What are you reading the week of December 12, 2020?

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What are you reading the week of December 12, 2020?

Dez 12, 2020, 9:07am

I have about 30 pages left to go in Empires of the Plain, Lesley Adkins biography of Henry Rawlinson, one of the men who deciphered the cuneiform script during the 19th century. It's been a fascinating book. Rawlinson did the majority of his work on cuneiform while serving as a political officer in the East India Company's army in India, Persia and Iraq. He also fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War. He joined the army and went to India at the age a seventeen as a callow youth and matured into an exceptional diplomat.

Dez 12, 2020, 11:01am

I'm about halfway through Marley & Me by John Grogan. It doesn't take a lot of focus and has funny moments, perfect for this time of year.

Dez 12, 2020, 3:57pm

Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
5***** and a ❤

On a fictitious island nation off the coast of South Carolina, the people pride themselves on their literacy and writing. Their founder, Nevin Nollop, is credited with writing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, and which is memorialized in the town square. But when a letter tile falls from the monument, the Council takes that as a "sign" from above, and decrees that they should no longer use THAT letter. The far-reaching ramifications of this, and subsequent, decrees (as more letters fall from the monument) test the imagination, strength and patience of the residents.

The novel is told in epistolary form, and their missives adhere to the ever more restrictive rules as the book progresses. From finding synonyms to creative substitute spellings and even use of numbers, Ella and her friends and family try valiantly to maintain communication. You wouldn’t think the loss of one letter of the alphabet would have much impact. But what if you lost “V” and could no longer express your love? Or “H” and could no longer worship? More importantly, as residents flee the restrictions (or are forced out due to violating the laws), the entire society begins to crumble. Still, Ella and a handful of family and friends fight against the edicts and with the hope of returning their beloved island nation to a place where literacy is once again appreciated.

I had read this before and had a lovely discussion about it with my college roommate’s daughter. A few years ago she gave me the special illustrated gift edition, which has been sitting patiently on my shelves along with other “special” books. I’m so glad I took it off the shelf and read it at this time. This is a wonderful little satire on the use/abuse of power, but it is also a love letter to all of us who love and cherish words.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

First read in 2005 and updated 02Dec14 on rereading it.


THIRD read: 08Sep20
I read this again and am horrified to recognize behavior in our current government's leaders that mimic the behavior of the leaders of this island nation. I didn't find it so funny this time around.

Editado: Dez 13, 2020, 8:47am

Enjoying this Kindle eBook Alexa is narrating for me ~

A Christmas Home
by Marta Perry
(Amish tale/Promise Glen Series, book 1)

I enjoy reading and listening to Amish tales during the Christmas season every year.

Dez 12, 2020, 5:03pm

Dez 12, 2020, 6:39pm

I feel pretty anxious around Christmas every year. One of the best ways of calming Yuletide jitters is re-reading books that I've enjoyed. So I've set myself up with Julia Child's My Life in France, which is sumptuous, humourous, and lovely. She is a woman I'd have loved to meet.

I'm debating what else I will re-read this season. Definitely A Christmas Carol, but maybe also The Far Pavilions? Pride and Prejudice? A Gentleman in Moscow? Doomsday Book? Neverwhere? Luckily there are lots of books on my shelves to pick from. I'm very fortunate.

Editado: Dez 13, 2020, 1:27am

An every Christmas read for me is a wonderful novella The Christmas Tree by Jennifer Johnston it is a gem.

Dez 13, 2020, 11:46am

The Island of Sea Women – Lisa See
Digital audiobook narrated by Jennifer Lim

See’s work of historical fiction is set on the Korean island of Jeju, and follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from different backgrounds who become friends. Both begin to apprentice to the women of the island in their unique all-female diving collective. The novel follows these two through several decades – from Japanese colonialism in the 1930s through WWII, the Korean War, and into modern times.

I really liked this work, particularly for what I learned about the haenyeo’s unique semi-matriarchal society. The women form a collective and dive to harvest mollusks, seaweed, and other marine life from the ocean surrounding their island. Theirs was the primary commercial endeavor on the island for centuries. Meanwhile many of the men care for the children and tend their homes.

Focusing her work on the relationship between these two women allowed the reader to view the changes that war, occupation, tourism and technology brought to this island. Where once the women wore simple cotton swimsuits, they now use wetsuits, allowing them to stay in the water for longer periods of time without risking hypothermia.

I am reminded of See’s first breakout hit novel - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. As in that work, here we have a story of a deep friendship, virtually a sister-bond, that goes awry and virtually completely collapses due to a misunderstanding, and the two women’s inability to share the truth and to forgive one another. The pain caused by this seemingly irreparable rift is heart-breaking.

Jennifer Lim does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. There are a lot of female characters and she managed to make clear who was speaking, so that I was rarely confused.

Editado: Dez 13, 2020, 11:48am

And my annual Christmas book tradition is Truman Capote's marvelous novella A Christmas Memory.

5***** and a ❤

Dez 13, 2020, 1:53pm

I finished the interesting baseball history, The Pittsburgh Pirates by Frederick G. Lieb, first published in 1948. You'll find my comments on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

And now, from the "They Can't All Be Classics" Department, I'm reading Fun and Deadly Games, the third book in an obscure noir/pulp series featuring military undercover crime investigator Giff Speer. The series was written by Don Tracy. This third entry in the series was published in 1968.

Dez 13, 2020, 1:59pm

1959: The Year Everything Changed
Fred M. Kaplan
4/5 stars
Kaplan takes a look at the events of 1959 and the history behind them. Topics include the space race, Castro’s rise to power, the loosening of censorship, the advance of birth control, civil rights, Motown and much more. One of the most interesting sections to me was that the President Eisenhower sent jazz ambassadors around the world on a good will tour. Dizzy Gillespie and his 18 piece band toured for ten weeks going to Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and more. It was a major hit and other groups with multi-cultural members were then sent out to perform.

Dez 13, 2020, 2:12pm

>1 fredbacon: Whenever I see the name 'Henry Rawlinson' I'm reminded of Viv Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band


Dez 13, 2020, 7:19pm

>8 BookConcierge: Lisa See is a wonderful author!

This morning I started reading Aravind Adiga's Between the Assassinations. Adiga's The White Tiger and Last Man in Tower were brilliant, singular books. Last Man in Tower just boils with tension. It was almost unbearable. Between the Assassinations seems a bit slower, but I am enjoying it nonetheless.

Editado: Dez 13, 2020, 10:20pm

Reading In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Been on a binge of hers recently. This one's going fast. Not that thrilling yet though.

Editado: Dez 14, 2020, 12:28am

Finished listening to the dramatization, When You Finish Saving The World.

Next up for listening is Afterlife by Julia Alvarez.

Dez 14, 2020, 2:23pm

I finished Fun and Deadly Games by Don Tracy. It only took me one rainy Sunday afternoon and evening to make my way through this enjoyable mystery. This is the third book in Don Tracy's Giff Speer mystery series. Speer is an investigator in a department of the U.S. Army so secret that only a few higher-ups in the Security Community even know if its existence. An army widow and her 18-year-old step-daughter are living near an Air Force base in rural Florida. The presumed dead husband/father had disappeared in Saigon on the night that of the coup that overthrew the Diem regime. They are at this remote Florida locale because the mom is trying to land one of the base generals as a new husband. The step-daughter becomes involved in civil rights demonstrations, drawing the enmity of the local pseudo-Klan. And someone is harassing either the mother or daughter or both. A strangled dog, snakes in the mailbox, even the occasional cross burning. Giff Speer is sent, undercover as a handyman, to figure it all out and keep everyone safe. There are an impressive amount of plot twists and turns for a 144 pulp paperback novel. All in all, I call this a fun, fuzzily plausible (but anyway, who looks too hard at these things?) mystery.

Sometimes books jump off my shelf at me more at less at random. My next book is sort of like that, as I'll be reading What I Think, a collection of speeches and articles written by Adlai Stevenson and published in 1955, between his two losses to Eisenhower in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956.

Dez 14, 2020, 3:57pm

>3 BookConcierge: Connie Willis wrote a terrific little story (I think the title was "Ado") about a high school production of a Shakespeare play that kept getting censored by the Politically Correct types until the entire play was reduced to a single word.

It's been anthologized in a couple of her collections -- Impossible Things, and The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, among others.

Same general idea.

Dez 15, 2020, 7:28am

So far this week I've finished The Field of Blood and How the West was Drawn. Still reading Fruit from the Sands and am about to start The Burning God.

Dez 15, 2020, 3:51pm

I'm reading two books: Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee and We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen.

Dez 15, 2020, 3:54pm

>19 ocgreg34: I read We, the Drowned several years ago and loved it. I hope it works well for you, as well.

Dez 15, 2020, 10:58pm

Finished Thirteen Moons, and while I enjoyed it a great deal, I also had a great deal of trouble with the character of Claire and why she made some of the choices she made.

Getting ready to start an LTER next -- The Anubis Disk. Will have to squeeze that in with last-minute Christmas prep, so it may be a while before I have anything else to report!

Dez 16, 2020, 12:08am

>12 Steve38: I wasn't familiar with Viv Stanshall, but his stuff seems pretty funny. Thanks.

Dez 16, 2020, 4:31am

Finished listening to the lovely Afterlife by Julia Alvarez.

Next up for listening is Pew by Catherine Lacey.

Dez 16, 2020, 5:59am

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Dez 16, 2020, 9:34am

Finished The Tinderbox: Soldier of Indira by Lou Diamond Phillips. I had a really hard time with the story/writing style at the start. There were several times when I seriously considered calling it quits. But I toughed it out and the story kind of grew on me. Better than meh but not quite good.

Added Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi to my rotation.

Dez 16, 2020, 11:05am

I finished another of one of my favorite authors, Kent Haruf, Benediction. It wasn't my favorite of his but still very good.

Dez 16, 2020, 5:00pm

>25 seitherin: I enjoyed "Riot Baby" and hope you do, too.

Dez 16, 2020, 9:44pm

>26 snash: Haruf was another writer who left us far too soon. I think Plainsong and The Tie That Binds are my favorites. I made a note in my journal after reading Benediction that "as always, Haruf's work is plain as a barn and tight as a new-strung wire fence."

Dez 16, 2020, 10:19pm

>6 ahef1963: Far Pavillions is not only one of my all time favorite reads, its the one I reread the most (Good Omen comes close) Saw the movie a while back not a bad adaptation, but prefer to read it All those others sound good as well.

This week it was 10,000 Doors for January, which I did not realize was a YA book, at least thats how I read it, and just couldn't get through it. Next up will be The Boy in the Field Love Livesey and was thrilled that she has a new book out.

Dez 16, 2020, 10:25pm

>28 LyndaInOregon: Oh I loved all of his books - except for the last Our Souls at Night started so good, until the end when the woman in the story who makes a choice that is just off, based on other brave choices she made throughout the book. Really put me off the read, which is too bad. Did love his other work however

Dez 17, 2020, 2:25pm

Just started The Loop, by Joe Coomer, which is shaping up as a nice, quirky read about a fellow who is pretty tightly wrapped and is getting "un"-wrapped by circumstances.

A little over halfway through The Anubis Disk, which is considerably better than expected.

I don't normally read multiple books at a time (except, of course, for the Emergency Books stashed in the car and bathroom!), but The Anubis Disk is an ebook, and if I don't shut those down about an hour before bedtime, I have trouble shutting my brain off. (It's a blue-light phenomenon.) And since that last hour before bedtime is prime reading time, I had to make an exception!

Dez 17, 2020, 2:36pm

>27 ocgreg34: I haven't read much of it, but it is an eye-opener.

Dez 17, 2020, 2:37pm

Must read more Kent Haruf!!

Dez 17, 2020, 11:21pm

>33 hemlokgang: Good idea!

I don't know if Haruf would ring as true to someone who has never spent any time in America's rural west. (And maybe you have; I'm not making any assumptions here.) But one of the things that struck me as so honest and appealing in his work was my sense of recognition of the setting and the characters.

Dez 18, 2020, 1:10pm

>34 LyndaInOregon: I've traveled through the American rural west several times and lived in a small rural town in Michigan. That exposure was enough for me to recognize so many of the scenes and people.

Dez 18, 2020, 6:49pm

A friend recommended Young Men and Fire and although it's a bit purple in places, I'm enjoying it. It has a much different tone than a lot of survivalist porn/true story/disaster books, which I am shamefully addicted to. Maclean really shows his age when writing about women, though.

Dez 19, 2020, 1:02am

The new thread is up over here.

>36 the_red_shoes: I really enjoyed Young Men and Fire when I read it. It was an interesting look at fire science.

Dez 19, 2020, 10:22pm

The Nest
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
4/5 stars
This is the interesting tale of a family whose children are expecting to receive a nest egg from their parents. However, when their older brother Leo is in an car accident with a woman, the mother decides to give a good portion of the wealth to Leo to help with his recovery. This set back wrecks the plans Leo's siblings had for their portion of the nest and causes them all to re-evaluate their lives and goals including the plans they had for their part of the nest. Enjoyable and hard to put down.

Editado: Dez 26, 2020, 5:41pm

>38 JulieLill: I found the secondary characters interesting and largely sympathetic, but the Plumb siblings came across as a group of grasping, self-centered nitwits. Their only real basis for complaint, it seemed to me, was that when their eldest brother gets the dough, it was to get him out of yet another disaster of his own making.

Dez 27, 2020, 11:06am

>39 LyndaInOregon: I would probably think the same as the siblings. Here was a inheritance that had been told they would get and now their unsympathetic eldest sibling was going to get a bigger share and he didn't seem to care what happened to them. However, if they were fine with the outcome, there would be no story!