What are you reading the week of April 18, 2020?

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What are you reading the week of April 18, 2020?

Abr 18, 2020, 2:29am

I'm about two thirds of the way through William Faulkner's The Town and can't wait to get to The Mansion. This has been a great series to read. Faulkner hit a rich storytelling vein with the morally questionable, grasping Snopes clan. I'm going to miss these characters when I'm finished.

Abr 18, 2020, 8:53am

Enjoying this OverDrive Kindle eBook Alexa is narrating for me ~

Lady Clementine: A Novel by Marie Benedict

(historical fiction/Winston and Clementine Churchill)

Abr 18, 2020, 12:41pm

Planting Stories – Anika Aldamuy Denise
Illustrations by Paola Escobar
5***** and a ❤

Subtitle: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré.

This picture book biography is marvelously illustrated by Paola Escobar. I can practically hear the noise of the ferries, traffic, sewing machines, and the laughter of children entertained by Belpré’s puppet shows.

I loved the story, which is simple enough for children to absorb, but detailed enough to engage an adult. I practically appreciated the author’s note which delves a bit deeper into Belpré’s extraordinary influence.

Abr 18, 2020, 12:44pm

I'm reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I've had a lot of trouble focusing on this story this week; I'm not sure if it's the book or me, but something interesting just happened so maybe there's hope for the end.

Abr 18, 2020, 12:47pm

I'm going in for some comfort reading this week, just getting started with Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. I can't remember if I've ever read this before, but Captain Blood was a huge favorite of mine way back in the mists of time!

Abr 18, 2020, 2:48pm

Still reading the same books.

Editado: Abr 18, 2020, 2:59pm

Abr 19, 2020, 5:21am

I've not read much this week - my brain has been telling me that I own no interesting books.

I think my old standby, Scandinavian crime (in this case Danish), might do the trick, so I'm going to try out The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl.

Abr 19, 2020, 9:42am

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Book on CD performed by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis..

A young couple are on their way to success and, just over a year into their marriage, contemplating beginning a family, when the unforeseeable happens. Torn apart by racial injustice, they struggle to maintain the promise of their relationship.

I think it would be a great choice for a book-club. There are so many issues to discuss:
Can America tolerate an upwardly mobile African American couple? How do parental expectations influence our adult selves? Is a personal goal more important than a shared dream? Is it reasonable to expect a seemingly strong relationship to survive a forced separation of several years? What’s the meaning of “faithful”? Is an omission a lie?

This is a marvelous character-driven study of relationships, in the broader context of modern society’s inability to grant a Black man the basic premise of “innocent until proven guilty.” Despite this great injustice, the central focus is really the characters’ lack of communication and honesty with one another.

I admit my loyalties alternated between Celestial and Roy, though ultimately, I think I’m in Roy’s camp. The person I didn’t understand or sympathize with at all was Andre. I liked that Jones gave us two sets of parents who were dedicated to one another, and to their children. And that she introduced the “biological” vs “actual” parent dichotomy.

The audiobook is performed by two talented voice artists: Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis. This made it easy to follow the changing points of view, though I thought there should have been a third narrator for Andre’s chapters.

Abr 19, 2020, 11:59am

>9 BookConcierge: I've got this book on my short TBR list and will be reading it within the next month or so, at the latest. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Abr 19, 2020, 2:56pm

I finished up The Town about 1 am this morning. It's an almost perfect book marred by a final chapter that is just out of place and uncomfortable. I suppose that Faulkner added the final chapter to show that life and Snopes go on.

The differences between The Hamlet and The Town are striking. The characters in The Hamlet are larger than life, unrealistic and rather symbolic whereas they are more naturalistic in the second novel. Nowhere is this more true than in the character of Eula Varner Snopes. In the first novel she is treated as an object, a fetish, a masculine ideal of the feminine devoid of any humanity or personality. In The Town, she is drawn as a flawed, but human character who's life is stunted by the way that men and society perceive her. I almost wish that someone would write a novel retelling the story from Eula's perspective.

Abr 19, 2020, 3:49pm

I finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie yesterday - an interesting character study of the teacher and her crème de la crème students. And racing through In Cold Blood, which is excellent. Also just started Lantana Lane, which is definitely a more light-hearted read than the other two!

Abr 19, 2020, 10:22pm

As Nature Made Him – John Colapinto

Subtitle: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl

From the book jacket: In 1967, after a baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment. On the advice of a renowned expert in gender identity and sexual reassignment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the boy was surgically altered to live as a girl. This landmark case, initially reported to be a complete success, seemed all the more remarkable since the child had been born an identical twin: his uninjured brother, raised as a boy, provided to the experiment the perfect matched control.

My reactions
This made me so angry! It’s been a week since I finished it and I thought I had calmed down, but just typing that synopsis from the book jacket stirred those embers in me. The unmitigated arrogance and superior attitude of Dr John Money made me want to hunt him down and do an experiment on HIM! (But he died in 2006…)

In writing the book, Colapinto did an excellent job of researching the various players in this tragedy. He provides considerable background on the development of sexual/gender identity theory, including interviews with many researchers and reporting from numerous professional journals. He gained the trust of David Reimer, his parents and brother and had extensive interviews with them, as well as with childhood friends, teachers and physicians who treated the boys. I think the book is balanced and truthful. I applaud David Reimer for the way he manages to survive the horror that was his childhood. (Note: I could not help but look up the case on the internet, which is how I discovered that Money died in 2006, but also learned that both David and his brother committed suicide.)

Abr 20, 2020, 8:29am

Ahab’s Wife: or, the Star-Gazer – Sena Jeter Neslund

Opening line: Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.

Melville’s classic Moby Dick contains perhaps three or four sentences that reference Ahab’s wife – “… not three-voyages wedded – a sweet, resigned girl…” – but those brief references were enough to inspire Neslund to write this tome.

Una is a marvelous character: intelligent, forthright, adventurous, eager to learn, ready to work, open to new ideas, questioning of the status quo, tenacious, principled, loyal and loving. Neslund takes her from her childhood in Kentucky, raised in a remote cabin near the Ohio River, by a God-fearing man who will beat the Lord into his daughter if necessary, and a devoted mother who will ensure her child’s safety, to her later years in Massachusetts. Along the way she encounters a wonderful cast of colorful characters – from her Aunt and Uncle, to the young men she is courted by, to the sailors / whalers she comes to admire, and the neighbors who form her “family” in Nantucket and ‘Sconset (including Mary Starbuck, wife of Ahab’s first mate).

Neslund fills the novel with details of life in 19th century America:. the difficulties of a winter in a small Kentucky cabin, the excitement (and terror) of sailing on a whaling vessel, the tragedy of slavery, the joy of intellectual pursuits, the dangers of childbirth, and the quiet peace of a happy home.

But make no mistake, the story is Una’s, first and foremost.

Editado: Abr 20, 2020, 11:24am

I loved that book! Amazing work! She wrote some others that didn't strike me as hard as this one. Loved Una, I remember reading it surprised this sheltered girl would be able to leave her home but kept reading, glad I did (tho I was horrified on the whaling section - didn't know that many details..)

Abr 20, 2020, 2:58pm

>9 BookConcierge: and >10 rocketjk: I read An American Marriage a week or so ago and enjoyed it very much.

I've just finished The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis - it was very good - Danish crime fiction at its best.

Next up is After She's Gone by Swedish crime writer Camilla Grebe.

Editado: Abr 20, 2020, 3:05pm

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
5/5 stars
Janie Crawford is a mixed race daughter whose mother ran off and who was eventually raised by her grandmother. Life is not easy for Janie. She is forced to marry one man, and then eventually runs off with another man. Neither of them had treated her with respect. It was not until she meets the love of her life, Tea Cake that she feels loved. They eventually take off to Florida to make a life for themselves but fate has other plans for Janie. I have never read this Hurston book before but I did enjoy this story and would read more of her books. It never won any prizes and did not do well until later in the 1970’s when there was a call for more African American books and literature books.

Abr 20, 2020, 11:02pm

Just finished The Old Gray Wolf, which was not impressive. In the first place, it's part of a long series, and I try to avoid series books on general principals. A friend gave it to me -- I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. Also, the writer uses a cutesy, fanciful, and ultimately intrusive style.

Right after lunch, I picked up Diane Glancy's Stone Heart, which is utterly wonderful. Very unexpected structure, but it totally works.

I guess sometimes you have to wade through formulaic pop genres in order to fully appreciate The Good Stuff.

Editado: Abr 21, 2020, 2:02am

Finished listening to the thought-provoking apologies, Fifteen Dogs.

Next up for listening is Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall

Abr 21, 2020, 11:26am

Blue Asylum – Kathy Hepinstall

As the United States fights a Civil War, Iris Dunleavy wages a battle at her Virginia plantation home against her husband’s tyranny. As a result, she is “convicted of madness,” and is sent to an island asylum off the coast of Florida.

I wanted to like this. I thought the premise was interesting and that there would be some opportunity to learn more about the issues of the time, especially as it concerned treatment of the mentally ill. But I was sorely disappointed.

Hepinstall populates the novel with a wide array of characters: Dr. Cowell, who prides himself on running such a “modern” asylum; the matron, obviously modeled on Nurse Ratched; Wendell, the doctor’s pubescent son; Mary, the doctor’s wife who is more neurotic and needy than most of the patients; the chef, who has befriended Wendell; Ambrose, a confederate officer suffering from PTSD; and various other patients, from the charmingly odd to the deranged and violent. The doctor’s wife was a wasted opportunity. She floats in and out of the novel, much as she must float in and out her of laudanum-induced haze. Poor confused Wendell spends more time masturbating and hiding in the swamp than interacting with the characters; still, he plays a pivotal role.

There are a few positives. Iris is (mostly) a strong female lead character. If she occasionally acts against her own best interests, well, I think that’s easily understood given her circumstances. But her decisions and behavior in the last few chapters are just ridiculous. One moment she seems to have some sense of self-preservation and is thinking along those lines, the next she’s throwing caution to the winds and behaving in a manner that is sure to attract unwanted attention.

Perhaps Hepinstall was trying to give the reader a sense of the disorientation a truly sane person must feel in such a mandated confinement. If that was her intention, then she mostly succeeded. But, like Iris, I just wanted to escape.

Editado: Abr 21, 2020, 11:28am

>16 ahef1963: ... oops ... DISREGARD ...responding to wrong post

Abr 21, 2020, 11:29am

>15 cindydavid4: - thanks, cindydavid4 .... I recently read Melville's Moby Dick, so I was more than prepared for the whaling section. LOL

Abr 21, 2020, 12:07pm

Finished the short book, Where Angels Fear to Tread. The lure and dangers of venturing out of ones home and culture are explored. The characters were much changed and not changed at all by the encounter.

Abr 21, 2020, 12:09pm

Finished Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole. Really enjoyed it. Not adding anything new to the rotation. Feel the need to clear the old one out before I add anything new.

Abr 21, 2020, 12:49pm

>14 BookConcierge: I read Ahab’s Wife several years ago and loved it.

I’ve had The Plot Against America on the shelf for quite a while and I’m not sure why I thought now would be a good time to read it, but it seems to have clicked with me. I’ve not read anything else by Roth - he sure can be wordy.

Abr 21, 2020, 1:54pm

I enjoyed both Ahab's Wife and The Plot Against America, for very different reasons, lol!

Abr 21, 2020, 1:55pm

Enjoying this OverDrive audiobook ~

My One and Only Duke (Rogues to Riches Book 1) by Grace Burrowes

(Regency historical fiction romance)

Editado: Abr 21, 2020, 3:04pm

Started The Library of Lost and Found
by Phaedra Patrick.

Abr 21, 2020, 3:35pm

>25 Copperskye: it is now a series on HBO; haven't seen it yet but I am told its a good adaptation of the book if you are interested

Editado: Abr 21, 2020, 4:43pm

I finished up The Mirror and the Light yesterday so now I'm reading/listening to Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor and reading Don't Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari. Finally, I'm looking forward to diving into N.K. Jemisin's newest book, The City We Became, tonight.

Editado: Abr 21, 2020, 5:25pm

>25 Copperskye: & >29 cindydavid4: Yes, my wife and I are 3 episodes into it. It's quite good. It is a little hard to watch though, especially if, like my wife and I, you are Jewish. For us, the series it quite harrowing. My father was born and lived most of his life in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, where the book and the series take place. I was born there and lived there until we moved to the suburbs in 1966, age 11 for me. My father was 22 in 1940, the year the series takes place.

Abr 21, 2020, 6:30pm

>31 rocketjk: I hear you; it the reason i can't bring myself to watch it

>30 bell7: what did you think of it?

Abr 21, 2020, 6:46pm

>29 cindydavid4: I did see that it’s on HBO. I’m thinking now that it’s why I moved it to my read this soon pile a year or so ago. I’m sure I’ll watch it after I finish the book.

>31 rocketjk: That’s awfully close to home so I can only imagine how difficult it would be to watch. I’m assuming you’ve read the book? If you don’t mind, where in the suburbs did you move? I grew up in Rutherford and I’m just a few years younger than you.

Abr 21, 2020, 8:26pm

>33 Copperskye: Yes, I did read the book. I've read just about all of Roth, as he really speaks to me. He's certainly got his flaws, but his work is very close to my heart for many reasons. We moved from Weequahic to Maplewood. It was really a great place, though of course as a teenager I found it boring. I did get a fabulous public school education. Now that I live in a very rural area (Mendocino County, CA), I often feel jealous of the people I know who grew up here. I guess the grass is always greener, eh?

Just to be clear about Plot Against America, though, I don't think you need to have grown up in that particular neighborhood for that story to feel close to home. I think members of any minority that is new or ever has been made to feel embattled in America would feel the same, I think. I particular, this story is about a vulnerable group who think they have found a safe haven but find out otherwise.

Abr 21, 2020, 11:06pm

>34 rocketjk: Oh Maplewood, I know where that is. Close to Turtle Back Zoo! And yes, you certainly don’t need to be Jewish or grow up in Newark to feel the pain of the characters in Roth’s book, but I know when I read something that takes place literally close to home with familiar street names or newspapers, it adds an even scarier note of realism.

Abr 22, 2020, 12:55am

>35 Copperskye: "I know when I read something that takes place literally close to home with familiar street names or newspapers, it adds an even scarier note of realism."

Oh, yes. Definitely.

Editado: Abr 22, 2020, 2:20am

Finished listening to Prisoners of Geography.

Next up for listening is A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende.

Abr 22, 2020, 9:34am

Finished In Cold Blood which was excellent. Reading Lantana Lane, about pineapple farmers in Queensland, Australia - humorous fare which I'm enjoying. And have also started The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August which is a pretty interesting take on reincarnation and I think it has some time travel in it as well.

Abr 22, 2020, 11:20am

I absolutely loved Harry August! It gets bogged down abit 3/4 of the way, but then its just amazing how it ends. BTW she has another book call the sudden appearance of hope that I found quite wonderful; about a young girl who for some reason keeps disappearing from peoples memories, which makes it easy for her to become a theif; but its really much more

The only thing i did not like about both books is that North leaves us in the dark about how this all happened. How did the Cronos Club even start, and by who? And why did hope acquire this rather cruel disappearing act? But there is much to love about both books so it doesn't matter.

Abr 22, 2020, 11:22am

Some one hereabouts turned me on to a YA book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Just got it yesterday and started reading and can see why people like this book so much. Suspect I'll finish it today, then be looking for more of DiCamillo's works

Abr 22, 2020, 2:05pm

An hour later I am teary over a china rabbits journey. Thank you to who recommended it. Thinking about what child i should give it to. The lesson is not new, it is universal and bears repeating - to love and to be love, is all.

Abr 22, 2020, 8:27pm

>32 cindydavid4: I really enjoyed it! I think if I had been on vacation or something I would've appreciated it even more, as it was it was very dense and took me 15 days to read. I thought overall it was a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, and I would read them again. I'm going to add The Wives of Henry VIII to my soon-to-be-read pile too :D

Editado: Abr 23, 2020, 9:35am

Pies and Prejudice – Ellery Adams
Digital audiobook performed by C.S.E. Cooney

First in the “Charmed Pie Shoppe” mystery series

From the book jacket When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LeFaye bakes pie. So, when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flaky crust. But her pies aren’t just delicious, they’re also having magical effects on the people who eat them – and the public is hungry for more. Having discovered her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae…. (opens) the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But when her old nemesis, Loralyn’s fiancé is found dead – killed with Ella Mae’s rolling pin – it’ll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

My reactions:
I’ve been drawn to this basic premise – food’s magical qualities – since reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices. That predilection was reinforced by Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Joanne Harris’s Chocolat. So I was sucked in by the promise of the magical qualities of Ella Mae’s pies, as well as previous good experience reading another series by Adams. But I was sorely disappointed.

As cozies go, this is a pretty decent premise. And Adams populates the book with an interesting array of charmingly eccentric characters, even if they are all out of central casting. But the “woo-woo” element just got away from her. Ella Mae is so completely clueless about her gifts as to make it completely unbelievable. The melodrama is way over the top. And the murder mystery plot is just a mess.

I finished because I needed a challenge book for a genre I usually avoid – witches. And I’ll torture myself with more from the series for the same reason. But I really don’t recommend them. I prefer my books, even cozies, like my pies – less “charm” and more filling.

C.S.E. Cooney is not a narrator I’ve come across before. She does a reasonably good job of performing the audio. Though I do think her Southern accent is a bit over-the-top. Still, her pace is good and her diction is clear (a real plus as I listened at double speed).

Abr 24, 2020, 12:20pm

Read Un viejo que leía novelas de amor earlier in the week by Luis Sepúlveda, a Chilean author based in Spain who sadly passed away eight days ago from Covid-19. An interesting short novel set in a village on the banks of the Nangaritza River in the Ecuadorian jungle. Explores the plight of the Shuar people, the need to live in harmony with nature or face up to the consequences as well as man's threat to the natural environment, among other themes. Very reminiscent of the style of some of the shorter novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Incidentally, just finished reading today Garcia Marquez's La hojarasca. This was his first ever novel, published as such in 1955. Worth reading before you embark on his masterpiece Cien años de soledad since he already introduces here the fictional setting of Macondo as well as some of the techniques associated with magic realism, like the non-linear use of time and multiple points of view.

I am now about to start La Peste by Albert Camus.

Abr 24, 2020, 5:44pm

The Library of Lost and Found
Phaedra Patrick
4/5 stars
Martha Stewart has had a terrible life. She can't get the job she wants at the library. Her friends all use her as a doormat and she has a terrible relationship with her sister. One day she finds a book that has a very familiar story when she realizes it was a story that she once told. She tracks down the book and gets involved with the bookstore owner who found the book for her. Little by little Martha tracks down the mystery of her published story and in doing so she stands up for herself and meets the mystery author of her published book! I thought this was thoroughly enjoyable.

Abr 25, 2020, 10:17am

The new thread is up over here.

Abr 27, 2020, 4:40pm

>39 cindydavid4: That's great to hear! Still enjoying it so far, so hopefully I'll plow through the boggy part. The Sudden Appearance of Hope sounds like a good one too, so I'll track it down.