What are you reading the week of March 28, 2020?

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What are you reading the week of March 28, 2020?

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Editado: Mar 27, 2020, 9:41pm

It's been a hectic week. We had to close our company by noon last Tuesday, and I've been troubleshooting problems remotely for people all week. Not a lot of time for reading this week, but I'm about two thirds of the way through The Snail on the Slope by the Strugatsky brothers.

This book is an absolute hoot if you like dark, Kafkaesque comedies. It's the story of two men told in alternating chapters. One, named Peretz, is a philologist at a research facility known as the Administration. The Administration is a surreal, nightmarish institute where nothing is ever accomplished because everything is without meaning. The Administration oversees work on The Forest with divisions devoted to penetrating and removing the forest and another division focused on preservation. Peretz came to the Administration to study the languages of the people who live in the forest, but he can't get a permit to enter. So he has nothing to do, but he's not allowed to leave either. In a wonderfully comic scene, he's evicted from his hotel room by the panicky hotel manager wearing pajamas because his visa expired at midnight, and it's illegal to rent a room to someone without a valid visa.

The other man is named Candide. He's a helicopter pilot who crashed in the forest some years earlier. He is living with the locals who took him in and nursed him back to health. The forest has its own strange rules and the people of the forest are as baffling as they are unfamiliar. Candide is always planning to leave the village the day after tomorrow to find the City, but he somehow forgets to actually go. This may or may not be because they had to reattach his head after he crashed. It's never quite clear. The natives are simple villagers who prattle on about anything and everything and refer to Candide as Silent Man because he doesn't. The villagers are as full of rumors and fairy tales as the forest is full of dangers.

I have to say, that I'm really enjoying this book, although it may not be to everyone's taste. Imagine a production of Waiting for Godot staring the Marx Brothers. The novel doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but I think that's the point. Boris Strugatsky describes the conception of the book as representing the present (The Administration bustling with activity but accomplishing nothing) and the future (The Forest which is wild, dangerous and unpredictable).

Mar 27, 2020, 10:26pm

I am awaiting his Inhabited Island to arrive. I have read Roadside Picnic which I loved. The one you are reading should go down on the list (sounds a lot like Chekov, maybe?)

ReadingThe Clothes on their Back and liking it very much. Need to see if she has written others.

Mar 27, 2020, 10:55pm

I just finished The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley. It's the novel on which the movie The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming is based. The movie is pretty much entirely different from the book, other than the basic premise (Russian sub gets stuck on a sandbar off an island near Cape Cod during the Cold War and sends a landing party to try to steal a boat to pull the sub off the sand). Both are funny, but the movie is funnier.

I'll be spending my usual day or so going through a stack of my "between books" and then will start Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Steven Zipperstein. Not exactly light reading, but I've been meaning to get to it for a while and saw some positive comments about the book here on LT recently.

Mar 27, 2020, 11:29pm

Just finished re-reading Good Omens. I read it when it first came out -- it was my introduction to Neil Gaiman.

Pratchett's footprints are all over this one, with its drive-by puns and throwaway commentary on cultural icons from Elvis sightings to Star Wars fandom, propelling Gaiman's story seed of the Antichrist switched at birth with the wrong Human baby, but it does drag on forever -- I mean, where is there to go after Armageddon is cancelled?

I watched the Amazon / BBC miniseries between the first reading and this re-visit, and I have to say that the TV version actually tightened up the action considerably (regrettably, at the cost of losing the footnotes, which are a huge part of the book's charm). But at least in written form, one could comprehend what the children were saying. Little kid actors with heavy English accents, who talk very fast and in a very high register, are one of my pet peeves. They definitely needed subtitles.....

Mar 27, 2020, 11:45pm

I have just finished reading the novel THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by author PHILIP ROTH.


Mar 28, 2020, 7:21am

>4 LyndaInOregon: I have read that book every few year or so since it was first published, love it! Yes it does drag a bit, and I agree with you about the miniseries, loved it (they could not have found better actors than Michael Sheen and David Tenant) and think it did tighten up the story

It was my first experience with both Gaiman and Pratchett, and at the time there was little of their work published in the US. Went to Britain and found them all over the place. I reread the discworld series after pratchett passed.....

Over the years I was able to meet both authors at various conventions and book readings, I asked both if they would make a sequel, they just sadly shook their heads Did get them both to sign my original copy which I treasyre,

Mar 28, 2020, 12:49pm

I'm reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a novel about refugees from the Middle East.

Mar 28, 2020, 1:45pm

I"m reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I've already seen the show, so no surprises, but it's fun revisiting old friends and tying together some key details I missed while watching the show.

Mar 28, 2020, 3:11pm

As mentioned above, last night and this morning it was time for a round of "between books" . . .

* “from Untitled Notes” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs – Finished!
* Excerpt from Diary by Anais Nin from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “L’Envoi: The Faded Actor” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock – Finished!
* "Rosalyn Yalow" from American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchison
* “Temps Perdu” from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
* “Night” from Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch
* “The Blue Muslin Sepulchre” by Nancy Hale from Scribner's Magazine - March, 1936

Also as noted above, today I start Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Steven Zipperstein. Also, I'll post short reviews of the two "between books" I finished last night on my 50-Book Challenge and Club Read threads over the next couple of days.

Mar 28, 2020, 3:17pm

Finished Eve of Destruction by S. J. Day. Meh. Haven't decided what, if anything, I will put into my rotation next.

Mar 28, 2020, 6:56pm

I’m about 100 pages into The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the best books I’ve ever read and so far I’m finding this novel to be a worthy sequel.

Mar 28, 2020, 8:51pm

oh i remember the first time I read it, it was in summer and I went through them like butter. Then went back to read it again, slower. BTW the best way to read the last two books is though boiledleather.com and they will guide you where to start Enjoy!!

Mar 29, 2020, 1:06am

Started on Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez it is a re-read from many moons ago.

Mar 29, 2020, 6:03am

1) Before I got sick I read Longbourn by Jo Baker, and liked it very much.

2) Since I got sick I've read The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay in the few hours a day that I'm awake; I didn't enjoy it.

3) I've got the Covid-19 virus, or such is the opinion of the Dept. of Public Health here. I've not been tested but have all the symptoms, am on the list of "presumed infected" in the city, and am under a 14-day quarantine. Please be careful and don't get this: it's bad. It's by far the worst I've ever felt. Such fevers, and the non-stop coughing, and the muscle and joint pain, and a throat as sore as if it had ground-up glass coating it. Am living on easy-to-swallow food: apple sauce, yogurt, chocolate pudding, ice cream, and clear liquids.

Mar 29, 2020, 9:08am

Ahef1963 please feel better soon. So sorry you have to deal with this horrible virus! Take care and sending healing thoughts to you and everyone with Covid 19.

Mar 29, 2020, 10:14am

>14 ahef1963: Oh no! Im so sorry - sending healing thoughts and hope someone is keeping you well stocked with ice cream.....stay in touch

Mar 29, 2020, 6:52pm

>14 ahef1963: So sorry to hear this! Take care and I hope you get over this as quickly as possible.

Mar 30, 2020, 10:14am

The Turn Of the Key – Ruth Ware

From the book jacket: When Rowan Caine stumbles across the ad, … it seems like too good an opportunity to miss – a live-in nanny post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when she arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten – by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family. When she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare.

My reactions:
Well, I didn’t read the book jacket before I read the book (which I won through Bookreporter.com). My niece loves Ware’s thrillers, so I thought I’d give the author a go.

Written in an epistolary style, the book opens with the main character in prison and her desperate letter to a solicitor asking for help – because “I didn’t kill that child.” Her letter continues outlining all that happened – how she stumbled upon the job opening, submitted her resume, went for the interview, and began the position. And how quickly things began going wrong. There are twists and turns and unexplained happenings. References to ghosts and previous “bad history” of the house. A “poison” garden behind a tall wall and locked gate. A mysterious housekeeper who clearly doesn’t like Rowan. A handsome gardener/handyman who seems too good to be true – and could he be the person causing all this havoc? In no time at all, Rowan is a sleep-deprived mess, who shows very poor judgment.

I will say this for Ware, she kept me turning pages and second-guessing, even if I didn’t quite empathize with Rowan or believe the way the kids or their parents behaved. Her final reasoning seemed really off to me, as if Ware just had to find one more twist to include. And then that final letter just completely caught me off guard.

As a suspense thriller it was better than most. I can certainly see why my niece is such a fan.

Mar 30, 2020, 11:53am

>14 ahef1963: So sorry to hear this. Hope you're feeling better.

I finished The Silence of the Girls. In retelling the Iliad from the view point of a captured and enslaved woman, the book gives voice to the myriad of people impacted by war beyond the "great heroes".

Mar 30, 2020, 2:09pm

For anyone interested, my reviews of both Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs and Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock, are both posted on my 50-Book Challenge thread. Cheers!

Mar 30, 2020, 3:26pm

>14 ahef1963: So sorry to hear about you. Take care of yourself!

Mar 30, 2020, 3:27pm

Finding Dorothy
Elizabeth Letts
4/5 stars
Lett’s historical fiction novel relates the life of Maud Baum, wife of Frank L. Baum who wrote The Wizard of Oz books. The novel goes back and forth between Maud’s childhood and her marriage to Frank and then years later to her relationship with the young Judy Garland who is playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I especially enjoyed reading about the life of Maud and her life with Frank. This makes me want to learn more about their real life relationship. At the end there is an afterword by the author which goes over what was true and what was made up. Interestingly, it was a picture of Maud Baum and Judy Garland on the movie set that inspired Letts to write this book.

Mar 30, 2020, 4:07pm

Thank you to all for your kind words. I am very slowly getting better, am extremely fatigued, and rather bored.

I read The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory yesterday/today and it was extremely saccharine and did not please me. Don't know what I'll read now. I'm thinking about plunging in to Katherine by Anya Seton

Mar 30, 2020, 6:27pm

Ah-ha! I found my copies of The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion by William Faulkner. I was lucky. I had pulled out a my copy of Light in August recently, so the box of with Faulkner's works in it was at the top of the front stack. I also found George R. Stewart's Earth Abides.

Mar 30, 2020, 6:46pm

>14 ahef1963: Get well soon. You made a good point about liquids and pudding. Next time I get to the store I will buy some ice cream or sherbert.

Mar 30, 2020, 6:48pm

Finished Chaos At Crescent City Medical Center by Judith Lucci. A daytime read but good.

Mar 30, 2020, 7:53pm

>24 fredbacon: Excellent! I knew those Faulkner's were around somewhere! Hope you get a chance to read them soon.

Mar 30, 2020, 8:46pm

>23 ahef1963: Oh my goodness, sorry to hear you feel so terrible! Hoping you continue to improve.

Today I just finished Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey - it officially comes out in July and I HIGHLY recommend it when you can get a copy!

I'm reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, listening to Amy Poehler (and a passel of other celebrities) read her memoir Yes Please, and just started A Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev as my next ARC.

Mar 30, 2020, 8:47pm

Now reading Only twice I've wished for heaven by Dawn Trice.

Also listening to Past imperfect Julian Fellowes for book club.
(Book club is virtual now..)

Mar 31, 2020, 10:16am

Ahef please feel better!!

Mar 31, 2020, 5:45pm

I finished the fascinating Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Steven J. Zipperstein. Zipperstein does a great job of placing this horrifying 1903 anti-Semitic riot firmly within the context of history, showing both what led up the the tragedy and how the event has resonated, in many surprising ways, over the past 117 years. You'll find my more in-depth comments on the book's work page and on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

Mar 31, 2020, 7:25pm

Just finished The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and not quite sure what to pick up next...I'll be back.

Mar 31, 2020, 8:23pm

Katherine looked too long and too heavy, so I'm reading Unorthodox: My Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots.

Editado: Mar 31, 2020, 9:05pm

oh man!! the Strugatsky brothers are fantastic. you should also read The Dead Mountaineer's Inn; it starts as a witty murder mystery and turns into something very different and far more emotionally affecting than you would expect.

i'm having a hard time focusing, so i am fitfully starting Ducks, Newburyport, The Worm Ouroboros, and Docile (on audio.)
the extent to which these books are wildly tonally/thematically dissimilar... might be a reflection of something or other.

Editado: Abr 3, 2020, 8:29pm

Enjoying this free book via audiobook.com intro offer ~

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle (4 stars)

(domestic thriller/spousal abuse)

Abr 1, 2020, 10:54am

Abr 1, 2020, 11:05am

Yesterday was a day for "between books" . . .

* Excerpt from A Daughter of Han by Ning Lao T’ai-T’ai from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* "Clara Barton" from American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchison
* “Carpe Diem” from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
* “The Knoll” from Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch
* “Across the Busy Years: Fourtheen Republican Conventions – III. Behind the Scenes in 1916” by Nicolas Murry Butler from Scribner's Magazine - March, 1936

I've now started Maravilla, a coming of age story of a young girl set in East LA, by Laura Del Fuego.

Abr 1, 2020, 12:27pm

Decided I would start with Time Storm by Gordon R. Dickson for April, alternating it with The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler which I started last month.

Abr 1, 2020, 8:25pm

Finished Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots early this morning. It was very good, very dismaying to read about the life of women in the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic sect. I was also fascinated with the sect itself; I've never heard of it before.

I think I'm going to read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah next. I really liked The Nightingale and I'm hoping that her other books are as well-written.

Abr 2, 2020, 5:08pm

finally settling down and getting some reading done! Two books on my tbr shelf actually are very similar in plot, tho the style of writing is so different, ad I am enjoying both of them Celestial Bodies and Little Fires Everywhere

Abr 2, 2020, 7:42pm

>14 ahef1963:
So sorry to hear you caught this nasty thing. Take care of yourself, and good thoughts coming your way.

Abr 2, 2020, 8:59pm

Nearly finished with: LSD : Doorway to the Numinous by Stanislav Grof, M.D.

Abr 3, 2020, 9:53am

The Children’s Blizzard – David Laskin
Audiobook read by Paul Woodson

On January 12, 1888 a massive cold front brought plummeting temperatures, gale-force winds, and blinding snow to the northern plains. The day had started out unseasonably mild, and children walked to school without their usual heavy coats, gloves and hats. Caught completely unawares and unprepared many of them died in the blizzard that is still talked about in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Laskin has pieced together the stories of several immigrant families and what happened to them during the two days of the storm. There are stories of heroism and determination. Children who kept their heads and found shelter. Teachers who shepherded their classes to safety. Men and women who died searching for their livestock. Many who survived the initial storm and exposure, later died of complications – gangrene that resulted from severe frostbite, or heart arrhythmias that caught them unawares.

It’s a gripping tale, told masterfully.

Paul Woodson does a fine job reading the audiobook. He sets a good pace and his narration held my attention throughout.

Abr 3, 2020, 5:35pm

I finished Maravilla by Laura del Fuego. This is a coming of age novel about a young Chicana living her teen years in the Maraville housing development in East LA during the early and mid-60s. The story is told in first person through the eyes of Consuelo Contreres, known as Cece. We see her home life, with caring but imperfect parents and siblings both older and younger. All and all, it seems like a normal family, happily (for the reader) not over-dramatized, but on the other hand trouble enough for a teenager to handle. But mostly what we see of Cece's is her social life. First, as a young teenager, it's the other girls she hangs out with. Then as she moves into her later teens, her friendships solidify and boys enter the picture. What we get for a while is a seemingly endless parade of cruising, parties, drinking binges and worries about who was dancing, or out cruising in their car, with whom.

High school exists on the peripheries. Thoughts of the future are mostly absent. At first I took this for a weakness, but as time, and the narrative, went on, I began to think this was meant to represent the issues of the societal constraints that the culture inflicts on this relatively poor community of color. Things get more serious as Cece's story moves along, she grows into her sexuality, and the people around her start dabbling in, and sometimes succumbing to, harder drugs. The police become more of a presence. Watts explodes. And Cece begins struggling to break away from the continuing patterns of futility. Though parts of the novel dragged, overall I think it was well worth reading.

Next up, some "between book" reading, followed by a Istanbul Passage, a spy thriller by Joseph Kanon. I very much liked his book, The Good German, which I read a few years back (I haven't seen the movie), so thought I'd give him another go. Cheers!

Abr 3, 2020, 11:04pm

The new thread is up over here.