't submit this morning — thanks for reminding me. I played in two MiniLeagues this offseason and the last one just ended Thursday, so I was not at all in new-season mode. But I'm happy to mingle with the masses in steerage BRundle. (I'm hoping this is the season I get myself demoted, too.)

Maggio 18, 5:04pm

”Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not
they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • Why I Am Deleting Goodreads and Maybe You Should, Too — Hoo boy, here’s a loaded topic. I know there are strong feelings about That Other Site, and that’s OK. I have had a GR account in the past, but I deleted it a while back because keeping up with tracking my reading on two sites was too time consuming and let’s face it, there are more interesting people over here. Even so, I think this author’s problem with Goodreads is largely of her own making — you don’t like turning reading into a competition? Then don’t! No one makes you participate in reading challenges on either GR or LT, and who are you to tell other people they shouldn't enjoy reading challenges, anyway? I was happy to see that LibraryThing got a fair amount of love in the comments, so take that, Goodreads! (via The Guardian)

  • 12 Most Addictive Books of 2021 (So Far) — The books in this Kirkus Reviews list are a mix of genres, many of which were previously completely unknown to me. Apologies, again, for possibly adding to your TBR pile. (via Kirkus Reviews)

And in the real world:
  • Flat Pasta That Turns Into 3-D Shapes—Just Add Boiling Water — I can’t decide whether the proper reaction to this story is “Wow, cool!” or “Get thee away from me, Satan!” Generally speaking, any article with a subhead of “The engineers are in the kitchen, again” should be read very, very gingerly. (via The New York Times)

  • The Jean War Between Millennials and Gen Z Cannot Be Won — I am neither a millennial nor Gen Z, having been born at the very tail end of the baby boom, but my vote goes to Gen Z. Down with skinny-legged, low-rise jeans forever! (via The Washington Post)

Maggio 19, 7:47am

The GR article was, as you said, a problem of the author. Most of the comments I looked at agreed.

Thanks for another book list! Actually, I only added a couple to my list. I had read a couple and already had another couple on my list.

Hi Julia. Thanks for the links.

Maggio 19, 8:17am

>98 BLBera: Thanks for visiting, Beth. I'm glad you found some new books for your list — I'd hate to see you run out of things to read. :-) I always struggle with lists of current books because I am so seldom reading books when they are first published.

Maggio 19, 8:25am

I like GR for the tracking and I revel in crossing Books Read off my list. Not stressful for me at all. So yeah, I agree that it's the author's fault and not the site's. I don't really converse with anyone over there, though - all the cool kids are over here.

Also, low-rise jeans are the devil in denim form.

Maggio 19, 8:55am

This made me laugh: "Generally speaking, any article with a subhead of “The engineers are in the kitchen, again” should be read very, very gingerly."

The Wayne is an engineer who loves to cook. It can be frightening...

I have a GR account and I enter the books I've read there, but that's all I do on the site. I find it annoying to navigate...

Low-rise jeans are The Devil, but I do like - and will continue to wear - my skinny jeans.

Maggio 19, 9:18am

>100 scaifea: All the cool kids *are* over here, Amber. There are definitely some reading-tracking features of Goodreads that I would love to see implemented here at LT, though. Maybe once the redesign/recoding is done, they will consider some of those.

Maggio 19, 9:19am

>101 katiekrug: Ha! I promise I was *not* thinking of The Wayne when I wrote that, Katie! That pasta was just freaky to me.

Maggio 19, 7:39pm

I checked out your links and remembered to say hi!

I have a GR account because some family members are there but I really only use it to enter my books as I read them. And I like when it tells me I'm a book or two ahead with my reading challenge. Some of the reviews and questions about books read can be pretty entertaining (and dumb). And yes to skinny jeans and hell no to low rise. No one likes a muffin top.

Maggio 19, 10:45pm

Demographically I am a millennial, but I too despise low-rise jeans. Both these and short tops (not necessarily crop tops, but tops that were designed with short torsos) were popular when I was in high school. Terrible combination. I spent pretty much all of high school trying not to raise my arms over my head :-/

Maggio 20, 1:32am

>31 rosalita: re: fonts...our office reports are all in Open Sans Light, and I love it :) I liked Halvetica for a while, and Calibri is also OK. I have gone right off Times New Roman after having to submit essays and assignments in that font for so long!

Maggio 20, 9:15am

>104 Copperskye: Hi Joanne! One of the reasons I wish LT would adopt some of the Goodreads features that make it easier to just track reading rather than intensively cataloguing is that I know a number of people who only use GR for that purpose and it's frustrating not to be able to share our latest reads. But they won't come to LT as long as it seems like too much work to add a book and track reading.

And absolutely — say no to muffin tops! Unless they are these: Delicious Double Chocolate Muffin Tops

Maggio 20, 9:16am

>105 rabbitprincess: I remember those anxious days, when the shirts were too short and the pants were too low. Just sitting at my desk was an adventure in constantly tugging at the back of my shirt.

Modificato: Maggio 20, 9:17am

>106 LovingLit: I've gotten quite fond of Calibri over the years, Megan, but I admit to still loving a nice serif font in the proper situation.

Maggio 20, 10:21pm

>97 rosalita: Yay, I knew that if Gen X me just kept wearing the same jeans I wore in college long enough, they'd eventually come back around again!

Maggio 21, 8:26am

>110 bragan: What goes around comes around, I guess!

Maggio 27, 8:29am

Hi Julia!

>97 rosalita: I’ve joined and deleted my account on Goodreads twice. I agree with your assessment about the author’s problems with Goodreads being hers and not the website's. Yes, all the cool kids are here on LT. *smile*

I dodged all 12 potential BBs, but thank you for the link.

My daughter has never had a problem with her weight, lucky child, and wears low-rise pants. We called ‘em hip-huggers in my day and I loved wearing them when I had the body for them.

Maggio 27, 9:11am

>112 karenmarie: Hi Karen! I'm sorry I wasn't able to serve up any BBs for you — I'll try harder next time. :-)

Maggio 27, 9:15am

I already have two from you this year - Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict - plus 4 from previous years:
Diane Capri Don't Know Jack
Helen Hoang The Bride Test
Helen Hoang The Kiss Quotient
Fred Kaplan Lincoln: Biography of a Writer

No more for a while! *smile*

Maggio 27, 9:16am

>114 karenmarie: OK, that's better. No promises about the future, though — I'll still be aiming for some direct hits once in a while. :-D

Maggio 27, 10:32am

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

Stephen King can look spooky just standing there with a fishbowl.

In the world of words:
  • Stephen King on Scary Stalkers, Being ‘Canceled’ by J.K. Rowling, and Navigating Trauma — This interview hinges a bit on the new Apple TV+ miniseries of Lisey’s Story that premiering in June, but it’s a wide-ranging conversation with one of my favorite authors. (via The Daily Beast)

  • The Crime Fiction Series That Defined the Last Decade — I’ve read and enjoyed five of the nine series featured here. Among them, my favorites are Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad, Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire, and Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy. I’ve already got the Attica Locke on my radar thanks to Katie, but I need to look for Sara Gran and Philip Kerr because both of those are completely new to me and sound intriguing. Wait a minute — I’m not supposed to be hitting myself with BBs! (via CrimeReads)

And in the real world:
  • Europe Wants Americans Back — Yes, we know how people around the world perceive of American tourists. They dress funny, they talk too loud, they ask impertinent personal questions, they expect everyone else to speak English — ugh. But this article says that in a post-pandemic world where the U.S. has done surprisingly well at getting its citizens vaccinated (I can’t think what might have happened to change that trajectory, can you?) we might be more likely to be welcomed with open arms when we again venture abroad. For my part, I promise not to wear socks with sandals. (via The Atlantic)

  • Why Have There Been So Many No-Hitters in 2021? — If you don’t love baseball as much as I do, you may not care enough to click through to find the answer, so I’ll just tell you: A lot of reasons, chiefly that pitchers are throwing harder than ever, batters are so focused on hitting home runs that at-bats are increasingly either homers or strikeouts, and managers are quicker than ever to pull the plug on a struggling pitcher, meaning batters seldom see the same pitcher more than twice in a game, making it harder to adjust. All of which are turning a sport with beautiful leisurely rhythms into a snooze fest. Sigh. (via The New York Times)

Maggio 27, 10:36am

Oooh, good stuff in the round-up today! Thanks, Julia!

Maggio 27, 12:53pm

>117 katiekrug: You're welcome, Katie! Have you read either Gran or Kerr? It turns out my library has at least the first book for each series so I hope to be able to check them out soon.

Maggio 27, 12:59pm

>118 rosalita: - I have not read either of them.

Modificato: Maggio 27, 2:03pm

>119 katiekrug: Well, you're no help! Sheesh.

Maggio 27, 2:22pm

Yep! Totally useless I am.

Maggio 27, 5:29pm

>116 rosalita: Yes, some good stuff. I read the Stephen King article and think I must read him; he sounds like such a great guy! I don't like horror, but I know he's written other stuff.

I'm trying to avert my eyes from the series link. I read the first book of the Gran series, very original. I know that Kerri likes them.

Maggio 27, 5:47pm

>121 katiekrug: Well, you did tip me off to Attica Locke so I guess I can cut you a little slack.

But just a little! :-)

>122 BLBera: I do think you'd enjoy the non-horror King books, Beth. He seems like the kind of guy I'd like to sit and have a chat with. He's good fun on Twitter, posting lots of pictures of his corgi, Molly (The Thing of Evil).

I'm glad to hear you and Kerri endorse the Gran series. I've put myself on the library holds list for the first one.

Maggio 29, 10:16am

The Kerr series is wonderful. Really rich in historical detail, and with a central character who isn't too much of a hero or a detective cliche. Plus evil Nazis. Penguin do a lovely three volume floppy paperback edition of the first three (which might just be the best ones, really).

Maggio 29, 1:34pm

>124 charl08: Oh, that's good to know, Charlotte. I'm glad my library has at least the first so I can check it out (ha! pun intended).

Maggio 30, 7:02pm

24. The Cactus League by Emily Nemens.

Spring training is a time of hope and renewal in baseball, when fans of even the most inept teams allow themselves to dream that this might, at long last, be The Year. It’s no less so for the players themselves, and the other people whose lives revolve in and around the game.

Emily Nemens’ The Cactus League (2020) plays upon some classic themes of a baseball novel—the ways off-field struggles translate into on-field performance, the repercussions of high expectations and celebrity, the inevitable physical decline and its accompanying mental rollercoaster. But she shines her spotlight into corners of the game rarely explored by writers in this genre, and that makes for compelling reading beyond the usual audience of sports fans.

The Cactus League is structured like a baseball game, in nine “innings” that are not so much chapters in a seamless chronological narrative as they are interconnected stories, told from the viewpoint of different characters. Events are sometimes recounted more than once, from different points of view, and each re-telling adds depth to our understanding of what happened.

Each chapter/inning opens with ruminations (seemingly excerpts from an unpublished memoir) by an old sportswriter who was involuntarily retired. Like a good leadoff hitter, the old sportswriter sets the table at the start of each inning. He blends the history of Arizona from before the Ice Age and human settlers with what’s happening on and off the field in today’s desert environment, where the Los Angeles Lions are working themselves into shape to make a run at the World Series. Each excerpt builds upon the previous to make it clear that Lions star outfielder Jason Goodyear is the sun around which the satellite characters in each subsequent narrative revolve.

Other characters include a former big league hitting coach whose career trajectory is on the downhill side; the former wife of a professional ballplayer and current groupie, who loves the game of baseball even more than the men she collects each spring; the personal assistant to Jason Goodyear’s agent, who tasks her with the job of keeping an eye on his prime client; the black partial owner of the Lions who sees himself as a mentor to up-and-coming black players; a pitcher trying to work his way back from arm surgery; a hotshot rookie from whom too much is expected in his first spring training; the wives and girlfriends of Lions players who are expected to put their own lives on hold so their men can focus all their attention on baseball; and the aging stadium organist whose own career never got out of the minor leagues.

Can the agent save his most famous client from himself? Can the groupie find someone to save her from a lifestyle that she’s aging out of? Can the players on the edge of reaching the next level save their careers? Do some people have to be sacrificed so that others can realize their dreams?

In baseball as in life there are only winners and losers. The trick is not to get caught on the wrong side of that line.

Giu 1, 10:45am

Hi Julia!

>116 rosalita: Excellent interview with King. The crime fiction series article was good, too. I love Bosch, have read the first Dublin Murder Squad book but haven’t continued even though all are on my shelves. Claire DeWitt is intriguing. Mumble mumble Iles, Kerr. I have the first 13 Longmires, never read any Locke but just requested Bluebird, Bluebird from the Library. The first 6 Sean Duffys are on my shelves. Abandoned Gamache. The Border Trilogy doesn’t interest me.

Giu 1, 11:15am

>127 karenmarie: Howdy, Karen! I never started the Inspector Gamache series and I don't feel a need to pick it up now. And like you, the Border Trilogy (or Art Keller as LT dubs it) series doesn't interest me, although I've heard good things about Don Winslow generally.

Giu 1, 11:24am

>126 rosalita: - Great review! I'll move that one up The List - maybe actually move it from the cloud to my Kindle :)

Modificato: Giu 1, 1:21pm

>129 katiekrug: Ooh, that sounds like a serious commitment! Or the lyrics to a country music song: "From the cloud to my Kindle / I want to download your love to the ereader of my heart / Let's turn the page together, darling / And put a ring in our online cart."

Needs work.

Giu 1, 1:02pm

>130 rosalita: - LOVE IT.

Giu 1, 1:22pm

>131 katiekrug: I think I'll keep my day job!

Giu 1, 1:34pm

Speaking of baseball books, have you read Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger? It's not *about* baseball, but there is baseball in it. I really liked it and thought you might enjoy it, too, when you're in the mood for something funny and warm-hearted. It's on sale on Kindle right now, so maybe Kobo too?

Modificato: Giu 1, 1:36pm

Get out your wallet! A treasure trove of Brontë memorabilia is up for auction.

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:

And in the real world:
  • This Solid E-Ink Tablet Just Can’t Beat the reMarkable’s Pen-on-Paper Experience — I’ve owned a Kobo e-reader since 2011 and my current device of choice is the Forma, which has an 8-inch screen and physical page-turn buttons (I also have a much older GloHD with a 6-inch screen that I use for reading on the go). Now Kobo is jumping into the note-taking arena with a larger device that doubles as an e-reader and an electronic notebook. I have absolutely no need for such a device, but boy would I love to play with one! I’m glad the e-reader market is continuing to grow and evolve, because I can’t imagine ever again not having one. (via Gizmodo)
  • We’re Asking the Wrong Questions about UFOs — Instead of asking what they are (aliens or military or whatever), we should be asking how they are, and that means serious interdisciplinary scientific study. Which I agree with, but I still fall back on the question: If aliens are smart enough to traverse the universe and end up at Earth, how are they simultaneously too stupid to stay hidden from the dumb humans? (via The Washington Post)

Giu 1, 2:44pm

>134 rosalita: Ah, we are kobo twins! I started with a Glo too, but got a Forma for my birthday last year which I LOVE. I'm happy that my money (mostly) doesn't go to amazon (I do have an old second hand kindle, for a handful of books I want that are only sold there, mainly self-published books by friends. But I much prefer the kobo).

Giu 1, 3:55pm

>135 Jackie_K: Howdy, Kobo Twin! My first Kobo was a Touch, which I gave to a friend because I wanted to get the Glo which had the front light. And the Glo still works perfectly well, but I was craving the Overdrive integration so that my library borrows would download directly onto the Forma (and then synced across to the Glo, so that was a happy extra). I've also picked up secondhand Kindle and Nook from friends who didn't want them anymore. I don't really buy ebooks from either of those stores these days but I've got quite a few from earlier on and it's a bit less fussy to be able to read them on Kindle than have to convert them in Calibre to epub to read on the Kobos. Every time I use one of them I appreciate my Kobos even more.

Giu 1, 4:01pm

Modificato: Giu 1, 4:13pm

>133 katiekrug: OMG, how did I miss this post? I must have been so absorbed in posting my links that I didn't scroll back up far enough to see it.

I have not read Last Days of Summer but I just checked and it is also on sale at Kobo — it says "updated edition" but doesn't say what's different than the original. Guess I'll just have to read it and find out. :-)

Thanks for the tip!

Giu 1, 4:21pm

You're welcome! I think it just includes an author's note that my paperback doesn't have.

Giu 1, 8:27pm

>134 rosalita: Darn you, Julia: So many of those books sound good. I've read Infinite Country, which I recommend.

Giu 2, 7:34am

>140 BLBera: You're welcome? :-)

I'm hoping Infinite Country comes up on the holds list for me soon.

Giu 3, 3:13pm

I'm so far behind on writing my reviews that I thought I'd drop my May 2021 roundup graphic here:

Giu 4, 1:58pm

Loving the bunch of Jodi Taylor! I recently read One Damned Thing After Another and would love to really dig in to that series.

Giu 4, 2:00pm

>142 rosalita: - I love your fancy graphic! (Also your reads...)

Giu 4, 2:16pm

Great May reads; Bonk is the funniest book about research that I have ever read. My book club really enjoyed this one. I loved the rat with polyester pants.

Modificato: Giu 4, 2:47pm

26. The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Wright Thompson.

I started thinking seriously about journalism as a career in eighth grade. I wanted to be a sportswriter, thanks to a discounted subscription to Sports Illustrated courtesy of the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. I always read it from cover to cover, even the articles about sports I didn’t care about or people I didn’t know. That was how I learned to pay attention to bylines; whenever I found myself absorbed by a story I didn’t expect to be interested in, I figured the writer must be someone worth paying attention to.

Frank Deford, Gary Smith, William Nack — I pored over everything they published, absorbing each of their stylistic quirks and the way they structured their stories. The routine morning-after game recap was not the bailiwick of these professionals. They focused on exploring the human elements of sports that happen off the field. You don’t have to be a sports fan to find their work compelling. You just have to be interested in the human condition.

Someone a couple of decades younger than me could easily substitute _ESPN The Magazine_ and _Wright Thompson_ into the previous paragraphs and tell the same origin story. Thompson started writing for ESPN in 2006 after an early career in newspapers and quickly made a name for himself as a master storyteller capable of revealing more about his subjects than they perhaps intended. But not in a malicious or mean-spirited way — Thompson doesn’t reveal what’s hidden so we can point and laugh, but rather so we can all nod in shared understanding.

Which brings us to The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business, his recent collection of some of his most memorable articles from ESPN The Magazine (spanning 2007 to 2017). Glancing down the table of contents (a full list of the essays is at the end of this review) showed me some familiar names from the sports world: Michael Jordan, Bear Bryant, Muhammad Ali. But it also touched on some sports and athletes who I knew little about, like soccer legend Lionel Messi and college basketball star Tony Harris. Just like in the good old days, I read it from cover to cover, over a period of several weeks. While I found each of them compelling in their own way, some standouts for me were the profiles of Jordan and Messi — one man I thought I already knew a great deal about, and one who I barely knew at all. At the end of each, I’d learned something new about them and about the power of ambition and home.

As I mentioned, not all the essays are personality profiles. Some of the best use sports as a touchpoint to explore a larger or more nuanced subject. In “Shadow Boxing,” the focus is not on Ali but rather on the only one of the 50 fighters he faced in the ring who has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. And its not about boxing; it's more about the kinds of people who are considered disposable in our society. Thompson spent months in Miami trying to find him among a community of forgotten souls who are just trying to get by, day by day.

“Ghosts of Mississippi” uses college football to explore the tumultuous year of 1962 at the University of Mississippi, where a football team vying for the national championship clashed with the violent resistance to James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at Ole Miss. Thompson used his familiarity with the culture (he grew up just down the road from Oxford) to look at the mass of contradictions that still exist in that place.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll enjoy this collection tremendously. But don’t think you need to be an athletic supporter to find something to love inside these covers.

Table of Contents
  • Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building: What does a GOAT do at 50, when the competitive spirit is still willing but the flesh is weak? (2013)

  • The Last Days of Tony Harris: What drove the former college basketball star to his death in the Brazilian jungle? (2008)

  • Ghosts of Mississippi: In 1962, the Ole Miss campus erupted in violence over integration and swelled with pride over a powerful football team. That tumultuous fall still grips the state. (2010)

  • Shadow Boxing: Muhammad Ali fought 50 men, but only one disappeared. (2009)

  • Here and Gone: The strange relationship between Lionel Messi and his hometown in Argentina. (2012)

  • The Last Ride of Bear and Billy: 30 years after Coach Bryant’s last season, the man who knew him best struggles to remember. (2012)

  • Urban Meyer Will Be Home for Dinner: A football coach tries to balance the kind of man he wants to be with the kind of man he is. (2012)

  • The Losses of Dan Gable: Wrestling’s most famous winner is taking on one final battle: to save his sport and all he’s ever been. (2013)

  • Beyond the Breach: A summer in search of saints, sinners, and lost souls in the New Orleans that Katrina left behind. (2015)

  • The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On: Ted Williams’ ambitions shaped his legacy but wrecked his relationships. (2015)

  • The Secret History of Tiger Woods: The death of his father set a battle raging inside the world’s greatest golfer. (2016)

  • In Chicago, the Final Wait For a Cubs Win Mixes Joy and Sorrow: A city has waited 108 years. Now it must wait one day more. (2016)

  • Pat Riley’s Final Test: This was the NBA legend’s most difficult season in 50 years. So why, after nine championships, doesn’t he just walk away? If only it were that easy. (2017)

  • Holy Ground: Walter Wright Thompson died before he could fulfill his dream of walking Augusta National during the Masters. His son took that walk for him. (2007)

Giu 4, 2:46pm

>143 Caramellunacy: I've been stalled on Book 8 for a while, so I thought I'd knock off these three short stories and count them as one entry. The short stories aren't as good as the full-length novels for me, but now I'm ready for Book 9. And yes, you should get back to the series — it's hilarious.

>144 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! I'm hoping if people are dazzled enough they won't realize how far behind I am on reviews. :-)

>145 BLBera: Hi Beth! Bonk was the last Mary Roach book I hadn't read yet. I enjoyed it, but I think Gulp might be my favorite. I always know I'm going to laugh a lot when I read her. I can't wait until her new one, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law is published this fall.

Giu 4, 2:55pm

I think my first Roach - Stiff - remains my favorite...

And from your review of the Wright Thompson collection, I snorted at "But don’t think you need to be an athletic supporter to find something to love inside these covers." Emphasis mine.

Giu 4, 3:27pm

>148 katiekrug: I think Stiff was my first Roach, too, and it is definitely a great one. It was my favorite until I read Gulp and it might be again. These things change ...

And I'm so glad you found the funny! I snorted to myself when I wrote it, and wondered if anyone would pick up on it. I should have known you'd grab on to it with both hands. :-D

Giu 4, 3:30pm

I'm very handsy ;-)

Giu 4, 3:52pm

Giu 7, 10:31am

>134 rosalita: Well, that "20 Books to Read This Summer" link just added a whole bunch of things to my wishlist. Thanks a lot! (And I'm genuinely not sure whether that's sincere or ironic thanks, given the overwhelming number of books on my wishlist, but also how interesting some of those books look.)

Giu 7, 10:38am

>152 bragan: I take no offense whether the thanks is sincere or ironic — I've felt the same way many times! And I'm glad you liked the list — so far it's been the "summer reading list" that had the most books that really appealed to me.

Giu 7, 4:19pm

I want to go to there — namely, Henry Pordes secondhand
book shop in central London.

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • Authors to Earn Royalties on Secondhand Books For First Time — I’ve always felt regret that the buckets of books I’ve bought at secondhand stores and library sales don’t earn their creators any direct money (although I’ve certainly discovered authors from secondhand books whose later works I bought new). Now someone is doing something about it, although in a limited way. I hope this AuthorSHARE program is a success and expands to many other secondhand sellers. (via The Guardian)
  • ’If Publishers Become Afraid, We’re in Trouble’: Publishing’s Cancel Culture Debate Boils Over — This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently, as the rats of the Trump administration start slinking out of their boltholes to write books to try to redeem their ruined reputations. On the one hand, I absolutely don’t think Senator Josh Hawley or former VP Mike Pence or anyone should be allowed to profit from selling a pack of lies to gullible people. On the other hand, I’m squeamish about censoring someone’s speech just because it’s disagreeable. This article doesn’t mention this, but it seems to me the logical solution is for publishers who choose to publish supposedly nonfiction to commit to a full and thorough fact-checking process (take the cost out of the book advance) and deny the publication of provable lies and misinformation. (via The Guardian)
  • Oh, Dewey, Where Would You Put Me? — Especially for Pride Month, a sweet story from a librarian who identifies as queer about the human compulsion to classify both books and people. (via The New York Times)

And in the real world:
  • Binge-watching Television Gave Us What We Said We Wanted — And Made Us Lonelier — Yes! I really dislike when new streaming television series dump all their episodes at once, mostly because I just cannot binge-watch anything. A maximum of two one-hour episodes at a time is all I can handle even of my most favorite shows. But also I miss the days when you had all week to chat with friends about what happened this week and what might happen next week. Maybe we’re getting back to that. (via The Washington Post)

Giu 7, 5:58pm

I'm with you about binge watching, Julia. Two in a row is my limit.

The comments about publishing are also thought provoking. Like you, I'm against censorship, but really, are we going to allow people to profit from lies?

Giu 7, 6:09pm

>155 BLBera: Yes, exactly. One of the most surprising things I've learned over the past few years is that authors are entirely responsible for fact-checking their own nonfiction work; the publisher does not pay for or actually do any fact-checking themselves. Which in and of itself seems like a huge problem and especially so if you're publishing people known to lie shamelessly.

Giu 8, 3:25am

>154 rosalita: I like this idea a lot, how nice to think the author might benefit directly when the book is sold again. Especially when the books are out of print, I think.

Giu 8, 5:50am

>157 charl08: I agree, Charlotte. I wish the US would also adopt the UK scheme that pays authors based on how many people check out their books from libraries. Both of those schemes deserve wider implementation.

Giu 8, 9:42am

>154 rosalita: - I've been to Henry Pordes! It's lovely...

Giu 8, 9:44am

>159 katiekrug: It looks wonderful!

Modificato: Giu 8, 9:49am

27. Poison in the Pen by Patricia Wentworth.

Regular readers of the Miss Silver mystery series by Patricia Wentworth know that she finds the cases she ultimately solves in a variety of ways. Occasionally they just pop up wherever she happens to be and she is drawn in. Sometimes a stranger in a train carriage turns into a client in need of her services. More and more often as the series progresses, she gets referrals from previous, satisfied customers.
Woman’s intuition? I’m afraid I can’t compete. I don’t know the exact figures for the current year, but speaking generally, there are about two million more women than men in the country. Terrifying to reflect that they are all at it day in, day out, exercising this formidable gift!”

And a not inconsiderable number come to our intrepid Miss Maud Silver, former governess and current enquiry agent in 1950s England, through her young admirer, Detective Inspector Frank Abbott of Scotland Yard. Between Miss Silver and DI Abbott, they must know nearly every living soul in England, which is certainly a handy attribute for a crime-solver. In Poison in the Pen, the 27th entry in the series, DI Abbott tells her about his recent visit to a distant cousin, a recent widow now living in the village of Tilling Green, where she has been the recipient of some upsetting anonymous letters. Miss Silver agrees to go undercover (which is to say, disguised as the little old lady she actually is) and take a room in the village to see what she can find out. Even before she’s packed her bags she learns that a young woman from the village has drowned (the inquest suggests she killed herself after receiving anonymous letters) and another young woman dies shortly after she arrives in Tilling Green.
Miss Ecles was extremely efficient. It would be unfair to say that she enjoyed the situation, but she certainly enjoyed her own competence in dealing with it.

Solving the most recent murder involves a lot of eliminating suspects through timelines and everyone’s dirty secrets being aired out in the open, the universal condition of living in a small town. The only aspect I didn’t love was that Miss Silver once again puts herself in physical danger by confronting the murderer, which for a woman with such a strong connection to and respect from law enforcement seems to strain credulity. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable way to spend an evening, and left me with some choice quotes along the way.
Few people are prepared to subordinate their private feelings to their public duty.

Modificato: Giu 10, 12:15pm

28. The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths.

I didn’t know, back in 2019 when I read The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths, that it was meant to be the first book in a new series. I was already a big fan of Griffiths’ series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, but I didn’t jibe with her other series featuring Max Mephisto, a magician in 1950s Brighton, England. But I enjoy Griffiths’ writing and looked forward to reading this standalone novel.

I was not disappointed by The Stranger Diaries, a sort of gothic mystery centered on Clare Cassidy, a sixth-form college English teacher whose colleague is found murdered. Lying next to the body is an excerpt of a story by Victorian horror writer R.M. Holland, who happens to be Claire’s research specialty. The narrative shifts among several viewpoints, from Clare to her daughter to the detective sergeant investigating the case, punctuated with lengthy excerpts purportedly from Holland’s most famous story. It’s a nicely atmospheric mystery with appealing characters, not least of whom is DS Harbinder Kaur, a gay woman born in England to parents who emigrated from India. I finished the book feeling vague regret that it wasn’t a series, as I would have happily spent more time with either Clare or Harbinder.

Well. As it turns out, it was the first book in a series. While Clare has only a cameo in the second entry, The Postscript Murders (2020), it hardly matters, as DS Kaur is more than capable of carrying the narrative herself, with a little help from some new acquaintances. The plot again centers on the publishing world, as an elderly woman is found dead in her assisted-living community, apparently of natural causes. But a motley crew of people who knew her, including an elderly fellow who lives across the hall, her Polish caregiver, and a former monk who owns a nearby café, suspect foul play, and they take investigating matters into their own clumsy hands. The key to the mystery, they believe, is in the mysteries — that is, the shelves full of mystery novels by various authors, all of whom expressed gratitude in their books to the now-dead Peggy for her unspecified help.

There’s some lively humor to be found as an exasperated DS Kaur tries to wrangle her amateur band of sleuths into not putting themselves in danger or inadvertently spoiling crucial evidence, but there’s also plenty of tension and old-fashioned clue-finding and suspect-grilling before the case wraps up. It’s an altogether satisfying follow-up to The Stranger Diaries. I’m already looking forward to a third entry in the series. Here’s hoping the Brighton Irregulars show up in that one as well.

Modificato: Giu 15, 6:13pm

Ma! Look how clean and shiny!

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:

And in the real world:
  • Send in the Bugs. The Michelangelos Need Cleaning. — It’s amazing what bacteria can do. I would love to go back to see the Medici Chapel in its cleaned-up state. What I remember from my visit in late 1990s was fairly grimy. (via The New York Times)

  • How to Make Your Offline Self Harder to Find Online — I don’t consider myself to be particularly paranoid about much, but I’ve certainly become more aware over the years of privacy issues surrounding our online activity. This article is less about the incessant tracking that advertisers do to you and more about how to make it harder for people to find you in real life just by firing up the old Google machine. (via The Verge)

  • Iceberger: Draw An Iceberg And See How It Will Float — I apologize in advance if you end up wasting as much time on this site as I did. It’s just what it says in the headline, and it’s stupidly fun. (via The Iceberger)

Giu 16, 9:39am

29. The Survivors by Jane Harper.

Kieran and Mia have brought baby daughter Audrey back to their small Tasmanian hometown for the first time after years of living in Sydney, but it’s hardly a joyous homecoming. Kieran’s father Brian is suffering from dementia and the couple is back to help Verity, Kieran’s mom, pack up the house and find a nursing home for his dad. And even though old friends like Ash McDonald and Olivia Birch have welcomed them back, there’s an undercurrent among the other townspeople that hints at something unpleasant that happened a dozen years ago and led to Kieran leaving in the first place. When a young woman (a visitor to the resort town) is found dead on the beach, the old resentments come bubbling to the surface, threatening to swamp Kieran and his family in tragedies both past and present.

The Survivors (2021) is the latest suspense novel by Jane Harper. I was drawn into the setting and the story as soon as I picked it up, and it kept me turning pages until I finished the book with a sigh less than 24 hours later. As she did previously in her first novel, The Dry (2016) and 2019's The Lost Man, Harper creates a sense of place so finely drawn it fairly jumps off the page. If I closed my eyes I could hear the sound of the waves and taste the salty air blowing in off the beach. The streets of Evelyn Bay, virtually empty after the close of the summer tourist season, echoed with dusty quiet in my mind.

Harper also has a knack for doling out details about what happened in the past that gives the reader just enough information each time to keep them interested instead of frustrated at not knowing exactly what’s going on. It’s not easy to juggle that sort of dual timeline, but Harper keeps her eye on both balls as she tosses first one and then the other into the air. Most of the characters are well drawn, especially Kieran, from whose viewpoint we see most of the events in the novel. And the depiction of Brian’s increasing loss of memory and its effects on his family is painful to read in its honesty and compassion.

Jane Harper has been on my must-read list of authors since I first read The Dry in 2018. Whenever I enthusiastically recommend her to friends I describe her as “the Australian Tana French,” which is probably unfair to both authors. What I mean is both women write books that transcend their genre roots and deserve to take their place among the finest literary fiction. If you haven’t yet read anything by Jane Harper, The Survivors, as a standalone novel, would be a fine place to start.

Giu 16, 10:58am

>164 rosalita: - Oooh, 5 stars! I have yet to read any Harper, though I have a couple on my Kindle.

>163 rosalita: - The printing press. I have a love-hate relationship. My late, unlamented father collected old printing presses and type and associated stuff. He spent too much money on all of it (often money we didn't have...) and it was a source of friction in the family. BUT, I loved the stuff he produced, including my wedding save-the-dates, personalized stationery, etc.

Giu 16, 11:01am

>164 rosalita: Ooof, that one sounds good! Adding it to the list.

Giu 16, 11:09am

>165 katiekrug: You really need to move Jane Harper up on your TBR list, Katie!

As a recovering journalist, I have a love-love relationship with printing presses, but I can definitely understand your perspective.

Giu 16, 11:09am

>166 scaifea: Yes! So, so good. Really, you can't go wrong with any of her books.

Giu 16, 11:23am

Well, The Survivors is now on my WL, thanks very much. I imagine there is a LONG list of people waiting for it.

Giu 16, 11:58am

>169 BLBera: It will be worth the wait, Beth. Perhaps you could read one of her others while you're waiting, if you haven't already.

Giu 16, 2:22pm

I read The Dry, which I really liked. Then I heard the second one wasn't as good, so I didn't pick up that one.

Giu 16, 2:28pm

>171 BLBera: Fair enough. The second one had the same main character as the first, and I did not find it as compelling as The Dry. And perhaps the author felt the same way, because her next two books — The Lost Man and The Survivors — are complete standalones (from the first two books and from each other) and I think they are so much better.

So I would recommend either of those as your next Jane Harper read.

Giu 17, 11:49am

30. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue.

Julia Power, the narrator of The Pull of the Stars (2020) by Emma Donoghue, is a young maternity nurse in 1918 Dublin. World War I rages on throughout Europe, while the so-called Spanish Influenza stalks prey much closer to home. Nurse Power knows all too much about both plagues: More and more of the hospital staff are succumbing to the flu, while at home her brother Tim, her only surviving relative, has been mute since returning from the war front.
But wasn’t it the whole world’s war now? Hadn’t we caught it from each other, as helpless against it as against other infections? No way to keep one’s distance; no island to hide on. Like the poor, maybe, the war would always be with us. Across the world, one lasting state of noise and terror under the bone man’s reign.
Nursing duties in the tiny makeshift maternity ward meant to segregate flu-stricken expectant mothers from their healthy counterparts have fallen almost entirely on Nurse Julia. She’s been promised a visit from a new doctor soon, but meanwhile does the best she can to care for her four patients, all in various stages of pregnancy and illness. One of the nuns who run the hospital responds to her pleas for more help by bringing her Bridie, a young woman who lives in the convent after being raised in its orphanage. Julia is dubious about the arrangement, but she finds the unschooled Bridie to be a bright and curious assistant eager to make herself useful.

The women in Julia’s charge come from a range of economic strata, but most are grindingly poor, undernourished, dirty, and ignorant of the natural processes underway in their bodies. When one of them dies while giving birth, it’s Nurse Power who, in the absence of a physician, must fill out the death certificate:
If I’d been the one to write the concluding line in the regulation tiny lettering that filled both sides of her sheet, I’d have been tempted to put Worn down to the bone. Mother of five by the age of twenty-four, an underfed daughter of underfed generations, white as paper, red-rimmed eyes, flat bosom, fallen arches, twig limbs with veins that were tangles of blue twine. Eileen Devine had walked along a cliff edge all her adult life, and this flu had only tipped her over.
It’s impossible not to draw parallels between that long-ago pandemic and the one that swept the same globe a little more than 100 years later. Julia observes the same tendencies in people to deny the severity of the disease, to refuse to wear masks, to prioritize themselves over their fellow citizens, that we’ve all witnessed over the past year. It’s small comfort to know the world hasn’t necessarily become more selfish over the past century, and even less comfort to realize it certainly hasn’t become more compassionate. But even in the midst of so much death, Julia draws strength from her young protégé and clings to, if not a sense of optimism, at least a refusal to succumb to despair.
I gazed up at the sky and let my eyes flicker from one constellation to another to another, jumping between stepping-stones. I thought of the heavenly bodies throwing down their narrow ropes of light to hook us. I’d never believed the future was inscribed for each of us the day we were born. If anything was written in the stars, it was we who joined those dots, and our lives were the writing.
This book is not for the squeamish. If you’ve seen any episodes of Call the Midwife on the BBC or PBS, you know that pregnancy and poverty can be dirty, bloody, gruesome things. Donoghue spares no details in showing her readers the reality behind the process that generates the cute little tykes in all those cheerful diaper commercials. But if you're able to look reality square in the eye without a soft-focus filter, your reward will be a story that seeks light in the darkness that surrounds us all.

Giu 17, 12:14pm

>173 rosalita: - I wasn't sure I was interested in this, though I have liked other of Donoghue's books, but I think you've put it on my wish list. *shakes fist toward Iowa*

Giu 17, 12:26pm

Thanks for the Harper recommendations. Great comments on The Pull of the Stars. I agree about the parallels between the two pandemics. One thing that I didn't like about it was the ending; I found it abrupt and felt it came from nowhere...

Giu 17, 12:46pm

>174 katiekrug: My work here is done, then. *dusts off hands*

Giu 17, 12:48pm

>175 BLBera: The ending was a bit too pat for me, Beth, althoughhaving a sliver of happy ending after the gut-wrenching death of Bridie was welcome. I'm not sure I really believe it could have happened that way, though, and in a book so filled with gritty realism that rang a bit of a false note.

Giu 19, 11:37am

Hi Julia!

>146 rosalita: And onto the wish list it goes!

>154 rosalita: Yes, two is pretty much all we can take, too. We’re re-watching The Closer right now and it’s intense.

>161 rosalita: You’re dangerous – in a good way! I just got the first three Miss Silver Mysteries for $2.99 on Kindle.

>164 rosalita: I took those seven minutes and am absolutely stunned. Also went to Arion Press’s website and won’t be buying anything any time soon…

>164 rosalita: I do not know why I haven’t started this one yet – it’s been on my shelves since 4/13.

Giu 20, 7:53am

>178 karenmarie: Good to see you, Karen! I'm glad I managed to tag you with some book recommendations. And I'm glad you liked the printing press video. It's too bad such beautiful handmade books are so costly to produce that buying them is an indulgence.

Giu 20, 9:21pm

>116 rosalita: J K Rowling cancelled Stephen King? Wow, I might have to read that article!
I have thinking on the cancel culture thing lately, and these are my conclusions. The concept has existed for a long time. (Think- INSERT SPORTS TEAM HERE lost- Fire the coach!, or, the stocks have dropped- sack the CEO!). But now that it is being applied to personal behaviour instead of financial performance, the powerful are threatened. (If I can extend that point, it would be to say that this is potentially a threat now due to issues around the ability of power to continue to protect against poor behaviour now that el internet has enabled Joe-public to call out said poor behaviour.)

>173 rosalita: Oooh, is this her third by now, or even more?! I like the sound of this one!

Giu 20, 9:42pm

>177 rosalita: Good point, Julia. I would have liked to learn more about the pandemic and the pregnant women.

Giu 21, 8:09am

>180 LovingLit: Hi, Megan! I think the power dynamics you mention are very much in play with the cancel culture thing. I can't help finding it grimly amusing that the people screaming about being "canceled" or "censored" are doing so in the very media outlets they claim are doing the canceling. Denial, River in Egypt, etc.

Giu 21, 8:10am

>181 BLBera: It's shocking to think how primitive health care was such a relatively short time ago, isn't it?

Modificato: Giu 21, 9:10am

I can't completely wrap my brain around all the aspects of this 'cancel culture' thing, but it seems to me that some of the people who are complaining about it are maybe just sore that there are social consequences for being a jerk? So, yeah. Not King, though, and Rowling is on the jerk side here; it seems that King has the right idea about it all, and good for him.

Giu 21, 9:29am

>184 scaifea: That's exactly it, Amber. There's a lot of (deliberate, in my opinion) "confusion" over the difference between censorship and consequences for bad behavior. And I'm very much on Stephen King's side of that particular spat, having followed it as it developed on Twitter.

Giu 21, 9:32am

>185 rosalita: Rowling just makes me so sad at this point. But also, I *love* how fans have come together to make HP what they want it to be and have come up with all sorts of queer and trans readings that fit beautifully in the story. I'm Team Reader Response all day every day, but especially when it makes the story more inclusive than the author even intended.

Giu 21, 9:48am

>186 scaifea: Yes to Team Reader Response. It reminds me of an interview I read with one of my favorite songwriters, Jason Isbell, who said (paraphrasing) that he would never tell a fan that their interpretation of a song is wrong, because for that person in that time it is exactly what the listener thinks it is.

Giu 21, 9:51am

Giu 22, 8:59am

>185 rosalita: >186 scaifea: With you both on this one!

Modificato: Giu 22, 9:15am

31. Bonecrack by Dick Francis.

There are two themes that run through most if not all of Dick Francis’ acclaimed mysteries: All of them involve the sport of horse racing to a greater or lesser degree, and most of them feature protagonists with less than convivial family relationships. Both conditions turn up in Francis’ Bonecrack (1971), which I re-read recently as part of a group read in the 75-Book Challenge group.

Neil Griffon is a business wunderkind, who accumulated a fortune buying and selling antiques and went on to make a career out of diagnosing and advising struggling businesses. He has a polite but distant relationship with his father, a highly successful horse trainer in Newcastle. When his father suffers an accident that lands him in the hospital with a complicatedly broken leg, Neil steps in to keep the stable running until his father is on his feet again. With his business instincts, it doesn’t take Neil long to discover that the place is in financial difficulties, a fact his father has been hiding from everyone.

Before Neil has time to absorb all of this, he is kidnapped from his father’s office and forced to hire the mastermind’s son as an apprentice jockey, despite his utter lack of experience. On his own, Neil would be inclined to risk the consequences of refusing such extortion, but there’s his father and the stable’s shaky finances to consider, as well as the fact that the kidnappers cleverly threaten not his own life but those of his father’s horses. How Neil balances giving the kidnappers enough of what they want while finding ways to use the apprentice’s own complicated father-son relationship to his advantage, provides most of the novel’s interest.

This isn’t one of my favorite Francis novels. Because we don’t meet Neil’s father until he’s already laid up in hospital, it’s hard to get a sense of him as a fully formed human being. That makes the estrangement between him and Neil feel somewhat distant rather than visceral, and makes it harder to understand why Neil is so intent on solving his problem with the least amount of damage to his father’s business and reputation. And the mastermind criminal’s villainy is so broadly drawn as to seem cartoonish. But some secondary characters are appealing, including the stable’s female head groom. And Alessandro, aspiring jockey and son of a thug, undergoes the kind of personal transformation under subtle manipulation from Neil that makes him by far the most compelling character in the whole book.

A final note: I do not recommend this book to anyone who recoils at the depiction of animals being injured (a theme Francis would return to in 1987’s Bolt). The violence can seem jarring, especially at the hands of Francis, whose own love and respect for horses makes them full-fledged characters alongside the humans.

Giu 22, 4:17pm

Wait a minute. What am I doing here?

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • Casey Quiston Brings Romance to the Q Train — I loved Red, White, and Royal Blue when I read it last year. Casey Quiston crafted a delightful romance between the son of the President of the United States and the Prince of Wales. So you can imagine how excited I am to hear that she has a new book out. _One Last Stop_ was published this month. This interview definitely piqued my interest in picking it up. (via Kirkus Reviews)

  • McIlvanney Prize Longlist 2021 Announced — The McIlvanney Prize recognizes the best of Scottish crime writing, and this year’s longest was announced earlier this month. The winner will be announced in September at _Bloody Scotland_, billed as Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival. Have you read any of these? (via Twitter)

  • Obituaries Are Important, Worth Rethinking and Reviving — One of my first jobs in journalism was filling in one summer for the society editor at my small hometown daily newspaper. I wrote up all the stuff that was what people really bought the paper for: Engagement, wedding, birth and anniversary announcements, and of course obituaries. As my Uncle Roscoe always said, “I wake up and check the paper. If I don’t see my name in the obituaries, I get up and get dressed.” Of course, that was back in the days when newspapers ran obituary notices for free, as submitted by either the family or the funeral home. Before I left journalism in 2002, most papers had switched to only publishing the bare essentials for free, a scant paragraph of name, address, age, dates of birth and death, a list of survivors and details about the funeral services and burial. If families want to provide a more personal farewell, it can cost upwards of $1,000 or more, depending on the size of the newspaper and the length of the obituary (the Tampa Bay Times, for instance, offers 5 lines free and charges $11 for every additional line; for reference, a line of column type contains about 20-25 characters including spaces and punctuation). This article published by the Pointer Institute, a nonprofit organization that writes about journalism, argues that newspapers would serve their readers better if they devoted staff resources and column space to writing feature obits for their community’s notable citizens — not necessarily famous, but interesting. (via Poynter.)

And in the real world:
  • The Pleasures of LearnedLeague and the Spirit of Trivia — I just finished competing in my 20th season (5 years of 4 seasons each) of LearnedLeague, an online trivia contest that offers no prizes except the warm glow of knowing things you don’t need to know. It’s hard to explain the appeal to people but this New Yorker article does a pretty good job. If you read it and think it sounds like fun, feel free to hit me up for a referral. Katie can vouch for me — I roped her in a few years ago. (via The New Yorker)

  • Why Walking Through a Doorway Makes You Forget — The scenario presented in this article happens to me so often I hardly notice anymore. How reassuring to know there’s a scientific reason other than “Julia is an airhead.” (via Scientific American)

Modificato: Giu 23, 2:49am

Another list! I haven't read most of them but I have read The Edge of the Grave - set in atmospheric Victorian-era Manchester.

I wondered if you'd seen the Harrogate crime festival shortlist as well. Voting is still live (although I've only read two of the six, one of the shortlist is Elly Griffiths who of course has many fans on LT).

Giu 23, 8:27am

I'm on the library hold list for McQuiston's new one!

Giu 23, 8:46am

Hi Julia!

>190 rosalita: I started Bonecrack a couple of weeks ago, put it aside because putting down horses but resolutely decided to continue a couple of days ago, skipping 2 or 3 pages. Darned if there wasn’t another horse put down, but that was easier to get through because it was only a sentence. I’m now thoroughly enjoying it and am skipping your review until I’ve finished.

>191 rosalita: I’ve read Val McDermid’s Still Life, having discovered the Karen Pirie series earlier this year thanks to Beth.

I love reading about your days as a journalist. And I remember the expense of obits for family members in recent years. *shudder*

Love the Scientific American article, which reminded me of a funny, which I just posted on my thread to avoid cluttering yours, “A.A.A.D.D. - (Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder)”

Giu 23, 9:21am

>191 rosalita: - LEARNED LEAGUE!!! What a fun article. I had no idea there were that many players. Forever grateful to you, Julia, for inviting me to join. The Wayne may be less so, as he had a terrible season :)

Giu 23, 1:53pm

>192 charl08: Hi, Charlotte! I'll make a note to check my library for the The Edge of the Grave series.

Thanks for the Harrogate list — I think I missed seeing that one. I've only read the Elly Griffiths; I am one of her many LT fans. The new Ruth Galloway will finally be available here next week. I've had it pre-ordered for months, it seems.

Giu 23, 1:55pm

>193 scaifea: Woot! The description is promising — romance with a bit of a supernatural/paranormal element. Looks like my library doesn't have it yet, but I put in a recommendation that they get it, so we'll see. Fingers crossed ...

Giu 23, 2:02pm

>194 karenmarie: I saw your post on the shared read thread and that reminded me that it would be a good idea to put a disclaimer in the review, so thanks for that reminder.

I'll have to look for Val McDermid at the library, as I also was struck by Beth's recommendation earlier. Darn her, anyway. :-)

I hope more newspapers give the fuller obit style a try. I do think it would be a subscription driver — everyone reads the obituaries! — but I'm not sure if it would be enough to offset the cost of hiring another reporter. It would be good community journalism, though, and that used to count for something.

Your AAADD made me laugh — I think Click and Clack on NPR's Car Talk had something similar back in the day but I can't remember what they called it. Whatever you call it, it's maddening!

Giu 23, 2:03pm

>195 katiekrug: This was a strange season. I did weirdly well right up until the last few days, and other people I know had their worst season ever. So The Wayne was in good company, at least. It's a good argument for there being more, shorter seasons instead of just one or two each year. Gives you a chance to reboot your brain. :-)

Giu 24, 8:07am

The obits comment reminded me of a song by Pete Seeger, part of which says, "I get up in the morning and read the obits/If I'm not there, I know I'm not dead/So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed." It's been a while since I heard it, but that's the gist of it.

>198 rosalita: Hey! I saw that.

Giu 24, 8:09am

I'll have to check out some of the Scottish crime fiction.

Modificato: Giu 24, 9:21am

>200 BLBera: You know it's a compliment to be blamed for book bullets, right? :-)

Love the Seeger song.

I also need to try more of the Scottish crime fiction, even though I am nearing saturation point on series reading.

Giu 28, 3:52am

Hi Julia, I want to thank you for visiting my thread and your kind words. I have neglected all other threads here and I will try to make up for it as soon as possible. I did not read all 95 unread posts, just wanted to say 'thank you'.

Giu 28, 7:22am

>203 connie53: I know you have a lot going on right now, Connie, and I appreciate your taking time to stop by. I'm sending lots of good thoughts to you and Pete.

Giu 30, 12:43pm

”Snakes! Why’d it have to be snakes?!”

What I’m Reading Outside of Books

In the world of words:
  • ’It Drives Writers Mad’: Why Are Authors Still Sniffy About Sci-Fi? — I don’t read a ton of science fiction, but I’ve enjoyed a lot of what I’ve read. And I am a big fan of other genre fiction, like mysteries, so I find the snootiness of Ian McEwan (who claims his latest novel is a fiction about science, but not science fiction) insufferable. It’s right up there with people who claim that a really good mystery or fantasy book “transcends the genre.” No, it’s just a really good book. Deal with it, Ian. (via The Guardian)

  • In One Modest Cotton Sack, a Remarkable Story of Slavery, Suffering, Love and Survival — This new nonfiction publication by Tiya Miles is definitely on my radar. It ticks all the boxes for me — it's about history, and it shines a light into the corners of history that don’t normally get taken seriously. I’ve recommended it for purchase to my library, but I may have to suck it up and buy this one myself. (via The New York Times).

And in the real world:
  • Four Secrets About ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ — There’s been a meme circulating on Twitter lately in which people name the five movies they’ve seen more than 10 times each. I realized that I almost never watch movies more than once, let alone 10 times, but if I was making a list of rewatchable movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark would be at the very top. It’s the one movie that I cannot channel-surf past if I catch it on TV, and I will sit through the endless commercial interruptions to watch till the end. I don’t think I’ve seen it 10 times, but it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten. All of which is to say, I love this article.(via The New York Times)

  • Why Some Major U.S. Sports Stadiums Are Switching to All-Aluminum Drinkware — This seems like a good development. Instead of getting your beer or soda in a throwaway plastic cup at a sports event or a concert, you’ll get it in an aluminum cup that can be fully recycled. I really hope this catches on. (via Promo Marketing magazine)

  • I’m a New Yorker Who Visited the Midwest For the First Time. Here Are 15 Things That Surprised Me — The biggest surprise seems to have been that actual human beings live in the Midwest according to this insufferably smug article. And this clueless snob visited CHICAGO and DETROIT — actual, you know, cities. Imagine if he’d found himself in Kewanee or Osh Kosh? (via Insider)

Giu 30, 1:05pm

>205 rosalita: - A good round-up of interesting stuff, Julia. Regarding the sci-fi/genre stuff, as a romance and mystery fan, I loathe the snobbery of pitting genre fiction up against "literary" fiction. McEwan can suck it.

I really want to read the Miles books. You've reminded me to get it on the list so I don't forget!

The Wayne and I recently re-watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was pleasantly surprised how well it holds up. We then watched 'Temple of Doom' a couple of months later and that one does NOT hold up.

Giu 30, 1:06pm

>205 rosalita: I agree totally about how sniffy people in publishing can get about genre fiction (also about indie/self-published work too). There's no need for it - there are certain genres I don't like and choose not to read, but that's down to taste, not down to the relative value of one genre over another. Why can't people just let people read - and write - the books they want to, without passing judgment?

Giu 30, 2:36pm

>206 katiekrug: I'm glad to hear Raiders holds up, Katie. I need to watch it again soon. I see it's available for rental or to buy on Apple TV+ ...

Giu 30, 2:38pm

>207 Jackie_K: I couldn't agree more, Jackie — let people like what they like. Or as a friend of mine says (I'm sure it's not original with her) "I'm not here to yuck someone else's yum." As long as you're reading, you're A-OK with me!

Giu 30, 5:23pm

>205 rosalita:

It's the literary equivalent of a director insisting a film is a thriller, not a horror movie. The implication is that genre writing is 'low fiction', which is just ridiculous snobbery.

Giu 30, 5:33pm

>210 lyzard: Totally ridiculous! There's a larger point to be made about how insecure people create these artificial constructs to make themselves feel smarter or superior than the rest of us. I could almost feel sorry for them if they weren't such jackwagons. :-)

Giu 30, 5:44pm

>205 rosalita: Great group of articles, Julia. I LOVE the quote about snakes; it's my favorite from Indiana Jones.

What a shocker that real people live in the Midwest. :)

Giu 30, 6:03pm

>212 BLBera: It might be my favorite scene, too! And yes, Midwesterners turn out to be nearly identical to East Coast elites. Who woulda thunk it? It reminds me of a writer from New York magazine (I think that was the outlet) who wrote an article reporting from Iowa before the 2020 caucuses, and she was astonished to find out she could get almond milk. And that it gets so dark and quiet at night out in the country.

I mean, honestly.

Lug 2, 10:08pm

Maybe she thought we don't know how to read. :)

Lug 3, 10:09am

>214 BLBera: I'm leaning more toward "she didn't think," period. :-)

Lug 5, 6:49am

>206 katiekrug: >207 Jackie_K: That! Exactly that. Live and let live, read and let read, write and let write

Now going to follow to page 5!
Questa conversazione è stata continuata da rosalita ROOTs around in 2021 - page 5.