BLBera's Beth's Reading in 2021 - Chapter 2

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BLBera's Beth's Reading in 2021 - Chapter 2

Modificato: Giu 30, 9:15pm

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

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

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

Modificato: Ieri, 6:02pm

Currently reading

Giu 30, 11:42am

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

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

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

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

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

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

*from my shelves

Giu 30, 11:42am

Giu 30, 2:03pm

I'm in awe at this amount of reading. I'll be lucky to read half of that by year's end!

Giu 30, 2:14pm

I'm interested to find out what you think of Inventory of Losses.

Giu 30, 5:40pm

>6 AlisonY: Hi Alison. I have a few audiobooks in the mix, which helps, and I do spend a lot of time reading. No little kids at home to distract me.

>7 RidgewayGirl: I'm enjoying it, Kay. I usually try to read an essay in the morning with my coffee. I love the amount of research she does. That was my favorite part of grad school, and it makes me a little nostalgic.

Lug 1, 5:24pm

79. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a well-researched first novel that centers on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is also the coming-of-age story of Esme Nicoll. Her father is an editor of the OED, and she grows up in the Scriptorium, surrounded by the scraps of paper with the words and their definitions.

She later works on the dictionary. What is remarkable about Esme is that early on, she realizes that all words are not equal, that the vernacular and words used by women are often excluded. She begins to collect these forgotten words.

Even though Esme is fictional, this story is fascinating. Williams has obviously done her research about both the creation of the OED and the time period. I would like to know more about the real women who worked on the dictionary.

Lug 1, 6:11pm

>9 BLBera: Wasn’t Esme a great character, Beth.

Lug 1, 9:23pm

Yes, she was Colleen. I shed a tear or two at the end.

Lug 2, 11:37am

>9 BLBera: You can find a list of the main contributors to the first edition at: Fun fact - JRR Tolkien was a contributor!

Lug 2, 2:13pm

Thanks Rhian! There's minimal information about the women.

Lug 3, 11:45am

>13 BLBera: Yes I noticed that. Sigh.

Lug 3, 11:42pm

>9 BLBera: My mother just bought this for me! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Lug 4, 9:06am

>14 rhian_of_oz: The way of the world. :(

>15 wandering_star: I'll watch for your comments.

Lug 4, 9:11am

>9 BLBera: oh, that's a must read for me. On the list it goes!

Lug 4, 9:13am

80. The Night Hawks
This is a satisfying mystery in the Ruth Galloway series. I love Ruth, but this is also a well-plotted mystery, unlike some of the previous novels in the series.

The Night Hawks are a group of amateurs who look for ancient treasure. One night, while searching on the beach, they find a dead body washing in, just as they find some armor buried in the sand. As the police try to solve this death, there are more deaths. Could they be related?

Ruth has been promoted, and she has a new employee. It will be interesting to see what happens next in her personal life.

Fans of the series will like this, and I think it would even work as a standalone.

Lug 4, 9:14am

>17 japaul22: Hi Jennifer - I think you will like it.

Lug 4, 9:01pm

>9 BLBera: Dictionary of Lost Words is a book bullet for me. Sounds wonderful. And thank you >12 rhian_of_oz: Rhian for the link, it's providing some fun browsing while trying to tune out the fireworks.

Lug 5, 12:44pm

>20 labfs39: I'll watch for your comments. Overall, comments have been pretty favorable on LT; maybe because a book about language and words is naturally a winner with this group?

Lug 5, 4:56pm

81. Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask

This book is written in a Q&A format, and according to the author, is a collection of questions he commonly hears when speaking. Partly because of this, I would say the level is that of a young adult reader.

Treuer covers a lot of topics, from treaties to casinos. He lives near Bemidji, Minnesota, and teaches at Bemidji State University. He uses his personal experiences in answering questions.

I've heard Treuer speak, and he is an engaging speaker. There is a newer, revised audiobook that he reads, and if you are interested in the topic, it's very easy to listen to.

I've read quite a bit on this topic, so there wasn't a lot of new information for me, but this is a great starting point for people interested in the topic. Treuer also includes a list of resources at the end of the book.

One of his answers that did surprise me and made me laugh was the answer to the question: "Are there any good Indian movies?"

Treuer: " I like some of the old spaghetti Westerns because the Navaho extras they hired spent the entire time talking smack about the actors in the Diné language. With proper translation, it's incredibly entertaining."

BTW: Anton and David Treuer are brothers. I highly recommend Rez Life and The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee if you are looking for additional resources about indigenous life.

Lug 5, 8:53pm

>9 BLBera: The Dictionary of Lost Words does sound really great. I felt burnt by The Madman and the Professor years ago when it came highly recommended by my copyeditor group. I found it pretty boring. But this sounds like the twist will make it. I think it's already on my TBR list, but I'll make a note.

Lug 6, 2:41pm

I loved The Madman and the Professor, Joyce, but the novel may be something more to your taste.

Lug 7, 11:25am

>23 Nickelini: I read both The Dictionary of Lost Words (February) and The Surgeon of Crowthorne (May) this year and they are very different books. I found some parts of 'Madman' boring, but mostly I found it interesting, possibly because I had read 'Dictionary' first.

Lug 8, 8:26am

>25 rhian_of_oz: Great observation, Rhian. In fiction, the writer has the ability to skip over the dull parts.

Modificato: Lug 10, 6:28am

I just finished The War That Saved My Life based on your review and I loved it. Now to find the second one!

Lug 9, 12:28pm

I'm glad you liked it, Rhian. Is there a sequel? I didn't know. I will look for it.

Lug 9, 4:13pm

82. Night Waking is a novel filled with ideas about gender roles, class, colonization, and history. Moss creates a number of story lines that come together in a satisfactory way with great characters and a little humor as well. Above all, the novel looks at motherhood and its demands and complexities.

In Anna Bennet, Moss creates a realistic character who shows the challenges of modern motherhood.

Anna Bennet is a historian living on a small island off the coast of Scotland with her husband Giles and two small sons. While her husband spends his days counting puffins, Anna takes care of the children and tries to write her book on Victorian parenting. She's sleep deprived because her toddler wakes up every night.

When bones are found in their garden police come to investigate. Anna is sure the baby has been long dead. Yet she worries about the identity and becomes interested in the history of the island.

As the novel progresses, we learn more about the history, both distant and more recent, and learn that the past is never really past.

We had a great discussion of the various elements of the novel, talking about the different mothers in the novel and how they were portrayed. While some didn't like the character of Anna at first, by the end of the novel, most could identify with her. "Realistic" was a word that came up over and over as we discussed Anna and her children.

There is so much to think about in this novel, which I found extremely satisfying.

Modificato: Lug 9, 9:20pm

Great review of Night Waking, Lisa Beth. I'll buy and read it soon.

Lug 9, 9:17pm

Hi Darryl: Thanks. It's Beth, but that's OK. :)

Modificato: Lug 9, 9:20pm

>31 BLBera: Duh! I knew that. I was thinking of labfs39. Please accept the humble apologies of a semi-senile 60 year old man.

Lug 10, 6:31am

>28 BLBera: There is indeed a sequel - The War I Finally Won. I have requested it from the library and will hopefully have it in my hot little hands next week.

Lug 10, 9:33am

>32 kidzdoc: No apology necessary, Darryl.

>33 rhian_of_oz: Thanks, Rhian. I will also look for a copy. Ada is such a great character.

Lug 10, 10:13am

>18 BLBera: I downloaded this one from my audible account, Beth. I love this series, and I’m glad to see it still holds up.

Lug 10, 10:16am

It's a good one, Colleen.

Lug 11, 9:18am

83. In the Company of Men is a short novel about the outbreak of the ebola virus in Africa. The baobab tree narrates and frames the stories of various people affected by the virus. The language, especially in the tree chapters, shows Tadjo's poetic prowess: "We, the trees. Our roots run all the way down to the heart of the earth, and we can feel the beat of her pulse. We inhale her breath. We taste her flesh. We live and die in the exact same spot, never moving from the land we occupy."

A doctor, a nurse, a researcher, and various survivors all tell their stories about ebola. My one complaint is that the voices aren't really distinct -- the mother from the village sounds very much like the doctor. This may be due the translation?

Still, overall, this is a lovely book, beautifully written, and one certainly can't ignore the parallels to COVID.

I'm glad I picked this up.

Lug 11, 10:42am

Nice review of In the Company of Men, Beth. I saw that the Kindle version of it is on sale for $4.99, so I just purchased it.

Lug 11, 11:34am

Hi Darryl - I think as a physician, you will appreciate it. It's a quick read.

Lug 11, 3:19pm

84. Red Knife

It's been a while since I read one of the Cork O'Connor series, but it was easy to pick this one up. I've always enjoyed the setting in these novels, the fictional town of Aurora in northern Minnesota, close the Ojibwe reservation. In this novel, Cork has been asked to mediate between a leader of an Ojibwe band of youth and a white man whose daughter has recently died. The white man blames the Ojibwe for his daughter's death, and Cork is afraid that if something isn't done, violence will erupt. When the Ojibwe man and his wife are brutally murdered, it seems that war will break out, if the culprit isn't found rapidly.

The solution is not what anyone expected.

Lug 12, 7:44am

>37 BLBera: I picked this up a few weeks back; I think it was part of a small press display. Now I'm looking forward to it even more!

Lug 12, 9:05am

It's a good one, Liz. The cover is great, and I'm glad I browsed the new arrival section at the library. Often I just pick up the book I have on hold.

Lug 15, 2:01pm

85. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
Set on a fictional Barbadean beach, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House reveals the stark contrasts between the tourists and the people who live there. Lala, a woman who braids the hair of tourists, is at the center of the novel, but her story represents those of all women suffering from domestic abuse. Soon after her marriage, her husband Adan begins to beat her:

"Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other? ... Hadn't she seen the evidence on one or another woman she had known of worse beatings than these? Had her own mother not tolerated such beatings?"

Jones focuses on the lives of people who live on the margins and what they do to survive. The characters are not always admirable, but we can see them and understand that they don't have a lot of choices.

It makes one think about the real life on these paradises.

Lug 16, 6:55pm

The Millions Most Anticipated for the second half of 2021:

Lug 16, 7:12pm

>44 BLBera: I knooooow! I went through the list in great detail this morning.

Lug 16, 10:30pm

I love this, Lisa. What is calling to you most?
For me, the new Lauren Groff, Louise Erdrich and Lily King, to start with.

Modificato: Lug 17, 12:11pm

86. American Sublime: Poems
This is a wonderful collection of poems from Alexander, the inaugural poet for Obama's first inauguration:

The collection focuses on the African American experience, with one part dedicated to the reimagining of the experiences of the slaves on the Amistad. Another section that I really liked, was her series of ars poetica poems.

A couple that I really liked:


When I see a black man smiling
like that, nodding and smiling
with both hands visible, mouthing

"Yes, Officer," across the street,
I think of my father, who taught us
the words "cooperate," "officer,"

to memorize badge numbers,
who has seen black men shot at
from behind in the warm months north.

And I think of the fine line--
hairline, eyelash, finger paring --
the whisper that separates

obsequious from safe. Armstrong,
Johnson, Robinson, Mays.
A woman with a yellow head

of cotton candy hair stumbles out
of a bar at after-lunchtime
clutching a black man's arm as if

for her life. And the brother
smiles, and his eyes are flint
as he watches all sides of the street.

Ars Poëtica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is what we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said)

"Every 'I' is a dramatic 'I'"),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the first in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I'm sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice

and are we not of interest to each other?

Lug 17, 12:54pm

>44 BLBera: I was just happily settling in to read my backlist. Oh, well.

Lug 17, 2:01pm

Enjoy, Kay.

Lug 17, 2:18pm

American Sublime sounds very interesting, Beth; I'll add it to my wish list.

Lug 17, 10:32pm

>46 BLBera: I loved Groff's new one—I think it will be right up your alley.

I have a big pile of those in e-galley format, but the one that I don't have that I most want to read is Kristen Radtke's Seek You—I've been listening to a few interviews with her and it sounds like exactly what I want to read, plus she's a gardener and talks a lot about the overlap between gardening and writing, which I like.

Some others that will probably gravitate to the top of the virtual pile:

Anthony Veasna So's Afterparties (he died suddenly at the end of 2020, and the pieces of his I've read in the New Yorker were terrific)
Claire Luchette's Agatha of Little Neon (I'm a sucker for a nun story)
Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle
Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land
Claire Vaye Watkins's I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness
Lily King's Five Tuesdays in Winter
Rebecca Solnit's Orwell's Roses
Laurent Binet's Civilizations

But seriously, there are another 20 on that list that I'm stoked for.

Modificato: Lug 17, 10:47pm

>50 kidzdoc: It's a good one, Darryl.

Hi Lisa - That's right. I'd forgotten that you already read Groff's new one.

I'm not familiar with So's writing, but all of the others are on my list; some of them are already reserved at my library. :)

Lug 18, 2:37pm

87. God Help the Child
"I always knew she didn't like touching me. I could tell. Distaste was all over her face when I was little and she had to bathe me...I used to pray she would slap my face or spank me just to feel her touch."

In her final novel, Morrison revisits the themes from her first one, The Bluest Eye. Once again, she shows the vulnerability of children and the lasting effects of childhood trauma. But while Pecola has no chance to recover from her trauma, in God Help the Child, Morrison gives us some hope that Bride will be able to overcome it.

Morrison complicates the issue of beauty by introducing the commodification of blackness. However, even this is no guarantee that Bride will escape the effects of her mother's distaste.

It's interesting to read this as a culmination of Morrison's work. It may not be my favorite, but it is still thought-provoking and a very good novel.

Lug 18, 4:45pm

88. An Inventory of Losses
This collection of essays makes me nostalgic for graduate school. I always thought research was fun. Schalansky writes about animals, places, and artifacts that have disappeared. The amount of research she has done is amazing.

My favorite essays are both about writing: "The Love Songs of Sappho" (only about 600 lines exist) and "The Seven Books of Mani." The latter are books of revelations that served as the basis for the global religion of Manichaeism. The books were mostly destroyed. Not all of the essays interested me, but I soldiered through them.

The writing is dense. I'm not sure how much of this is due to the translation, but I suspect that this is not easy reading in the original German either.

I read one essay at a time, over a month.

Lug 19, 11:13am

Hi! I've just caught up with your interesting reading and concise, informative reviews. Also, I very much enjoyed the poems you posted in >47 BLBera:

Lug 19, 9:29pm

>55 rocketjk: I'm glad you enjoyed them. Alexander is a gifted poet.

Lug 19, 9:33pm

89. An Old, Cold Grave is the third in the engaging Lane Winslow series. In this novel we learn more about the history of the King's Cove community. When the roof of the root cellar of Lane's neighbors caves in, they find the skeleton of a child. Inspector Darling ask Lane's help in discovering the identity of the child and when he or she was buried.

Lane also meets and sympathizes with a young girl who wants to to to university instead of getting married. Lane is forced to look at her own desires and asses her willingness to enter into a relationship.

Entertaining series with a great setting.

Lug 22, 9:01am

90. Magpie Lane
A nanny, Dee, narrates Magpie Lane. As we learn how Dee came to be the nanny for eight-year-old Felicity, child of an Oxford Master, we soon realize that Dee is telling her story to the police, that Felicity has disappeared.

There are many mysteries in the novel (is the house haunted, where is Felicity, what happened in Dee's past), but I don't feel this is primarily a mystery. Instead, it is a meditation of parenthood. What sacrifices should parents make for their children? Are Nick and Mariah bad parents? In Dee's eyes, they certainly are -- but is she a good judge of this?

I loved this novel -- the character of Dee is interesting and layered, and the setting of Oxford is wonderfully described.


Lug 22, 10:35am

>58 BLBera: Sounds interesting. And from the cover, I knew right away this is a British suspense/crime novel.

Lug 22, 11:11am

>54 BLBera: An Inventory of Losses was such a great love letter to falling down research rabbit holes. I very much liked the same two you did... could barely get through the one about the Roman circus, but that's probably more my own lack of tolerance for animal in peril narratives. I also didn't read more than an essay a night—this was not a book I wanted to (or could) plow through.

Modificato: Lug 23, 1:42pm

>58 BLBera: I've been looking forward to that one since before it was published, but I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback. Great to hear that you recommend it!

Lug 22, 3:34pm

>58 BLBera: Another added to my list….

Lug 23, 12:05am

>59 RidgewayGirl: I am still thinking about it, Kay.

>60 lisapeet: Yes, I should have given you credit for bringing this one to my attention, Lisa. I found the Garbo one a little tedious as well.

>61 Nickelini: Hi Joyce. It was a lucky pick for me from the new books shelf in the library.

>62 NanaCC: You're welcome, Colleen. :)

Modificato: Lug 24, 7:08pm

91. Seven Guitars is set in 1948 and centers around the life of Floyd Barton, a musician. However, this is really an ensemble piece. The play starts at Floyd's funeral, then flashes back so we see what happens. Floyd has a hit record but just came out of the workhouse. He is supposed to go back to Chicago to record more music. The play's action centers around Floyd's efforts to find money to go. We see his frustration at how difficult it is to be successful; no one is particularly helpful.

Women play a more prominent part in this play than in many of the other Wilson plays. In Louise, Vera, and Ruby, we see how limited their choices are.

I've been reading the Theatre Communications Group editions of Wilson's plays, and I really like them. Each edition has a foreword; Tony Kushner wrote the one for Seven Guitars. The production history of the play is also present.

My next one is Two Trains Running; I'm skipping over Fences, which is the next one chronologically because I've read it many, many, many times.

Lug 26, 11:35am

93. The Clothing of Books is an essay based on a lecture that Lahiri gave. In it, she considers book covers in general, and her own covers. While she considers that the cover should serve as a visual representation of the contents, she has had little input in her covers, something she regards as regrettable. She says she has really disliked some, but she doesn't say which ones; I'd like to know that.

Lug 26, 7:55pm

Booker Longlist
A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam

Second Place, Rachel Cusk

The Promise, Damon Galgut

The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris

✔️Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro

An Island, Karen Jennings (couldn't find a touchstone for this one)

A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson

✔️No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood

The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed

Bewilderment, Richard Powers

China Room, Sunjeev Sahota

Great Circle Maggie Shipstead

Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford

There are a few here that I would like to read. I've read two, No One Is Taking about This and Klara and the Sun.

Lug 28, 10:03pm

94. Autumn
"I'm tired of the news. I'm tired of the way it makes things spectacular that aren't, and deals so simplistically with what's truly appalling. I'm tired of the vitriol. I'm tired of the anger. I'm tired of the meanness. I'm tired of the selfishness. I'm tired of how we're doing nothing to stop it."

Smith takes on Brexit, bureaucracy, and misogyny, to name a few things. And she does it with wit and style. The account of Elisabeth trying to renew her passport will resonate with anyone who has ever had to deal with a government office.

This was published in 2016, and my reading of it is very different after enduring four years of a Trump presidency. Smith is more than a little prescient. Yet this is not just a political novel. The story of Elisabeth's and Daniel's friendship is lovely. Now as he sleeps and dreams in a care facility (he's 101), Elisabeth sits and remembers their conversations. He taught her that there is more than one way of looking at things, something it doesn't hurt to remember.

Wonderful novel that is a rewarding reread. I plan to finish the quartet this year, but I wanted to reread the first two before I continue with Spring.

Lug 30, 10:48pm

>67 BLBera: I too loved the friendship between Daniel and Elisabeth. And the passport renewal bits are iconic. I was not as captivated by Winter and decided not to continue on with the series. I'll look forward to what you think of them.

Lug 31, 8:56am

I did quite like Winter, although not as much as Autumn. I wonder if the reread will be as rewarding?

Lug 31, 9:29am

I have three of the quartet and definitely want to at least start them this year.

Lug 31, 11:48am

Hi Lisa: I read Autumn and Winter when they first were published and then didn't get to the other two. Some have commented that they wish they had read them together, so I decided to reread the first two before I continue. It's no hardship to read -- or reread -- Ali Smith!

Lug 31, 4:18pm

>67 BLBera: I also plan to read the quartet in one go, beginning with a reread of Autumn.

Lug 31, 5:12pm

I need to get to Autumn. I attended Ali Smith's highly entertaining and enticing talk about it at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2018 (2019?), but it has been sitting unread in my library since then.

Ago 1, 4:29am

I find it hard to become an Ali Smith fan (but I know I'm in the minority on that one). There's a particular grey British grittiness to her writing that I just find it hard to enjoy.

I enjoyed The Accidental more than Autumn, but still - there's a particular atmosphere she conjures up in her writing that just doesn't sit well with me for some reason.

Ago 1, 9:59am

>72 RidgewayGirl: Great minds, Kay...

>73 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. How fun to see her. I would be interested to see what you think of it.

>74 AlisonY: I can easily see that Smith is not for everyone, Alison. I have The Accidental on my shelves. I will get to it eventually.

Ago 3, 10:51am

95. Burnt Sugar is a story about mothers and daughters and the complicated relationships they have. At the start of the novel, when Antara, the narrator, tells about the mother's increasing forgetfulness, it seems that the novel will center on the effects of dementia on a mother-daughter relationship. However, this turns out to be mainly a device that Doshi uses to frame the story. It's a shame because my favorite parts were the ones about the dementia and the questions about what do to with her mother.

Sections like her time at the boarding school made the novel seem oddly unfocused. So while I liked the writing, overall the novel failed to be one I loved.

Ago 5, 8:55am

96. Intimations is a brief collection of personal essays, Smith's response to the pandemic. "Screengrabs," a group of portraits of people she is vaguely acquainted with is a showcase of her descriptive skills. She also comments on George Floyd and unequal access to medical care. Perhaps not her best collection but very topical.

Ago 6, 10:55am

>37 BLBera: I am slowly catching up on your thread and your review of In the company of men caught my eyes.
I had seen this book when it was published in France and hesitated to read it, your review convinced me I should, so onto my list...
I remember this epidemic. I was not in France at the time, but remember the paranoïa in French media. And I've thought about this parallel with Covid, but Ebola seems so worse, with a likelihood to recover so low that I think it would change a lot on our collective willingness to adopt some measures to avoid being contaminated.

Coming back to the book, as I won't read it in translation and keeping in mind your commentary, I'll probably try to pay attention to the different voices.

Ago 7, 8:56am

I'll be interested in your observations about the different voices. It was interesting to read it in the context of COVID; at the time of the outbreak, Ebola seemed very far away. Now, not so much.

Ago 8, 10:49am

97. The Secret to Superhuman Strength is another winning memoir from Bechdel, honest and emotional. The graphic format really works well here; the drawing enhances her text.

Bechdel arranges it by decades, starting as a child and ending with the present. The thread that runs through it is her quest for strength and fitness, but it's about more than fitness trends through the years. Basically, Bechdel is searching, through activity, for some kind of peace and enlightenment. And as with all lives, there are missteps along the way.

She's done some research as well, looking at the lives of some of the romantic poets, Margaret Fuller, and Jack Kerouac. Many of them also searched for inspiration through activity.

I hope Bechdel is not done; this memoir is every bit as good as Fun Home and Are You My Mother?. Thanks to Ellen for bringing it to my attention.

Ago 8, 11:27am

>80 BLBera: Another for my wishlist, Beth. I wish there were more hours in the day.

Ago 8, 2:38pm

Yes, Colleen, we all need more reading time.

Ago 12, 2:50pm

Well, Magpie was fairly inexpensive ($6.99) for Kindle so I bought it. I'm finding I need to be distracted by crime/mysteries and Sci-fi nowadays, rather than purely literary fiction.
I was one who read Ali Smith's Winter first, and wasn't all that impressed with it, at least not enough to read the entire series. Then for some reason I ended up reading Summer, and loved it! So I had to go back and read the other two. Overall, I liked the Quartet a lot, but I think I would have liked it more had I read them in order.

Ago 12, 3:17pm

I'll be interested in your comments on Magpie Lane, Deborah. I still think about it. Dee was an interesting character.

I read the first two and then stopped, so Winter is my next one. I didn't like that one as much as Autumn, but I still thought it was very good. I suspect most of what Smith writes, even the less-good ones, are better than most other books.

Ago 13, 9:03am

Vacationland is a reread from last summer when we read it for our family reunion book group. My comments were pretty brief: While at the lake, I also finished Vacationland, a wonderful novel of related stories set at a resort in northern Minnesota. I loved the characters and the description. It was our family book club selection, and while the overall opinion was positive, many didn't like the connected stories and the jumping back and forth in time.

It's set in fictional Hatchet Inlet in northern Minnesota. Each chapter is more or less about a different member of the community, or a guest at the resort, Naledi. Having spent many summers at northern resorts, I found the descriptions convincing. I really liked the way the novel was constructed. I may have liked it even more after rereading it.

It's supposed to be the first book of a trilogy. I have the second Laurentian Divide on my shelf and have been meaning to get to it.

My book club meets today to discuss it. It will be interesting to see how the comments match with those of my family.

Ago 14, 4:01pm

>85 BLBera: What a great idea to have a family reunion book group. How many family members participate? I'm afraid I wouldn't get enough buy-in to make it work for my extended family.

Ago 14, 8:10pm

There are about eight of us, Lisa. I am lucky to belong to a family of readers. After we discuss the book, we share our recent favorites, so we leave with a nice WL. It is a lot of fun.

Ago 14, 8:41pm

99. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is a very good short story collection. I listened to it, and the reader was expressive and captured the tone of the voices very well, with the exception of one story, "Jael," which had two narrators. It took me a while to catch on. The collection covers a wide variety of relationships, but my favorite stories were the ones about mothers and daughters, especially, "Peach Cobbler" and "When Eddie Leveret Comes."

I look forward to Philyaw's next work.

Ago 15, 10:02am

100. Two Trains Running is set in 1969, in a diner. In the patrons, Wilson show the various ways people struggle to survive and the systemic racism they fight against. Memphis, the owner, is fighting with the city, which wants to buy his property; Wolf runs numbers; Sterling, just out of prison, is looking for a job. West, the undertaker, brings the constant presence of death to the diner. And in the background, is Aunt Ester, the spiritual adviser.

I really liked this play. While in the background, Wilson has Black Power rallies, he shows the daily life of the neighborhood, and how little it is affected by the protests. He touches on issues of gentrification, mass incarceration, and unemployment.

The next play is Jitney.

Ago 18, 8:43am

101. Postcolonial Love Poem is an intense collection of love poems, filled with desert and water imagery and mythology. My favorites include "That Which Cannot Be Stilled," "The First Water Is the Body," and "Snake-Light." The poems are long, but some of my favorite excerpts:

From "exhibits from The American Water Museum"
Art of Fact:
Let me tell you a story about water.
Once upon a time there was us.
America's thirst tried to drink us away.
And here we still are.

From "Snake-Light"
Let's say it's all text -- the animal, the dune,
the wind in the cottonwood, and the body.

Everything book: a form bound together.
This is also book: the skeleton of a rattlesnake

Sheathed tightly in its unopened flesh.
Apex of spine and spur, the wet-black
curves of unlit bone, dark parentheses-letters

flexed across a mica-like gulley, a line.
What is a page if not a lingering, an opaque
waiting -- to be marked, and written?

Even the rattlesnake is legible
through the muscled strike of its body.
A sentence, or a spell, a taut rope of emotion --

serpentine signal against the surface of the eye's
moon-stroked desert floor.

When a snake swallows its prey,
a row of inner teeth help walk the jaw
over the prey's body -- walking like reading.

Walking over a word with the teeth of our mind.

To write is to be eaten. To read, to be full.

Ago 18, 12:15pm

>90 BLBera: Did you read her first collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec? It was excellent. I have this one, bought on the strength of the first, but haven't read it yet. Soon, though.

Ago 18, 5:33pm

I had to check, Lisa. I think I read parts of it, but it isn't in LT, so I suspect I had to return it to the library unfinished. It happens.:)

Ago 18, 6:08pm

>89 BLBera: I need to read more August Wilson...

Ago 18, 7:00pm

I think his plays are very readable, Annie.

Ago 18, 7:38pm

>94 BLBera: I loved The Piano Lesson a couple of years ago when I read through most of the drama available in the local library - I just never got around to either buying or requesting ILL for the rest. :)

Ago 18, 9:55pm

I'm lucky that my library has the entire series.

Modificato: Ago 22, 5:57pm

102. Great Circle is a sprawling novel that spans the twentieth century. There's a lot to love about it, especially the characters of Marian, Jamie and Caleb. I thought about them a lot in the days I spent with this novel and I think they will stick with me a while.

Marian and Jamie Graves are twins, rescued from a sinking ship when they are infants. Sent to live with an uncle in Montana, they mostly raise themselves. Their uncle Wallace has a drinking problem. Caleb, a neighbor boy who is also largely unsupervised, becomes close to the twins. There's a framing device of a movie being made about Marian as well.

At 600 pages, the novel is too long. Marian's childhood, with repetitive details takes up the first couple hundred pages. Jamie is hardly mentioned. Shipstead would have been better showing more of their relationship and less of Marian. The framing device of the movie about Marian's life is unnecessary and distracts from the main characters. There are also other unneeded digressions.

Still, great characters. This book would have been almost perfect with a couple hundred fewer pages.

Ago 22, 11:10pm

103. B Is for Burglar is a well-plotted puzzle. In it Kinsey Millhone accepts a case to look for a missing woman. Elaine Boldt's sister wants her to sign some legal documents, and no one seems to have seen Elaine for months. Kinsey's search is entertaining and the solution is ingenious.

The audiobook was well done. I'll listen to more of these.

Ago 25, 7:58am

>97 BLBera: I’m about 90% done with this book, and I am enjoying it. But your comments are right on point. It could have been a great book instead of just a good one.

Ago 25, 9:01am

Hi Colleen: There seem to be two schools of thought about Great Circle. Lots of five-star ratings for those who loved everything about it, and then there are people like me who liked it a lot but saw some room for improvement.

Ago 25, 8:43pm

>97 BLBera: I want to read this book, but I've decided to wait until I run across a copy at a booksale or at the used bookstore.

Ago 25, 8:48pm

I had a library copy, Kay. It is very good, great characters. Just a tad too long.

Ago 27, 10:16am

104. Consent is a novel about two sets of sisters: Sara and Mattie and Saskia and Jenny. Sara is a few years older than Mattie who is developmentally delayed. Saskia and Jenny are twins, but Jenny is emotionally unstable.

Lyon portrays the complex dynamics of sisterhood well, with feelings of guilt, resentment, and love mixed together. When Sara becomes Mattie's caretaker, she is torn between love and responsibility and resentment and impatience. Saskia, as a twin, also has a complicated relationship with her sister.

Saskia and Sara meet because of a surprising connection between their sisters, and the novel takes a dark turn towards the end. I'm not sure how I feel about it; in some ways it seems too dramatic for the story Lyon is telling. All in all, though, this is a compelling story.

Ago 29, 10:39am

105. Heaven's Keep is, as usual with Krueger, a page turner. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it, so this is a series that I might continue on audiobook.

This novel begins with the loss of the small plane that Jo O'Connor is on, along with some of her Native American clients. They are on their way to a conference in Seattle when their plane goes down in Wyoming during a blizzard. Most of this novel takes place in Wyoming, which is a departure for this series, mainly set on a fictional lake in northern Minnesota.

Jo's husband Cork goes to Wyoming to be near the search. Of course, this isn't simply a plane lost in a snow storm, and along with Cork, we learn what really happens.

Ago 30, 10:23am

>104 BLBera: you’ve added the Krueger series to my wishlist, Beth. Not that I need another series. But….

Ago 30, 10:44am

>105 NanaCC: Ditto. And ditto!

Ago 30, 6:03pm

>105 NanaCC: I'm always happy to add series to others' attention, Colleen. I think this one improves as it goes on; the first two were not great. The audiobooks I've listened to have been pretty good.

>106 rhian_of_oz: Hi Rhian. See above.

Ago 30, 6:34pm

>104 BLBera: >105 NanaCC: >106 rhian_of_oz: >107 BLBera:

I am not adding any new series to my list. I am not adding new series to my list... Oh see, the library has the first one. Never mind - I will just try not to add too many new series...

It is a rare series where the first is its best (and then in these, that first great book is followed by a few decent ones before we get into good and great again). So that rarely bothers me - if the story works and the style is not too annoying, I'd stay with the series for awhile to see if it gets better (and they tend to - usually because you know the characters).

Ago 30, 7:44pm

Very true, Annie. And if I like the characters in a series enough, I might even forgive weaker books, just to spend time with the characters.

Ago 30, 8:14pm

>109 BLBera: Yeah - a story can work even with a lot of gotchas - as long as it does not slide into stupidity too much, I can forgive a lot in a series I like. And deep into a series? It is like meeting old friends again. So I'd stay with some series long after their high point - because at this point I look at it as part of the overall story and not as a standalone book - and with the backstory in there, even weak books sound better sometimes.

Had I mentioned that I am a serial series reader? :)

Set 1, 7:16pm

>110 AnnieMod: I have read my share of series as well, Annie.

Set 1, 10:14pm

>111 BLBera: Yeah, figured you may have. :)

Set 2, 1:17pm

Yes, at the topic of my homepage, it says that I have 600+ series in my catalog!

Modificato: Set 3, 6:48pm

106. Light Perpetual follows five people through one fictional part of London from WWII to the beginning of this century. Supposedly Vern, Ben, Alec, Jo, and Val were all killed in the Blitz by a bomb. This happens in the first pages of the novel, and supposedly the rest of the novel explores the lives they could have lived. But the novel never really returns to this idea, so I'm not sure Spufford really needed it.

It was a slow start for me, but as I read on and learned more about the lives of the characters, I started to care about each one and wondered what would happen. Spufford also captures certain moments in time in London: the clothes, the music, the real estate trends. The characters are very much of the place.

Spufford also has some lovely descriptions: "...the bare trees...each stands in a ragged oval of leaf-fall, summer's discarded yellow petticoat. A few last leaves, small as halfpennies or candle flames, cling on to twigs..."

His writing is quite exquisite. I will read more of his work.

Set 6, 12:45pm

107. It Begins in Betrayal is another well-plotted story that returns to Inspector Darling's war years. He is recalled to England to face charges related to a plane crash during the war, accused of killing one of his crew. Lane, concerned, follows Darling to England and becomes involved in trying to clear his name. All kinds of twists and turns involved.

Meanwhile, Ames is left in Canada to investigate the murder of an old woman hermit.

The solutions to both cases lie in the past, and Whishaw keeps us guessing until the end.

108. Fences is one of my favorite plays by Wilson. I've taught it many times, so this is a reread for me, but I realized that I've never commented on it.

This play is set in 1957, and Troy Maxson, a garbage collector, is the main character. He was a good baseball player, but he never got the chance to play in the major leagues because baseball wasn't yet integrated. Troy is bitter about that and refuses to allow his son Cory to meet with a college football recruiter, something that creates even more of a barrier between father and son.

The characters, as always with Wilson are finely drawn. This play is not only about missed opportunities, it is also about the limitations of the American dream and fathers and sons. The Denzel Washington film is also very good.

Set 10, 3:36pm

110. The Woman Who Smashed Codes was my book club selection for this month. People liked the book and appreciated the amount of research and the coherent way Fagone told Elizebeth Friedman's story. He used her own words from letters and diaries to give us a clear sense of what she was like. For example, she was concerned "about the importance of choosing the right words for things, even if those words offended people. She didn't like it when she heard a friend say that a person who had died had 'passed away' or that a staggering drunk at a party was 'a bit indisposed.' It was more important to be honest."

We talked a lot about the kind of mind needed to break codes. Both Elizebeth and her husband William worked to break Enigma codes during WWII. While William was well known in the world of code breakers, Elizebeth's contributions were buried. Together, they really started cryptology in the US.

The book is a good introduction to a remarkable woman.

Set 11, 8:46pm

111. The Life of the Mind

Generally, I like novels set in academia, and the description of this one sounded promising. Dorothy is an adjunct faculty, trying to finish her book so she has a chance at a tenure-track position. The descriptions of the classroom, a conference she attends, her printer woes, all add up to someone whose life is in crisis. After being chastised by a librarian for printing in the library, she realizes" how naïve she had once been to believe there was anything glamorous about the life of the mind."

The novel begins just as she has suffered a miscarriage. Her life is literally in the toilet. The novel begins in a toilet stall with Dorothy examining her bloody pad, and let's just say there is way too much information about body secretions and way too much time in toilets in this novel.

So, unless this sounds appetizing to you, I wouldn't recommend this novel.

Modificato: Set 15, 5:52pm

112. Averno
Averno is a small lake in Italy that the Romans believed was the entrance to the underworld. This place, with its aura of endings, is an apt title for this wonderful collection of poems by Louise Glück. In "October," the speaker considers how quickly time passes, while other poems explore the Persephone myth. All look at the transience of life. Glück's poems are long, but here are some of my favorite snippets:

From "October"
death cannot harm me
more than you have harmed me,
my beloved life.

From "Omens"
To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

This is a collection I will return to. It is beautiful.

Modificato: Set 15, 6:03pm

113. Ariadne

I loved this novel. Ariadne imagines one version of Ariadne's life, beginning with her childhood on Crete, and the story of the Minotaur. Ariadne's sister Phaedra is also a part of the story, but the main focus is on Ariadne.

Following other recent novels like Circe and The Silence of the Girls that retell stories from mythology, this also focuses on the women's point of view. Early on, Ariadne understands, "...a truth of womanhood: however blameless a life we led, the passions and the greed of men could ring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do."

I enjoyed following Ariadne; one of the things that Saint does well is flesh out the character in a way that makes us want to follow Ariadne on her journey, even if we know how it ends.

Set 15, 9:07pm

I have a copy of Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück on my Kindle, including several poems from Averno, so I'll take a look at this book soon.

Set 16, 7:58am

I've been meaning to read a full collection of Glück's—that sounds like a nice place to start. And yes, Ariadne was really engaging. I'm imagining a whole new generation of teens and young adults taken in by mythology because of this spate of retellings—never a bad thing.

Set 16, 9:16am

Oh, I'm a sucker for these Greek myth retellings from a female POV. Ariadne is definitely going on the list!

Set 16, 1:04pm

>120 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. I've never tried reading poetry on my e-reader. I wonder if the formatting changes? Glück doesn't really do weird things with spacing, but her poems are long, and I like to look back, so it might be a challenge.

>121 lisapeet: I think Averno is a good selection; I've heard that Glück tends to be a little difficult, but I didn't find that here.

>122 japaul22: Me too, Jennifer. I will be reading Pat Barker's new one soon. What is interesting about Ariadne is that there are different versions. I think Saint's choices are pretty interesting. I don't want to say more because I don't want to spoil it.

Set 16, 7:03pm

>123 BLBera: Some of the poems I have on my Kindle are in a format to emulate the author's intent in the print version of them, although I'm not sure how well the two versions compare.

Set 16, 8:30pm

>123 BLBera: >124 kidzdoc: I'm thinking that at this point in the ebook life cycle, most publishers have gotten a handle on formatting poetry correctly. Probably not all, and maybe not in galleys, but I bet the bigger publishers and imprints do it right. They're too big a business now not to.

Set 16, 8:46pm

>125 lisapeet: It depends on the poetry sometimes. There are poems that use very weird spacing and formatting, requiring more characters per line and alignments that simply do not work on an eReader.

Set 16, 8:53pm

>126 AnnieMod: You'd think they'd reproduce those as images... Well, I don't really know anything about e-publishing, so I imagine there are definitely gaps in what they can accomplish.

Set 16, 9:08pm

>127 lisapeet: Well, it depends on where you read the poetry. On a tablet or something else supporting image zooming and so on - that will work. On a eInk eReader? If the problem is the width, you won't be able to see anything that way.

So yes - it is possible - but not on a classic eReader - it is really designed for reading ;) Same issue you have with books relying on coloring words/sections or a lot of images and/or diagrams.

Set 17, 8:25am

It would make sense that the technology is getting better. I'll have to check out some e-poems.

Set 17, 8:28am

114. Mary's Monster is a graphic biography in verse about Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein. The art is wonderful and enhances her story. She was a remarkable woman. I will look for more biographies of her.

Set 17, 8:35am

115. C Is for Corpse
In this third novel of the series, Kinsey Millhone begins by saying she is working for a dead man. The dead man is Bobby Callahan, a young man who survived a horrific car accident but has lost a lot of his memory. The only thing he is sure of is that someone had tried to kill him. He wants Kinsey to find out who.

Well plotted, as I have come to expect in this series. The audiobooks have been really good, so I will probably continue to listen to them.

Set 17, 11:26am

>131 BLBera: I’m glad you like the audio, Beth. I’ve never tried that.

Set 17, 11:47am

>132 NanaCC: Hi Colleen: They are short and the reader does a good job. There's enough action that it keeps my attention. Also, my paper copies of the books are old mass market paperbacks with teeny print, so the audiobooks seem like a good option. :)

Set 18, 3:20pm

116. The Heron's Cry
The second in Ann Cleeves' Two Rivers series continues in Devon with Detective Matthew Venn. The characters are fleshed out a little more, and the mystery is a well-plotted puzzle.

When the father of a glass blower is found dead, there seem to be plenty of leads but no real evidence. Nigel, the victim, headed a non-profit watchdog group for the NHS and was investigating the suicide of a young man. When there is another death, this time of an artist who is a neighbor to the victims's daughter, the plot thickens. There are lots of suspects and twists, and I certainly didn't figure it out. The solution may seem a little convenient, but the setting and characters will keep me coming back.

Also, a note at the end says that this series is also being developed for TV! Yay!

Set 19, 10:12am

>116 BLBera: The Woman Who Smashed Codes has been on my wishlist for ages. Did you read Between Silk and Cyanide? If you like WWII cryptology, I thought it was great.

Making note of Averno (I like the excerpts you include) and Ariadne

Set 19, 10:32am

Do you want my copy of The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Lisa. It's sitting on my give-away pile. Just PM me your address and I'll send it your way.

I'm becoming a huge Louise Glück fan. I've read a couple of her collections in the past year, and they were both wonderful.

I'll look for Between Silk and Cyanide.

Ieri, 5:57pm

117. Matrix is another good novel from Lauren Groff. Even if Matrix doesn't have the interesting construction of Fates and Furies, Groff shows her versatility in this very good historical novel with her remarkable imagining of Marie de France.

Marie de France lived in the twelfth century, and nothing much is known about her. Some of her writing remains, so Groff was at liberty to create the character of Marie. And she creates a remarkable woman.

As a young woman, Marie was sent away from the court of Henry II to become abbess of a poor abbey. The descriptions of the cold, hungry nuns, in the dark and dirty times were so well done, I needed a blanket as I read. Marie grew to love and feel protective of the nuns, realizing that "Women in this world are vulnerable; only reputation can keep them from being crushed."

At first I was skeptical that a relatively short novel could do justice to a life, but Groff manages the passage of time well, choosing to focus on select times of Marie's life, then skimming over the intervening years.

I think fans of historical fiction will appreciate this one.