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

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

Nov 27, 2020, 8:52pm

Having some problems with Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock. I'm not sure that this book get published today. The casual racism on display is so in your face that it's disturbing. It's amazing how much things have changed in 27 years.

On the other hand, I can see exactly why I purchased this book when it came out in 1993. Set in Arkansas during the early 1980s and filled with the contemporary events and politicians of that time and place, it is packed with nostalgia for me. Unless you lived in that time and place you are going to miss a lot of what's going on in this book.

I guess it's not necessary to recognize the real people behind some of the characters in the book in order to enjoy it. You're likely to find some of the characters unbelievable if you weren't there to witness the insanity of it all.

I want to continue the book to see what he's going to make out of this witches brew. The novel is narrated by the Holy Ghost, who speaks with the laconic twang of a good ol' boy. But I am sick of reading the n-word and the author's inconsistent rendering of certain dialects.

Nov 28, 2020, 9:03am

It Takes a Witch – Heather Blake

From the book jacket: Until three weeks ago, Darcy and Harper Merriweather were working dead-end jobs and trying to put their troubles behind them. They their aunt Velma delivered a bombshell: They’re actually Wishcrafters – witches with the power to grant wishes with a mere spell. Wanting a fresh start, they head to their aunt’s magic-theamed tourist town – Enchanted Village in Salem, Massachusetts, - to join the family business and master their newfound skills. But their magic fails them when a wannabe witch turns up dead – strangled with Aunt Ve’s scarf.

My reactions:
If I didn’t need this for a challenge to read about witches this month …

The premise is pretty lame. I quickly got tired about the whole “wishcrafter” mythology – not to mention all the other Crafters in the village. For there are Curecrafters, Bakecrafters, Halfcrafters and even a Vaporcrafter among the residents of the town.

The murder plot (main reason to read a cozy mystery in my humble opinion) was moderately interesting. There were plenty of suspects and red herrings to keep this reader – and the central characters – guessing. And there’s a somewhat interesting subplot pickpocketing crime spree that further distracts the investigators.

I also thought the romantic interest was handled fairly well, with a nice promise of more to come. But I’ll probably never know what happens between Darcy and Nick, because I have no plans to continue this series. At least it was a fast read.

Nov 28, 2020, 12:55pm

I am reading Utopia Avenue and listening to Missionaries.

Nov 28, 2020, 12:56pm

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory
Caitlin Doughty
4/5 stars
Doughty writes about her life and how she came to work in a crematory and eventually earning her degree in mortuary science. She also talks about the history and science of cremation and much more. I thought this so interesting and hard to put down. This may not be for everyone but if you are open to unusual experiences this may be the book for you.

Editado: Nov 28, 2020, 4:15pm

Nov 28, 2020, 9:56pm

>1 fredbacon: I know how racism can really put you off a book. For the same reasons you've mentioned, I've never finished Rudyard Kipling's Kim, nor did I get through the volume of short stories that contains The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Too many uses of the n-word for my liking, and a casual hatred of anyone with different coloured skin.

I've just finished Katherine by Anya Seton. It was one of the best books I've ever read, and immediately was added to my mental list of favourite books. If by some chance you like historical fiction and haven't read Katherine, I recommend that you do so.

I'm casting around for a physical book to follow upon Katherine, so far unsuccessfully. So I've turned to Audible, and am listening to the gorgeous voice of Barack Obama as he tells his story in A Promised Land. I'm only at the preface, but am already settled in happily.

Editado: Nov 28, 2020, 11:03pm

Just finished The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, a quick read about a woman in grief after losing her fiance and living another life with him in her sleep. Kind of predictable; I wouldn't read another by the author.

Before that, I read Oona Out of Order, a fun twist in the time travel genre: the title character lives her life out of order for a year at a time beginning Jan 1. Recommended.

Next up: Luster by Raven Leilani.

Nov 29, 2020, 10:38am

Caroline: Little House Revisited – Sarah Miller
Book on CD performed by Elizabeth Marvel

Readers familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, will find this very familiar. Miller chooses to retell Wilder’s stories for an adult audience, focusing on Laura’s mother, Caroline.

I really enjoyed this work of historical fiction. Miller does not gloss over the very real challenges of pioneer life – the lack of supplies, or routine comforts we take for granted. There were many elements in this part of their lives to produce anxiety and fear, and I can understand Caroline’s perspective, given her limited knowledge, though I cringed at the her attitudes towards the Native American population. I think Miller does a reasonable job of balancing Caroline’s prejudice with Charles’s stead non-judgmental approach (and Laura’s excitement about a new experience).

Caroline is a strong women, with a certain confidence and a practical approach. She is certain her husband will see them through, but sometimes fails to see her own strength – physically, mentally and emotionally. Also, she is fiercely protective of her young girls (when they set out, Mary is five and Laura only three years old). She reminds herself that she must protect and shield her children, refusing to show her own fear lest she further frighten them. Miller does not gloss over the very real challenges of pioneer life – the lack of supplies, or routine comforts we take for granted.

Elizabeth Marvel does a fine job narrating the audiobook. I really felt as if I were listening to Caroline relate her own reminiscences of that time.

Nov 29, 2020, 10:44am

I just started Noir by Christopher Moore. Let the silliness begin!

Nov 29, 2020, 12:29pm

I thoroughly enjoyed Julia Blackburn's Time Song. Now I'm reading Daisy Johnson's story collection, Fen

Nov 29, 2020, 1:53pm

I finished the excellent The Nickel Boys, an excellent expose of reform schools made human by a very insightful tale of the people involved, particularly the two main characters, ending with an unexpected twist.

Nov 29, 2020, 2:10pm

Ants ("La vita segreta delle formiche" - "The secret life of ants" - is the title of this Italian translation) by Julian Huxley. I found it at a stall where used books are exchanged. It is a bit outdated, but it's still a good simple overview of those insects for the layman.

Nov 29, 2020, 6:15pm

Nov 29, 2020, 7:30pm

Actually finished The Fatal Land yesterday evening. Suspect that this was one of those books mostly written for the author's own satisfaction (and his dissertation committee); too sociological for most military history readers and requires too much military background for the typical social historian.

Nov 29, 2020, 9:47pm

I am listening to A Promised Land by Barack Obama, and it's even better than I hoped. Am several chapters in now.

I've decided that as my knowledge of Russian authors is practically nil, that I'd try Anna Karenina. So far so good! It's much lighter than I expected it would be. The only other Russian author I've read is Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), and that was hard reading, and nearly three decades ago.

Nov 30, 2020, 1:40pm

I’m reading the ebook Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy.
I’m listening to In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul.

Nov 30, 2020, 4:13pm

Anna Karenina is one of my all time favorite books. I've read it twice, once as a teen ager and then 20 to 30 years later. It might be time for another read.

Nov 30, 2020, 9:51pm

Fraternity – Diane Brady

Not sure this is really a subtitle, but printed on the cover is this statement: In 1968, a visionary priest recruited 20 black men to the College of the Holy Cross and changed their lives and the course of history.

This was a very interesting look at how their experience at Holy Cross influenced these young men. Their time in college coincided with my own years at Marquette University (another Jesuit institution). The historical events depicted were familiar to me and really took me back to those days.

Brady focuses on seven of the recruits: Stanley Grayson, Gilbert Hardy, Eddie Jenkins, Edward P Jones, Arthur Martin, Clarence Thomas and Theodore Wells. All but one of these men went on to law school and had distinguished careers. Clarence Thomas, of course, is now a U.S. Supreme Court justice. The lone non-lawyer is Edward P Jones, who penned the Pulitzer-prize-winning The Known World and is a professor at Georgetown University (yet another Jesuit institution).

But the person who really stands out in this tale is Rev. John Brooks, the priest who recruited the students, fought for funds, mentored them, championed their causes, and kept them engaged and focused on the goal – a sterling education that would give them the boost they needed to succeed.

Editado: Dez 4, 2020, 11:23am

enjoying this OverDrive audio ~

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and a Corpse
by Harper Lin
(Cape Bay Cafe cozy mysteries, book 1)

Added my name to the long OD wait list for You
Should Have Known
by Korelitz. This is the book on
which HBO's wonderful "Undoing" miniseries was

Dez 1, 2020, 3:22pm

All About All About Eve: The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made!
Sam Staggs
4/5 stars
This was an interesting look at the movie and eventually a play called All About Eve. The movie stars Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as rivals in the theater, one is on her way up and one is on her way down in their careers. Sam Staggs does a thorough job detailing the behind the scenes story of the movie, the actors and the drama on the set and off the set. He also discusses the musical stage version that starred Lauren Bacall years later after the original movie came out. This is definitely for movie buffs. I don’t think I have ever read such a detailed account of the story of a movie!

Editado: Dez 1, 2020, 4:31pm

I have had a "readers block" and have decided to go back to re-reading some of my favorite writers. First up Annie Proulx , I have a very good collection of her short stories plus Postcards.

Dez 1, 2020, 6:52pm

Just ran my November report, and I am stunned -- only four books read and two discarded. Not sure what's going on, except that I've started my Christmas knitting, so reading time is down. (I don't normally listen to audiobooks -- long dull story.)

Best read of the month was The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise. I junked Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's A Flame in Byzantium (as noted upthread) and last night gave up on Spanish Jack, by Robert J. Conley. I picked it up because it's about a Cherokee man at the time the Cherokee Nation was formed from two separate (but equally displaced) groups. Unfortunately, the main character is thoroughly unlikeable, the dialogue is wooden, and big chunks of exposition are randomly dropped in like lumps in the oatmeal.

Wish me better luck for December! I have a group read coming up: Dominicana, followed by an LTER of The Anubis Disk.

Editado: Dez 2, 2020, 3:14am

Finished listening to the disappointingly so-so Missionaries.

Next up for listening is White Rage by Carol Anderson

Dez 2, 2020, 10:15am

I finished Daisy Johnson's amazing story collection, Fen.
Now I'm reading another story anthology, A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth by Daniel Mason.

Dez 2, 2020, 4:42pm

I finished The Crust on Its Uppers by Derk Raymond. Published in 1962, The Crust on Its Uppers is a sly takedown of the British upper class disguised as a noir caper novel. The protagonist a young man with the advantages of that upper class background and education, has become disillusioned with what he sees of the rot, the lack of joi de vivre and purpose, of that class, and has submerged himself instead in the South London grime scene of con men, sharks and shady players. Dark bars, drugs, booze and dodgy business dealings fuel the scene. The first half of this relatively short novel is more of a character/class study than anything else, with the caper part of the proceedings not really getting going until about the midway point.

The caper itself, once it gets going, is handled well and kept me turning pages. I noted that once that action commences, Raymond (whose real name was Robin Cook, in case anyone's keeping score) dispenses to a significant degree, with reliance on slang.

I enjoyed this read experience, and I believe the book has standing as one of the first examples of London noir. The story is seedy and dark, but often funny, and I never found it to be cynical.

Next up for me will be James Weldon Johnson's classic, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

Dez 2, 2020, 9:54pm

Next Year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton
Digital audio performed by Kyla Garcia and Frankie Maria Corzo.

Another work of historical fiction that relies on the bifurcated story line. In 2017 Miami, freelance writer Marisol Ferrera is determined to honor her grandmother’s last wish – to have her ashes scattered in her homeland – Cuba. As a journalist, Marisol, is able to travel to Havana to research a piece she is writing, and she’ll stay with her late grandmother’s best friend, Ana. Ana’s recollections take us back to the last 1950s, where we meet Elisa Perez, her sisters and parents, wealthy sugar barons in the Batista-led country.

This is really more romance than anything else. You have the 1950s romance of Elisa and the young attorney / rebel she meets at a dance. And you have the attraction between Marisol and Ana’s grandson, Luis, who is a history professor at the University. These two forbidden relationships form the main plot lines of this story.

It held my attention and I appreciated the cultural atmosphere inherent in the story.

Kyla Garcia and Frankie Maria Corzo do a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. They really brought these characters to life.

Dez 2, 2020, 10:07pm

Christmas Cow Bells – Mollie Cox Bryan

First in a new cozy mystery series set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and featuring artisanal cheese maker Brynn MacAllister and her small herd of Red Devon cows: Buttermilk, Petunia and Marigold.

This was just delightful. I love the basic premise of a micro-dairy farmer who is trying to make her way in a new community, but facing difficulties from traditionalists who do not want any change. I think the murder of her neighbor gives her a legitimate reason to ask questions, and she does try to relay what she finds to the authorities. I would have liked a little more romance (I know, that’s a shocking statement coming from me), but I also appreciate a slow burn. There are plenty of suspects and motives, and an interesting cast of supporting characters, including a vet-acupuncturist. But the stars are really the animals! In addition to the cows, Brynn takes in a stray dog, Freckles.

I look forward to reading more of this series.

Dez 2, 2020, 10:14pm

>22 LyndaInOregon: I only finished two books in November. I think a lot of us are a little distracted.

I just finished The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. It was delightful and probably the most fun book I’ve read all year. Needless to say, it hit the spot!

And I’m continuing to read A Christmas Carol (for the first time).

Dez 3, 2020, 10:49am

Have been dipping into Roger Ebert's Your Movie Sucks in odd moments -- it's one of those books better nibbled on than gulped down -- and found what may be one of the best lines EVAH in a review:

"...the mystery is solved by stomping in thick-soled narrative through the squishy marsh of contrivance."

Don't you love it?

Dez 3, 2020, 12:31pm

>29 LyndaInOregon: "the squishy marsh of contrivance."

I believe there was a battle fought on that marsh in Game of Thrones.

Dez 3, 2020, 11:33pm

>30 rocketjk: GREAT comparison!!!

Dez 3, 2020, 11:40pm

>31 LyndaInOregon: Why, thank you! But to be clear, I loved Game of Thrones.

Dez 4, 2020, 8:42am

Kiss Of Pride– Sandra Hill
2.5** (rounded up)

From the book jacket: Is he really a Viking with a vampire’s bite? An angel with the body of a thunder god? A lone wolf with love on his mind? Alexandra Kelly, his prey, thinks Vikar Sigurdsson is either flat-out crazy or he’s trying to maneuver her into his bed – which is hardly where a professional reporter should conduct an interview, tempting as that prospect might be.

My reactions:
Oh my stars! This is so bad it’s good. I had no idea that Vampire Viking Angels are a thing, but I think I’m glad they are.

Great fun to read despite how truly dreadfully awful the writing is. The occasional use of antiquated English syntax was just plain awkward. The plotting was ridiculous. And the clichés! Well, at least she had one or two new phrases for his tumescent member that I hadn’t read/heard before (though that probably has more to do with my usual aversion to this kind of romance novel than with Hill’s inventiveness).

It was a fast-paced, quick read that entertained.

Editado: Dez 4, 2020, 11:28am

enjoying this OverDrive audio ~

Tea, Tiramisu, and Tough Guys
by Harper Lin
(Cape Bay Cafe cozy mysteries/book 2)

Dez 4, 2020, 1:18pm

Audio - Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser. I haven’t read much by Sontag, but this is a good biography nonetheless.

Ebook - The Company: A Novel of the CIA by Robert Littell. I’m about 40 pages in out of 900.

Dez 5, 2020, 12:51am

The new thread is up over here.